Imagine not been able to go home for years. This is the experience of many who live in the Diaspora and due to unseen circumstances find themselves in situations where they cannot go home. Then out of the darkness comes this great opportunity to set off for the village. The planning and the shopping ideas that are flown around by cousins, brothers, sisters, nephews and who knows whom, whom one have not seen for years come through Whats – App and other social media.
Family members want something every time I have to go back to the Jamhuri. Nowadays the requests are not as dramatic but include the idea that they have conceived for themselves that this professor is a billionaire and therefore requesting for a pair of jeans that cost 10 bucks at Wal-Mart is not enough. Therefore, the requests have become very electronic in nature: I-phones, I-pads and of course the latest of Mac-books have become the constant requests. It is good to get requests from family members because even if their perception of your status as a Billionaire are wrong, the thought indicates that they care enough to wish you were their billionaire: For their benefit of course!
You can therefore imagine the suitcases we have to carry especially if our return happens during the Christmas break! From the personal cloths to toys for some niece or nephew born in your absence. Your aging parents cannot imagine someone coming from the United States empty handed after all the crying you did and the feeding they did with little to spare. Yes and your sister decided that fish oil tablets from Walgreens has been recommended for her beauty and health. And who can forget the kid brother who needs a T-Shirt from Cocoa Beach Florida.
Arriving the same day with the pope, it was normal for me to jet in and experience the new buses shuttling us from the 777-300 to the make shift arrivals. The bus is modern and clean. Then we were dumped at the international arrivals. The sign looks like paint run out of Nakumatt! Then it is the entry into the dark official immigration to the baggage claim. They forgot to have a way of letting us know which bags are which therefore people are waiting for their bags from the wrong belt. They are all sleepy and tired but forced to inquire from each other, “Is this BA, Swiss, KLM, or Pope Mobile?” Then the belt keeps breaking down and the suitcases keep falling off it to the dirty and muddy floor. This is Kenya and some of the workers come from Kinangop so you cannot blame them if their shoes are muddy!
After picking my suitcases I walked past the ‘anything to declare’ line. I had nothing to declare but some how the officer decided that with such suitcases I must be carrying gold and silver. I murmured, “coming home man” and walked on. Passed police officers who stand there not to guard against terrorism, rather with fixed eyes on what the baggage carry! Pathetic! Walking out, I saw a lady trying to maneuver her cart. One of her bags was falling off therefore I offered to help.
While trying to stablelize her luggage, she laments, “I just flew from the United States and have not been here for a while. Then I arrive and I find those customs or tax people. Can you imagine they demanded money? They told me to share with them the American loot! American loot?” She was not happy. I decided to learn more. “How? Do they have a receipt, or a way of calculating what must be paid, or a list of goods to be taxed?” I enquired caringly. “ No! They asked me for a hundred dollars, or I stand there waiting for some officer. Intimidation! I just came in after hours of flight. Am tired and all what I have in these bags are family goods!”
I had my people waiting for me therefore I did not want to join in a riot. But as I walked away, I wondered whether this republic would ever become sober. I heard the president ask for the pope to pray for him so that he can tackle the corruption Mannes. Prayer? The papa can pray all he wants but he will not be the one to remove those vultures manning the JKIA customs. And by the way, we all just flew from countries that remove all things matter for security reasons. Who needs OCPD, OCS, CID, and NYS at the customs desk? These vultures are there to share in the loot! And the president knows this otherwise he would not ask for prayers!
Should we not bring under wares for our nephews? Or should we pray our way out of our obligation as family members in this Christmas season? You tell me!
Teddy Njoroge Kamau (PhD) HTBluff Assoicates. An EMG Consortium. Diaspora Messenger Senior Columnist. @HTTBluff