Two thirds

Yesterday, being 7th, was the 16th month-anniversary of my arrival in this land; two thirds of the way through my service. This morning, while running, I got annoyed with uninvited company once again. One child ventured too close to me and I reached out and slapped him upside his head with the back of my hand. Another I told to “Fuck Off” with such vehemency that gobbits of runner’s phlegm sprayed in his direction. And Im not even ashamed. Well I’m not ashamed of the actions themselves, Im ashamed of being so stupid that I couldn’t see how doing so would only make the kids more excited to try and run with the mzungu but keeping just out of arm’s distance, or spitting distance, depending on which incident they witnessed.

But it has set me to thinking, this morning, about why Im so bad tempered for no reason.

Possibilities are:

**One**: that I like having problems in my life. Since sorting out the problem of frustration in class (by no longer attending class with students) I have made my life happy and some sort of protestant umpulse disallows me from having a happy life and so wants to make trouble for me by provoking local kids whom I previously tollerated.

**Two**: that the longer I stay here the less tollerant I become of what I see. When I arrived, everything was alien: kids shouting “Muh-zung-goo”, ox-carts juddering their way along the roadside, kids driving tractors slowly accross major roads unsupervised, etc. I felt like some green monster from another planet speaking in a garbled tongue (like Yoda, but taller). And I respectfully put up with everything trying not to be judgemental. Now that I feel more at home, though still clearly the wrong colour, I have started to judge.

**Three**: that I got out of bed on the wrong side this morning (as my early-morning SMS from Christine suggested).

**Four**: that its time I wasn’t here. I’ve stared to daydream of leaving. Well to tell the truth, I’ve been dreaming of that since I got here. Nearer the beginning I put it down to home-sickness. Now, perhaps, I’m interpreting the same warm feelings towards my own land and a more familiar culutre as being sick of Kenya.

Its a nice country. I mean the land. And the animals — even the snakes and scorpions (but **not** the rats) have a charm of their own. But I don’t think I’d ever start to feel at home here due to the conservative and (to me, seemingly) backward-looking cultural meme. If it weren’t for the fact that I’m somehow vaguely aware of colonization, debt and inappropriate governance I might be tempted to blame the whole country’s sorry situation on the aparent scarcity of the ability or willingness to think outside the box.

Here’s an example of what I mean: Just the other morning on the World Service I heard an interview with a young kenyan who makes what sounded like a tidy living breeding chameleons for export. His farm is also used for field trips by academics wishing to study the beasts. He was asked if he had experienced any difficulties in starting his novel business. Yes, he said, his family (mother in particular I think) almost disowned him. That’s great, I thought, someone has a unique business idea and as a result his family want to disown him. Perhaps there is some information missing from this equation: maybe chameleons are associated with black magic or somehow otherwsie culturally out of kilter. But it sounds like yet another case of Kenya’s anti-progress meme disencouraging people from trying new ideas.

Anyway, I thought it best to vent some of this and make my child-beating confession here on line so I don’t end up carrying it round with me for the next eight months. I came here as a volunteer for various reasons, some of them selfish, but none of them were to smack kids.


  1. Drew Says:

    Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeep :rolleyes:

  2. Nic Says:

    Sounds like a combination of all 4 to me. 2 years was my limit for living in forn parts…

    hope you had a better bed exiting experience this morning:-)


  3. Sophia Says:

    You are officially a Dr!

    😀 😀 ———————————– 😀 😀

    C o n g r a t u l a t i o n s

    😀 😀 ———————————– 😀 😀

    I received the letter today!


    PS The other day I was wondering about somthing in AOP,
    and pulled out your thesis. It is beautiful!

  4. Chris Says:

    Right then, time to stop belting street urchins and start ACTING like a doctor. I suggest Doctor Who 😉

    You’re allowed to have a bad day once in a while, Mark!
    Maybe you’ve got some pent-up energy that needs releasing and it came out as violence.

    Have a good weekend! And do some good deeds to placate your guilt. 😉

  5. will Says:

    Right side of the bed, wrong side of the world for now. Can’t help those who do not wish to be helped, can’t help the hungry who would rather have others feed them, can’t love those who refuse to love themselves or life.

  6. natty Says:

    It happens, babe. I find immersing myself in a movie theater or reading a book helps to pull me out of funks and keep me going.

    Hurricane season starting early and very strong this year. We’re getting the western side of Arlene tomorrow night (she should be a hurricane by then), but we should weather ok. A couple feet of flooding at the most. It’s going to be a long season. Wish us luck.

  7. p-lope Says:

    does anyone in kenya make you feel bad for being who you are? I should hope not. That can happen in this country. you need dunking biscuits! what sort are youre favorite?

  8. Jan Says:

    Yo I do think sometimes you seem to have a short fuse…I can relate to this. Having been there I can see where you are comming from but there again I can also see it is so very different that you have to just run on .. or "come bye’ and let it all pass… sort of running to rise above it ..
    And I think 2 years is all I could take, I do think that after a year and it takes all of that to begin to get a better understanding of what makes them tick … but I can only say I would want to give up as some just dont want to help themselves etcc…and I think it is hard.
    I am very proud of you as I am not too sure I could have stuck at it .

    and yes Dr Skipper you dont need to bash the locals really …and CONGRATULATIONS well done..

    so when is the Graduation then ?

    did you get a parcel ?? buy the way ??

    and hey steve still has his beard he started at yours ..

    he is a bit OBonekenobi ish

    xx Jan

    😀 😀

  9. Jan Main Says:

    Oh I forgot …

    dont feel bad if you hvae just made it easter for yourself
    and and actually that move with the teaching is what it was all about really ..
    enjoy it you will miss it when you go .. well some of it you will !!

    LOL Jan

    and yes Dr Who is good .. ! like it

  10. Mark Says:

    This is a lovely supprise. Well two actually. I’ve not been near that Internet since last Thursday. And I always love it when there are a few comments on the blog, and a few emails in the inbox. This long list of lovely comments has made me feel very good. Thank you all.

    And Sophia’s news is especially happymaking. I think I’ll dig out the Dr Bitterjug logo again for the next post.

    I’ve banned myself from running for a while and when I do start again I might cut it short so I don’t pass by the schools in Ngluni. But the problem isn’t really in Ngluni its in my head. I am not sure what it is. Since last week I’ve done a lot of reading, Natty, ploughed to the end of The Confusion and started The System Of The World.

    I’ve also been to Nairobi and celebrated a couple of birthdays, cooked in a nice kitchen with steel pans with handles rather than aluminium ones without, and played Scrabble.

  11. Cad Says:

    >>and played Scrabble.
    And to quote a certain rubber-keyed computer…
    "Would you like to see the computer thinking?"

    Following Chris’s comment, I think you’d make a top Dr Who 🙂

    Come and stay with us – our lovely pans (with handles) await.

    All our love,
    Cad + the Cads

  12. Mark Says:

    … How many wizards?

  13. natty Says:

    I’m going through my own funk lately. The weather is unseasonably hot here, even for New Orleans. Setting heat and humidity records all over the place.

    Toby has not found a job yet, so due to financial crunch, we had to move in with friends. So we have four adults, two dogs and three cats in a 1000 sq. foot house. Within a week, the transmission in my car blew up. It’s not worth putting a $3000 automatic transmission in a little Saturn with 225,000 miles on it. My work schedule has about tripled in the last few weeks. So not only do I not have time for myself, when I do have the time it’s really hard to find a quiet space for myself and I no longer have the freedom to drive out and do whatever I need to do whenever I want. I’m turning into a major crankfest and sniping at Toby a lot, which isn’t fair to him. I think I’m going to have to wake up at 5 in the morning to write my "morning pages" again just to get the lead out, I’m compiling lists of things that need doing so I can get the satisfaction of crossing them off, and I’m thinking of taking up Yoga. Anything to get the stress under control and find some sort of balance.

  14. Mark Says:

    Hey Nat,
    sounds rotten. I think morning pages are great though. I did them regularly for a couple of years just after I got back from the US in 2000, and kept a disposable journal for about a year when I first arrived in Kenya. I recently recommend them to a friend who was finding everything getting a bit much. Your idea of stretching your day earlier for the sake of the space that you get from being awake but alone makes sense to me. I also think that that time for emptying out the pockets of the soul is worth the extra half hour of sleep or so.

    Searching for a link to The Artists Way I just discovered that
    a) The author has made a whole business out of Morning pages and artist dates (something I never did but ought to have) and so on
    b) plenty of people publish/blog their morning pages.

    I don’t much like the idea of publishing them. I think they ought to be private. One of the web pages (not the one linked above) described the as "toss away", thats exactly what I did with mine. I wrote them in a pretty book with rainbow coloured paper. Then I chucked the whole thing away without ever* reading it. That wasn’t the point. It’s doing them that counts.

    * Only exception I remember being this: came back from all-night clubbing — my second visit to Torture Garden — one Sunday morning; still wide awake and buzzing. Wrote morning pages for that day while sitting in bed then dived in at random and happened upon the page I’d written after my first visit to Torture Garden. Just as on second reading "9 1/2 Weeks" seems to be as much about cats as it was about sex, so my experience of TG was confirmed to be less about fetishism about great music and more about great music and a broad minded acceptance.

  15. Sophia Says:

    Dear Mark,

    Happy you are feeling better, and enjoyed Nairobi and
    the cooking.

    I have a slightly related story to tell:

    At about 1960, a friend of my famther’s, let us
    call him Goerge, was offered by the German government
    a studentship to go to Germany and study for his PhD. In
    those years trips were rare and expensive, PhDs were rare,
    the University mentioned was very esteemed, so all in all
    it was a great and unique opportunity. The German democracy
    was still young, but liberal and respected,
    the new German state was hard working and succesful – several of these things were missing in Greece (we had a
    civil war until 1950).

    So, George went indeed to Germany, and found all these
    wondrous things, but also found the weather grey, and the
    people grim. He discovered many things he did not like, but
    he also realized that he was over critical as he was lonely
    and homesick.

    So, he used to say jokingly, that the best way for a country to become unpopular, was to offer scholarships for
    foreign students

  16. Chris Says:

    Since you mentioned TG… seem to be several TGDJs playing in Lost Vagueness at Glastonbury next week, where WE (Orkestra Del Sol) will also be playing! Also London Swingfonia – who sound like you MUST know them – will be there.

    And Youngblood Brass Band playing elsewhere, but at the same time as we’re playing a gig! Fnark! :angry:

    Weather forecast is SCORCHIO and I can’t wait!

    Anyone else here going to be going along to Glasto?

  17. Mark Says:

    Man! Arent Young Blood doing a second gig some time?

    Maybe they are having some other gigs in the UK while theyre over? I think they’re fantastic.

    Couple o years ago I was invited to help teach a swing dance lesson at Lost Vagueness, it was quite a good deal including a free Glastonbury ticket. You know I’ve never been to Glasto! Anyway turns out I had something important on that very weekend. Something I had already put off once, quite possibly it was a VSO training of some sort. Whatever — I missed it.

    There will probably be someone — probably Madame JoJo — doing swing lessons there, go seek em out and give them a snog from me.

    Also if *Ting* is one of the TGDJs, give her a snog from me too!

    Remote snogging, now there’s an interesting idea for a service-based web-company… (better stop now before my Spam Throtteling system prevents me from finishing this)