Saturday, 11 April 2009

Kids and Curiosity

Sitting at a table outside a café in Kisii, I naturally become the centre of attention, especially for the kids walking home from school.

The bigger kids smile shyly and wave, the little ones stare, wide-eyed.

Some of the bigger kids encourage the smaller ones to come over and touch me. I hold my hand out so that they don't have to get too close to this weird, pale person sitting in the main street of their town.

Kisii, is not a major tourist area and as such is visited by very few Europeans or Americans, other than volunteer students, usually young and female, taking a gap year.

So, to see a mature white man in town is quite a sight.

It was the same in Komarock, a suburb to the east of Nairobi. As my hosts do not smoke, I took to sitting on the step outside their walled plot to have a cigarette.

At first, the local kids passed on the other side of the road. Then, some became braver and walked closer so that they could get a better look.

The ice was broken when I sat there with my digital camera. "Please, take my picture." "No, me, me, mimi!"

These kids live near the capital city, but many, especially the younger ones have never seen a white man, certainly not in their neighbourhood.

Watamu was different. Although it is still a small fishing village, because of the white sands protected by the reef, it has become a tourist attraction. There are many high-end hotels, run by Europeans. There are a lot of white people around. In the local supermarket, next to the Commissioner's office, European customers outnumber local residents.

People do not look twice when I am walking down the road, unless I am accompanied by my two step-children, Natasha and Ian, who are Kenyan.

It can be a bit disconcerting, being stared at, but I quickly realised that it is sheer curiosity - nothing sinister, just inquisitiveness - I can happily live with that.

Of Police, demonstrations, dying, etc.

This account may sound familiar.

There is an incident involving the deployment of a number of uniformed police officers. There are also various members of the public present; some violent offenders, some completely innocent and some, no doubt, able to switch either way depending upon how they feel or how much alcohol they have consumed, or what their cultural attitude to authority (specifically the police) might be.

During this incident, a man is pushed over and later dies of a heart attack. The man who pushed him over was trying to push him, of that there is no doubt. But he wasn’t trying to kill him. The Coroner declared that the victim died of natural causes and the perpetrator was never charged with anything even approaching manslaughter or murder.

Sound familiar?

Here is where the story changes dimension.

The national papers cover it as a factual piece, BBC News Websites give it a bit but not too much and national radio is almost silent over the issue. Almost no one howls for summary justice or a special enquiry. Do you know of this incident?

The dead man was PC Chris Roberts, the offender was Patrick Savage and it happened almost invisibly in Brinkburn Gardens, Edgware on Boxing Day 2007. At first, when initial reports flashed out on the wires that a policeman had died during an incident in London, the media ran it as “Breaking News!”. As soon as the circumstances became clear, they binned it pretty quickly.

H/T Inspector Gadget

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

And They Wonder Why We Complain ...

MPs rack up £1.4mn five-star free trips

Taxpayers are funding dozens of overseas “fact-finding” missions with many committee members staying in five-star hotels and flying first class.

Evening Standard - London

Backbench MPs racked up almost £1.4mn of free trips last year with a further £1mn of excursions already booked this year.

Full story on Gulf Times

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

What To Do ... ?

I have been planning to go out to Kenya immediately after Easter to get things started at the shamba.

But I have just received a text from my significant other, who lives in eastern Kenya. She has applied for a job with a Tanzanian company and has been "invited" to their headquarters for a few weeks. She is parking the kids with her sister and will be gone during the time I had intended being in Kenya.

Although my trips are mainly to work with KCIS and the Twiga home, I like to steal a few days to see my Sig. Other. I can't afford two trips in quick succession, so what do I do?

Either I go as planned but don't see my partner and kids (I haven't seen them for a year,now), or I put off my trip until the end of May so that I can see her, but putting off overdue work that really needs to get done now.

I am fresh out of ideas. I'll have to sleep on it.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Goodbye, Jade

So Jade Goody is no more. Her funeral took place yesterday, but apart from her immediate family, especially her two sons, she will not be missed.

I would have liked to have met Jade. OK, she came over as a thick, fat slob of a person, but she was a WYSIWYG*.

But, firstly, I don't think she was thick. She was certainly uneducated and ignorant. That was not her fault. It was the fault of the circumstances of her childhood and her education.

It struck me that all Jade wanted was to be loved. She finally achieved this when she was chosen as a competitor in Big Brother. She became an overnight celebrity, and loved every second of it. She had arrived. And she capitalised on it, but then blew it with her appearance in Celebrity Big Brother. She didn't even realise what she was doing to her "career". When she saw the footage after she emerged from the Big Brother house, she was shocked, ashamed.

She was not a racist. But, she let her mouth do the talking with little or no intervention from her brain. In effect, she was acting like the big kid that she still was.

She made great efforts to make amends, and succeeded. She entered the Indian version of Big Brother. And it was there that she learned that she had cancer. She was open about it, because that was the only way she knew how.

This is where her canniness came out. When she realised that she might not survive the illness, she made plans to ensure that her two beloved boys would be well looked after. She sold her story, her life, to the media. And she made a fortune.

Most people, when they find that they are likely to die, do not broadcast it, and certainly would not advertise it. But Jade was an in your face sort of person. Take it or leave it.

Many people, especially young women, took it. The number of cervical cancer tests increased as a direct result of the publicity surrounding Jabde's illness.

Theoretically, many lives will be saved because of Jade Goody.

There are many people with a worse epitaph.

*WYSIWYG = What You See Is What You Get