Pick Your fights Wisely.

Teenagers are curious, adventurous, high-energy beings who have the ability to amuse the average person to hysterical laughter then annoy them to speechless anger all in one minute.

This is a lesson I have learned from being one to being on the receiving end of one’s antiques. A National park, however, is not the kind of place I expected to witness this phenomenon.

Drinking from a pond where we were enjoying the breathtaking view, two elephants quenched their thirst quietly under the afternoon sun.

One of the two gentle giants suddenly stopped drinking and decided to go after a large crocodile who was out on the bank relaxing in the sun.

My limited knowledge from Natgeo Wild told me that these to giants respected each other yet here was a jumbo trying to provoke a sleeping croc. The two regarded each other with only a few feet between them, neither one advancing and neither one retreating.

I was curious and maybe a little hopeful to witness an elephant make quick work of a croc but also rooting for the croc who was being the better animal and minding his own business.

The croc quickly changed his tactic and turned to face the mischievous teenager whose lack of boundaries and apparent lack of respect for personal space was an affront he could not withstand.

Teenage Dumbo weighed his options, sized up his opponent and decided that he was way too young to pick a fight with a toothy, armoured killer.

Still maintaining whatever dignity he had left, he tried to remain calm as he ran off without making his hasty retreat too obvious and cowardly.

The crocodile, not one to miss an opportunity to teach any impudent teenager a lesson decided to drive the point home and moved in the general direction of fleeing troublemaker.For a moment was certain that the croc was going to take on the teenage giant but he had other ideas.

He abandoned his plan to issue a warning to the now embarrassed teenager and headed for the water, disappearing into the pond quietly and with barely a ripple to for it.

Regaining his composure the embarrassed giant sort reassert his dominance on a smaller less intimidating for and rushed towards the bird who had silently enjoyed the show.

His new target had however realised what was about to happen and had left the area before things got dicy.

As it turns out teenagers are teenagers no matter the species. They rarely ever think before they leap and they almost never stick around for fights they start.

When Mom is Away, Cats Will Play.

Despite a frightening and painful cat allergy, I have never been able to resist the urge to care for, pet and love the furry little felines. A visit to my aunt was therefore made a little better by the presence of a feisty and hungry little fellow.

His mother disappeared a while ago and it has been up to my aunt and cousin to feed, care for and love him. Despite his dependence on humans for his meals, warmth and love, Jack was terrified of us. Any time we even stepped outside, he would bolt into his room and only stick his head out eyeing us suspiciously.

Jack’s big sister- born a couple years ago- seems to have taken a liking to Jack. She often plays with him, shares a feeding bowl and even lets him use her for hunting practice. It was heart-warming to watch as their bond grew stronger and as she became more protective of her little brother.

With time they have developed an interesting relationship. She frequently nurses him and has basically adopted him. She keeps a watchful eye on anyone who goes near him and gets suspicious when anyone picks him up. With time -and a great deal of patience on my part- she has become okay with me cuddling him.

Perhaps he reminds her of her own little ones who disappeared a while ago, perhaps she senses that he is her baby brother and needs someone to love him, or maybe she is just being an animal and caring for an orphan.

Whatever the case, their bond is something beautiful to watch. Her nature- more caring and loving than most humans- is something we as a race need to learn and adopt.

Ghosts. Life is full of them! 

By the time I joined high school I had an overactive imagination and a deep, holy fear of ghosts although I did not believe in them. I was after all -in my opinion- a skeptic and a firm believer in science. As a first year student all my scientific reasoning and skepticism was dismissed as childish ignorance and by the fifth week it had all turned into uncertainty and perhaps hope of one day meeting a real ghost.

One of the structures in our school was a run-down abandoned classroom next to a storage shed a good distance away from the rest of the offices and classrooms and behind which were two graves, one of which was rumoured to be that of the school’s founder; a well-respected Englishman. Terrifying tales of the ghost of a British man roaming the area had most students avoiding it and only the most adventurous sort to meet the pale white figure . I was far too reserved and sensible to attempt such foolhardy behaviour having watched enough movies and read enough books to know how such adventures ended.

Later that year my class was relocated to the abandoned classroom, a decision which brought about mixed feelings. The joys of being able to make noise and engage in mischief without fear of being heard by teachers, as well as concern that it we were being punished for some unknown crime most of us were however pleased with our new premises. No one mentioned the ghosts either out of fear of being branded a coward or simple logic that there were no such things as ghosts. I however, secretly hoped for something crazy, adventurous and perhaps a little adrenaline inducing to happen. Everyday after supper, between seven and nine, our night study was either quiet with us busy studying or rowdy as we enjoyed the freedom from supervision. My secret wish to see ghosts was not granted although the frequent rat or snake did come calling not that we were too bothered, it was all part of the adventure.

One night three friends and I stayed behind a little after everyone else trying to finish up some work. I am not sure who came up with the brilliant idea to shout “ghost!”, but the result was that two of my friends tried to run for the hills only making it to the door before realising how silly they looked. The two of us left undaunted by the threat were laughing hysterically and spent a couple of minutes mocking our cowardly comrades as we quickly finished packing up lest an actual ghost showed up.

A strange sound at the back of the class did not help matters and I bravely turned to catch a glimpse of whatever monster had decided to have a late-night snack. This time I was the only one brave enough to stick around as the others took off at speeds I had previously thought no man could reach, leaving me standing there looking thoroughly amused to see three young men scared off by what turned out to be a tiny rat.

As I made my way to the door the realisation sunk in that I was alone, far from anyone else and in what up to this day is one of the creepiest places I have been. My imagination chose that moment to come alive with every sort of suggestion and explanation. By the time I stepped out of the slightly creepy classroom out into the dark, cold and very creepy night the voices in my head and my imagination had turned my brain and my surroundings into the scene of a horror movie with every imaginable creature licking its lips. A distant owl was an alien dinner bell, a cricket was a giant man-eating arachnid, the wind carried the voices of blood-thirsty ghosts craving a skinny, terrified Kenyan snack, a twig I stepped on was a psychotic monster stalking its petrified prey. If I was going to make it to my bed with my soul and body intact I had to do something to silence my brain and the world around me so I decided to sing. Hopelessly out of tune, knowing only some of the lyrics and so off-key that my brain hurt I boldly walked, singing like my life depended on it. For a moment my dreadful screeching seemed drive away my fear.

Then I saw it! At first I thought it was all in my head, then as I looked closer the disfigured shadow moved. The voices in my head, the cricket, the owl, the wind, my heart and most of the world chose that very moment to go completely silent and cease all activity. I was petrified beyond reason, my stomach felt like a vacuum and my vision suddenly became as sharp and as clear as that pesky owl’s so I decided to close my eyes so as not to see myself die. I ventured to take a few slow silent steps but they were so loud that I opened my eyes to make certain they were my own feet. The hideous shadow of my tormentor was moving closer and my heart decided to restart with the vengeance, volume and rage of the Hulk. A crunch behind me almost made me scream but I refused to turn around. Perhaps if I did not look into its eyes it would not eat me, that was how it usually happened in some of the movies. I stopped dead in my trucks figuring that there was no way I would outrun whatever it was that was about to consume me. The now very real beast from the depths of hell also seemed to stop and watch me, grinning with pleasure and malevolence.

It seemed to me like I had been there for an eternity when I decided examine the grotesque shadow a little closer. I was doing so contemplating making a run for it when it dawned on me that I was staring at my shadow, made hideous and disfigured by the large jacket I was wearing and the bag on my back. Still too terrified to either laugh at myself or reevaluate my situation I decided that this was the moment to run like my life depended on it before a real ghost or monster made an appearance.

I do not remember much of that desperate race to safety, by the time I was calm enough to think and breathe I was in the dorm shaking like a leaf in a storm as my friends looked at me with concern. I put on my bravest face, which they said looked like one who had seen a ghost, and reassured them that I was perfectly okay.

When I finally met the three deserters, I simply mocked them for being such cowards and running from a rat. After all, what man runs from a rat?

Lesson: Ghosts, Life is full of them.

Tears, Cops and Angels

I am not the lightest of sleepers, a friend said that I would probably sleep through the third world war which is exactly what I thought was going on when I woke up that Saturday. Granted, I had gotten to bed just a little earlier on that very Saturday morning and I had no chance of getting a decent mug of coffee so I decided that for the safety of everyone around I would sleep in.
Banging on doors, smoke, shouting and screaming are not particularly foreign sounds in University hostels in Kenya but they are generally far apart and not as dreadful as they sounded at that point. Seeing that the window to my room had not been blown out, I was fairly certain that no one had yet detonated any large bombs in the immediate vicinity and I was not in danger of suffering radiation poisoning. A quick look out the door did not help to alleviate my fears but it did kick start an adrenaline rush. Armed police officers in full riot gear is hardly standard procedure in breaking up a noisy campus party.

High on adrenaline and with a sad looking pair of flip-flops, I rushed out of the hostel having the presence of mind to lock my door. I made it a couple hundred feet before five scary looking riot police officers – known in Kenya as GSU (General Service Unit)- descended upon me. Teargas stinging my eyes, surrounded by five massive armed men I realized that I had zero chance of outrunning them so I obeyed their order to stop. At this point, my imagination took over and I recalled numerous stories I had heard and read of what the GSU did to those they deemed to be troublemakers. This was not how I had planned to spend my weekend, lying in a hospital somewhere, beaten to a pulp, if I was lucky.
A senior looking GSU officer, whom I later learnt was the squad leader, spotted me from a distance away where he was giving orders to another group. He shouted something to the five around me and in my teargas flooded, adrenaline pumped, terrified mind it sounded something like an order to make it look good. Three of the officers walked away and the squad leader joined the remaining two.

Between the fear, tears and confusion I doubt that my explanation that I had no idea that all students had been ordered off campus and that I had slept through the first part of a riot made much sense, but it definitely seemed to amuse them. The squad leader barked some orders to the other two then instructed me to go pack my bags, clear out my room and be gone in fifteen minutes. It turns out that he had ordered the two to escort me and make certain that no one bothered me, so with my two man personal escort I was able to get away better dressed and in actual shoes.
Twenty minutes later, after having left my personal guard, I was struggling to drag along my suitcase, when a student I had never met before suddenly grabbed my bag. I was too shocked to fight but as it turned out, he just wanted to help. Halfway to the gate he left me and my luggage somewhere in the administration block when he spotted a truck full of GSU officers headed our way. The truck made a turn before it got to where I was and I struggled on with my luggage.

I had almost made it through the administration building when a lady I had seen around the offices grabbed my suitcase and ordered me to follow her into the office, not having much choice and figuring that she meant no harm I followed. After sitting me down and handing me a cup of tea she explained that if I tried to make it to the gate with my suitcase and backpack I would be caught by the GSU and made an example of, “hide here in the office until it is over”, she winked before running off to watch the drama unfold.  Almost two hours later and with the aid of yet another angel disguised as a Good Samaritan, who carried my suitcase, I made it to the gate where everything looked like there had been a war; the gate was gone and a large portion of the perimeter fence had been torn down.
As I settled back in a cab I took, I had the distinct feeling I had come out the other end of a nasty situation with a host of angels keeping watch over me.

I also suspect that my guardian angel got a promotion.

FREEDOM!

At the end of an average day I am usually too tired to deal with any annoyance or drama, I am more interested in getting home and hitting the hay, a good laugh also helps me unwind. On my commute home I alternate between cat napping and reading WhatsApp group messages; between the comedians, crazies, wannabe philosophers, idiots and clowns, I am bound to get a few good laughs. What I do not expect however is to bear witness to a desperate captive’s attempt at liberty.

At one stop as the bus I was on dropped off some and picked other passengers I was busy checking my phone while watching the window just in case some hungry soul decided to relieve me of it. A man with a plastic bag sat down and was holding on tightly to his plastic bag when it decided to make a run for the open door.

With more energy and speed than I would have thought a bag capable of, the bag leaped off his lap and out of the bag came an alarmingly large rooster who figured that the open bus-door was his best bet at escaping the pot to which he was headed. I am not certain who was more determined; the bird to make his great escape, or the man to maintain control of and keep his clucking dinner. A lady who was just boarding would not have looked more terrified had it been a fire-breathing dragon, then again one is allowed fear when a stranger’s dinner charges you like an enraged rhino. The man was able to grab hold of his dinner before it got to the door and by the time the terrified lady had sat down, the epic struggle between man and bird had come to an end with man the victor. I on the other hand was trying my best – and failing – to stifle my laughter. They both seemingly came to an understanding; if the bird stayed put the man would provide a quick and painless death, a deal the rooster was content with for a while until he made a second dash for the still open door.

This time around he made it a couple of inches closer than on his previous rush. Half a minute or so of flying feathers, laughter – mostly mine -, shouts, flapping wings, startled passengers and total chaos followed before the man managed to furiously and a little too aggressively subdue his runaway dinner. He shoved it back into what was left of the plastic bag and settled back into his seat, stoically ignoring the stares and muffled laughter of other passengers.

By the time I got off, the rooster had stayed relatively calm having apparently figured out that he was destined for the pot and I was experiencing excruciating rib pains.

Lessons:

  1. Never give up.

2.We all value our freedom.

  1. A hungry man will fight for his dinner to the bitter end.

Lost in Translation

Pride can keep us from admitting when we are lost or wrong, especially when we are in the presence of one on whom we would like to make a good impression. This can result in some awkward and at times learning moments, lessons which we are not all always eager to learn.

A few years ago, at the same hospital where I told the doctor that I was going into labour, I sort directions from an attractive nurse to the x-ray room where  a friend was. I then set off with a cell number and badly misunderstood directions.

Opening the door to the x-ray room I was a little more than surprised when a lady sitting with her spouse stopped me explaining that I was lost, I patiently explained that I was not and once again  tried open the door which she had so rudely interrupted me from doing. She adamantly insisted and I once again patiently explained that I knew where was going, “x-ray” I smiled pointing at the door, ignoring the voices in my head that had so many sarcastic responses lined up. “Labour ward” she said looking somewhat tickled and her husband who had been sitting silently with a mischievous grin echoed, “labour!” looking at my belly as if to check. I was rather glad that I did not have a pot belly.

I quickly retreated back to   more familiar territory, leaving the couple looking thoroughly amused and whispering rather loudly