To celebrate an African Child in me is one comical story. From the days in village when us young boys of class four we would trail Chinese construction lorries and tractors constructing the only tarmac road that passes by my homestead the whole day to stealing fruits like guavas from neighbors’ farms. You may approve this kleptomaniac habit if you have never been to my village. I forgive you. But draw your stool near I ignite you (as my people would say when about to pour out juicy gossip).
Every homestead in my village has its own guava trees. These trees are never planted, I mean no one takes seedlings and plants, water and protect them. No. They are propagated by consumers of the seedy fruit involuntary. If you happen to eat a sweet guava somewhere you ensure your stool starting five hours from the time of consumption is offloaded at the far bushy corner of the farm. Just like that. Or rely on unexpected passerby who by chance of urgency or just notoriety decides to offload the seedy stuff on your fence. Either way, every home has a couple if not a bush of guava trees.
Now you understand why it is was a boyhood past time to steal guavas. They were not the only stolen fruits. Mangoes and Avocados would disappear from with no trace only their seeds to be found rotting in the boys’ overstuffed, dirty and dark bedrooms. Boys owning a bedroom was also a luxury and still is. The lucky that owned one were lifelong hosts to their age mates who had none.
In all these as boys we learnt how to live with the conditions and celebrate life to our fill. Look at a simple thing like a friendly match with the boys from a neighboring village. First, the match will always end when the darkness fell. It did not matter if the play commenced at 2pm or 6pm, it had to end at when darkness fell.
Second, one team always had a better ball (Read a leather ball) than the other. The polythene paper balls –ridasa- was just universal and available option. To kick a leather ball leave alone to own one was like playing for Ingwe. Owning it was enough for you to feel like Reinhard Farbisch
Third and of most importance was the bone hardening sessions during and/or at the end of the game. To the uninitiated, hardening of bones is euphemism for fist fights which characterize a life of a normal boy especially one brought up in the village. On a moral and physical side the fights were essential. I grew up knowing that you sometimes you have to fight when you are a boy to be a man when time comes.
Before you conclude, yours truly was not that an uncouth post match rioter like Gor or Ingwe fan (who were our role models then on how to sign out of a great match), I can only remember fighting once. I was an instigator, witness and arbitrator tied in one to many of such fights. But I can not run away from rank fights. I never initiated any of them. So did my opponents. These were fights organized by senior boys to determine whom among the young ones was a boxing champion. The medals to winners were a single slice of bread (on a good day) or a piece of yesterday’s ugali accompanied by praises.
The squirrel hunting and the whole career of scaring them from the germinating maize. This would come in during the weekends of March and April Holidays. Every kid was involved to guard their gardens from the witty-thievery rodent. It was never an easy task. You had to sing to the accompaniment of shakers. The shakers were pebbles put in an old empty 1 Kg Kimbo metal tin hammered at one end. Songs were those to demean Anakamuna-the squirrel for his long bushy tail and laziness.
Anakamuna deserved ridicule in any measure. He was responsible for this tiresome on the sun child labor. He is also the one who made me one day to run away from home to my grandparents’ place to escape the long days spend perched on a rock singing along to some funny folk songs. All in the name of scaring away a rodent looking for living.
(This is an excerpt from my autograph: Educating a Rich Child – From scaring Squirrels to Building Corporates)