Looking at my watch, beyond the scratch that was inflicted upon its face while climbing Sunrise Peak on Jeju Island in South Korea, I can see that it is 4:00pm. At this point I’ve been wandering around town for a couple of hours and I don’t really have much else to do. As I don’t yet know anyone in town, I find that it is really just a place to buy things. And to be stared at. This town simply doesn’t offer anywhere to just sit down, hang out, like a café, or even a bench for that matter, so I figure I might as well go home. On the way I make sure to pass through the gas station, where I know that my supplier of today’s Daily Nation will be standing. He is a very outgoing man, always down to talk for a while and always greeting me with a big smile, bright eyes. We talk a bit about how I am finding Kenya, what I think of it so far. He is most adamant that I should spread the good word of his country to all of my friends and family back home, to tell them that Africa, specifically Kenya, is a vibrant place that welcomes foreign visitors. I explain that for most people back where I am from, the entire continent is as mysterious as the bottom of the ocean. We both laugh at this and I promise to preach the gospel of Kenya. I pay the man the 50 Kshs for the paper and tuck it under my arm.
I then realize that my pantry back home is running a little low and that it’s time to stop by my vegetable vendor of choice to pick up a few things. While it is only 10 feet across, the unpredictable traffic makes the road appear to be at least 100 feet wide. I have boda bodas coming at me from all directions, trucks carrying their massive loads of sugar cane barreling along, not to mention the sometimes stealth-like bicycle taxis filling in the extra space. I pick my gap in the mayhem and jog across. Safe for another day.
I don’t remember how I picked my vendor of choice, but I have tried to always go to the same booth to buy my delicious edibles. Considering that there is probably about 4 city blocks of bumper to bumper vegetable stands, all selling roughly the same products and always jam packed with people, it can often be a challenge just to discern where one vendor stops and the next one starts. Each stall appears to have been hand made, using all and every pieces of lumber that was accessible, with the appearance as though they have been there since the beginning of time. It’s as though this wood has become petrified over the millennium and is now embedded in the rock below.
Check that, I know exactly why I picked this vendor. When I saw the extremely attractive woman standing beside her vegetable stand on my first day, there was really no choice. I’m pretty sure that I have a year’s supply of tomatoes in my kitchen due to my need to find an excuse to talk to her. This time I actually need to buy some things, and it looks like she isn’t working there today, so this transaction should take a fraction of the time that it normally does. This booth has everything one could need to live large and be healthy; kidney beans, tomatoes, onions, squash, some kind of green fruit I haven’t identified yet, bananas, carrots, garlic, even cilantro. Today’s grocery list is basic; 6 tomatoes (one can never have too many), 6 onions, some fresh cilantro, and four carrots. The price? 70 shillings. That works out to just under one dollar Canadian. Keep in mind that I’m receiving the muzungu price, so it has most definitely been marked up a bit. I have never felt the need to complain.
I head off down the road, newspaper under my arm and a bag of sustenance in hand, deciding to take the left route to get home. This route is always appealing, as it just happens to pass by a big, open field that acts as a unofficial truck stop. Lines of trucks, snaking across the muddy terrain, look as though they have just passed through a warzone to get here, with boulder sized destruction all over the windows and doors. This seems to be the spot where they come to relax, typically joined by many of the local boda boda riders, by playing some kind of gambling game that I haven’t figured out yet. I know that there are small sticks involved, its always played 1 vs 1, and there are some rules governing who can pick up what sticks. I know that soon I am going to have to ask them about it, to play a round myself and to inevitably lose my money.
Finally I get home and am instantly at ease. I’m not sure what it is that makes this new living space so comfortable; perhaps the bit of familiarity and monotony is what I succumb to. Veggies are chopped, the stir fry is set to medium noise, as that is the only way I can gauge the heat level of my stove, and I can lay back. Dusk gradually takes over the compound as I move between my newspaper perusing, my book engrossing, my laptop escaping, my Nescafe sipping, working on my writing enthusing, ect. I always know that it is approximately 6:00 when I can hear the sounds of the children from the nearby school walking past the house. I know that it is getting to be 7:00 when the small mist of insects has began to keep me company. I have locked my front gate, shut away my food-coated dishes in the kitchen to worry about another day. I know that its 8:00 because the crickets have started their nightly conversation. I shut the door to my living room and and lay back in my plush, 80s style oak-brown chair, legs up on the home-made coffee table, computer in lap. The room has a wonderful glow about it, mostly due to the low lighting emitted from the exposed light bulb over head. Surrounded by my papers, I attempt to get every last ounce of writing from my day’s inspiration before I submit to my fatigue at this uncharacteristically early hour of 9:30.
You know, I find it weird to be living in a house that has no other person in it than me. At least when I lived in an apartment building you can almost feel the people on the other side of the wall. Here, I am detached from all other souls, an island onto myself. For some reason I always have the desire to close the door to my bedroom, even though there is no particular reason why this should be a necessity. We all like sleeping in a cocoon, I suppose, and I guess sealing yourself in can help to accomplish that. Crawling under my mosquito net, I use what little once of consciousness I have left to try and get through just a few more pages of my book. I dream that it’s 10:00.