Jubilee laptop project – a broken promise
“Ms. Angie, you have a phone call. Can I put it through to you?” My secretary’s voice broke into my concentration. “Yes please ” A few seconds later my desk phone buzzed.
“Hey, Angie..its Bob”
“Bob, why are you calling me at work is anything the matter?”
“No, Jesus Angie, slow down. Am just calling to confirm if you are coming over this weekend ”
“Sure I cant miss your daughter’s birthday for anything in the world ” I replied, relieved.
“Okay, I will pick you up on Friday at the bus stop. I don’t want you getting lost like last time” he chuckled, obviously remembering.
“Okay, I will call you when am almost there”
I finished the phone call, still smiling, thinking of Bob. He was, still is, my greatest friend ever. We met in campus in our first year, and have never parted since then. He was always a straight forward person, independent, tenacious, and very humble. He was someone who voiced his thoughts when the forum called for it and also gave ear to another’s opinion. I got to see a different side of him in our third year when he invited me to his home for a visit. He always bragged about how their family was full-blooded Luo. His grandmother, he would say, was a direct descendant of Ramogi – god of the eye of the rising sun. Even all their pets had Luo names, like his dog was called Otieno Rateng, praised for his dark fur and long canines.
I realized how he was so rooted in his culture, and in politics. And he would voice his political opinion in his deep voice, loudly, emphatically using his hands, body, gestures and facial expression to make sure his point was not just understood, but well understood. I went back home with a different understanding of him, glad for the chance to understand his countenance, which I always imagined was like a still lake, with waves bubbling underneath, waiting for the slightest of winds so that it can rise with a roar, with a mighty sweep of sound and waves.
The week passed quickly after Bob’s call on Monday, I had asked for a week off from my job to spend it with my friend and his family in Mombasa. On Friday, I got my ticket and started my journey to visit Bob and his wife Sereh. Sereh was my friend through Bob, a head shorter than Bob. She is dark skinned, with curves. A Luo lady from Gem- Rae in Nyanza. Bob met her in his church back at home. The same church they exchanged their marital vows.
The journey lasted for eight hours and by the time we got to Mombasa, I was as tired as tired can be. I always avoided traveling, not being a fun of sitting still and doing nothing hours on end. But never had I missed Çosby, Bob and Sereh’s darling daughter’s birthdays. I was looking forward to seeing her ever smiling face, an inquisitive tongue and a very sharp mind for a five year old.
The air was hot and thick with humidity, making it hard to breath. I stood, looking around at the mass of humanity trying to find Bob’s face. Finally I spotted him, leaning on his blue BMW and waved him over. He caught sight of me finally, and a huge grin split his face, making his deep set eyes to crinkle at the corners. He elbowed his way towards me, and engulfed me in a hug, his favorite cologne assaulting my nostrils.
“Angie, you are here. Sereh made me leave home two hours earlier. I trust your journey was without incident?” He asked, reaching for my suitcase.
“Aiii…I thought I sent you a text that I will be arriving at six” I replied, smiling.
“You just know how Sereh can be especially now that we are expecting our second” he replied making his way to the car.
“Wow! Congrats to you, father to be.” I replied.
” Thank you” he said, with genuine sincerity.
We got into the car and drove to Bob’s home on Tudor estate, on the way he explained to me all the fun planned out for Cosby’s birthday. A few minutes later we were in his home, a bungalow with three guest rooms, and a garden in the front. Sereh’s hard work on the garden showed in the way the flowers blended harmoniously. We headed to the front porch, and as I raised my hand to ring the door bell, the door burst open and a bundle of smiles, pigtails, baby oil, and missing teeth in the name of Cosby threw herself in my arms.
“Auntie Angie” she screeched” you have kujaad, mama said that you were coming” she finished in her perfect blend of English and Kiswahili.
“Nimefika sasa, si I told you I couldn’t miss your birthday? ” I replied hugging her back and stepping into the living room.
Sereh stepped out of the kitchen. An apron tied to her showing tummy. Though she looked big, she walked with an elegance befitting a queen.
” Welcome Angie, karibu kwetu” she smiled.
“Thank you” I smiled back, taking her outstretched hand
“Cosby, hebu mwache auntie apumzike” she turned to Cosby, mother mode back on.”And Angie you should go and unpack; tea will be ready in a bit. You are in the same guest room as always”
Cosby ignored her mother,,and clung to me tightly as I walked to my room, Bob trailing behind with my suitcase. He dropped it at my door and left me and Cosby in the guest room. I placed Cosby on my bed and gave her the barbie doll that was her birthday present.
“Thanchu, thanchu, thanchu.!! ” she shrieked, grabbing the doll, her way of saying thank you. I started unpacking, as she played with her doll on the bed.
“Auntie. Mimi sita votia Uhuru”
“Okay! Where did that come from?” I wondered silently
“Because he is bad, daddy says they will go to the Hague, and mom says if I don’t do my homework I’ll also go to the Hague” She replied with childlike conviction.
Oh boy. How exactly do you discuss politics with a five year old?
“No he is not bad, actually he has promised kids, like you, that he’ll provide laptops once you join class one next year.”
“Aki? Kama ya daddy? ”
“Eeeh…just like your dad’s.”
“Pinky promise? ” she held out her little finger – her solemn sign of a promise.
“Promise” I locked my finger with hers, the deal sealed.
The week flew quickly by, and I soon returned to my daily life routine; for a year and two months.
“Ms.Angie, you have a phone call.”
“Put it through please” I replied to my secretary.
“Hi Angie. It’s Bob.”
“Hey Bob, whats up?”
“Cosby is throwing a tantrum, something about your pinky promise.”
“Oh, that. Its about the OLPC project. You know, one laptop per child, just put her on the phone.”
“Auntie, you lied to me!” Cosby’s voice came through sounding angry “Hatujapewa laptops.”
I bit my lower lip, trying to figure out, in a baby language, how to explain the delayed OLPC but still drew a blank.
“Aki Cosby si hivyo, I believed the President. It’s him who has broken his pinky promise. But don’t worry, I’ll come this weekend we go to the beach.”
And that’s why I’m headed to the coast this weekend…thanks to a broken promise by Jubilee.