In the Darkest Hour

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|This is the 93rd story of Our Life Logs|


I was born on June 6, 1991 in Sirisia, Kenya. My father was an Agricultural Extension officer and my mother did odd jobs around our village. My early life was not easy because my father was an alcoholic.  He would spend more than half of his salary at the local bar drinking with his friends while my mother was toiling in other people’s farms to put food on the table. He would come home from these nights and assault my mother.

One of my earliest memories happened when I was just three years old, a random series of events that changed my entire life. On June 26, 1994, I burnt myself with hot milk. My flesh began to bubble, and I wailed for help. Immediately, my mother rushed me to the nearest hospital, leaving my eldest brother to stay with my other siblings while my father was away. We stayed in the facility overnight as I was being treated.

In the Darkest Hour-Arangi 1994
Me at three years old.

The very next day, a nurse hurried in my room, beckoning my mother to hear the news: our grass-thatched house had been torched to the ground. My mother left me in the care of the nurse and seemed to fly out of the hospital. I didn’t go with her to meet the blackened shell of our home, but I’ve been told what had happened.

Right before the fire, my twin brothers, Esau and Jacob, were fast asleep, while my elder brother David was doing his homework. My father, as usual, was drinking at the local bar with his friends. We still don’t know if our home was set on fire by another villager or by natural causes, but either way, the fire burned hot and gave no time for my siblings to react. David sustained several injuries but made it outside. My twin brothers were trapped in the house by the cage of flames. When the fire was brought under control, my twin brothers were found burned beyond recognition.

• • •

Upon my mother’s arrival, she found a handful neighbors trying to put out the fire and salvage some property from the burning house. My brother David was sobbing. My mother could not hold back her anguish. She screamed and ran all over the place while tears poured down her face. Our neighbors tried to comfort her, but the pain was too much to bear. My father arrived several hours after the bodies had been removed from the house, but he was so drunk that he could not stand. After seeing the bodies of his sons, he became angry and started chasing everyone. Three strong neighbors struggled with his flailing body and calmed him down.

There were all sorts of stories following the death of my twin brothers. Some went as far as to accuse my mother of being a witch. Even my paternal uncles attacked my mother on the twins’ burial day in the presence of my drunken father.

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The hurt was so heavy for us all. Two days after the burial, my father packed his belongings in a small bag and left without a word. We later learned that he had gone to the border town of Busia, but know nothing about what happened there.

We decided to relocate to my maternal grandmother’s home due to the stigma of the villagers. Life at this time did not seem fair. My mother struggled, my father was elsewhere, and I deeply missed the laughter and guidance of my older twin brothers. After we moved, we suffered financially without my father’s income. On many occasions, we ate one meal per day. Without enough to cover school fees, my brother David was forced to drop out of school. Soon after, my mother started selling vegetables at the local market to take care of us. She used the little money she got to help David go back to school.

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My mother in 1993.

At the age of 7, I started school at Malakisi Primary School accompanying my brother David. Despite the hardships and ghosts of the past, we were determined to succeed. Each success was in remembrance of our brothers, and in appreciation of our mother. At school, we were among the top performers, we had to be. We spent all our free time reading and doing small chores around the house. As David progressed in his education, he moved away from home, only visiting on holidays.

In the Darkest Hour-Arangi on right 2004
With friends in primary school (‘m on the far right), 2004.

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Unfortunately, poverty has a way of negating our hardened efforts. I had passed my primary education exams, but my mother could not afford to continue to pay my fees. She approached political leaders and sponsors, willing her son’s success, but her effort was futile.

One morning, I decided to walk to one of my paternal uncle’s home to seek help.  I was heartbroken when he told me he was not able to assist me after losing his job several months ago. He, however, promised to talk to my father over the matter, as they had kept in contact. What was I to think? What was my father going to do after he had left us? I no longer had hopes of continuing with my education and I started thinking of ways to assist my mother.

Three days later, my father arrived at my grandmother’s place. At first, I was not sure how my family would react to his sudden reappearance. I watched the anger settle on my grandmother’s face, and then I looked to my mother for her reaction. I could see my mother’s mixed emotions. Suddenly, my father knelt before my mother, knees pressed to the ground, and begged forgiveness for his misdeeds. My mother could not hold back her tears. My parents decided to reunite, and to my surprise, I was very happy.

That night I could not sleep. I tossed and turned as I started seeing my dreams coming true. The next morning, my father took me to the nearest city to shop for everything I needed for the upcoming school year. I could not believe I was joining Friends School in Kamusinga, one of the best schools in the nation. My father, who had ditched his drinking habit, requested a loan from his savings and credit account to send me back to school.

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In high school, life was not a walk in the park, but I never gave up. Upon completing my education, I secured a place at Kenyatta University to pursue a bachelor’s in economics and finance. At university, my father sent me whatever little money he could. He had retired and could not send enough to cover my fees. I studied while thinking of ways to make some money.

In the Darkest Hour-Arangi 2008
Me in 2008.

During my second year at the university, my mother became sickly. She was admitted to Naitiri Sub County hospital in Bungoma County for four months. This was one of the darkest hours of my life. I spent nights on my hands and knees praying for her health. My life had become a cycle of worry and dread. I thought she would die after being diagnosed with cerebral malaria, but she recovered after several months of treatment. Her close encounter with death created a sense of urgency within me. I knew about the fragility of life, but it now seemed to loom over my head. I needed to do something.

Because of my mother’s medical expenses, I began to feel guilty, and started finding it hard to ask my father for little cash for my upkeep. I did several odd jobs before a friend introduced me to online writing. I never knew I could earn a living from writing. I started freelance work writing news articles, academic work, and transcribing just to make life easier on my family. It was not an easy job, but the challenge was fulfilling, and after a few accepted stories, I felt confident again. I saved part of my earnings and bought a writing account that would allow a steadier flow of work. After several months of toiling, I started generating a lot of money from writing. The part-time job made my life on campus smoother until I graduated.

Upon completing my university education, I tried searching for a stable job in Nairobi City, but my effort did not bear fruits. It was then that I resorted back to writing. The writing job has assisted me to pay my bills and pay part of David’s Master of Science in Animal Physiology fee at Egerton University.  He is set to graduate in December. I am glad that I have also been able to assist my mother start a poultry project back at home, an outcome of my writing career that I never dreamt was possible.

In the Darkest Hour-Arangi on left 2011
Me (left) and a friend outside Kenyatta University.

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In my early life, I felt as though I had been carrying the burdens of my past and poverty. I worked hard to be able to build a better life, expecting to pursue business as a means of escape. But surprisingly so, it was through poverty and the remainders of my past that led me to writing, a passion that I have just uncovered. If my twin brothers were here today, I hope that they would be proud of me. Instead, they will have to exist through my stories, where they will live on.

Section Break

 This is the story of Arangi Peter

Arangi  currently lives in Nairobi, Kenya. With a childhood full of challenges following the death of his twin brothers, Arangi strived until he completed his degree in economics and finance at Kenyatta University. He, however, decided to pursue his passion for writing and today he makes enough money to pay his bills and support his siblings and parents. After a few years of hiatus, Arangi’s father determined to be the best father he can be, relentlessy supporting his children despite his meager income. Arangi likes watching movies and playing football. He dreams of starting a children’s home to help the needy in his village.

 

                           

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This story first touched our hearts on May 15, 2018.

| Writers: Nyamu Mwombe; Colleen Walker | Editors: Colleen Walker; Adam Savage |

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