Her path and her dreams

Jane had earlier agreed to my visit this morning. So I asked Salome, who is a mutual friend to accompany me. I would drive down to a slum shopping center, Dagoretti market to connect with Salome from where we would start walking to Jane’s home.

We begin what appears to be a few minutes walk but feel like hours. Salome is a bit familiar with this place although she does not know exactly where Jane’s home is. So we snail through narrow paths where we meet people on all sorts of business and live activities; there are kiosks by the road sides, wandering children in school uniform, vendors selling vegetables. A lone dog yawns under the fence. I get a bit conscious about the glances we get. Could it be my big hairdo? Do they know we are not ‘members’ of this village?  I do not gaze back. I am afraid of looking at blood shot eyes of young men who look drunk on this early afternoon. I am afraid of gazing at the eyes of hopeful sellers by the road side. I am not buying anything so why look at them? The children’s gaze is the most penetrating, almost unavoidable. It provokes something inside me, something that nudges me to reach out and love. But how, now?

We finally reach Jane’s house. Her house is tin walled, one room with earthen floor. She also has a make-shift polythene shelter outsider her door for a 3 stone firewood cooking. Inside the house we are ushered into a long sofa which feels like wooden bench due to age and use.

Her path and her dreams :: Global Bag Project :: African Bags

Jane's kitchen

As is tradition, Jane busies herself to make us a cup of tea. I cannot help my wandering eyes from spotting 2 big (appr 40 liter) black drum on the corner. I later learn that water is in short supply and so she needs to save some on the drum. Salome hands Jane a bag of goodies we have brought. My husband had given me 400 shillings before which i gave to Salome to decide what’s best to buy for Jane. She choose 2kg of maize flour, 1kg sugar, 1/2 kg cooking fat, 1kg rice and 400g loaf of bread. Jane picks her gifts. She shoves the partition clothe that separates her one room house to 2 sections and disappears in the other ‘room’. It’s apparent that Jane had prepared some snacks because at this point  I can smell some pancakes. In our social context, eating together is a sign of acceptance of the host. So i tear a piece of pancake and start eating as we talk. We talk about us. Jane tells us about her children, late husband, extended family, on why she lives in the slum and not on ancestral land. Her children are the focus of her dreams.

It so happens that Jane’s son is home for a short break from school. This boy is 15, a second born together with a twin sister. Their eldest brother is 20 now, a qualified plumber and mason.  When I look at this boy my eyes begin to wet – i feign some cough lest Jane sees me melt down. I am thinking about his life now and life on the street which is often the consequences of boys raised by poor moms in this area. I remembered the few boys we had met on the way drunk or drugged and am thankful that Jane’s son has been saved from that. For how long will this family be safe from vulnerabilities and social dangers that lurk in this neighbourhood? Having her son and daughter in high school is a hopeful move. At least, as Jane explains, they will have a better life than her.

Her path and her dreams :: Global Bag Project :: African Bags

Jane with her friend, Salome

Jane’s first born son is a brave fighter. Having lost his dad at teenage and seeing the struggles mom went through, he turned to the street. He joined a drug gang and hanged around Dagoretti market until a friendly pastor met him and invited him to church. Through this church, Jane also got to know the Lord. I knew her through a friend who attends this church.

Salome signals  that its time to start our trek back to the Dagoretti center. Jane promises to take us through a short cut which goes through densely populated narrow foot paths. While walking we continue whispering about these paths and the danger that lurks after night fall. We pass through a liqour village. Here there are more staggering men, middle aged and younger wobbling from the ‘breweries’.

‘Lord of the universe, Lord of all and Father of Jane,

Need I tell you more, need I?

You see her dreams, you see her yearnings, you hear her prayer

Need I tell you more?

Our whispers on these danger-laden paths are our prayers to you

Her dreams and fears and joys and tears rise to you

Need I tell you more?

Lord of the universe, Lord of all

Grace our paths, tune our dreams

Wipe our tears, gift our hands

When you will be blessing families and answering prayers,

Please God, pass by Jane’s home


By Mary Ogalo