Monday, June 9, 2008

six million pillows...

(read to the tune of The Summer Wind by F Sinatra; Engelbert Humperdinck will do too.)

this is a gnarley posting. these past few days have been gnarley, stressey, hectic, excema inducing days. you've gotta love 'em. you just do.

and a gnarley apology for late postings to my dear few LOVELY readers! entirely unintentional, you know. many things which happened to me in the last few days have not been intentional and i certainly never dreamed them up....the Universe had some things in store for me, for sure. karmic? damn.

yesterday was very cold and grey. baridi kali (very cold). the second air force helicopter crashed not far from us yesterday. killing all 6 on board. including children. this is the second crash in six months. the craft exploded on impact. c and i were discussing this tragic event. surely there is one helicopter licence qualification world wide? surely the pilots are trained sufficiently? so why did this pilot overload the chopper with people, maize, luggage, chickens?? too heavy must mean fall out of sky like stone??? god. awful. awful. . . .

i was in town early monday morning after dropping s and kids on the bus back to kenya thinking, AHA! bright and early, will pop into the bank to draw money from The Machine and then pop over to the market to buy fruit and veg and pop into ikwhans (fave grocery store in town run by very wise muslim man) and before you can say jack robinson shopping will be done by ten. (pop being the operative word here, you understand) aha. not in the A Town. oh no. early birds do not get any worms in arusha. and there is NO popping in anywhere. no, none at all.

bank machines (all two of them in the entire and opposite ends of town) were out of order.

shops were still closed.

market ladies with all their fresh fruit and vegetable were no-where to be seen. only empty plastic blue bags rolling tumbleweed-like past the empty market place.

coffee shop was still closed so that cappucino was a no goer.

all friends absent, possibly still in bed at home. being sensible and inefficient.

so there i sat in a grey, cold parking lot on a grey, cold morning monday morning, penniless and coffeeless, sitting outside the bank. spirits plummeting downwards and anger spewing upwards (like oldonyo lengai in northern maasailand - our very own volcano), when who should walk nonchalantly and unassumingly past, but The Bank Manager. poor lady. she had no idea what and who was waiting for her, in the only car in front of the bank. she had no idea that her monday morning was about to be ruined. as she walked past i nimbly leapt out my car door and accosted her. not to go into any boring details, i splurged and ranted on about bank machines not working and don't give me the same old excuses because it's just all crap and my family has been banking with Barclays Bank for 42 years and did you know my mother died because of The Bank? (no i didn't say that actually, but i felt that strongly at the time. and anyway. it's a lie. she died in a car crash. nothing to do with the bank at all. how terrible of me to even think that!? kaspunk and zapped by lightening) i blahed on about the family and the bank only because i knew this dear sweet smiley lady standing so politely in front of me in the grey coldness, could not for all the world, check on our coulourful family bank records.

oh yes. we banked with barclays. but always seemed in terrible debt. like during the 7 year drought in zululand. when mum and dad borrowed extortionate amounts of money to purportedly see the farm through bad dry times and pay the school fees (my friends thought we were onion farmers, not luxurious massively wealthy sugar cane farmers covered in gold and mercedes benzes and speed boats, the cane was that dry and little. and the donkeys looking skinny).when the bank manager came for tea the range rover was rushed over to the tractor garage and the silver tea set was stowed away in the pantry. the old peugeot diesel 504 was parked up against the flamboyant and the old brown chipped tea pot was brought out and humbly used. well. it was sort of like that. much to my mother's horror.

my dad loved to spend all the money (on range rovers and good holidays. "when you've got it spend it") while my mother liked to buy gold kruger rands and stash them away ( sensibly and secretly) for rainy days. anyway. good times bad times. we never lacked for anything growing up. certainly never for love. wild carefree hot summers of water melon, warm swimming pools with frogs and water scorpions lurking in the green slimy murky depths, wild bees, pony clubs, fat yellow moons and the zulu drum beats rolling over the low curvey green (when not having droughts) hills of zululand....

but i digress. although i feel it has to be said that the sugar farming venture in zululand always seemed to have very close links to barclays bank.

so here this dear bank manager stood, smiling widly at me and said she would go and see immediately what the problem was with The Machine but the likelihood is that The System Is Down. And if The System Is Down then um, well you know...When The System Is Down the whole problem shifts to another technological dimension; into another spatial dimension completely out of any humanoid control, it seems. to me it means Give Up Time and to the bank manager (in this case) it means Its Monday Morning For Godsakes and I Haven't Even Reached My Office And Quite Honestly I Can't Be Bothered Or In Fact I Have No Idea How To Resolve Your Problem So Please Bugger Off and Come Back Another Time and Hopefully Deal With Someone Other Than Myself Because You Happen To Be One Of The Rudest People I have Yet To Meet Good Morning And Have A Nice Day.

fog horn fog horn. sirens sirens. all systems down. all systems down. prepare for crash landing. assume foetal position. and whatever you do, wait until you are in traffic jam before screaming uncontrollably.

by this time the coffee shop was open and i basically asked for a direct drip line into the espresso machine and lashings of chocolate cake for breakfast. "just keep the cake coming, honey, until i say stop. thanks." i thought of Amelie (as in the movie) at this point. little important moments in life.

later on in the morning, there i was in mr shahin's habberdashery shoppe, much later, of course (due to standing in the queue in the bank wired on caffein and anger induced adrenalin) . mr shahin's shop is a local dukka (shop) selling materials. this was my third attempt. previously the shop had been closed for obscure reasons - during trading hours... so there i finally was paying for and collecting my ordered duvet covers and 6 million pillows (my family is about to arrive so doing up the house ) and in walked mo (mo of fame) to collect her mosquito net. we hugged each other - me like a michelin man carrying all the pillows ( 6 million is a lot of pillow) and my hand bag and strolled outside to my car to pack pillions (intentional) away. i noticed mo's car next to mine. i started opening my door when right in front of me i saw 4 large men in the back of mo's car. 4 large enormous, muscled men.

it all sort of went in slow motion from here. my mouth hanging disbelievingly open and my brain literally revving backwards (like a boeing 375 on landing), smoke almost visible leaving my ears, trying to reverse the crime scene unfolding literally under my nose: hmmm. am sure that is mo's car. oh well. hang on! that IS mo's car. my god. what are those four men doing?

so i walked to the back of mo's car to confirm what i now began to suspect. it eventually dawned on me that in fact, mo's car was in the process of being well and truly ripped off and fast! not a moment to spare! so armed solely with my 6 million pillows, i said in a very shrill voice:

what are you doing? what ARE you doing? (as one does to 4 large mean looking robbers in broad day light)

only to be confronted by two mean ENORMOUS men in orange hawaii shirts dotted with Florida palm trees...where is Magnum when you need him, eh? one with a scar across his cheek. i took note because his face wasn't very far away from mine as he leered at me and pushed me away. by now i was fully aware that mo was being robbed. and i was probably about to be. so i began to yell in an even more shrill sort of way. (is that bad grammar?) like a soprano's trill sort of shrillness.

hey! hey! Ooooooeerrrgh! HEY! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?? WAAAAAAAAAAARGHHH! OOOEGHROOOOOOOOOOW E)HEY!!! ASUDF ENMBSDFGHEWMJR~(R&* Q@#()%R&*)_Q#*($ B)(*B Q#%vn )(25N9-8V9- 824529U45V Poei \kajsdfnawertUJFNK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

by this time mo's new spare tyre had been grabbed and was being rolled rapidly away into the traffic and into the piggeldy back streets . my two criminals had bolted after their co-horts. mo came dashing out followed closely by mr shahin himself. but it was over by then. the most amazing thing is that there must have been in total about twenty on lookers watching and not one person lifted a finger to help. not even the parking ticket lady (here in arusha you pay the parking ticket people for the space - TSH 200 (its about 1890 to the dollar so you do the maths. it's not very much but still), not even the security officer could be bothered, not even the beggar lady uttered a cry of alarm. nothing. you see. everyone watched and said nothing.

here is a gnarley fact. and it's true. it's true. if a mzungu (white person) is robbed no-one does a thing because mzungus have lots of things. too many things and literally endless amounts of cash. if an african (i too am an african but clearly the wrong colour..whose fault is that?) is robbed, mob justice takes over. this is gnarley gnarley. the robber is caught and the liklihood of petrol or paraffin being poured over the incumbent, a tyre thrown over his neck and a match lit, is high. very high. in public. its brutal. brutal.... whilst we clink glasses on manicured lawns and pretend to be civilized. dear god.

early birds don't get the worms in these parts. the worms get the birds. the worms get the birds. ultimately.

dear amnaay, our driver, caught a petty thief the other night near his home in olasiti. the thief had stolen all the door handles off someone's building site. when the police arrived they asked why he had not burnt the thief. by this time, the local askari (watchman) had cut off a few of his fingers - for two reasons:
1. so everyone would recognize him as a thief when they saw him
2. so he would think twice about stealing again.

he was then taken away by the police and i wonder what has happened to him.
i think i am going to invest in some pepper spray so next time i can apprehend some thieves. only to save a tyre you see, for my car. tyres are very expensive things.

en route to town yesterday over the hideous bumps caused by the mosquito net factory (fondly known as the Effing Factory), i stopped to give a maasai mama and her young son a lift. they were going to majengo hospital in town. mama was sick - sounded like a bad chest infection. ernest introduced himself in very good english which is a great achievment in rural tanzania. he is 15 and would like to be a doctor. if he can't be a doctor then he would like to be a politician. he asked where i was from. america? me: oh no, zambia. ernest: oh! zambia!? you look like to be israeli. your hair. the colour of your hair. me: are you a christian? ernest: oh yes! (looking pleased) me imagining he was referring to those gorgeous rosy cheeked bucksome blonds in those jehova witness brochures, surrounded by heavanly gardens, good looking men, food to die for and scores of heavenly behaved golden children. and a god you can believe in..nice. yup. that's me, ernest. that's me.

so you see. this week has been gnarley. c says that gnarley is a very fashionable word in surfing circles. you know, gnarley old sea (well. that is an old one surely from moby days...) gnarley waves, gnarley surfer, gnarley piece of wood (old OLD hat) gnarley surf board... gnarley old this true? well. right now i couldn't be further from surfers or the sea if i tried, nevermind a surfing world. .. what a lovely lovely thought though... a surfing world on newport beach or tahiti or north beach hawaii...nice. really nice.

and i haven't even told you about the street kids, the breadless bakery and my run in with the management team of the multinational grocery store. too much for one posting. too much for one day too, i tell you.

think i am headed to put my head under one of my six million pillows and dream of gnarley surfing worlds...and being a jazz singer.

Kitchen Blackboard Sorely Over Due: Wednesday 11 June 2008

Contributors: Veronica (and Janelle in brackets)

Comments: Invited Star Guest today is Janey, dear friend and seamstress of note! she is madly sewing things like table cloths and napkins and cushion covers and mosquito nets and and and! multi talented and multi beautiful.

gabriella did her lamda exam this morning and received a Distinction for her Cat Kisses by Bobbie Katz! we are delighted and so proud of our darling principessa. and the examiner ended her report with A Polite Young Lady. wow.!(?)


Janelle said...

not sure how God of Blogging World got the date wrong at the top of todays posting. this was blogged on wednesday 11 june..not monday the 9th. weird. in case this should happen again, please refer to Kitchen Board Date. me? anal? never. xxjanelle

Dumdad said...

Another great read from a mzungu in Africa.

Gnarley: I didn't know the surfer connotation of this word.

Haraka, haraka write another blogpost soon.

P.S. About your post being dated Monday 9th. Did you START the post Monday? In which case it'd keep the date whenever you actually published it.

Dumdad said...

P.P.S. I meant to say I'm re-reading Bobo's Dogs book. Tremendous stuff. said...

beautiful. funny. real. a read that left me winded and laughing and knowing ''i've been there, i've been there''. my dad was like yours: he spent the little money we had (reduced by drought and politics and africa in general) on boats and range rovers and great holidays. he died too. in a car crash as well. every now and then, when i get spendy (more then than now given sodding geography) husband sniffs loudly and suggests i'm like my dad with regards spending habits. i hope i don't die young like he did. but i'm glad he had fun spending money whilst he was around. don't stop writing. you write like you talk. effusively and colourfully and passionately. i'd have killed to watch the bank manager's face. x

Janelle said...

totally great book! you should also read Scribbling The good. thanks for popping by! x janelle

Janelle said...

thanks anthea..oh poor bank manager. poor bank manager. i apologized to her later. i did! bloody awful town though...lots lots love xxx janelle

Diana said...

Gah! Just GAH! All this in one day. And to think I get annoyed when the coffee shop doesn't open right at 7 am and I have to sit and wait a minute of 3 for my cuppa.

For shame on me. For shame.

family affairs said...

...and all before 10am! I don't think I came across anything like that in the suburbs this morning x

Janelle said...

heh heh heh diana! lovely to hear from you! sometimes its so inspirational and sometimes its just tiring. it wears you out. like this week. it simply has to get better - according to rocket scientists...xx janelle

Chimera said...

Your writing rocks! Totally rad. Isn't it strange to be robbed with pillows? Such softness in such a harsh situation. I may have just lain down and gone to sleep...but then again there was all that coffeee...
Didn't know about your mum. Sorry hon.
Well done the beautiful gabriella!
T xx

African Barbie said...

Babes, hanging my head in shame that I actually miss the place...god (big sigh) I loved Scribbling the cat...Buck gave it to me..did I never tell you that...
I love your blog, I find I can't write what really happens..expat is just too small in Dakar :(
i heard the kids the other day telling someone that Tanzania was HOME....have I imagined a charmed life or did we live it?
Keep safe ningi sana XXX

Mickle in NZ said...

After that I'm almost embarassed to ask - how did Saturday night go?
Huggles said...

honey, i need your phone number ... i lost it. because i am pretending to be blonde, but i think perhaps, since hi-lites are late i shall return to what i am supposed to be, ie greying brunette and that way become more cerebral? i digress ...can you drop me a quick text ... i have a job you might be interested in ... x

tam said...

fab Janella
your last three posts? I had a bad case of "i wish I'd written that."
loving it, darlin. one day you'll be discovered, and then you'll be able to afford your very own IV espresso system...

LOVE your Rice Time tribute. Did Mo tell you about the tribute book idea? ask her.

Janelle said...

hey tam. thanks babes. thanks! no. mo hasn;t mentioned the tribute book idea. will ask her.lots love love XXX