Back to the Village. I GOT A SHAMBA!!
December 15, 2005, Thursday. 9:57pm.
You know how your mom used to tell you to finish all your food because there
are children starving in Africa? The guilt is compounded when you actually
live in Africa and know the names of some of the starving children. My
neighbor Nehemiah (who STILL owes me 200 shillings, the bum) just told me
that if I leave my leftovers on the lawn that something will eventually come
along and eat it � either the cat, a wild dog, monkeys, porcupines,
mongooses or the chickens.
Life is hard for chickens in Kenya. One of my hens lost all four of her
chicks, poor mama. A hawk took one, and the other three got the Droopy
Chicken disease, called coccidiosis or something. The second hen hatched six
chicks; they all got chicken fleas around their eyes and I had to swab flea
powder all over their faces. One chick died of the fleas; I�m not sure the
connection between fleas and sudden chicken death syndrome but it was blind
in one eye and kept getting lost when the others would run after some food.
Naomi, the headmaster�s oldest daughter, saw me swabbing the littlest chick
today and said, �It is going to die.� Thanks for the Kenyan frankness, lady.
Today I approached the headmaster for the 14th time about getting a shamba
to plant broccoli and spinach and Chinese water convoloulus (hey that�s what
the seed packet says; it looks like kong xin cai to me) and all the other
vegetables that aren�t sold here because for some reason Kalenjins won�t eat
anything but collards, black nightshade, and kunde (bean leaves).
�Sorry to keep bothering you about getting land for a shamba,� I said. �I
hope I�m not asking for too much.�
�There�s 100 acres on this compound,� he said.�I think I can spare you a
point.� A point, for those people who are agriculturally retarded like me,
is 22 x 22 yards, or 11 x 44 yards. I think an acre is ten points.
He ended up giving me two points, which just seems vast to my San Francisco
spatial sensibilities. I even found a stray potato in my new shamba that
they forgot to harvest last season. Yay! Must be a good omen, and I�m
looking forward to learning how to use a hoe and a panga (a long metal blade
used for gardening, or murdering people who steal your cattle).
Well I wasn�t completely honest when I said spinach isn�t sold here. It is,
but it�s hard to find. I went on an hour-long search for spinach a few days
ago, and eventually discovered a shamba at another girls� school that was
growing some. The old mama in charge gave me a giant armload (I�m not
exaggering; my arms were tired from carrying it all) for ten shillings, and
I�m not sure if it was because it�s a fair price, or because everyone hates
spinach and she just wanted to get rid of it. Anyway, I�ve been eating
spinach for the last three days, and have barely made a dent in it. Spinach
mushroom soup, spinach and cheese crepes, spinach with garlic and soy sauce�