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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Week 4: Crow vs Monkey; Man vs Ant

Week 4: Crow vs Monkey; Man vs Ant

This week has been fraught with battles of nature and throwing caution to the wind. Caution in this tale will be represented by my buttocks.

Last weekend was fairly sedate. On Friday evening, I sound engineered for Katie's first ever school music concert, which was a brilliant success, despite Katie not being a trained music teacher. She rocked it and so did the kids. The highlight was a gloriously silly customed version of the Jabberwocky poem, complete with sound effects. I sound engineered for the event and the student rumours started, 'That's Miss Thoburn's fiancé!!'

An aborted Christmas shopping trip in the old town left us with plane tickets to Nairobi for next week and a fistful of cash. I went to exchange some money at an exchange place in a hotel. It was caged and manned by a rifle-toting security guard in a cricket helmet. He led me into a booth with a teller who exchanged my traveller's cheques. It was a tiny suffocating booth with a time release lock and the teller sure enough left me with a strong meaty fart to contend with while he went to photocopy my passport. Nice.

After a spot of lunch and haggling unsuccessfully with market sellers for a pair of second-hand Etnies trainers, Katie and I decided to head to Kongowea Market, a little market on our side of New Nyali Bridge. It is a massive sprawling and dirty market, full of cool modern clothes. It's strange, you walk around surrounded by Top Shop and H&M and Abercrombie and Fitch's latest collections and you wonder, how on earth did it all end up here in Mombasa? Well, dear reader, this market is where the relief clothes sent by charity shops seem to end up. So all those donations you make to charity shops that aren't sold in the shops themselves, or the bags you take to those weird green nuclear containers in supermarket car parks, well the clothes all end up being resold in Kongowea Market for diggedy-dirt cheap. I bought muchos shorts and t-shirts for a total of 500 shillings (we are talking 150 shillings to a pound). Kongowea Market is a tough experience. It's extremely intimate and everything is close together. It's muddy and there was sellers everywhere. You step over them in the path. Everyone is chewing qat (that leafy stimulant). The shacks chocker with stuff back on to other shacks all chocker with stuff. As soon as the sellers see the musungu ('honky') and her strangely dressed boyfriend ('Nikesh') they all follow us and call for us to come visit their stall-shack. More often than not the clothes are those weird Hawaii shirts or t-shirts with company logos (Kudos: for all your photocopy needs; MacMillan Finance) that you can easily walk on by, Dionne Warwick-style.

My favourite bit of bartering came when I had agreed on a price for some shorts with a guy. His mum shouted out, 'And 50 extra shillings so I can buy lunch. Go on, 50 more shillings so I can eat lunch.' I peered around the man to see the woman talking to me. I found a plump lady, lying on pillows, with her feet up, eating a big plate of rice and lentils. I said, 'But you're eating lunch now.' The man said to me, 'Do you want my wife to starve?" I replied that she didn't look like she was in danger of starving, besides, she already had her lunch and was eating it. They wanted me to reimburse her for it. I declined.

After the sweaty perusals in Kongowea, we headed back home to cool down in the pool. No sooner had we dived in when we noticed… bloody pool is being chemical-ised again. All these chemicals I keep diving into, I might grow an extra leg or nipple by the end of the year.

Saturday evening brought with it some oppressive heat and my worst nightmare: a trip to see a Bollywood film, 'Dhoom 2'. I hate modern Bollywood. With all its apparent silliness, the derivative copying of Western films, the usage of rippling actors saying the most bizarre English phrases 'Do the needful', and the need to no longer bother integrating the songs into the plot structure, it's an all-singing all-dancing all-action day-glo nightmare. 'Dhoom 2' was a mixture of 'Heat', 'Entrapment', 'Mission Impossible 2' and a bizarre subtle hint of 'Brokeback Mountain' with songs. There was a scene with a garish transvestite playing our glorious queen. It was a nightmare. Sunday involved swimming and relaxing at the beach before the week's battles commenced.

Monday morning and I was the harbinger of death for ants. I found multiple ant trails all over the flat. Most heading for the warmth of my laptop. I got out the bug spray (handily called 'Doom') and I Doomed their asses, leaving trails of dead ant carcasses all over the flat, as a message to other errant guerrilla ant factions and their splinter cells that I was not to be trifled with. There was an ant trail from our toilet cistern all the way across the room to the shower head. I Doomed their asses too. I am the Ant-Killer. I will go down in ant history for this genocidal destruction. It all started when I found ants crawling all over my laptop, trying to get inside and eat things and cause mischief. Sufficed to say, I f**cking lost with those ants on Monday morning so I got trigger-happy and Doomed their asses. I felt a bit bad for all the destruction. But it was self-defence. They invaded my area first. Monday and Tuesday I spent working on 'Mantra' and recording songs. An album of little acoustic songs is starting to emerge. Loads of 2 and 3 minute poppy acoustic tracks, kinda anti-folk style. I'm enjoying it. This will constitute 'The Blatteroon' LP. Research on my Britishness project has started too.

Tuesday was the ultimate show-down: Crow vs. Monkey. It was quite the battle too. Outside our balcony is a tree. I was sat on the balcony innocently typing away when I noticed a commotion in the way of hastily rustled branches. I looked up to find a monkey trying to grab a crow from a branch and throw it to the ground. The crow resisted, using the power of flight to escape the monkey's clasp. The monkey bared its teeth and launched an airborne attack, jumping at the crow. The crow fought back though, and turned round and flapped in the monkey's face, pecking out as hard as it could, trying to peck the monkey's eyes. The monkey, blinded pushed the crow back and there was a flap and a tussle before two other crows arrived to help crow 1 out. The monkey had no chance so it lunged for glory, landing a vicious punch on the crow and falling to the ground as the crow and its mates flew away.

1-0 to crow I think. Although, we are checking the rule books to see what they say about getting your mates to help.

Wednesday night, Katie and I decorated a plant on our balcony with fairy lights, tinsel and baubles in an attempt to feel more Christmassy. Obviously, we are completely oblivious to Christmas saturation at home and it feels a little weird. We both felt tinges of homesickness for a regular Christmas this week. No adverts or omniscient Santa or present-shopping or roast potatoes. The Christmas plant kinda helped with our Christmas pines (:arf: what a pun!). We also have been learning Christmas songs on the guitar and piano. Our crowd-pleasing favourite is 'Last Christmas I Gave You My Heart' by George Michael. On a drive to a restaurant nights later with Katie G (another teacher) we sang carols the whole way. Well, I say sang, but the truth is we all sang the first few lines with confidence and hummed the rest with the occasional word thrown in because, hell, we can't remember the words. It was nice to see that other schools sang 'O Come All Ye Faithful' like our school did. A whisper for the first two 'Oh come let us adore him' before a loud and racous 'OH COME LET US ADORE HIM, CHRI-I-IST THE LORD!!' as loud as you can to upset the teachers. Yes, we're missing Christmas out here. I'm sure people are celebrating it but there aren't many decorations and we don't have a television so it's passing us by a little. Plus, it's ridiculously hot and neither of us associate Christmas with heat.

Crow vs Monkey round 2: Thursday afternoon. I came back in from football (two days in a row in the heat, running around breathing in hot air… suffocating) to hear a tussle going on. I ran to the balcony. I missed the fight but monkey was in the tree looking pleased with himself, a feather sticking out of his mouth (okay, I made the last bit up, but a metaphorical feather). So I reckon he's evened it up. 1-1 Crow vs Monkey.

That afternoon I had thrown caution to the wind. I had gone food shopping and decided to take a matatu home. Except, matatus are tiny and you have to contort your body into all manner of shapes to sit down anywhere, and I had a backpack on and two full bags of shopping. I struggled and twisted and tried to turn my body round to sit down but as I did so, the matatu started driving and before I knew it, my buttocks were hanging out of the matatu, I was holding on and standing up proud as a father. My bum caught the glorious wind and threw caution to it. It was a liberating airy experience and I emerged from that matatu journey a changed man.

So, people's Eastender updates have been a bit rubbish so allow me to ruin Christmas Day for you: Pauline Fowler dies.

Next week, Katie and I head to Nai-robbery then to Western Kenya to see some rainforest, a swamp and some tea plantations. The week after will be a mammoth entry with Christmas and our West Kenya adventure all in one. It's a bumper Christmas issue one might say.

Have a great Christmas people. We'll miss you. But then we're planning to have a Christmas barbeque and head to the beach so I imagine it's an even trade.

Love and avocados,



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