Amakove Wala goes everywhere. She packs her bags and her children, and she goes. She follows the sun. Sometimes she follows the wind. Mostly it’s her heart. But first, she finds time because she has a son and triplet daughters. She also breeds rabbits. She runs a nanny bureau. She cycles. She writes. She gives talks. She runs an association that gives support to families with multiples, (twins, triplets etc.) with a membership of over 700 families. She’s a doctor, the Global Advisor for Health and Nutrition at Aga Khan Foundation, so her day is manic. She also runs a massive Facebook page called Wanderlust Diaries Ltd where she has documented hundreds of her travels with her children, from Kerio Valley to South Africa, to valleys and mountains, over rivers and streams. She’s a single mother – a full time job on its own. She’s 42 years old and she crams all these activities into her 24-hour day. She stuffs them like a traveller packs all her clothes in a suitcase, folding and squeezing and then finally sitting on the suitcase as someone strenuously zips it closed.
She packs up and she goes.
She’s one of the persons picked by Facebook doing dope stuff on the platform (her page, Wanderlust Diaries Ltd, has over 300,000 subscribers), part of their RealPeopleRealStories campaign. I called her up and asked her what she would do if she had one week to live. Where would she go? What would she like to see? She was quiet for a beat, processing this question. Then she asked, “Anywhere at all?”
I said, yeah.
“Water,” she said, “I’d like to go die anywhere with water…even though I can’t swim.”
She would go to a log cabin, near a water body, it could also be a pond or a stream, perhaps, with tall trees, like pine or whatever, just trees that climb to the sky. Somewhere quiet. The reason for her choice is because her life has been so busy, she would want to spend her last nights on earth in a tranquil place. She would pack light for the final journey. The first thing in her bag would be her tablet, to document her last days. “I love to journal.” She’d also pack some food to cook in the cabin; rice, chicken, some fruits, and water. Then in would go her camera for pictures she’d post online. “I wouldn’t carry mementos or anything like that,” she says, “I think all the memories I have are captured in pictures of friends and families I have shared moments with.” She’d also pack lipstick and eye-pencil. “I love my African print outfits, so I’d carry those with me as well.”
All packed, she’d call her friends and say goodbye to them, then to her children. “I think I have raised independent children. I have always travelled with them and taught them how to adapt to situations because life is always changing and if you choose to remain in one position you will struggle. I will tell them to cherish the moments we had together – and we have had numerous. I will also tell them not to wallow in misery because it’s pointless. We didn’t squander our time together so why be miserable? They have learnt how to play football and swimming, skating and hiking. Sports has taught them discipline and how to lose because losing is a part of life and we all have to learn how to deal with loss.”
Then she would pick her bags and drive off. At the wooden cabin, she would not do anything else for the next six days. “I would stay still.” She says. “I haven’t stayed still for so long; my life has been one continuous activity. I contracted Coronavirus earlier this year and that meant that for the first time in so long I had to stay in the house, quarantined. It was challenging, no interaction with the kids or outside world – it built my mental stamina.”
She would wake up daily and write her memoir. Her memory is so poor, she says, that if she doesn’t write it down, it will be forgotten. If she was to write only one chapter of her life, what chapter would that be?
“It would be my parenting journey, raising four kids as a single parent. Not just raising them but raising them in an areligious space. I would also write about controversial things, like sex and teaching my children about sex, especially about LBGTQ. We don’t trust children with information they seek, and we should. I would also write, in that same chapter, about my divorce and how it affected my children.” She has been divorced for four years now.
“I’d write about what I’d do differently, the life choices I made. I’d not compromise on the things that define me to please society, I would not toe the line because that broke my dreams. I also don’t think I’d choose medicine as a career, maybe something like social anthropology or humanity. I would write about how after my divorce I have intentionally lived my life on my own terms.”
In between writing, she would take time to wander about in the woods. “You learn a lot from nature. You learn, from watching some trees fall, to let some things go through their natural process. Ride the wave. Nature has a way of always redefining itself. Look at the sky and see how birds live, with freedom. Nature also shows us how we coexist differently, there are trees that serve monkeys and birds, there are crawlers that feed the grazers. We all have our roles.”
On the last day, she would wake up and look at her will again as she sips tea. She would be at peace. “I think I have lived my life the way I wanted to. I made good use of my time here. I think there will be someone who will be encouraged by my time on earth.” She says.
She has travelled when she wanted to travel. Seen things she wanted to see. Met people she wanted to meet. She tells of a story she shared on Facebook.
“I recently moved into this new house and I wanted to renovate the garage, converting it into the bedroom of my triplets. When I wrote about it almost everyone said, ‘but why would you want to renovate someone else’s house, what if they wake up tomorrow and kick you out?’”
I said, “I’m not living for tomorrow, I’m living for today. Why worry about IF he will kick me out tomorrow when I have an opportunity to live for today? And this is the mentality we have as Africans, this constant worrying about tomorrow. We buy stocks hoping to reap rewards 10 years from now. We invest heavily for when we are old. We sometimes deny ourselves now so that we can enjoy a tomorrow that is never promised. There is space for investment and the comfort of it but I’ve always been okay to choose investing in a trip to a destination I have always wanted to see rather than in life insurance. I’m not one to wait 20 years for shares I bought today at 10 bob to grow to 70 bob. Investment for me is not about amassing wealth. It’s living the life I want now.”
On day seven, the last day, when the hour comes, and the angel of death is ready to take her she will wear her African prints and sit by the lake or pond.
“He can find me there, if he wants to. I want him to find me looking at water.”
And when it’s all done, she says she wants her ashes scattered over any water body. It doesn’t matter where. “I don’t want my remains to be carried many kilometers to my village. Funerals just put so much pressure on the living, on families. Whenever I die, they should find the nearest water body and scatter my ashes there. I think I will be calmest there.”