A sad day in Maralal

Last Sunday, I was in Maralal, a town I have seen so many, seemingly, or truly, crazy people.

One shines my shoe and for the shining cream, applies a white paste. My shoe turns pale!
Another, from a night of chewing khat, nurses his hang with a fresh bunch of Meru Twigs.

But, that is not the tale for today.

There is a petrol station, one painted red and yellow, next to a freshly-built grey building,
only second to the barely-finished county offices in size. Next to the fueling hub is this bus stage
that ferries people to the infamous beautiful land, Baragoi, west of the Kenyattas’ house of conception. Proud ladies and gents, clad in shukas and veils wait, patiently, with loads of eatables mounted for old Kitui-bound-like lorry-headed buses of Kenya’s capital, Countrybus.

My crew and I were travelling to town in shifts from the infamous highlands of Poro and so, as we waited for the second team to arrive, we pulled out a football and started playing some “street” soccer.


The ladies that sold me some colorful RED, BLUE and YELLOW Samburu lmurran regalia had not yet opened shop opposite to the place we waited, playing. The unfit from my team took a butt rest as we did quick round passes encircling a patch of grey water that still floated from the previous night’s showers.

Once we were drenched in sweat and only I was still “in psyche” with the inflated round leather thing we were kicking, a shoe-less boy emerged from a barbed fence that lay desolate.

I kicked the football to him.

He ducked and eyed me suspiciously.
It seemed like this was a rare fete, or a test of wit that would end up in bouncing kicks.
I made a run for the ball that almost hits the tarmac and kicked it to him, again.
This time, he bends low and touches the polished surface.
From his looks, he is about the age of my 7-year old class one niece but only in terms of Date of Birth. His real age in terms of life experience is 16+. He has a big wound on his right foot… the one he incalculateably sends the almost-knee-high ball back to me with. I harden my heart to hide the hurt.

“What class are you in?” I ask in Swahili.
“Sijaenda shule,” (I haven’t gone to school” he says.
I kick the football back to him and turn away not to see him cringe. Clearly, he has never kicked a football… maybe a paper or sock one but certainly not an inflated one like this he now kicked with a smile of yellowing teeth on his face.

“Where is home?” I asked.

“Kwa mtaro.” He said.

“Where is your father?” I asked again.

“Alienda” (He went) He replied.

“Alienda wapi?” (Where did he go?) I asked after a few passes.

“Alienda.” (He went) He said, pulling back a rope of mucus back into his nostrils.

“Na Mama?” (Your mother?) I asked.

“Alienda Nakuru akanisahau.” (She went to Nakuru and forgot me.) He said.

I did not ask any more questions. He did not ask me for anything… not money, not food.

I just saw a smiling face that day, of a young boy who sleeps in the ditch, with a big wound on his foot, abandoned by his mother and father, now leaving off a bottle of shoe glue and the mercies of the people of Maralal.


Jeremiah Kipainoi is a multimedia journalist and fellow, Salzburg Academy on Media and Global Change. His background in journalism has drawn him into telling human-interest stories, using media as an agent of change.

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