So I’m sitting here at the ‘internet café” in “town” – and by internet café, I mean: 4 1995 Compaq computer monitors, three Compaq towers, one printer, and a swinging door. I have my laptop on my lap so I can work on this document while doing my research on the desktop computer, which takes approximately a minute and a half to navigate between pages. EVERY time I click on a link or website, a prompt reading “[insert link here] is a site that uses a security certificate…..that will not be valid until 5/5/2009…your computer’s time is currently set to Friday, January 4, 1980 at 12:37am…is this correct?” So, not only am I working off of a computer that recognizes the year 1980 (and I understand that, being computers, they all recognize the year 1980 – but I‘m trying to make a point here), I have to accept this damn waiver of rights every time I want to navigate away from a page.
And by “town” I mean: a dirt road intersecting with another dirt road, approximately 5 butchers, 5 “supermarkets”, 5 shops selling random phone parts like the # key and the number 9, which also offers charging for approximately 20 shillings a pop (30 cents – because no one has electricity in the town, but everyone has a cell phone – kind of ironic, if you think about it – people come to town to charge electronics for a paltry fee), a few permanent outhouse structures, if you can’t hold it long enough to get back to the school (which today I might not be able to – this should be interesting) and a man who walks around with the straps of bras looped around his arm, advertising his wares. There’s also a man who sells socks – singles or in pairs. Good stuff. It’s really impossible to paint a picture for you city-folk of what a rural village in Kenya (and I assume, the majority of Africa) truly is. I will post pictures at some point, but it’s literally just dirt roads, and 6 identical grocers, butchers, fruit stands and tailors. I’m not sure how any of them stay in business, when they sell the same stuff for the same price.
John, of “John’s Hotel and Internet Cafe” (the only requirement to be a hotel in Njabini is that you serve tea, or some form of beverage) is somewhere around the village. When I arrived to find the café empty but for an African pop (not sure of the genre) song blasting from the speakers of a computer at the front of the shop, he appeared from no where behind me in the doorway as I peered around the swinging door. He must have seen me dismounting my motorcycle taxi out front to the amusement of all the old village men who stare at us whenever we arrive. It’s as if there’s a white chick radar that is triggered as soon as we call for a motorcycle, an silent announcement broadcast throughout town, warning of our impending arrival, to ensure everyone has time enough to get to the main drag and stare as we dismount.
Literally, as I sit here typing, there is a small crowd peering in the doorway at the white chick with her iPod, laptop and blonde hair. To be fair, I wouldn’t be listening to my iPod if that damn song wasn’t playing. The children are the cutest, because the second I look up to acknowledge their presence, they run away screaming and laughing, only to creep their way back to the doorway until I look up again, repeating the cycle to their endless amusement. Their parents should really pay me a fee for occupying their children for such a large part of the day. The adults that gawk I believe stare more out of curiosity than anything else. Unlike the leering men of Italy and Spain, I don’t feel uncomfortable here, or as if I’m being mentally undressed. I don’t feel ogled, merely looked at with an open fascination. The village (excuse me, town – explanation to follow) is so small and our center is so well-known, that people know why we are here. I probably teach a few of their kids, and the rest don’t bother us. We are fellow residents, who happen to be white with yellow hair, which serves as the reason for staring. Like I said though, it’s not uncomfortable.
The volume on my iPod is so loud it’s threatening to permanently damage my eardrums, but it is really the lesser of two pains when compared to the alternative of literally, losing my mind listening to this song – to be fair, a music video, playing on Windows Media Player on repeat. I wish that I could find the link to this on YouTube (everything exists on that site now, right?) because it would literally make you laugh out loud the FIRST time you watch it (but you will also understand why I am ready to tear my hair out after the 15th go ‘round) with it’s wardrobe and dance moves straight from 1995 (incidentally, around the time these computers were built). I may or may not be listening to Boyz II Men “End of the Road,” and understand that it’s not much of an improvement, but at least it’s not on repeat!