Thursday, May 31, 2007

Lost in Translation

Dear Reader,

I have a domestic servant that speaks neither English or French. Things are... complicated. My sign language and general non verbal communication skills have improved tremendously. But there are still challenges...

I am developing a cunning mix of basic french, basic English, a drop or two of the local lingo as well as a smattering of Yoruba (yes Yoruba) to deal with the problem... Nothing quite compliments a rueful shake of the head like "o ga o"... Nothing passes the message across to suicidal motorcycle riders (yes...there are okadas in Kigali).. like WERE! ( mad man..or woman) unless of course you remember your employers expect you to behave with decorum, and you instead mutter it under your breath like a prayer... But I digress.

Anyway, in spite of my dangerous cunning and adaptability, I am still faced with daunting challenges... particularly with my all purpose domestic assistant..

Boiling water is fine...But how do you say that you like your food spicy and dangerous without too much oil. ...That shrimps, crabs, prawns and their ilk must be avoided at all costs... How do you explain the difference between salads and vegetable mishmash... that you do not need onions in your fruit salad...

How do you explain to him that you would send someone to the house at 11 o'clock to pick up something for you ( I got stuck after pointing to 11 on the wall clock)... That you would be out of town for a few days and you wont be sending someone to pick your car for servicing ... or your TV... or your fridge... or the entire bloody house for that matter...

How do I tell him I don't expect him to sleep outside..."guarding the house"... when it is raining cats and bad things.. without insulting his professional pride?

Even worse, how does he tell you that he needs a raise, that he needs to visit his sick mom...or that Mr Johnson came and dropped an urgent message for you to give to Mr Jackson... In the first two instances I was helped by neighbourhood translators, I haven't experienced the third instance..perhaps Mr Johnson did come... and he did not know how to inform me..

I remain lost.

Flummoxed in Kigali

Monday, May 28, 2007

old eyes (2)

By popular demand...

December 2002 - The promise and the fear

The Promise
I promise to be there for you... no matter what
That you will have my heart
For as long as I live... and even through eternity
I promise to be true to you...
even if I am not being true to myself
I promise that you will have my strength to use as you will
... and if that were not enough
to find enough strength..somehow, somewhere...

The fears...
I'm afraid at times
that I might love you too much.
That my love
instead of bathing you in the warmth of its tenderness
might be like the raging fire
consuming you in its fervour
That my embraces,
instead of warming you and loving you
might choke you
and crush you
I am afraid.


My words mock me oldeyes... They fly off the pages laughing and screaming into the air... Some of them are crying...wondering what happened to their power, their meaning? They disturb me...but I have no answers for them oldeyes... I have no answers for them...

I beg them to leave me alone ...that their pain is my pain... but they refuse oldeyes, they refuse. Sometimes they sit in front of me and stare.. They do not talk...But their eyes accuse me..."Liar! False Prophet! Hypocrite!" their eyes say. I cringe but they do not stop... Fool! Madman! they scream...

I ignore them at those times oldeyes... Yes, oldeyes, I ignore my beautiful children... My beautiful, empty children ...

And worst of all oldeyes, when I call them sometimes... they do not come... My words are leaving me children have turned their backs on me... My beautiful, empty children... Tell me, oldeyes, tell me... Why have all the words lost their meaning?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

oldeyes (1)

The little girl with old eyes
What shall we do to your old eyes?
What could make them new?
Perhaps, if you cried
Some of the age would leave
And your eyes will be new
Would you cry for me then, little girl?
Would you cry for me
and make your old eyes new?

January 2001

I remember the first time I saw you oldeyes.

I remember...but I cant remember how it started. This was the first one oldeyes. I cant remember a lot now... But the little I remember is enough.

I cant remember what I wanted to save you from. But I remember that saving you was supposed to save me. Did I save you, oldeyes?

Did you save me? Was it all just a futile battle against the inevitable?

Time will tell oldeyes, what other use is there for time anyway...

I cant remember oldeyes...Time has also done that to me. I will remember you occasionally oldeyes...through the bits and pieces... the fragments and the words that have frozen our times forever for me.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Wednesday - lunch time

Forgot my phone at home..dashed back to get it at break time. Dropped at a friend's place for lunch... The usual 2 or 3 course fare...with Was almost tipsy afterwards...managed to make it back to the office for round two of work. Maybe I will work till evening...maybe I will leave early...My take home pay can take me home.

I probably wont go home early... Home is a houseboy that does not speak English or french...and Satellite TV. The life of the expat is quite lonely you see. Hmmm..who do I call? What do I do?

Was in Nairobi 2 weeks ago..excellent place...mad people..beaucoup restaurants and pubs and bars..and oyinbo people. Very ambitious traffic hold ups for a city of 3 million. Very aggressive professionals (females) at some of the clubs too. The trip was too short to get a full impression. Didn't do the Safari...didn't do the country side...did a number of restaurants and bars and clubs...Didn't really meet anybody... there any country apart from those in West Africa that Nigerians do not need visas to enter? I mean, the only passport that is probably more inconvenient that the green passport might be the Pakistani passport...but then again..

I havent invited anybody to my blog yet...but what is the point of writing if nobody gets to read? That would change..soon.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


I am not drifting today. I seem to have a tenuous grip on things as they are. I know who I am at the moment, but I am not quite sure who I am supposed to be. I am a young Nigerian man, living and working in Kigali, Rwanda - on one of those development technical assistance programs.

What should I muse about today. Should I muse about being a Nigerian in this sad, funny world? Rage against the system and the politics and the pride and the shame and the disappointment and the cruel, cruel hope that leads to more disappointment and more hope in the vicious cycle that I hope will break before I quench. But that is not fun.

Should I indulge again in my favourite drug - melancholy, and wander a little along the emotional corridors of my past? I do that a lot. Even when I'm not indulging, I cannot escape the melancholia that follows me about like a pesky, unwanted friend. Always turning up, always present and who by virtue of alwaysbeingthereness becomes your best and most familiar friend.

Or maybe today I will be happy. Share my happy places in the hope that I would be surrounded by its reflections and in doing so increase my happiness in multiple folds. But then again, Dear Reader... I am afraid. Afraid of letting you into my secret places...letting you into places no woman (or man) has gone before.

At any rate, I am late for a meeting... Catch y'all later.

I gotta go.

Peace to the Middle East