Author Archives: Njenva

About Njenva

I like writing random stuff about nothing in particular. One may call it Njenva’s Ramblings……

Squatter Life

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2020 is definitely not going according to anyone’s plan. If COVID-19 was a person, I doubt that this year is going like it planned either. It has been a crazy successful year for COVID-19, not so much for the rest of humanity. This is going to be a long post, consider yourself warned!

This year started on a HIGH. I spent Christmas in Barcelona, Spain and New Year’s in Birmingham, UK – it was the most fun we’d had as a family in a long while. (I’ll blog about this!) I had decided to be deliberate about travelling in 2020 so my plan was to travel to Ethiopia in January, India in February, Dubai in March, London in April, US in June (I was supposed to be in New York right now!), Turkey in August and Thailand in December. God must have been laughing at me and my plans because, one, where was I going to get all that money to travel and two I had no idea that Ethiopia and India were the only countries I was going to visit.

I took time to just chill in Addis in January. Didn’t do much. It was a solo trip for me to think and pray about decisions I wanted to make. I left the hotel twice; once to eat food from a different restaurant and the second time to buy a gift for Mrs. Adrian. I decided to go to India in February because I needed to see my doctor. I had been unwell since 2019 and doctors in Kampala and Nairobi couldn’t figure out what the problem was. 

So I went to India and first took some time to tour around Bombay – I had never been! I then went to Gurgaon and got a full body medical check done. BTW, I fully recommend the full body check from Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Health4U option for a full body check – it is such a thorough process, the final result of the check up package I selected was more than 20 pages of results and consultations with about 20 doctors! The doctors discovered that my issues were stemming from hormonal imbalances and a gall bladder full of gallstones – I needed surgery to remove the gall bladder. I like how the doctor said, “You have gallstones, you need surgery to remove your inflamed gall bladder, have you eaten today, you can have the surgery today!” Excuse me? Surgery. What is that? Me? Wah. Semi-panic mode set in. And I decided to go back to Kampala, hand over my work and then convince Skinny to take me back to India for the surgery. 

Exactly 1 month later, Skinny and I landed in India on Holi day – we were sad that we hadn’t arrived a day before, we would have taken part in the festival of colours. By that time, the threat of COVID-19 transmission had increased. India had reported a few cases but there were no cases reported in Kenya or Uganda. We were not wearing masks full time but we were using a lot of hand sanitizer. I went through surgery the next day and started walking a few hours after. Not too bad for my first surgery! Laparoscopic gall bladder removal surgery wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be – I had 4 one inch punctures around my tummy and they took out the gall bladder. I got discharged after 2 days and when we got back to our hotel room, we realized that we needed to change our travel date. COVID-19 had started impacting travel around the world and we didn’t want to get stuck in India. We moved our travel date back by 3 days and felt sad that we wouldn’t spend that extra time touring Bombay. I had really wanted to hang out with Skinny in Bombay but we decided it was more important to go back home. 

Thank God we changed our travel date. Because just 3 days before our travel date, KQ reduced the number of flights to India and they announced that the last flight would be the day after our new flight! We were so lucky to get on that flight! We hadn’t been tested for COVID-19 at any point and we were worried about being carriers. We decided to be careful about it and protect the people around us, so we asked Hipilicious to move out of her house (hahaha) so that Skinny could self-isolate there. I on the other hand asked my domestic manager in Kampala to shop for stuff (I’ll be honest, meat and eggs!), stock up my house so that I could stay there for as long as possible without having to leave to get groceries or anything. Uganda had already started screening flights from various parts of the world. They had a list of “Category 1” countries which had a couple of COVID-19 cases. Anyone coming in from a Category 1 country had to go for mandatory 14 days quarantine. I kept checking and asking and was informed that India wasn’t on the list. Phew. Also at that time, there was no mandatory government quarantine for people coming into Kenya, however, this changed the day after we arrived! Small mercies, I tell you.

We got to Nairobi at about 9am, I hugged Skinny goodbye and she went towards immigration while I went to transfers and was able to change my flight to Kampala from 2pm to 11am. The airline staff were insisting that only Ugandans would be allowed to get into Kampala and when they got convinced that I was a Uganda resident, I was allowed to board the plane. As soon as the plane started taxiing away from the gate, I took out my phone and started checking up on updates on Facebook, where I was reading the most up to date status on immigration happenings in Uganda. Even before the air hostesses started the safety demonstration, I had read that people who had landed from India that morning had been forced to go to government quarantine at selected hotels. The hotels were described as filthy, with no running water and food/drinking water wasn’t part of these charges. I decided that I was going to look at this positively and go on a mileage run – I had planned out my flights so that I didn’t need to do a mileage run in 2020 but you know, looking at the glass half full. I wasn’t going to go to a quarantine facility when I had just had surgery! Especially seeing that the reviews of the hotels selected raised lots of questions. I just had to find my way back to Nairobi.

First things first, I called my usual cabbie and asked him cancel the airport trip because I wasn’t sure that I would be allowed to get into the country. Second I requested my domestic manager to go to my house and put everything in the freezer. Third, I told Skinny that it was likely that we were going to share space for a longer period of time. When I got to Entebbe, I didn’t even put up a fight. “You’re coming in from India?” “Yes” “Quarantine!” “No!” “Ok, leave the country” “Sure!” Thank goodness, I usually purchase multiple tickets in advance, so all I had to do was change the date for one ticket to that day and wait for my flight. It was a nightmare getting the officials to understand that I was ok leaving Entebbe and that I would not agree to be locked up in a tiny airless room with others waiting to transit. That was one of the most stressful times of my life. People forced to sit in one tiny room with many coughing, sneezing and crying, etc. Thanks JINK for keeping me sane during these crazy hours that I had to wait. Then they lost my luggage ….ah, that’s a story for another day!

So I got back to Nairobi, signed a 14 days self quarantine declaration form and joined Skinny for 32 days of isolation. We actually did it. We didn’t even go to see Mrs. Adrian! During week 2, Hipilicious dropped some food at our door – to be honest, meat and more meat, we hadn’t eaten beef for nearly a month!. She sat at a distance on a small stool that she had carried and we got to see each other face to face for the first time in about a month. I got so emotional, I cried and sobbed like a baby. On day 26, we did a drive by Mrs. Adrian’s house and Hipilicious came out to to say hi, she sat on the pavement and we didn’t get out of the car – we spoke through the car window – while Mrs. Adrian waved at us from her bedroom window. After about 6 weeks of keeping away from Mrs. Adrian and Hipilicous, we finally sat down for a meal together. Then Skinny moved back home and Hipilicious came back to her house. 

I’ve been living with either one of my sisters for 75 days and none of us has killed the other. Yet. I have been living out of my suitcase and feeling like a squatter in someone else’s space since March. I am so grateful for how accommodating my sisters have been. It has been a challenge, I won’t lie – we each have our own idiosyncrasies that drive the other crazy. I am referred to as the crazy person for asking people to sanitize everything every minute and disinfect everything that gets into the house. I am also quite particular about not leaving the house for any reason and I have been so upset when they have decided to visit their friends using their own versions of social distancing. 

I miss my house, my own space, the dogs, rolex and warmth. I swear, Nairobi is cold. And I also feel that the safety measures in Uganda have been so much better than in Kenya, from what I have observed on social media and conversations with friends. But I am very thankful for all the things that I am able to do because I am in Nairobi and near family. The two things I have learned during this time:

  1. You can never fully know anyone. I thought I knew my sisters. Weh! I really didn’t. Especially one of them.
  2. Because of reason 1 above, I now see the pros of living with someone before getting married.