Friday, May 29, 2009

Coming to town

I arrived in Joburg yesterday.

Driving back from the airport I am always elephant-shrew-in-the-headlights silent. Jaw dropped. Breathe. All those billboards! Just breathe. There is so damned much to take in. The cars! Everyone seems to know what they’re doing and where they’re going. And there is so much stimulus, I feel like a four year old at a strobe lit disco.

And on the way home we stop off at the shops. Man! How many washing powders do they actually make? Do we really need so much choice? A whole aisle of biscuits? All those neatly wrapped veggies, all looking perfect. My first two days in a big city like Joburg I just walk around like a head injury victim. Dazed and amazed.

And I say hello to everyone. And people look at me weird.

And then I get right into it and forget I am a country bumpkin, pumpkin, and turn into a straight-ahead-staring-cell-phone-talking-bump-into-strangers busy person. Kinda.

One thing I have never conquered though, is driving in town. I learned to drive at a very young age – as soon as I could reach the pedals - propped up on cushions so I could see over the steering wheel. This was in the bush though, on the abandoned airstrip, through the dongas and on dusty back roads. I am good at driving in the bush, in the mud, four-wheel drive, all that stuff. Town though, is another matter. The first time I drove in town – in Lusaka – I was with Shadreck in Cairo road, the busy centre of town. Shadreck pulled over and said, “Okay, now drive”. “Wha? Nononono I can’t I’ll cause an accident. I’ll kill us all. Nonono!” He would hear nothing of it. So I nervously took over and within the first minute a taxi shot past me and yelled out the window, “unapunzila kuti ku endesha galimoto iwe?” (Where did YOU learn how to drive) and I yelled back “Mfuwe!” And all was understood. Maybe you had to be there, but it was pretty funny. Anyway, now that I live in a town I am better at traffic driving. In fact driving in Arusha is taking life into your own hands. There are no rules. I am not exaggerating. A car will overtake an overtaking car on a blind bend and you must just get out the way, into the ditch if needs be. Its true, ask anyone. But. The thing about that is people are terrible drivers and make mistakes all the time so they are prepared when you make a mistake. In joburg though, as I said before, everyone seems to know where they’re going. There is no hesitation, everything flows so smoothly and so fast!

But. Since I am here for a over a month I shall try and get over my silly traffic fear and get out there. Drive.

If you hear nothing else on this blog you’ll know what happened.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

My J Friends

Somehow I have a proliferation of really good friends whose names begin with J.

My first best-friend-for-life was Johnny. We learned the alphabet together, we shared a birthday, we purpled ourselves with Mulberries, made nests and sat on stones pretending to be chickens. We fished, got soya beans stuck up our noses, trapped elephants and had some special bond that has somehow stayed. He was my soul mate, in the truest sense of the word. He was my first J-friend. He’s gone now, to hang out on the other side - killed by an elephant almost 9 years ago. But he is still my special best-friend-for-life and I remember him always.

Janelle. Is family really, although not officially. She keeps me sane in this strange jungle we live in. Our souls are from the same place and there ain’t no-one can take that away from us. Our families know each other from the sepia days and we slot into a groove that is pebble-worn and comfortable yet crazy and out-there. There are no words really to describe the marvelous Janelle. Read her blog rather, you’ll know what I mean. She is songstress, cowgirl, master of words. To me she is sister, aunt, confidante, friend. And then some.

Janine. I first met Janine through my sister as a 17 year old, a wide-eyed elephant shrew pushed into the real world and left blinking and stuttering. One of the first times I met her we went out to a pub – a group of us, all girls – and we somehow got into a bar brawl with a group of bigoted young boys who took exception to the high number of lesbians in the group. Janine, whose girlfriend at the time was being groped by one of the charming young men, hit the guy over the head with her arm that was in plastercast. It was the beginning of a rich and joyful friendship that has lasted. Janine - always there for me, fists up and reeling when I banged on her door in the middle of the night when being followed by a strange and scary man, Janine - late night pool and beers and too many happy memories to fit in here. We shared Ong for a while. Ong who was not really a dog but a smiling creature of strange and wonderous talents. I saw her the other day at my sister’s wedding. She looks the same but different. We haven’t seen each other for a handful or more years but as with proper friends we slipped back into our old familiarity. I love that chick and I always will.

Jonathan rocks. He made me realize that not all white Zimbos are long-sock-wearing mustachioed red-necks with a heavy leaning toward bigotry. Au contraire! We met at university, shared Classics notes and late night cramming sessions as well as much booze and many a war cry of “LET’S GET WRECKED!’ I borrowed his car and left it to roll down a hill (by mistake of course) into someone else’s car, and still our friendship survived… I try and catch up with him and the other posse of rotters whenever I’m in his part of the world he in mine and we slip back into that same “LET’S GET WRECKED” ness each time we meet. He came and stayed with us as part of his honeymoon. He is now off and traveling and blogging here.

Julie and Jacquie came into my life later. Not Julie-and-Jacquie, you understand. Just Julie. And then Jacquie. Crazy fun bestest people who you meet for the first time and go “Hey I KNOW you!” I haven’t known them for as long as the other J-best-friends-for-life but they rock and I feel like I’ve known them forever. Julie and I mourned for Johnny together and that’s a hard bond to break. And Jacquie? Well, she’s just Jacquie.

Monday, May 25, 2009

There's something about Zambia

You know when you're right next to a generator, or drill or some persistent loud noise and eventually you don't notice it? But when it stops suddenly everything relaxes and sighs? That's how I feel when I come to Zambia.

I stepped off the plane yesterday and everything just smiled. I belong here. I feel at peace. I'm happy where I am now, pleased we made the decision to move but whenever I come back I feel all jiggly and bouncy - in a good way. I spoke Chinyanja to the women at immigration and they said "You must be from the Eastern Province - you accent is very deep." This is good to hear because right now I'm getting my Swahili and Chinyanja all muddled up and its driving me nuts.

I'm staying with my dad now and I went for a walk down to the bottom of his plot yesterday evening and saw two of the most ridiculously small coin sized field mice busy busy busy going about their busyness. They made me shriek with joy. And this morning little duiker spoor and mice tracks so small they fit into my ring. This is my favourite pastime, looking at tracks and signs. One doesn't get to do it much in the city. I am an anorak.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Angels on my side, angels by my side

You know those days when everything goes right even when things go wrong? Like when you lock your keys in the car in the middle of town and don't have a spare but there are suddenly a string of really wonderfully marvelous people there to help you? I walked over to Sameer's the local spare parts shop and the lovely lady there walked with me through the grotty back streets to help me find someone to break in. She took me to the fabulous chatty Mr. Banduki (meaning gun, a mismatched name if ever there was one!) who has a tiny little locksmith shop next to the Lively Lady (where the lady got shot last time I was there, if you've been following!). Mr. Banduki sent someone with me sort out the lock on the car. AND not only that but a friend of the lovely lady from Sameer's even gave us a lift back to where the car was. And the guy with his MASSIVE bunch of keys got in in one second flat. Literally. Hmmmm, almost as quick as when the thieves broke in and stole my tyre.....

And, because I am rather scatty of late (I am at the best on times) and Arusha traffic is a marvel of chaos, there were numerous occasions where I nearly bumped into people/cars/bicycles/glue sniffing youth but swerved/braked/looked at just the right moment and didn't kill anyone. But this is something I am amazed at every day.

So you know those days? Where everything goes right and you feel all grateful to humanity? I had one of those.

Tweet tweet tweet.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Work gets in my eyes

Work's getting in the way of blogging a bit. That and lack of inspiration. So a few pictures taken from the Likumbe lya mize ceremony in Zambia a couple of years ago.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

New House

Hey, we're in our new house. Well its not OUR house, we're just renting it but still. I love it. We're still unpacking boxes and trying to do this faster than the cats can piss in them, for this seems to be a new game. But failing dismally right now I'm afraid as I sit in our wee office (yes pun intended) trying to ignore the smell of cat wee steaming up from a box of Stuff. Selotape, old batteries, mail, a blue hammock, red rope, a clothes peg, a light fitting and all sorts of other bits and pieces that have no-where else to go. And am not sure they ever will now for the smell of cat wee is not something fun to deal with is it? Although also hard to ignore so I suppose I'll have to deal with the box ONE day...

Oh and the cats...well one is ours - Larry - and his brother (Zorro) who lives next door has decided to move in. Brought his little kitty suitcase and everything. We thought they'd fight and dogs but oh no, they LOVE each other. Spent the first twenty-four hours in some strange teenage-boy play-tussle-fight-pounce-bite-kick charade and then spent the next twenty four house curled up hugging each other. And now they alternate between the two. Oh that and eating.

Anyway, the views are divine, the house is WHITE (for how long I can't be sure. Maybe months, but probably weeks), the neighbours are great, the road is muddy and our bed is big. And we have a wonderfully clever picture window that looks over the rolling Maasai Steppes. We rely on rain water which we catch on the roof so like our neighbours we're already obsessing about the amount of rain and checking our water tanks every day. But right now there is no lack of rain. Oh no.

So, cat piss aside, life is good.

I hope for you too.