Sessa and I were at the Watamu police station to collect a police report that was supposed to inform the new employer, Danite hotel that Sessa did not have a criminal record.
While we were waiting, a German tourist sat beside us looking sweaty, dirty and very worried. He said hello to us, we ignored him. We had been hard trained, military trained to ignore all attention from men because they all wanted “one thing”. We would get a kick, pinch or hard look if any adult saw us not ignoring a man we were supposed to ignore.
The German tourist started crying. Men shouldn’t cry, and we rarely see them cry, so we looked at each other in wonder. A police officer came over and asked him “Klass, are you crying again?” the police man laughed, shook his head, and walked away to his laughing colleagues.
Klass name was in reality Claes. Due to our dislike and fear of the police, we sympathized with the crying man and spoke to him. He needed someone to take a message to the outside world. He had been arrested smoking Marijuana at the Danite hotel. One of the waiters at the hotel had invited him to a smoke. Claes who had never smoked Marijuana had said no thank you at first. The waiter had insisted. “This is your time to try something new man. When you go back to your country, you will not have a chance again”. Claes saw the logic and accepted. As he was blowing out the first puff of the marijuana, three police officers showed up and took him for possession and probable selling of drugs. No one else was arrested, although the waiter was right there teaching Claes how to smoke marijuana correctly. Claes was to be moved to Malindi police station if he didn’t cough out 25,000 Kenya shillings in Watamu. From Malindi police station, he would go to court and get charged and sentenced. Even if he didn’t get charged, the bribe would be much higher than 25, 000 Kenya shillings since a judge and a police commissioner would now be involved.
Claes had now learned the lesson we learned as Kenyan children. Don’t trust the police!
So he needed someone to go get 25, 000 Kenya shillings for him and come get him within the hour. This money was in his hotel room, hidden in the curtain hems. That was my first lesson in “where to hide your money when traveling to dens of thieves”. It was his first trip to Kenya, he knew no one. He was desperate. He later said he thought he could trust us because we were just girls. Right or wrong, he was lucky that day. The police watched us talk for a few minutes and then took Claes away. He was to be transferred the next morning, they informed him quite casually on the way back to his cell. He left his room key beside me, under my skirt, not under like inside, but under like between wooden seat and my skirt.
We got the police report for Sessa proving to Danite hotel that she didn’t have a police record. She was to work in the kitchen. We run all the way back to Danite hotel, where Sessa was on her 2nd week of kitchen service. We watched for 40 long minutes before we could sneak into room 11, search for the money Claes had said was in the curtains. We ran to the toilet, hid the money round the waistline of our skirts. Ran back to the police station where Sessa quite confidently informed the police that we were to collect a German gentleman by the name of Claes.
“what is his sir name?” the officer asked.
“How many German gentlemen do you have?” Sessa asked right back. “This one is staying at the Danite. I work there. And he sent word that he is here. Or should I get my dad?”.
The police are afraid of dads they don’t know. these dads could be such men that can ruin a police man’s “career”. So they don’t like to meet dads unless they know who the dads are. As a kenyan child, you learn that too, while quite young.
Officer looks Sessa up and down “weren’t you here earlier today?” “Yes, off course! to see Claes”
“mko na pesa? Do you have the money?”officer asked
“ndio. yes. but we need Claes to be out here first. Dad said so.” Sessa said
“sawa. ok” officer said and went to speak to others of his kind.
After thirty minutes, Claes comes out looking dazed and surprised.
“Klass, so you had the money all this time??!” officer says
Claes smiles a cold smile, the eyes are very angry. He hands over 25, 000 shillings that we have hidden in our skirts.
we walk to Danite hotel together. “I am Sessa and I am going to work in the kitchen” Sessa says to Claes as an introduction.
“You need to find another place of work. And I need to change hotels” Claes says and smiles.