Calling Home From The City | by Mackinlay Mutsembi

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(Gospel Choir Ringback Tone as phone dials)

Hallo, Ma! Yes, it is me. I know it is late.  Its 2am.  Can you hear me clearly?
I am still awake Ma. Hahaha… No, I am a city dweller now, and the city never sleeps.
Even the cows and flies here do not sleep. They are all awake, chasing their dreams.
What? Of course Ma, even city cows have dreams of making better milk, and surviving longer at the expense of donkeys.
We are all chasing dreams Ma! Hahaha, No, we dream when we are awake.

When I get home at 2am, my neighbor who sells doughnuts and mandazi is already up,
I can see his and his wives frames hunched over the pan. It smells really nice. I buy fresh mandazi at 3am.
My other neighbor comes at 530am. I can hear her perfume through these iron sheet walls
It is worse if she comes any earlier because she is really loud.
Especially when she brings her friend.
No, Ma, I can’t tell you what she does for work. I think she makes a lot of friends.
She always comes when Mwalimu Juma is getting ready to leave, he grunts and growls so loudly when brushing his teeth at the tap. I think he tries to insert his brush all the way to his intestines, to wash off some of that chang’aa he loves.
We do not sleep at the same time in the City, you sleep when your time to sleep has come.
Sometimes that is midday.

No Ma, I am struggling with sleep today.
I think Mwalimu Juma’s wife is beating him again because he is drunk. She keeps missing and hitting my wall. He keeps calling her a harlot. Mwalimu Juma sounds like a fat donkey. Hahaha. I’m not kidding…
Hahaha, Ma, this is mambo ya kawaida. Sometimes men beat women, sometimes women beat men. This is the city.

My work day? It was fantastic! I had someone tip me with 200 shillings. He must have made a mistake because he was too drunk. We finished work at 1am, and I just got home.
No, I use a matatu. I will tell you the story of late night matatus when I come home.
Hahaha, what? A car? Soon. But I have to work really hard.
I am getting a day job, then I can work at the pub in the evenings.

Yes, I know it was Easter. I couldn’t come home. I was busy. And it is expensive to travel
I think I will come over August. I will this time… I promise.
BTW Ma, Have you spoken to Keziah lately? I keep calling her but her phone is off.
Oh, she visited yesterday? That is great! She fetched you some water? Nice!
She is very hard working. When I get enough money to marry her she can come and help me with water in the City. Here we get water from the tap once a week.

What? I can’t hear you Ma. The network is weak….  Yes, Yes. I can hear now.
I know Lichooti has been trying to get with her, but I will come in August to visit. In the city you don’t just marry fwaa like that, You need money and plans. I am making plans, then I will make money.
Do you know if you have a good wedding they put it on TV?
Hahaha. I already told you this is Nairobi. Big dreams.
I have bought a couch for my house, and a TV. Maybe Bambo can visit when school is closed. I want to install internet when I get money.

Ma, I have to go, Simu inabeep. I think my credit inaisha.
Yes, I will send you something on MPESA in the morning.
… OK. Oh, one more thing? What is it? Tell me Ma.
Which church guests? This Sunday? Sawa. Nitapiga mfuko I do something.
But I told you, you like guests too much. In Nairobi people only visit you on Facebook and Whatsapp. Its cheaper. Hahaha. I will explain what that means when I come.

Good night Ma, You need to go to the market early.
I really must go Ma, Credit imeisha. Say hi to Mideva and Bambo.
I miss home too, Ma, and you guys.
Amen Ma, Amen…   Asande Ma

…Beep…. Beep …. Beep.


About Author

I am a lot of things, including a Management Consultant at Hisynergy Consulting by day and trumpeter and multi-instrumentalist composer, arranger by night. Sometimes I am inspired to write by my nightly forays as a moonlighting trumpeter.


  1. Haha…nice read.In Nairobi people only visit you on Facebook and WhatsApp… lol…looking for more posts by Mackinlay

  2. hahahaa didint expect that.” even city cows have dreams of making better milk, and surviving longer at the expense of donkeys”

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