I roll over in bed. 5 am. This is my usual waking up time. But today I am not going to the office, so I have an extra one hour to sleep. I roll over and fall asleep again. The alarm wakes me up at 6 am. I go to the bathroom. A quick shower. Then to the kitchen to prepare breakfast. After that I dress up and step out to face the world. The day is 21st march 2017. The day I finally leave the wilderness of the legal career and become an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya.
The ceremony is at the Supreme Court grounds. I arrive there at around 8 am and find a crowd at the entrance. My colleagues and their relatives. My mother and grandma arrived in the city early in the morning, but the young man driving the saloon car they hired doesn’t know his way around the city, so they got lost. Now they are stuck in traffic somewhere in the Westlands. I have no idea where my father and brother are, but those ones know their way around the city. So I look around for people I know.
My friend Faith calls shortly after to find out where I am. She finds me around the time the entrance is opened so we go in together. And somehow I find myself carrying luggage. No, not mine. This is how this friendship works. She is a princess, and I am her porter. My job description is to carry all the (unnecessary) luggage she carries. Sometimes they are stuffed in the handbag so that it is too heavy for a princess to carry, other times there is an extra bag.
I am not complaining though. I am humble servant. See, we have come from far. One of the most enduring memories of our friendship is the tarmacking days. One day, she, Auma (you should know Auma by now) and I decided to pull off a major tarmacking exercise. We googled the names of law firms, and wrote application letters to them and went about dropping those applications the physical addresses we had googled.
Peeps, tarmacking is difficult. Sometimes you meet a cold blooded receptionist who looks at you with ice cubes that also happen to function as eyes. And since the heat of anxiety emanating from you (coupled from that from the sun that had been baking you outside) may melt the ice cubes, you only get a quick glance before she continues scrolling at her computer, her fingers with long, bright red nails gently massaging the mouse. Being rejected several times has dealt a major blow on your self-esteem. And of course you are conscious of the fact that you are sweaty and dusty, a sharp contrast to this sparkling office and the human glacier that is ignoring your presence.
“Excuse me madam,” you stammer, after realizing she is not going to talk to you.
She casts another chilly glance in your direction, and a battalion of safari ants march down your spinal cord.
“I want to apply for an internship here” you blurt out.
She stares at the brown envelope in your hands.
“Put it there” she says crisply, motioning to one side of her desk.
Other times you are fortunate to meet a warm human being at the reception. She (it is almost always a she) greets you warmly and asks the reason for your visit. You explain to her that you are looking for an internship. That you have just completed your LL.B degree, and though you are yet to graduate, you have just realized that the city is not a nursery school and that your landlord is not high school boarding master. Boarding Masters were bad enough, but this one is worse. Especially on 5th of every month. The kindly receptionist smiles at your tale. A sad smile that breaks your heart before she even says anything. A smile that says that she empathises with you but you are out of luck. Because the firm hired other hustlers last week. But at least she was kind.
Other times you meet a partner at or a proprietor of a law firm. He or she listens patiently as you explain why you would be a useful resource to his/her law firm. He/she even asks the right questions. Like:
“Which areas of law are you interested in?”
You are not sure what that entails, but you have heard your seniors say they do commercial litigation.
“Excellent. We do a lot of commercial litigation here…”
You hi five yourself. Okay, you do not want to be seen as too forward, so you don’t do it openly. It is your auricles that hi five the ventricles deep inside the rib cage. You have nailed this job. Well, until he/she looks at you with that sad smile.
“Unfortunately, we do not have a steady workflow that would guarantee your stipend as well as keep you engaged…”
You do not hear the rest. Your heart is racing from Timbuktu to Alexandria chasing after Berbers and Bedouins.
So that is what we were up to, Fai, Auma and I, that day. At lunch hour Fai bought us fries and 300 ml sodas at a small eatery along Moi Avenue. She was the only one with cash that day, the rest of us just had the fares to our houses. That time I had co-rented a house with a friend at 6000, so each of us used to pay 3000. A fairly decent house. But getting that 3k every month was not easy. Auma was living in a single room for which she paid 3000 (or 3500, I cannot remember well). Fai was living with her aunt and uncle.
We were not successful that day, just like on previous job-hunting expeditions. But eventually we did get places. I was hired by a small firm in Rongai where I earned 8000 shillings. So I moved to a single room in a seedy neigbourhood of Rongai, where I paid Kshs. 3000 as rent. Fai also got hired by a small firm in the CBD and earned Kshs. 10,000. So she stayed put at her uncle’s place. Auma was more blessed. She was hired by a giant law firm and posted to Mombasa where the firm catered for her accommodation. But looking back, the three of us can acknowledge that God has been faithful. We have come from quite a distance.
So on this day, 21st March, as I took the oath to be an advocate, these were some of the thoughts that were playing in my mind. These and many more. The struggle of raising Kenya School of Law fees. The miracle of finding high school fees. I thought about all the people who have helped me thus far. From my parents (I have three parents: my father, my mother and my maternal grandma, Mrs Maroncha) who sacrificed their all to give me the best to my high school principal, Mr. Kanga, who allowed me to stay in school even when I had huge fee balances. There are many others who space cannot allow me to name.
As I raised that Bible to take the oath, I had a deep sense of gratitude. Grateful to God and all the people he used to bless me. And my prayer was simple, that during my lifetime, I may be a blessing in one way or another to the people God brings my way, the way others have been a blessing to me in my time of need.
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