Stranger Than Fiction
Taunted by a raven at the top of a mountain, a couple friends and I decide to give it a whirl.
All I can say is, what a way to go. . .
A video of me and some friends watching football and chewing Miraa in Mathare (Nairobi).
Miraa is a milder African substitute for coca leaf. Chew enough of it and. . . well, you get high.
Also, keep in mind, off camera at the end of the night I stumble-jogged out into the ghetto in search of Ethiopian dance clubs.
I’ve been out of touch for a spell. Here’s why:
In the last week I’ve been rained on twice through leaky windows on two 12 hour bus rides while people asked me if I was married and why not, and if I could take them with me back to Canada and why not.
I outran US embassy guards on the back of a motorbike, then stood amazed later that night in a Kampala club as over a thousand Ugandans sang along to the Killers’ Are We Human.
I befriended a Ugandan soldier on one of the leaky bus rides. He wont stop calling me now.
I finally made it to southern Uganda’s Impenetrable Forest (see picture above), which I penetrated the following morning in a bid to find the endangered mountain gorilla.
I found the endangered mountain gorilla–an entire family that allowed me to spend one hour with them as they lounged around in the bush eating bark and looking thoroughly uninterested in the group of genetic cousins gawking at them.
I rode on the back of yet another motorcycle, clutching my laptop bag, over rutted, crumbling and muddy high mountain roads for four hours, one spill, a flat tire, and an endless supply of lush, terraced hillside, in a bid to make it to Rwanda in one day.
I followed a man at the Rwandan border through a dark alley in hopes that he wasn’t lying to me when he told me he knew of a good place to eat. He wasn’t lying. I ate and made it through to Rwanda in one day.
I arrived in Kigali, the capital city, on the evening of April 6th, 16 years to the day that the genocide began. In my first three hours I saw one person who’s eyes had been gouged out, one with no arms and two with no legs. I talked with my 24 year old hotel receptionist, a 23 year old waitress, a 29 year old bar tender and a 26 year old security guard who, when asked, all told me they had lost their entire families in one of the most savage genocides in human history.
Now I sit on the patio of the Hotel des Mille Collines, otherwise known as Hotel Rwanda, plotting what to do next.
In the meantime I compile photos and videos of sketchy bike rides, chilled-out gorillas and a completely transformed Rwanda.
I was accosted on a Nairobi street a while back because of the colour of my skin. A talent scout, desperate to fill the role of a British Kenyan soldier in a feature film, ran up to me and begged me to be in the movie. Have you ever acted? He asked me. No, I told him. It doesn’t matter, he replied. Well, since you put it that way, how could I refuse. Sign me up, I told him.
Here’s a little vid I put together then of me in my pursuit of Mau Mau freedom fighters during their struggle for independence from British rule in the 1950s.
Hard, skanky, gangsta Ragga videos, mixed together by the Taliban Crew, play on a big screen in front of me, pumping, and I mean PUMPING out of subs hidden somewhere under the seats.
Little Mogadishu, its streets filled with burqa-clad women, tall Somali men, lake-sized puddles, and new building developments (funded by Somali pirates), bounces by me out the windows.
Squished beside me is a hefty woman in a pink suit. She watches impassively as Dance Hall legend, Elephant Man dry-humps bikini-clad booty in time to the four-on-the-floor rhythm on screen. Behind her, mothers hold babies on their laps, while men hang off the side of the open sliding door because it’s too packed inside.
Above me, in two foot by two foot panels across the matatu’s ceiling are super-sized political cartoons poking fun at Zimbabwe’s President Mugabe and his controversial policy of reclaiming (stealing) white-owned farms.
I leave the ghetto of Mathare– its crude, utilitarian apartment blocks laced with hanging laundry, its rolling dirt streets teaming with running, laughing children and parents returning home from a long day of poorly paying, menial work– behind me.
Ahead is a short walk through Jericho, just as the sun sets on Kenya, then into Buru Buru, Phase 5, through the security gates and into my home here, where I’ll fall asleep under my mosquito net for the 54th night in a row.
I spend some time in Kibera and Mathare, the informal settlements, a.k.a. slums, of Nairobi.
Don’t be scared. The setting may be shocking but the people are welcoming. True survivors.
Check it out: