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Mind How You Step

October 31, 2013

mkt290She has a round dark face that is more chipmunk cheeks than anything else, cheeks that prop up eyes that glitter with mischief. The narrow, high set benches means we squeeze in to sit down and she laughs at two tall guys struggling to fit in without knocking any else’s tea on the floor. She remembers us from last week and is clearly pleased we are there.  The floor is timber, old cement, broken tiles and earth so I have to watch where I step. There are no mozzies since the place is full of the sweet pine smoke that drifts in from the kitchen, semi detached out the back via a narrow laneway that clearly provides access to a larger street somewhere, as folk walk in this back door as often as they walk in the front door. She watches us sit and then giggles to her friend… Read more

Nightclub Butterfaces

October 21, 2013

gracejnes290I’m not what you call a clubbing type. No, not seals on ice but nightclubs. I have no particular aversion to them, but neither have I ever had any particular attraction to them. I do regret not being in one in Elizabeth in 1980. Or was it Gawler? Fozzie leapt for the wagon wheel chandelier and brought the whole thing out of the ceiling onto the dance floor. Fortunately his leaping lunge at it meant he swung underneath the wheel and it landed behind him though legend has it Fozzie was still gripping the thing when the bouncers went to sort out the commotion.  Fortunate, for surely the weight of the thing would have taken his life had it landed on him. And to this day those who were there wonder that there were no dancers killed. Doubly fortunate. The club was put off limits to all of us but I don’t think we were supposed to be off base at that stage anyway.  But a good time was had by all who were there, though everyone agreed the clubs in that town were dangerous places. Best we not have access to them or one might end up hitched to a camp follower. In the minds of my boot camp colleagues that would have been far worse than death or injury from a falling wagon wheel.   Read more

Longonot – With or Without a Necklacing

October 21, 2013

Wlongonot290hile we eat our cornflakes as the sun comes up, and wonder where our colleagues are, at the end of the street two thieves stand among a crowd of excited neighbours and a collection of security guards. They are two of four the guards have caught. They are not running anywhere. To start with the crowd will make sure of that. But they are encumbered by two tyres dropped over them. You know, that South African legacy of ‘necklacing’ – fill the tyre with petrol and light it up, burning the trapped person alive. Read more

They Walk Among Us

October 6, 2013

nightclub290There is a creeping awareness this week that we Australians, for all our fretting about porous borders ( a lot of nonsense) have it just way too good. I have always known that of course. On one occasion my return to Australian soil after a precarious adventure was so emotional I wanted to do ‘a Pope’ – kiss the tarmac I was walking on when I finally arrived home.  But this is a bit different. Being resident here, even for a short period of time, makes me aware of a different sensibility. It’s the fact that your enemy might truly be walking the road with you. That the crawling vehicle might truly be doing a recce. If Australians have an enemy (and we don’t really have a sense of one) they are out there over the water somewhere, ill defined and with no malicious agenda.  Kenyans know they have an enemy, provoked by their intervention and ongoing military action in Somalia. And its an enemy that can simply walk here if they are resolved enough to do so. It seems some are.  Which makes these people wonder who in the checkout queue really is a friendly. Read more

Nairobi Brunch

September 29, 2013

cafe290It’s a quiet Sunday and after a slow start I decide to walk to the nearest shopping centre. A walk can only be a good thing after last nights festivities. The rest of the house is not stirring. The day is clear and burning hot, something I had not really noticed under the shade of our garden forest. Unlike my jogging foray I am the only traveller on the roadside goat track, the exception being the neighbour’s guards who are reclined on the verge, feet crossed and having lunch much in the fashion of a impressionist’s picnic. Except these lads are wearing overalls and gumboots. I say hello and wonder how they do it. Read more

Early Morning Jog in Nairobi

September 27, 2013

290Imagine a series of low rolling, heavily vegetated ridges radiating out from the city centre. They parallel each other as best they can but like spokes they are forced gradually apart. Roads run along the crown of each, houses sit off the road and then gardens and forest fill the gullied gaps. In many sections the forest comes to the roadside, houses being set quite a distance back. The soil is a heavy, rich red sticky loam that is infested on the road side by blocks of stone, small enough to run across, big enough to break an ankle on. In some cases big enough to have me prefer the bitumen and the traffic than the potential of a broken foot. Read more

Taxi Driver (Kenyan – in Kenya)

May 8, 2011

cab.jpgGood morning. Are you going up country?

Sure am. Not many who are doing that at this time of the morning.

He laughs.

True enough. Most are heading into the city at this time of the morning. We should have a clear run up the highway.

I hope this does not sound rude but I think your idea of a highway and mine are two very different things.

He laughs again. There is no offence. Even I agree these roads are terrible. I have driven all over this country and I have to agree, our roads are a disgrace.

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Awake at Sparrows

March 22, 2011

I woke to the sound of roosters and flew in an instant to villages along the Kokoda Track. And then laughed to myself as I recalled trying to explain to a Japanese friend what the phrase “to wake at sparrows” meant. Some things just do not translate. All the Australians in the group were rolling about in laughter,  while he stood in perplexed silence and tried to gauge the source of the mirth. Despite claims to the contrary it clearly eluded him as years later he sent an email from Tokyo saying he had woken up with the swallows.  Which only created more mirth.  I piled out from under the mosquito net, showered, got fed then settled into some reading. There is a handy little library resource on this apartment and I am finding helpful stuff relating to subjects relevant to what I am exploring in this part of the world. 

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Dead set, this is Nairobi

March 22, 2011

Welllllcohm, wellllllcohm. Hospitality is a hallmark here. They shake hands over and over and seem glad to see you, a long lost friend even though just met, rolling their tongues over the “l” as if tasting it. They are interested in knowing who you are, smiling and nodding and committing to a long drawn out “yeeeeeesssss” when they clearly have no idea what you have just said.  Which actually is not that often.  

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Welcome to Kenya

March 20, 2011

The first hint at what sort of airport you are going to find comes as the undercarriage touches the tarmac and the nose wheel anticipates doing something similar in a few seconds time. We rush past a couple of dumped Soviet cargo aircraft (An-24s, or were they 26s? I blinked.), a Lockheed L110 and three Boeing 737-100s. The last time I saw a 737-100 was one I flew in from Hyderabad to Calcutta much to my dismay. It was a chicken and goat flight if you get my drift – all sorts of hand luggage.

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