1 February 1997

Kenya: Sniffing Glue
by Gaga Ekeh

"He what?" I asked Christine incredulously.

"Gaga, I know it sounds insane!"

"Damn right!" I couldn't believe what I was hearing.

My friend Christine has just returned from her annual pilgrimage to her homeland of Kenya. The land of the Kikuyu, of the Massai, the Luo and the Kalenjin. A land were you can still see a Zebra, or hear the roar of a lion. She told me tales, as one often will, of good and bad things. In some ways things are better, in some ways things are worse. You know, cum si cum sa. And then a passing remark caught my ear, and this led us into an hour of tales of the darkest genre I have heard.

The remark had to do with a kid, probably under ten years old, who had asked her for money on the road. He threatened to shoot her with his small catapult if she refused. She refused and he shot her. It was a small sting, she said. "What was the lad thinking" I asked, confused. "Oh I don't know" Christine said, "he was high on glue anyway."


High? A ten year old kid? On glue? Christine saw my ignorance of the problem of children and drugs in parts of Kenya. She told me how these "street children" have no alternative. Nothing. They live from day to day, no homes, no future. They beg for money, then spend it on glue that they might get high. They range in age from 6 to adult-age. One asked her for money to buy food, she told him to follow her so that she could buy the food for him. She bought him fries but no sooner had she left did he go to the next car and ask for money. He didn't even eat the fries. As she told me these things I just couldn't understand it. I didn't know how to feel. She mentioned how she saw a band of youths, dancing in slow motion outside a store. All had glue containers, or whatever it is they carry glue in, in their hands. Glue? These things are new to me!

Then the tale of other kids who will take their younger brothers, make them cry as though they were hungry, and they probably would be, and collect money from sorrowful passers-by. The money, as you guessed, would be spent on glue. These are kids. She talked about several being KIDS!

"When you say kids, Christine, what do you mean?"

"I don't know... all I can say is that they,.. some were under ten."

Some threaten females with faeces. Give your money or get stoned by the returns of the stomach. I laughed when I heard that one. I don't know, I found it funny. Yet, deep down I was dazed. Confused. There are people in this world going through stuff I can't relate to. I have my issues to deal with. I call them good problems. How can I work overtime to pay my debts? Will there be heat when I get home? They are problems, no doubt. But at least I have a home to ask whether there will be heat in it when I get there. I have a job to bemoan my having to pay my salary to my creditors. Some people have nothing. Nothing, but faeces, tears, and... glue?

I'm not mother Theresa. I don't give two shits about the rainforest. The ozone layer? Sounds like a nightclub to me. But there has to be something that can be done, in each society, to curb evils like I have described. What do kids know at the age of 7, sniffing glue? Can God even judge them? And we're so concerned with everything else we forget the small thing we like to call humanity. It irks me that we spend so much time fighting for this and for that, looking at the big picture, but forgeting the small picture. I am only an observer of truth. I return now to the land of spirits.

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