In October 16th, 2011, I flew out of Nairobi, to Cairo where I wanted to spend some time studying Arabic. My thought was I’d spend a year there and return to Kenya. But I never did. Despite wanting to return, fateful events hampered my return to Kenya and after 15 months in Egypt, I flew out to Sweden, my birth country that I had left in 2005.
I’ve been unable to write about Kenya. I have half a dozen drafts of blog posts I started but couldn’t finish.Writing about Kenya forces me to realize that I will never go back. I might go back as a tourist, one day, but I’ll never go back to the country that shaped me. As I write this, emotions and memories that were locked up for so long, rush to the surface of my consciousness, gasping for air. The realization of my loss weighs like a heavy rock in my heart. I’m mourning.
It’s been well over 3 years since I left the home that housed my soul. The recent massacre of 147 people in Garissa University, Kenya, reverberated so deeply in my being that it rattled the box where I had locked everything that Kenya was to me. For the past three days, I’ve been unable to speak about the horror, to read the news. If I’d come across updates on social media, I’d quickly scroll past them.
My best friends are in Kenya. Though I say I’m Somali when asked of my ethnicity, Kenya will forever be my home of my roots. When it was announced that Trevor Noah was going to succeed Jon Stewart on the Daily Show, I was so elated because I felt an affinity for Noah; an affinity I feel for everyone from the continent. If I come across anyone from Africa – West, Southern, East ( especially East) – doesn’t matter- I feel a rush of excitement, as if I’ve reunited with a long lost friend. I speak a mixture of Swahili and English with my siblings, at home.My most painful memories were forged in Eastleigh. My happiest moments were spent in Jamia Mosque and The Book Villa on Moi Avenue. One of my scariest moments was when I had to walk from Pipeline in Embakasi to Tassia at night, in the pouring rain because the stupid matatu driver decided pipeline was the last stop because he wanted to return to Tao via Mombasa road to make a killing. When it rains in Kenya, people act like vampires running away from the daylight, and you’d hardly find a matatu to ride and even if you did find, the prices would hike up to 300% at times.
What I saw in my 6 years, what I experience,felt,learnt,recovered from – I died over and over again, the four walls in my room upstairs are a witness to that.
It is said humans originated from Africa; but I returned to my origins, in Africa. Raw life experiences peeled back my artificial, glossed over 16 year old self, until I was fully exposed. Under the walls and layers and everything I was told I had to be, was the 6 year old authentic Mulki. But Mama Afrika was ever so gentle and comforting as I was undergoing painful extractions of my false parts. Mama Afrika was like the cocoon that held me, imprisoned me, suffocated me, shielded me, supported me as I was metamorphosing from a caterpillar into a butterfly.
Now that I’ve finally opened the box…I’ll collect all the memories, the untold stories, and preserve them in writing.
I didn’t lose Kenya when I left it, but by suppressing the memories, I deprived myself of the richest years of my life.
The pain and discomfort I felt at the onset of writing this, have dissipated and the heaviness I felt has strengthened my heart. I finally accept that my time and purpose in Kenya is over, but my experiences will forever be with me. It’s time to write this story.