So, this morning I was scheduled to fly to Bamako Mali, as you must already know.
I missed my flight. Having spent the night fretting about what I may forget and have I got everything I need, that I managed to forget what may well have been the most important thing: my phone on silent. So, running late as I was, I checked in online, thinking; with a prayer, I’ll still make this flight.
The taxi who took me did everything in his power to save us time on route, Langata road traffic was not being too bad, but that still means traffic. As we pass the bypass, on our dual carriage section, on our way to turn around I spot a police car and bike. I told him, that if we use the Uhuru Gardens entry to turn back to the bypass, we have to actually turn into Uhuru Gardens, then exit it ( I know someone who recently got nabbed for using that entry to do a “U turn”). In a rush moment of bravery, he decided to go for the U turn. Just as I had predicted we were flagged down.
One hour later we are leaving Langata police station. As we drive past City Kabanas, my call to Kenya Airways confirms that I have in fact missed my flight. The Goethe Institut, in their heroic fashion, found out what else was possible. I committed without a second thought, to whatever flight would take me to Bamako fastest.
As it turns out, that means, a twelve hour stop over in Lagos, and three connecting flights. Under normal circumstances, that’s a bad thing. As it turns out, I am so at home here at Murtala Muhammed Airport, that I’m writing this, sitting on a couch, that I can choose to nap on if I please. I feel at home in more ways than I can describe, but I will attempt.
Eavesdropping doesn’t seem so bad when you don’t understand the language. 🙂 When I got off the plane I found, like at home, that smiles are as easy to get as they are to give. I am so exited, that the reception I am receiving from fellow passengers, crew and airport staff is very happy. Conversations in the languages here sound like the ones at home. Serious intonations punctuated by smiles and laughter. Happy, flirtatious energy bounces off the high ceiling, leaving me feeing safe to rest here. I’m admiring all the beautiful eye shapes around me, people in their different sizes wait and walk heavy laden with quantities of luggage which signify long stays and distant destinations. One lady, at a loss as to what she can afford to remove from her enormous bag, was carrying allot of hair extensions. I decided to leave mine at home this time.
Still, I look back at times, when I would have to look for someone to borrow shoes from, to wear for performances. Being a size four an a half, doesn’t make that any easier, I would like to give special thanks to Joie and Amy for putting up with me. I believe that every chance on stage is the only one of its kind. You never get that moment back to ask for another chance. So I have tried to treat every moment on stage as though I’m auditioning for Broadway.
It was during that time, when I launched this blog. Starting my blog is yet another example of things I would not have done if not insisted upon. Thank you Mutheu. 🙂
I continued with the habit of reciting for anyone who would listen. One day, on a drive through the park, I was referred to Wamathai Spoken Word. I wasn’t sure if I was good enough, but was reassured that I definitely was. I still remember the first time I met Wamathai himself. He introduced me as ” Raya Wambui, she’s a poet, and I’ve been told, she’s very good”. My body shook for the entire afternoon. I was so nervous! On stage, the same, crippling stage fright took a hold of all my bones. I had managed to perform despite it, but I was frozen in place. I later discovered that moving around on stage helpes my knees not to quake so much.
The mood in the room at Wamathai events is something I still look forward to. I think I have only missed one of his events since the first one I attended.
The audience really listens, not just to the words, but also to the deeper meanings behind them. It is always a pleasure to perform there. 🙂 I still smile inside when I remember the first time I asked him to put my name on the poster, he said yes. There, I would have the honour of first seeing Sentimental Floetry, El Poet, Kennet B, and Wanjiku Mwaura who did a rendition of Dis Poem, that I will never forget.
During the next two years I would take part and be featured in a number of other events. I’ll never forget being featured by The BOGOF, where, unbelievably, I was hosted alongside Asali, who had long been an unmirrored inspiration and still is. We were given ten to fifteen minutes on stage, my pieces average one minute. I was terrified! Convinced that I had to make full use of the time, I had prepared a set of eleven pieces. The theme of the day was – Vision Twenty Thirty, two days before the event, inspiration struck for a piece titled Twenty Thirty, which is not in my blog, but features in my manuscript for my soon coming book; Speak. The problem was, two days was not enough to prepare a performance. I would have to read! My shaky hands would not permit the privilege of holding a paper, so I devised a plan. I told Jacque, that I would need a podium.
That idea worked much better as a concept, than in practice. When the time came, standing behind a podium that was almost my height, in front of a two hundred plus crowd who were comfortably sitting on the carpet, I all but disappeared. My nerves reached a new height of terror, by the time I got off stage, I had drenched my spaghetti top in sweat, and the room was not hot. Thankfully, the crowd still commended my performance, and the organisers managed to get an awesome video.
I was on a road that would lead me to greater exposure. I would not have dreamed that poetry would end up taking me on my first ever visit to West Africa.