I was awakened by the noise of a downpour on the roof. Liz and the kids were already up, but I decided that I wasn’t ready to face the world.
But by about 6.30, I was awake, sort of, and decided to make an appearance, and a cuppa. By 7.30, the house was empty, apart from me.
It is now sunny and there is hardly any air movement. I think it is going to be hot.
I was right, hot it is, especially when walking along the roadside. I took myself for a little trip into “town”. We are in a village outside a larger village, so any real shopping or banking, etc. has to be done in the bigger village.
I walked down the road and found a Safaricom agent and topped my cell phone up. As luck would have it, just down the road, there was a motorcycle taxi which took me right to the bank, which is a fair old way.
From there I walked back up to the crossroads and back towards the house, when Mum phoned to wish me a happy birthday. We had quite a long chat before I arrived at the “supermarket” (their imagination, not mine) to get food and other necessities, like cigarettes. Unfortunately, the choice of meat was sausages or spare ribs, so I got both.
Again, I was lucky, as a tuk-tuk was just dropping off a fare so I hailed him. All I could remember about the house is that the lane is opposite a large hardware store. He knew where it was and even where I am staying and brought me to the door.
An uneventful adventure, you might say, but I feel quite pleased with myself as Liz tends to shepherd me around like a kid – and I’m a big boy now. I have travelled across Kenya, right to left all my myself.
My only gripe is the cost of local fares. They seem very high compared to Kisii, but then, this place is full of tourists, so I suppose I will have to accept it.
After a better lunch that I have had for a few days, and a cup of tea, I ventured outside. Under the mango tree outside the front door, there is a wicker couch. It is in the shade of the tree and looked very inviting. I tried it out. It was slightly damp from the morning’s rain, which was very pleasant on my bare back.
As I lay there looking up through the tree, watching tiny lizards scampering around, I thought that some of the branches looked a little old and fragile.
As I sat up to take a swig of tea, a small mango fell and landed where my head had been a few seconds previously. It wasn’t big enough to do any serious damage, but it would have smarted had I not sat up when I did.
Premonition, coincidence? Or was it written that David was not to be hit on the head on his birthday?
I decided to have a little exploration of the village where I am staying. It is out of the village of Watamu, and has a strictly local population. The road goes from Gede to Watamu only, but there is quite a lot of traffic, mainly matatus, tuk-tuks and motorbikes, but also a few safari trucks and private cars.
The road is lined on both sides by commercial outlets, ranging from small stalls made of poles and corrugated steel sheets, or thatched with banana leaves, to small blocks of block built, more solid structures. It is very colourful and quite noisy, especially when a mzungu walks past out of tourist season.
I wasn’t looking for anything, rather just “window” shopping, but I bought some pencils for the kids to use at school and some cough medicine for Ian.
It was hot, I was sweating and had not taken my hat, so I decided to retreat back to the house before I fried the top of my head.
Liz worked this morning until 2pm and Natasha was having her hair re-braided, which left Ian with me.
Ian is a quiet boy, for a 7 year-old, very obedient, most of the time, and is as curious as only a young child can be. He loves to play with my camera, snapping away at anything that takes his fancy. A few of his photos are rather good.
After breakfast of toast (more like burnt bread, really), he clicked away at this and that until lunchtime.
Then he started to get restless. It was not surprising. It had been raining almost non-stop since I woke up and it wasn’t about to stop, although we wanted to go into the village to meet Liz and get him some flip-flops.
So I put my waterproof jacket on him and we set off, the bare-foot little boy holding my hand.
We got a tuk-tuk into the centre of the village and did a bit of shopping in the other supermarket, Mama Lucy’s.
Outside again, we were accosted by a fish seller, who offered calamari and white fish, but I told him that decisions about fresh food were made by my wife.
Within about five minutes, there was a gathering of various traders around us and when Liz arrived, it was evident that most knew her. It wasn’t surprising as they had all been raised in the village.
We bought the calamari and fish and then went into the locals’ village to get flip-flops for the two children.
Back home, the calamari was cooking when the gas ran out. By now it was dark and still raining, and I wondered if we were going to eat, but Liz just made a quick phone-call and someone went to get us a new gas cylinder.
Dinner was lovely, calamari and chips, and Ian and I stuffed ourselves.
It blew a gale and when it wasn’t, it rained – all night.
A day of rest – apparently – if you haven’t got two under-eights in the house. I didn’t get any rest. For most of the day, Liz was at her sister’s with Natasha, to have her hair done and I was left to amuse Ian.
When she came back, she had he niece, Beonce with her. She took one look at me and burst into tears. I was surprised as she has spent a lot of time with me on my previous visits. But there was no winning her round. If I got too close to her, she cried.
I took far too much sun and far too much exercise.
And on the 7th day, it rained. No surprise there then. It has rained every day since I have been here.
I am suffering from the effects of too much sun, or heat and presently am sitting here with a cold flannel on my head, supping tea like it is going out of fashion.
I have just spent the last 2 ½ hours lying on the couch shivering as if I were cold, which I am not. But I have had to put a thick top on and feel a little better. I am now on my 3rd cup of tea – I cannot face food at the moment.
My head and the back of my neck feel like a furnace, and just to make things worse, every fly in the village has decided to visit me today. I did contemplate getting onto the bed and using the net to keep them off, but that is just giving in.
Talking of the ‘Net, I have not been able to get a top-up for my Safaricom dongle in the village, which is very annoying as I know there are important emails waiting for action.
I was rather hoping to have shaken off this lethargy by now (12.30) but I cannot find the energy to do anything.
Rhino Ark have just phoned asking why I haven’t started the updates since the Rhino Charge and I had to explain that I cannot get an Internet top-card. I didn’t bother telling him that I was a sick as a dog, I am short of cash because they hadn’t paid me for two months, or that we keep getting power cuts.
Now the water has gone off. This is not a good situation when one is dehydrated.
There is nothing in the house for the kids’ tea so I am going to have to go to the shops. It is not far, but seems like the end of the Earth today.
No bread! There are two shops and neither of them has any bread. So much for the honey sandwiches for tea. A packet of biscuits will have to do.
Struggled to get back to the house and collapsed in the entrance – exhausted.
Yesterday was one bad day, I am guessing it was heat stroke. My head felt like it would explode, my neck was hot and everything was an effort. When the kids came home from school, it was an effort to get them their tea and get them to do their homework. Natasha, sensing that I was not on form, started to play up about doing her homework.
It was a relief when Liz got home and told me to lie down and rest – again.
I managed to eat a little and I drank loads of water, so much that I had to get up four times in the night. Well, at least it proved that my kidneys hadn’t failed.
I slept quite well, and woke up feeling almost human
Today, I still feel weak and to add to my misery, I have infected a mosquito bite on my leg. It has swollen up and is bright red. My legs were never the best of sights but they have been totally annihilated by those little pests, despite insect spray and a mosquito net.
Money has become a real issue and I have texted a business associate in Nairobi to send me the money he “borrowed” from me (without my permission) in September 07, £280 or about Ksh 33000 at today’s rate. Somehow I doubt that he will send it. Other than going to the law, I don’t know how I am going to get it back.
Liz and I have been trying to find a Safaricom retailer that sells 500/- top-up cards. So far we have only looked in the village, which is the commercial centre for the area, but to no avail. However, yesterday, while I was struggling to buy bread, I noticed a Safaricom agent with a big, smart shop in our village, and I am just wondering if I can hobble there and back. It is getting really serious, I need to get onto the Internet to download the Rhino Ark data and update their website.
If I do manage to walk there only to find that they don’t sell them, I will be very annoyed – and will have a very sore leg.
My leg is a mess, with red blotches from the ankle to half-way up my calf. It is painful to walk on, but I can manage a few steps if I walk on tip-toe.
When the children came home from school, it was the usual routine, change, tea, homework. But then they disappeared and I had to hobble around the compound until I found them at a neighbour’s. I was annoyed although they had done nothing wrong.
There was a noise like an industrial sewing machine, a constant staccato clank-clank. I eventually identified it as a tuk-tuk. I hadn’t realised until recently that these tiny machines are diesel powered. I don’t know what size engine they have, but they are almost all Piaggio, and I thought they were 50cc scooters. Well, the front end of a tuk-tuk is a scooter with an axle on the back and seats for tree skinny passengers.
Mum phoned this afternoon. I told her about my infected leg and she wanted to get me home – like now! I was tempted. She will phone again tomorrow to see how I am.
I love the sound of grasshoppers, crickets, cicadas, chirruping away in the balmy warm evening – but not when their chirruping is as strident as a referee’s whistle and it is right outside the bedroom window when I am trying to sleep.
Just got up for a call of nature – the bloody thing isn’t outside the window, it’s in the bedroom somewhere!
It was raining and the water was splashing on my head, the bed is under a window. I reached up to close the louvre glass – there isn’t any! This is the only window in the house that cannot be closed. I shifted further down the bed.
Chirrup, chirrup, chirrup – if it doesn’t stop soon, I am mounting a one-man hunting expedition.
Chirrup, chirrup – chirrup, chirrup. I am going to kill … oh, that’s my phone! Who is sending me an SMS at this hour? I look at my watch. It is 22.30.
It may be because I have been badly affected by insect bites, it may be because I got heat stroke, it may be because money is short, it may be because I am at the house alone during the day, but as far as I am concerned, in my present frame of mind, this place is a hell-hole. It is too hot, too flat (which is a blessing with my leg as it is), too expensive, and everyone who attends church must be deaf! Why? Because all the preachers use P.A. systems turned up to distort level. I can hear them ¼ of a mile away, so the people in the churches must be deaf.
And then there are the mullahs, calling to prayer five times a day, except that they can’t count. I heard seven yesterday!
I have finally found out why I can’t get top-up cards for my modem. They don’t exist. I should be using phone top-ups. They are – apparently – the same. So I am going to hobble down the street to get me some credit and finally do some work – and maybe post this blog up, rather than let it simmer and stew on my hard disk.
If I am not back within the hour, it is because my leg has given out and I am slowly frying on the side of the road.
I hobbled into the street and to the shops. Once there, I could not remember what I went for, other than cigarettes.
I went to a Safaricom agent for a 500/- top-up, but she didn’t have any top-up cards at all. The next agent only had 20/-. I bought one for my phone, but it is no good for the modem, it won’t accept less than 250/- and that makes for expensive use.
I couldn’t go any further down the street without the risk of my leg giving out before I got home, and I am guessing that I will only find 500/- cards in the tourist area, which this certainly isn’t. People around here, the locals, real Kenyans, only buy 20/- at the time. Then they flash their friends (ring once and hang up), hoping that the friend has enough credit to phone back. It is the Kenyan way – don’t pay for anything unless you have to.
So now, having rested my leg, I am debating whether to go into the village. That’s another 200/- wasted if I don’t find a card.
The flies are driving me mad. I cannot stop them coming in as the windows are louvred and do not close completely, and in any case, I would suffocate. It is heavy and humid. I hope it rains soon.
It is nearly 5pm and the kids haven’t got back from school – and I am starting to worry, but I will not panic and phone Liz until 5.15.
I phoned at 5.10. She told me that the school bus had been in an accident but the kids were OK.
So I walked up the lane to the street and waited … and waited. I wandered back to the house as my phone battery was reading empty. I stuck it on charge for 10 minutes then wandered back up the lane. Still no sign of the kids.
I saw tuk-tuks with 10 or 12 kids in them going past, but not my kids. Matatus were spewing out kids, but not mine.
Eventually I gave up and wandered back home. No sooner had I arrived than a tuk-tuk pulled into the compound with the kids in it, and Liz was not far behind.
So we are all safe and well. A motorbike taxi had hit the side of the bus, disabling it and the school could not get a replacement.