Outside the window, rain. Well, heavy rain. Pelting hard against the roof of my quiet classroom in this time of the pandemic.
I get up and walk slowly towards the window and stare at the green palm trees that seem to be soaking in this unnecessary downpour.
It is cold enough already.
It has been more than a year now since I arrived in Venezuela and my mind goes back to a place I would rather be. My grandmother’s village in Busali, Vihiga County. Enjoying the warmth of a grandmother who has recently left us.
Feelings of guilt overwhelm me. I can’t help feeling that I have been a terrible grandchild who focused a lot on chasing dreams and missed out on incredible times with my grandparents. Now one of them is no more and being here reminds me how much I miss home.
It is a terrible time. Flights are cancelled. Visas have expired. You simply cannot leave! How then do you pay your deepest respects to someone so dear, thousands of miles away?
This is when it sucks to be abroad. It is a lonely time right now. There is no one to really talk to about how you feel because different cultures see things differently. And the lack of a common language does not help matters. It creates a barrier for me to express myself and my feelings as elaborately as can be.
You see, here, you cannot burst out into loud cries. You cannot sing a dirge. No, you can’t break into a chant. Such ways are frowned upon and considered strange, almost weird.
Abroad, you learn to quickly tuck in your emotions and explain deep things like they were trivial.
You must appear civilised in your way of mourning and not everyone who hears your sad stories, empathises the way you hope they would.
Back home, expressing yourself is easy. You can throw yourself on the ground and weep loudly and home will understand you. Here you say, “My grandmother passed away’’ and very few say anything back. You must also say it calmly lest you upset the order of things. And if you say it once, you cannot keep saying it again.
So I have been spending a lot of time on my phone. Reaching out to those who hear me and understand me. Those who know how to cry in Kenya. Those who will not judge but weep with me.
I have been trying all the calls. Skype phone calls, WhatsApp video calls just to feel their presence.
The voices of my siblings who are home keep me updated on the plans of the ceremony.
And they keep me feeling like I am part of a process.
Sometimes they send me old photos of my grandmother that I have now set as my screensaver. Sometimes, the network is so terrible that you go for a few days without hearing anything back.
It is unfathomable to know that my dear grandmother is gone. And in this letter, I wish to convey the message that I am sorry. Very sorry for being so far away. Chasing big dreams.
My grandmother was the GOAT. The greatest of all time! She would carry us all in her arms when we visited. Back then when we were young, and had a strange ritual of spraying us with her best perfume while doing so.
She was joyful. She was kind. She was Love. Oh, the memories! The many times she held my hand. The times she prayed for us. Her mispronunciation of the word Torch (toki). Her short but hurried steps.
Then one day her voice stopped and there were oxygen tubes all over her face. Eating tubes. All sorts of tubes. She couldn’t breathe.
Two days later she was gone.
No words can describe the sadness that engulfs me. This helplessness, far away from home. Oh! How I weep!
Now Nyanya journeys on in a strange land. Alone. Her exciting tales, her warmth, replaced by a painful silence.
My dear grandmother, your passing has reignited in me a defiant belief in God. I find myself saying a quiet prayer once again, in such a long time. Only because I want to see you again. Someday, in this place called heaven. To hug you once more and never let go. They say in this place there is unimaginable joy and I hope you are engrossed in it all. Dancing and praising like you did back here with us.
I have to go now. In a few minutes I must hurry back to the usual ‘important’ chores of being abroad. Going out to dinner. Attending a party. Planning the next beach trip. Watching Netflix.
I must walk and talk like I am okay. And when I see Jorge and Jose, I must greet them emphatically and say estoy bien! Mucho gusto!
Because this is the way of being abroad.
Dodo, gona vurahi Nyanya.