I had a farm in Africa

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image source : From Isi, WordPress.com

“I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills. The Equator runs across these highlands, a hundred miles to the north, and the farm lay at an altitude of over six thousand feet. In the day-time you felt that you had got up high, near the sun, but the early mornings and evenings were limpid and restful, and the nights were cold.

The geographical position and the height of the land combined to create a landscape that had not its like in all the world. There was no fat on it and no luxuriance anywhere; it was Africa distilled up through six thousand feet, like the strong and refined essence of a continent. The colours were dry and burnt, like the colours of pottery. The trees had a light delicate foliage, the structure of which was different from that of the trees in Europe; it did not grow in bows or cupolas, but in horizontal layers, and the formation gave the tall solitary tress a likeness to the palms, or a heroic and romantic air like full-rigges ships with their sails furled, and to the edge of a wood a strange appearance as if the whole wood were faintly vibrating. Upon the grass of the great plains the crooked bare old thorn-trees were scattered, and the grass was spiced like thyme and bog-myrtles; in some places the scent was so strong that it smarted in the nostrils. All the flowers that you found on the plains or upon the creepers and liana in the native forest, were diminutive like flowers of the downs – only just in the beginning of the long rains a number of big, massive heavy-scented lilies sprang out on the plains. The views were immensely wide. Everything you saw made for greatness and freedom and unequalled nobility.

The chief feature of the landscape, and of your life in it was the air. Looking back on a sojourn in the African highlands, you are struck by your feeling of having lived for a time up in the air. The sky was rarely more than pale blue or violet, with a profusion of mighty, whiteness, ever-changing clouds towering up and sailing on it, but it has a blue vigour in it and at a short distance it painted the ranges of hills in the woods a fresh deep blue. In the middle of the day, the air was alive over the land, like a flame burning; it scintillated, waved and shone like running water, mirrored and doubled all objects, and created great Fata Morgana. Up in this high air you breathed easily, drawing in vital assurance and lightness of heart. In the highlands you woke up in the morning and thought : Here I am, where I ought to be”.

Out of Afica, incipit, Karen Blixen 1937.

Pride and Prejudice

I was seated in a café of an elegant shopping mall in Nairobi’s posh area. I was reading next to a couple sitting at the table next to me. The man was black and wore elegant yet casual clothes. The white woman wore clothes that would go unnoticed. They had ordered one drink which they shared with the help of a single straw, and, as they liked it, the man ordered a second one. They were happily recalling the safari they had just come back from, laughing and speaking of how lucky they were and how wonderful it had been. As it was getting dark and cold, the man then asked for the bill. It was brought to them.

Suddenly the woman started speaking in an angry tone and I was dragged out of my reading.

Every time it’s the same thing! When did it not happen these last days! I will tell the waitress! She has to know. I’m fed up with this!

Honey you can’t go on educating the whole world, said the man

I told you already that I have no ambitions as far as the world is concerned, but I don’t want to contribute to world’s racism. I understand that for you it is not insulting.

You are wrong it is as insulting for me! Do you think I was not annoyed by the warden at Amboseli when he asked if you were also paying for me? It seems like I am a kept man.

She calmed down. It was obvious that she was extremely angry but probably angrier at her partner not understanding, so she calmed down. From the conversation she had I understood that the couple were both UN workers but the man held a higher or more lucrative position.

Finally the waitress came back.

Excuse me do women in Kenya pay for men’s bills? Continue reading

Article on Standard Digital: The brave boy who confronted the terrorists

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Following last Saturday 21st’s  news in Westgate here is an inspirational article on the matter.

Compiled by Sheila Kimani (@sheilakimm)

Soon after his mother had been shot on the thigh during the Westgate mall terror incident, Elliot Prior, a four-year-old British boy showed astonishing bravery by confronting the marauding gunman who ended up begging for his forgiveness.

Elliot Prior, from Windsor, Berkshire, told one of the terrorists that he was a ‘very bad man’ as he protected his mother, Amber, who had been shot in the leg, and six-year-old sister Amelie.

Incredibly, the attacker took pity on the family and bizarrely handed the children Mars bars before telling them: ‘Please forgive me, we are not monsters.’

All this was going on as gunfire rent the air but the family stayed strong hoping for the best.

His mother (Amber, a film producer) told of how she was on the queue to buy milk when the terrorists struck, causing mayhem within the mall. In a bid to stay safe, she and her children hid under a cold meat counter in the Nakumatt supermarket for an hour-and-a-half, upon until the terrorists found them and shot her on the leg.

Elliot’s uncle, Alex Coutts, told The Sun: ‘They had a lucky escape. The terrorists said if any of the kids were alive in the supermarket they could leave.

‘Amber made the decision to stand up and say “yes”.

read more

Planting trees in Ngong hills

I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong hills” .

This is the first sentence of Karen Blixen’s book, Out of Africa, who had published her book under a man’s name, Isak Dinesen, because at that time women writers were not taken seriously.

Today it was the soldier environmental program day, and so we all went to the Ngong DSCF4640hills – ngong means knackles in maasai- to plant 2500 trees.  I was looking forward to this, so I even came back a day ealier from my holidays. Everyone is so exceptionally nice at my working place, it is such a pleasure!

When we arrived the hills could not be seen at all. The mist was so thick that we could not see beyond 20 meters. It was poetic and mysterious. In fact it could have been any landscape in Europe, and more precisely an Irish landscape.

DSCF4643It started raining. But I had brought the kind of shower cap Kenyan ladies wear to protect their weaver ( the fake hair they use as African people’s hair doesn’t grow) that I had bought to a street vendor before stepping into a bus. I had no intention of buying it and didn’t even have the change for it, but he insited and finally ” support sister, support, we are hungry…”. This is how I ended up having this rather ridiculous cap. I can’t say it was the sexiest look ever but it was certainly the most appropriate. The girls  laughed a lot – at me, that is-, but they they had long nails and high heels and they were wearing the sexy clothes. To make things worst on my side, I had also taken pinky kitchen gloves not even knowing that we would use our bare hands to plant as there were no shovels. ” We Africans use our hands they said“.  When it started raining, I continued planting and the other Miss Nairobi girls all run to the umbrellas: Kenyan ladies take good care of their looks!

DSCF4648I planted 125 trees and I think it was the female record. Not that I was special, it’s just that I concentrated only on the planting rather than the carrying ; I worked alone at first and in a team later  it was real fun. I have never laughed as much as today ever since I arrived in Kenya, and I can say I haven’t laughed like this in a very long time.

There was a lady there who spent most of the time under the umbrella, but I saw her plant a tree or two. She was dressed in a rather simple way. I got tired eventually but the main thing is that in my excitement, I had totally forgotten to take breakfast, and run out of home at 6 AM, and I was the first to arrive to Karen from where we were all driven to Ngong hills. It had been a long ride too. At 1PM, I was feeling the hypoglycemia and I went and talked to the lady. By then the hills had uncovered their beauty as the sun was shining we could see ahead and below. ” This is so beautiful…!“. We talked a bit and then I mentioned I was not feeling too well because in my excitement I had forgotten to eat. Continue reading

Saving my soul…

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Godliness in Nairobi. there are so many species of sunbirds. This is a male variable sunbird.
photographic credit: http://www.talking-naturally.co.uk/variable-sunbird-langata-kenya/

I had been bird-watching and was still observing some amazing colourful birds – tiny sunbirds- on the way, when a lady distracted my attention from these winged beauties. Really in the morning when there are no cars, Nairobi is a symphony!

It was Sunday at 8 :30 AM a Scandinavian – Swedish- woman wearing a hat walking with her husband approaches me. “Nice hat” she touches it. “ Where is it from?” – “ Thank you, from Spain”.  Then she starts asking a series of questions that end up reaching the point she had pre-paved: “We came here to attend a very interesting course…. because we are Christians. What about you?”

I say : “I am not a Christian”.

-What  are you? What do you belong to?

-I belong to myself and also to the Creation. ( Initally I had wanted to answer “I am Eva”, but she didn’t ask ” who”, who are you…)

-What do you mean by that?

-I mean that when I need to talk to someone, I talk directly to the person who can provide me with the answer. For example at work I talk to my boss, not to my colleague. When I have a question about life I ask God, not his priests.

– Oh interesting. And have you asked why there is so much suffering?

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Godliness in Nairobi

-Yes. But you see, even without disturbing God, suffering is an emotion, and so the person who suffers has the choice. Suffering is one of them; not to suffer is another.- Oh that’s true. But what about physical pain? It’s difficult to re-direct one’s attention.

I was wondering why I was supposed to start thinking about what was happening to other people whose life I couldn’t solve. But after that I found out that she was actually worried about me. And later still that she was worried about what would happen 1000 years from now… And all the birds, trees, sunlight were there right now!

Then she says that she is a Christian because she has read the Bible and she feels it is really inspired by God.

–          I agree, I replied. But do you think at after He/She inspired the Bible, God stopped speaking?

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Godliness in Nairobi has taken the form of a read flower in this particular case

I didn’t quite get her answer but it was something related to the fact that He still speaks to us in spite of having achieved His perfect book at an early age.

–          What I meant is that that maybe the Coran is also inspired by God, don’t you think?

She said she had tried to read it but she hadn’t got that feeling. So I understood that she wasn’t too keen on poetry. I wanted to say that if she had the same feeling we probably wouldn’t be having this conversation but contrary to her, I had no intention of saving her soul. I’m too selfish.

–          Then I asked about the Vedas

–          Oh the Hindu texts?

I didn’t know that the Vedas were hindu texts but…anyway. She said she hadn’t read them because the Bible was enough for her.

I said she was lucky to have found such a good book, a good book is a blessing! And then as she didn’t seem to like other books I told her that I believe God’s voice could also be heard in Tchaikovsky or Bethoveen’s Symphonies.

Then she came back to her Bible. In fact the Bible seems to be an amazing historic testimony as I learnt from the lecturer of the Walls of Jerusalem museum. Especially the book of Samuel.  She said that what she found amazing with the Bible is that it had predicted things and they had all happened. And she asked me if I was interested in knowing about the future.

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Here Godliness has taken the form of a weaver bird and a bougainviller and a palm tree

-Oh my God! I have enough with what I am doing now, don’t you? You see I am walking in Nairobi, the weather is perfect the sun is shining, the birds are singing, the flowers are amazing, the trees are huge, why should I worry about what’s going to happen in 1000 years from now?

She must have thought I was a lost case, but however she offered me some reading.

-Thank you but I have a lot of reading. I haven’t finished Karen Blixen’s book yet and many other stuff I am reading. Please save your book for somebody else.

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Godliness in Nairobi… no comment

– Thank you,  it was nice to meet you. Have you ever been to Sweden?

– Yes I have. To Stockholm. Beautiful country. The White nights, June 24th the sun ddidn’t set.

– It’s a small world isn’t it?

– Indeed it is.

After that I proceeded to buy a Bible – after all Bible means ” book” in greek- about the Kenyan birds. Nairobi is the capital with most bird species in the world.

Elections day

Today, it’s elections day. It seems people are not going to work so that they can vote. It’s bank holiday. There are no cars in the street, no jams… I wonder if anything is open… can I go for a mikshake or a beer. What about my Ethiopian restaurant… The people in Europe are working I know and I feel like it’s Sunday!

voting queue

voting queue in Nairobi

They say the lines are so huge that some people had started the queue at 5:30 and at 11 they still hadn’t voted. But my friend went there at 6:30 and by 10 he had gone through.

I haven’t followed anything about the elections. I have never had politics as my favourite assignment, unless it’s about Lee Kwan Yew or De Gaulle….But I know that last time it had degenerated into a huge conflct between the tribe of the President and the tribe of the Prime Minister. This year we had been praying for peace. We didn’t even realise how lucky we are in Europe not having anything similar. And yet in Europe we are unhappy with the elections.

The consequence had been many deaths and also no supply. No supply of bank notes, airtime, no food….

So when I went to the supermarket there was no milk left, hardly any bread, the water was gone…

People had advised me to buy some provisions…. The main thing shall be the mosquito repellant. ” but you can’t eat mosquito repellant”. At least they won’t eat me!