3.

African Village Painting – Village Chores by Jane Wanjeri

People look out for each other in the village, unlike here where someone can even pass you in the morning without as much as a greeting.

If father was still alive, I’m sure things would have been different for us as a family. I would have finished my secondary school education and probably trained to be a teacher. Teachers are greatly admired in our village. I’m sure both of my parents would have supported my decision.

Father had passed on when I was 12 and our youngest 2. It was a bad case of malaria. There was nothing more that could be done for him at the village dispensary. When the doctor had delivered the terrible news to mother and I that fateful evening, mother had let out a piercing scream as she collapsed to her knees. I was too stunned myself to know how to react.

That day, we had rushed father to the dispensary, when we could not get his fever down. The news that he was now no more was indeed difficult for us to take.

In the days that followed, mourners flocked to our home to condole with us. We were truly grateful for their support but it was not completely lost on us that, with an influx of visitors, so did we have to spend more on food. Whenever there is a funeral in the village, mourners expect to be fed when they come visiting to offer their condolences. It is just one of the inconveniences of losing a loved one, which we had to put up with in the days leading to father’s burial.

Luckily, father’s family is not the greedy type. They let us keep the piece of land that was father’s after the burial. For other families in the village that I know of, it was not all rosy for them. Some relatives could just decide to kick you out of the property you thought yours, claiming that it belonged to their son. It was just how things go in these parts.

But the piece of land was barely a quarter of an acre. With 5 mouths to feed, it was definitely a struggle for mother. Mother had taken to working on other people’s farms to make some extra money whenever things were tight. I helped with looking after my siblings. But when it was school season and they spent a full day at the village public primary school, I had much more time to myself.

It was during those periods that I had taught myself how to plait hair in neat cornrows, thanks to my best friend Priscilla. Priscilla’s father could afford to take her through secondary school, but we all knew that Priscilla had much difficulty with grasping anything in class. After being required to repeat Form 1, Priscilla had declined to show up at school at the beginning of the following year. She now spent her days, plaiting the hair of the village girls at a fee.

Having dropped out of school in second term of Form 1 myself, I kind of admired Priscilla’s skill and ability to make some money. That is why I always headed to her home, whenever I had some free time to learn the art of hairdressing. By the time uncle had secured me employment in the city, I could comfortably make cornrows in different styles. I even plaited mother’s and my sisters’ hair sometimes! But of course my employer knew nothing about it.

These are some of the things I really missed about the village. The ability to be free and to do what you liked whenever you wanted to. Sometimes, when nobody was home, I would switch on the television set and watch a program or two. My spoken English could certainly not match up to the one that Ken and Angie spoke in the house. It is for this reason, that I avoided those American programs where even comprehending what was being said in English, was a struggle for me.

But I had discovered the Nigerian movies which were funnier with story lines I could relate to, in the course of my employment. Only that I had to be very discreet with my TV watching stints. I’m sure Mama Ken would not have hesitated in firing me if she found out that I watched her TV during the day.

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