Pamoja Kenya DK Family Event – Summer of 2018.
The sun is shining outside. It calls for a walk in the forest, maybe playing with my kids outside or perhaps just a walk to our local Brugsen for milk. But all I do is sit in my living room, my legs up, browsing the TV for the latest updates on Tour de France. In all honesty, I have no interest in cycling, or of hundreds of men sweating profusely in not-so-flattering outfits, making their way over the Alps in temperatures in the upper twenties. But, in a weird way, watching their labour consoles me, like cold oil rubbed on aching muscles. I tell myself that someone else, though far away, is in more agony that I am. Yes, my muscles ache, my joints feel heavier and my steps are slower. I cannot even make the stairs without being constantly reminded that I am in bad shape, I need to do more exercises, and I’m not 13 anymore.
But I am grateful. The agony of every step I take today is the story of hours well spent yesterday. Hours of jumping, running, falling, hopping, and dancing. A day of a happy childhood revisited. That day was yesterday, at the Pamoja Kenya family event in Fælledparken.
Yesterday, we played Katii with homemade balls. Back in primary school, we made them from plastic bags, which we found lying around in the streets, or the ones our local shopkeeper packed milk and sugar in, when our mothers sent us to the kiosk. This time around, my children’s old socks replaced the jualas. Later, my son asked me what the purpose of the game was. I laughed and told him “Just avoid getting hit by the ball, that’s all, avoid getting hit.” So that’s what we did, my daughter, my son and a lot of other Kenyans and their children, all did their best to avoid getting hit. Playing Katii took me back to my eight-year-old self. It is worth all today’s soreness.
Yesterday we played Tug of War. Children as young as two pulled the rope together with their mothers. At first, the children listened to the grown-ups’ instructions of on how to play the game, but at some point they decided to make their own rules, a new version of tag-oh-wo.
We played ‘Public Van’ as well. You are excused if you don’t know what I’m talking about. It’s that rope-jumping game, of which the pronunciation varied, depending on which part of Kenya one came from. For my sister and I, it was Mabrigan Mabrigan, other Kenyans might have referred to it as Mabligan, or Mapligan. Whatever you may think of it now, it was through songs like this, and rhymes like Humpty Dumpty, that I learned the English language and etiquette. I learned about saluting the king, and bowing for the queen, songs that triggered my imagination to countries far away, where this mystical couple, who wore crowns of gold, lived in castles, had men serving them, and rode in horse-drawn chariots. And what were ‘chariots’ again?
Yesterday, we played football. It took me back to the days of playing with my brothers and neighbours, with balls made of jualas, or, if were lucky, an old, worn out real football. We would meet in the public school compound nearby, or in the streets, to play. But yesterday we had four new footballs, and as we revived our childhood days, our children may have been reliving their world cup images, the boys dreaming of being the next Lukaku, or Mbappe, and the young girls imagining themselves to be Nadia Nadim. Or maybe they were just playing football for the pleasure of it.
We played Danish games too. We played croquet, which I still cannot pronounce, we played Jenga and ‘Kongespil’ and many other. Here we, the old guard, sat back and let the children explain the rules of the games.
Yesterday I met a lady who reminded me of my mother. She walked into the group with ease, with the kind of confidence that only comes with age. She smiled gently, sincerely, and looked genuinely happy to see a lot of youngsters gathered together, dancing and singing, and just having a good time. I wished for a minute my mother were here, that my children would visit their grandma, as I did mine at their age.
Yesterday may have brought soreness to my joints, but the happiness and the memories are beyond measure. Fælledparken for a moment felt like Uhuru Park, there were seventy-two of us gathered there. Some had seen the Family Event advertised on Facebook, I talked to a couple who had driven from Lolland with their baby to be there, a family from Vejle had stayed an extra day in Copenhagen, just to be a part of it all. Some just joined in because they saw the flag hoisted in an old beach tree, for others it was the music by Mamadou and the djs that attracted them. For some I will never know. The important thing is that they were there. Children who hardly ever see other children who look like them, have their skin colour, their curls, met a lot of people who resemble them and their parents. As my friend Irene put it ’our children saw a mirror of themselves’. It has been a long time since I was part of such a large group of people celebrating their uniqueness, dressed in Vitenges and dashikis, speaking in our language, displaying our afros, and dancing to our music.
Yesterday was the meeting of minds and spirits of different generations, children as young as eight months, teenagers, parents and grandparents were part of it. There was a feeling of togetherness, of belonging, of not being alone. We were a part of something greater than each of us. We were seventy-two cheerful souls with one denominator: Kenya.
Yesterday we danced and played as if we had been friends forever, and my hope is that when we meet again, we shall not be strangers, we shall say ‘Habari gani?’ to each other, share our joys and sorrows, we will be comrades in this our ‘second home’, far away from home.