A Storm Determined My Fate by Caren Ngetich
My name is Caren Cheleng’at Ngetich. I was born in Rift Valley Province, Bomet County. I’m from Kalenjin community. I’m 13 years old. My father is called Richard Ngetich while my mother is Fancy Ngetich. My birth was received with happiness because I was the first born. My father and mother were married according to the strict traditions of Kalenjin. Nothing is left to chance. My father paid fully dowry because a marriage is only complete and blessed upon the settlement of the dowry. My father paid a dowry of 10 cows. He really had to work hard and borrow from family to settle it.
With my birth, my father had to work harder to provide for his growing family. In our county, most people are small-scale farmers. One day a friend of my father introduced him to wheat growing, which was new to him. He tilled his one acre land and paid for the seeds, fertilizer, insecticide and saw to everything. So the crop was planted.
Father did everything to make sure the crop grew well, working day and night. He weeded, sprayed and mixed fertilizer regularly. His crop was doing very well. It produced flowers and promised a good harvest. My father proudly showed it to Mother and his friends. His efforts seemed to be paying off. He spent every cent he could get and even borrowed.
The Tragic Afternoon
Well, that was before the tragic afternoon that changed my life. That afternoon the weather went crazy and did things it should not have done. First the sky grew dark and bolts of lightning terrorized the earth. Great torrents came down for two good hours.
Father watched helplessly, and everything was washed away. He shouted and stamped his feet but that was all he did. Mother says she just stood beside him quietly. Strangely, she says, the baby (me at age 1) slept through it all. Fate cost him everything.
That did it. Father stopped all efforts at farming and gave up. He even sold his two cows. Then he decided to go to Nairobi to look for a job. He needed to settle some debts, which had accumulated over time. In fact, he had not informed anyone that he had left for Nairobi. Nobody knew that he “had escaped” from his nightmare. I was about two years old when he did this.
I felt the gap he had left in our house. I missed my parents’ conversations. My mother was faced with debts she could not pay. There was only one way out, the same that my father had used – ESCAPE.
Mother escaped to her parents. The burden was solely on my grandfather’s shoulders. My grandfather sold some of his cows and some sacks of maize. He used all the money to pay the debts off, then he came to my maternal grandparents to get my mother back home.
We came back to our house and waited for father to come back. No one knew where exactly he had gone, so we just had to wait and hope. We waited and waited but nothing. After 2 years, Mother’s people started to complain. They ridiculed Mother for being foolish and waiting for a useless man. Some blamed her and said she must have done something wrong to make him stay away. A friend of mother even suggested that she should forget Father and get married. She offered her brother to Mother. She said she was wasting time waiting for a man who might be dead after all! All fell on deaf ears. Mother didn’t respond to anything. In the end, they left her alone.
A Happy Return
One day, suddenly and without warning, Father came home! He was healthy and fine, and he was in good spirits. He said he was sorry for what he had done. He said he had been in Nairobi looking for a job. He had found a place to work as a gardener. At first though, he had spent a year doing nothing by depending on friends.
Now he said he needed to take me with him to Nairobi to put me in school there. I was performing poorly in school. Sometimes I was sent home from school for school fees. I wasted a lot of time. I even lost interest in school. My mother agreed, so I came with my father to Kangemi slum in Nairobi. I lived in my aunt’s home and attended a nearby school. Later my mother gave birth to her third and fourth born, and her needs increased. Father had more people to feed. This meant I needed an even cheaper school. So in January this year, his friend directed him to talk to Hamomi. This is how I ended up at Hamomi Children’s Centre.