Why am I in Italy?
26.12.2006 - 26.12.2006
23rd – 26th December 2006
I found this memoir in one of my journals:
It’s 12:30 on a Saturday afternoon and I’m lying under a 16 wheel, 10 ton truck, escaping from the scorching Kenyan midday sun. My weathered nose is peeling profusely and my body is not and wet (unfortunately not from a raunchy romp on the beach!).
I’m en route to Malindi, after spending 5 days on the Lamu archipelago. The overloaded Tawakal bus continues to idle after an hour of waiting for a dozen vehicles to get ‘un-stuck-in-the-mud’!
The roads are horrendous after heavy rains and even the tractors and luxury 4x4s are deep in the marshy verges where they have attempted to get by the 2 huge trucks blocking the road.
I’ve got my kikoi spread out and my head is being propped up by my duck down Woolworth’s pillow.
I hope I have more experiences like this, so I can catch up on my writing and ignore the inevitable African transport inequities. Whoops, the truck just started and pulled away, time 2 vamos...
I arrived in Malindi in one piece, only two hours late, where Uri collected me at a gas station.
I stepped into his fridge (the car) and he whisked me away to a coffee bar called Karen Blixen, a fine Italian terrace restaurant hinting at Art Deco style. The menu included a dose of Chinese as well as crocodile and warthog.
I opted for an espresso and caught up with Uri.
It was amazing, I had been teleported from poverty stricken, dusty Africa straight into Italy. Sick, twisted and old Italian men were accompanied by the local whores, and there wasn’t a word of Swahili or English to be heard!
Uri was a friend living in Cape Town, who came from Malindi and was visiting his family for the holidays and attending a wedding. His parents owned and manage the plush Woburn Residence Club, a swish complex with giant marble bathrooms.
We went by to visit and meet his parents after which I was taken to the guest suite at the Esposito Family Residence.
I was in heaven, and soaked my exhausted, battered, dirty body in a hot bath. It was the first bath in over a month, and I really saw how dirty I was when I pulled the plug out and had to scrub off the grimy residue left behind.
The Esposito family took me in to their home, washed my clothes, housed me in their outside cottage, and fed me gourmet food for the next three days.
I was treated to breakfast every morning around the pool, set in their own private botanical garden, complete with a range of poultry and massive aviary. Attila, their Great Dane, was the biggest dog I’ve every encountered, approaching the size of a small Shetland pony!
We went out that evening for Nyama Choma, goat meat cooked on an outside fire, accompanied by chapattis, BBQ chicken, chillies and a sweet omelet/quiche thingy.
Our group of 15 included 12 Frenchman. Uri’s best friend/brother, a Kenyan/Swiss guy called Dominique had just got married to Sophie, a gorgeous French journalist. The whole troop of them arrived in three tuc-tucs, five crammed in each one. The restaurant had never accommodated so many Mzungus at once.
I woke up early, too early to venture out into the grounds with the giant Attila roaming free, and decided to work out all my finances. I counted all my cash in my wallet and various other hiding places (fake wallet, camera bag, backpack) and converted it all into Rands. I had to include the cash withdrawals, US dollars, South African Rand, Zambian Kwacha, Tanzanian Shillings and Kenyan Shillings, and then do the math. I was bang on target, R140 or US$20 per day, without even looking or planning anything over the previous 26 days! I was so proud of myself, until I looked at the state of my backpack and the contents thereof. I was still carrying too much, including food (coconuts). All my belongings, especially my clothes, were caked in good old African dust.
The morning sickness arrived like clockwork, and 30 minutes later it disappeared, also like clockwork.
The air conditioning in my room was faulty, and I slept with the windows open, resulting in loads of mosquitoes. Uri had explained to me that their method of evading mosquito bites was quite simple, live in a fridge. The mosquitoes were too lethargic to search for your sweet blood. Their house hovered around the 18 degree Celsius mark, which was the case in their cars and offices! I though it was both unhealthy and a big price to pay to avoid anti-malarial medication.
Franco and Elly had arranged a regal breakfast around the magnificent swimming pool, and I joined them to discuss my trip, Uri, and my morning-sickness-inducing-anti-malarial-medication. The Doxycycline I was taking was clearly the cause, and the fact that I was taking it first thing in the morning, on an empty stomach, was part of the problem. The reason I took it early in the morning, was because I was already in the habit of swallowing my two pills of Lamictin, so it made sense to take the Doxy at the same time, lest I forget.
Enough people, both locals and foreigners, had told me not to continue with the prophylactics, and simply keep the emergency course of three pills if I get malaria. Their stories about the cerebral malaria that they and their friends had all succumbed to were frightening.
I stopped the Doxycycline and voila, the morning sickness vanished!
Breakfast was a rare event in their own private botanical garden, as the Esposito’s hardly ever ate home – always preferring to dine at the Two Dolphins Restaurant at Woburn Residence Club.
We went shopping in town at a supermarket filled with Italian products. It just seemed so misplaced in this part of Africa, and it wasn’t aimed at the tourists either. The local Mzungus were almost exclusively Italian, most of them 2nd or 3rd generation immigrants. The goods were way too expensive for my budget, so I bought the essentials, moisturizer for my peeling nose and imported cigarettes.
We went to Woburn, and spent the first half hour in the Server room (computers, satellite decoders and other electronics were stored there), looking at wedding pictures from the night before. It was freezing in the tiny room, 16 degrees Celsius! I quickly used their internet and downloaded and printed ALL of my blog, with the aim of finally editing it, now that I had some time to spare, in luxury. We were summoned to lunch, grilled fresh line fish. I was ecstatic and loving it.
We went home for a mandatory siesta (it was too hot for white people to be active). I spent three hours working on my blog and reading a Kenyan Tourist guide. I realized that I wanted to see much more of Kenya than I had originally planned. I might like Nairobi or Kampala and decide to stay, in which case I’ll have plenty of time to explore the region.
When Franco was informed about my aircon, or the lack thereof, a technician was rushed to the scene, despite my protestations that I didn’t need it and would happily use my mosquito net instead. He repaired it while I was asleep and I woke up shivering in what had become an igloo! I was surprised to see four staff members (all males) dressed in blue safari suits, straight out of a colonial African home. They ran around like worker ants, ironing, gardening, cleaning the gigantic pool and constantly putting things back into place, all of this on a Sunday before Christmas. I took advantage of the situation and gave them my grubby clothing. I thoroughly enjoyed the tranquility of their palatial sprawling garden.
Christmas Eve was spent at, you guessed it, Woburn. Uri and I had special plates made up for us, sans alcohol, which I thought was very considerate. I tucked into a five course meal under the trees, surrounded by the biggest cascading pools I’ve ever seen. We went to the casino afterwards, which was teeming with Italians, from young trendy kids with Maasai type holes in their ear lobes, to the real authentic fat Mafia bosses (I swear the large man who was glued to a sofa, filling his massive belly with a giant plate of pasta, was a Mafia Don). Even the staff spoke Italian, and my limited Swahili didn’t get me very far.
I decided to blow my daily allowance on the slots and had great fun in the process. I didn’t know then that this was the first of many more casinos to come on my scramble through Africa. A waiter wheeled a freshly roasted suckling pig past me, apple in the mouth and all, which I followed like it was a sexy blonde. They refused to let me take a picture, and Uri only told me the following day that the pig was free to eat, DAMN!
I got to bed at 04:30 and enjoyed my sleep in the fridge.
I woke up at 10:00 – no Doxy, no morning sickness, yay!
Breakfast was waiting for me around the pool, soon after which we tucked into a lunch of leftover Christmas dinner at Woburn. We returned home to swim and snorkel in the pool, and I used the siesta time to catch up with more of my blog.
We went for an Espresso at Karen Blixen, again surrounded by the sick, twisted, old Italian men and their prostitutes.
I returned home and started packing my things, not at all happy with cramming my beautifully washed (Elly insisted it was hand washed a second time), ironed clothes into my filthy old back pack.
I treated Uri to dinner at the I Love Pizza restaurant where they served authentic Italian Pizza (where was Yurt now– the Swedish man looking for pizza in Dar es Salaam?)
My dad called from South Africa and I was pleased to hear a familiar voice from home but felt bad that he had started smoking again.
We went back to the casino again and bumped into Uri’s dad Franco, who looked very at home at the blackjack table. There was no suckling pig this time, so we returned home for an early night.
As I was opening the security gate into my suite,
Attila was waiting at my door and practically took my head off!
I woke up at 06:00 and strolled around the garden to pick pretty flowers as a gift for Famiglia Esposito. I didn’t think the flowers were enough of a ‘thank you’, so I left two matching his & hers Zambian Chitengas and a Tanzanian Kanga as gifts for my very accommodating hosts. We went to Woburn for a final Espresso and farewell and then I jumped into a tuc-tuc which dropped me in town to catch a Matatu to Watamu.