Following several weeks of simple salutations, exchanges of smiles and stern persuasion, Mama Karuiki, a businesslady whose most noticeable characteristics are her premature grey hair, and a small, attractive indentation in her chin managed to convince me to purchase my first platter of her delicious – she said – nyama choma. I, not to discourage her, yielded but with considerable reserve. Reports of slaughterhouses in the town we share selling donkey meat instead of beef or goat’s meat had become numerous.
I took up a seat I had pulled from beneath one of the stakes and delved into a conversation with her while we waited for her employee to weigh and prepare a chop of whatever animal the red meat I was seeing had been obtained from.
Noticing my intent of paying attention to her, she got excited, and started talking, so endlessly that she seemed not to be interested in reciprocating mine by moving on to something more enriching like calling upon more clients. She knew how to keep a conversation going. She said so much that I was inclined to believe that even if she turned into stone, she would still be, somehow, able to talk.
She was, I believe, honest with me. She told me something I had always suspected. She said her countrymen – Kenyans, whether males or females – were, in her words, mad. She advised that if I, for example, attempt to get married, all I have to find is someone with a measure of madness that I could possibly cope with.
She said the love a particular tribe has for money was insurmountable and warned that I should, in fact, look forward to being oriented into her country with a thorough mugging. That another tribe is too smart to the point of removing your socks before removing your shoes. She advised that I hesitate to relate to anyone. That everyone in the city is always on their toes, and a suspect that is not meant to be trusted which she illustrated with a Magistrate who had recently, along at least two hundred others, been imprisoned for driving under the influence when an impromptu alcoblow inspection found him on the other side of the law.
That and more accompanied my unpalatable meal which I finished only to please her before I paid up, returned the extra coin she had forgotten to keep, and held the door for her when she escorted me out of her butchery. I did not want her to have a poor opinion of my countrymen – Ugandans. She had told me that we were nice, well mannered and likable people.
Ongata Rongai, Kajiado.
Sunday, April 6, 2014.