Saturday, 14 September 2019 22:51:11

Counting on Your Ex

Love Secrets of a Census Enumerator

On census night, David was a census enumerator; but he woke up in hospital.

When he recalled what had happened, he felt angry; and he cursed himself for requesting a transferred to Nairobi.

If he was still teaching at his village school, he would not be suffering.

Life in Nairobi was expensive. He was spending half of his salary on bus fare and rent, and he was straining.

In the village, he lived with his parents, walked to and from work, and carried lunch from home. His weekly expenditure was 200 bob; but, in Nairobi, bus fare alone was costing him 300 bob every day.

He requested the transfer because of his children. They moved to the city with his wife six years ago, and he never saw or heard of them again.

Maureen was his high school sweetheart, and they attended the same day secondary school. Her parents had passed away, so she lived with her uncle, the OCS at the local police station.

When they were both in Form Two, she got pregnant, and her uncle locked him up for two weeks when he admitted he was responsible. Her uncle retired shortly afterwards, and he and Maureen relocated to his rural home.

He never saw her again until 4 years later, when she came to visit him.

Her uncle and his wife had died, and their children had thrown her out. She wanted him to take care of Emily, who was now three years, so she could look for a job.

David was also jobless, but he was preparing to join a teachers' training college.

They got married and David proceeded to college; and, ten months, Erick, their second born arrived.

With David in college, Maureen struggled with the kids. Her father-in-law gave her a portion of land on which she grew vegetables, and she supplemented it by doing odd jobs for neighbours.

They were struggling but happy, David was working hard in college, and they knew things would get better when he graduated.

On the day he cleared college; David came home, but he did not find Maureen or the children. She had left with them three weeks earlier, and she did not say where she was going.

He looked for her among her relatives, but none of them knew where she was. Eventually, he retreated to his teaching job but remained hopeful that his family would return.

Last year, someone told him he had seen Maureen in Nairobi; and he immediately applied for a transfer. He hoped if he was in Nairobi he might bump into her or the children. He wanted to persuade her to come back home.

After six months, he began to despair. The cost of living in Nairobi was so high he was finding it hard to survive.

In June, he decided to start his life afresh; and he applied for a transfer back to his village.

Before it came through, he was hired as an enumerator for the population census in August. He felt lucky because he was struggling. He really needed the cash.

He was assigned to an estate off Limuru Road, where the rich and the powerful live.

On the day of the census, his colleague was unwell, so he did it alone.

By 8 p.m., he had completed four households and he was knocking at the gate of the fifth.

A security guard ushered him into a large bungalow built on two acres.

The driveway was lined with soothing purple lights, and a bright floodlight shone brightly on the garden to reveal the manicured lawn that looked like a green Persian carpet.

There were six cars at the parking outside the house, and he wondered why some people enjoyed such plenty while he struggled with simple things like bus fare.

He was ushered in by an elderly man in chef's uniform, and he told him "mzee" and family would join him soon,

Martin, the head of the household, came in first, and David recognized him. He had seen him on TV many times.

He was one of the news-makers journalists describe as "flamboyant city tycoon", and he was warm and welcoming.

He asked David what his regular job was, and he told him he was a teacher at XXX Primary School in Nairobi. "I know XXX Primary School. My wife is one of the board members," Martin said.

When his wife and five children joined them, David's census pad and pen dropped; and he started sweating.

"Are you OK?" Martin asked.

"Yes, I am," David replied.

"OK. Let me introduce you to my family," declared Martin.

"Maureen here is my wife," he said, as he pointed at her.

"David here is our firstborn, and he is 20...Next, we have Jeremy, who is now 17...Our third born is here. Her name is Emily. I call her Adorable Emily because she's really gorgeous. Emily is now eleven...Then we have Erick...Our fourth born, who is now eight..and the little one my wife is holding is Brian. He is three".

The exercise took about 45 minutes, but David did not hear half of what was said. His mind was elsewhere.

As he was getting ready to leave, Martin asked him if he had a family.

"Yes I do," David replied.

"How many children," Martin enquired.

"Two. A boy and a girl" replied David.

"Do they live in Nairobi?"

"Yes," David replied, but he did not tell him they were in his house.

"Take care of them. Family is important," Martin advised, as he escorted David to the door.

David suffered a broken leg, but that was not his main problem. He was worried more about the hospital bill. The ambulance brought him to an expensive private hospital instead of taking him to a public hospital.

A car had knocked him down as he crossed the road after conducting the census at Martin's home; and, after 8 days, he was told his bill was 1.2M.

His bank balance was 23K, but his MShwari loan of 12K was also due.

He shared his fears with a nurse, and she told him not to worry.

"A lady came here and said she will clear all your bills."

He didn't understand what she said, but he slept so soundly.

When he woke up, he felt someone hold his hand, and a soft voice asked him: "How are you feeling now?"

He looked up; and he saw Maureen, Emily, and Erick.

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