When I was in primary school, I was as extremely extroverted as my 6-year-old daughter is. My confidence was akin to Abraham’s faith. It was unwavering. I entertained my folks friends and my friends alike. On a broader scale, I recited poems up to provincial and sometimes national level.
But then, as I grew older, this bold and sassy extrovert started receding slowly, like water levels in Ndakaini Dam in a dry year. I am still bold and sassy when in my small intimate circles, but never one to express myself to a crowd of people, worse still, complete strangers. It baffles me how this transition happened. The strangest bit is that Xena is a replica of my younger unperturbed self. It’s as is if when she left my womb, she left with every nerve that fed into my extroverted side.
I remember when we were in Kilifi sometime last year and I decided to take the family on a sunset cruise. Kilifi is one of my favourite towns at the coast. The beach side is quiet, the sand white and clean and the weather much cooler than Mombasa and Malindi. It’s as if it’s in its own stratosphere. At 4.00pm, the nanny, the kids and myself were settled in the wooden dhow ready to take off. Captain Issa, a stocky man whose eyes looked as distant as the sea that had been his office for many years, gave us a quick brief of the route. We would be sailing all the way past Kilifi bridge and then past the Mangrove forest, at which point the sun would set.
As the captain and his assistant raised the sail, Xena was mesmerised.
“Mama what is this thing for?” She queried.
“It helps control the movement of the dhow towards the direction of the wind.” I said.
She started at it strangely, like one would stare at a UFO.
“Mama, can we cook food on this dhow?” She asked.
“No, we can only cook in a cruise ship.” I said.
“Then why did we not go on a cruise ship?” She pressed on.
“Next time.” I said. “When mummy and daddy makes tonnes and tonnes of money, we will go on a cruise ship.”
Shortly after, we sailed to a beach on our extreme right where a young white couple from Amsterdam boarded.
They smiled at us in acknowledgement, in the way that white people do. It’s as if they want to laugh but change their mind halfway through. I smiled back.
Xena and the nanny chatted about sea animals and whether there were sharks beneath our dhow. Captain Issa made small talk with our new guests. I overheard him giving them basic Swahili classes, and at some point, Captain Issa turned to me to offer some help. They wanted to know about touristic activities in Nairobi as they would be heading there next.
“Madam Joy, can you advise our friends here on what fun stuff to do in Nairobi?” He asked.
“My mummy doesn’t like talking to people.” Said Xena in a heart beat, as if wanting to protect her mum from this sudden invasion of her space.
“She likes peace and quiet.” She added, like the damage was not enough.
I was embarrassed beyond words, and I almost wanted the dhow to capsize. At this point, I made up my mind to find my lost extroverted self in 2019. Wish me luck.