Tuesday, February 5, 2013

the piggery of time...

"dashing" into town. not. the road home.

As you’ve both summized by now, I live on the top of a beautiful little hill in Tanzania. It’s a bitch of a hill when you run it…by the time you get to the top you want to faint,vomit and possibly die. All the children at the bottom of the hill laugh and point at me as I shuffle past like an old man of 75. My ascent hasn't even begun. "Mimi ni mzee, " (I am old) I growl back at them, huffing and puffing and shuffling. They answer, "Hapana!! (no) heh he heh!" I’ve only ever made it twice without stopping and that was, oh, two years ago. It’s enough to put anyone off running a marathon for the rest of their lives. The hill is conquered far more painlessly in a car or on a horse. There are, apparently, 34 bumps from the bottom to the top. (The children have counted them. Some say there are more, others less, so let’s round it off to 34.) These have been built to save the road from the torrential summer rains. They work. But they’re bastards. Because they slow you down. It’s a real pain when you get to the bottom on a school morning and someone says “Ma. I’ve forgotten my PE clothes/my guitar/ my homework”. Tough luck, you want to say. Instead a string of expletives stream out of your mouth, smooth as milk, as you start your 48 point turn and head back up, the clock ticking mercilessly on. The turn around gobbles up at least 15 minutes which eats into your 8am on the dot Monday meeting. Time time time. I hate time.  There is simply never enough of the stuff no matter how hard you try.

I think that’s why I love this story about a Mexican man, Jose, and his pig Juanita. If you've heard it, stop right here. He was old and also lived on top of a very steep hill, not a dissimilar one to the Ngorobob Hill, by all accounts. Every single day he would walk down to the bottom, with his pig, Juanita, so she could drink at the water trough and roll happily around in the mud. He would sit under the shade of a tree, catching up with his village friends, and after a small amount of time, when his dear pig had finished enjoying herself, they would slowly make their way back up the hill. The entire round trip would take around three hours if not more.

One day, a very smart, young and handsome anthropologist recently graduated from Harvard, moved into the remote village to complete his PHD on people and time. For a few weeks he watched as Jose and Juanita would make their way up and down the hill. It bothered him that the old man wasted so many precious hours of his day. He thought long and hard about it and came up with an ingenious idea. He was thrilled about it.

The following day, he stopped Jose at the water trough, while Juanita oinked and snorted and rolled, as pigs are wont to do, and presented his proposal. “ Jose I have watched you for weeks making your daily journey up and down your hill, bringing your pig to drink and lie in the mud. It takes approximately three hours out of your day. Now. What if I connected this pipe to this pump and pumped water up to the top of your hill? Juanita could have her own water and mud at home! And you’d save yourself three hours a day.” He felt very proud of his simple solution. The old Mexican looked at him, nodding his head wisely. This was a very smart, educated young man from America.  He replied, “ Si signor. That is a very good idea indeed but….” and he paused, thinking carefully, “What is time to a pig?”

It’s impossible to rush around here. You can’t just “pop into town” or “dash into Kisongo”. No. There’ll be either a traffic jam, a political cavalcade, a broken down truck blocking the way, a police road block, an accident. Or you’ll arrive at the bank, pressured to get back to work in an hour and there’ll be a queue from here to Timbuktu or “I’m sorry Madam. But your account has been blocked.” Or “ I’m sorry madam, there is no money in the bank today.” And you want to roar and cry and tear your hair out. Instead you let it go. Let. It Go. (although I didn’t quite manage anything remotely as guru like as that the other day…I’m sure if I’d been anywhere else in the world security would’ve been rallied, especially when I tore up a form under Ernest’s nose and said “ You can shove that up where the sun don’t shine!” tear tear tear )

What to do?

Time is a pig.

I need more of the goddamn stuff.

And money.

Kitchen Board: Tuesday 5 February 2013.

"fix hole in lounge"...yes. there is a big hole in the floor. and out of that hole crawl things like centipedes, scorpions and...snakes. first born and i found one last night. well. mama paka the cat did. i suspected it was a burrowing adder, a nasty lil fucker, so i stomped on it with my birkenstock. they should use that in their ad. Buy Birkkies For Your Health: And Kill Snakes Too. i felt bad. i did. i don;t like killing little baby snakes. but if it was a centipede eater (as it might have been) i am sure there are other babies wriggling around and a mum and a dad and i hope i haven't dented the snake world too much. sorry snakes! must fix hole tomorrow.
toodely toot y'all. bisous. X.X.X. reg'lar as a clock, on yer neck. x j


toomuchaugust said...

today was the day i needed the story of the pig. just going for that walk down the hill with her realigned my clocks. oh, but wait. i don't wear a watch. that's right. because somewhere inside me is a pig named judy with a Y.


Mud said...

When I want time is slips like quicksilver. When I'm feeling alone, as I am at the moment, its a lead weight that ticks sloth slow. Surely there's a middle ground?

JoeinVegas said...

Oh, all that from a simple hole in the floor? Yes, time to fix it.

Angela said...

No matter what you tell us, I like it. Juanita, eh? I like her, too, doing all her grunts and snorts and rolling abouts. What a nice picture to fall asleep over.

Amanda said...

time is a big old hog - the seasons seem to be on spin cycle they fly by so fast. i hate wearing a watch and have managed to get by without one for years. maybe it's my own form of protest.

or i can just put lipstick on a pig and call it juanita


Mark said...

I popped up to Denver for some r&r this weekend. Post exercise, heaving and huffing I hit your blog...I can relate, or it could be the Smithwick's! Your elevation is around 4500 feet I believe...I can imagine. Great story. Time is a pig. Sorry to hear of your woes.


Andrew said...

Doesn't "mimi ni mzee" mean something more like "I am an old man"? I like the idea of you saying that to people. Lovely post, a pleasure to read as always.