25 April 2009

Old Malava Bridge

This will be all out of order, but bare with me.  This evening was the opening night of “Old Malava Bridge.”  Where football dreams are built and played out in a courtyard with shirts a clothesline, a chicken coup in the northwest corner, wall to the north, poles to the east, and a half wall in the south west corner.  The players range from five to twelve for the Kenyans and a giant twenty-four year old American.  The game is not traditional in any sense.  A much smaller ball is used to make things more chaotic with only one rule: kick the ball when it comes near.  Possession is key, but a strong slam off the wall is equally as productive.  Keep the ball from each other and do not provide any help.  If you are bigger , use your strength to get by the smaller player.  Beware of clotheslines, poles, walls and planks.  Do not forget that the ground is concrete, not grass.  Footwear is either flip flops or sandals.  If your shoes are a problem, kick them off anywhere and continue playing.  Opening night went off with a bang.  By the way, Chelsea won 1-0 and Man U is down 0-2 at the half.

For dinner/lunch, we went to the petrol station for chicken and chapatti.  Then it was off to the Frisa Bar to meet with Ben who made our custom made ottomans.  We relaxed at the bar and met some more of the town’s characters.  We chatted with the man who is the driver/bodyguard for the local MP and heard my favorite quote so far in Kenya: “You should not worry about that man.  He is very drunk.  You know, drinking makes you mad.  After a few drinks any person becomes mad.”  There was a study that came out recently saying that Western province has the most significant problem concerning drinking amongst young people (35 an below).  We just beat out Nairobi which has the world’s largest slum.  I now understand after seeing some of the people at the bar today.  There are many bars in Malava, too many for such a small town.  Drunkards are seen all over, but today the problem played out in front of me in such a way that no longer allowed me to act as if it did not have a grip on this town.  Drinking is as much a part of the day for men (and some women) in Malava as is eating ugali for a meal (“[A meal] does not count if there is no ugali with it” – Sr. Joy).  The statement by the man at the bar was right on in terms of what alcohol does to people here.  Madness grows out of the abuse of the substance that can grip a person in such a way that he will spend his day around the matatu stand looking to make a quick shilling to spend on a drink in the afternoon (or morning for some).  Poverty only makes this cycle more attainable when there are little or no job options for young people.  I read today that over 3/4 of Kenya’s population is under the age of 35.  Despite that, the retirement age has been pushed back five years.  More youth graduate college and are without jobs.  Imagine the current US job market, here that would be a God-send.  Jobs do not exist, specifically ones that can utilize twentysomethings with a college degree.  Highly motivated people are left to associate with the very people they worked so hard to create distance from.

In the morning we watched the Matrix movies and then the Sixth Sense.  Tomorrow looks to be more playing with the boys in the courtyard.  We still are getting new faces each day.  It was nice to run around and play a sport for once.  In August I may have the chance to play on a local team with Neto.  He says he will try to organize one with his friends from around town and then we can have a St. Julie’s team.  I do miss competitive activity and look to playing here.