With my landlord gone, it is so lonely

Residents of Katwekera in Kibera go about their business on Sunday. There have been concerns over rise Covid-19 cases in the area. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • The rising number of Covid-19 cases reduced any hope I had of the airspace reopening any time soon.
  • The unbearable heat added to my anxiety to return home, and for once, I missed the rain and the cold. I also missed my house terribly, but most of all, I missed my family.

I had been following the news about Nigeria and Kenya in detail, and most of it was depressing. The rising number of Covid-19 cases reduced any hope I had of the airspace reopening any time soon, and with it any hope of finally going home.

My social life, if you could call it that, was mainly online, apart from the instances when I spent time on the balcony or wandered out of my room to chat with my landlord.

After watching one conspiracy theory after another regarding the virus and keeping up with foreboding news about it for over a month, I finally could not take it anymore, and for the sake of my sanity, I tuned off the depressing news.

Instead, I would read and watch entertaining stuff or chat with friends and family online. I must say that was good for the soul.


My landlord, being an extrovert, spent a lot of time talking to any of us, me and two other guests from Cameroon staying in the same facility. Some afternoons he would retreat to his room, probably to sleep in an effort to shorten the day and maybe forget the frustration of being away from his family for so long.

He would spend quite a bit of time fixing things here and there, trying to make sure that the place was in tip-top shape. I guess it was a coping strategy because the place did not need any fixing.

Those random conversations with him kept me going. I could at least forget about my desperate situation. It also helped to know that I wasn’t alone in this. Besides talking about our families back home and the politics surrounding Covid-19, we also discussed the casual manner in which many people were treating the disease, dismissing it as an ailment of the “rich”, those who could afford to travel by air. We also mulled over wishful scenarios for repatriation, such as Nigerians in Kenya being brought home and Kenyans in Nigeria returning home on the same aircraft.

Compared to mine, his case seemed more hopeful since the UK was actively taking its citizens back home. The British Embassy here constantly communicated with him on e-mail.

They had provided, on their website, a link to a registration site for those who wished to return home, with first priority given to the vulnerable and elderly. But it assured that eventually, everyone would be flown home.

They would also not be tested for the coronavirus before boarding the aircraft, but would be expected to self-isolate when they got home.

The second lockdown was finally lifted on April 27, and in its place a dusk-to-dawn curfew imposed. This announcement made me very hopeful. I felt that things were starting to look up. That soon enough, the airspace would be reopened.

By this time, my landlord was already registered on a list of those to be repatriated.

As we entered the second week of curfew, his turn finally came. He was excited that morning as he broke the news to me, but he also felt sad that I was still stuck here, with no idea of when I would return home. He finally left on May 5.

I went through a roller coaster of emotions as he bid us farewell. Yes, I was very happy for him, but I was equally devastated; I couldn’t help but feel left out, lonely, anxious and stressed. I felt as if I had been forgotten, and wondered whether anyone who mattered knew that I was here, desperate to go home. His departure also meant I no longer had anyone to talk to regularly.

He did keep in touch via WhatsApp and would encourage me constantly, telling me to hang in there. He also ensured the staff made my stay as comfortable as possible.

Those I was in contact with back home were also doing their best to support and encourage me, including my employer, Daniel Gikonyo, whom I also consider a friend. He would check on me daily, if only to reassure me that all would be well. He was as frustrated as I was because this was not a situation the company had planned for. It was eating into the company’s finances, but we decided to work together to find a way for me to survive.

With my landlord gone, I once again retreated to my life of solitude, only wandering out either to cook my eggs or noodles, or to get some sun when I could bear the heat.

The weather in Lagos is like that in Mombasa, and sometimes hotter. The unbearable heat added to my anxiety to return home, and for once, I missed the rain and the cold. I also missed my house terribly, but most of all, I missed my family.

TOMORROW: After 13 uneventful days of waiting and enduring emotional shifts between hope and hopelessness, I get a text from the Kenyan Mainland representative in Nigeria saying, “I hope you have filled the form.”

Ms Ndinda is Research Manager, Transform Research Africa Ltd. She has been stuck in Nigeria, since March 21.


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