When we first met the first greeting was jambo. It was so cold and impersonal in a way that it promised a dark future. He looked at me bewildered. It was the first time.
I answered “jambo.” Having not known me or seen me before, he might as well understood that I knew nothing about English. But again that was detrimental. He doesn’t know Swahili, and for example I imagine I am an obstinate douchebag who has only one word in his English package. You see that would be perilous. It could hamper our conversations. I don’t know of any sign language, he doesn’t either.
The following day we are travelling to Kisii. In the maroon bimmer there are five live souls, and in a green Surf there are like eight stuffed souls waiting transportation. At the back of the surf there is a goat which exceedingly bleats all the way. I am in the surf at the back seat with several kids who can’t stop stepping on me every minute, all of which I have no direct attachment. My biggest attention lies on my eventuality.
In this surf there is no comfort, in fact you feel you can just alight and make it on foot. When you imagine of the distance, you cannot attempt to think of it. It is on 24th of December, just on the eve of Christmas. Going back to your roots is as important as having a meal.
(Change of persons)
Anyway we had a great deal of time back to our roots. A few stop overs to take photos (for fb) of the Masaais in their traditional regalia at the escarpment and at Narok, mahindi choma near Bomet, wild berries and plums and the dreams that attacked me after I drifted to slumber land subconsciously. Eventually we were at home safely.
In Kisii, this man needed a lot of explorations, and many of my cousins were not as available for him as I was. I have this overly thick altruism syndrome that pricks me to the extent of not settling down. It is the good deed that assures me of being of a human kind. People who are carefree to others are simply sociopaths that can’t be classified in the species of human kind.
It is this opportunity that granted me the grandiosity to familiarize myself with him. In these encounters, I think he lacked the right name to summon me with until he landed on Alex. From that day I was Alex and I bothered less changing his belief that I was not.
The funny thing is that he had an appetite with every Dick, tom and harry of a food. Fortunate enough, his system was that sturdy. It was the attitude white people who come to Africa possess, to excurse everything. To them Africa is an examination lab, to experiment and test the visibility, taste and viability of every little thing they come across. And sometimes they will think they are too subtle to receive a piece of advice from you, maybe you can be good only at escorting them around their petty moves.
The African setting is fairly varied and hard, the bottom line is that is intricate. Everything has a quality connected to hardness, from farming with jembes, laundering clothes with hand, using mopers to scrub our floors, using abyss latrines, dusty tarmacked roads, very torrid and sunny conditions, no showers, and no tissue papers to the art of not owning even a bicycle for transport. That is our Africa. No wonder it is an adventure for the whites.
They always feel it is some place they can wake up one day, collect their bags, and get a passport, visa and travel on the same day. They have no trouble doing that yet the reverse is traumatizing. . These people envision it is just a barren terrain having a craving for food, upset weak figures hanging around and howling at white people.
“Mzungu, ninunulie gachai.”
So this mzungu has a language calibrated with very common words that often start majority of his sentences. One simple phrase that stuck to my mind even during the first day was “back in the states.” This statement was often used in comparison to the African context that things were up front back in the states. However, we had great time.
Great time was great time until one day he defied to listen to our wise counsel. In Africa you don’t just mix things up. There is a decorum of eating food, and it has to be followed strictly. You can’t lick sugar and then hurry for a sugarcane or sweet banana, likewise you can’t eat beans, githeri, mandazis, and ugali and drink busaa all in the same meal. It is impossible because whatever system you are operating on cannot endure the internal reactions.
The end of the first week in Kisii came as a nightmare to mzungu. After too much consumption of everything, the poles decided to repel and send him to food poisoning crisis silently followed by a blast of malaria. Frantic efforts to assist him to hospital were evident, he is a mzungu remember. He has to get attention right away.
(Change of persons)
Somehow my cousins manage to take him to some local hospital. The receptiveness of the nurses is quite retrogressive. They hurriedly conclude that he has to be moved to Kisii referral hospital. Mzungu is groaning in pain, and the nurses have no painkillers.
“Enda mnunue painkiller mlete tumdunge.” One of the nurses just fucks the words right on their faces. I mean does this even qualify to be called a medical facility by any means? It is some dungeon, with ugly faces and confused quacks. There is no conversation so they drive to Kisii referral hospital for better services.
Unfortunately it is very late, almost midnight when they eventually pull up the parking lot and deliver mzungu right to the waiting bay. The normal procedure of buying hospital card is an anomaly. They felt relieved when a nurse popped her head out to help.
There is nothing as unique and astonishing as a naïve nurse handling a white foreigner. The first response from one of the nurses, from the nurses who had now accumulated nearby.
“Hakuna daktari wa kumtibu.” It was like a final remark.
“Anaumwa sana mdunge ata kama ni painkiller,” one of the cousins suggested.
“Mimi nidunge mzungu sindano! Nimdunge aje kufia kwa mikono yangu! Heh!” one who seemed to be the team leader astoundedly declined to attend him. The rest of the nurses refused too.
I don’t want to narrate the chronology of events, the backwardness displayed by those nurses or even the reactions that my cousins ejected. But they left the hospital and bought antimalarial drugs for mzungu. With time they helped cure his untimely illnesses.
After the incident, his system rejected every kind of locally prepared meal. The visits to the chicken inns frequented, day in day out. His digestive system changed all over a sudden and I became a tourist. He started complaining of the climate discomfiture, and how the altitude was messing around with his breath cycle.
The conclusion he made about Kisii was quite controversial to me. The fact that he could not withstand squatting down and enjoying a little round hole made him conclusively remark that we have no toilets. That is the only souvenir that he remembers Kisii with, besides the cool climate.
He hastens us on getting back to Nairobi, to relish the little pleasures- showers, nice toilets, good climate and good food joints.
I joined them a week later in Nairobi. It is here I bonded more with him. I loved him due to several reasons which include: he could handle his mess quite professionally, he was socially sufficient, he was open to conversations and could not discriminate along any lines, and he also had a few bucks to spend.
On the other side, he had a few physically noticeable defects that I liked: he openly confessed that he was dumb from high school where he scored low grades; he can’t just phrase any written correct grammar, and if you are not careful enough you can misinterpret his intentions; he showers occasionally and dons a similar grubby garment for three to four days and just can’t feel any shame; numerous trust issues; pardon me because I do not have a sound memory.
I forgot that he used to smoke, not like much but mostly when stress pinned him down. And he had so many stories to tell, though all started with the phrase……….back in the states. One of which was about his car which was a size of a mini cooper. He said it could blow up now and then if the speed gauge went beyond 40kph, or how he could drive with flat tires.
I swear he was one person with a poor taste for ladies. He could hardly select a chick that appeared any beautiful, here he was really a freak. He could always point out old sooty women and recommend them to me. That was really where the rain had beaten him big time. Any way he was a good person and he loved Kenya and Kenyans.
The day he left, I simply got sad because I would miss his cheerful personality and more so the burgers and ice cream at Galitos. Man, I still miss chicken. I should call him and ask him to come back soonest. The actual cravings for food intended for sweet points is killing me.
His name is Wallace Kautz. And now, he is back in the states.