Wednesday, April 12, 2006
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
God has a sense of humour
Dr. Laura Schlessinger is a radio personality who dispenses advice to people who call in to her radio show. Recently, she said that, as an observant Orthodox Jew, homosexuality is an abomination according to Leviticus 18:22 and cannot be condoned under any circumstance. The following is an open letter to Dr. Laura penned by a east coast resident, which was posted on the Internet. It's funny, as well as informative:
Dear Dr. Laura:
Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate. I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some of the other specific laws and how to follow them:
When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord - Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?
I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?
I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness - Lev.15:19- 24. The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.
Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?
I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?
A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination - Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this?
Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?
Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?
I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?
My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev. 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? - Lev.24:10-16. Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)
I know you have studied these things extensively, so I am confident you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging.
Your devoted fan,
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
A wonderful man, who was not only intelligent, but terribly sensitive, provocative (he loved to play devil's advocate inspite of my frequent virulent, yet predicatable, reactions), and funny. I remember teasing him incessantly about the "seven seasons" aka passions in his life: his twin, his family, his faith, his work, his computer, football and Nina Simone. For a testosterone carrying individual, he was uncanningly conversant with the way in which the 'Wambui' brain worked. Mambu was a great friend and I loved him dearly. I do not know what my world will be like without him, but I know that we have lost yet another person who actually gave a shit about more than just money.
May God rest his soul in peace and provide comfort and peace to those who left behind.
Saturday, February 04, 2006
Apparently Odinga is an 'adept populist' ...
From The Economist print edition
A courageous investigator uncovers more corruption in
IT BEGAN in early 2003 with a second-hand car. Though battered by
Mr Githongo, an expert on corruption and a former
Mr Githongo fled to
On radio and television, Kenyans lambasted Mr Kibaki and his inner circle—all of them members of his Kikuyu group and known as the “
Shoddiness is the key. Kenyans' weary tolerance of third-rate goods allows large margins on corrupt deals. This is especially true of arterial transport. The road from
Central to Mr Githongo's allegations is a contract negotiated in December 2003 by senior civil servants, to pay $37m for secure passport equipment, previously valued at $10m. The deal was to be financed, at 4% interest, and the equipment obtained by a company registered in
Alerted to the two deals in April 2004, Mr Githongo swiftly established that the company did not, in fact, exist at the three addresses given for it in Britain and Switzerland, and that no Kenyan official involved in the deals admitted to knowing the identity of the company's directors or investors. At an address given for the company in
Mr Githongo briefed Mr Kibaki on his investigations. His dossier records him informing the president that some of his closest advisers were prime suspects in the affair. Then in early May an odd thing happened: the money paid to ALF was repaid to the central bank. Several weeks later, a Swiss man, Michel Gruring, who said he was ALF's managing director, announced that the contracts had been cancelled.
Shortly after, $6.3m was repaid to the central bank by a company called Infotalent Ltd, which had been contracted to provide communications kit to the police, and about which Mr Githongo had made preliminary inquiries. Mr Githongo alleges it was also a shell company. In July, another company, Silverson Forensic, repaid $910,000 from a bank in
Whoever was behind the contracts had hit on quite a clever scam. By entering into a contract with an entity that did not, in any real way, exist, the government had no legal recourse if its promised goods or services did not arrive. Moreover, it ensured the government would be obliged to service its “debt” to the company, though it had received nothing in return, and though the company had not, in fact, extended any finance on its behalf. In effect, the government was paying interest on loans to itself, in order to secure goods or services at inflated prices. Crucial to the model's success were the unscrupulous businessmen who registered the bogus companies and handled the cash.
Though pleased, no doubt, to have recovered $12m of public funds, Mr Githongo had reason to stay zealous. On
Mr Githongo says he was informed on several occasions by the then justice minister, Kiraitu Murungi, that senior members of the government were behind the ALF scam and others; Mr Murungi allegedly told him that the culprits were, in short, the government itself. He said the minister claimed the money would be used to fund election campaigns, and was being managed by Chris Murungaru, the then minister for internal security. According to Mr Githongo, Mr Murungi urged him to end one of his investigations. If he did so, Mr Murungi allegedly suggested, a debt held by Mr Githongo's father with a local businessman, whom Mr Githongo was investigating, would be forgiven. Mr Murungi denies all this. He said this week that he was not involved in the ALF contracts; did not try to impede Mr Githongo; and did not tell him that money from graft would be used to fund vote campaigns.
Mr Githongo has not accused Mr Kibaki of direct involvement in the fraud, but alleges that he must have been aware of it. Even after many detailed briefings from Mr Githongo, Mr Kibaki said publicly that he had seen no evidence of top-level corruption. Mr Githongo resigned on
Last year, two senior civil servants implicated in the scandal were sacked and charged with corruption. Mr Murungaru was dropped from the cabinet after
Though badly damaged, Mr Kibaki could perhaps salvage some respectability by removing those fingered by Mr Githongo. If not, foreign donors in
Wednesday, February 01, 2006
The journey from family to "relas"
I am taking time out from the
A phrase overheard in a matatu "They are not my family, they are my 'relas'!" has never rang more true than it did for me these last few months. To non-kenyans, a 'rela' is simply a blood relation (can be microscopic and still count) who generally is unknown to you except for when they need something.
Anyway, this week I have vowed NEVER to breed! Yes, this follows the very broody preceding months that I have bored half of you silly with. However - and I mean no offence to the male species - should the often inevitable happen and an 'oops' occur, I do NOT want a son!
I have been witness to the most abominable behaviour by certain individuals in various parts of this country leading me to the conclusion that money, sons, their illiterate mothers, and the materialistic daughter-in-law are not a good mix!
In December, I watched as a woman (in her early 70's) was widowed. This was awful enough. Her very own sons then proceeded to strip her of everything that her husband left her. She is currently trying to prove that the title deed to the home her and her husband shared for over 25 years, was in her name and not that of her husband to prevent eviction by the very same 'fruit' of her womb.
Prior to that, I watched as other sons tried to prevent their mother from being given power of attorney over her husband's affairs, after he developed a rare and accelerating form of alzheimers. She was in hospital at the time they filed their petition. They had apparently waited too long for their parents to die.
These soaps (and to be honest they watch as such!) aired again in the month of January, different actors, same story line as three more families tear each apart over money and property! As I write this post, the saga continues!
Needless to say it but IT INCENSES ME!
The common thread in all these situations (all in the space of 3 months!!!!) is that those seeking to disinherit their mothers are the sons, and those seeking to assist their mothers are the daughters. Secondly all Kikuyu - is that significant? ;-) I am still to read Blue's take on Kyuks. It may give me some desperately needed insight.
I have seen these women grapple with the fact that these are their sons and not know how to even begin to deal with it. Watched sons talk to their mothers as if they are insolent children who should apparently be grateful for the pittance that they are currently receiving from these same sons. Watched so called male older 'relas' tell these women to listen to their sons. Listened to the heartache that comes with accepting that your sons are duplicitous, conniving bastards who will stop at nothing, and I mean nothing, to get their hands on everything en route to dishonouring everything their parents ever stood for!
And that ladies and gentlemen, is how a person takes that journey, ceases to be your family and becomes a 'rela', for whether you like it or not, due to a cruel twist of fate, you share a genetic pool. However, I partially agree with Nick - once someone takes that inevitable journey, it is true you can't live with them, but I am darn sure you should be allowed to poison them!
Thursday, January 26, 2006
Had set my alarm to wake up to watch the sunrise. It soon became apparent to me at 5.30am that I was definitely not a morning person. The struggle to get out of bed and the virtually violent disagreements over leaving the confines of my blankets between my mind and body which were almost violent, finally convinced me of this. I think that if my mind had been a living (or inanimate) object it may have suffered serious injuries. I sleepily walked out of my little cottage, fags in hand, and went to sit just under the little Chinese bridge. People, this place is amazing. The sun slowly teased its way from beneath the bushes on my right and in about 10 mins was making its way over the gigantic trees right infront of me. The birds began their chorus and the world, all of a sudden, seemed wonderful - certain song came to mind but will not deafen you over the cyber waves. At this point, body won the battle and without having opened the cigarette packet, went straight back to bed.
Woke up for breakfast at 9 and having consumed more than a WWF wanna be, mind reconciled with body and the trip to Gisenyi was agreed upon. I had the slight problem of getting out of being "sensitized." This was not too difficult for Bob felt that I should do as I wished. That was easy ;-) So I was given a driver (life can be good to one at times!) and off we went. On the drive up the hill, we were briefly stuck behind a matatu proudly bearing the following banner "Ad Noc Lubes - This is a well oiled machine" as it blurred our visions with black fumes for about an hour. Again I was struck by the number of children under 12. Heartbreaking.
We travelled through more terraced hills and elegant mud houses. One image permanently engraved is a child with a huge bucket of DDT (you could see the writing on the bucket) strapped onto his back spraying crops UP a hill. Another was the very obvious lack of cemeteries. To me, everywhere I have travelled, cemeteries have held a certain fascination. It gives me a certain feel for the town/city, they are also usually very quiet, pretty and a place where one can sit and contemplate life and mortality - something I unfortunately do very often. Must come from living so close to one for too many years in Bristol. So for a country that possessed the kind of history Rwanda had suffered for centuries, it seemed bizarre that there were no cemeteries in sight. Even Belgian ones. And I am sure those must have existed. What happened to the dead, before the genocide and after it? Did these make up the unmarked graves still being unearthed?
My driver was called Bernard and amazed me with his views on marriage and women. Girls - chivalry clearly died a horrible death and female emancipation may not have quite reached certain parts of Rwanda. Bernard felt that finding a young wife was the best way to go. His intended is 16, finishing school (he incidentally is 29). His take on the 'happily after' was that this only occurred when you had a woman you could mould into what you wanted. Older women who had lived in the city were too independent, opinionated and ofcourse not virgins. Why would a man ever want to marry that? It would simply create too many problems. As you can imagine, this was the topic of conversation for the whole trip there and back for I was intrigued to discover the depths of this wisdom.
Gisenyi sits on the most northern part of Lake Kivu, a volcanic lake, it is the largest lake in Rwanda, the highest one in Africa and which divides Congo and Rwanda. Bit more trivia - underneath this lake are vast reserves of methane gas which have not been exploited AND this is where, during the colonial period people came from all over Congo to have their holidays. I can testify that they still do.
Gisenyi town itself was tiny. I am going to repeat myself here and maybe several times in the near future - but my image of many of the towns I have read about in both background reading of the genocide and as part of my work, seemed relatively sizable considering the atrocities that occurred in them. But in reality - they are tiny. Saying that, there was nothing I could not buy in Gisenyi. Made me smile.
First, there were loads of bikes, everywhere you looked, going up and down the hills like either they were out for a sunday leisurely ride OR competing to challenge Armstrong at the next Tour de France! And - Louise, you would have loved this - virtually every one of them hosted a colourful padded seats on the back to carry passengers. I am convinced this must have been a mode of public transport, for I cannot see how one would go to that much effort simply to carry their spouse or 'chick' at their convenience. Particularly considering previous conversation with Bernard. In addition, each bike was in competition with the other as to how many reflectors and stickers one could physically fit on every inch of the metal frame - residents of Arusha may wish to take note ;-) The markets we passed were perfectly ordered and sooooooo clean. Even the fish market - none of the filth we commonly see in markets eg in Zanzibar, where the fish insides are shoved on to the floor or rotting vegetables constantly aquainting themselves with your feet... etc.
And for both sexes - this was a town with a healthy percentage of beautiful people. Someone once said to me that Rwanda was full of soulful people - they were right. Vibrant kitenges flow on the women, young men cruise around dressed in the latest 'gangsta' fashions straight out of a hip hop video (was actually quite funny to watch!), girls swinging everything they got - I could see why this considered a fun town! However, I think it was obvious that I was not indigenous to the local population - the white 4x4 with UN emblazoned the side did not help. So I was subjected to stares which although on the whole were not too bad, there were some, especially from men, that were so piercing, it made me feel slightly uncomfortable - as if I was invading their personal space. Then it began to rain which instantly turned the town into a valley of mud. Not pleasant. So we decided the rest of the tour would be thus conducted from inside the car.
I learnt three words that day - Amakuro, meza and a third that still escapes my mind unless I am reminded of it (despite writing it down thousands of times) I noted to myself that writing lines in school must have instilled some sort of obsessive need to write things down hundreds of times. I do not know if that is a good thing or not. One thing was apparent though. Apart from the arch that you drive through in almost every major town/village, the genocide seems practically invisible. This is understandable I suppose 10 years on. A country must attempt to move on. It just struck me how different this is from the holocaust and yet the same to certain degree. I could not quite vocalise it (then or now) but I mulled over it all day and that night - once I explain it to you, I will. This has been on my mind this week as well considering tomorrow is Holocaust Memorial Day. And I am quite conflicted. Another discussion for another time.
We drove around trying to find our way to the lake front - actually to the Primus Brewery which according to my guide book was also the home of an infamous port. No mention as to the reason for this fame - so I needed to go find out. We could not travel the route suggested by the guide book for the President had apparently chosen that particular part of lake front property to act as his Gisenyi holiday home and that of other members of his family. So the armed guards at the top of the hill, politely asked us to take the longer route (read one hour) down to the brewery. I tried the whole, "I am foreign" angle, 'promise I am not going to come and blow you all up" but the car did not help matters ;-)
So we took the long way round which was not a bad idea for just round the corner was more stunning mountainous views. What is about this country? How can it be blessed with the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen and yet also cursed with some of the worst atrocities known to man? It makes me wonder what kind of sense of humour the man upstairs has.
We made it, finally after several wrong turns (do not ask how considering the small surface area we had to cover!) to the so called ' infamous port'. Now this was amusing. It was literally a deck - with a towering brewery behind it. On the deck was a boat unloading coca cola bottles. I frantically searched my book for any mention as to why this is considered a must see for all visitors to this town and came up with NOTHING. Bernard looked at me as if I was some very weird individual wishing to see a port. I do not blame him at all. Trivia: the brewery makes the widely available local beer 'Primus'. Not much to look at and as if on cue, hunger pangs set in and we decided to go get some lunch.
We picked our little way up from the brewery. Thankfully it had stopped raining and we stopped at the cutest little hotel, all open plan - not built with rain in mind - with a cute little garden overlooking Lake Kivu and the hills in Congo. There was an ethereal mist over the Congolese hills making it the most perfect romantic spot as one watched kamikaze kingfisher birds battling it out with the fishermen, catching their dinner in traditional fashion. Lunch was barbecued tilapia. Heaven.
On the drive back, after an hour of discussing different marital options, I fell asleep. I think I had just about overdosed on green beauty and the contradictions thrown at me all day.
Upon arrival back at the Gorilla's Nest, the first day of sensitization was over and I sat down to drinks with Bob outside his cottage. As 'el boss' he was priviliged to have a cottage with a mini bar and living room. Several hours later huddled over too many g&ts, I realised tht whilst he may have a seriously dysfunctional background and seem very lonely, he is very funny AND sensitive. Well either that or this course was working miracles. We talked about a lot of very personal issues in his life which I do not feel would be appropriate to share here - maybe as part of his eulogy one day - but the public school antidotes were hilarious and yet quite poignant too. I know he can be manipulative, often have no sense of self preservation and should not very posisbly be trusted, but I have a soft spot for him.
Final thought, as I mulled over what we had talked about that evening - the loss of a father affects us all in the same way - it is how we choose to react that differs.
Monday, January 23, 2006
Slight addition to Day One!
Where was I? Ah, the drive up to the Gorilla's Nest. We had done the square manyattas and the surprising lack of plastic bags. We drove into a town just before Ruhengeri and I had to stop to get a sim card. I have decided that objects rather than pictures will act as the milestones in this phase of my journey through life. So I started collecting sim cards - sad, I know and appreciate the sentiment should it cross your mind - but I can boast to be the owner of lots of colourful little pay as you go phone chips that I will possibly never use again but which look great in the little tiger print wallet purchased for them. Hee hee hee! Not much has changed guys. This was an experience - the buying of the sim card as opposed to the wallet (although that was an interesting little scenario as I explained to the vendor in "Mutush" (1) what I needed it for) Anyway, Bob the Boss was in a strange mood and all grumpy, so I left him in the car and swang my slowly becoming 'small' behind across the street. The tiny boy behind the little kiosk gave me a smile divinely inspired. From molar to molar, and without the brown tinge that characterises a large part of the Tanzanian population. I could not help but instantly fall in love. Apparently he over charged me - I don't care. In the words of Ed - slightly modified and totally plagiarised - "Men, they do strange things to us women!" The excitement of being in possession of a canary yellow sim card, emblazoned with MTN in blue was almost too much to bear. So dear little boy - Jean Antoine to those in the know - offered to place it into my phone and show me what to do. And a woman is supposed to reject such a request, especially asked so sweetly in halting English, mixed with Swahilli and a soupcon of Kinyarwanda. So I let him do his thing. In the mean time, I discovered that Kyuks (2) would fit right in here. Man, I understood Kinyarwanda. I could have a conversation with the boy - me in Kyuk, him in Kinyarwanda (SLOW Kinyarwanda!) and hey presto we were in communication lala land! Ali the Bear had to literally pull me away! Probably the best thing for I was about to be charged with child abduction.
So back in vehicle we went, to join Bob the Boss. Initially I thought, grumpy old man. Then we turned the corner and I was awestruck. Infront of me were three mountains - part of the Virunga chain of volcanoes which stretch from Uganda, through Congo (DRC) and across to the Northern part of Rwanda. Apparently they are a part of the Rift Valley - well that was news to me as was the fact that Rwanda has 28 lakes of significant size (whatever that means!)....AND it was at these mountains that the film Congo was set.... but I digress. One I named "The Saint" - not in homage to Val Kilmer but more due to the halo that sat above, catching the reflections of the setting sun, glowing golden right in front of me. The second - and I apologize to all who may find this offensive - but like boobs. Honest! Perky little 20 something breasts - before the 30's decide that they should begin to lead diverging lives. I digress I am sorry - but it made me smile - for they too were bathed in golden sunlight. And no, my mind was not in any gutter at the time. The third was your good old fashioned mountain. Straight up and down, slight pyramid like structure with a peaked top. I cannot explain the beauty at that moment - suffice to say.... I went silent - which I think amused Ali, for I had not shut up the whole way up.
Upon arrival at the Gorilla's Nest, anyone would have thought I had some variation of the African ant in my knickers. I was itching to get out of the car. Which was a BAD idea. The idea of a climate controlled car is brilliant - but give a girl some warning - it was F&*K^%g FREEZING! AND I left my fur coat. Small piece of advice I have to keep repeating to myself- just because it is Africa does not mean it is warm! I have become "jungufied" (3) people! But the trees! Ohhh the trees! This was more dramatic and infinitely more beautiful than anything I had ever seen. They just rose up and up and up and if I did not know different, I would swear Jack must have lived somewhere in the vicinity - for whatever his beanstalk was having , it was in the soil here too! These trees just went on forever. A kind of eerie yet solitary beauty for they stood slightly apart from each other to better display their elegance, but also seemed lonely somehow. Maybe just me.
I get to the check in desk and the manager is a Kyuk! I almost died. So are practically half his staff. And those who are not, speak Kyuk! Yani, even to the depths of the Rwandese mountains, the Kikuyu will find a way there - AND teach the local population their language. Hee hee hee! AND they had sold my room. I was not happy, but decided that it was too cute a place to make too much of a ruckus (the jungu side of me winning over the Kenyan) and so seated myself at the bar and ordered the customary g&t.
Small description of lodge - open square garden, with large gorilla statute in the middle sitting amongst an impressive collection of different ferns. Paving led you to the 13 cottages that sat at the edges of the garden. Once you go through the garden, a little wooden - kind of Chinese looking - brigde takes you over a small river and through part of the forest with the elegant trees. This is lit by lanterns all the way to another set of cottages and the training/conference facilities. A golf course was in the process of being constructed at this time so the view tended to be JBC's and other unidentifiable digging machinery. Apparently they had began to build a sauna/steam room but changed their minds thinking a golf course would be more lucrative - the bastards. Luckily for me and the oestrogen that flows through my veins, one of the conference attendees gave me his room and went to sleep in one of the adjacent hotels - not as nice and so I was not persuading him any different! Rooms were in these gorgeous little stone cottages, with humungous double beds. Showers needed some work for you only got 10 minutes of hot water but that was alright. Dinner was at 7 - food was awful- and I was ready for bed by 9pm. Country air - bliss!!!!!!
Discussions with Bob were, to say the very least, interesting. Discovered he is a very very complicated creature. And that is being generous. But at least after feeding, he was more jovial and liberal with his communication skills. After a couple of drinks, I came to the conclusion that I actually like my boss and on that note, considering myself cured of any bouts of insensitivity that I could have been harbouring, I decided, sod "gender sensitivity" - I am going to explore this country. And on that very adventurous thought, curled up, wearing almost everything I had packed - incidentally for summer weather - and went to sleep.
(1) Market that sells second hand goods.
(2) The Kikuyu tribe in Kenya - we tend to think we ar the best thing since....well creation!
(3) Like a white person - 'jungu' being the noun.