First Timer

How My Maiden Visit to Nyayo Stadium Turned into a 4 Hour Agony

Former President Mwai Kibaki speaking at the Nyayo National Stadium during Madaraka Day celebrations in 2011. PHOTO: Thomas Mukoya/Reuters.

The year was 2005.It was Kenyatta Day, on 20th October (Now Mashujaa or Heroes Day).

I was just 10 days old in Nairobi. The Green City in the Sun. The city of a thousand lights. For the streetwise, it is simply shamba la mawe (a rocky farm).

I had just reported to the Kenya Institute of Mass Communication (KIMC) for a three-year Diploma course in Broadcast Journalism.

I must admit it was my first time in Nairobi, as an adult. When my father used to work in Nairobi as a police officer at the Parklands Police station in the late 80s, I vaguely remember the experience when we visited him with my mother and other siblings.

I was too young to remember anything concrete, except the flickering lights of aeroplanes at night, the City Park which had a maze and the monkeys harassing and eventually snatching a packet of peanuts from my twin brother. He was haunted by the experience for a long time.

That’s why my come back to Nairobi in 2005 was incredible. I reported to college late due to financial challenges. My father had just retired and was waiting for his pension to be fast tracked so he could take me to college. I am forever indebted to him for the sacrifice.

When we came to Nairobi, we put up at a cousin of mine. We came on 9th October, and early the following day, we went to report to college. But then it was Moi Day, even though we thought that since it wasn’t being observed as an official holiday, the college would be open.

Anyway, we went back to my cousin’s. On 11th October, we were back there, bright and early.

I got admitted. My father and twin brother went back home.

For those who know it well, the KIMC is in South B precisely along Uholo road, off Mombasa road. For the alumni, it is simply, the Powerhouse that has churned out media practitioners since 1961. For those of us who went there, there’s none like KIMC. It is a fact we don’t hide. We hold it aloft like a badge of honour.

Now the Nyayo National Stadium is about 3.5 kilometres away from KIMC.

It was here that on 20th October 2005, the Kenyatta Day celebrations were being held.

I was excited. Now I wouldn’t have to watch the event on TV, I had an opportunity to be live on location!

So together with my new friends we planned to be there to see the President at close range, and witnesses the usual razzmatazz that characterizes the event. This time, I was there, live!

We were there by 10am, the four of us.

At about 11.30am the celebrations began. As always, the entertainment, followed by speeches. After the event was over, we had the rare opportunity to storm the main dais to have a feel of the seats used by the VIPs! It was an incredible feeling for me. A sense of achievement.

I called back home on my then Motorola phone to announce my unlikeliest experience. It was exhilarating. It was a grand day. And one more important event to crown the day awaited us.

It was the first time we would be serving a sumptuous meal of chicken in college, which would be a once in a week routine. It was our first chicken feast. It was special for us. Where I come from, no meal beats the chicken. We are proud of this tradition.

The newly renovated Nyayo National Stadium.PHOTO: The Star

We had agreed amongst us that as soon as the event was over, we would immediately dash back to college so we don’t miss this important ‘‘ceremony.’’

But there was a small problem.

You see when we entered the Nyayo Stadium, we used the lower exit around the Nyayo round about. But after relishing the VIP experience on the main dais, I lost track of my friends.

Seeing that I would waste more precious time looking for them, I decided to dash back to school. Except for one thing.

I excited the stadium using an upper exit that immediately lands you on Langata road. Now being a newbie, I couldn’t notice the fact that I was on a different road.

I mistakenly assured myself that I was on Mombasa road, heading back to KIMC.

So, in short, I dived straight up into Nairobi West estate.

I see walked on. I thought I was on the right path. I began sensing trouble when after a reasonable distance, KIMC wasn’t anywhere in the vicinity.

I did rounds in Nairobi West in into South C and at one point even reaching Wilson Airport. During all this time, I never bothered to ask anyone for clarification. You see when leaving the village for the city, I had been warned to be wary of strangers in Nairobi and avoid any unnecessary interactions that may expose me to the cunning townspeople.

So the trick I pulled was to walk with confidence as if I was a local and familiar with the area. At some times, I reached a dead end, and had to turn back. I did this several times.

We are now heading to 2. 30pm.The chicken feast is now fully out of question. Now survival and finding my way back to college was the most important consideration.

I couldn’t call the guys we were with since being new acquaintances, we hadn’t even exchanged contacts

Additionally, even if I had their contacts, they were all from the village just as I was and as such wouldn’t have helped my case.

 I soldiered on.

I was getting overwhelmed by hunger now, given the lad meal I had was breakfast. But I was determined to trace my bearings by hook or crook.

It was now heading to 4pm. I was getting frustrated. Then I had a eureka moment. An idea crossed my mind. Almost like an epiphany.

I said to myself, if I am able to locate the direction of KICC from where I was, I would we easily get my bearings correctly.

So, I walked again for some distance. Got to a raised place and could see the Central Business District from afar and KICC standing majestically in the concrete jungle.

I figured that if I took a northerly direction, I would probably find a better way around the conundrum. Some sort of Pythagoras Theorem at work. Remember up until now, I hadn’t asked anyone for any direction.

 True to my instincts, I marched forward and voila! I was thrust on to Popo Road somewhere near the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) offices.

I could see Belle Vue to my left and of course Mombasa Road! What a relief. I was so battered by the long distance covered, famished and fatigued. I was almost losing it with each passing minute.

Soon I was on Mombasa Road and later back at KIMC safe and sound.

I got to my friends who were equally worried at my absence, especially at the lunch hour. I had to conjure up some lies instantly. I told them I had gone to see a friend in Nairobi West and that the visitation had dragged on given we hadn’t seen each other in years.

They bought the lie, line, hook and sinker! I was surprised that they couldn’t immediately tell the litany problems from the dusty shoes to the dry mouth.

All this while, within me, I was almost collapsing from the four hours of walk and my immediate concern at the moment was when dinner would be served so I could mount a revenge mission for my lunchtime woes.

I will never forget that day. It was my first time in Nairobi. It remains etched in my memory with indelible ink.

We all have our first moments in many spheres of life and our outcomes are not always the same.

How was your memorable first-time experience?

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