Valley of Good Hope

*Douglas Mwangi*

Back in the day, Sundays used to be nice. I always asked Santa to bring me a month of Sundays on Christmas (it made sense to me back then). He never did. He never brought me anything, really. Maybe I was a bad boy.

Sunday school was nice too. All the pretty girls came to Sunday school. Some of them liked me too.

A nice glass of warm milk and an episode of Churchill Show was all I needed for a good night sleep. I couldn’t be bothered by trivial grown up stuff.

Of course, I need a lot more for a good night sleep now. ‘Trivial’ grown up stuff wake me up all the time now (especially my landlord).

Sunday, 6.00 A.M

On this particular Sunday, I woke up to a deep gaping hole right outside my house. Morning had dawned after a night of incessant rain. A section of the tarmac road had collapsed and a curious crowd was milling about. Few had masks on but none cared about social distancing. We probably should all be quarantined by now.

Anyway, the hole looked like a World War 2 mass grave-site; it still does. And as if on cue, a smaller twin hole sank with a huge thud just 20 meters ahead. It looks like some Gothic horror movie cave.

A Canter full of toast had already been pulled out of what must have seemed to its driver like an innocent pothole. It must have triggered the earthly apocalypse. I wondered how many people had missed breakfast; how many people eat Tosti anyway?

Turns out a fault line from Menengai Crater runs along the collapsed tarmac road right outside my house. It’s a dormant volcano, they say and of course, an expert task force has been formed to ‘investigate’ the collapse further. Beacons would be set up to inform future developers, and the extent of the fault line would be fully mapped out. A comprehensive report would be made public and hopefully, the per diem too.

Probably not. It’s political mayhem. A political goldmine. Such colourful language but we know better, don’t we?

No lives were lost. Not yet anyway. The silver lining, I guess.

Meanwhile, a deserted quarry 4 kilometers away filled up. Water graciously leeched through the soil, like it had a life of its own. It quickly passed on to an adjacent quarry, which filled to its brim too.

Close-knit households and packed estates stood tall next to the quarries. Real neighborhoods, real people, real lives, all stood on the treacherous path of death.

Well, not anymore. 

Most folks had just woken up when massive tides of water came gushing into their houses. The quarries couldn’t take it anymore. The pressure was so immense, like that of a hose except this was far much bigger. This was nature’s hose. The water came in through the roof, through any opening, and if there were none, it made some of its own on your wall. Women and kids screamed at the top of their lungs. Most men murmured their last prayers. Some clang on to rooftops hopefully.

Picture this: one minute you are all about your morning rituals; the next minute, dirty water is slowly seeping into your house. In no time, your furniture is floating all over before you are literally swept off your feet. Your instincts quickly kick in. You turn the juice off; at least you won’t be electrocuted alive. You rush behind the door trying to keep the water outside. Trying to buy some more time. Trying to delay the inevitable.  

Chaos. You can’t keep the water outside anymore; the pressure is killing you. It feels like the weight of a million men against your back. You have 10 seconds to let go, grab whatever you can find and get the hell out of there. The water furiously flows in now, angry about being kept outside for too long, and before you know it, you are waist deep in debris, sewage and weeds. Things are being tossed around the house carelessly as if they weighed nothing. The water level is rising fast, the door has been shut and, worse still, the pressure won’t let you open it. You can’t get out now. Its time to say your last prayers.

Lives were lost because of the floods. Houses were submerged and those that escaped doom now look like the leaning tower. A woman couldn’t take it anymore; she committed suicide. She had a two-year-old and they both burned to death. This part of town has a whole other story to tell.

However, a significant positive side note was that most people were rescued alive through the roofs. Kenyans can be their brother’s keeper and calamities, natural or not, sometimes bring out the best in us.

That’s most of us, anyway. Thugs had a field day rummaging through other people’s stuff. Somehow the Red Cross got robbed too. They had the wrong lists, the wrong names. Some sadist character probably had a hand in this. 

And once the cameras were gone, the political heavyweights magically disappeared. Abracadabra. Gone.

Understandably, social distancing could not apply here. It is absurd in times of tragedy. The people’s masks had been swept off but the police were in town and they did not care.

The lake is coming for us too, we are told. That’s more untold shock and trauma.

The Cape of Good Hope was supposed to be the Cape of Bad Hope. It made the lives of early seamen a living hell. Bad tides. Furious storms. Portuguese chaps christened it “Cape of Good Hope” to encourage their fellow sailors to bravely tread the dangerous waters. It was ironic and it still is.  This too, is the Valley of Good Hope.

*The writer can be found on Facebook as Douglas Mwangi*

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