Visiting day in Maranda was akin to the day of Pentecost. The wind that blows on visiting day is the same wind that descended on the apostles. The Cold Canary currents. My memory of the Bible is a little hazy there. Typically the day officially begins at ten. As form fours we would pretend we were reading for the upcoming mock exams. We stay taliban but our real hearts want to be visited.
Deya was always the first to be visited. On days that his grandfather came, he would come before the official time. Other days he would choose land meetings over Deya. Deya would be called midway from sleep to go see his grandfather. We didnt care so much about his visiting, for his grandfather brought only a newspaper and a single medium sized fish that he had saved his whole life to buy from Nyapiedho. No he didn’t use his whole life savings, he spared sh 300 which he dutifully forced into the hands of Deya. May be he was ashamed that the amount was too little. Deya would later work hard, and make it to medical school. He scored straight As. 84 points.
Nairobi people would start being visited around tea break. At this time the canteen is always full. People desperately needed mbathi or loaf as we would call our bread. There were no prefects on ‘duty’ during visiting. They all cringed at the gate waiting to be visited. The vulnerability had been passed to them. Cops and civilians alike, we were all waiting for the spoils of visiting day. The uptake of the black mid morning tea would go down tremendously that day. Top layer was however served as usual. It was not uncommon to see students dipping their buggers in top and then squeezing it between their jaws like the world was coming to an end. And the principal would complain in the assembly the next day that they had thrown a lot of food the previous day.
The Nairobi people would drive their parents’ cars around with loud music and windows down. The school captain was from Ugenya but they resided in Kisumu. He would typically join the Nairobi gang on Visiting day. Some Nairobians would buy loyalty from him by bringing him a few snacks and sausages. This captain guy once ate back to back sausages in my presence in a manner that no man had ever done before. He was the strictest, most short tempered and yet the most loved. I will not mention his name. Nairobi people loved the hockey pitch. They ate and drunk and enjoyed. Some of them would be seen shirtless throwing around their shirts like slings about to be launched. There was freedom. At least for a while. Mr Airo would look at you with a bad eye when he saw you misbehaving. He would remain silent. Like your mother in a wedding party when you serve a lot of food. Then he would one day bring up the story when you didnt shave over the weekend or when you are late for noc, the morning preps. For some reason, Mr Ahete did not like Nairobians. “You said you are Yobra, and you come from Nai, ” Mr Ahete would say, even if Brian was not in trouble. There were many Brians. This particular one was in Red. Form Four Red.
The people of Bondo, and Siaya, and Uriri would follow. These people had their proceedings in dholuo. You would hear their parents shouting at them asking them why they did not do well in the mock. You can imagine how it is to hear in the luo language that you did not do well. Irem. Their visitings were however the most thrilling. Relatives of my school mates came with fish from Uhanya, fresh from the lake. The ones that were fried by Anyango in the morning. Anyango had been woken up as a matter of emergency because Opiyo is sitting exams later in the year. Opiyo deserves Omega 3 for KCSE. So she must set at dawn, go to Opija the fishermen and have fish prepared. People of Bondo would share their fish. Actually, by the time we get to the Dorm, the fish is done. Somebody like Opiyo would get sh 500 as pocket money. He would feel better because Deya got only sh 300. Agonda would smell of fish on the third day after visiting. This would be a Tuesday, when there was no assembly. The audacity!
My father would stroll in a few minutes to the assembly time. This would be after I have waited and waited. He would hold The Saturday Standard and some paper bag. The green plastic bag. Plastics were still legal. The bag would smell of fresh fish. I would later be relieved to find out that the fish are actually fried and not fresh. He told me he had passed by Uhanya. He thinks I dont know it but he was late because he went to see his friend from KNUT. He would soften his eyes apolegetically and say, “Omera bisomo koso itugo? ” He asks whether I am reading or playing. I beam with excitement and tell him that I was number one in Bunyore-Maranda. BUMA was hard but not hard hard like Biochemistry. He would later give me sh 300 for pocket money. I would grunt a little and get an extra sh 150. In any case, I was richer than Deya. We were hiding behind that kasomething that looks like a watch tower close to the gate. The funny thing that we dont know its name. Its near the gate. Visiting was over and Mr Midega could feature anytime and confiscate my food. The word confiscate was popularised in Maranda, on visiting day. Then, Midega was the deputy boarding master. A shrewd one at that. I would miss supper that day. Because it was visiting day.
I am a doctor because of my old man, and Mr Ouno, and Oduor Obura. These people all taught me English. Because I needed the hand of God to get an A in that subject. Oduor Obura read my first manuscripts and pinned them for students to see how good my writing was. He took me through writing master classes that I ended up writing something close to what he had taught me when the exams came. Oduor Obura loved Shreds of Tenderness. I loved it too. He taught it so well. From a literary eye, John Ruganda, the author of Shreds was clever. Ouno on the other hand was the God of all creation. Mr. Ouno’s English is from London. London, Colney. He spoke his way through our hearts to inspire us to greatness.
When I hear that Maranda is ablaze, I am heartbroken. Maranda has been on fire every other time. I am uncomfortable when I meet chaps from Alliance or Ramba or Got Agulu because they all think that all we did in Maranda was to torch the school. I am itching . I wonder why people burn dorms and not classes or toilets or the bursar’s office. I would want to see the marks I left on the walls of Omondi or Owino dormitories. But now Owino was set on fire, carrying with it the memories. Our history will go into flames like we never existed. We must protect our tradition. We must maintain our pride. We must go back to the ways that made us who we are. We must search our souls and solve our problems. But most importantly we must put integrity into practice.