Home for the Very First Time

By Kesiya Stamili Ramazani

I can still vividly remember my arrival to what I now call a home. A place where I still crave to return to over holidays, to find again the beautiful feeling of a place reaching out for me.

I was ten then, and as we advanced towards the last bus stop to our final destination, the sun was at its summer peak. The excitement from my baby sister on my lap made me smile as I opened the stained-looking window to enjoy the outside view. The rising dust outside told the story of the severe soil erosion my grade 4 teacher always talked about, an erosion that has taken hold of the land. That explained the brown looking dust on the bus seats. The bus was loaded with people. Surprisingly, everyone was quiet, eagerly waiting to reach the end of the road.

My heart sank as we approached a dust-filled small-looking town. It was as if someone had sprinkled flour on the trees, houses, and people. One could hardly tell who had taken a bath and who had not, not because people looked dirty but simply because it was so dusty and brown everywhere. The air was hot and humid, and as the bus came to a stop, dozens of kids and women came to watch the new arrivals. I could hear more than five languages from different people and I was astonished! What place is this?

A few minutes later, Mom and Dad carried our light luggage off the bus, followed by me holding my 2-year-old baby sister who now looked tired and exhausted from the long journey. We stood there not knowing whom to ask for our way. Luckily, in less than 5 minutes someone with a familiar accent (Swahili), wearing a big smile on his chubby face, came by and I knew he was my uncle whom my dad talked so much about. He looked like all the others, the only difference was that he could speak what I could understand. I started to notice more people speaking the language I could hear. Looking back now, I realize that this was a multicultural society.

Our arrival was expected and so we were well received at Uncle Paul’s, with food already prepared by Aunty Jully. She had three mischievous sons who kept giggling every time we made eye contact. Here I had my first mavegi, a type of green vegetable that’s fried in little oil with added salt. It has the taste of not fully cooked vegetables, and that is the beauty of it. This being our first time trying this, most of the family members couldn’t finish the meal because of its sour, half-cooked taste, but now we’re great fans and my dad cannot have a sadza meal without mavegi as a complement.

Later on, Uncle Paul directed us to where new arrivals need to go, a place known as the transit. The place looked like a big hall with divided chambers for different families to mark their boundaries for privacy. This was not like where we had come from. Earlier in my childhood, the place we had lived was quiet. There, the loudest noise was the barking dogs at people’s gates and loud car horns or engines. Here, people shouted at the top of their voices to communicate and the heat was intense. It felt like one of those rare moments on a Saturday afternoon when the market is at its busiest and loudest because most of the working class, students and others want to buy everything they budgeted for in that particular week.

We filled out the forms from the community leader who registered the newcomers. We were given a space to consider as our current home, one of the divided blocks in the transit. Looking out the cracked window, I could see brown ducks strolling across the pavement and a family of pigs walking in a line toward some adventure. I stood, lost in wonder.

28 May, 2023