Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Reflections from the forest

Greetings from the forest in Kiambu Kenya
A number of thoughts and imaginings continue to entertain me as I proceed through life considering  what people think (in spite of repeated entreaties to abandon this habit) of my lifestyle choices and personal responsibilities.
So far what I’m doing is keeping me alive and positive in the face of so much destruction. From here the situation in North America seems more scary than what’s happening around me, although, who can say when I’m only aware of a smidgin of the reality both here and there. It’s definitely  warmer here though and cheaper to live, mostly.
 The political situation in Bamenda is sad and frightening, but the non-violent response by the people there gives me hope. I'm sad we had to leave so suddenly.
Just outside Nairobi we are living behind an electric fence next door to a supposed park that was logged by a relative of the previous/current president.  What we are surrounded by is quite parklike in terms of unbroken forest for many metres  along a small river where a golf course shares the other bank. It has not  been disturbed since it was logged over 100 years ago… Troops of monkeys pass by occasionally, upsetting the two dogs living here (more security features) or stealing any fruit left unmonitored for more than a minute. The cats are no help.

Stepping (or mostly driving) out of here through a housing development of monster houses built of cement blocks covered in tile with humoungus walls, gates and hedges gives me pause for 'who is going to live in them and what are they creating?' Little fiefdoms or enclaves, cameras and guards, fancy cars and flashy lifestyles. At the road; buses, 3 wheeled taxis and motorcycles (mattatus, tuk tuk's and, piki pikis)  along with private cars racing by interspersed with trucks. The construction continues of apartment blocks on side roads along  this main road through what used to be large coffee plantations. A few gates still, everyone seems to need some feeling of security, no doubt the after affects of rebellion and colonial control or keeping their livestock from wandering.
At Thindigwa fruit sellers line the road beside the more permanent commercial establishments. At the road junction there are a number of shelters, filled with the waiting piki-pikis mostly, as the Mattatus disgorge and pick-up,  often barely stopping.
Further into town the highway circles and criss-crosses the city, traffic inching along at various times of the day from one exit to the other. The infra structure has yet to catch up with it’s success. New roads under construction beside bumper to bumper vehicles the piki-pikis weaving in and out  while hawkers flog an amazing variety of items to the waiting motorists. Who knew they could sell pillows and towels ? Apples and bananas, potato crisps and tissues, fly swatters and solar flashlights.
It takes an inordinate amount of time to get to where ever we go, mostly due to the traffic, narrow streets and little courtesy. Should it be a mall, of which there are many, everyone must be checked with a wand and walk through the scanner. My nail clippers seldom fail to get a smile from the guards and the military are frequently found unobtrusively  tucked away in quiet corners regarding the scene.
In the grocery stores the variety is phenomenal, how many different types and brands of rice, hot sauce, dairy products and of course alcohol there are! Just like North America eh? However I’m shocked and disappointed by the lack of choice in chocolate. Looks a lot like a monopoly situation. I found one example of fair-trade in a health food store, and that company was purchased by a multi-national. Not naming names.
But out in the “suburbs”beyond the ring road, as the city slowly eats into the arable land there are fewer gates and walls. Mostly folks are crammed into cell blocks of apartments, stacked  here and there across the landscape. It looks like a building boom with so many under construction, with pole scaffolding suspended off the unfinished cement blocks. Or metal roofed one story ’sheds’ housing innumerable families, trash littering the landscape as far as the eye can see.
If anything it emphasises my deeply felt lack of interest in city living. The hustle and bustle certainly providing opportunities for the myriad people flocking to cities everywhere. Commerce and business providing incentives and, hopefully, inspiration, while more trees are cut down, more cement and pavement cover up the earth. But within this environment are many and varied items and restaurants…
I’m considering hiring a tour guide. I’m almost out of thread/string/twine for my weaving, it seems few here do any crochet, knitting or anything but rug weaving. My one successful foray into a mall scored me a colourful selection of some very fine mercerized cotton from France at more than double the price of what I was using previously, from Nigeria.
 I’ve been discouraged from entering the market where I’m sure Indian cotton of similar quality is available, hence the guide. But it appears we’ll be mobile again soon, nomadic so to speak, visiting and exploring more of Kenya, the coast and then back to Tanzania. I’ll park the loom and much of our library till we locate more permanent temporary accommodation.

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