Tag Archives: Africa

NAIROBI TO MOMBASA BY TRAIN


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.

Patrick-Bernard

DON’T TOUCH THE KING


3. Martin Luther King, Jr., a civil rights act...

Image via Wikipedia

America is commemorating the death of Dr. Martin Luther King and there is not much to add about him. Everything has been said and debated about this icon of modern American Black history.

Martin Luther King is the hero of all the descendants of Black slaves and the Blacks subjugated by segregationist policies and laws in the USA.

In the days where laws were called Jim Crow and a strange fruit was a dead Black hanging from a tree. America still has a lot to do in terms of race relations but the fact is that Dr. King is the most celebrated founder of the civil right movement.

Pan-Africans advocate the unification of Africans and people of African heritage.

I read an opinion piece in a Kenyan newspaper and the author, a staunch pan-African, stated that it was time for the West to compensate Africa for slavery.

I was offended, since history shows that Africa had a role to play with slavery and compensation, if any, should go to the descendants of the people who Africa enslaved.

I wrote to the newspaper and now assume that my point of view was too inflammatory and un-African and tossed in the dust bin.

Anyway, I found a great quote from “King Ghezo of Dahomey who said in 1840s: the slave trade is the ruling principle of my people. It is the source and the glory of their wealth.”

I wonder what would be the world opinion if Jews were asked to compensate Germany for what Hitler has done.

A synonym of pan-African is the African Union.  It started as the Organization of African Unity or the dictators club as some called it.

The so-called OAU did nothing for the Black people during the segregation time fought by Martin Luther King in the USA, nothing either during South Africa and former Rhodesia apartheid era.

During apartheid era the African nations were knocking on South Africa’s door for favors and loans.

The irony is that since Africans took over not much is going on.  Nelson Mandela is South Africa father figure while Jacob Zuma, the president only interest is to acquire more wives and gag the press.

I astonished a friend of mine when I said that Zuma wanted to shag his whole country. Funny, I think it was the ambition of King Ghezo too.  Africa likes to shag its people.

I have nothing to say about Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. The man is absolutely self un-explanatory.
Sorry, I have something to say:
“Mugabe’s nickname is Mad Bob and he is upset because his wife is rumored to have extramarital affairs.”

I get kind of disturb when Africa’s sycophants ride on the fame or associate themselves with people like Dr. King. I understand than an America embassy in Africa is having an exhibit comparing Dr. King’s accomplishments with other African heroes.

Testing, testing.  Which African heroes?
Dr. King never liberated a country and stole the land. No, he liberated the Black people and got killed for it.

Dr. King belongs to Blacks, the one who are now in the new world, the one with the post slavery syndromes.

Africa should offer all Blacks an excuse for the mess they created. Nobody wants their money as they borrow from the West where Blacks live. An apology will do.

Patrick-Bernard

IS AFRICA READY FOR NUCLEAR POWER?


Internationally recognized symbol.

Image via Wikipedia

It is news to me. I was not aware the Democratic Republic of Congo had a nuclear reactor since 1971.  It is idle from 2004 as they have been unable to raise donations to buy spare parts.  They built it and expect donations to do the rest.

Considering that nuclear reactors have a life span of about 40 years, which can be extended with much investment up to 60 years, the DRC reactor is now in the class of white elephant or with luck as of 2031.

A ministerial permit is needed to visit the reactor. According to what I read there is no science fiction type entrance to reach it. Only one key inserted in a door is needed for a close up look behind smoked glass. It is that simple.

Security at the DRC nuclear facility was increased with a close circuit camera and armed guards after two bars of low-enriched nuclear fuel were stolen in the 70’s. Only one bar was recovered.

I learned that it is possible to make a home-made nuclear reactor.  Asks, David Charles Hahn also called the radio-active boy.

An earthquake like the one which damaged the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Japan is not expected.

Their present worry is the soil on which the nuclear facility is build. It is sliding and eroding. The government is aware but is not seem interested in doing anything at the moment.
Maybe they are waiting for its few workers to glow in the dark before taking action.

Actually there are ten nuclear reactors in Africa; Algeria (2), the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ghana, Libya, Morocco, Nigeria and South Africa (2).

South Africa is the only country with a nuclear power station on the African continent. During maintenance work, in September 2010, 100 people were contaminated at the Koeberg plant.

Sudan, Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, Algeria, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia are all interested in producing nuclear power.
I don’t know how many nuclear engineers Africa has. Probably not enough but the diploma mills are waiting in the background to fill up the vacuüm when the need arise.

Africa does not have a culture of maintenance and good governance. Consequently power infrastructure, most built in the 50’s and 60’s, are seldom updated, inadequately repaired, and badly managed but produces nice kickbacks.
What will happen when they have nuclear power?

Kenya, country-wide, must have thousands of power outages per month. When power comes back, a few hours or days later, surges blow up many household appliances. That’s the surprise elements informing you that power is back.

I wonder what will be the surprise element when they have nuclear powered electricity.  Will it be colorful sparks, a big white mushroom or a powder puff?

Patrick-Bernard

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY AND THE BRAIN’S FARTS


A chief

Today is the International Women’s Day. I think it is nice to celebrate the gender and its accomplishments and triumphs and be reminded of their inequalities, failures and sorrows.

Men are worse than pigs in some culture and society.  They use women as beast of burden, properties and accumulate them as assets.

Forget the Western world when talking about women; their status is cushiony compared to the underdeveloped world, especially in sub-Sahara Africa.

A member of the Kenyan embassy, in Washington, told me over the phone that a wife is a property. You can take her wherever you go.  She is yours.
Isn’t, owning a human, slavery?

A Kenyan, acquaintance of mine, said that divorce does not exist in Africa.  That’s a misdemeanor, it does exist. Anyway, maybe he knows better since he  married two sisters and they all live together in the same house.
You see the fist wife could not get pregnant, a defective product, so he asks her father to also give him the sister.  That’s not a divorce, a simple exchange and he kept the defective first wife.

In Uganda looking at a woman tilling the land, I asked a man sitting nearby, looking at her, why was he not helping.
I am a businessman.
What type of business?
I sold a chicken last week.

So he sold a chicken in a week but she must till and tend the land the all year. She probably raised the chicken which he sold.

In South Sudan an army man asked me if I have a wife.
Yes I do.
Do you beat your wife?
No I don’t beat my wife, why should I?
You have to beat her once in a while, even if she does not do anything, that’s how they respect you.

Then I understood why women screamed, at nigh, in their tukuls (huts).  The men were teaching respect.
Strange but I met women who expected a beating from their husband.  They are so brainwashed that it is pitiful.

Culture brainwashed them in believing that they have to undergo the cut to be a woman. Genital mutilation is not part of religions it is cultural. Culture concocted by ignorant little old men, called chief or elders, brain farting ideas to show superiority.

Say anything negative about some cultural aspects and they cuss, telling you that Western culture is decadent and evil and that no one has the right to say anything about their way of life.
In that case the Kikuyu tribe may as well continue the cultural ritual killing of twins.  I am sorry Kikuyu twin people, that’s culture, I am just commenting while passing by.

Africa strongest labor forces are women.  In Africa women keep family together. In Africa the men will celebrate the International Women’s Day to have an excuse for more boozing and beat up their wives when coming home.

The NGO comes and give classes, lectures and training for the beaten and abused women.  Rarely do you hear men being trained.  The best NGO provide shelters until an elder brain fart his light bulb accusing the shelters of being against their culture and that they should be removed.

Kissing on the cheeks, hugging, holding hands in public with the opposite sex are septic signs of affection in Africa.
Men take their wife out for special functions.  The more wives the better.  It is a show of virility and wealth.
 A woman has more than one man and she is called a whore.

Success in the International Women’s Day is when you’ll see more men celebrating in sub-Sahara Africa.

Women are fine, it is the mindset of the men which has to be changed and re-molded from their misplaced sense of superiority.  Check the news, who screws up the African continent?
Meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeen!

Patrick-Bernard

LET’S GET RID OF THE AFRICAN UNION


In light of the events in Tunisia, Egypt, Ivory Coast, Somalia, Kenya, Madagascar, RDC, Libya and many more in Africa an institutions that should be boycotted and toppled down to the ground is the African Union.  The embarrassing Ali Baba gang of 53 thieves is useless in solving any or all the conflicts in Africa or finding any unifying consensus. The members of the AU are a collection of greedy beggars, vicious dictators, few blanket covered royals, fraudulently elected presidents who think of their country as a personal coffer.

These leaders are impotent of honesty and accountability.  The world does not need this smorgasbord of unpalatable sadistic buffoons scurrying out their citizen to better shores for dignity and opportunities.

There is nothing on the country profile of the member states on the AU official website.  The AU members stole the good reading and left the area codes of their country. No forwarding number, only a country code.

The constitution act of the African Union, when last checked, is only available in French and is 22 pages long including the cover and the blank spaces.

The reading is a list of vague articles which all the members have broken at least once.
The most interesting is Article 3(e), (f) and (g) mentioning that members should:

  • Follow the UN charters and the Universal declaration of human rights
  • Promulgate peace, security and stability of the continent
  • Promulgate the democratic institutions, popular participation and good governance.

Article 18 about the African Court of Justice is 2 articles, of 2 ½ lines in total, referring to another document of 20 pages making a garbage dump more exciting.

Toppling down this useless institution would save lives, time and money and send a message to the continent that all these leaders are unwanted.

What to do with these Ali Babas?
Wait for the next reunion of the AU and fast, while they go to sleep listening to Mad Bob Mugabe’s speech, cut off all means of communication, social networks and confiscate mobile phones, lap tops and the gold fountain pens.

Call all the mercenaries listed in their address books.

Mercenaries’ mission: To cordon off the AU headquarter and make sure that no one comes out.

Freeze all their bank accounts including the sons, daughters, wives and mistresses.

The punishment for any escapee will be to legibly write, with no spelling mistakes, the location of their hidden assets while standing up on the back of a pick truck going 100 miles an hour on a dirt road.  The recidivists shall be chained to their bed like some patients are in several of these countries.

Provide each prisoner with colorful prison uniforms with medals for years in office and the number of the AU constitution articles not respected.

The only luxury they can have is black hair dye and flying toilets. Designers’ sunglasses and hats are not allowed.

Any uprising shall be broken up by throwing at them shoes, tear gas and shooting not so rubber bullets.  Then write letters, lots of letters, providing the idea that their concerns have been heard and that something shall be done.

Distribute a copies of all the UN communications and friendly, by interest, countries press releases to give them hope.

Let’s wait, it should work!

Patrick-Bernard

MUBARAK – GADAFFI – SALEH


Hosni Mubarak is gone … Muammar al-Gaddafi almost gone … Ali Abdullah Saleh waiting to go.  The picture was in the days when they used to sing Oh happy day, la la la la la la la la la  …

The bonfire of mass uprising is crossing the Arab world.

The members of the African Union (AU) and their families are looking up in the sky waiting for their jet plane to come.

All my bags are packed, I am ready to go
I’m standing here outside my coutry’s door 
my country screams to say good bye

I am leaving on a jet plane
They dont want to see me again.
la la la la la la …

ELECTRICAL ANOREXIC COUNTRIES


Kerosene lamp.

Image via Wikipedia

I am having a difficult time reading my handwriting.  Well, writing is a skill which I learned a long time ago.
Oops, I notice that I calligraph vowels three different ways.  I need to be consistent.
I have to learn to use my handwriting more often.  You see, I have to improve my handwriting because I live in an electrical anorexic country.
They feed you with electricity for a couple of days then you are required to vomit whatever they give you until you are depleted.  Lately, I deplete one to three times a week and sometimes for the all day.

I did not have any power the all day yesterday.  Then, today, I am working on my desktop and it switches itself off.   I go down to the kitchen and brew a cup of coffee, on the gas stove, then power is back.  No, it was only a ten minutes tease of brightness.

It reminds me of times in a small town in Southern Uganda.  Power outage would go on for weeks at a time and especially during the rainy season.  I was really used to live in darkness.

I go home light up the kerosene lamp, the candles and listen to music on a battery operated radio.  Sometimes, I would connect my tiny TV to the car battery for some visual entertainment.

One day I went to see a friend of mine and notice he has power.
“Power is back!” I said elated.
“Yep, about three days ago.”
I was so used to darkness that I had lost the habit of using light switches.

Electrical anorexic countries enhances new senses in the dark: I learned how to move by the brightness of the moon, recognize people by their silhouette, smell the difference between kerosene and diesel fuel, mince garlic cloves without cutting my fingers, take a bath in cold water and still find the soap, have conversation with friends and call their name by the sound of their voices, I learned how to pour a glass of whisky by putting a finger in the glass and I never spilled a drop.

Many years ago, in Rwanda, while brewing a cup of coffee in the kitchen – I seem to do that a lot when power is off – surprise! Power is back.
I feel a presence behind me, I turn around and it is my roommate, naked, with a gun pointed at me.
“I thought you were an intruder.”

I have a UPS for my computer.  It does not work; it was blown by an electrical surge.  That’s the third one, so I don’t buy them anymore.  I still keep this one for decorative purpose only.

Also, I have a laptop but the internal charger does not work.  It died from constant use of generators in the bushes of Southern Sudan. In Juba, I was there when they put the first power meter; it took them three days to hang it on the wall of the office.  They did not have the correct size wooden plate to screw the meter on.   Power would come only three hours or less in those days. The air blown by the ceiling fan was the signal that power was on.

“Do you know what a brown out is?”
“I know.”
The power is so low that when you turn on the switch everything looks evenly brown.  During brown out I can only watch TV.

I am not keen on fireworks; I always think that it is a surge blowing all the light bulbs or a transformer catching fire.

It is easy to recognize an African capital from the air.  It is always at the spot where the lights blink.   That’s why, when coming to Africa, it is advisable to take day flights because, at night, the runway lights may stop blinking for you upon landing.

I have to rush to post this on my blog.  I have been at it for three days. I feel so strange using a keyboard.

Patrick-Bernard