Military Life. Chapter 7

Silhouettes, Military, Training, Drills, Walking, Soldiers.
The thought of going through the medical tests and the fitness tests was not entertaining at all. I was nervous because I was not sure if the miracle that had happened at the districts, would happen again. Majority of the people in the field were scared of other things like testing positive for the STIs and etc. My problem was my weight and that “fake” tooth I had fixed a few weeks ago. As I mentioned earlier, it was not obvious that once you had the calling letter, you were assured of the opportunity. Word on the field was that there would be people who would be eliminated to give space to the healthy ones and the sons and daughters of who’s who, who had missed chances at the district levels. It got scarier every time.
At another corner someone was regretting why they had to sell their only cow/ land only to come and learn that they were conned and they had lost everything in the pursuit of the adored job. For me I was going to college, so when the discussion of how much they expected to be paid arose, I was not interested at all. This is still a mystery to many. 90% of the people in that field had come in search of a job – so salary was a major thing. The other percentage included those who had been sent there by their parents to some sort of rehab, those who had come there to reform and be straightened, and those who had found themselves there by fate in pursuit of their dreams like me and my skies. I am not saying money is a bad motivator, but if it is the major focus, one is exposed to so many frustrations.
It was midday already and somehow the weather had changed. It started getting windy and some clouds started gathering. Everyone had settled and I guessed that everybody had arrived. It was then announced that we would be breaking off for lunch and then we would return to the field. We were to maintain the very positions we were in and we were to make sure that we marked our positions. With the order that we had come in with, it was easy to get back to our normal positions. Since we had already known each other.
Here is where the bonding began. I started seeing some faces and started building up ideas and friendships in mind. It was automatic that the person who was in front of me would continue being in front of me until the end of times, or so I thought. That was Ben. Then behind me, was Ray. They all had their different stories. Everybody had left one style of life or the other to come to this ‘great place’ where the instructors were already threatening to cleanse the civilians in us.
It is common sense that the military is operated in units. Therefore, these units are subdivided into major ones and so on and so forth. I will try to put it in the easiest terms possible. Under the military, we have the Air Force, Navy and the Army – The entire Country… This is then divided into ‘commands’ There is the East, the West, the metropolitan…. & blah blah blah (I don’t know the others) so being in Uasin Gishu… this was West Com. With various barracks and camps… it was under this that we have The Recruits Training School. So… under that, we have the College which is a military Barracks in itself. Here there are Divisions, Companies, Platoons, then sections…
The divisions being the largest, we had three in this place and this is obviously for ease of administration and operation. We are going for lunch, so hang in there…
Now, due to the large number of people in the field (over 3,000) they had to be fed, within that one-hour lunch break. So the teams were divided into three and each group headed in the direction of the divisions. Division is just a name whose among the meanings was “The village – sort of, that troops of that division lived and any other property related to them” Remember the stands I mentioned earlier surrounding the holy grounds? They were 3, labeled Simba to the right, Chui facing and Nyati to the Left. They also had their distinct colors, Red for Simba, Sky Blue for Chui and Navy Blue for the Nyatis. If you are keen enough, these are the same colors that are on the military flag, Ceremonial & Official Dresses, shoulder tabs of instructors and any other joint service property. These colors represented the Army, the Air Force and the Navy. (Funny enough the Facebook, Twitter and G+ tabs/ links at the bottom of the post take up the KDF color theme – Major coincidence) Now we can go for lunch…
In the same lines that we were, we were asked to turn around and face the back. Being team one, we were to eat from the Simba Division Cook house together with team two and three. Team four five and six would eat at the Chui Division’s cook house and the last three would eat at the Nyati Division’s Cook house. We all started heading in the direction. Remember those who had come with suitcases from Mars? They had a rough time. The instructors saw this and they told them to leave them at their spots, nobody would steal them. It was quite a relief. I never removed my bag though – I was okay. By now, the clouds were heavy and there was no doubt about the rain that would fall.

Lunch was interesting. Enter Mess Tins… This is a multipurpose aluminium or light stainless Steel tin/cup/plate/sufuria that comes in two interlocking sizes that allow them to nest together for ease of storage and transportation. They are Nato Spec – Military Grade material. Put the military jargon aside. Campers know them as Camping stove pans. As I came to learn, it had many uses. You could serve food, tea, water, cook with it, fetch water, scrub it for a shine like nobody’s business and lay it on your bed for someone to come see how clean it was et al… Since we did not have plates, we had to use the mess tins communally. There were people who brought plates and spoons by the way. We would pick them from a point, dip them in extremely hot water for a rinse, then get served. After use, you washed them in a tap and gave them to your friend, or if they were that hungry, they would wash it themselves. At some point, you realize that ugali served on a plate 10 times is still ugali, and the plate is still a ‘clean’ plate.
So I got in line, took my mess tin. You know how soldiers talk, right? We will refer to it as the Mistin – as they call it. My friend Musau – A UAV technician, calls it Mist. So I took my Mistins, 2 like everybody else ahead. Cafeteria system huh… nice. After that first supper in high school, I expected these guys to prank the newbies like it happened in 03. The dining hall captain motioning for the form ones to pass their new plates to the front for them to get served. (You know how you never want to let go of your new item in any foreign institution) You should have seen the confusion. As plates filled the air, moving to the front before the rest of the school started laughing. I still do not know how I retrieved my plate. We were to learn that food was served on the table and not at the front.
With that mentality in mind, I was very cautious. The good thing about this place was that there were no older ‘students’ or recruits. You all train once and clear the college. You are all newbies at the same time, and you all become soldiers at the same time! My turn. Enter the ‘slice’. This is a makeshift serving spoon that is made from the cover of those cooking oil buckets (You know how hard it is). With fire, it is curved out to make the toughest serving spoon with a flat slicing and serving point and a rounded handle which was hollow. In the case of meat, this was to allow the extra chunks to fall back into the sufuria and only one would get to your mistin. For the Ugali, just one slice would be enough and the side would be determined by the angle which the slice hits the Ugali.
“Saa hii ni kuonja tu, msijali, siku za kukula zitakuja” (Right now, you are just trying out the food, not much to eat, the days of eating are coming)
I was hoping my turn to get weighed would come after such a meal. One slice of Ugali, a dash of cabbage, one chunk of meat (fairly large) and soup. That soaked up the ugali in the first mistin. At first, I thought the second mistin would be for the stew and the first would be Ugali. The second one was for coffee. It was referred to as ‘Chai’ I don’t know why institutions refer to this as chai, chai is tea, whereas it is never chai but ground coffee. We used to do Dormans, even in high school. It was still okay. I mean who serves chai with lunch.
Not all of us were brought up in humble backgrounds, so when I was busy enjoying my balanced diet lunch, somebody dipped his finger in the soup, poked the ugali, put the finger in his mouth and made a face, then headed in the direction of the bin. An averagely beautiful girl tried to eat the piece of meat and it only messed her hands with oil. She threw it away, and the rest of the food, washed her hands with the chai and dumped the mistins at the tap and rinsed her hands.
After, I was done with my meal, I saw people coming from what I learnt was a canteen holding loaves of bread and milk packets and others soda. To them, what I thanked God for, was not fit for humans-of-their-level consumption.
The instructors were watching in amusement. They knew this would happen, they have seen it many times.
“Mtashuka hizo farasi viwete msijali” (Don’t worry, you will come down from your crippled horses)
“Tumaringo such, tunatoanga na wiki moja tu” (That pride, we cleanse in only one week)

The threats had began.
Chapter 8
Military Life. Chapter 7

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