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What's In A Name?

Sharing Stories - A Glimpse into Another's Life

KENYA | Saturday, 16 March 2013 | Views [15633] | Comments [26] | Scholarship Entry

‘Jonathan’ is not the name of a fearless warrior. Jonathan, surely, works in accounts in an air-conditioned office, takes vitamin supplements and makes regular contributions to his pension fund. He secretly resents his work and dreams of any challenge to his personal monotony and the linear direction of his life, yet remains dutifully consistent and reliable.

Jonathan, however, is the name of this warrior. It shocks me: not the thick, pale scar that cuts like a mountain range from his left shoulder across his chest and down to his stomach; but his name. He leaps in the dust, rooted to the spot on which he lands and from where he takes flight. I can’t take my eyes off him. He is a vision of ochre and agility.

Suddenly, the guttural vibrations of song stop, the earth settles and Jonathan gently adjusts his red shuka to cover his wound as he steps forward out of the line of men. An Elder shuffles towards him and, as Jonathan bows his head, he is crowned with the lion’s mane. The beast that engraved his body now frames this warrior’s face. As he slowly raises his head, Jonathan’s eyes are closed as beads of fat and orange sweat trickle down his cheek.

Kenya mercilessly bakes herself in December. At this moment - in this sundial sun - I am the office-Jonathan. He is the warrior-Jonathan; the Morani. He gently takes my hand and holds it tenderly, standing next to me, tall, extended with pride and perfectly postured. I dare not look at him but I wonder how his heart must have burst with fear when he confronted the animal’s eyes. His thickened braids flick on my shoulder. His scent is earthen, metallic and roasted.

The hypnotic rhythm of song restarts, he softly loosens his grasp on my hand and he is offered his spear and rungu. He demonstrates his combat skills and I quietly contemplate the linear direction of his life, directed solely towards this moment of absolute achievement.

‘Jonathan’ has its meaning as ‘Given from God’ and here, today, in this parched grassland office, he is adored as a gift to these Maasai boys and men. To me, he is the warrior I long to be.

Tags: Travel Writing Scholarship 2013



well done. this is really good

  raz May 14, 2013 3:27 PM


Really unremarkable and in parts downright non-sensical. "A vision of ochre and agility"? How is something a "vision of agility"? In other parts it's cliched and he uses "linear direction of his life" twice, as if that's somehow an interesting phrase.

"Kenya mercilessly bakes herself in December." That's a fantastic sentence if you remove the useless adverb. How do you mercilessly bake yourself?

  Greg May 14, 2013 4:03 PM


Wow Greg, bitter much? What happened to being a good sport?

Show us your writing! Let's see what makes you such an expert! :)

  Bitter May 14, 2013 4:27 PM


Bitter? I gave him credit where credit was due. I genuinely think this is an unremarkable piece of writing and that "Anatomy of a Wail" should have won. This isn't sport, this is writing.

Here, go nuts: http://journals.worldnomads.com/gregmoskovitch/story/100023/Australia/Catching-a-Moment-A-Glorious-Lull

  gregmoskovitch May 14, 2013 5:01 PM


Nicely done ! :) Congratulations .

  Sachi May 14, 2013 6:18 PM


The writings really good, congrats for winning. I'm really impressed at the depth of the story you told in the confines of the limit - a proper story, with something for the readers to reflect upon.

  danielle May 14, 2013 7:32 PM


Congrats Andrew! Enjoy the scholarship. ;)

  randomary May 14, 2013 10:00 PM


Congratulations Andrew! Have a great and successful trip to Beijing and may this opportunity turn out to be everything you hoped it would be.

  Anonymous May 14, 2013 11:19 PM


someone made a good point about this piece. although it is good, isn't it fictionalized? the judge made a comment that the writer shares the name jonathon with the warrior, but the author of this piece is named andrew. can anyone clear that up for me?

  gen May 15, 2013 12:48 AM


It does seem to me as though this is fiction. Would someone mind answering that question? And I agree, anatomy of a wail was better written and far more moving.

  cozycheri May 15, 2013 2:09 AM


Congratulations Andrew. All the best for Beijing. I am sure it will do wonders for your career.

  Gaurav Bhatnagar May 15, 2013 4:48 AM


I do really wonder whether their running late affected their judging because while this piece is passable it's certainly not what I'd call a winner. Congrats anyway in what is obviously a very subjective process.

  Dave May 15, 2013 7:53 AM


Fictionalised or not, this is a beautiful piece of writing; really evocative and the connection between two wildly dissimilar yet somehow equally linear lives cleverly drawn. Congratulations Andrew, enjoy the trip and do let us know what ever happened to Jonathan :)

  Kerstin Pilz May 15, 2013 9:41 AM


I think he's just likening himself to an 'office Jonathon' isnt he? Not literally meaning his name, but... "Jonathan, surely, works in accounts in an air-conditioned office, takes vitamin supplements and makes regular contributions to his pension fund"

  Charlie May 15, 2013 11:26 AM


As Charlie has pointed out, regardless of the final judges comments, rest assured this is a piece of non-fiction and out of a selection panel of 8 people, scored the highest mark, thus making him a worthy winner.

  scholarships May 15, 2013 11:30 AM


Never did I imagine that the name of Jonathan would prove so controversial!

Firstly, thank you to World Nomads for this amazing opportunity and also to everyone who has left a comment on this site. I am absolutely thrilled to have won from a fantastic, varied and hugely talented shortlist.

So what indeed is in a name, as the title and a few readers ask? I suppose the answer is 'lots and nothing' all at once! Well, we all open ourselves (and our personal writing) to analysis and assessment through publication, particularly in the online-sphere; I would normally not respond, but I feel I must reassure some concerned readers that Jonathan is very real! The question is, which one?

My name, of course, is Andrew: since I was born and not changed in 32 years, let alone to enter a competition! Warrior-Jonathan in Kenya was real in all his glory and confinement, as was HIS name. Office-Jonathan is real too but in a very different way...........we all see him every day in every city: he exists but he's not ACTUALLY me; in my piece, he's a metaphorical Jonathan. In 'real life' he may well live next door to you or even work at the desk opposite. Office-jonathan is common and everywhere, which is why my short time in the company of Warrior-Jonathan was so compelling and unique.

I hope that clears it up!

  Andrew May 15, 2013 5:52 PM


Congratulations Andrew, I really enjoyed reading your beautifully crafted piece. Was bemused at how quickly the spiteful responses came in...just an example of their own insecurities, so please dismiss them from your well-deserved Moment. Enjoy your fabulous opportunity and all that it will bring you.

  Nikki May 15, 2013 7:05 PM


A very good piece of writing indeed. I like the idea very much: who could I have become, growing up in a different place of the world and in a different culture? A thought that occurs often while travelling.

Have fun in Beijing. Maybe we will meet some day somewhere along the way.

  Jurriaan May 15, 2013 9:01 PM


lovely writing andrew. enjoyed reading it... lovely juxtaposition... brought out the vitality and spirit of the kenyan warrior right in front of me...

  bhavani May 16, 2013 12:58 AM


Bit overwrought don't you think?

  kelly May 23, 2013 2:37 PM


Great piece! Enjoy China. I was there a year ago and fell in love with Beijing, Chengdu, Shanghai and all the other places along my journey! So much to take in...

  Jan May 25, 2013 1:02 PM


Great writing! Congrats!

  Tomás May 30, 2013 12:51 AM


Nowthats cool


  african_kid-1989 Jun 10, 2013 11:19 PM


What's the deal with you guys? :P
I actually think this piece is the most powerful of the top 3, because he touches on important themes and shows a contrast between urban culture and Kenyan culture. The others have a lot of flowery language and insight, but this piece is much richer and deeper.

  corona_quirky Apr 27, 2014 2:52 PM


Every time I read this I love it more and more. Well done, well deserved.

  Mirna May 12, 2014 1:42 AM


The bitter elitist losers have come out from under the rock I see. I guess anonymity will do that. Congrats Andrew. Take their comments as jealousy, and enjoy your trip!

  Mary Sep 12, 2014 9:29 PM

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