Valentine’s Day is just five days away, and with it comes an opportunity to create beautiful memories. Four women share their unforgettable experiences on this day. By Fridah Mlemwa
“My Valentine’s experience is not your conventional boy took me out kind of story. It is about love, but love that brings people together to support their own,” says Clara Gachoki.
Clara’s story began on an early morning of February 5, 2017, when she set out with four colleagues on a work trip to Garissa at the break of dawn. One hour into their journey, they were involved in a road accident. Fortunately, no one perished, although they sustained injuries. Good Samaritans rushed them to a nearby hospital in Matuu. At the level four hospital, they were only given first aid since doctors were on strike.
Clara and one of her colleagues were rushed to Nairobi Hospital for further treatment since they had sustained serious injuries. At only the age of 25, Clara was informed that she might never walk again since she had been seriously injured on her back.
“I was in a collar, I couldn’t move any body part let alone walk. I was in a lot of pain. The doctors told me that I needed surgery since my back was broken,” narrates Clara.
After being admitted to the hospital for three days, she started looking for a second opinion. That’s when she underwent surgery at Coptic Hospital.
“I ended up being operated on a week later after the accident. Doctors fixed titanium plates on my back. I was in a lot of pain.”
On the Monday of February 13, Clara was in so much pain that she could not walk or sit up. An attempt to walk caused her to pass out.
“I was in a very bad state. They even put me on diapers. It was just terrible. I could see the pain in my parents’ eyes as they tried to be strong for me,” says Clara.
MY VALENTINE’S MIRACLE
At the time, she didn’t know that things were about to change. When she woke up the following day, on February 14, she was greeted by a cheerful therapist.
“The therapist told me, ‘you know what? Today you have to walk’. His enthusiasm rubbed on me, and I had a conversation with myself. I willed myself to move and refused to stay in bed any longer,” says Clara, adding, “I told myself, today is Valentines’ Day. A day supposed to be full of happiness. The day when we show our love and affection for our loved ones, so I am going to show my body some love,” she recalls.
Determined and with an unexplained strength from within, Clara held the therapist’s hand and attempted to stand. After struggling a bit, she stood up, and started walking around, albeit slow, but she kept moving.
“When I started walking around, I couldn’t stop it! It was a miracle! For the first time after a week and a half of being bed ridden I walked again. I was so excited. I was able to sit down, and enjoy my meal,” Clara shares happily.
There was more joy for Clara on that miraculous day. In the afternoon, her cousin who works for a prestigious hotel, brought her a sumptuous cake to celebrate Valentine’s Day, and as if on a cue, her family followed all donned in red.
“For me, it wasn’t the dinner and flowers that made my Valentine’s Day, it was just seeing my family come together to throw a surprise for me at such a difficult time in my life. For over one and a half weeks, I had been so downcast. I had cried until my tears run out. I had lost hope and thought I would never walk again, but on this day, I was able to walk and had the best Valentine’s Day ever!”
“I was discharged days later. I will always remember that Valentine’s, I walked after being told I might never walk again, and my family not only celebrated with me but also surprised me in such an amazing way.”
SALSA DANCE, A RED DRESS AND A LUCKY STREAK
Early morning of February 14, 2015, Jackline Kinyua is twirling and sashaying to the salsa beats in a dance studio at Chuka University, practising for an exhilarating performance for Valentine’s Day. After a morning of sweat, Jackline donned a beautiful red dress and went about her day as she awaited her evening performance.
Jackline’s silky strapless red dress was catching a lot of attention, not only because it fit her just right, but also because it was a theme outfit for the day. Little did the 20-year-old know that her dress was about to give her day a new meaning.
Some marketers promoting a soft drink company’s products picked her out in the crowd because of the knee length sexy dress. The dress proved to be her lucky charm as she went ahead to win a giveaway presented and posted on the organisation’s online platforms after a photo shoot.
And another surprise awaited her. Jackline’s salsa partner asked her out on a date!
“My all-time salsa partner asked me out and we had a magical afternoon stroll. For salsa gurus like us, we took some really nice romantic poses as the sun set.
“In the evening light, we ran around the waterfall at Tungu River in Chuka. I was so happy. It is my favourite Valentine’s Day because for the longest time, I had always broken up with my boyfriend’s days before the lovers’ day.”
A DOUBLE VALENTINE
“I was expecting my new boyfriend (Martin) to take me out on Valentine’s when he called to say he would spend the day with his mother and join me later,” says Martha. (*real name withheld)
Martha was not surprised since Martin adores his mum to the moon and back. However, that Valentine’s Day falling on a Saturday, she felt let down. As she contemplated how she was going to spend the rest of the day, she received a message from a guy she had been ignoring in college for the umpteenth time. He was hoping he could take her out for lunch.
“I wasn’t really interested in the date, but the idea of a free meal and getting out of the house made me agree to meet him. I also figured since I was meeting him in Nairobi’s CBD, I could buy a present for Martin,” explains Martha.
“I didn’t put any effort in dressing up. I wanted to quickly arrive in town, eat the free lunch, shop and come back, and get ready for dinner with Martin.”
The 21-year-old made her way to an uptown restaurant for her lunch date. When she got there, her date was already waiting for her.
“I remember how he pulled the seat for me. I swear it was the first time a guy ever did that for me,” laughs Martha, adding “I wasn’t sure where to start considering that I had been ignoring his calls and texts, and avoiding him in school.”
This day was about to bring a change of heart for Martha. Happy banter and laughter flowed between the two as they ate their meal. The sun set, with the pair smiling and exchanging stories like two lost friends who had just re-united. At the end of the day, the two went separate ways, although unwillingly, with Martha donning a new silver bracelet that she had been gifted by her friend, and a wide smile on her face.
“That’s how I met the love of my life. I didn’t know it then, but I can tell you now with all surety.”
What happened to her evening date with Martin?
“I still went for my evening date. Although Martin showed up with a rose and a present for me, my heart had already been captivated by the Indian guy, who I met randomly for lunch. For the first time in my life, I fell in love. So every Valentine’s Day, we celebrate our anniversary.”
ROSES AND WOMEN
“Most Valentines in my life come and go like any other day. But in 2012, I wanted to make Valentine’s Day count,” says Caroline Chege.
Caroline set out on a mission to visit women and youth in Mathare slums to spread cheer.
“That day, I remembered women in Mathare slums, how they are resilient, committed and the back-breaking daily activities they undertake to fend for their families.”
Caroline met them through her work with her non-profit organisation, which sought to encourage women and youth to live positively and empower themselves through self-help groups. But it was a personal initiative that led her to buy dozens of roses.
“I wanted to let them know that they are not forgotten, that they are loved and that someone cares for them,” says Caroline.
She hoped her small gesture of handing them roses would make them feel special and forget the daily challenges they go through in such a harsh environment.
“Watching their faces light up as I gave them roses and spoke to them words of encouragement gave me so much joy. They told me they had only seen such a gesture on TV, but never in real life.”
“Most people think about showing love to those close to them, these women were very close to my heart. To date, they have never forgotten me. Our bond became special. Without doubt, that was my best Valentines ever.”