I spent a chunk of this past week in Garissa Town. I will be honest with you. I never wanted to go to Garissa. I went only because the news desk had to send someone. That unlucky someone was me. In my usual diva-like fashion, my plan was a quick “in and out” trip and I was determined not to spend more than 48 hours in Garissa.
I am glad I went. And I owe the people of Garissa a world-class apology. I am here to apologise to the people of Garissa for fallaciously thinking that Garissa is a tough and rough terrorist-infested town where you are lucky to get out alive.
Let me tell you about the real Garissa. Forget the much-maligned, bloody and poor Garissa you see on television. For a moment, banish the picture that we (the media) have successfully managed to paint to you, who believe everything you read in the newspapers.
Garissa may be the devil’s footstool with the temperatures going as high as 41 degrees, but it is also the melting pot, literally, of all cultures in Kenya. I felt right at home the moment my feet stepped on the hot sand that is all over Garissa town.
The people of Garissa are warm and kind. No, really, they are. They are a bunch of funny, jovial and relentless Kenyans, who love their town to death.
They will not give up on their town in spite of all the negative stories we write about them. Their resolve and diligence is crystallised in their incredibly smooth almond skin that glistens defiantly against the slap and sting of the unforgiving, sweltering Garissa sun.
Walking through their local market to buy myself a few of their traditional ‘dera’ dresses, the reality of their tenacity and determination to succeed in spite of the harsh conditions is not lost on me. Their market is roofed with plastic material, which made me feel like I was inside a small sufuria, marinating slowly in my own juices.
I am sure you know about Njuguna Street in Garissa. What really tugged my heartstrings was the famous DRC street; the one-stop shop for any traveller looking for a good ol’ time in Garissa town. DRC Street, to put it mildly, is the red light district of Garissa town.
On the last night, my crazy colleagues and I had drinks at the best club on DRC Street. It wasn’t much, and my Fanta tasted like it had salt in it but we loved watching news in between the frequent power blackouts.
SHOWED LESS SKIN
I met a couple of good friends in Garissa that I will not forget in a while for their hospitality and for inviting me to their kikao cha wazee or majlis on Tuesday afternoon. I might have been the only woman in a crowd of about ten men but they agreed to talk to us even though
I felt I should have showed less skin and covered my wild afro. So thank you, Mr. Ali Awdoll, Mr. Khalif Abdi and Mr. Santur for your generosity. Oh, and how can I forget our able tour guide, the ever-smiling Mr. Shebe?
So the people of Garissa experience more terrorist attacks than the rest of us ungrateful Kenyans because of their proximity to Somalia.
So they have frequent blackouts because they are not connected to the national power grid. Your national identity card is a prized possession in Garissa more than it is here in Nairobi because you just never know.
But so what? Garissa might not be your typical holiday destination but it is not the hell hole many of us have been made to think it is. There are some Somali men who fret at the sight of a chicken being slaughtered.
I met a couple of strangers on Tuesday afternoon and two hours later, we were laughing like old friends and the next day, I was in their home savouring a proper Somali “breakfast” of fried mbuzi, chapati, soup and watermelon juice. How many people in Nairobi would do that to a bunch of strangers they have never met?
My point is, we need to cut these Somali folk some slack. And I am not saying this to sound like one of those old feminists or activists surviving on donor morsels. A couple of bad apples doesn’t make all the apples in that farm bad.
Oh, and what’s a column about Garissa without a mention of their incredibly tall and good looking men? They are not only ready with marriage proposals (for second and third wife), but also naughtily flirtatious and I think it is time we opened a “Team Mafisi, Garissa Chapter” office in Garissa town.