A little past midnight – a couple Saturday nights ago – I’m stumbling into my boy’s place in South B. I’m a little high. The door is wide open, he’s blacked out in the bedroom, mouth ajar, hands crossed over his chest, snoring like an Albanian field wench. That’s how you know someone had a good night. I make myself comfortable on the sofa, make a few drunken calls and soon doze off. People tell me I sleep with my eyes half open, that I scare them. My only questions to them always are, what the hell are you doing awake in the middle of the night looking at people who are already asleep? What, you want something? Something you can only get from me in the middle of the night? When I’m dead asleep? Shit.
Tom – the chap I’m at his place – wakes me up at 9 a.m. the following morning. All dressed up. Says he’s on his way to some hotel in the middle of Amboseli. I ask why and he goes, “Some of us actually work.” I hate it when people tell me things like that, it makes me feel idle. It hurts my feelings. It makes me feel like applying for license to carry. Because I’m pissed off, and I’m still nursing a persistent hangover, I want to ask him, “So why the hell you gotta wake me up? You want a goodbye hug or something?” But I don’t. I just roll back over on the sofa and go back to sleep. Then I hear him say, “You know what, you don’t look like you’re doing anything today, get up, let’s go.” I turn to see if he’s pulling a fast one on me and he gives me that “I’m serious, fool” look. And then he adds, “All expenses covered. Get your ass in the shower and let’s go.”
Tom runs this cleaning and pest control outfit – Imagine Care. He started it soon after campus, he says he has never wanted to work for anyone. Wants to get off bed when he feels like it, not because he has to. Has always wanted to be the one running shit. Now they go round the country to some of the best hotels helping them handle their pest problems. As I bang this down, they just got back from the Mara and are off to Mombasa before the weekend. He’s the C.E.O and Founder of the outfit, which basically means he doesn’t do jack. He walks around in a blue suit supervising as the work is done, and cashing six figure cheques. He gets the best hotel suites and dines with Chief Chefs. Sometimes I joke that he has the best job ever and he says, “No, Bikozulu does. And Larry Madowo.”
We pitch up at Sentrim hotel, Amboseli, circa 8 p.m., after a five hour long drive on tarmac and another hour on a rough road through the Amboseli national park, with hyenas running and howling beside us. Sentrim hotel is located right in the middle of the Amboseli. The only thing separating them from the park is an electric fence that is supposed to electrocute the elephants’ nozzles when they come too close. Half of the staff down there are Maasais, which means this is not the place to cause trouble. At night they walk around in shukas and sandals probably made out of leopard skin, carrying rungus the size of my head, talking in hushed tones and laughing loudly. One of them told us he had been bitten by a snake before, and the way he said it was like it was nothing. Like it was no big effin’ deal. There we were, scared out of our hoots, talking about how afraid we were of snakes, and then this guy with very big earrings hanging from his ear walks by and goes, “Mimi nimeumwa na nyoka by the way,” while smiling, like it was normal; like it was cool. You know how in high school Math was such a pain in the nut, yet there was always that one cocky chap with the long nose and the stinky breath who always seemed to know everything? Like, you would be there, fidgeting in your seat, all sweaty, trying to solve for ‘x’ and he would show up behind you, grab your pen and go “This is actually quite easy” then go ahead and solve the bloody sum in 30 seconds. A sum that had already taken you 5 hours yet you hadn’t even gone past the second step. Pricks!
They put us up in these really cool tents designed in the shapes of actual houses. Like, they were normal houses, but instead of cemented walls and a mabati roof, they had tents. Cool, right? The floor was made of wood and there were a set of seats and tables – all wooden – outside looking into the wild that would have made for a good spot to smoke a cigar, if you’re one of those people, or down a bottle of Whiskey. There were a couple of beds in each room – tiny comfy beds – with a Bible on a stool beside each bed for the occupant to read some scripture from before hitting the sack. How thoughtful! There were also three bottles of water, in case, for some strange reason, you got thirsty in your sleep. And then there was a fan as long as the Eurobond trail on the farthest corner of the room. Here’s the thing, me I come from the ghetto; deep down in Eastlands. We shower in basins using kina Geisha and Flamingo soaps gikmakamago. But here, to turn on the shower sijui you tilt this ka-metal thingamajig to your left – for cold water –and to your right – for hot water. Alafu their bathrooms are so clean I almost said, “Hell, bring me a mattress in here, this is where I’m napping.”
There are just two things I don’t understand about Sentrim Hotel; Every night at 10 p.m., they shut the lights off. Complete blackout. If you’re one of those people who have to use the gents in the middle of the night, you’ll be lucky if you don’t knock the stool containing the Bible on your way. Two, They have minibars, only problem is they’re not stocked. I mean, si that’s like having a girlfriend you ain’t even smashing, No? I’m just saying. But, in their defence, they said it was low season. Ati that’s why the minibars weren’t stocked. Sawa, I’ll let it go, Mr. Manager.
The following morning Tom and I were called to have breakfast at the main restaurant. They first served us a glass of passion juice, and a plate containing well-arranged slices of mangoes, oranges, and an apple. Basically, it was just fruits. The ghetto in me blurted out, “The hell is this?” and Tom replied, “Welcome to the life,” like he was some kind of a Saudi Prince used to this kind of life and shit. As if his shagz is not Tanzania down here. After the fruits they served us tea along with an omelet and a small round bun, this time the ghetto in me smiled and said, “Now we’re talking.” Then the Chief Chef, a nice chap by the name Livingstone Wanga, comes and sits next to us, asking how we are faring so far. Deep down, I want to say, “Well, now that you ask, Sir, how do I eat this bun using a fork and knife?” Hehe. But what really comes out is, “Fantastic. Thank You.”
He – Chef Livingstone Wanga – then goes on to tell us about his career and what it’s like to be a full-time Chef. Says most people, especially bachelors – like yours truly here – think cooking is just about rounding up the tomatoes and the onions and pilipilis into one sufuria and coming out with something edible. Apparently it’s more complicated than that. He shows us a sample of his own unique creations and we’re left wondering how people are even supposed to eat that. I mean, do you use a fork and knife or do you just dig in, you know, like a normal person from the hood? “What do you call that?” Tom asks. And he goes, “This one here is flakes of beef stir fry in a blind baked pastry case on tomato soufflé rice, and then the other one was pan seared perch fillet set on a warm potato salad, green beans and laced with doria lemon butter.” Okay, I’m not even going to lie to you that I understood any of that. The whole time I was just thinking, “Where’s the bloody bar?” So we asked him to repeat those names but by the third time we still hadn’t gotten anything past ‘beef stir fry’ so we just said, “Listen, Sir, just WhatsApp us the names, Sawa?”
Some of you guys here must think I’m making this stuff up, ndio hizi hapa;
Chef Livingstone Wanga (you have to address him by all three names like that) is a man with an interesting perception about life. Takes every day as it comes. Does his work to the best of his ability, leaves the rest to the customers. And, Chefs also go an attachment. Whodathot? Chef Livingstone Wanga says when he’s on leave, he likes to go to the Norfolk to sharpen his skills. His work is not as easy, because he has to ask for feedback on how the food was from every customer that tastes his meals. This Chinese couple dined while we were there and when they were done, he went to them and asked, “How was the food? Good?” The Chinese couple said, “Food good.” Then he asked them, “Food too much or too little?” And with a straight face the man said, “Too little.” We just laughed that one off, as Chef Livingston Wanga assured them of an increased quantity at dinner. I almost walked up to that Chinese guy to ask, “How much did you want, Sir? An elephant?” But it wasn’t in my place now, was it? Besides, we were also just visitors here.
Sentrim Hotel has this spot from where you can see Mt. Kilimanjaro that is just the most beautiful view I have ever seen. Go there early in the morning, when the grass is still wet (no, not in that way) and the birds are still singing from the trees. Go there in your sweatpants, or your boxers if you have to, and enjoy that view. Breathe in the warm smell of the morning mist, enclose yourself in the beauty of nature and let it reel you into captivity. From that view – and for that split second – all your troubles will go away. They will fly away with the birds and disappear, like Nairobi men after getting under your pants. During the day, go to the swimming pool area and if you’re scared of drowning, or are just a terrible swimmer – again, like yours truly here – just sit by the bar and order a mojito or a cocktail named Monkey Dance. If your Boss calls you at that particular moment, just laugh and tell him, “I’m at Dik-Dik Bar.” He won’t get it. Chances are he’ll probably say something like, “You’re fired.” Keep him calm, tell him you’ll work overtime next week, then say, “No, seriously, it’s called Dik-Dik Bar.”
When the guys who were doing all the work were done and we were about to leave, Chef Livingstone Wanga (Ok, I see it now, the name is a mouthful, hehe) took Tom and I to the bar and told the guy behind the counter, “Wapatie soda baridi,” which we downed while bothering the bartender with silly questions. Say;
“Which guys drink the most here? The Whites or the Africans?”
“The Whites. Especially the Germans. Those guys love the bottle a tad too much.”
“But which ones misbehave the most after one too many?”
“Oh, The Africans, most definitely. Once the Whites have had to their limits, you’ll just see them walking out of the bar towards their rooms. But the Africans, man, saa hizo ndio sasa anataka kukuonyesha ako na pesa. And they become arrogant.”
“Na wagani hawatoangi tips?”
“Haha. The Chinese. Those ones are tough to crack.”
“Who is the most famous person that has ever walked through these doors?”
“Wako wengi sana. We’ve even hosted some Saudi Billionaires here, and those guys come with their own security, hawa wetu wanawafukuzanga waende walinde wanyama. But Michael Rannerbarger has been here. Even Serena Williams was here sometime back.”
Guys, this is me begging, if any of you goes to Sentrim Hotel anytime soon, book the room Serena Williams slept. I’m not asking for much, just bring me the towels she used. Sawa?