We were at Ribui Primary assessing the toilets before beginning construction next week. The contractor, wearing a shirt which spoke of sustainable living to prevent desertification, reprimanded the head teacher for cutting down the tree.
“It’ll take another 100 years to grow one like that” he said.
Apparently the tree has some medicinal properties and has been exported recently to other countries. He worried aloud that the tree is becoming extinct.
“Why was it cut down?” I asked.
“To finish the fence. See how only half is fenced” the head teacher said, motioning off into the distance, “This side has no fence.”
On the ride back to the office I asked Dorcas something which I’d been wondering for some time:
“Dorcas, maybe I’m crazy but I haven’t seen anyone my age. Even just driving around I never see anyone walking that looks like they’re my age. Maybe they look older than they are? Or they’re working?”
“No, you’re right. There is no one your age around. Most people your age are at university. Come December during their break you’ll see them walking around.”
“Do most people live at home or at the universities?”
“Mostly at the universities.”
I was prompted to ask this after finding out over the weekend that the American volunteer living down the street from me had been relocated. As far as I know, his departure makes me the only mzungu in town. Seeing as how I spend the majority of my time with primary school children and old women, he was one of the only people I knew who is my age.
On my drive home, the elderly man I sometimes give a ride home to was standing along the dirt road waving for me to stop. I let him in and he thanked me many times, as usual.
“Thank you, thank you. Do you want bananas?”
“No that is alright. You don’t need to give me anything.”
“No just some bananas.”
“No really, you keep them. I don’t mind driving you, you’re on the way.”
“You do not want my bananas? How about a coke? Would you like to eat a coke?” Eat a coke?
“Oh, a Coca Cola? No that’s alright. I don’t usually drink soda.”
“No, no. You do not want to eat a coke?”
Why did he keep saying “eat”? When he first got in the car he told me he was coming from work at a miraa farm in town. For a fleeting instant the thought crossed my mind that he was actually talking about cocaine. A split second later I realized how absurd that idea was.
“I’m sorry, a what?”
“A coke, a chicken.” Ohh a cock. “Let me give you a chicken.”
“No really you don’t owe me anything.”
“OK, OK. Not even a banana?”
“No thank you.”
“OK, thank you, thank you. God bless you.”