The Year of the Roach

It was close to midnight. Friday night. I was only just emerging from a deep slumber,as my body had crashed immediately I got home from school. If you only sleep for four hours ( two hour power naps), you should not be surprised when your brain shuts down without giving you a chance to protest. There was a slight drizzle outside, and the sounds of cars rushing home or to the nearest watering hole could be heard from the highway close to our flat. I sat up and tried to orient myself in time, place and person. And then I saw it. That nefarious creature that makes my skin crawl. The creature that makes my blood boil in anger and disgust.

The cockroach was slowly climbing up one of the walls in my room, completely unaware that I was watching it keenly. I used to have a gecko keeping watch over my space while I was gone, but one day it packed its bags and left. I haven’t seen it since. And now these pesky crawlers have filled the vacuum left by my guardian angel. I felt a mix of anger and hostility course through my veins, saturating every nook and cranny in my body. I wanted to send that smug looking,little bug into the afterlife in the most terrible, painful way imaginable.

We have waged war on roaches in our tiny apartment for a long time now. But these little buggers are so tenacious, so hardy that even our best efforts at roach genocide have come to naught. Our standards of cleanliness have improved, and I must confess to knowing more about the habits of cockroaches than I’d wish to know. As these thoughts were going through my mind, I suddenly began drawing parallels between the roach and our lives as human beings, as Kenyans and as individuals.

The world has been battling with the effects of climate change, which have led to a memorable climate deal in Paris. The continued rise of extremism has seen innocent people uprooted from their homes and forced to be refugees. Rich and poor countries alike have borne the brunt of terrorism. The leading superpower is grappling with a gun menace and racism that is threatening to tear the very fabric that holds society together.

Kenya has gone through a lot in 2015. From high profile visits from some of the most powerful men in the world, to shocking scandals and allegations of graft in government. Radiotherapy machines have broken down and held cancer victims at bay, while the president has been busy touring the globe, signing deals to benefit a dying Wanjiku who won’t live long enough to enjoy the fruits of said deals.

The opposition has managed to survive the blow of death inflicted by Obama when he visited the country to cause the resignation of the most powerful cabinet secretary in government. The president is a man under siege, and the coming elections in 2017 will be his toughest battle yet. Having a deputy president on the dock at the International Criminal Court complicates things even further.

As a common Wanjiku getting dust on my shoes everyday, I get the feeling that we are on our own. That the government is only there to serve those in power and those that supported them. Whether that is true or not, the feeling remains. However, the interesting thing that I have come to discover is that ‘we the people’ are a resilient lot.

Fiery determination and optimism can be seen in the faces of ordinary men and women who share the dusty sidewalks of Mbagathi way with me when I walk to school in the morning.They are filled with the audacity of hope, even if they do not know where their next meal will come from. I see the same strength behind the eyes of the old women who come looking for clothes to wash and other chores to do for a small fee. 

Wanjiku might fall and falter from the weight of the burdens imposed on her, but she never gives up.Strike one down and another rises to take her place. What then can differentiate us from the bug that’s adorning my wall?

This has been a tough year, and I’ve struggled to continue fighting. I have fallen many times, and my spirit has been on the verge of despair more times than I can count. But I take refuge in the fact that I am not alone.

From the Wanjiku waiting for her radiotherapy session to the Wanjiku making an honest living to the innocent victim of armed conflict,terrorism and extremism in South Sudan, Nigeria, Central African Republic, Syria, France and the United States; we all have the spirit of the roach inside us.

2015 has been the year of the roach. I wonder what 2016 will bring. Don’t you?