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.
**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.