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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Escape from Nairobi

It will probably be nearly two o'clock in the morning when I go to sleep tonight, with a hope of waking up at six-thirty when the car-alarms set off by the night-watchmen washing the resident’s cars and the sun wake me up; that will just be over four hours of sleep, probably just enough time for two dreams: probably one about how broke I am and that usual one where I rampage through a Nakumatt with a Caterpillar earthmover. And then I shall awake, bolt-upright in bed surrounded by the vagaries of my wasted urban life.

I will pack my car and strike out westward, leaving the rainy, wet and misty Nairobi behind me like a restaurant with an unpaid tab - except I'll be back! The stench of consumer activity in Nairobi is just too much. It'll probably tone down when the City Council have fixed the drainage, the rains stop and the kids get past their first few weeks of madness and caffeine and settle into the boring December vacation and Christmas routine. The city is already crowded without displacing thousands of hawkers and the various workers, televisions are choked with commercials for shit we don't need, and the beer gets warm before it reaches me from the main bar at Hooters these days. It's time to head to the Rift Valley for a week of fresh air.

I'm sick of waiting for a dream to come true; the time is nigh to get real, grab my tools and build something. Farm. Most of the Asians I know sleep the afternoons away, and I envy them - I haven't had a nap since I joined primary school. There is too much to do. There are too many websites to visit, too much work to be done in the office. I think Kenya is a country full of people who sleep too much and those who haven't slept in years. The middle ground is balanced on the tip of a politician’s walking stick, and just when I get comfortable the alarm clock goes off and poof! I run screaming (literally!) back into another day at work. So it's time to build and farm; it's time to tear my eyes away from my inbox and take an active role once again.

I will leave Nairobi tomorrow.

I will drive through the fog in Limuru into the valleys, gorges and tiny mountains of the Rift Valley. I will look longingly into those hills that call my name when the temperature is high, drive along those long strings of isolated villages where the names haven't changed since the we arrived from the Congo/Sudan many years ago... I will drive straight through the morning, stop for fuel, water, yoghurt and maybe a fruit at Delamere’s, probably in the middle of a falling rain. The odometer will probably get busy after that. I just hope that my car heater and air conditioner do not go out. I hope I do not fall asleep at the wheel on the highway and actually travel backwards through time - the numbers and letters on signs along the road get smaller, there will be more water in the bottle, more packets of strawberry yoghurt in the back seat then wake up thinking I had hallucinated the whole trip!

The road sometimes plays tricks on me.

Maybe there will be no strawberry yoghurt; or maybe they will be poisoned. Many hours on a bad road do strange things to your mind, strange, vile things that are downright funny with someone else…but I will be alone listening to music with no heater and a dead air conditioner, a few hundred kilometres behind me and more packets of strawberry yoghurt than I remembered were there an hour earlier. It will be disconcerting.

But the heavy commercial tractor trailers speeding westbound for Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and the DRC with huge containers loaded with cargo while the drivers battle with the brakes and steering wheels amidst the high speed and animal fear will be real.

The police stake out the highways a lot nowadays, especially after Naivasha. I will be just a speeding driver, not a criminal mastermind on the run, but after Naivasha I am sure there will be a roadblock every fifty kilometres with another squad with white helmets and a speed gun. They have Nissan X-Trails that can weave through the traffic and hills like sharks if you try to run, and they can hunt down the fastest and the meanest drivers on the road.

After a long day in Nakuru, the night will set in and wear on and the other drivers will fall asleep, most in their beds and some in cars. Truckers will keep on the left lanes lanes, their glowing headlamps moving like galaxies through the darkness, rushing for a rest and a night of fun in Salgaa. The universe is expanding (regardless of Pluto’s demotion), they say, expanding into something, into itself, always moving like the planets and moons and people are sick of empty space, like it's searching for something more; searching, like those of us still awake in those hundred-kilometre stretches between towns on the bumpy highways that unravel towards Western Kenya. The other drivers will move with the same hurried desperation that I will feel in my numb urban soul, that reckless lust to run full speed through the night and cut dramatic figures across the lanes on a one-way ride to nowhere.

I had not planned this trip, no direction in life for many people right now anyway, feeling guided along a crooked path with big potholes cutting through the Mau forest, wandering across the Njoro plains, somewhere, anywhere but back; any direction, so long as it's into the dark. Maybe I'll find something out there; maybe I'll build something that'll last through the next night and the next hundred years, a dream come to life in my hands as real as my steering wheel.

Time will tell. I will be 400 kilometres in, and there will be a few hundred more before I return to Nairobi. I'll find something. Somewhere. And have one helluvan adventure on the way.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

etc etc

Not much to report to you fine readers.

The last few weeks have been the type of dull, unmemorable ones that don’t even merit any drinking or special mention. So slow and worthless were they that one of the top news headlines this week was to do with an election battle many months to come and some childish assassination claims.

Please Lord, make something interesting happen – and I don’t mean another invasion in Mathare or Kuresoi. Tribal clashes are just pathetic, what with people being used to perpetuate other people’s ideologies?

In other news, I have been generally groped up the backside by tons of work these past few weeks, despite being a slow time. Why is that as Christmas fast approaches, someone is busy giving me a lot to do?

Before I forget, I went to the bank for the first time in a long time; after all I slowed down on the drinking and reduced my ATM limit. I was shocked to see a security camera peering at the customers queuing for cash like some sort of stupid watchie. Was someone on the other end watching us? Many people have probably been busted by the Ass-Scratch Police, the Counter Nose-Picking Squad. There was also a possibility that there was a crack unit in the backrooms in charge of Inappropriate Groping for those who can perform one-man orgies as they line up for cash.

I thought these security cameras were meant to help the police track down robbers and not to entertain some bleary eyed official in the bank’s backrooms? Or they intend to raise the alarm on suspicious looking characters like me as we may have concealed some weapons? There is no way having a camera glaring at the queue would help, have one at the counters or somewhere where they can have a good glimpse of the robbers, not almost 50 customers at one go.