Saturday, 6 December 2008

I have touched on the use of Vaseline in Africa before, in the blog "The Colour of my Skin". Kids seem to love being greased.

But if you are a bit slow, they will set about it themselves. My friend's daughter, Faith, who is about 2 years old, decided that Mama and Baba were too slow and decided to Vaseline herself.

Now, Abigael, having four kids to look after, doesn't mess about with the little jars we get in England. Oh no, she has a 500ml pot. Faith found it. And she plastered herself.

We had to scrape it off her - the picture is after we had got the worst off her!

She was not happy.


When I was in South Africa in the late 80s, I fostered a few street kids. The first two, a pair of 12 year-olds loved the swimming pool, despite the fact that it was mid-winter.

When they dried off, they asked for Vaseline for their skin. I didn't have any, but I did have some Johnson's Baby Oil.

The first kid coated himself with the oil and was quite pleased with the result and was admiring himself in the mirror when the second child came into the room.

"What is this stuff?" he asked, turning his nose up. "You smell like a white kid!"

I wasn't sure how to take that.


On my first visit to Kenya in September 2007, I planned to visit Kisii for a day or two to meet Vincent, Abigael and, of course, the children at the home.

I drove there with my associate, Muindi, and arrived late on Saturday evening, and after a wash and a meal, we were taken to the annexe to our host's house where five or six orphans were being housed.

When we entered, the room was in darkness. The light was switched on and before me was a bunch of kids sitting around a table, waiting for their supper. The smallest, who I later found out was Josephat, was sitting on a stool in the corner of the room. Upon seeing me, his eyes widened, his jaw dropped ... and he fell off his stool! I have never had that effect on anyone before, but Josephat was only just 4 years old and had never seen a mzungu.

Of course, the other kids laughed at him, but he didn't care. He soon composed himself and with a big smile, planted himself on my lap, where he stayed until I had to leave.

The following day, a Sunday, most of the kids met up at "the plot", all in their Sunday best. I had a bag of small presents donated by the people in my village, toothbrushes and pencils. I felt very awkward, giving out such mean, small presents.

But the kids were delighted. Just imagine giving a UK kid a toothbrush and one pencil as a present.


Jojo was the first to call me Baba Mzungu (Swahili for White Daddy) and before I left Kisii, he made me promise that I would return.

Of course, I did, the following March, and he was my shadow for the 10 days I spent in Kisii.

The only problem is language. Jojo speaks about two words of English and I speak not many more of Swahili. But it doesn't matter, we sort of understand each other.

And, whenever Jojo does try to speak English, he always precedes it with the word "English".

So, he might say, "Bab' Mzungu - English - Josephat good boy."

Friday, 5 December 2008

Chicken for Dinner

During my visit to Kenya in March of this year, I was called back from Coast, where I had been staying with my significant other and children. I had intended spending Easter there, but business called.

So, on the Thursday before Good Friday, I had to visit the offices of a client in Nairobi, after which I had little to do for the next week or so.

As no one in my hosts' household smoked, I took to sitting on their step outside their compound to partake in my filthy habit. This caused a lot of curiosity amongst the estate's children (and quite a few adults) as this neighbourhod is off the beaten track as far as either tourists or white Kenyans are concerned. In fact, for some of the smaller children, I was the first mzungu they had seen close up.

So, there I was, on the step, puffing away and keeping an eye on my hosts' two girls, who are not normally allowed to play outside, but as I was there to keep and eye on them ...

A chicken was foraging along the pavement, then running for her life as the local kids chased it. When the kids got fed up, she would go back to foraging - until she was in front of me. She cocked her head to one side as she regarded me. At this point a little boy decided to throw a stone at her and he was a pretty good shot. The chicken squawked and ran towards me.

To my surprise, she jumped up onto my step and roosted beside me, really pressed up against me like a puppy or kitten might. This amused the children and they all gathered round to see what the strange mzungu - or the chicken - would do.

I didn't know what to do, so I started to stroke her head, then her wings. Now, I don't particularly like birds. It's the feathers, I think. I like to look at them, I am fascinated when the starlings make wonderful patterns in the sky, but I do not like to touch them.

So, there I was, sitting on a step, stroking a chicken! And surrounded by the neighbourhood kids - lots of them, and the chicken was making cooing noises, which I took to be contentment, although she could have been telling the kids that chased her that she had won this particular round. I don't know. I don't speak chicken.

But my strategy worked. A little boy sat the other side of the chicken and started to stroke her gently. Then the other kids joined in, and the chicken seemed to be enjoying this unprecedented, non-violent attention.

That is until the kid from next door came out and said, "That's where you are. Sir, this is our dinner for tonight!"

Happily, the chicken did not speak English. But I bet she was one of the happier chickens to meet her maker.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

More tea, sir?

As in Britain, or at least, England, when you make a social visit in Kenya, you will be offered a cup of tea. Now, the Kenyans are justly proud of their tea, most of which is grown in the western highlands around Kericho.

Which begs the question, why, when they can produce such wonderful tea, do they slaughter it in their preparation of it for drinking?

Tea is served from a Thermos, with a lot of milk and sugar already added. Now, I like tea with a dash of milk and a slight sprinkling of sugar, so I find that tea, as served to me in Kenya is a little too sweet and a little too milky.

In a café in Kisii, I ordered coffee while my two companions had tea. I was not surprised to see the waiter approach the table with a Thermos, but I was surprised when my coffee was served. I was given a pot of hot water, a cup and a tin of Nescafe - do it yourself coffee.

Now, this wasn't a greasy Joe café, this was THE place to be in Kisii!

OK, so I traversed the country to a small village on the coast, not far from Malindi, to spend some time with my to-be significant other and the children. As Sig. other was working, it was my job to get the kids ready for school and make sure they had breakfast before they left. This second was a bit of a trial as they were very keen to get to school (Kenyan kids love school - how refreshing!).

Ian (6 years) usually takes tea with his breakfast. Not thinking straight, I made it with a tea bag in the cup with the usual splash of milk.

"What is this? This is not tea!"

I apologised and offered to make him tea à la Kenyan.

No, Baba, I like this, but what is it?"

"It is English tea. Tea, the way we make it in England."

"I like English tea. You take me to England. Now!"

My Sig.Other also liked my version of tea, although I guess that she will have reverted to the Thermos method while I am not there.

I was not so lucky when I got to Nairobi. Since the PEV, my host's house was (over?) full and making special tea for the mzungu was a task too far.

I did, however persuade the little café next to the office to bring me a tea bag, a pot of hot water and a little milk - so refreshing.