Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Part 2 - 'Sweeties' Homeward Bound

I spoke to Mama Sweetie the weekend after the funeral she said that she wanted me, at some stage, to collect her husbands pick up and keep it on the safety of my property. It had apparently become an item that was well sort after by his brother. She imparted to me that Baba Sweetie had planned on leaving the vehicle with me when he moved back to Kampi ya Moto, I am not sure why.

On Monday, 21st June, I received a call asking me to help her the next day by taking her and the children to Kampi ya Moto to sort out some things. I arranged again for Nick to take me to where they were living as I had paid little attention to directions when we went to the funeral. On arrival at the house, I found Mama Sweetie and the children frantically grabbing their possessions and piling them high outside the house ready to leave.

This worried me as it looked like she was leaving without telling anyone. I confirmed that she had in fact discussed her departure, it was just me who was not informed!!!!! I insisted on taking the pick up for a drive before I agreed to take her to Kampi ya Moto as I was aware from sitting beside Baba Sweetie that there were numerous ‘problems’ with the vehicle, firstly it lacked a hand brake, secondly it had spongy brakes that you had to stand on to get to respond, its headlights were so dim that they were almost non existent, but this I assured myself was in good condition compared to most of the vehicles here. My first problem was that I couldn’t open the door, you have to unlock the door, push down the window and pull the handle from the inside whilst lifting the handle on the outside, secondly the seat of the vehicle didn’t adjust, and you’ve guessed it I couldn’t touch the brake, clutch and accelerator, I found a large empty plastic oil container which I wedged in behind me, painful but did the job. Nick had waited around to check the pickup was OK and did a check of the dip stick and generally doing the manly checking under the bonnet thing, as a result the oil was found to be very low and almost tar like, something I made a note of the get changed. The test drive went surprisingly well, managed reverse, familiarized myself with the interesting braking system, adjusted the wing mirrors as the rear view mirror swung like a fluffy dice and looking at the large mountain of things that were to be loaded into the vehicle I wouldn’t be able to use anyway.

We first drove to a metal workshop where Mama Sweetie had ordered a metal door to replace the one which had been removed from her house, the red undercoat paint was still wet when we picked it up and when loaded we loaded it into the van we were left with what looked like blood on our hands, not nice. We went back and now loaded three sacks of maize, clothes, shoes, and what ever random items they still had including two guitars, apparently Baba Sweetie used to love to play, oh and the five children (one was visiting) and Mama Sweetie too. We left with the cumbersome load which by Kenyan standards was only a small one, whilst I was dreading being stopped by police or losing part of the load, more importantly the children perched on top.

Mama Sweetie proclaimed that we had to pass through town to drop off the young girl who had been staying with them, this notion didn’t please me in the slightest as driving the short length of town is always hellish. Whilst Mama Sweetie was making arrangements I suggested a petrol station on the outskirts would be a good place and we could fuel too. Duly arranged we handed over the girl and went to get fuel, the petrol cap proved a problem as it was opened by a broken key which had to be placed just so…… eventually succeeded in this task and prepared to leave…… our every movement being watched by all and sundry at the petrol station, we weren‘t a normal sight I suppose. The attendant looked eagerly at me as she had a car waiting to roll up in my place, when I told her the car was dead she smiled, (not quite sure whether out of sympathy or what). She waved her hands and a number of men appeared and rolled us out of the way. Then appeared two mechanics who investigated the problem, starter motor brushes were too worn and not producing the required something……….. we negotiated a price for the job and whilst they were at it I asked them to change the oil and filter. They used jump leads to start the car and followed them to their workshop.

I suggested to Mama Sweetie that she take the children off to get some food as it wasn’t going to be a quick affair. The men got to work, muttering about the lack of attention the vehicle had received and other things they suggested that needed to be ‘looked at’. I explained the situation to them and informed them that the limited budget that we had was not going to stretch to anything else. Two and a half hours later, after disappearing for half an hour to get oil and another half an hour to get the oil filter the job was complete. We loaded up the vehicle with our bodies and the large bags of essential shopping that had been acquired for the house in the time I had been waiting with the mechanics.

The day ahead of me just seemed to stretch and stretch, the drive was nerve wracking as I was so aware of the lack of responsive brakes, I kept a good distance from any vehicles in front but that just encouraged people behind me to overtake and fill the gap adding to my stress. At one stage I didn’t see a sleeping policeman in the road until we were on top of it I managed to shout to the children to hold tight as we flew into the air, I hastily looked in the wing mirrors and saw we hadn’t lost anything from the back of the pick up. The road we turned onto at Kampi ya Moto wasn’t doing us any favours, the dirt had been eroded by heavy rain and other vehicles, rocks protruded at difficult places, and recent rain had turned it into a muddy and difficult to negotiate terrain. The children were of sound voice, singing most of the way, obviously happy to be going home, now they were busy shouting and greeting friends as we passed.

I gave a sigh of relief as we arrived at the gate, the children scrambled off the back and opened it for us, they then ran around in obvious pleasure of being back home. It took an age to offload the vehicle as we had had help back at the house and Mama Sweetie and I struggled with the heavy items, especially the bags of maize. The house looked freshly swept and I was pleased although Mama Sweetie explained that a neighbour had done so to help and had put everything that had been strewn around the house into the one locked room, actually the only room left with a door on it, the others had been taken. I am glad she told me this as the sight when she opened the door was a room with the floor completely covered in all her health documents, dirty and discarded clothes from the looters, drugs from the missing cabinet she had an d other personal possessions that now lay without regard. This being the only lockable room was to be where they were all to sleep until a door could be fitted to secure the house. Mama Sweetie went in the room and just pushed all the things to one side of the room to make space for the small mattresses that were to be their beds. I suggested that we empty the room into bags or boxes, suddenly realizing we had none……. Mama Sweetie just smiled and said she would get to the mess in the fullness of time, we swept the small cleared area and started bringing things in.

That night the Sweeties slept in the room surrounded by maize, the food we had bought and all the items from the vehicle as this was the only place they could secure. With no power at the property, the car battery they had used to supply a light bulb had been taken. the only light they had was a torch. Whilst hasty preparations had been made for their return a fundi had been instructed to fill the spaces where the windows had been, now the house only had one window a small one that was in what was a store room, no help at all really.

A short while after we arrived Mama Sweetie summoned the man to fix the metal door. I watched this process with interest as it was apparent the door was far too big to fit the hoe. The men knocked the mud brick constructed walls to accommodate this door and then began to dig down below floor level to make more room for the height. Now I took Mama Sweetie to one side and suggested she asks how the door is to open as they are putting it in a hole. They scratched their heads a lot and I went across to demonstrate that a door needed to swing open on its hinges requiring an area of level ground. They weren’t happy with this interruption. The level of earth that had been moved was approx 1 ft, I said when it rained the house would fill with water that collected in the hole and there would be no way to prevent it. I left to busy myself with other chores and when I returned I found Mama Sweetie had released the fundis, a good job too, the door was now propped up in what used to be a bedroom.

I settled them as much as possible and even offered to return to my home and collect Dominic to stay the night with them as guard. The thought of leaving them alone so far from anyone else without power, a door and transport was weighing heavily on me. Mama Sweetie hugged me and said they would be fine, they were being taken care of. Baba Sweetie was there after all. I wandered unseen over to his grave and had a chat before I left. Looking over my shoulder as I drove away it appeared to be a normal scene, mother preparing the jiko to heat the chai, boys running around with their homemade cars, the girls helping sort the house, they too now were HOME.

No comments:

Post a Comment