Sunday, March 28, 2010

impossible things.

the big rains are here. mountains in the sky and purple storms abound. the night sky flickers with lightening, close and far. kilimanjaro is sprinkled in snow and i am glad that i'm not anywhere near the top.

camping on the hill has been abandonned because pk has chicken pox. so that's that then.

i am headed to west meru tommorrow to go and visit a good friend. she lives in a tent on stilts, just underneath the jagged peaks of meru, with sweeping vistas of northern maasailand. she's a writer and a hunter. we will sit late into the night, telling stories of love and ghosts while the wind howls outside and her dogs lie curled next to the fireplace. we'll right all the wrongs of the world and our hearts. we'll laugh about things in the past, grow wide eyed about things today and whisper about things to come whilst we sip her swedish liquorice vodka.

i will fall sleep, warm and safe, in the guest hut, with the windows jam packed with stars or storms, lulled by the wind and dream extraordinary and impossible things.

toodely old toot, y'all. bisous X.X.X. tender dream tinted ones. x j

Sunday, March 21, 2010

camping yarns.

(kilimanjaro sprinkled in snow)

the kids have this idea that they want to camp at the top of the hill. sounds like fun. sounds like a reasonable request. sounds marginally adventurous.
yes. yes.
oh but wait. what about those witchcraft murders? the ones where they chop your tongue out. what about the jambazis? with their knives and guns moving stealthily at night under the half moon.?
actually no. no.

no. bloody hell. no.

they can camp under the acacia near the kitchen. near the house. it'll be just as much fun....and i can quickly and easily kill baddies and save them if they're closer. going through this tedious, and perhaps imaginative, decision process made me think back to my childhood...when helen (bestest ever friend) and i wanted to camp in the garden in zululand. the garden was enormous. full of hidey holes and hedges and fish ponds and forests. still. it was in the garden. not on the top of the hill in the wilds....ish. but i remember eventually the garden, with porgy (my faithful old bullterrier) sleeping at the door, became way too tame for us.
we wanted The Dam....where our old raft was moored (marooned at one point during the seven year drought). The Dam, which hid the biggest barbel known in zululand, or so we reckoned. The Dam where leguvaans slid crocodile like into the tepid muddied darkness, where we dropped our hooks threaded with earth worms and the mud was slimy and black and squelched through your toes. The Dam where bilharzia probably thrived, where the vervets chattered in the dark shade during the white hot noon. it was our wilderness. it was where we felt most alive. because we could scare ourselves silly. yes. we wanted to camp there and move the kitchen down the hill. we were livid when my parents said no. enraged.
perhaps it was just after the time when the mad man had run through the sugar farm, naked and oiled (so you couldn't catch him. he slipped through your grip like a snake), on a moonless night, setting fire to the sugar cane. everytime the cane cutters ran to put out the fire he would attack. one woman lost an ear. someone else ended up being pangaed (slashed with the kalemba). he wouldn't come near the light and stayed in the darkness. racing over the dry hills leaving a trail of fires and blood behind him. my mother and i were alone in the house. we had closed the doors and turned on all the lights. every single one. to chase the darkness. we had armed ourselves with polo sticks and aerosol cans of doom. we could see the fires burning and hear the shouting. then the silence. then the sliding door opening. my mother called out "Ron!" but no answer. someone had come into the house. i remember how she walked down the passageway, me gingerly following behind, my heart thundering in my ears, trying to dissuade her. it wasn't the mad man, oiled and naked. it was my father who had come to get his gun and had left again.
i am not sure the mad man was ever caught. so no wonder my parents didn't really want helen and i camping at The Dam. still. we didn't think of those things then. thank god.
we stayed in the garden and told ghost stories instead and talked about camping at The Dam while porgy snored at the door and growled at my father when he came to check we were ok.
let's see if the kids wear me down until i say yes. in which case i will most likely end up camping too...and you know how i LOVE camping...
toodely toot oh best beloveds. bisous X.X.X. frangipani scented ones. x j

Thursday, March 4, 2010

gone to the dogs tonight....

it's been a bayaad old week. that's for sure.

it's been a bayaad old sad old week.

it's always like this.

the bad after the good. it's always wise to watch your back. not that you can do anything about it, mind.

i had a wild time in the west - west kilimanjaro - over the week-end, playing guitar, watching horse dances under the moon. singing cowgal songs. watching the stars twirl their stuff above my tent and elephants rumble far away in the silver. my head felt clean, my heart light. i didn't want the next week to happen. i didn't, no siree. now i know why.

monday rolled in, like the bad penny. reports. newsletters and thangs. lesson plans. blah. parents evening. i felt heavy. mr mugambi leaned against my desk, rolling his eyes mumbling about too much work, not enough time, parents evening. we laughed. he always makes me laugh. he was born west of mt kenya and told stories of his ma who is still alive. maybe it's something in the water there, he intimated once. we sighed and headed to our classrooms to start the long, tedious chore of meeting with the parents. i finished up at seven. francis (mr mugambi) left with ben, the ICT teacher, and headed into town for a beer in downtown mbauda, at a local bar on the barabara (main road) to chill out after a long and stressy hot day. the smell of nyama choma (roasted meat) on the air, the clink of kilimanjaro beers, laughter and swahili music spinning around the fairy lights.

around seven thirty eight the bar erupted with some heavily armed robbers. bullets and crashing glass sprayed the air.

a stray bullet hit francis in the stomach. the bar lady took one in the head. the robbers stole all the telephones. phones for fucksakes. ben managed to find a daladala (taxi) to rush francis to hospital, accompanied by some KK Security Guards. he was told that a police report is needed before they could treat him. they left francis at the hospital and rushed off to find this "documentation".

in the meantime, francis died. from internal bleeding. alone. without his family. without his friends. without anyone to hold his warm hand while he made the transition. i hate this. i hate it. he was a good man. a very very good man. africa needs good men like him.

yesterday morning the school was silent and full. only the sound of soft crying filled the corridors. everyone loved francis. he has left three children and a wife in nairobi. his body will leave for kenya tommorrow. he will be buried in meru, north of nairobi towards the end of next week. he will be buried before his old mother, living near mt kenya.

yesterday and today have been sad sad sad. i am not writing this to ask for apologies or condolences. really. i. am. not. i am ok. i am just angry. and sad. and shocked. this continent needs men like francis. it needs people who care for their family, who care for children and who think of a brighter future. as one of the students wrote - how could his own african brothers shoot him down? why? for his phone? the police do nothing. mbauda is full of guns these days.

and then mama kuku. she grew up in the shadows of mt kilimanjaro on a farm in the early 1950's. in the early days of post independent tanzania, all farms were nationalized. her family lost everything. she didn't turn into a bitter person. she stayed. she has dedicated the rest of her life here to improving the lives of street children, lepers, to those who have so little. to those who have nothing. she is now seventy. her husband died last year. last week she returned home after a fund raising evening, raising money for those who have nothing.

they were waiting for her. the baddies. the jambazis. in the dark with their guns. waiting. they dragged her out of her car. beat her up. beat a 70 year old lady up. broke her arms. broke her ribs. smashed her head with the butts of their guns. stole the money and left her crushed, broken and bleeding, crumpled on the ground, yet alive.

this town ain't cut out for lilly livered cowboys. no sirree. your heart must be strong. watch yer back. watch yer back.
i'm too tired to even philosophize about everything. about death. about anything. no words. i tend to read poetry and listen to music and watch the summer storms crack the early evening gloom. i lean my head against my horse. and i think of better things, ya know, nicer things.

safari njema francis mugambi. you'll be missed more than you ever knew. at least you don't have to write all these reports now. . . jeez. god speed, bwana, god speed.

bisous, oh bestests X.X.X. sad salty torn ones. x j