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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Footsteps, yarns and little fibs
Everyone has a story and a stroll into town cam be rewarding.

Submitted: March 28, 2017

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Submitted: March 28, 2017



The walk down Sanawari road, across Spaghetti Junction, which is where the road crosses the Moshi – Nairobi highway, and on down what is these days called, East African Community Boulevard, along to the roundabout used to be an adventure. Most often dry and dusty, with busy people coming and going to the market, or on some mission or other. Noise and smells of a vibrant town. Expats are commonplace and little notice is taken of them unless they catch the eye of stall-holder, who will smile and welcome them with a, ‘Karibu’. Younger children will whisper a brief, ‘Sika.’ Which is barely audible, but it’s their way of giving the respectful greeting, ‘Shikamoo.’ If you give the equally respectful, ‘Marahaba’, their countenance lights up.

Not far from our gate, Mama Titi will want to chat. Her name is in reference to her enormous breasts, which are barely hidden by the shingles she habitually wore. She was challenging me to keep eye contact, which most usually I did.

Still not yet on Sanawari road, Boke, a four-year-old girl would be outside to say, ‘Hello.’ She was a regular at our water tap with her mother, a friendly young woman whose husband was a safari driver. Early on I had given Boke a tennis ball, which began a warm salutary friendship.

A few steps past Boke’s house there was the Bike man, William. Most unusually he was working outside on bicycles. He had a few that he hired to locals and he also repaired bikes for customers who owned their own. William was always busy and liked to practice his English with me. Sometimes I would see him in town buying bike parts, and if I was carrying a load of any kind, he would put it on his bike and I would pick it up as I passed on my way home.

On to the Sanawari road where it is much busier because the road climbs up the hill where it is heavily populated. Most of the stall-holders knew me because I had been there for so long, and they would welcome me knowing I was unlikely to buy, but we still greeted each other. About halfway down, there was a short man who only sold sweet potatoes – kumera, in New Zealand lingo. Most of the stall-holders sold a range but not this man. Except for pears that occasionally came down from Lushoto. I always bought my kumera from this guy. I suspect he had birth defects, his eyes were not quite right, he had a foot that didn’t work properly and he was a little stooped. Nevertheless he always wore a smile.

There was always a word to be had with the butcher. I had already passed a couple of butchers but this was my guy. His stall was a concrete block, small hut open to the dust and flies because he had no refrigeration. He had a block that was an old tree stump that he covered it with a fresh cardboard carton each day. He used to buy in a side of beef a day and a few innards. Ox liver, tripe (green with grass stain) and various tubes. He chopped the meat with a bush-knife-cum-machete because he needed to sell the bone as a portion of the meat. I didn’t like chips of bone with my steak or stew, so I paid extra to get meat only. I also bought liver and innards because ‘our’ kids liked them – of course we shared the liver.

Bazili’s mother had a stall she shared with some other women, selling vegetables. The women spent more time talking than selling I think, and their wares were not the quality of the main market, but were perfectly good. They had everything we needed from potatoes to dryish green peas, beans and peppers, rice too. They were a happy lot who insisted on giving bonus veges and correct change, although they usually had to run off to other stall-holders to get it.

Across the highway and sitting outside the Mount Meru Hospital was a small grandmother with a child of perhaps three. On the other hand maybe she was the mother. She sold bananas to people going to visit patients in the hospital or passers-by. Sometime I would buy a banana, but there was nowhere to biff the skin. Nobody thought anything of dropping rubbish wherever they were, but if I did, I would feel a bit guilty. But the thing about this grandmother, on Saturdays she ‘became’ blind and moved down to the roundabout to beg! I suppose most of the regulars knew what she was up to, and she would smile unashamedly at the folk she recognised.

There was a woman in the busy part of the main street who obviously had a problem. She pretended to be busy, walking at a smart pace with a stone or a matchbox and placing it somewhere randomly. Then she would rush off and quickly return and inspect it. She would decide it was in the wrong place and hurriedly move it, taking it somewhere else to repeat the whole exercise. She did no harm and nobody laughed at her, she was just left alone to do her thing.

There is always a drama! One day out of an office block a young man came running, ‘Mwizi – thief!’  Came the call from behind him. Thieves can be treated harshly, so this fellow thought he would hide in a culvert pipe. He only just fitted! He did not heed the calls to come out, so the chasers lit a fire at each end. He did not survive.

Most time it doesn’t pay to watch the dramas unfold because they can be upsetting, but encounters with most people are pleasant and rewarding. I've come to the conclusion, that wherever you go, people are people.

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