Meja made his way to country bus station. Pushing and shoving sweaty bodies in his way. He was already tired before the 12 hour journey started. He had a small bag with some few belongings, 2 pairs of trousers, 4 shirts and some not so clean unmentionables. Another backpack contained his old laptop, a digital camera, a notebook and a few fictional novels. He preferred to travel light. He also had a sack. A dirty one at that. Here were some gifts for his family namely countless cabbages and potatoes. The way was dusty, smelly and clogged as usual. This was just a part of the many things Meja hated when it come to travelling up country. To be more specific travelling on Christmas because it was the only time in the calendar he got to do the tiresome journey.
This Christmas like any other one in the recent years was a tough one. The economy really sucked and the prices were spiraling as usual. To Meja the heat was double the intensity. A writer by profession, his career was tumbling down. He had just been laid off after the magazine he was working for went under due to the crunch. That was two months ago. Since then Meja had been tarmacking and chasing the ever elusive editors. The ones whom he managed to pin down either refused to set up a pitch meeting or if they did pretended to like his ideas and then promise to call him. A call which never came. Meja kicked something, he had not been concentrating. He looked down to realize it was a beggar on the sidewalk. He was at the verge of offering him some coins when he remembered a piece he had done earlier when the grass was greener. He had done an investigative story on how people get crafty and fake ailments and injuries to earn the sympathy of the other hardworking fellows and get money. You could not differentiate between a real beggar and a fake one. They all looked the same. He returned the money to his pocket, secretly cursed and walked on.
The queue at the booking office got shorter every year. More and more people were against spending and travelling during Christmas. Meja booked an overnight bus secretly wishing that they offered travelling ‘okoa jahazi’. It would have been easier to his pockets if he could just travel now and pay later. He handed over his luggage for safe keeping and sat on the nearest bench in the waiting hall. The television on the wall did not help matters. They were showing a repeat of the president celebrating Christmas in the last year. Meja cursed out aloud wondering if they lacked anything better to show. The glamorous lives of politicians disappointed him. While everybody else was busy suffering, they were always busy milking off the country’s resources.
He soon dozed off waking up to realize that he had only five minutes to board the bus. It was a miracle that this kept time. The last one he travelled with delayed for 3 hours before departure. The journey was uneventful, he slept most of it. When he woke up, he realized that they were somewhere in Voi. He loved the savannah climate. The short acacias and the long grass brought joy to his heart. He also loved the wild animals by the sides of the road. The cheeky monkeys, the grazing antelopes, the graceful giraffes, the lone, flowerily snake crossing the road, they always fascinated him. They stirred up his creative side. They were constant actors in his stories. Meja had dreamt of becoming a wildlife photographer when he was a child, he had dreamt of his documentaries being viewed in National Geographic and Animal Planet. But dreams are just that, dreams, sometimes they come true, sometimes they die. They do leave a scar in the heart, which never disappears. Sometimes the scar hurts.
Meja’s ancestral home was situated deep in the Taita Taveta hills. He alighted by the roadside and started walking slowly looking for a motorcycle bodaboda to transport him and his luggage. The dew was just breaking and it washed his dusty, black leather shoes to leave them shining.
Meja thought of home, of his parents and siblings. He felt like a disappointment. After spending four years at the university he still had little to show of it. His journalism degree barely paid his bills and up to now had not made his parents proud. What would be his excuse now? Another Christmas, another dud. He thought of the next year, he thought of the prospects he had, Meja had hope that the year would be a good one. The thoughts kept him going, literally. He realized he had walked for more than one kilometer uphill carrying his bags and the sack. Sweat streamed down his face and his back became soaked. He still had more than five kilometers to cover. He met few people on the road, the early risers going to their different tasks. Some said hello, some walked on grim faced.
Soon enough Meja heard a drone in the distant, then it grew louder, and louder. A bodaboda was coming his way. He stood by the roadside and waited. The little machine materialized, slowly struggling up the hill. He flagged it down and it sputtered to a stop a few meters from where he was. The haggled about the fare for a few minutes and the uphill journey home continued a lot faster, easier and noisy. The short journey home proved to be a big disappointment. Just a few hundred meters from his home there is a stream and a series of potholes. The bodaboda found the going too tough and decided to skid at the stream. This sent the sack flying to the water. Its retrieval left them both soaked and all the joy gone.
Once again the motorcycle spluttered to a start for the final leg. In a few minutes Meja was at the gate. He alighted, paid cyclist and whistled for his dog. Soaked with water and sweat, Meja was home for Christmas.