Tuesday, April 6, 2010
The reality of one day and detailed associations of other days
Supposedly it will be an hour of walking. I haven´t heard of Oduwo before.
Last week I had a small practice when one of our visits lasted four hours. At first the motorbiker dropped me in the middle of nowhere and left to get Solomon whom he had left somewhere in the field. The image of myself sitting on a stone made me laugh. All of a sudden a child appeared and started crying desperately. I suppose because of the same thing. We were walking inbetween beautiful hills, pushing the broken motorbike in front of us. In one of the huts we met Barack Obama. I have to praise him – the hut was strategically placed on the top of the hill, covered up in a thickset. I was a little taken aback by his young looks. On the way there Solomon let me taste different leaves, „weed“ and then some fruit that resembled maracuya but it tasted as a pear. Guava. We haven´t met many people on our hike (that is how we dared call our 4-hour pilgrimage) but fortunately we made it safely to where we wanted.
We are avioding a pile of „sweetened dung“. Waste material from the sugar factory. I find it quite fascinating. It is full of different machines moving, making strange noises and fuming. A few days ago we went there with my English friend Jozef. We started our exhibition at the scales for the sugar cane that was brought in and in half an hour we ended at little packets with brown sugar. We were observing how the sugar cane is grinded with water, juiced, cleaned, water vaporizing, mud being separated, sugar crystalizing, molasses removed, then dried. And then to the packets.
By the way, Muhoroni has three basic smells – so called sweetened dung, lagoon (egg-like water) and puke. I understood the source of the first two for a while. But I couldn´t find out about the third for a long time. The historical moment came yesterday when someone told me that it is the smell of biofuel that is made of the sugar-cane waste material. Should have thought of that! It´s quite logical that it would be the smell of what we (do not) process.
I am observing some men throwing the sugar-cane waste in bags. The sun is heating unbearably. Children are shouting at me. They imitate an accent I don´t have. This is what the children from the neighbouring kindergarten greet me like: „Mzungu, how are you? I am fine, thank you. Prrrrrrrrr.“ They make my job easier because they speak for my part too. The children from the other side of Muhoroni surprised me the other day: „Mzungu, how are you? I am fine, thank you. Oooooou.“
We are leaving Muhoroni. Direction Oduwo. Another factory shining in front of us – this time it´s an alcohol factory that uses the melasses from the neighbours. There is a big sign in front of us „Do not chew the sugar cane.“ Solomon is explaining the secret of this sign to me. When you chew the sugar cane, you spit out the waste and the bees come to sit on it. There are lots of lorries and a lot of smoke around the factories. It irritates the bees and makes them aggressive. I think that is what he is saying but I am not sure. I am not paying attention very much, concentrating on making my legs move in the right way which Solo appreciates. I said hi to a passer-by but he ignored me. That happens if I greet a Kalenjin in the Luo language. Kalenjin are especially sensitive to that. If I greet a Luo in his language, he laughs. When he stops laughing, he greets me back. We meet a cyclist. He has two black jerrycans hanging on both sides of his bicycle carrying the alcohol to prepare changa. Changa is a local drink that is quite dangerous because the alcohol is not processed in the right way. The cyclist starts talking to us, getting off the bicycle and taking out panga. Panga is an African machete. Later Solomon explains to me that there is leopard in the field and the older man says that leopard is „hakuna matata“, I just can´t look it straight in the eye. If it comes out of the sugar cane, we should walk around it and look down to the ground. Solomon turns around abruptly. He wants to look at the beautiful panorama behind us. It gives me a tug. I didn´t pay for any safari ride today so why leopards? The man with machete walks in the sugar cane. I started to think he went hunting but then he came back with some sugar cane. He cleans them with the machete and we start chewing. While I chew one piece, Solo has had at least three.
The cane is high. It is almost ready to be cropped. After two hours of walking we come to Oduwo. I am making sure that Luos live here and then I start one of my small Luo conversations. I am asking a group of ten women how they are and where they are going. I enjoy the fact that after four months I am able to ask two questions in their language. We meet two small boys with cows and two lonely peacocks. Soon we arrive to our destination. I find out on the spot that I actually know the wife and the grandson of the family. We are visiting them because they didn´t come to take their medication. They are HIV positive. Solo usually goes to the domestic visits with me but this time I accompanied him. It is „his“ family. His job. Little Kevin is looking at me as if I were a ghost. I take him to my arms and he falls asleep in a moment. The man has two wives. One of them taunts us for not announcing our visit. And I feel sorry too because otherwise she would have roasted a chicken for us. The sun is heating but I start sweating only when I get inside. The tin roof is responsible for that. The family does not believe that I walked here. I can´t believe that either and Solomon brags about me.
On the way back I try to find out how much the journey would cost if we went by motorbike. Three hundreds! In the middle of a lonely field I am told that it is so expensive because the motorbikers are afraid to drive here. Solo assures me that if the leopard attacked us, he would die first, then me. I feel better already. I am making up an evacuation plan in my head, where to hide in the sugar cane. We choose a different road back. And it is worth it. We see beautiful turquoise birds. Their feathers are glistening and shows another of my favourite colors – aniline blue. I am barely walking, to be honest. The only question of every by-passer is if we are really going by foot. But we are only interested in soda now (that means Fanta, Coca Cola, Sprite and Krest)- My favourite place at the sugar cane factory is almost sold out. This time they don't have the delicious chapati or beans, only two last little bottles of Krest Bitter Lemon. I empty mine in a few seconds. I am admiring a great tree with a huge tree-top. Last time I was here I tasted its fruit. It looks like purple grapes. It makes one´s tongue pricke. Three women were climbing it, laughing, trying to pick as much of this strange fruit as possible. Sambarao or Jamna in Luo. We stop by at „Jared´s“.
There are five brothers and I never know which one is Jared. They have a store – an old hut. There are other two shops that can compete with their choice in Muhoroni. Last time I was here they offered me a job but I didn´t take it because they didn´t tell me how much they would pay. I come here to drink „soda“ and buy the phone credit. I like how children come to do the shopping instead of their parents and how Jared or one of his brothers leans to them to find out what they came for or shout at them to come back because they forgot about the change. I am drinking half a litre of cold Cola for 30 shillings (30 Eurocents). The children are shouting at me: „Maria, Maria, Maria!“ I don´t have the power to respond. I am waving decently (lazily) as if some kind of a politician. 25 kilometres of walking would be a good reason for a politician too.
I enter the hospital and then I arrive home. I lie on the stairs. Ideal conditions for a water fight. My English neighbour Jozef doesn´t like the fact that I am asking him to pour some water on me (it loses some of its charm, I admit) but at last he brings two full buckets of cold water and pours them on me. A carpenter next door working on his furniture laugh quietly pretending he can't see anything.