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Growing up Kenyan: A True Love Story Pt.1

Raphael Kamwaga Kiragu is a son, Raphael Kamwaga Kiragu is a brother. Raphael Kamwaga Kiragu is a Kenyan...

Meet the Kiragus

I am told that it had been a beautiful sunny day, the 8th of September, 1995. Rosalind, heavy with child, had been granted maternity leave and though I do not know the details, would like to believe she spent the day lounging, stroking her belly and murmuring little nothings to her unborn son.

David, on the other hand, had spent that Friday at work. A radiographer at the local hospital, he had probably whiled away the day peering at X-Rays, walking around in his crisp white lab-coat, and talking on the office telephone.

Joyce and Kenneth spent that warm, sunny Friday at school. Ken, a hyper-active gradeschooler was probably bouncing on the balls of his feet, counting down the minutes until it would be weekend already. Joyce was 10 years old, and already with the air of restraint and responsibility that came with tending a spirited little brother, had probably spent her day doing and hating algebra, playing with friends, and keeping an eye on the aforementioned spirited little brother.

But once evening came, this little family of four, sat around the cozy living room, told stories about their day and broke bread together.


And your name shall be...

I have always been a morning person. Always.

At around 2 a.m in the morning, David shakes little Joyce awake. She looks up sleepily at her father, his face dimly illuminated by the little light streaming in from the corridor. He explains that he has to take mommy to the hospital but that he will be back, hopefully by morning before she and her little brother wake. He tucks her in and leaves, pulling the door quietly shut behind him.

September 9, 1995... the fifth member of this family is born. A little baby boy with wide-open inquisitive eyes and a little lock of hair on his chubby head. A show-off, he demonstrates the power of his tiny lungs by letting loose a long wail. Perhaps protesting his expulsion from the cozy confines and protection of the womb, or maybe his way of simply saying hello.

Custom demands that, as the second-born son of the family, he be named after his mother's father. The little baby boy is hence named Kamwaga.

Little Kamwaga

I'm told Kamwaga had a surprisingly strong grip. He would clutch anything in those beefy little fists; his mother's thumb, his father's goatee, a spoon... and he'd have to be forcibly pried away. But I digress.

The arrival of little Kamwaga, disrupts the dynamic of this little family like all good babies do. Sleep schedules change, eating schedules change, attitudes change.

In little Kamwaga, Ken sees an accomplice. A student upon whom he'd impart the vast wisdom of his five years. The air of responsibility around Joyce intensifies, she realizes that soon enough, she'll have two über-active brothers to look after.

In a jiffy, little Kamwaga is weaned, in another, a Kindergarten application is sent out and accepted. Little Kamwaga is going to be the daytime ward of St. Ann's Kindergarten School. He cries when Rosalind drops him off and waves goodbye. In fact he cries until he no longer sees her through the buildings and the people, then he cries some more.

Kamotho is a fellow Kindergartner, slightly bigger, heavier and meaner than Little Kamwaga. On the first day of Kindergarten, Kamotho knocks down little Kamwaga and sits on his chest in the sawdust pit. Kamwaga thrashes about, trying to dislodge the bigger boy and get a decent mouthful of air in but Kamotho does not budge. Instead, Kamwaga's valiant efforts are rewarded with cheap shots to his face and a disdainful laugh.

That day, when Kenneth comes to pick up his little brother, he finds him crestfallen, crying. Pleadingly, Kamwaga asks his bigger brother to teach his tormentor a painful lesson, a request which he promptly declines. A nugget of wisdom is offered by the now-wiser 10-year old "Learn to fight your own battles."

That evening, big brother, mentor and friend becomes something else... a sensei. Little Kamwaga is taught to kick, to punch, but never to bite. Sensei Kenneth is very particular on that last one. "In this house, we fight with honor."

Through the events of the following day at St. Ann's Kindergarten School no child ever attacks little Kamwaga again...

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