yesterday morning i woke up, sleepily and cosily, to a distant whooping. oh what could it be? maasai ceremony? and then a roar and more whooping. so i tumbled out of bed, still recovering from an all nighter on friday, shuffled through to the fireplace and found the binoculars. indeed. the whooping and roaring was coming from the factory far down below.(remember we live on a hill. ngorobob hill) safari craig thought it was a football match. until i spied someone running along a wall of the factory smashing all the security lights. until i realized it was in fact a full blown riot going on in the mosquito net factory.
i have posted about this factory a long time ago. how we hate it. how it ruined our view. how, it has taught me to accept things you cannot change. and why you should never buy a place because of the view. how views can change. nevertheless, from our hill, you can see more than just the factory. there are also the mountains and the maasai steppes. still. if you wade back a year or so, you will see my post on the factory, fondly referred to as the fucking factory. bill gates gave a lot of money to the factory, thinking it was going to help fight malaria. thinking whoever has the money would do a good job. then he went back to america feeling good about himself. a settled conscious that he had indeed helped the africans.
you should see the mess below. you should see the conditions the workers live in. you should hear how much (or rather how little) they are paid. you should hear how long they have to work with no break. things are not rosy. no far from it. you should see the amount of plastic litter which blows in the wind from the factory. you should see how much firewood they take from the forests on the mountain and pile in their backyard. you should see the ugly cement walls and no trees. you should see what they have done to the otherside of the hill where they have gouged out soil for their buildings. you should see their utter disregard for the environment and for the workers. i wonder if mr gates knows this. i wonder if, when mr bush came to visit, he was shown the back of the factory where the workers stay. this factory is, apparently the pride of tanzania.
so, it was no surprise that eventually the workers would riot. a riot in africa is nothing like a riot say in england or europe. where workers carry relevant banners and walk in an orderly fashion with the support of unions. oh no. in africa, when there is a riot there is mayhem. so there we sat perched on the hill watching complete and utter mayhem explode like a fast unfurling flower. we watched workers chasing a police car. we watched workers looting the place. stealing roofing sheets, doors, mosquito nets, lights, cement literally anything they could lay their hands on. three thousand people on the rampage. the security guards (who are unarmed ) got the hell out of there...stones were being thrown. gates were broken. lights were smashed. trucks were smashed. until the army arrived. the field force. in brown landrovers, with red flags flying, guns and tear gas. before we saw the cars, we saw three thousand people running in a million directions into the ploughed fields below. as fast as they could go. and then we saw the army. loud speakers. a few shots. tear gas. within fifteen minutes there was order. workers returned. they gathered in the main gates. thousands left. a group fled up our hill and away. never to return.
and i watched the swallows swooping on the sunday breeze, the european storks whirling in across the valley to hunt for frogs on the ploughed fields...
rubin was scared. he clutched his catapault. i said there was nothing to be afraid of. which was true. but something blipped across my inner radar screen. something which made my heart race a little faster. something which made me think, for a brief second, what on earth are we doing here?
in africa things can go wrong so terribly fast. wildly wrong. psychopathically wrong.
i am not sure what the outcome is. the factory is not working today. the workers who remain, are all sitting outside the gates. gathered. meeting. what next? the workers will have no support from anyone. not from their government, which has heavily invested in the factory and for which they get mega browny points from the west; not from their union, whose employers are probably paid less than they are. not from anyone. i said to sally yesterday well if i was one of them i would pack my bags and leave. and she said, ever so rightly, that yes indeed you might, but most of those people down below don't have a choice. it's a job. it's money. you don't just walk away. you have nothing before or after. i thought about this all day. and i came to the conclusion that you DO have a choice. always. it's just knowing that. it's knowing that it's not about a god. it's about you. and your power. yes. there is choice.....but maybe i am being ignorant. (the last time i was in the other world, the "first" world, i was overwhelmed by the choice of dog foods, of toothpastes, of cereals, of basic essentials. at least here its easy. there isn't one. in a sense it's peaceful.)
everything in africa seems so desperate. so border line . all the time. order to chaos. life to death. drought to floods. the good thing about this is that death is close all the time. it's a reality. everyday. you aren't allowed to forget it for one minute. which makes the colours of being alive so bright and brief. you aren't allowed to forget how fortunate you are when you drive down the hill, or ride out onto the plains past very very poor people. desperate. border line people who have nothing. everyday. there isn't an escape. for your conscious. only a vast beautiful landscape.
i am given the chance to develop deep gratitude and compassion. i try.
and therefore, i am thankful. very. for everything i have. there are times when i feel toughened. and feel, well, it's your own look out my mate. tough luck. and fuck you. and then wonder how on earth i got to be so lucky. and then scare myself by looking at it on a universal level, and realize, jesus, it's a flip of the coin. good old chaos theory. phew. and how truly irrelevant we are. completely. and to think we're any more important than an ant in a whistling thorn is to be utterly deluded.
and on that note, dear beloveds, i turn my thoughts to lesson plans and the monday that lies quietly and haphazardly ahead of me.
Kitchen Board: Monday Morning: 2 Feb 09
Contributors: safari craig (!?) and veronica
Comments: he remembered the fish food...called blood worms. oh we shall miss him when he leaves on safari again tommorrow...for an entire month. and oh how i have slacked off while he has been here....time to pull my socks up i reckon.
and did i tell you we had 15mls of rain on saturday!? glorious. saturating. rain. now i want more. never enough, is it? (except in ireland apparently)
toodely toodely toodely...bisous, xxx riotious ones (!) j