30 January 2009

Electric Bussing Chickens (in order)

Kakamega consumed most of today's activities.  Sue and I had a lucky day off.  While Michael and Jean were done at noon.  It also happened to be Lori's birthday.  Lori is a volunteer at the orphanage with Michael and Jean.  She is a Malava veteran and hails from Atlanta.  Her birthday wish was chicken and fries, a request which we all had no problem meeting. 

We were visited by our laundry girl ( I cannot remember her name) and I set about to take care of a few chores before going to Kakamega.  One of which was to change the outdoor light bulb.  We have a light that is outside the front door and illuminates the courtyard at night.  Last weekend, the light bulb went out.  Judi brought us a new one on Tuesday, but Wednesday morning I discovered that it had in fact exploded.  This morning I found some old bulbs and figured that it would be good to give them a try with the hope of saving some money.  I set up the ladder, placed the bulbs on the window ledge, and climbed tenderly up the shaky ladder.  When I made it high enough to remove the bulb I reached up to remove the broken skeleton.  Bulbs here are different.  Some screw in like standard US bulbs, but others have a smooth end which slides into the fixture.  Two short prongs protrude from opposite sides.  Meant to be aligned on the fixture, pushed with a little force and rotated so that the light stays in place.  Because of this, it can be a little troublesome attempting to remove or install the bulb.  I had trouble reaching high enough to the end of the bulb because it had no more glass.  Seeing a solid metal strand, I placed my pointer finger against it and began to push while my thumb followed suit to push on the one adjacent.  This action caused the completion of the circuit between two filaments of a light bulb attached to a fixture which had been left on.  Electricity poured through my arm to realize the power of the circuit.  My had drew back in an instinctive reflex that seemed to equal the speed of the volts invading my nervous system.  After a moment of deep breaths and the realization that I had stupidly electrocuted myself but was fine, I turned off the light.  Do not worry, I am quite fine.

Sue came by shortly after and we jumped into a matatu.  The matatu's in this area are much smaller than the ones in Nairobi.  They race each other from stop to stop and attempt to corral customers like a farmer does with sheep.  Fortunately for us the second matatu was not too crowded and the conductor insisted that I have a front seat for my legs.  What ensued was a forty five minute joy ride in the most frenetic way.  It was my first trip in a local matatu down the minefield that connects Malava and Kakamega.  I had forgotten how nice it is to sail down the road with the windows open at a blistering 45 to 60 mph.  The ride reminded me of skiing (which I miss).  The pot holes are like moguls that most cars seem to do the best to dance around.  The ones that try the hardest tend to have the least success and the slowest trip.  There are a few who just barrel down in a relatively straight path paying no mind to what is in front.  Our driver was one of the rare few who could dodge each of the potholes while accelerating between each stop.  It is a graceful chaos that I have only witnessed a few times.  Charlie used to ski in this manner, but I think that Bode Miller is the best model.  For those who have never seen him in action it is real treat (a reeeeal treat - anyone?).  His movement is void of any actual control.  Body and legs disagree the entire descent in ugly speed.  Each gate is an aiming point meant to be passed as closely as possible with the intention of getting by and laying waste to the stick.  Skis pitch and catch with no apparent consistency or even intent.  All that matters is making it to the destination in the speediest manner.  As you watch this take place you are torn between feelings of desperation, reverence, bewilderment, repulsion, awe, and disdain.  Envy appears only for an instant to leave a stimulating wonder.  It is not one of those, you-don't-want-to-look-but-you-have-to moments.  Once you see Bode ski, you will make sure to watch him as often as possible.  That was the matatu.  A terrifying joy-ride down the road to Kakamega.  The driver was swift as he powered through the terrain.  It is important to note that often this style of driving and skiing can lead to an accident, but it is great when all goes right.

In town we did some very serious food shopping.  Frozen meet and cheese filled my backpack (and a few lesser important foods) plus two new rugs for our concrete floor in the house.  Lunch was late, but worth the trip.  Fried chicken and french fries sent down by passion fruit juice.  To finish, ice cream and birthday cake (plain cake with no frosting).  We secured the last of our supplies and a few Tusker's to celebrate the week.

I believe it was Sartre (sp?) who said something to the effect that, "hell is other people."  Whoever said that was only half right.  Hell is a matatu ride from Kakamega to Malava.  We boarded what we believed to be a spacious matatu.  Jean, Michael, and Sue sat in the back and I in the first row (not the front).  At the time to leave the comfortably full matatu began to inch forward as the driver called at his conductor to board.  The conductor dashed over and gave the nod to at least five more people to hop on quickly.  Seats meant for three were transitioned to four.  With the matatu so full that the door could not be closed, we began.  As if it was not full enough.  A man waved us down after a couple hundred yards and joined the pit.  I was slotted between two women who were either very drawn to me or just were not willing to attempt to inch away.  The driver, knowing that his matatu was full determined it best to drive with a head-down-running-at-a-brick-wall-full-speed madness.  He tossed the wheel from side to side like some 1940's actor driving a stationary car while the passing reel of film in the background creates the feel of a real car.  He found it best to jerk you about and just as a part of your body, say your head or elbow or shin, came to rest upon a hard object, he would find a pot hole that would drive said body part into said object.  Then there was the odor.  Showering is not a frequent venture in these parts, but the smell in this matatu was the worst.  It was not the worst in the makes you feel sick sort of way, but in the relentless sort of way.  The smell hung like laundry across your nose.  Ever present.  Just as you think that the wind has caused a change within, you have that small reminder to bring you back to the reality.  Sadly, this was not as repulsive as having the conductor reach over my shoulder to collect the fare of a passenger up front. No smell, just the dampness of his armpit as it rest upon my left shoulder.  My shirt absorbing every drop of perspiration that made it through his cotton polo.  It happened twice and it was worse that I described.  Just as we were nearing Malava, I turned to see the frightening sun setting in the mountains.  It shone a menacing red that bled across the sky to show that my trip was not just dream.  I had always been told the saying, "red sky at night, sailor's delight," but I now know that to contain as much truth as the existence of Santa.  It was almost as if the sun and moon had switched, for I could see its face as it leered over the valley off to the mounting clouds with a knowing that by setting all restrained bugs will be set free.

Home, we watched Pulp Fiction and enjoyed two beers.  It is late now.  Goodnight.

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