Sleepless in Kitengela

Kitengela at night smells incomplete. It smells like fish, nicotine and failure. You get choked by dust and the sight of a crowded town.

Kitengela is a town that, although holds promise, it just never seems to pick up. Don’t get me started on the ruckus during the weekends with its endless crusades and mad motorists.

Bodabodas run this place. They rank number one when it comes to right of way, then the tuktuks, then pedestrians, and then you in your personal car. I once saw this car knock a boda. Just a small bump, not enough to get anyone injured. Even the bike wasn’t hurt. And within minutes, the whole bodaboda fraternity had surrounded the car demanding for payment. Totally unreasonable folks we have here.  

Kitengela is ugly, to tell you the truth. But let me pluck this story from the roots.

The first time this storytelling seed was planted in my head we were living in a small house in Eastlands. The ceilings were so low there was a constant darkness inside. The kitchen walls were covered with stubborn soot and the tiling was terribly done. Our landlord was this tall burly man who always wore a distracted look on his face. He never fixed any broken parts of that house.

Anyway, when I cleared high school I had nothing to do; I was getting fat (still am) and bored out my ass. So this one time, a weekend, there was a hot line up of football matches. BM wanted me to go fetch a few beers at some bar.

I was walking into the joint when, at the front step, I meet this lady in a white shirt and red pants, a barmaid. She says hi to me right after she gives me the warmest smile you’ve ever seen on a barmaid. She says,

“Sasa my dear?”

After some small talk she walks to another table. She comes back later to find me still waiting for some service. She hurries the process for me, flirts a bit then tells me to swing by later, in the evening. Boy was I excited. I had about a hundred sinful scenarios playing in my head the whole day.

But when I went back all she wanted to do was talk. To tell me her story, and some fries. I think I was a little pissed things didn’t go as I thought they would. It was a confusing time really. But that night, when I got back to the digs, I opened the laptop and wrote about her. That was the first story I ever did. A story about a barmaid called Beth.

And then God sent us the title deed of a little piece of land along Namanga Road and we moved house.


Fast forward to now.

I’ve been doing a lot of origami lately. As I write this I have three paper swans propped up on my bedside cabinet. Looking at them, these swans, they make me feel accomplished, centered, proud, almost. Same as that Sudoku puzzle I completed last night.

I’ve been trying out a lot of new things. Completing, nourishing things that silence all the noise inside me. I went on a diet not too long ago. I dance more. I eat more oranges. Hell, even tried a bit of yoga. And those who have seen me walk will swear on their own lives that I can’t yoga for shit. I’m about as stiff as a frozen shadow.

I’m not trying to convert anyone here, but do you hear me complain of back pain anymore? Yoga my friend. Yoga.

See, some months ago I was exhausted. School had tired me out, every class I walked into was a struggle to understand what in the sam hill I was doing with my life. I didn’t want to sit through lectures and take notes and do assignments. All I wanted to do was write. So I decided to take a break from school, focus on the writing for a bit, know where it’s going.

I knew there was a pretty good chance I was going to die in that solitude that comes with staying home all day. But I was going to fill the void in me with things I loved doing. I was going to bury myself in literature, try and get through at least three books in my cabinet. I was going to write my heart out, I was going to lose this stubborn belly, and I was going to look for a writing job. It seemed like a good idea, it really did.

But now I ache of loneliness. With no writing gig I’m stuck in a bubble of monotony that just won’t pop. It gets heavy on your shoulders, the reading, the healthy eating, and the morning runs. It gets old; at least for me it does. Sometimes I want to spoil it all with hours of mundane TV and junk food.

So one day, at about 8pm, the seclusion was choking the life out of me. TV sucked. I couldn’t find escape in books anymore; the Sudoku puzzles became frustrating like hell. And I couldn’t even get my hands on a stiff drink. I needed to leave the house. Go for a long walk, breathe some new air.

I had about 100 bob, enough for a tuktuk ride to Kitengela and back. And that’s how I found myself walking the dusty paths of this town at night. You know how they say, when the dust settles? It settles in Kitengela. No, really, it does. It looks like a quarry with too many laborers.

Still, there are good things that could come out of this place. I could do go on talking about the downside but I want to be positive energy here. And green tea hehe. Yoga? Anyone?


If you’re going to go anywhere for nyama choma over the weekend, that’s not as far as Ole Polos maybe, come here. Once you’ve moved past the traffic, drive some more until you get to Total Kitengela. Right on its shoulder is Yukos. Parked cars spill outside, you can’t miss it. I recommend mbuzi wet fry with ugali washed down with a beer.

And if you’ve got to Yukos then you must have seen Tarikiville Mall. It’s a small building, a baby mall. They have a fine Chinese restaurant in there. Ask for the chicken with cashew nuts and veg rice. It’ll make your day. The service can get a bit slow so don’t go there if you’re starving to death. Don’t even order the fish; it’ll ruin your day. Or, if you’re in the mood for ice cream go to Creamy Inn, right at the centre of the town. If it’s late afternoon you’ll be served by a nice lady called Judy who, with a Swahili accent, will ask you if you want toppings. You can’t say no.

And then, across the road from Yukos there’s a string of bars. The kind of place you go with the boys for football and good priced beers. You can even get your car washed outside while you drink away the hot weather. There’s this joint there called The Next Place, I went once with Muia –a pal of mine- to watch the UEFA final. It was tiny inside, and poorly lit. They played Kamba music and it smelt faintly like urine and we didn’t mind staying there until 2a.m.

But if you’re going to do anything when you’re here, if you happen to find yourself on Namanga Road at 2a.m, say, when you leave The Next Place, roll down the car windows and switch on the full headlights. It’s deserted and dark as hell. Put on some music and then just drive. You’ll feel the road devour you and the wind whisper in your ear. For a brief moment you’ll feel invincible. Immortal. Complete.






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