This morning Sr Pauline took me into town in her car to meet the cheif, I collected my first piece of post.
Read on for the story of the staffroom discussion of cannibalism and catholic opulence.
The little Paugeot did a great job of tiptoeing over the plough furrow-sized mud banks thrown up by other vehicles on the muddy, puddle-strewn road that leads from the college gate to the main road. At the main road we turn right, left would lead to Nairobi 64km away, right takes us 1.5km to Tala. We parked by the marketplace in Tala, just inside the gate of the local administration offices. The Cheif is cheif of the Wakamba tribe, the local tribe of the area in which Tala is located. His office is a small shed wuith two desks painted in old green gloss inside. I forget the role of the othe man (besides keeping the chief company) but we went in and sat on the two green dining chairs that occupied the rest of the room. Let me stress that this office was potting-shed sized. We shook hands and exchanged greetings. Then we headed next door, through the big gate to the house of the local clerk.
Now this guy has two secretaries, with electric typewriters, and a (comparatively) huge office with a desk and a large conference table arranged in classical threatening mode with his back to the window looking out over the desk and the table, around which his visitors are welcome to sit, so that he can address them without leaving the safety of his desk. We were greeted warmly and another official (the district accountant) invited to join us for tea. The clerk had studied a masters degree in the urban enviroment in birmingham. I think this shared cultural experience of the British midlands enabled us to relate better than the rather formal exchange I had had with the cheif.
I should probably say that all these guys are wearing ties and chequed jackets, the sort of stuff my dad would have worn to work when he was in charge of the chain store at Lowestoft dock. Their shirts are smartly ironed and they dont seem to be too hot in thier jackets (the heavy rain at night accounts for it being still comparatively cool during the morning, though I’m hot here all the time.
Sister invited the officials to visit her at college and we discussed the possibility of them sending their staff to the college for computer training during our vacation time. This is something I know Sister will be very keen on: anything that brings in exta income!
After this Sister took me to the post office and collected the post for the college. The post boxes face the street so they can be accessed at any time by keyholders. There are two keys to the box and one has gone missing so Sister has asked the post office to keep the box locked and fetches the mail in person during post-office opening hours, in case someone is holding the other key and might use it to steal the mail. There, in amongst the letters to various sisters and girls, was a brown envelope marked Printed Matter Only… My first copy of The Guardian Weekly which I ordered, at reduced VSO rate, before I left!
Back in the staff room, over maize and beans, I listened to a lively debate about the local priest (whom I visited yesterday) and his new Toyota 4WD and whether or not it would have been better for him to have bough a smaller car that burns less gas and that would be cheaper to maintain, and to spend the balance helping the poorer members of his parish. When that was over or, at least, abated a little, I read aloud from the Guardian Weekly (dated 5th Feb) about the German canibal. (Some guy advertised on the net for someone to volunteer and be killed and eaten! he has been given a manslaughter sentense and how he is in demand to write a book, that can be used as the basis of a screenplay…). Stories of cannibalism from african countries came out and it was great to hear the incredulity of my colleagues about someone volunteering to be eaten as well as their childhood fears of being eaten themselves by tribes from other African countries.