The weekend that followed had been planned for spending at what is commonly referred to as ‘shags’, upcountry home. Mike had not been able to exactly define himself as a city boy, having spent his early childhood growing up in the village. To balance his working life in the city and the need to connect with his roots, he’d once in a while go to the village over the weekend even if it was for a day.
Since his mother had passed on some three years earlier, he’d increased his visits since on top of visiting his relatives; he was responsible for watching over her house on the piece of land in ‘shags’. This particular weekend, he was to leave Nairobi on Saturday morning, spend the day and Saturday night at the house, to return back on Sunday afternoon. Having left the office on Friday with pretty heavy stuff for his consideration, he figured that the quiet of the village would provide conducive environment for retrospection.
Saturday morning started earlier than normal weekends as the children were up early with excitement of the travel. Mike was to travel with his wife Violet and their two sons, Vincent and Derrick. Vincent being the elder one was one that woke up everybody else in the house early to remind them that they are going to ‘shags’ and so they ought to prepare so as not to get late.
Without an option for more sleeping, everyone was ready to set off for the two hour drive by 8:30am.
For the first 45 minutes of the drive, the level of noise and excitement in the car was very high with children trying to outdo one another in getting the attention of their parents. Mike was quiet and let Violet do the answering of all the questions and seemed to be enjoying it. As a matter of fact, he was enjoying the noise, only it was not the noise in itself, but rather the fact that he could focus on other things as the children engaged Violet.
It was after the first hour, after the children had become a little quiet that Violet quipped, “Where is the key? I am looking for the house key. Do you have it?” Mike had been so in his own world he did not realize Violet was talking to him and she was starting to get agitated. “Mike, are you ok? I am talking to you.” She asked half shouting and tapping his shoulder. “Oh, sorry. What did you say?” He asked, evidently startled from his world. “I am asking whether you have the key to house in shags?” answered Violet. ”Nope”, Mike replied without even thinking. “In that case, we’ve got to go back”, said Violet. “What? ” Mike exclaimed, “We’re almost halfway!”, Mike slowed down and stopped the car at the roadside, “Let me think”.
After some five minutes or so of quiet, Mike started the car without a word and made a u turn to go for the key. As they drove back without a word to each other (by this time the children had dozed off at the back seat), it suddenly occurred to Violet that Mike had not spoken the whole morning until the question on the key,
“are you ok Mike, really? You’ve been rather quiet today”.
“Really? I think I am, Yes I am ok. Maybe I am just thinking quite a bit lately of a decision that might affect our lives quite drastically”
“Is it concerning resigning from work?”,
“Yes, I’ve thought of the many things I’d want to do as I please when I want if I did not have an 8 – 5 job.”
“Things like what?”
“Like climbing MT Kenya, and maybe Kilimanjaro after, and who knows it could be mt Everest some day.”
“You know what Mike, I’ve been observing you for a while , and I think you are not happy with your work. You seem to be expecting from your job something it is not able to give. It actually does not surprise me you are considering that. You may even have forgotten that you told me you were thinking about it some five months ago. I will just tell you to follow your heart, but also to keep in mind that I’ll still be expecting you to provide for the family”,
“Of course that is a major consideration, but we’ll cross the bridge when we get there. I am planning to develop some business plan over the weekend that I will use to setup a business once I am out of employment. I will bounce them off you once completed.”
“’looking forward”, ended Violet.
Just then, a thought seemed to interrupt their conversation, “Wait a minute.” Mike said indicating to turn off the main road. “What is it?”, Violet asked with no response from Mike. Mike turned off to the petrol station where they had fueled for the journey and parked in front of the convenient store. Upon parking, Mike went out of the car and to the back side with the now open boot. He went straight to his bag and on the side pocket was the key they had been looking for. Incidentally, he had not removed the key since their last trip and he’d used the same bag. He picked the key and going back to the front he proudly passed it to Violet, “Voila”. ”Oh, nice, nice.” exclaimed Violet.
It was as Mike was reversing out of the parking that he noticed a man with an overall waving at him to stop as he came towards him, “Mzee, you forgot your tyre.” It was then he remembered that as they had fueled earlier, his spare tyre had been removed for wheel balancing and pressure check but he’d left without having put it back.
The mood as they drove out of the petrol station and on with their journey was different for the better. This was evidenced by Mike as he broke out in song while Violet joined in, “Swing low, sweet chariot, coming for to carry me home….”. It was a song they used on a light note in the family when there was pressure to indicate longing for deliverance, leave the troubles and go home.
“You know what my dear?, I am starting to think that life ought to be simpler than we’ve taken it ”, Mike interrupted. ”why do you say so?” asked Violet. “What kind of planning would have prepared us for the turn of events today?” Posed Mike, “I think that is the reason James admonishes us not to just plan, and execute, but to ensure we are under guidance and even then, be flexible to adjust ourselves as things unfold.” He added.
“Swing low, sweet chariot…” The rest of the journey was uneventful with the children asleep until they got to the last 10 km stretch. The earth road on that stretch was too rough it rattled the boys out of their sleep. Everybody persevered for the rough stretch with a breath of relief upon arrival some two hours behind schedule. By this time, it was around 1pm and stomachs were beginning to complain. Violet had some packed lunch for the family and she readily served the snacks.
The rest of the afternoon was spent checking what was happening in the shamba. Violet busied herself clearing the cobwebs in the house and preparing dinner. The boys got busy making mud castles while Mike together with Mwangi, the shamba help surveyed the cutoff trenches he’d been having made to contain the surface runoff on the hilly terrain , typical of upper Murang’a. That for Mike did not take too long and by 4pm, he was at the house and looking forward to a quiet evening.
He took a straw seat from inside the house and put it behind the house where it was quiet and had a nice view of the ridges across Iyego and kangema. He also picked his bag with the intention of reading the blog posts he’d printed the previous evening.
As he reclined in the chair and read, it took him only 5 minutes to realize that he was not going anywhere with the reading. Within the 5 minutes, he had not read beyond the first paragraph. He put the papers aside, reclined back to relax, and closed his eyes. It was as he did that that his mind went back in time. The thoughts earlier in the day that, ‘’life could be easier than we take it’’ had lead him to consider many aspects of how he had led his life so far.
Further, being at this place reminded him so much of his childhood days and fed a lot into his thoughts. He remembered how when he was young, his parentage had so defined his outlook and acceptance by the society he grew up in. More specifically, he thought of how being born of a single mother, he’d had to be on the lower side of the social scale. At that time, it had not appeared to him like that, neither had it bothered him, but in retrospect he could see how it had affected him.
He could recall one incidence where while growing up he’d been taken to a local church where he attended Sunday school. As they had lived in the same compound with his cousins (mother’s brother’s children) that were his age mates, they’d always be together. At some point in their Sunday school life, it was time to be baptized, an exciting time for he was to acquire an English name. His mother chose for him the name Michael, one only to be shared with a new teacher in the local school. What had not hit him then but now did was that he had been baptized alone without his cousin friends. Incidentally, his cousins had been baptized as infants since they had been born in wedlock unlike him.
As he went deeper to his childhood memories, he realized it was getting depressing and he startled himself to the present. It was approaching 6 o’clock and starting to get dark. As he stood up to go check what the others were up to, it was as if on cue for as soon as he stood up, he saw Violet coming to his direction. “Mike, can you slaughter for us the chicken?”, she was coming to request him to slaughter the chicken for the family dinner. “Sure, is the water ready?” Mike responded. “Yes, you can ask Mwangi to get the cockerel for you “, Violet said. “And the knife ?” mike asked. “I’ll send Vincent to bring it to you”.
Mike with the help of the boys prepared the chicken for cooking quickly so as not to get caught up by the darkening night. Dinner was ready by 7:30pm and they all sat around the dimly lit sitting room courtesy of the kerosene lamp. It was fun for the boys to have light without electricity, although it had not always been so. The first day for Vincent to spend the night there some four years earlier had been scary – He had never seen such dark night and he had cried the better part of the evening – such a great contrast.
After dinner, everybody went to sleep to the cooing of the owls which the boys could not recollect the following morning having been too tired from play to keep a wake even a minute more than necessary. Mike slept soundly as well that night, purposing to wake up early and have some more quiet alone before the rest woke up. He was up around 6:30am which was good time for him as the rest would not be up until around 8:00am. He took his bag and a rag for sitting on and found a nice spot some 50mts from the house. It was time for the green maize season and that provided the cover he required.
Within the time that Mike sat there, he had made up his mind that he was going to resign from his job the following week, and at the same time firmed up the draft business plan for implementation within the first five years upon leaving employment.
By the time he came back to the house, he was beaming with pride and confidence as he felt he was not wavering any longer, but very focused. He could not wait to share with Violet, so as they sat at the house veranda, taking breakfast, he started , “I know what to do now, I have a roadmap for the next five years.”. “Ok, I want to hear” Violet said. “When I go back to the office tomorrow, I will put in my resignation letter.””mmmmh”, Violet urged him to continue. “The first thing I’ll do after leaving employment is deal with the unfinished business of climbing Mt Kenya as a first priority”, Mike confidently said. “After that , I’ll start the business to support my subsequent endeavors to conquer other mountains”. “I am happy for you now that you have found some way forward and you are confident about it”, Violet added.
The rest of the morning was spent cleaning up the house and compound and preparing stuff to carry back to Nairobi. Being a Sunday, most people were out for church service and as Mike waited for the rest to prepare, he took a walk to a nearby church.
The entrance to the iron sheet church meeting place was on the side and Mike entered and walked to a seat at the back. He however could not stay for too long as he found nothing interesting as the ongoing announcements were going on too long for his liking. “Same script, different locations”, He thought to himself. By the time he went back to the house, everyone was ready waiting for him. It was as they walked up to where they had parked their car that Derick said, “Dad, the car has a puncture”. One of the front tyres was flat and it took them some 15 extra minutes to replace with the spare wheel.
Shortly, they were off on their journey back and Mike was at it again. He found himself absorbed in his thoughts as he connected the events of yesterday with the puncture today. Had they not picked the tyre up , it’d have been a disaster as there was no place nearby to repair the puncture. The nearest possible place was 12 km away and one would have to use public transport which were scarse especially on Sundays.
He quietly thanked God as he drove for the rough part and then the two kms to Murang’a town. It was at Murang’a that they got their tire repaired before they were back to Nairobi by 6pm. The drive was a little slower than usual as there were many vehicles on the road most likely by similar people that had travelled upcountry for the weekend.
The following day on Monday morning, Mike true to his word returned to David’s office around 11am. This time round, David was in and had time to see Mike. Mike had thought it better to first talk to David without the letter and drop it latter. The conversation went well and David seemed to understand Mike. He concluded the conversation by telling Mike, “We’ll be sad to see you leave, but also would be glad to see you happy, even if that happens outside of our organization. Give it a few days and if you are still convinced, just drop the letter with Rose”.
Mike was somewhat impressed with how the meeting turned out , and he knew he didn’t have much to think about as his decision was already made. That being the case, he still thought it more polite to give himself a few days.
Later that week on Friday, he gave in the letter to Rose as he was leaving the office for the day. It was a requirement for him to give a 3 months’ notice, but nothing had prepared him for what he was to expect in those 3 months. Only time would tell the wisdom in his decision that he now felt so confident about. The guide seemed to have spoken albeit a little softly…