Thursday, February 11, 2010

My first interesting (funny?) village story

Yesterday (Wednesday) I had to arrange to travel to Mombasa to get the H1N1 flu shot. None of us could figure out why they couldn't just send the syringe to a local clinic for us to get instead of having us all travel all the way to Mombasa. But, we guess it has something to do with govt regulations. Anyway - so I was leaving Wed afternoon to get there Wed night to stay over night to go to the hospital Thursday morning. I arranged for stuff for my classes to do while I was gone and was on my way walking to my house to get my backpack and catch matatu to Malindi. Earlier in the day we heard loud sounds...I didn't even register it at first, but the teachers told me the police were shooting. Of course I wondered why?? Apparently the salt company (there are many along the Indian Ocean here) was trying to expand on lands that I guess they own (I haven't quite gotten the whole picture on that), but nonetheless they see it as their land but others have started shambas (gardens) that I guess they have been cultivating for awhile. I gather that it is kind of like "squatters" who have been using the land and so see it as their land to keep using. So, apparently the police were sent to scare these people off of the land and as a result a mini-skirmish occurred in which police were shooting and apparently three policemen got shot by arrows (yes, arrows) at some point yesterday mid-afternoon. Okay - so back to what happened. I was walking home per my plan to leave and as I passed the primary school (remember it has about 800 - 1000 kids) I saw all of the sudden kids come pouring out of the front gate. They started running and as more came out it was like a herd of kids running. As some of the smaller kids passed me running I heard some of them crying. I of course wondered what in the world was happening. It didn't look like anyone was hurt and there wasn't a widespread panic so I assumed things were okay. Some people saw me walking in the same direction and asked me what was happening and I said I didn't know. Some random guy walking started talking to me loudly in kiswahili. I understood some of what he was saying but he really didn't seem to know either what was happening. He was yelling at the kids to stop running (Usikimbia!). I knew there wasn't anything "really bad" happening so I continued to go home to get my bag and leave. Living in a small village is the same all over the world -- everyone seems to know (or think they know) what you are doing, where you are going, ... So, it was by coincidence that as this confusion was happening with kids fleeing the schoolyard, I am proceeding towards the matatu stage with my backpack and purse. Maybe you can guess what happens next? Not even 1000 feet from my house I get stopped by a woman who I don't really know but I've seen her around...and she says, "Madame, are you leaving us?" I explain is some kiswahili and some english that I am not fleeing but attending a meeting in Mombasa. I say, "Nitarudi kesho" (I will return tomorrow). Then, as I pass the small stores by my house where I buy milk cartons, tomatoes, etc... the women Dorcas and Agnes both ask me where I'm going. I tell them I'll be back tomorrow, I have to take a trip to Mombasa. As I keep walking through the "main street" market area, I am along the road and of course everyone is out looking already because of the ruckus with the kids. So - I see the pastor (Peter) of the Baptist Church (he and his wife have a little stand where I buy bananas and eggs, etc...) and he asks me where I'm going. I assure him that I am going to a meeting and I'll be back tomorrow. Then, when I get on the matatu the conductor guy says something to me like "Madame, it's good that you are saving your life". Of course, the people on the matatu don't really know me because some of them are just passing though on their way to malindi also. I get in and there is already a "buzz" on the matatu about what was happening at the salt factory land and they are talking amongst themselves. I know enough kiswahili to figure out that they are talking about me fleeing the village. So, I tell them, no I'm not fleeing. I'm a teacher at the secondary school and I'll be back. Needless to say, it was an interesting afternoon. So - I meet Zahara finally in Malindi, we get on different matatu and finally get to Mombasa in the early evening. A long hot day. I sent a text to my principal letting him know that I got to Mombasa, etc... Today, I got back at about 4pm, went home and washed some clothes, cleaned up a little, etc. and some of my students stopped by on their way home. Of course, I knew what they were going to say. Now, they already knew that I had gone to Mombasa because I told them before I left. They greeted me and asked me how my trip was and then said, "Madame, everyone was saying that you had fled the village yesterday". So - that's my interesting, funny story. By the way - things seem to be okay. I guess I'll find out from the teachers tomorrow all about the ruckus.