Oh! I feel better for that. Perhaps not as funny as the Toss Pot but worth including, I think. There is also a local detergent called “Gental” which I always mis-read now.
Feeling a little groggy today. Because I had about 12 hours sleep. I think I might have done it just to demonstrate my independence from the strange and ennergetic David I met last night. But that was after tea with Johnson and family.
Johnson is the cook at the convent. He was one of the first people I met in Tala: he’d been cleaning my house before I arrived. A lovely guy, he had tea with me on Sunday evening and invited me to his house tuesday.
It was my first trip away from the road! Tala has a couple of tarmac roads. I’ll draw you a map one day. But most of its population live in the fields. Their gardens (“Shamba”, a serious place to grow the food you eat) fenced from one another by spindley hedges and sticks. The paths between them that famous bright red colour of African soil and Disney warthogs. Johnson told me that Tala has grown bigger than Kangundo, the nearby town that has the hospital and regional post office, but I still don’t actually know how many people live here. Its clearly a a big and busy place, however. It was wonderful to walk with a guide through the paths behind the Broadway Hotel, something I’ve did not felt confident to do by myself. Its very unfamiliar territory to me. Completely and utterly unlike London where you never see soil at all. I used to tease Magdalena (who is from Warsaw) and call her City Girl. Now I know how it feels. I can feel a lot more adjustment in store for me over the next few months.
Johnson has been cook for the Sisters at college for many years. He used to cook for the Irish Sisters who were here first and now he cooks Nigerian food for Sisters Pauline, Euphemia and Eukeria. His wife Mirriam had cooked up a wonderful vegetarian stew and rice for me. A wonderful afternoon for me: sitting in his house talking about the difference in priorities for house building in Kenya and the UK (think cavity wall insulation, double glazing, etc). He had been intrigued, on Sunday, by my photographs of my family home in Lowestoft, covered in snow. How is it possible, he asked, to dig the fuondations for a house with snow on the ground?
We sat for a while and drank drinks from the Coca-Cola company in Tala Market, watching the world bustle by (or so it seemed) as it was market day. I remember my first long-boat holiday on the Grand Union. After a few days opening and closing locks we realized that the journey, not the destination, was the most important thing. When we came to a village and wanted to buy groceries, I remember standing for what seemed like an age by the side of a single-carriage road waiting for a van in the distance to pass before I crossed. My pace of life had slowed down and the village with its car seemed busy compared to the canal. Tala market seems busy; sometimes a little scary for being so foreign for me. Adults as well as children remind me of my own foreignness by “welcoming” me as Mzungu. Sometimes they ask for money too, or make the international sign for not having two coins to rub together.
On the way back to college I met Mary who works in Ngluni, the other village. She also invited me into her home; she used my mobile to contact her family, recently berieved. Her eight-year-old daughter was preparing supper; cutting tomatoes with a big sharp knife, slicing towards her fingers — the usual technique round here — in a way that made me wince. I joked that I was glad it was so dark in there (because the landlord had not paid the electricity bill) so I couldn’t see how frigntening it was. My mum taught me to cut away from my body (though she always cut bread towards herself!) and I still cut myself now and then.
It was a day for visiting people’s homes. Just before the turning off the tarmac towards college I met David: the brother of the architect building the new hostel at college. He showed me the simple room he lives in while he’s here for this project (his home is in Nairibi). I he asked me to dub him a cassette of the music I’d used to teach the girls the charleston stroll which he’d seen from the building site. He also tried to get me to join him for early morning runs to Kangundo (my own occasional morning run is to Nglui: 6KM round-trip, Kangundo would be nearer 12KM) and told me it was bad for me to relax in the morning. He had been drinking and I felt slightly uncomfortable with him: he was just slightly too familiar for a first meeting.
I went to bed very early last night. Johnson was right when he told me I would not need to cook for myself after the feast at his house. Perhaps as a deliberate unconsious rejection of David’s proposal for running at 5.30am, I returned to bed after my alarm rang and awoke a second time at 8.30, with a full bladder and after sensuous dreams about getting more tattoos. Forgive me if I don’t seem myself today.
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