In July, 2008, I, Princess Rachella, Intrepid African American Girl International Journalism Consultant, pulled up stakes once again and headed to Nairobi, Kenya. Through my various adventures, I've concluded that if I get any MORE explosively fabulous in these prequel years to "THE BIG 5-0," I will have to register myself with the Pentagon as a thermonuclear incendiary device.
Thursday, December 31, 2009
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Sunday, December 27, 2009
Saturday, December 26, 2009
Friday, December 25, 2009
...the longer you live in Sub-Saharan Africa, the more you wonder why anyone would willingly subject themselves to living in a snowy climate. I mean, some people simply never have to deal with it, and generally speaking, they're just fine with that.
First, unless said airport is in a Third World war zone, somebody has already done all the decorating for you…all you gotta do is go, "Oooh!" and "Ahhhh!" The downside is that you’ll pay 25 bucks for some weak-assed cappuccino and a cinnamon roll, but at least it’s Christmas.
Second, it’s such a pleasant window into a less crazed way to live one’s life. I can actually hear myself think in Schipol Airport today. So far, not a single person has bumped into me with a luggage trolley. There’s no need to rush to the gate, because like the flight from Nairobi to Amsterdam, the plane probably won’t be full.
Some things never change though. Every now and then, the blood curdling, nerve shattering squeals of a hungry, sleep-deprived infant or toddler remind you of where you are. But for a single female traveler with no children, even that is a gift. It reminds you that no matter how worn out you might be from your journey, at least you don’t have to deal with THAT bullshit.
In fact, I spent a few minutes’ extended reverie considering the pluses of being unattached with no family obligations on Christmas Day. First, I didn’t have to spend the past week cooking, cleaning, shopping and wrapping. Most mothers are so exhausted by Christmas morning, the thought of serving dinner later in the day is lodged in their brain like a lump of coal. Fathers may be game helpers, but they’re also wondering how the hell they’re gonna pay those credit card bills come January.
And that’s if they’re even still married to each other. If not, Christmas is more a day of recriminations that celebrations. After the protracted battle about who gets the kids on which holiday, and what time they need to be returned home, and how much did he spend on HIS kids versus that other bitch’s kids, a parent might be pardoned for feeling less than merry.
Yep, I was really feeling mighty smug for a minute there! Bought some $35 Chanel mascara and thought, “Shopping for myself is so freakin’ stress free!” But seconds later, a bow-legged toddler in a fuschia onesie stumbled across my path. She had a short, curly 'fro and skin the color of Crème Caramel Bailey’s Irish liquor. She was probably Sudanese, or Ethiopian, or Somali. Whatever she was, she was so precious, I SERIOUSLY could have done a bid for shoving her into my carry-on bag.
This cherub had taken it upon herself to toddle away from her mother in search of her errant big sister, In that squeaky, half-duck, half Munchkin voice that people under age 3 have perfected so well, this little girl stood directly in my path, her little brow knitted and her arms extended, and cried, “Ha-DEEE-ja! Ha-DEEE-ja!” And she kept yelling and gesturing until Hadija bopped over from wherever she’d been roaming, her long curls flopping wildly.
All of a sudden, I got it. THAT’S why you’d work yourself to exhaustion and go into debt and link every beat of your heart to someone or something other than yourself. That’s what makes the Christmas Crazies worth it.
Still, I’m thoroughly enjoying sitting here drinking my weak-assed cappuccino and watching the Christmas snowfall at Schiphol airport on Christmas Day, 2009. Maybe one day, I’ll even have a reason to make sure I’m NOT in an airport on Christmas morning. Until then, this feels right.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
"Twas the night before Christmas, and here's what I say,
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Like it didn't take every second of my 48 years on Earth to come to terms with, and move on from, growing up under American Apartheid, now I gotta deal with the emergence of the KKK on yet another continent! And even though in this case the K's stand for "Kikuyu, Kalenjin, and Kamba," trust me, this alliance is just as fucked as the other one.
Speaking of K's,
"KLM, take me away......"
Monday, December 21, 2009
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Thursday, December 17, 2009
It's been sitting in this bag on one of my dining room chairs since mid-November, when my friend Kelly brought it over from New York. She has ferried over literal suitcases full of books and clothes and dolls and balls and crayons and markers and games and stuffed animals for the kids during her recent Nairobi trips. Kelly feels it's the very least she can do for the kids of the Maai Mahiu IDP Camp.
Now THERE'S a name you haven't heard in ages!! That's because I haven't written about, or visited Maai Mahiu in ages. Once a flurry of work-related travel kicked in a few months ago, it's been too easy to let myself fall into a pattern of postponement and procrastination about getting back to the school. Plus it seemed like every time I came close to getting my act together and actually going, something else came up to keep me stuck in Nairobi.
Every day I walked past this bag of toys and thought, "Damn, Kelly sure cares about the Maai Mahiu kids more than I do!!!! I bet they would really love playing with some of this stuff." Meanwhile, the every day stresses of life in Nairobi have left me resembling this googly-eyed cow a bit more than I care to admit.
I'm definitely battered and lightly fried these days, dear readers. Feeling scattered and about a quart low on my usual zest and pluck. And so I will be taking a break from my Sub-Saharan Sojourn starting on Christmas Eve, when I will wing my way to New York City and DC for a few weeks.
Meanwhile, please rest assured that by the time you read this post, this Krazy Kow will have arrived at the PCEA Muniu School, where a holiday party took place today. Since it kinda looks like I do these days, it'll have to stand in for me. The school has been closed for a few weeks now, but thanks to your generous donations over recent months, the local sponsors have been able to keep serving lunches during the break. I won't hit y'all up for more support during the holidays, but once I finally get my butt in gear and make time for a trip to the school next month, to see where things stand with the lunch program, I may just call on you for help once more.
After all, your support has been udderly invaluable! HAH!
Friday, December 11, 2009
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Thursday, November 26, 2009
"Should I go ahead and make the pies now so they can be cooled and settled, or should I just spend the morning chopping veggies? And how much time will I need to let the bread dough rise twice? Or maybe the morning should just focus on scrubbing floors and dusting? Oh, and is there enough wine, or soda, or whatever beverage might be required??"
But this is the third year in a row I've been outside the US during Thanksgiving. I'll probably never forget my first Expat Turkey Day, because it was about a month after Julie died, and it was in Gulu. I actually could have had some poultry that time, if I'd been willing to murder the gift I'd received after returning to Uganda from her funeral. But I still haven't grasped the concept of eating something you've actually met, so I passed on slaughtering my "welcome back chicken" to mark the holiday.
I'm actually having trouble remembering what I did for Thanksgiving 2006. Ditto 2005. But I'll certainly never forget Turkey Day 2004, when I worked like an Alabama fieldhand preparing a spectacular feast for the Ambivalent Archivist I was dating. From the minute we agreed to spend the day together, I vowed to woo him into submission with my culinary skill. Sure, I wasn't in love with him, and didn't even want a long term relationship. But because I knew he felt the same way about me, every feminine wile in my body was ignited. Using sex on demand and near-gourmet food, I was determined to make this man cleave to me. This would grant me the overall victory, and improved leverage for dumping rights, I concluded.
Anyway, I became absolutely OBSESSED with forcing the Ambivalent Archivist to sample butternut squash. While vetting potential recipes, he mentioned never having tried it, and not really wanting to. Oh, HELL no, I said to myself. You gon' eat my butternut squash risotto, and you will fall prostrate at my feet in sheer bliss and gratitude that I led you to this Pulpy Promised Land.
I also brined a turkey overnight for the first time in my life, using garbage bags, because I didn't have a pan big enough hold the bird and the gallons of brine. AND I made sweet potato pies. And homemade rolls. There were other mouth-watering entries, but you get the drift. I figured after he finished eating, and getting sexed up a few times, this man would have no other choice but on-the-spot commitment.
Well, to his credit, the Ambivalent Archivist ate the risotto without flinching, even said he liked it. He went back three times for everything else, and then we flopped onto my sectional couch and watched a Marx Brothers Marathon on TCM. Then he fell asleep. Then I fell asleep. I think we both woke up around dawn the next day, and then he got up, thanked me for everything, and went home. No nookie transpired, tragically.
Suffice it to say, I am not currently Mrs. Ambivalent Archivist. But that experience definitely marked a big turning point in how I view holidays in general. Ever since the Jones Family "Death-Off" began in 2003, my own notions of family have taken a hit. My siblings are doing their own thing, and I'm doing mine, and there's not really a solid center of gravity anymore. So my theory these days is that unless you're part of an immediate family unit with a mate and/or children of your own, holidays mostly just do not compute.
As a single woman nearing age 50, I'm fairly lucky. If I were in the US now, I'd probably snag quite a few invites to join in on other people's Turkey Day feasts. But there's no denying my status as "Perennial Fifth Wheel," or more bluntly stated, "Old-Assed Social Orphan."
I mean, what the hell do you DO with me? I'd be pretty content to sit at the kids' table for the most part, so that's a plus. I find large gatherings of (well-behaved) children quite refreshing, especially when I know I can walk away at any time. But with the adult crowd, how do you explain who the hell I am??? "This is Rachel, a dear friend who has nowhere else to go." Then of course there's the option of trying to pair me with your Cousin Leonard, who's about the same age and either thrice divorced or has 4 baby-mommas and a teensy substance abuse problem, and who's hasn't worked in 12 years. And who has to get back to the Halfway House before 8 PM, so we'd better go ahead and start eating now.
Oh, well, enough of this self-absorbed riff. I did actually have a pretty cool Thanksgiving last year in Nairobi, but the folks who threw that catered bash opted out this time. I'm dining on Indian food with a few friends tonight, at a place I haven't tried but hear is really good. If that's true, I'll be very thankful for that. But I chose the cartoon above as a way of summarizing yet another Expat Thanksgiving Experience. The frustration of not quite being understood, the sense of deflation and loss, and more often than not, the prospect of staring at a plate full of something that will surely NOT satisfy what you're truly craving.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
By anybody's standards, especially in a country with lots of HIV/AIDS-related challenges, that statistic denotes sheer madness. But it also yields insight into my relationship challenges in Kenya. Specifically, it offered instant clarification for what happened last Saturday afternoon, when the colleague who'd suggested getting together for coffee never showed up.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Friday, November 20, 2009
He paused and said, "Are you eating it while you shop, or will you be taking it with you?"
Curious question. In my head, I was all, like, "Brah, if I wanna shove every kernel of it up my ass, it ain't your concern. Why you all up in my Kool Aid????"
But I caught myself and said, "I'm just heading out the door, thanks." He scooped up the golden nuggets, filling it almost to the brim, and then placed it beside the machine. I reached for the bag. The young man actually pulled it from my grasp, reached down into a drawer, retrieved a stapler, folded the top of the bag and then stapled it closed. Three times.
ANYEURYSM ALERT!!! Dude, WTF? Once again, one of the myriad cultural nuances of expat life had reared its deformed little head. What is it about Kenya that makes service people staple, fold, tape, and stamp the bejeezus out of every receipt, bag, or envelope during every transaction???
That's when I knew for sure: "Dear Sweet Baby Christ on a Cracker, I need a week in America real soon."
"I'm just sayin', Dawg...."
But damn, that thing is awesome! Just found out it's the tallest monument in the world, standing 150 meters high. You almost have to see it to even believe it.
My friend Brenda helped put it all in perspective. She reminded me that there are many bones encased in the pyramids of Egypt, from the thousands of workers who died building it. When it comes to statues, monuments, and memorials, humans can be relentless about ignoring practicality.
Okay, I've been here now almost 17 months, and it would be a pretty safe bet that Yellow Smock Guy is actually extracting a bribe in this very instant, before signalling to some half-starved urchin to move away from this guy's bumper and allow him to exit the parking space. (Hey, you gotta admit the urchin strategy is a lot cheaper than a mechanical boot.)
Next, while I can appreciate these walking billboards for a less corrupt society, I can't help thinking the people who need to be ruminating on this message are getting somewhat of a pass. The average citizen ekeing out a grim existence on a dollar a day already knows corruption is evil. That's why they're living on a dollar a day...and probably can't even afford a parking space. Mayhaps a few of these walking billboards should be employed in the halls of Parliament???
Finally, can a sister get a big "DUH!" from her peeps? Hells YEAH, corruption is evil! How bout fleshing out that message like this: "Corruption is strangling the soul of of our nation, and until we decide to prioritize the basic well-being of the many over the luxury of the few, we are surely doomed?"
But wait, all that lettering would cost too much money, and there are far better uses for it. I hope I'm still here when those uses are actually employed.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Friday, November 13, 2009
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Monday, November 9, 2009
After a challenging few days it hit me: I really DO know when to hold 'em, AND when to fold 'em. And I'm sitting on the balcony of the swanky-swank Le Meridien Hotel near Daker listening to the waves crashing along the shoreline, and I am fucking GOLDEN. 48 Karat, to be exact. One for every year of my richly blessed life.