When the house on Rosslyn Lone Tree Estate was sold out from under us, we felt both positive and negative reactions. On the negative side our being happily settled was totally disrupted, not only for us, but for Laban as well. On the positive side, we realized that living seven miles out kept us more removed from Nairobi than we had expected, particularly since we had only one car. Moreover, I was supposed to cover all of sub-Saharan Africa. Tied down in Nairobi, how was I to get a look at it?
I suggested to Monitor editors in Boston that I spend the next six to eight months traveling over my territory. In lieu of my housing allowance, I proposed that Donanne should travel with me. With extraordinary generosity, the editors agreed. We prepared to place our household goods and belongings into storage and live out of suitcases.
Laban’s prospects were the only aspect that distressed us. By then we had come to feel an affection for him. We knew that his mother and sister lived on a shamba in the environs of Limuru north of Nairobi. Laban visited them occasionally on weekends and brought greetings to us from his mother. Donanne returned the greetings and sent small presents.
I hoped that our departure would not mean that Laban was pushed out of the money economy back onto the subsistence one. But that seemed likely. We were too new in Nairobi to know people who might need a good helper. I wrote Laban a letter of recommendation and assured him that, once we returned to Nairobi and got resettled, we’d be happy to employ him again.
During the time of our travels we moved south through Tanzania, Malawi, Rhodesia and into South Africa. We stayed there for several months as I explored the vicissitudes of that country’s apartheid system and reported on elections. We went from there to West Africa, mainly Ghana and Nigeria, and met Donanne’s parents in Europe to visit Germany and Russia with them.
Our return to Nairobi was complicated by the fact that we were promised a very good small house close into town that we could occupy as soon as the owners moved into a splendid new home they were building. “Splendid” took a great deal longer to achieve than we expected it would. We were in temporary quarters for most of a year as we waited.
During all of this time Laban, with whom we had lost touch, had returned to his mother’s shamba and was living like a peasant.
When we returned from two months of home leave the promised house was ready for us. Good to my word I wrote to Laban at the address he had given us in Kiroe Township. “If you do not have a job,” I wrote, “would you like to come and work for us?” The letter included greetings to Laban’s mother and sister and closed with the words that Donanne and I often repeated to one another, the words that Laban had said to us as we started off on our first trip, “Hoping to see you again.”
Frankly I was doubtful that the letter would ever reach its destination. But only a few evenings later whom should we see pedaling down Riverside Paddocks to the small bungalow at the end of the road? None other than Laban Waithaka Muturi! He had ridden in from Limuru, the bicycle his Pegasus, flying in his triumphant return to the money economy. A grin spread across the entire width of his face.
“Hello!” he called.
“Habari!” I shouted, ushering him into our drive. “Nice to see you again!”
“My mother sends her greetings,” Laban told Donanne when she came out of the house.
“Please give her our greetings,” Donanne replied. “I am going to be a mother myself.”
Laban grinned and exclaimed, “Nzuri sana!”
Laban rejoined the household. He occupied more spacious quarters than those at Rosslyn and received a fifteen percent raise and two new sets of work clothes. He would now be living in a neighborhood where he could strike up friendships with other workers and, in fact, rather soon found a girlfriend.
As Donanne’s pregnancy advanced, Laban was able to take over some of her workload. And the time for the baby’s arrival drew near, Donanne asked him to find a woman who could act as an ayah and take care of the washing.
When we brought Baby Pauly home from the hospital, he would not stop crying. Getting out of the car, I laughed with embarrassment. Donanne felt distressed that there was so much about parenting that was a mystery to both mother and father. Laban admired the baby and approved our following the Kikuyu tradition of naming him after my father. Standing quietly to one side was a Kikuyu woman. Laban said
to Donanne, “This is the woman you asked me to find.”
The woman stepped forward and said, “Jambo, Memsah’b.”
“Jambo,” Donanne replied.
Murugi reached out to shield the baby’s eyes from the sun. He stopped crying and Donanne thought, “This woman is the right person.”