Categories
Flying Kenya Zambia

The Pleasures of Airline Travel

I have a love/hate relationship with air travel. Despite being a seasoned traveller, I still feel uneasy and anxious. Despite using a checklist, I wonder what essential item I have failed to pack. I try to give myself enough time to get to the airport, but there’s always the possibility of a crash on the motorway or the vehicle breaking down. Then there’s the wait at check-in. Does my luggage weigh less than the permitted maximum? What heavy items can I take out at the last minute to stuff into my pockets (this makes going through security even more tiresome)?

I managed to leave my home in a reasonable state, refrigerator emptied, central heating set to deal with a cold spell, bed linen washed and dried, personal video recorder primed to record Les Mis for when I get home, all electrical appliances unplugged. The bus was on time, but most seats were occupied. We arrived at Heathrow on time and I breezed through check in. Security checked my hand baggage as I had left my Kindle in the rucksack, but the officers smiled benignly and waved me through. I had a sample of whisky in the duty free – White Walker (Johnnie, of course) – to reward myself, before going to the gate. Why does everyone rise up and queue as soon as the stewardess announces that boarding will start with passengers needing assistance or travelling with children?

The flight was full and there were no aisle or window seats available. A Kenyan lady was sitting in my place, oblivious to her allocated seat. She moved to another seat, and had to move again. I sent my final SMS messages and shut down my cell phone. Why do the touch panels on the back-of-the-seat entertainment system always fail to respond to your first deliberate touch? I selected a film which I hadn’t seen and must have nodded off for a few minutes because I cannot remember anything about it.

I don’t mind airline food. It is not cordon bleu but it fills the gap and gives you something to do (eat) during the flight. We touched down at Nairobi a few minutes early and I settled down in the transit lounge waiting for my connection to Lusaka while the sun rose. I took advantage of the free internet to send more messages before we were called.

On board, I couldn’t resist a secret smile when two traditionally-built African ladies tried to squash past each other in the aisle. Even they found it funny. En route, I could see the summit of Kilimanjaro poking above the clouds. We landed in Lusaka and I took my time as I had seven hours to kill before my flight to Mfuwe. I was last in the queue for immigration and noticed that the officer had a problem with his arm. I remarked on this and we had a mini-consultation while he wrote out the receipt for my 30 day business visa. My luggage was ready for me and I breezed through customs.

There is a new Chinese-built airport a few hundred metres away from Kenneth Kaunda International Airport, ready to open in late 2019. The old airport is rather cramped with few places to sit and wait. I managed to offload my bags at the Proflight office (the boss had pity on me). I wandered around, chatted with some South African businessmen, sympathised with an elderly lady whose visitor did not turn up, watched some planes taking off and landing, had some lunch, read some material I had downloaded onto my phone and sat staring into space, nodding off with fatigue.

Finally, our flight was called and I was relieved to find that my luggage weighed almost exactly 30kg, meaning I didn’t have to pay excess baggage. I accepted the offer of a window seat and someone impatiently pushed in front of me. After I went through security to the gate, I thought it was strange that I wasn’t given a boarding card. I went back to check in and the receptionist told me that she had given my boarding pass to another passenger, but it would be ok as she would fix it for me. And I believed her.

Meanwhile, there was a minor incident at security when a man tried to take a cow shin bone onto the plane in his hand luggage. The lady checking the x-rays of the luggage must have been rather shocked to see it on the screen. The bone was huge, plastic-wrapped and had a prominent label from a pet shop. He had brought it in his hold luggage from Namibia, but had transferred it to his carry-on luggage to avoid excess baggage charges on the local flight. Bad choice.

“What is this? Is it from a wild animal?” she asked.

“No, it’s just a bone for the dog, a gift for him as we have left him at home for two weeks while we were on holiday,” he replied.

This raised several cultural issues for the security officer. “You bought a gift for your dog?” she asked. “What will the dog do with this gift?”

“He’ll probably chew it for a few hours then bury it in the garden,” he said.

Her eyebrows arched even higher in disbelief. “It is not permitted to bring animal parts onto a flight,” she said. The passenger objected to the bone being confiscated and appealed to me to provide a rational explanation.

“It is securely wrapped and unlikely to be a health hazard,” I ventured.

“I will check precisely the wording of the law,” said the security officer. “This might involve a prison sentence.”

Immediately, the man apologised and abandoned the bone. “It only cost 70 rand, I don’t want to go to a cell for that!”

Meanwhile, the manager of a safari lodge managed to bring a box of machine tools on board, saying that there were no sharp bits inside. This made me wonder if the official might have thought the cow bone could have been used as an offensive weapon by a terrorist. But it wasn’t exactly the jaw bone of an ass.

New Chinese-built Lusaka Airport

The flight for Mfuwe was called and I approached the receptionist who had given my boarding pass to an African man. She saw my face and it dawned on her that he had already passed through. She called him back and switched the passes. He clearly hadn’t read the pass, and neither had she.

Luangwa River
Meandering course, very full
The escarpment. This is the southern end of the Rift Valley
Touchdown at Mfuwe International Airport

We touched down in Mfuwe an hour later. The warm, fetid air oozed onto the plane. The sun was setting behind the clouds and it looked like it might rain again soon. The grass beside the runway was dazzling, emerald green. I felt the joy of arriving at a place I loved. This was the pleasure of travel – arriving safely.

Categories
Kenya Thursday Doors

Thursday Doors – garden gate

P1340718

And what about this strange wall, topped with bottles the “wrong” way up, with a washing line and a blue door in the background?

P1340732

And finally, there is a door by this flimsy kiosk, somewhere. And why is there so much sawdust scattered around? To dry up the mud?

P1340119

Categories
Kenya

The Dress

As he was going back to Europe in a week, my colleague asked me about presents for his children. I suggested he buy something typically African, and definitely not plastic. He agreed with me and asked if I had any ideas. For his young son, I recommended he buy a toy vehicle made from wire and strips of rubber. He thought this was a great idea, but what about his daughter. “Does she like dresses?” I asked. “Oh yeah, she loves dressing up,” he replied.

P1340838P1340830

On the trek back from the market, we passed some clothes shops. “Now those are cracking frocks if you had twins,” I said, pointing out two gorgeous neon-pink dresses on display at the side of the road. The bodice was fitted and made from a cheap satiny material with a diagonal of purple flowers from top right to bottom left. The skirt part was frilly stiff gauze, like a ballerina’s tutu. I think it is called tulle.

p1350221

“No, no, no!” he replied. “I like this one, it’s much more classy.” He examined the stitching on a smaller dress, much less ostentatious. It wasn’t frilly. The skirt part had pleated broad bands of dark blue, light blue and silvery-grey and the bodice was dark blue. I think it was fake organza. But, like John Snow, I know nothing.

p1350220
The mannequin looked like a female version of the horror-doll, Chuckie.

Well, yes, it was more classy, but would she like it? “Why not take a photo of both and message her? Get her opinion. Better than buying something she will never wear, yes?” I asked. He dispatched photos of the dresses on his phone and then started worrying about the size. “It is probably too small for her,” he said.

By now the shop assistant had sniffed out a possible sale. “How old is she?” “Six, but she is the size of a five-year-old,” he replied. “How old does the girl mannequin look to you?” I asked. “Is she about your daughter’s size?” He wasn’t sure. “Do you have a photo of her on your phone?” He did, but it wasn’t much help. The shop assistant wanted to see. “Yes, that will fit her,” she said. We weren’t as sure.

“Do you know how tall she is?” I asked. “About one metre, one metre ten,” he replied. The shop assistant came out with a tape measure. “Can you measure the mannequin?” he asked. The assistant measured the length of the dress instead, shoulder to hem. “How much is that?” he asked. “Seventy inches,” she replied. “Seventy inches? That’s as tall as me,” I said. “It must be centimetres. But measure the girl.” The mannequin was about a metre high from her beige boots to her balding pate.

The phone vibrated. “She says she likes the pink one,” said my colleague. “But I hate it.”

I said that I detested My Little Pony but that’s what my girls wanted and that’s what they got at Christmas. You have to respect a child’s choice, even if it rankles.

A little boy came out of the shop and gawped at the mzungus debating the relative merits of two dresses. “How old is the boy?” my friend asked. “He looks about six. Let’s get him to try on the dress.”

“That would be torture. You can’t do that,” I replied.

“Well, we could just hold it up against his body,” he said.,

“Sorry, but that is almost as bad. How about you hold it up against your body instead?” I said.

He laughed and said that he would need to get precise measurements from his daughter’s mother so he could get a bespoke dress made. “Any colour you like, as long as it is pink,” I prompted, as we walked up the street.


 

Post script: He took the measurements to the seamstress who made a beautiful bespoke dress, not quite as lurid as the first dress, but more frilly and pink than the second dress. When he gave it to his daughter, she was so delighted that she refused to take it off for the rest of the day. Result.

Categories
Kenya

Slogans

I enjoy looking out for interesting slogans in Embu.

A school bus had the slogan “Grade Grabber” printed onto the rear mudflaps.

One of the boda-boda drivers had “Invisible” written on his windshield, hardly good for custom. Another had “Sir Stain” and “Loverboy” written on his.

But my favourite was a small plaque fixed onto the handlebars saying, “Why worry? Telephone God in prayer.” I asked the driver what was the number to call. He said, “JESUS 1000”.

P1340383

On a matatu: “Thug Angel”

On a car rear window: “Glory be to God” and underneath, “Thanks God”.

IMG_3045

On a hearse “Bye Bye Funeral Services”

How about a slogan on the side of a van, promoting white processed bread?

P1340736

Occasionally it is difficult to work out exactly what a slogan means.

P1340735

Or a roadside sign shop?

P1350119

Weddings and bath mending?

Finally, what men want:

P1350035

 

Categories
Kenya

Nice Rice

Twenty kilometres west of Embu the land is flat. It is perfect for growing rice. Rivers flowing south from the slopes of Mount Kenya provide plenty of water for irrigation. I prefer to cook the Pishori variety of rice, as it is thin-grained and fragrant, almost as good as Basmati rice. For small quantities, I buy the rice loose in the market. However, when buying sacks of rice to take to Nairobi, we call in at the Nice Rice Factory.

P1340750

P1340741

Farmers also grow sugar cane and vegetables in the rich, black cotton soil. At the entrance to the Nice Rice Factory, there was a kiosk selling crushed sugar cane juice, sometimes flavoured with beetroot, ginger and lemon juice. An advertising billboard extolled the medicinal virtues of the juice.

P1350120

P1340742

Four girls promoting the sale of cane juice were listening to music and chatting. They called me over to try a sample. Unsurprisingly, it was sickly sweet. The price of 500ml of the full strength cane juice was a very reasonable 100 Kenyan shillings. It was very popular with wasps. The girls would only agree to a photo if I bought a drink.

Other outlets dilute the juice by soaking partially crushed canes in water and squeezing them through the rollers again. They also add lemon juice to offset the sweetness.

Categories
Kenya Medical

Khat

There was an external fixator holding his fractured tibia together. Pus was oozing from where the stabilising rods entered the skin. On standing, he was clearly in pain.

P1340187
“What happened?” I asked.

“I was hit by a car two months ago,” he replied. He went on to talk about not being able to work and the financial effects of his injury.

“Will you get compensation? Was the driver insured?” I asked.

He became evasive and didn’t answer my question. When I pressed him further, he said that the driver was a powerful man, who could make life difficult for him.

“Is he a witch doctor?” I asked.

“He is in the mirror business,” he replied.

This set me thinking. Mirror business? Something to do with magic based on your reflection in the mirror? Or something about selling mirrors, surely a niche market?

It was only a month later, when our vehicle was passed by a reckless speeding driver, that I had an epiphany. Our driver said, “That crazy boy is transporting miraa to Nairobi for the morning market.” Miraa (not mirror!) is the Swahili term for khat (or chat, qat, kat, qaad – choose your own spelling), the leaves of a shrub. Chewing the fresh leaves produces a stimulant effect somewhere between a strong cup of coffee and amphetamines. Latin America has coca leaves; India and South East Asia have betel nut; East Africa and Yemen have khat.

P1340175
Low bushes of khat seen from the road in Embu County

Khat has been used for thousands of years in the Horn of Africa. Men get together and chew the leaves (sometimes the soft branches, too), keeping a wad inside their cheeks. The leaves contain an alkaloid called cathinone which causes feelings of well-being, excitement and friendliness, stimulating conversation. These effects are quite rapid, kicking in after just 15 minutes.

Khat also suppresses the appetite and dries out the mouth, so users often drink coca cola to mitigate these effects. Other sympathomimetic effects are dilated pupils, increased pulse rate, high blood pressure and diminished sex drive. Like cannabis, a small proportion of people have a genetic predisposition to develop psychosis, which may be temporary or permanent.

The leaves are gathered in the early morning and laid out for sale on plastic sheets at the roadside. Buyers pack up the leaves carefully to avoid bruising and arrange for their rapid transport to Nairobi for the morning markets. At the end of the day, more leaves are collected and brought to market at Embu. There they are packed and loaded onto trucks for overnight transportation to Mombasa at the coast.

P1340474
I rarely go into the centre of town after dark, but driving back from a late clinic last week I saw a thriving night market, with clothes, electronics, shoes, food, hardware on sale. Enterprising stallholders had seized an opportunity to relieve the farmers of their earnings from the sale of khat.

Last month I was talking to a county health official who asked me what I knew about khat. I told him that I knew very little about it other than it had been classified as a drug of abuse in UK.[1]

He said that the Kenyan Government has a different view; it is an important cash crop. Indeed Meru and Embu Counties provide ideal climatic conditions for the cultivation of khat. He then asked me if I knew what pests attacked khat shrubs, and whether chemical spraying could deter or treat the infestation.

At first I thought he was asking for horticultural advice, but then I realised that people don’t wash the leaves before chewing them. Users could be at risk of organophosphate poisoning if the bushes had been sprayed. According to Wikipedia, organophosphates kill over 200,000 farmers in developing countries every year.[2] Perhaps we need to add treatment for inadvertent organophosphate toxicity (atropine and pralidoxime) to the cache of drugs we keep for use in emergency situations.


 

[1] Five years ago, after lots of discussion in Parliament, the then Home Secretary, Theresa May, decided to ban khat as a class C drug.

[2] Recently, a California court ordered the agrichemicals company, Bayer/Monsanto, to pay cancer-sufferer Dewayne Johnson damages of $289 million. “Roundup”, an organophosphate weedkiller, had been labelled as safe, despite the WHO warning it could cause cancer. The court ruled that the carcinogenic properties of Roundup had been suppressed by the company.

 

Categories
Kenya

A Day at the Races

I must be lucky in love because I have neither skill nor good fortune when it comes to picking winners at the racecourse. The Kenyan St Leger took place on Sunday, June 24th at the Ngong Road Racetrack. We had nothing better to do, so we picked up the ingredients for a picnic at Junction Mall and called a cab.

P1350040

In 1980 I was evacuated to Nairobi for root canal treatment from Southern Sudan. The local British community rallied round and tucked me under their wing until I could arrange my journey back to Sudan in a Landrover. My dentist drove me around Nairobi Game Park and a medical secretary I had met in Oxford took me to the races.

None of it looked familiar, although the grandstand was probably built before my first visit. There is now a nine-hole golf course inside the track. We paid the 200/- admission fee, bought a programme, bagged a seat on the bleachers with a good view and settled down to study the form. There were seven races, each with between 5-10 runners. Before long, I was completely bamboozled by all the names, jockeys, trainers, handicaps and past performances. The going was good, but I wasn’t.

P1350050

The programme went into great detail about the different types of bet one could place. I knew about betting to win or for a place, but there were many others. You could place bets for two horses, both coming first or second in a race, intriguingly called a swinger. Plus a trifecta and a quartet, when you had to place all three or four horses past the post in order. Then there were accumulator bets, where the winnings (fat chance) from one race would be staked on the next race, and so on. The example clearly showed how 40/- could win hundreds of thousands of shillings if all the bets came good and you hit the jackpot.

P1350043

I decided not to bet physically but placed imaginary bets on my chosen horses. Only one of my picks won, at 3 – 1, so I would have been out of pocket if I had staked real money. Selfie came in 4th, forget about Unforgettable which came in 3rd, and tough luck for Tough Cookie, which limped past the post in 4th place. Forewarned was what I should have been, as the Irish horse came in 4th.

My colleague is a more experienced gambler, but even he only bet the minimum amount (40/- which is equivalent to about 30 pence or 40 cents) on a few races.

P1350053

In front of us, there was a hen party of white women, dressed in hats and finery, sipping something potent from a thermos flask. One lady wore a sash identifying her as a bride to be. To our right, there was a phalanx of teenagers wearing red tracksuits. At first, I thought it was the local Arsenal supporters group, but I think they were students on a school trip.

P1350044

P1350061

Four Kenyan singers kept us entertained with catchy tunes and slick dance moves, in between races. A disk jockey managed the backing music and sound system. As the alcohol in the thermos flask began to take effect, the bride-to-be joined the singers for some line dancing. Unfortunately, the booze had affected her co-ordination and she couldn’t match the moves of the other four singers. She got a hearty round of applause at the end of the song and tottered unsteadily on high heels back to her hen party.

We watched the horses being led around the ring, and how they reacted when the jockeys mounted. The races were all on the flat, varying from 1200m to 2600m. The starting gate was moved around the course. A team of lads helped to get the horses into the gate and after the start, the lads would pile into a van and come back to the grandstand. There must have been about 15 of them in the van, so when the door slid back and they dismounted it reminded my colleague of a clown car, where a never-ending line of passengers would exit. He even downloaded some appropriate circus music to play for their next exodus.

P1350077

We drank orange juice, scoffed our ham and chicken sandwiches, followed by a slice of gateau. My colleague managed to pick up a signal on his smartphone and kept me updated with the score in the England vs Panama football match. The score sounded like the odds of a poorly fancied horse, 6 to 1.

P1350073P1350072P1350069P1350068P1350067

After a few virtual losses, my colleague started to get more confident in his ability to pick a winner. We both chose the same previously unraced horse, Fast Five, for the final event. He backed it to win a place. Unfortunately, another horse withdrew, so his bet was invalid. When the horse won, he waited patiently for his meagre winnings (actually, it was mainly to get his stake back), only to be told his bet was void because there weren’t enough runners to pay out on a place. Storm clouds were gathering to the south, but they didn’t look as angry as my colleague. So 80/- worse off (about 60 pence), we trudged away from the racecourse to our taxi pickup on Ngong Road.

P1350091

Categories
Kenya

Funeral Arrangements

A couple of months ago, I wrote a piece called Black Humour about how, in the event of my untimely death, I’d like my body to be transported to the graveyard on the back of a boda-boda.

P1350363

Yesterday evening, I was walking home from work at dusk when I saw a boda-boda motorbike with a lurid black, red and white sofa lashed onto the pillion seat with rubber straps. I took a photograph, of course. I was shocked as the rider drove his bike into the courtyard of the hospital morgue.

P1350364

I asked Maggie, who has moved her wreath-selling business to the mortuary gates, what was going on. She said that he was going to collect a corpse. “And fasten it onto the sofa?” I asked. “Surely he can’t do that?” “Who will stop him?” replied Maggie.

I waited a while, but no shroud-wrapped body was carried out of the mortuary. Maggie tried to sell me a pack of biscuits, but when I refused, she insisted that I say it in Kikuyu, “Ka!”

P1350366
Maggie, enthusiastic about selling me a plastic wreath

It gets dark swiftly in the tropics. Our security rules insist I can’t walk outdoors at night time, so I hurried home without seeing what happened at the mortuary. I’ll have to ask Maggie the next time I see her.

Categories
Kenya

Ol Pejeta

Sometimes there is no alternative; you just have to buy a pig in a poke. We had arrived in Nanyuki for the Memorial Day weekend and booked into the African-style Town and Country Hotel. I asked the receptionist if there was a reliable guide for the Conservancy. She gave me Mohamed’s card, so being a trusting chap, I telephoned him. We fixed a (pretty steep) price, for which he would guide us, using a 4 wheel drive vehicle, staying in the park all day starting at 6am.

At 6:15am the next day we were outside the hotel, freezing cold, stamping our feet to keep warm, waiting for Mohamed. A flash black SUV pulled up and Mohamed greeted us. I should have realised something was wrong when I saw an image of Muammar Gaddafi applied to the rear window. Sadly, he couldn’t guide us because he had been engaged to take an expedition up Mount Kenya. Then a rent-a-wreck maize burner stopped by the storm drain. This was to be our vehicle. Even in the dark early morning, we could see it was rubbish. I asked Mohamed about the driver. “He’s very experienced,” he said. “Yes, but can he guide us?” “He’s a trained guide,” he replied. “Does he even speak English?” I asked. “Of course!”

P1340567

We piled into the car and I had grave misgivings. The springs in the seat were shot (as was the suspension) and having shut the door, I couldn’t get out. The side windows had been covered in black, plastic film, presumably to add an air of mystery or to keep out the heat during summer. The film was peeling away and strips would tear off as I wound the window up and down. If you are going to see wild animals, you don’t need dark windows.

The driver had difficulty getting the car into reverse, presumably because the synchromesh was knackered. We drove off down the main road in the wrong direction. When I pointed this out, the driver said we needed fuel. The fuel gauge wasn’t working so we had better fill up now.

IMG_3092
Mount Kenya at dawn through a very long lens

We retraced our bald tyre tracks and turned off down a side road towards the Conservancy. Ol Pejeta is 90,000 acres of bush and savannah, sitting astride the equator between Mount Kenya to the east and the Aberdare Mountains to the west. It is a privately-owned, not for profit, wildlife conservation project. The sun was just rising behind Mount Kenya when we drove in through the main gate.

The guard at the entrance told us that we couldn’t pay using plastic. The machine wasn’t working. We needed to go online to book tickets. Yerrright. Suspecting a scam, we told him we’d pay on the way out when the machine was working. Our driver did a deal with the guards and he got regular updates on his phone about the locations of the best sightings.

Within a few kilometres, we realised that our driver was not a guide. Like John Snow, he knew nothing. Having worked for six months in South Luangwa Valley in Zambia, I could point out the animals and give a bit of a commentary. We had an enjoyable morning spotting black rhinoceros (120 in the park), elephants, zebra, giraffes and lots of different antelopes. We saw some birds, too. A kori bustard, ostriches, francolin, quail, various ducks and geese, grey crowned cranes, storks, ibis and spoonbills.

As the day warmed up, the driver took us to see the Chimpanzee Sanctuary at Sweetwaters. This seemed like a concentration camp with a viewing tower which looked like it could house a searchlight and machine guns. One sad chimp was eating leaves under a bush and another was close to the electrified fence. He looked miserable. Jane Goodall set this up in collaboration with the Kenya Wildlife Service in 1993 to house orphaned and illegally trafficked chimps. There are 39 chimps in two troops, on either side of the Ewaso Nyiro River. Before the torrential rains swept away some of the fencing keeping the hippos out, a ranger would take tourists on a bush walk through the forest. This wasn’t possible now, so we drove to Hippo Hide car park and walked along the river looking for hippopotami. After about half a kilometre, we met some tourists returning from the hide – no hippos.

The driver’s phone started ringing. Lions had been sighted. We joined the queue of vehicles jockeying for position to see a lioness who was crashed out in some long grass. She showed a spike of interest when a family of warthogs filtered through the trees in the distance, but then flopped down again as she didn’t rate the chances of pork on today’s menu.

The vehicle’s reverse gear was getting increasingly difficult to engage. The driver had to stop the engine, force the gear stick into reverse, depress the clutch and start the engine again. Manoeuvring in tight spots was extremely difficult.

IMG_3362
Ugandan long horned cattle

We had lunch in the park – steak and chips, not impala or eland – and watched a storm approaching across the savannah. The driver was getting impatient, so we drove off to several dams (lakes, really) where there was a solitary hippo, that we could only see when it came up for air. It made a move to the lake shore, but was spooked by a family of waterbuck.

IMG_3318
Lioness in hunting mode

We drove past a farm within the conservancy which had long-horned Ugandan cattle. In the distance we spotted a group of rhino. The last male Northern White Rhino had died of old age and frailty less than three months ago. There are still two female NWRs, so a Southern White Rhino male was brought in to cross-breed, but no pregnancy resulted. Maybe some genetic engineering will help. They are asking for donors – for cash, not genetic material – to do a bit of Jurassic Park-style cloning.

IMG_3337
Mum and offspring.

The rhinoceri were a family group – mum, dad and baby. We stopped to watch on our own for fifteen minutes before the phone squawked again. More lions. We roared off, but missed them as they had wandered down to the main gate for closing time.

IMG_3332
Bull elephants in musth discharge a thick tar-like secretion called temporin from the ducts on the sides of the head

Finally we left the park before it began to rain. The credit card machine was still not working. We showed the senior guard our diplomatic cards proving we were residents and paid him the fee for the vehicle, driver and three tourists. It was not quite as much as I had paid Mohamed. We drove out of the gate and stopped. The driver went back to “explain to the guards that they had their pricing system wrong, because Friday counts as weekend rate if it is a national holiday.” Very suspicious. I thought he went back to get his cut of the cash. We didn’t get any receipt, of course.

IMG_3299
Rain on the way

By now it was dark. The lights on the vehicle were not good, but this didn’t stop the driver from putting his foot down and racing along the rutted dirt road, back to town. Despite the clapped-out vehicle and the lack of expert guidance, we had really enjoyed ourselves. It was time for a pseudo-French meal at Le Rustique, much better fare than the beans, rice, cabbage and chapatis we eat at Embu.

Categories
Kenya Thursday Doors

Thursday Doors – School

At weekends, when the weather is changeable, I wander around the back lanes of Embu, observing life and photographing doors, sad person that I am. Here is an interesting set of photographs of D.E.B. Kamui School (“Motto: Effort is Success”).

img_20180701_115008

img_20180701_114936

img_20180701_114926

The school authorities are very clear about their educational strategy. They can teach these skills working in rather decrepit classrooms. I like the image of the cooking pot held above the fire by teacher stones and the “digital” school painting with five digits.

Further on down the road, there was a shop with a black plastic awning over the barred and caged window. The shop is called “A Shade of Hope”. It reminds me of a radical bookshop run by Alan Milburn (who later became Health Secretary in the New Labour Government) in Newcastle called “Days of Hope”, which was so alternative that wags called it “Haze of Dope”. Nothing like that here in this shop. There is a door in the dark grey metal gate. The kiosk to the left looks like it has seen better days, but it is still in use at peak hours.

p1350201

p1350202

There are lots of car wash sites in Embu, which is understandable given that most of the back lanes and roads are not sealed. Boda-boda motorcycles get splattered with mud during their rides in the bush. This salubrious establishment offers to clean your carpets, as well as your cars. There is another advertising hoarding at the back of the yard offering “full pressure body wash”, featuring a scantily clad lady suggestively wielding a power hose. Not for a family blog post.IMG_2773

Out of town, I saw these handsome doors (gates) on sale at the side of the road. Contrast this with the rusty corrugated iron doors behind these boys whom I photographed in the county on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

P1340763

IMG_3568