Nairobi Railway Station

Image via Wikipedia

I do my best avoiding the still water filling the pots holes of the sidewalk and the street. My shoes and the cuff of my jeans are muddy.

The sidewalk is going about his business with vendors selling the ‘farmer choice” brand sausages filling their carts, shoe shiners wait for clients and readers are busy perusing the headlines of the latest corruption scandals.
I maze myself out of a puzzle of passenger vans, small and large buses taking every inch of the road.

My bladder pressing I swerve into the entrance of the public toilet and paid my five shillings to the cashier. The place is full of men squeezing elbows in front of a tiled wall … the urinal. The lack of privacy annoys me and the strong putrid smell of urine and feces choke me to the point of  leaving without utilizing the service. My clothes feel stained by the stench.

I finally conquered the fastidious four hundred meters from Haile Selassie round-about through a bus station to reach the Nairobi Railway Station.

At the right of the entrance I see the office for the upper class booking. I smile at the sign and found the words pedant in a proletariat world.  Africa is fond of pompous names and acronyms and it is the reason this one has outlive it colonialist past.

The woman behind the counter is nice, smiling and talkative, and upon her explanation I opt for a one way ticket to Mombasa, second class with bed and breakfast. The cost is 1,940 Ksh (less than US $25) for a 15 hours journey in the heydays of railways history. Yes, the train travels 500 km narrow tracks at an average speed of 35 km per hour.  The TGV from Paris to Marseilles travels the 700 km in 3 hours.

A man tells me the trip is worthwhile since the rails go through the Kibera slums, the second largest in Africa, and the Tsavo National Park.
I am not too sure about the Kibera slum. I don’t believe that poverty should be an attraction dignified by touristic voyeurism.

It is 9:30am and departure is at 7pm. I take refuge on a white bench on platform 1, next to an underpass to platform 2 and 3. The platform is clean but shows wear from lack of maintenance. People do not use the underpass to get access to the other platforms. They simply cross the tracks.

The worn station subtly shows its history. The office of the station master reads Chef de Gare and Bahnhofvorsteher.  The left luggage office is also the Bureau consigne des baggages and Gepaeckaufgabe.

On a far track I look at an old green diesel locomotive with yellow and red stripes. The conductor stops next to a group of eight idle men and up from his cabin chats a while with them and go ahead on its tracks.

I am getting bored and still need to relieve my bladder and walk toward one end of the platform and reach the second class lavatory for gents informing me that Nairobi is at 5453 feet of altitude. I enter and notice that dame as in the public toilet the squat latrines are still in use. The smell lingers but is not as bad as the public toilet and high altitude peeing has no effect on my bladder.

On the way back to my bench I visit the upper class waiting room. It is furnished with one large old wooden round table and a small sofa but the toilets are spotless clean with only a mild smell of urine. My nose has regained its primal instinct and now rates toilet’s adequacy by its scent.

Another green locomotive, on platform 2, comes into the station pulling 15 dilapidated passengers cars. None of the wagons have windows or doors. The train has an allegoric look, like a death trap waiting to grab the moment to a sordid fame.
The train is from Kahawa, which I am told is about 40km from Nairobi, and let his passengers off on the tracks.

It is 10:30am and now the station has activities. Men wearing green overalls marked Rift Valley Railway look under the carriage of each railway car while cleaners line trash cans in between the tracks.

At 11am another train pulls on platform 1 with slightly better cars maybe made in the 60s.  The train is from Mombasa and one end let off its mostly white passengers and the other end the passengers from third class. All the passengers from third class are Africans. It is economic segregation.

Suddenly, I am the focus of attention.  The private guards and workers in attendance on the platform are asking me questions. I have been here since early morning. They don’t understand what I am doing here on the white bench where I have taken refuge with my small backpack. I explained that I will be a fixture for the day since my train to Mombasa leaves in the evening.  Everyone smile while I show them my ticket and my audience dissipates satisfied of my answers and leaving me wondering what was the fuss about. Don’t I look like a passenger?

It is noon and feeling stupid of all the interest I decide to walk to the railway’s restaurant. The doors are well shut and peeping through the grim windows I do not see any signs of activities. The thickness of dust on the tables and the furniture shows that the last dish was served decades ago.

I dread the idea but I decide to again fend off the activities in front of the station to have a meal in town.
I walk to Mama Ngina Street and decide not to eat at Java House or Dorman’s. Java house is an American style coffee shop full of idlers taking the best seats in the house. Dorman’s, in the same style as Java house, has a better etiquette but I am looking for food not for fast food or snack passed as food.

I cross the street to Tratorria, an Italian restaurant which has become a fixture in this part of town. The street terrace is full of idlers having a cup of brew to give importance to their never-ending non-consequential meetings.
I sit inside at a brown marble top table near a trio of important looking Somali men and a duo of South Sudanese.
The waiter gives the menu which looks like a novel and I order risotto with prawns. He brings a basket of assorted fresh bread and tomato bruchetta.  The risotto is very good and the portion filling.

A well dressed man wearing a suit and an oversized tie take a seat in front of my table.  The waiter comes and he orders without looking at the menu.  He places his two expensive phones on the table ensuring they are seen but safe from thieves.
The idlers have also very nice suits.  The labels are still sawn on the outer part of the sleeve jacket.   One has a very large white square wrist watch with the dial studded with glittering diamonds. The diamonds must be glass. In Nairobi you show off only jewelry which can be stolen.

I have lost the strength to fight off the buses and people on the way back to the railroad station and negotiate a taxi fare.

I am now greeted with smile by the guards and the workers when I enter the station. I take back my place on the same white bench and as soon as I take comfort two cars marked BM security drive on the platform.

I look because I have never seen cars driven on railway platforms.  I mean the cars drove on the walkway used by passengers and stopped not far from the police station at the far end of the platform to fetch, I assume, some valuable cargo.

As soon as they leave I walk toward the police station. It has a better appearance than the one I have seen in other part of Kenya. I smile at their ingenuity of storing disabled or acquired vehicles on the platform.

Actually, the station is void of vagrants and I do not see people using it as a shelter.

The station’s activities at the approach of the evening are increasing.  More dilapidated trains come letting out waves of human cargo on the tracks.   The platforms are filling with humans whose hands are carrying bags and heads balancing loads of whatever.

At exactly 6:30pm the Mombasa train pulls in the station and back-pack on my shoulder I look for coach 2305, climb on, squeeze in the narrow corridor and open the door to compartment A and slowly feels being sucked into the past.

My compartment is two large light-beige fake leather banquette facing each other and separated by a sink and each with a berth on top. The ladder to climb to the berth is above the door.

At exactly 7pm the train leaves Nairobi Railway Station for his 15 hours voyage to Mombasa. I am alone in my compartment.

The compartment is near the toilet and the passageway connecting to the other wagon.

I check the toilet and they are very clean but then they have squat latrine.  I think that you must be endowed with extraordinary balance to use them without making a mess of yourself.

The train is noisy and sways and bounces like a car with bad shock absorbers. Also, from the compartment I hear a kitchen battery falling off a shelf, again and again in rhythm.  I check and it is the metal door connecting the wagons.  The door flaps in and out banging on the metal frame.  I try to close it but the lock does not work.

Within a short time after departure a young man comes into my compartment with a large green bag. The bag has my bedding which he nicely lay out on a banquette.    I lie down and enjoy the pillow.  It is dark outside, I cannot see anything and as an adult I have never slept 15 hours. I can sleep with sound but I never slept with the noise of a door banging in and out of its metal frame.
I did not bring something to read.

I did not see anything interesting and 15 hours is very long but must admit that I enjoyed my adventure.

The trip back to Nairobi was exciting.  A galloping giraffe was in a collision course with the train. I looked with my head outside the window awaiting the impact.  The train stopped, the giraffe ran across the railroad track and continued her journey.

It took another 15 minutes for the train to start again but we all made it safe.



African Buffalo

Image by Lukas Vermeer via Flickr

Some institutions are redefining poverty to increase their middle class.

It is simple, assuming the poor spend US $2 to $4 per day to sustain a life at the border of disaster then an analyst comes and make the wise judgment that with these US $2 to $4 dollars they are no longer poor but middle class.

Not high middle class but the low middle class or “floating class”.  The high middle class makes US $3,900 per year according to the African Development Bank (AfDB) and creators of the floating class.

Well, it is what AfDB says. Do not take the bank too serious considering it was once clogged with fraud, corruption and politic. I don’t think too much has changed.

Without knowing, people leading the same miserable lives have suddenly been catapulted in the enviable position of middle class. Nothing has changed except the label.

This change of label has not made much ruckus in Africa. In India it did when the India Planning Commission set the urban poverty lines at $12.75 per person a month and at $9.93 for rural India. Indian activists, with good reasons, went on a rampage of actions against these changes.

African activists have not budged at AfDB new poverty threshold but they still die in protest in the streets due the high cost of food and fuel.
I don’t understand why they are using the poor to fight the battle of the new middle class.

Income, consumption, calorie index and others are some of the values used to calculate poverty line. Of course, poverty line is not the same in all countries and may even be tabulated on different criteria. However, according to the World Bank the global poverty line is US $1.25 per day. Make anything under and you fall into the National Geographic category.

Imagine a global poverty line of US $3 per day or US $90 per month and devise how to apportion it to buy food, clothing, shelter, water, transport, education and health.
Notice, I do not mention electricity, entertainment or even rest. Yes, poor cannot afford to take time off; they need to make money to survive.

In the USA or Europe it is unthinkable to sustain life with an income of US $90 per month. The Vatican should consider anyone living on such little money a Saint routinely performing miracles. You need faith when you are poor.

The ten poorest countries in the world are in Africa but AfDB with innovative statistic has changed the status of a lot from poor to floating middle class. They are floating on a busted canoe, scooping out the water in order not to sink.  The canoe is the asset.

The Nigerian High commissioner to Kenya has allegedly beaten up his wife to a pulp.  He said that her bloody bruises are ketchup. You see, in Africa it is the way people in power treat bad situation to their benefit,same as AfDB.

I am so impressed with this Nigerian that I have decided to give you his full name and title:
Chief Dr. Chijioke Wilcox Wigwe, Nigeria High Commissioner to Kenya and the Seychelles. Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the United Nations Environmental Programme and the UN Habitat in Nairobi.
I want to mention that in 2008 he received, in Kenya, the title of Ambassador for Peace and in 2010 Best Ambassador of the Year 2010 by the Vision Africa Magazine.
I cannot help but Wigwe makes me think of a small version of Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

Somehow, I do find a parallel among the actions of the Nigerian High commissioner in Kenya and the AfDB.
Both twist realities to their convenience.

These two deserve the Buffalo Dung Award.



Arnold Schwarzenegger, 2003 Cannes film festival

Also known as Conan the Barbarian

Arnold Schwarzenegger has officially announced, over ten years later, a love child with his housekeeper.

I don’t know why any kid is called a love child. Usually a love child is hidden from the other half-brothers and sisters, has a lower life style, limited access to the father and a different family name.

I have never read a plantation owner happily announcing the birth of a love child with his favorite slave.

A love child is a lad or gal shun, ostracized and unwanted by almost everyone except his real mother. A love child always calls for an “I am sorry” from the father. 

Arnold Schwarzenegger said “I understand and deserve the feelings of anger and disappointment among my friends and family. There are no excuses and I take full responsibility for the hurt I have caused. I have apologized to Maria, my children and my family. I am truly sorry.”

Wow! No comfort there for the love child, he is the reason for the apology.

It must be the love child’s fault that Arnold’s strong sperms gave him existence inside his mother’s wombs causing so much stress to his family.

Somehow for  Arnold  to say “I take full responsibility” is a misdemeanor. I have not yet seen paparazzi taking pictures of Arnold together with his love child sharing good times at Disneyland. So where has he taken responsibility for his “illicit” affair.

In the media psychologists, psychiatrists and family philosophers have a field day giving their expert opinion about the situation which the Schwarzenegger family is enduring.

Not one says or is positive about the love child having a relationship with his half sisters and brother, have a big birthday bash at daddy’s house, have his father pick him after school or say that he is almost related to the Kennedy by marriage.

A love child is branded from birth with different rules. He is marginalized from any “normal” family set up.  Society treats him as a clinical case whose presence should be ablated like a malignant tumor.

The love child is a bastard, the child with a different status from his siblings, the one creating debate on simple subjects like “should we buy him a Christmas present.”

Public opinion bullies his privacy by showing picture of his house and of his mother with Arnold at her side.  The media thinks that privacy and respect is not mentioning his name and blurring his facial feature on photos. 

Does that mean that a love child does not attend school, is void of friends and social life? Maybe, it does not matter to these “good” people. They call him love child but cannot stop treating him like a bastard.

So, you know now that I do not think much of Arnold. I do not like the way he has robbed, for the past ten years, his child’s identity.  Anyone deserves to say look this is my father and that’s my mother. Yes, my birth created some family problems but I do exist and do have importance.



The case of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the French former International Monetary Fund‘s director, has become media frenzy on two continents. It is the battle of the American legal laws versus the French common laws or the merits of the old British laws versus the Napoleonic codes.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn is accused of sexual assault and the US media shows pictures of him with handcuffs, escorted by policemen and in front of the judge. In America an accused person is innocent until declared guilty but paraded with all the paraphernalia of a guilty verdict.

The French media somehow believes that DSK has been framed and with little reverence reveals the alleged victim’s full name, her origin, her family set up, where she lives, her looks and physical attributes.  The plaintiff’s privacy is assaulted before her case is heard.

The US media claims that DSK could receive from 5 to 30 years in prison but a maximum of five years in France.
Interestingly the French media said, that’s doubtful and yet to be proven, that his status would be unscathed by the accusations.

In the French public opinion the plaintiff has questionable credibility; she is black and not any black but African black.
Furthermore, her moral integrity is tainted for being a young single mother raising a teenage child.
In France many people are crossing their fingers hoping the accuser is lying.

The Daily Telegraph stated that Kristin Davis, the Manhattan madam, who provided call girls to the rich and famous, said that DSK was prone to violent outburst and was aggressive with women.
I think that Kristin Davis should be considered an authority on DSK’s character. 

The house-keeper has changed DSK’s life path for ever as well as IMF and the 2012 French presidential election.

DSK, a member of the socialist party, was the favorite candidate to run against President Sarkozy who is member of the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP).

Interesting to know that Harlem Désir, a black man, founder of SOS Racism an organization against racial discrimination, now a European Deputy and the socialist party second in command said that President Sarkozy should intervene in DSK’S liberation in order for him to prepare his defense.

Harlem Désir is absolutely delusional in the understanding of power and justice and, thanks to his comments on DSK problems, makes it less palatable to vote for a party whose leaders lack comprehension of the principles of socialism.

DSK is a big boy who has money, clout, an overgrown ego and a gullible wife to solve his problems.

The house-keeper has the most difficult task. The Media bared her naked in public and will make her transparent as soon as the trial starts.

I think it is good for the case to be judged in the US.  In France DSK, if guilty, would probably not receive the sentence which Americans expect and in Africa any case against a prominent person almost never reach a court.

President Zuma of South Africa was accused of rape charge. The case was declared consensual by the court.
Zuma did not use a condom and the alleged rape victim was HIV positive and the South African court still deemed it consensual sex.
Big deals short circuiting my brain and I am so glad the case is in front of an US court. Only an US court can bring DSK’s ego down to a reasonable level. 



[42/365] New Passport

Image by Ben Dodson via Flickr

Clara Gutteridge a British Human Right investigator whose job is to find victims of enforced disappearances has been deported from Kenya.  The local newspapers are mute, blank or, assuming I did not look in the right places, slow in providing this information to their readers.

Foreign correspondents are more aware of what is going on in Kenya.
Correction; the Kenyan media is gagged by higher authorities not to be too zealous in providing information.

Clara Gutteridge was looking into the illegal deportation and detention of terror suspects from Kenya to Uganda.
Her search was probably uncomfortable and collaterally enhanced Uganda’s infringement of human rights and treatment of political opponents. Also, it could have raised questions about the Kenya’s government insistence in siding with the alleged perpetrator of crime against humanity by the International criminal court in The Hague.

Let me hush that the mere presence of people like Clara Gutteridge triggers collateral damage.

The Kenyan vice President’s world excursions to gather opinion in favor of having the ICC alleged suspects delayed or judged at home are well documented. The government even approved rallies idolizing these suspects.

The blessing by the mother of one of the suspects is front news while the twenty-five Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) who died for eating cats,  because they have not received food from the governments in months,  is allocated to sections of news lacking prime.

An IDP is someone who leaves his residence due to internal conflict. In Kenya the internal conflict was triggered by a rigged election seeing almost 1300 killed and almost half million IDP in 2007-2008.

Strange things have happened in Kenya. People turned up dead with their face removed with acid, other are kidnapped or killed in broad day light, extra judicial killers are in the prowl but the news are not investigated.  One page spread to tell the mass that this-and-that happened is enough.

Anyway, I believe that it must be quite nerve-racking to be an ICC prosecution witness in Kenya.

Like Linus the media takes its blue blanket, sucks its thumb, close its eyes and gesture go away, go away in its nightmares.
It is pure coincidence that van Pelt, Peanut’s character, and Gitahi, the CEO of the Nation Media Group (NMG), share the same first name. NMG is the largest Media house with TV channels and lots of newspapers and magazine in East Africa.

The government set the tone and the media execute it in favor of some of the alleged criminals vying for the most important post of the country. Well, it seems that Kenya may have suspects of crimes against humanity declared or not innocent running for the presidency in 2012.

I think that Clara Gutteridge touched a raw nerve in Kenya. Anyway, she is safe and it shows that being white and having a British passport helps. She is not African waiting to go to The Hague as a witness for the prosecution.

Strange, at time, Africa makes me think of people witnessing a drive by shooting while waiting at a bus stop.


UpdateIt has taken over one week for the Kenyan newspapers to inform of Clara Gutteridge’s deportation. According to the newspapers her deportation was due to safeguard national interest and to avoid any embarrassment to the government.


Osama Bin Laden Warholl Style

Image by Anxo Resúa via Flickr

Osama bin Laden has been eliminated and the Muslim extremist world is kind of mute at the news. They are exalting muted sadness or happiness while thinking about the next move telling the world that Osama is gone but his spirit lives on.

The world is full of tit and tat, ping and pong, yin and yang, pro and con that a bang-bang on symbols, icons or people going along their daily business must happen.

Bang-bang is the order of extreme terrorism when pagans do not heed to prescribe religious belief and books telling who to hate or discriminate. 

The Muslim clerics complained that a burial at sea was not satisfactory, Osama was shot while unarmed and Pakistan should have been informed of the “unauthorized” unilateral action.  Indonesia Islamists declared Osama a martyr.

Anyway, yes, American should have informed Pakistan to give Osama proper warning.  After all, Osama bin Laden was Pakistan bread and butter.
What will happen to Pakistan when the generous donations from America to combat terrorism stop coming?

Obama has suddenly become, even among birthers, more American in his country.
However, a few prominent personalities find it difficult to credit Obama.  Sarah Palin, a wannabe republican presidential candidate who recently acquired a passport to visit her geography, credited Bush of the ground work for catching Osama bin Laden.

Bush ground work was based on allegoric intelligence. Bush, after 9/11, destroyed Iraq, caused mayhem in the poppy fields of Afghanistan while Osama was in Pakistan.

Taliban infested Afghanistan has been vindicated. Tears ridden president Karzai for years told America that bin Laden was not hiding in the caves of the rocky mountains of Afghanistan.

Then others, the one you must listen to in order not to be labeled a moron by the politico, are looking into strategic mistakes made by the Obama administration. They analyze what should or could have been done, in which order and if waterboarding was used to illegally get Osama’s address.

For some Osama’s death without a body as evidence is not valid.  It is beyond their comprehension and speculation and conspiracy will soon start coming.

It is madness, who cares about the body since Osama was only an audiotape figure attached to fading color pictures of him from the Kodak roll film era.

Some will create tantrums to see the gruesome picture of Osama’s head pierced by a bullet.  Others will create counter-tantrum for the pictures not to be available.

Muslims extremists jump on high horses when a cartoonist caricatures their prophet. Pictures of Osama may cause the same effect.

Well, a worthy fact is that Osama was fond of Coca Cola and Pepsi. They found lots of empty soda cans in his hideaway. He probably drank the American liquid formula straight from the can and with a straw as not to soil his beard.

When the World Trade Center twin towers blew up lots of Muslim countries chanted death to the Americans and lots of praise for Osama.

It will still be difficult time ahead for the Muslim of Dearborn, Michigan. You cannot rejoice at the killing of your own even if you did not agree with his ideology.

Religion always comes before patriotism and Osama represented religious ideology within a political context or vice versa and that depends if you look at a glass half empty or full.

I think I have an idea where Gaddafi stays, his body can be dumped at sea.

Is that too much of a request?




Mohamed Bouazizi

Time magazine is channeling its views of the world. The knowledgeable behind the magazine are telling you about the 100 most influential people in the world.

Some will read the list and sight in relief and thanks Time magazine to have facilitated their thinking process.
I don’t recognize myself in the list; it does not represent my world, my ideas and where the world is heading to.
So I compiled my list.  Of course, it is not exhaustive but it does represent what I consider the most influential and important people in the world.

YOU collectively are the most important people in the world.  Foremost, YOU give importance to the 100 people listed in Time magazine.
Your judgment is not always right but it provides a broad platform of your like, dislike and how you foresee the world according to your values.
Collectively YOU can be dangerous and prone to cognitive dissonance.

The last workers of the Dai-Aichi plant in Japan.  The workers are dying for ethic, honor and to complete a job which they adamantly feel responsible for.
The second the nuclear plant was damaged was their start of their long slow and painful death by nuclear contamination.
Surely, an award-winning photographer and reporter will document their slow and painful death.
The documentary will be in Black and White, it is a media providing a stronger impact and eye-catching in book form on a coffee table.

RuPaul the drag queen has given worldwide recognition to people marginalized by phobic misconception of what human beings are.
RuPaul provokes smiles on a “chante you stay” or tears on “sachay away” and never leaves one hanging without exulting feelings.
Each contestant reminds you that you can forge ahead against adversity.  Sorry, Yara Sofia, a contestant in Drag race, says it better – “echa palante”.

Mohamed Bouazizi, the vegetables vendor, whose self-immolation started the Jasmine revolution in Tunisia.  The revolution is spreading in the Arab world and changing the concept of the global master servant relationship.
Bouazizi died with thoughts of not coming back to his hell and unwillingly left a legacy shattering the inequalities of the Arab world.

The local beggar, destitute, street boy or whoever wanting money from YOU in the street.
Individually they remind the mass how the majority of the world lives. Yes, there is more poor than rich in the world.  More people whose life is at the brink of a disaster than we can imagine.
There drama and dilemma make goods 6 o’clock news and special report. It always happens in places with exotic names but never home.
Then our bleeding hearts sends money to alleviate suffering, then we build a wall at the border so they don’t come in.

Also, one of the most influential people in the world is the one you love the most, the person who gives you a rainbow of emotions. The one you cannot live without, the person making life easy, the person providing harmony and Zen in the mayhem of life.
The person whose only request you have is to be there.