The power was off all day yesterday. Here are some thoughts I jotted down in my notebook by candlelight last evening: –
The lights are flickering, trying to come back on, making it tricky to write this.
- Today, on the radio, I heard an African woman saying: “Africa’s women would make better political leaders than its men”. Then I heard myself saying: “Hear hear”. Somehow I have developed a belief that smart black women are better than stupid white men. Considering one of the sisters’ comments on how african men take sex with their women as a right that they have paid for, and don’t care about giving satisfaction or pleasure to their partners, I’m not supprised.
- Walked into Tala market today through a thick cloud of school-children; the worse such plague since I arrived. I played a game with them based on what I read in my VSO Kenya cultural guide (a couple of photocopied pages in our orientation packs): Kenyan’s don’t just smile at you unless they are going to greet you, so when we smile at them we are inviting them to stop and talk to us. I played “miserable mzungu” and most of them minded their business.
- Anyway, in this crowd of kids, hiding behind my sunglasses, I keep thinking of phrases beginning with “Haven’t you got anything better to do…”, for example, “Haven’t you got anything better to do with your time than to gawp at me?”. And, thankfully, I immediately check myself. The answer to that question is almost certainly: “No, you’re the most exciting thing that has happened round here since Betty Mutoa’s ear fell off”
- You ain’t lived ’till you’ve experienced racism. I suppose its not about being white itself so much as association with the other whites who went before shedding shillings like dandruff. I suppose its the same for racism in the UK: its not about being black itself, its about being … what? ignorant or lazy or whatever it is we subconsiously associate with them foreigners, their being black just gives them away. But the truth in both cases is that the associations are wrong: I’m not going to give away money and blacks aren’t all ignorant or lazy, though of course some are, just as some mzungus in Kenya enjoy being lord and lady bountyful. And its very tempting…
- I stopped on the way back from Tala to answer the greetings of a small clump of kids centred on an old lady who was ballancing two buckets of fried cakes on her bicycle.
- I haven’t had one of my walks to the Market for a while, it sort-of cheered me up. Perhaps it’s retial therapy. Perhaps it’s just getting out of the college compound and seeing a little life.
- A colleague tried to “save” me today. She doesn’t attend church much herself but she couldn’t conceive of the fact that I don’t start my day by kneeling down and thanking God for waking me up. “Every day is a gift”, she said.
Another shocking cultural difference (the first being about African men not being bothered about giving sexual pleasure to their partners — their loss I’m afraid, I absolutely love to see (feel, …) a woman getting off on something I have done (said, …). But I digress) It’s hard to imagine my having been trained to interpret smiles so differently. It seems like such a natural thing.
“You give, one one”, she said, uncovering the sausage-like pastries and pointing at the chests of a few children in turn.
I was tempted, I really was. I almost reached into my pocket for small change. Her cakes were one shilling each and she just wanted me to buy as many as possible so she could make some money. But I’d missed the catch. I was tempted to enter into a bona-fide transaction with a business-woman, and why not? but I was also tempted to give away confectionary, albeit of local manufacture, to a selected group of children out of the crowd of about a thousand or so that seemed to be spread along the roadside like so many water droplets after someone passed with a brimming pail. I’d never have lived it down, I’d have confirmed my role as willing bennefactor of random children and it would have been open season at Mzungu Mansion. Fortunately for me I’d spent my every last shilling on fruit and veg., the smllest note I had left was probably a thousand and even if she had 980 change, I wasn’t willing to undertake the exchange at the roadside letting hundreds of passing children stare into the depths of my open wallet.
“Sina pesa“, I said, and shrugged as I walked off.
“Sina pesa!”, she repeated sarcastically behind me. She knew she’d been sold a pup in a near-miss with a bottomless pocket.
Only as Iwalked away did it dawn on me that I could look upon the adventure as a lucky escape.
Current status: still not saved.
The electricity didn’t come back: it’s still as dark, as I write this, as it was for my candlelit-supper-for-one earlier this evening: brown basmati rice, lentil curry and home-made chapatis, and I’m listening to a Dvorak violin concerto; the stereo on batteries that I bought during the last power-cut.
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