Monday, July 18, 2011

Are Tilapia Vegetarian?

Michael held off on the talk that we would later have about being smart and safe. Instead he starting brainstorming on how we would catch one of those crafty tilapia. Michael and Bro. Bri suggested dental floss and a safety pin, the others came together swiftly, donating such items. Thank you Dave Brooks and Mr. Corrigan. Tools in hand, I start searching for bait. I explored the tall grass by the water and found a small brown grasshopper. As I held him in my hands, I whispered a few words through the cracks between my fingers in English, and very little in Swahili informing him of his destiny. I thanked him for his contribution and slid him onto the safety pin.

There is this footbridge crossing the pond that you just have to see. Its made of red and white washed wooden planks configured together to make a functional piece art. It was well traveled but still sturdy. I laid down on my stomach, head and arms hanging over the edge, lowering my floss, safety pin and grasshopper. I have officially drawn a small cheering squad. Some doubtful that I will get so much as a nibble and others rooting for the victory. A few of the smaller fish showed up to investigate, but decided that it wasn't quite their taste. I thought to change my bait. I found a piece of raw corn, and a beetle that looked like something dinosaurs would eat. This thing was huge. The corn needed very little prep, but the beetle was too big to put on the safety pin whole. I spoke to him in the same language used earlier with the grasshopper and cut him in half. It was not an easy job. I returned to the bridge, first trying the beetle. The beetle was still moving a bit so I thought this might be just what I needed to catch the big fish. Unfortunately for me, the beetle got the same response from the fish as grasshopper did. Are tilapia vegetarian? I remove the beetle from the pin and push on a small kernel of sweet white corn. The corn was in the water for a few seconds before a small group of fish came around pecking at the kernel. They like it! As I anxiously watch their nibble fest I await with a relaxed, but ready arm, to yank which ever one gets greedy, clean out of the water! They nibbled feverishly until the little piece of corn fell off the hook. I returned to the small group of spectators proving some right. All I had in hand was what I started with, dental floss and and safety pin. The big one got away, but the adventure was in trying to catch him.
Thankful that there was a Chef in the kitchen preparing dinner, I returned to my room for some well deserved relaxation. I later returned to enjoy cold Tusker Malt with the crew while we waited for our meal. I had no clue that Tusker made a malt. I come all the way to Kenya and find myself drinking malt liquor........and that ladies and gentleman is how I earned the name Billy Dee........"Habari gani, b!tches".

Anyway, it took almost 3 hours to get our food. My stomach was starting to eat itself. Once we got our meal, I realized that it was not in vain. The food was delicious. Everything was fresh and perfectly seasoned. It was explained that part of the wait was because the refrigerator is small, and fresh items need to be purchased daily. So the chicken that the rest of the crew ate was probably clucking an hour ago, and my greens picked this morning. It was well worth the wait, and the company of the 2010 walkers is something to be desired as I sit here and type my memories to the world.
We would then all retire and prepare for what tomorrow would bring. We would get our legs under us with a nice hike up Mt. Mielu, lay eyes on the beautiful children at the Makindu Children's program, and stay at the Sikh Temple. I start my bedtime ritual, and hear a knock at my back door. It was Dave Brooks, he said he was restless and came to check on me. We walk out by the lake and he tells me stories of the past about trips to Kenya, Hunters Lodge, and life in general. Thank you Dave. I return to a huge lizard attached to the wall over the head of my bed. He won't move. I hide in my mosquito net, and count my blessings until I fall asleep.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Supporter of the NO!

Greetings everyone,
I admit that it has been a long time, but the stories that I have to share with you have not changed. More recently I've spoken to a few people that wanted to hear more about Kenya and the Proper Walk 2010 via this blog. I have been consumed by the twists and turns of life and have neglected those readers. I do apologize.

So back to where I left off. It seems that we were at Hunters Lodge relaxing and discussing our schedule for the next couple of days. We met by this beautiful watering hole that was flooded with wildlife. I had a hard time staying focused on the agenda due to the schools of fish swimming just a few feet away. I announced to the team that I was going to catch my meal before it was time to start dinner. Once I realized that I was without tool I asked Michael for a quick Swahili lesson that would help me catch the big fish. I had my greetings down, and Michael scribbled on a piece of paper a message that politely asked for fishing string and bait. At this point I think it was entertainment for the crew. Even though I gained a few laughs at my diligence in catching these fish, I still felt that everyone was rooting for me. I hit the road with my prepared notes and made my way to the gas station at the entrance of Hunters Lodge. "Jambo!" I speak to a few vendors on my way. I get to the highway and start walking. I can not imagine what I must have looked like to passersby. Back home I stand out from a crowd and I am quite used to people staring, and making comments at times. For what ever reason I thought I would blend in a little better in Kenya, but that was far from the truth. Everyone watched as I walked by and almost everyone spoke, flashed a genuine smile, with a look of curiosity in their eye. People driving by made comments like "Rastaman!" "Bob Marley!" "Hail up Dreadlocks!" "Selassie youth!" It was nice to hear shouts of endearment in such a strange but familiar land. I approached several roadside stands, babbling my elementary Swahili, and most people pointed further down the road. I had walked about a mile and saw a small community of businesses on the other side of the road. A few people gathered out front, as I walked into one of the storefronts observers froze and stopped mid sentence to get a good look. The woman at the counter was very friendly but seemed a bit uncomfortable. She told me to go back to Hunters Lodge. I thanked her and as I walked out of her establishment I notice that a real crowd had gathered. Some faces were friendly, but one or two looked as if they were not real interested in helping me find fishing supplies. I had small talk with a few teenagers, and decided to head back in the direction of Hunters Lodge. I heard quiet whispers in Swahili mixed with a few chuckles and giggles. I returned to the entrance of Hunters Lodge still with fish on my mind.

I make one last attempt before heading back to the lodge without my tools. I stop at the gas station nearby and asked the gas attendant if he could help me find some fishing wire, and some bait. My Swahili was poor, but thank goodness, his English wasn't as bad. He explained to me that he could help me out but that it would consist of a motorcycle ride just a few miles down the road to Makindu. I thought to myself, "Makindu!?" Makindu is why I'm here anyways, "lets go!" "Wait, whats the cost?" Michael had advised me to never take the first price, so I demanded half of what his charge was, and he excepted it. One thing I noticed before jumping on the back of the bike was that this man was wearing a hat that had a big red "NO" on the front. Without getting too deep into Kenyan politics I will say this. In doing my research of current Kenyan affairs before leaving America, I had decided that I would probably vote "YES" for the new referendum that was being discussed in the media. Not only that, but no means no, no matter where you go, so I probably should have just taken it as a sign. "NO" as in "NO, you better not get your ass on that bike!" But I am young, handsome, invincible and hungry! I want to catch some fish!
I jump on the bike and he starts stomping the kick start in an attempt to get the engine going. The bike is slow to start, but just as it does, Brother Bry and David walk by with this "what the hell is he doing" look on their face. They both smile, wave and tell me to be careful. I tell them to let Michael know that I was headed to Makindu and I'd be right back. The bike takes off leaving a cloud of white smoke, and before we can get out of the parking lot good, the bike shuts off. My new friend, gas attendent, supporter of the "NO", was determined to get the bike started again, but I took this as my last chance to make a good decision. I jumped off the bike, gave him a few coins, screamed "Asante bwana!" and hauled ass back to Hunters Lodge. As I walked down the driveway, I felt a little defeated, but safe. I arrived to see the panic fade from Michael's face as he saw me return empty handed.