FROM OUR LYDIA
It is long, but well worth the read to gain insight into the raw reality of life in a third-world nation in the foul grips of this evil pandemic. We encourage you to set aside a few minutes to read it.
We have done some editing and also added text to clarify some of the colloquial terms. Our inserts are in a different colour.
COVID-19 was already there, but we took everything for granted as we carried on with our daily tasks. I was hearing of corona virus, but it did not worry me much because it had not yet reached our country, Kenya.
It struck me one Sunday evening when I was on my way to attend a clan meeting where we were organising a celebration to welcome some utensils we had collected money for to serve us as a clan whenever the need arose. (What we would liken a clan to in our culture would be the extended family - all the family [like a family reunion] was coming together in this situation to organse a party to enjoy using items they had corporately purchased. It could have been some dishes, or cups, or spoons or knives or cooking pots.)
Immediately I sat (as soon as I sat down),I opened my phone and there was the president addressing the citizens of Kenya that all schools have been closed with immediate effect as from the following morning. I did not believe my eyes. This is after a case of corona virus had been confirmed from a woman who had traveled from the United Kingdom to Kenya and spent time at her home in Nairobi and later moved to her farm in Kitale. This raised an alarm among Kenyans. The question being how many has she come into contact into contact with! The government was shaken and put certain measures in place immediately. Example no shaking of hands, no hugging, washing and sanitizing hands all over, in homes, market place, and vehicles. The number of persons in a matatu (public transportation) was reduced from fourteen to eight; thus, hiking the fare. No public gathering. Burials are to be done immediately one dies, and with very few people attending; i.e., the area chief, priest, and a very few immediate family members.
To make batters worse, no attending church services. For the first time, I saw churches closed on Sundays.
Putting on the face mask wherever you are out of your home is another issue altogether. I find it very difficult because am used to talking freely without any barrier and found myself hanging it below the mouth. Little did I know the policeman was around. He asked me calmly whether I knew how it should be worn and immediately placed it well.
People in Kenya have a great challenge coping with these measures and some have found themselves in police stations after caning (being beat with a stick) and being fined heavily. Some of our policemen are brutal, there is a case in Kisii county where they almost killed a doctor who was coming from work late. The curfew was introduced whereby people are supposed to be home at 7:00 pm does not find you outside.
It is not easy. It is a difficult time altogether. The pandemic attacked us icognitely and in Kenya being that most of them are jobless, they self employ themselves through business, working for others in gardens; it becomes very difficult to feed their families. But people can now do their own work without employing others since most people are in their homes.
Traveling to Nairobi and Mombasa is also not allowed, it is (they are) locked. No getting in and out of the two big cities. This affects the transport sector and the drivers, conductors have no where to earn from. The supply of food is low since the demand is high, the prices are also not pocket friendly. People are suffering a lot but we are hoping for the best. We are advised to observe social distance, avoid unnecessary movements. The motto is STAY AT HOME. People have been quarantined for fourteen days once you had got into contact with an infected person.
A case was reported of some seven men who escaped from the lock-down in Nairobi, taking an empty casket with them on a matatu and seriously wailing - pretending that they were going for a burial all the way to Homabay county (when someone dies and the body is being escorted to their village for burial, there is much wailing, noise making and whistle blowing. It is not uncommon to take the body back home in a casket strapped to the top of public transportation.). When they reached Homabay it was discovered there was no burial in that area, and they were taken back to Nairobi. Testing the driver, he was corona virus positive. My question is, how did they manage to pass all the policemen on the way?
A man also traveled from Mombasa town with his family, spent the night in Nairobi and left his family in Nairobi and proceeded with his journey to Siaya, and on reaching Ahero he had a minor accident forcing him to spend the night in Ahero as the car ws being repaired, and proceeded with the journey the next day. When he reached his home in Siaya, he started complaining of chest pain and was also coughing. The test was done and they claim he was positive for corona virus. He was wrapped in clothes, a shallow hole dug, and thrown in the hole the following day with only few family members. Complaints arose and he was removed from the grave and taken out for further investigations. Dear ones it was very painful seeing an honourable man being buried that way. All who came in contact with him were traced and taken into quarantine for two weeks.
Corona virus, corona virus, you have no power over us! The power of Jesus Christ is above you!
As we are talking now, the number has grown to above three hundred from that one woman. My questions are:
1. Will our children ever go back to school?
2. The ones who were to do national exams this year how will they manage it?
3. Will the economy of Kenya get back to normal?
What next? What next our loving God?
Without forgetting our village, Kadawa. It is pathetic. Old men and women are seen carrying small bottles of water, well tightened, with a lid bearing a small hole to remove water. Do they know what a sanitizer is? And even if they knew, the little coins they have, should they use for buying sanitizer or food? The masks are expensive to buy and maintain, so some end up using one throughout so long as they are safe from policemen. A mad man at Holo market wears a polythene bag around the nose and ties using some sisal ropes. He says he is getting rid of "corora".
The market at Holo was abolished. It found me in the market (on that day). You can't imagine the number of chiefs and sub-chiefs who were dropped to chase people out of the market on Tuesday as is usually our market day. People resisted and were being caned thoroughly. We ran without caring about your age, position in the community, picking what you could. I was ashamed to hear one of my pupils shouting, "look at Teacher Lydia". What we feared most was tear gas that they wanted to result to if people failed to follow their instructions. We ran home, and the gate to the market was locked with a very big padlock.
The market was deserted completely. Come evening people came back with their goods and were now selling all over along the road, because the market was closed permanently. Another market, called "Corona Market" was formed which operates daily behind the shops apart from Tuesday. Those selling livestock hide in a bush and sell secretly only on Tuesdays. If found by policemen you can imagine what happens.
Another Mama (older woman) told me there is no corona pandemic. "It is a lie", and she does not take any precaution. I tried explaining to her and she said "there is no corona".
May the good God of heaven remember us. May He miraculously wipe away this evil virus from the world. Amen!