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


Miscellany said...

Shit. I hate, loathe violence. Civilization is a trolley we are all still waiting for.

nuttycow said...

Oh J - how desperately sad and awful. The senseless violence that you see in Africa still astounds me (spoken as a girl who's lived a vast chunk of her life there).

Francis does indeed sound like a lovely man. I hope that his family in Nairobi are well looked after.

Sorry it's been such a shit week. Fingers crossed that the road turns up hill next week.

Dumdad said...

What a dreadful, dreadful tragedy. The utter waste of a good man. I read out aloud your blogpost to my wife, I was so moved.

And how can men beat up and batter a defenceless old lady and then live with themselves? Have they no shame, no sense of any sort of honour?

Words fail me really. Your words say it all and, yes, we have to carry on but it's hard sometimes.

Bisous and take care from all of us here in Paris.

ewix said...

This is so sad and so awful and so random
and awful.
Yes, I HATE HATE HATE violence in all forms.
Is Africa especially bad? I don't know.
Poor poor Francis
horrible to die alone
his poor family
and to beat up an old lady
that's so low and despicable
my heart goes out to you.

makes writing school reports
pretty insignificant in the scheme
of things

hugs from afar

Indigo said...

Very beautifully written Mrs D, may his sweet soul rest in peace forever x

Joëlle said...

It's so awful. shit, i'm speechless.
take good care

Bee said...

I keep writing and then erasing. No words to express the awfulness.
How can a good life be taken so randomly/violently/senselessly?
And the vileness of the attack on the elderly woman? No words.

Linda Sue said...

I thought, when you stared out, that this post would be some minor complaint about ridiculous parents and their brilliant kids and how to get the two to mesh...or something like a complaint that your pen ran out of ink and you had to use mud...I was ill prepared for this knock down ! Well, damn, the despair that i feel for you,for Francis's family, his Ma, and the 70 year old lady- is palpable- a mighty hurt! So sorry for all of it ...everywhere. Sucks!
Your week end, now that is what I want to focus on and the cowgirl songs...yeah, that's where I want to be- forever!

Mud in the City said...

That's just wrong. No other word for it. Wrong in every way. My heart goes out to you, to their families and friends, and to all those people who want to do something right, to put love and hope and positivity into the world, only to get beaten back in this way.

Janelle said...

thanks y'all. yeah. it's crap and rubbish and sad. it's life. off this week end for intense riding session...need to get away from it all and just think about the next jump. sending y'all love. lots of it. xxx j

Mama Shujaa said...

Poleni sana. May his soul rest in peace. Poverty, violence, leaders who do nothing.

I feel terrible inside. Yet again. The poor, downtrodden unleash against their fellow men. A reality that is not just an African one, but a universal one, of the powerless against each other. So sad. The oppressed oppress. Choke and Die. When will it ever end?

Glad you are getting away for the weekend.

Kwa upendo,
Mama Shujaa.

What Possessed Me said...

I don't know what to say - it's just awful. I am so sorry. Hugs to you.

Reya Mellicker said...

I am so sorry to read about this hideous tragedy, so sad to think that yet someone else in your life has passed through the veil.

Sending you much love and hoping that you will get on your horse and ride, ride, ride.

Family Affairs said...

I'm so sorry. So so so sad. Such a waste. Lx

Tom said...

Well written Janelle. You summed up Francis brilliantly.

Safari njema Francis Mugambi

SafariB said...

fucking shits.

Chimera said...

Jesus Janelle I am so sorry and so angry and sad and frightened by thoses faceless murdering sick mad men God speed Mr. Mugambi and may Mama Kuku heal and forget a little. And may you keep safe and your community strong.
So so sorry
Tanvi xx

Anonymous said...

RIP Francis,my condolence to ya' all friends and relaz, i share your grief. Mike

Lori ann said...

X.X.X. to you love.
It seems that Africa is sometimes no place for sweethearts either. I hope you got your ride.

Anonymous said...

Francis, a great gentleman will be missed by many. He provided very good company to many in Saint Mary's school Nairobi. Was always concerned for others. Fare thee well Brother............

Mike said...


Your blog has been recommended to us as a interviewee's favorite blog!

We would like to do an interview with you about your blog for . We'd like to give you the opportunity to
give us some insight on the "person behind the blog."

It would just take a few minutes of your time. The interview form can
be submitted online at

Best regards,

Mike Thomas

family affairs said...

Are you feeling any better? Wrote about you today - thanks for forwarding the email - it's taken me an age to do anything with it. Thinking of you loads Lxx

Allison Ogden-Newton said...

I'm sitting here looking out of my office window overlooking the river Thames in London, moved to tears with sadness for your loss, anger at the violence, so often the repost of the lazy and gratitude that my life is so blessed. Many of the social enterprises I work with are striving to improve the lives of Africans through investment, your story, in its entirety reminds us why such things are vital. My husband spent his childhood in Kenya, he talks of returning and I think we must. My thoughts are with you, Allison

Mike said...


Your blog has been recommended to us as a interviewee's favorite blog!

We would like to do an interview with you about your blog for . We'd like to give you the opportunity to
give us some insight on the "person behind the blog."

It would just take a few minutes of your time. The interview form can
be submitted online at

Best regards,

Mike Thomas

Angela said...

Take good care of yourself, Janelli, and all your loved ones. I am thinking of you.

Linda Sue said...

Have you read "Solace of Open Spaces" by Gretel Ehrlich. I think you would like it a little bit. Takes place in my home turf, Wyoming. If you can not find a copy send me your mailing address and I will get a copy off to you.

Janelle said...

thank you all so so much for your beautiful heartfelt comments....and linda that book sounds SO familiar...but no, i don't think i have read it..wyoming?? ah now there's a place of wide open spaces eh? lots love all round to you all xxx j

Val said...

so so sad to hear this, hope you are doing ok and have a fab weekend. This wanton brutality is spinning out of control . As the value of life plummets for politicians and the like - it soars for the rest of us!! seize every micro moment and savour it fully - and write write write your blog is awesome. Surrounding you and yours with a big big safety bubble.

I read that book long ago. Pam also read it i think. Its fabulous.

take good care and love to all xxxV

karen said...

Oh No!! I have just arrived back in blog land after a too long absence, and started catching up. this post is so sad.. Poor Francis, so sorry to hear such a terrible story about such senseless killing. I have of course read all your older ones I've missed too, but this one has really stuck in my mind.. warm wishes from further south x

Mud in the City said...

Just had supper with your darling sister - and heard of a story about your explaining a navity scene to your children.....?

Thanks so much again and again for that introduction.

Anonymous said...

Dear Janelle,

I just have a quick question for you but couldn't find an email so had to resort to this. I am a progressive blogger and the owner of the mahablog. Please email me back at when you get a chance. Thanks.


Karen said...

I'm so sorry--for his family, for his students, for you and all his friends. I'm just so sorry.

Lisa L said...

i am. so terribly, terribly sorry. for his family. his teachers. his students. for him. i just can't find the right words. but thinking of you all as you wade through this horrible river of grief.