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Reminiscing Africa


sunny 28 °C

No Economic degree is necessary to determine what has happened here. In Africa the yardstick of economic measurement is usually the local taxi- known here as a 'mutatu'. The number of passengers says it all. Throughout Africa the taxis are the Toyota High Ace and the amount of passengers they are licensed to carry varies from 12 to 18 .Each country has its own legislation -which seems to be mostly ignored. Anybody who complains about economy class on an aircraft should try a trip on one of these taxis. Not only are there usually 18 passengers but all their belongings as well as livestock on the roof. Could you imagine the smell!

The trip for me has brought back many memories from my youth growing up in South Africa. As SA became more affluent many things have changed. Here in East Africa nothing has changed. As some of you may recall we used to get the sugar cane man come past when sugar cane was in season. His bicycle was a “Dik Wiel” (thick wheel) which probably carried 150kg of canes. We would buy a whole cane for 10 cents peel off the hard part and chew the soft juicy part in the middle. They still sell these canes like this everywhere and I could not resist buying a cane here only to be reminded that the juicy part in the middle was not as soft as I remembered- or rather my teeth had aged and were not as adept at chewing it and rather than risk loosing my teeth I, gave them away.
Melanie and I went through the market yesterday and they were selling items that I have not seen for a long time- some of these items I didnt believe were still manufactured. Enamel mugs, transistor radios, cassette tapes and long bars of soap.
I brought a GPS with us and bought all the East African maps for it. I had forgotten that you don't actually need maps or a GPS here in Africa. The first time I ever owned a map was in Australia, where on arriving, one of the first things I bought was a UBD map. Here in Africa you simply ask any person alongside the road (it does not matter where you are, or what time it is, there is always somebody to ask and they are willing to help). Directions would be something like this “go to the Mobile garage, turn left, go straight until you come to the house with two cows, then turn right” That was the exact directions we were given yesterday.Somehow you did get to your destination.
As they used to do in SA .We watched as a gang of some 500 workers dug a trench by hand that was some 2 km long. No mechanical help and at the end of the day they were collected by a tip truck and some 80 workers got on to the truck and were driven home -only in AFRICA.
Sorghum is grown everywhere and it is used to making home brew beer. In SA was commonly known as KAFFIR BEER. The beer had a distinctive smell and travelling along ,every now and then, you get a whiff of that familiar fermented smell.
The Dik Wiel bicycles- Humber or Raleigh- here probably weighs 35kg compared to my bike at 7kgs. They are commonly known as CAT's- 'Carry anything anywhere any time.' They are the same as the Zulus / mine workers used to have- thick tyres,heavy steel frames, mud flaps, 10 reflectors in the front and twenty at the back and most importantly, a carrier at the back.Our gardener, Johannes, had one of these bikes and I as a child was many a time taken to and from school in his front basket carrier. Here these bikes have a myriad of purposes- as a taxi and for transporting anything from passengers, 100kg sack of potatoes, a goat to a log of wood straddled between two bikes.
Nothing has changed here -a common sight is still the rural African elderly man dressed up with a jacket (albeit nearly thread bare) and a hat regardless of the temperature.
The fruit served and sold here is the type of fruit I remember as a child. All the bananas have bruise marks but taste sweet, the watermelon has thousands of pips and in the hotels when they serve it, the pips are all carefully removed, the oranges have skins you cannot remove and the only way to eat them is to cut them into four, granedillas (a bitter passion fruit)The bread is just as I remembered bread tasted-a wholesome, preservative free that goes stale in 2 days- thick, filling and tasteslike real bread should.
There has been nothing to purchase along the way and even Melanie has struggled to find things to purchase.. There are shops everywhere but with minimum,basic stock- just the bare essentials. The only shopping of any magnitude was at the Kampala market where you can buy absolutely anything. We were told that the market carries many of the genuine European designers second hand clothing as well as international ski gear. You need patience and determination to sift through those stalls carrying these items. The dirt ,smell and crowds was enough to make us leave sooner than later.

In Australia, our gardener arrives for work with a ute full of equipment, anything from a lawn mover to a hedge trimmer. Here a 3 hectare farm seems to be managed by one woman with a machete and a hoe.

Posted by melsch 05:04 Archived in Kenya

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