Avaes Mohammad

Kenya: DON’T ASK…IT’S A SOUTH ASIAN THING! (210409)

In Uncategorized on April 22, 2009 at 12:55 pm

210409

DON’T ASK…IT’S A SOUTH ASIAN THING!

Apologies to all who will have been worried about me the past week or so.

I’ve been recovering from a fever that I developed last Tuesday, 14th of April. Only today have I felt able to walk a respectable distance in a relatively straight line. The debilitating, sharp pain in my head feels on its way out too, thank God. My temperature seems more stable and I’m grateful, so very grateful for the fact I can write again. After a few pathetic attempts, I was actually afraid I might not be able to. Blessings abide!

I was at the coast in a town called Mtwapa, around 50 km from Mombasa, with my mother and her ‘friend’ (a woman she’d never met before who she insisted we visit and stay a night with…don’t ask…it’s the South Asian way!). We woke up on the morning of Tuesday, 14th April at my Mum’s ‘friends’ house in Mtwapa. Neither my mother or I had actually slept. Our room was facing onto the main road so traffic kept us awake along with Mosquitoes getting their belly’s worth through the mosquito nets. The following morning I was already knackered without the day having begun.

Since arriving in Mombasa my mother had been like a child. Excited, exuberant, excusably selfish. Every minute of everyday it seemed we were travelling. In, out and around Mombasa. Travelling to family members, places, her old homes, restaurants. It was intense and most of it was fun at first. I was fast becoming tired though. The heat of Mombasa, to put it bluntly, ain’t to be fucked with. I don’t know what the temperature was but it’s the first time I’ve had to have my hair in a ponytail to prevent my black locks from scalding the back of my neck. Travelling any distance at all around here isn’t easy. Full stop. Most of the roads are fine. But undoubtedly there’ll be a significant part of the journey where the road will be nothing but a random arrangement of protruding rocks, boulders and ditches that look as though someone’s just taken a huge bite out of where there once should have been road. All held together by dust. When sat in the back of a bare pick-up truck, a 4×4 that had the seats welded in only the night before or when sharing the front seat of a car with a 10 year old who’s still to learn the gentle art of sitting the fuck still, all for hours on end, these journeys are akin to a physical beating.

Point being, we arrived in Mombasa the evening of Wednesday, 8th April. By the 14th, I needed just one day off. Just one day to do my own thing at my own pace. No vehicles. Just wander. And then join my Mum again on her ratty race. I told her this on the 13th. That I don’t know these people she wants us to stay with, they’re not even related and I wanna rest. She was having none of it in a very polite way. Telling me it’d be rude to cancel now (they were on their way to pick us up), I wouldn’t fall ill and then packed our stuff like there was no problem. Admittedly I should have piped up earlier, but things were happening so quickly it was only when these strangers/friends called to say they were round the corner, I realised I couldn’t carry on. Too late anyway. I ended up spending most of the rest of the day competing for arse-space with that annoying 10 year old.

So we’re in Mtwapa the morning of the 14th. Over breakfast my Mum and I discuss the mosquitoes of the previous night. I feel like maybe it’s the longest conversation we’ve had this trip together. Just the two of us. It’s 8 o’clock. We get picked up for Mombasa at two. ‘Let’s go out’, she suggests. ’Somewhere around here just. We’ll go beach or something’. The beach is never too far away and they’re idyllic here. Silver sands, crystal blue warm waters. Palm trees…shall I stop? Fine. Let’s go to the beach.

My mother, her friend and I walk out.

‘Mum where we going then?’

‘Malindi’

‘You what! How?’

‘In a Matatu…it’s only an hour away…aunty said’

Can’t believe it! Feel like I’ve been hoodwinked by my own mother…there’s no trusting anyone in these dark times. Another gruelling journey in the cruellest of all the transport modes. A Matatu isn’t big enough to be a van or a minibus. It’s not small enough to be an estate car. It has 13 cramped seats including the driver. But that’s not to say it’ll stop picking people up after 13. It’s uncomfortable and heated. Of course for some it’s a charming display of African vitality and self-reliance, with great local music blaring through striking, individually painted vehicles. For me this morning, on a journey I know will not take an hour, it’s a cruel pain. Nearly two long hours later, we arrive. And I’m dehydrated. I make my Mum and her friend promise that we’ll get a taxi on the return journey. I’ll pay.

We go to the beach and it’s beautiful. Fishermen are bringing in huge catches and I jump into the warm sea. As I walk out again a bitter cold wind wraps around me. We leave the beach soon after to visit a shop famed for it’s Halwa. An Indian sweet. They’re made fresh before you and come in 500 gram packets. My Mum buys 10 kilos. Don’t ask…a South Asian thing!

As we’re about to leave, my Mum’s new friend whispers to her how expensive the taxi will be. Around thirty or fourty pounds. It is quite expensive but I really feel I need it. Convinced by her friend though, we take a shuttle bus. ‘They’re big and comfortable like a Nairobi to Mombasa coach’, she says. They’re not. How surprising. It’s just another Matatu. Except it doesn’t stop anywhere. The windows in these things are strange. They’re at face-level. If you open them, the driver’s travelling so fast that you feel your face will soon rip off. So mine, along with everyone else’s was shut, unwittingly creating a greenhouse to the early afternoon sun. As the journey progressed, I became increasingly uncomfortable, increasingly heated and increasingly irate. All the while wishing I was in that taxi, this was the biggest test of my pact: that I wasn’t to argue with my mum. And so I didn’t. Instead all my frustrations towards her bubbled inside. It wasn’t her selfishness of putting her adhoc schedule before my well being, it was having the wishes of people we really didn’t know that well put before my health and well being that was beginning to really grate on me. I remained quiet. And as it boiled inside me it no doubt contributed to the heat boiling in my head.

We stepped out of the Matatu in Mtwapa. I stepped out and nearly fell. I had to be held a while as I made my way inside. And then I fell. Unable to talk. Unable to move. My head a pulsating ball of heat. On the verge of tears I begged my Mum now for us to go back to Mombasa. In a car.

My fever had arrived with a temperature of almost 40 Celsius. The following day in Mombasa I went to the doctor. They took blood tests, injected my arse with Paracetomol (I still prefer the two tablets with water after meals method) and gave me a cocktail of medicines. Later that day I broke out in sweats which made me feel better enough to travel back to Nairobi with my Mum. It’s cooler in Nairobi. My temperature dropped first, to return again on occasional mornings. The weakness and severe headache drifted slowly, day by day. Only yesterday was the main milestone reached. My aunt who I’ve been staying with since I arrived back in Nairobi took me to a spiritual healer. She diagnosed me as ‘not being at peace’ and I’ve begun a three day course of treatment with her. It involves her praying on me whilst holding her hand on my head and then my heart. It’s had the most dramatic impact on my feeling better. I’m starting to feel confident again that I can do this journey. Even on these roads. Just not the whole while in a Matatu!

My Mum left for England on Saturday the 18th. She had a great time and I’m glad she did. I’m glad I could have had some part in it. I’m also glad I can be on my own soon. I hope tomorrow or the day after I’ll be strong enough to check into a hotel and start seeing Kenya through my own eyes. Just for a week or two before I leave for Zanzibar.

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  1. Hey hun…wow! what a read..I’m so glad you’re feeling better..I felt like I was right there with you reading that, you’re such a great writer. Enjoy the rest of your adventure and I will surely check in with you. Love you bro.xxxxxxx

  2. It truly is a South Asian thing…You are one of the most amazing human beans I know. I love you. XXX

  3. Yo Avaes, glad to hear your feeling better. Sounds like you have been through an incredible ordeal with the fever. Its been amazing reading your blogs you are painting a great image of your journey.

    Peace

    Jaydev

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