There is something disconcerting about not understanding what is going on around you. You’re fully awake and aware but you cannot make sense of the situation you find yourself in. Your mind blanks out occasionally for no reason, you find yourself staring into the air. Making simple decisions seems so tedious while answering the numerous phone calls/ messages coming your way is pure torture.
The lady who runs the kiosk downstairs, let’s call her Aunty Shop, on Monday shared that, since the 14 day notice issued by NEMA & WARMA to demolish Seefar Apartments; she has been finding herself staring into space the whole day. Her shop in turn looks dusty and disarranged, something I have never seen in the last year or so, since she opened it. She cannot fathom what she’d do with all the stock and here she’d make an income from, if the apartment complex goes down. She surveys the shop, I see her hand tremble, but I have no answer because I am dealing with my own worries.
Aunty Shop is beloved by all our children. She knows them by name, age and character. She even knows which sweet each prefers; and occasionally gives them out for free. She is a lady we trust with our house keys when the part time cleaners finish their work and need to leave. We send couriers with our packaged deliveries to her shop, as we might not be home; and she keeps them for us. In these harsh economic times, she allows us to take things from her shop on credit. Our home has never lacked for milk, bread, salt, sugar, oil and other things as money continues to be hard to find in Kenya today. She was grateful for the 30 day extended notice period because in her words, she said she has time to think and plan her next move.
All 287 of us Kenyan homeowners are grateful for that 30 day extension given from Monday, even though it might still mean that it all comes down and we have to move. Personally, I’ve been waking up with migraines each morning since the news. My sleep has been deep, like that of someone trying to escape their problems, but non-the-less disturbed. There was news of someone fainting when the news of the demolitions broke on the fateful Friday.
Our children have been asking us why they would want to destroy our home and what will happen to all their friends. It’s at that point you simply do not wish to be the adult in this situation, you want to take comfort in someone else dealing with this for you. A lady at the Sunday Homeowner’s meeting spoke of how her Doctor threatened to admit her into hospital if she didn’t bring her blood pressure down.
Speaking of that meeting, it was an interesting one. It was nice to catch up with people that we’ve come to know as neighbors and friends albeit the circumstances were what they were. I remember having to move into Seefar Apartments, before the lifts were full operational, because we could not afford paying both mortgage and rent. The moving company staff that brought us here had to lug our entire household up 10 floors and go back for more. The move ended at midnight, all we had to offer was milk and Ugali, as we were too tired to trace a place to buy food at that time.
In the following days and months, we came to know each other as neighbors by walking up and down the ten flights of stairs. I spotted one of the earlier tenants who I met as a Bachelor in 2014, at the meeting he sat next to his lovely wife. Another homeowner shared the news of his 2nd born, we smiled happily but continued to discuss our general fate. It all reminds me of the time my next door neighbor knocked my door every so softly and informing me that her newborn was not breathing; how I drove to hospital praying that the little bub didn’t die, not that day and not in that way. I had to hold back tears and worry because as a mother of 3 the last thing I know a new mother would want is to see signs hopelessness in someone else’s eyes. I braved it and baby survived.
Yet the people I felt saddest for, especially as I watched them ask questions at the Sunday meeting, were the old men & women. They were slow to state their points but deliberate to get a clear answer. One lady, despite her slow gait and being hard of hearing, raised pertinent points and observations that we the younger more vibrant & passionate generation were busy overlooking.
I feel bad for them because they believed their investment was secure, that they had made a sound choice and they deserve to rest easy in their twilight years. Most have been living off the rent of the premises, and that has been sustaining them in ways that NSSF would never have. They were sure they had secured their legacy that they were going to leave their children and grandchildren something to give them a home or a stable income. On their faces was just pure confusion & devastation.
As the young guns, we are set-a-back but we know we can fight this out. We have time and energy in a way that they don’t; and now their hope rests on us. As we ended the meeting, one man said, “Is this what Kenya has come too?” I felt my heart become heavy, for I am sure they remember a time when Kenya made sense.