What you need to know:
- My rudimentary gym workout pays off.
- There is a small price to pay for my softness, and the friction on my shoulder and palms makes me want to give up at an early stage.
I am discovering my passion in old age.
My friend in the diaspora has requested me to supervise his project where he is constructing a commercial building also known as a plot. Because I have some time to spare and the job entails working from home, I have dived into the offer with all fours.
It is the first weekend since the project commenced and the fundis who are site boarders are excited like it is the graduation night in college.
They also can’t wait to travel back to their respective ancestral villages where they have stashed their first families. Their careers spanning several counties have left them with deputy families and children spread all over the country. They however still hold their first families dear.
Being payday, they will appear home respectfully carrying shopping for mama and goodies for the children. Later in the evening, they will most likely retreat to the village outlets where they will purchase drinks for their friends and regale them with stories about the big city of many lights.
My soft palms and shiny face betray me as a person from the air conditioned offices and not a hustler. I therefore struggle to fit in and buy their acceptance as one of their own.
As a way of greetings I awkwardly pass by each of them as we gently tap our elbows together as a corona-friendly way of greetings. I hear one of them lament that the boss is around today and things are elephant, but I ignore the jibe.
I quickly recognise the smokers and I send for a packet of respectable puff. Despite this effort they still view me with suspicion and a few of them who look like seasoned smokers decline the offer.
We are at the foundation stage and the guys of hands where I have allocated myself light duties are carrying stones of nine feet. These are stones that require a powerful front loader to move, but on this occasion our bodies are the prime movers.
My rudimentary gym workout pays off. There is a small price to pay for my softness, and the friction on my shoulder and palms makes me want to give up at an early stage.
I alternate between carrying stones and hauling bucketfuls of water from a nearby open well. Neither of the tasks promises to be the kind of break that I desperately want. I can however see the guys admiring my resilience as my muscles bulge with pressure and sweat drops down my brow and back.
CAN SNIFF OUT CONSTRUCTION SITES
Celina brings tea at 10am. Characteristic of our County women, she can sniff out a construction site from a hundred miles. By the second day of breaking site, Celina had already established a fully functional eatery and added a takeaway and home delivery service.
She had also opened a debtors book because money comes to site only at the end of the week.
Most of the borders are clearly missing their wives, and the presence of Celina draws a disproportionate amount of excitement.
She engages in small talk and smiles benevolently as she serves the thick tea in big tin cups.
She is a clever entrepreneur. She allows mild flirting, but there is a catch. The more you flirt with her, the more tea and mandazi she sells to you as she teases you about how she likes strong men who are not felled by a bowl of porridge.
I signal Celina aside and request for the bill that I proceed to settle in full. This humanitarian act finally buys me full acceptance into the fold.
After Celina leaves her satisfied customers and we resume work, the plenary session that follows is a deep dive on their escapades with women from the neighborhood in that brief one week that they have been around. My editor will not allow the content on this page, but I get to learn a lot about the night life of a guy of hands, especially on pay day.
I am invited to give a key note address on my encounter with the refined ladies from uptown Nairobi. After visiting several cheap eateries and bars in Westlands and Upperhill, I am presumed to be a subject matter expert in Nairobi matters. I deliver the address to an applause and I answer a few questions.
Celina comes again with lunch carried in many big plastic bowls. One peculiar thing about the site is that despite the food being as watery and greasy as County food comes, it still tastes fantastic.
We take a well-deserved siesta break under a tree and it takes the site supervisor a considerable amount of effort to get us back into the kick.
The afternoon session is brief. There is a lot of anxiety about the pay. The supervisor has the powers to decide at his whims that you have not been working very hard, and he can proceed to slap you with an instant pay cut.
All ends up well.
The guys traveling back to see their families are allowed to leave early. I call the supervisor aside and hand him a bottle of adult beverage with strict instructions to share with the team.
The way he quickly stuffs it into his overall pocket, I get doubts as to whether he is willing to share that bottle of blessings with his colleagues.
I finally leave site as it approaching dusk.
Brian has been to the well carrying water in a small bottle and he is equally exhausted.
The guys are already showering in the small iron sheet shed as we prepare to leave, and I quickly get Brian away before he is blinded by the sight of his uncles in various states of nudity.
I will not have a dull weekend for the next few months.