After publishing my last story, I realized how inappropriate a cliffhanger ending is for the blog format. There’s no next page, no chapters. Hell, you could be reading CHNEPR for the first time since I sent out the email in August. Throw google in the mix we might as well be talking about a choose your own adventure.
So if you haven’t read the latest expatriate African jaunt entry, I recommend doing so before starting this one.
I promise not to have any unfinished posts unless I am in the midst of typing as I am shot by rebels.
– – – –
I had enjoyed my day in town, the play, and all that crap. But I was on immediate alert once the cast iron gate to my house swung open without my key.
The lights were off and as I entered the living room, my irises gradually expanded to allow more light to hit my retina. Softly patting for the corner of the wall, I found it, and slipped my finger to the plastic plate, running my finger along the dimmer knob to turn on fast the lights.
Maybe once more just to be sure.
I’d had a little trouble with the power before, but an electrician had just been by a few days earlier to fix the issue. Something wasn’t right: my mind was running faster than a cat on fire. The guards had seemed at ease. The lights were on over at base camp, so what was wrong? Had my power been cut? Don’t they do that shit movies? How’d the get past the electric fence?
Walking slowly, I clenched my fists and breathed deeply (but silently) through my nostrils. I slid my palm up the wall, along distinct imperfections on the plaster, to the cold metal of the breaker switch. A buzz, a click, a flicker and the filaments burned in their bulbs.
My eyes darted about. Everything seemed to be in order. My camera was on the couch. My laptop was sitting on the kitchen table—the kitchen! The fluorescent bulb was scintillating slightly as I peered around the doorway
There, on the dusty sienna shaded tile of the floor was a worn plastic crate. Three quarters full with 500ml bottles of tusker.
“Dude, how’d you turn the lights on?”
I whirl around to a somewhat unkempt white guy with glasses in a sweater.
By pure racial profiling, he didn’t look like one of the Ngong thugs about which I’d bee warned.
I apparently had a new roommate.
“Uh, hey, sorry if I woke you up,” I apoligized, as he offered me his hand to shake.
He glanced at the beer on the floor.
“I got a couple cold ones in the fridge if you like,” I offered in solace
“Nah,” he shook his head, hiccuping and looking despondently at the fridge. “I drank those already.”
The cold beer I had in the fridge was the first beer I’d had in two weeks. Since I’m carrying all my groceries and taking cabs buying massive quantities of beer never seemed rational.
I later discovered my new friend had not bought much food.
His gaze settle to the floor as if in mourning. We were silent for a moment, until he raised his head, smiled, and said, “But I got a few in the freezer that should be real cold. You want one?”
We sat outside on the front porch, drinking cold tusker from the freezer, covering the standard, ‘who’re-you-where-you-from-what-the-hell-are-you-doing-in-Africa,’ conversation.
Turns out this guy was from the midwest, went to the CIA in the late nineties, cooked in London, but spent the last few years cooking at Olives in the Bellagio. And here I thought I was the only person crazy/stupid enough to leave the wondrous absurdity of Vegas for obscurity and isolation in east Africa.
I would rhetorically ask you, the readers, ‘what the odds that two young expats in africa would have both lived in Vegas in the past year?’ but knowing my friends back home—you know who you are—I’d probably get an answer.
My new roommate had been in Juba since May trying to standardize the F&B Ops. He was in Nairobi for only a few days before going on leave for a month since he’d worked 7 days a week since his arrival.
And I thought the 5.5 day work weeks were rough.
We talked about party spots in Vegas, how we partied at the fancy clubs with $250 bottle service until we discovered hole in the wall video poker joints with $2.50 drafts and windows into the taco shops next door. We compared stories of drinking well past sunrise, days off by the apartment pool, singing karaoke three nights in one week at different bars, breaking the law, and getting away with with breaking the law.”
And of course, about how different life was in Africa.
If talking to my friend the mechanic was a release, chatting with my new roommate was like group therapy.
Drinking into the early hours of the morning was something I’d only done once before since moving here. so it was most pleasant.
Sunday we had plans to go to town meet up with some folks from accounts, and watch the Arsenal game, but I pretty much stayed on the couch after my morning workout. Chris said he was gonna go to the store. I offered to pay for more beer. He said that we’d be going out so it wasn’t necessary. After a few tuskers, we instead made sandwiches and finished the rest of the case.
I had to work on Monday but my new accomplice did not. While he could have made himself useful and bought some more beer, he instead did jack. I suppose I can’t blame him, I know what it’s like working for a month straight. I had to work fairly late Monday we went to a spot the venerable Jen recommended, The Village Market.
To preface, just that afternoon we had been discussing the Monte Carlo Brew Pub in Vegas. The food was never very good, and frankly, neither was the beer. Regardless, it was all ridiculously cheap. The nachos came in pilesand the beer came in enormous beer bongs. No, not contraptions that consisted of funnels and tubes.
Those are called funnels.
For good reason: They have funnels.
The devices I’m talking about more looked like, uh, actual bongs. Of course, in place of a slide tube, the beer bongs have a tap. There are pictures of me dancing with one of these somewhere.
We walked around the village market and it was pretty dead, but it was a Monday. We found a little string of restaurants and saw a table with a beer bong very similar to the ones in the Monte Carlo. We both laughed, marveling at the sheer absurdity of the situation and ordered the largest beer bong they had. We had kebabs, drank, and exchanged stories about getting in trouble as kids. And In college. And how we both managed to miraculously avoid it in Sin City.
After finishing the largest beer bong in the Village Market we began to discuss the possibilities in the most developing of economies. Every pundit from LA to Milan is touting China and Asia as the next big markets, and I believe fully that Asia is poised to be right there along with the EU and the US. However, we both agreed that the rapid adoption of new technologies due to cell phone and VSAT infrastructure already in place in Sudan—not to mention the oil reserves—could incite a tremendous rate of economic growth pending the dwindling battling factions. The idea of an independent state of Southern Sudan could further development. That our firm already has an established business in the area led to wild ideas.
The final night my newest friend was present, we had big plans for a big night. But we couldn’t get a cab. At least not one we could charge to the company. So we decided to head to the the nearest bar, the Winning Post, to get some brewdogs until we could get a cab. In the midst of bother the taxi dispatcher, my pay-as-you go cell phone ran out of minutes. So we decided to stay the the Post for a little longer. It seemed the more relatively warm tusker bottles purchased, the more friends we made. A drunken carpenter kept harassing us to buy his furniture, but he faded in and out of Swahili and English. Paul, the manager of the bar, translated on the fly and helped us out. Since we couldn’t get a company cab, the bartender called a local, rather unofficial driver for us. He arrived and we said we had to finish out beers. But our driver reappeared with a glass and we had to wait for him to finish his beer. Then we got another round since we had to wait for him. As he waited for us, he got another round. Rather than propagate the vicious cycle to a dangerous level, we departed to the only place around where one could get food after 10:00 after he finished his second round.
The KenChickInn was much batter than the fast food I’d had a few days earlier. Plus we were able to get a beer form the attached gas station.
It was then that I had a realization: I was home.