STORIES FROM AMBOSELI

CHEF WANGA

 

 

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;

 

 

BEEF FLAKES
Chef Livingstone Wanga’s ‘Flakes of beef stir fry in a blind baked pastry case on tomato souffle rice’

 

Pan seared perch
Pan seared perch fillet set on a warm potato salad, green beans and laced with doria lemon butter’
avocado fan
‘Avocado fan salad with a 1000 Island dressing’

 

 

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?

HER PLACE

3

 

 

You are with three of your boys at some swanky joint in Westlands. One of these joints where they ask you for I.D at the entrance and, if you’re below 25 years of age, they tell you to go back home and suckle your Mummy’s breasts, do your homework, watch a Mexican Soap or something. It is packed, the DJ is playing some Wizkid song [something to do with bending down and pausing], ladies – with their already short skirts pulled way up to their thighs – are breaking sweat on the dance floor; shaking their asses with all their might, shaking so hard you’d think they were auditioning for a Konshens video, shaking and grinding their butts against the loins of pathetic lazy men just standing and making foolish grins behind them. I’ll admit it, like every man, I sugua too [mostly because people insist I’m a  buzz kill, so they’ll send some bold mami to come sit on my lap and dare me to a dance and I’ll be forced to prove I have balls too]. But I will never understand the obsession with twerking and grinding. How do people enjoy that shit? I will never understand why everything has to be explicit with this current generation. Why can’t people just dance the good old fashioned way our grandfathers – and theirs before them – taught us? Face the lady, lose yourself in her eyes, put your hands round her waist and her arms over your neck, move slowly – to the left, then to the right – and engage in a simple conversation. Talk about how much you love her necklace [even if you don’t], let her tell you how firm your grip is and ask you if you’ve been working out. Nowadays people don’t even talk while dancing; you just walk to the dance floor and jump behind any random lady you find, without as much as a “Hi”or a “What’s your name?” Nowadays women are bitches and men are…well…bitches too [going by the whining on social media]

 

 

There is a bottle of Jameson Whiskey [because everyone wants to be seen drinking Jameson these days] on your table, and three bottles of Kingfisher – for one of your boys’ cat. Normally, it’s just the boys, but she insisted on tagging along tonight. She said she wanted to see what ‘Boys Night’ was all about. That she wanted to witness the tomfoolery men engage in away from their women. Your boy – her boyfriend – had asked her if she’d be OK sitting in the midst of all the idiocy and she said, “Sure, Honey, I’ll be fine. You just have fun, do whatever you want.” When a woman says she’s fine, she’s not; especially when she says it with a smile, worse when she touches you on the arm while saying it. When she says, “Do whatever you want,” it’s a setup. Don’t you even think about looking at some fine piece of ass walking by, because when you get home and you try to get some, your hand will be slapped off and you will be given that look of “Go touch that bitch you were looking at.” So sit tight, hold your liquor to your chest, look only at her, stroke her gently on the thigh,tell her, “Have I ever told you how lucky I am to have you?”and watch her gloat and say, “I know.” Sip your Whiskey, refill her glass, and – every once in a while -recite the ‘Hail Mary’. Maybe then you’ll get lucky.

 

 

You like your Whiskey neat. If you have to drop something in your glass of Whiskey, maybe just a couple ice cubes. You consider men who add soft drinks to their Whiskey to be pussies.Pussies who watch ‘Jane The Virgin’ and ‘Real Housewives of Atlanta’. Pussies who secretly wish to rock skinny jeans and Mohawks. Pussies who call their Mummies twice a day.Pussies who follow Sauti Sol and Nick Mutuma on Instagram. Pussies who suckle on PinPops and call their girlfriends ‘Bae’. Pussies who bring their women to the club on bloody ‘Boys Night’.

 

 

Three or so glasses in and the Whiskey is beginning to kick in. You know because your eyes are blurry, your head is going round in circles, and you feel like telling the DJ to play you some Drake. You also feel like dipping your face into a pair of boobs; a pair of firm, perky, beautiful boobs.  Two of your boys are at the dance floor by now. They have shitty moves, they couldn’t dance if it was the last thing remaining to save humanity, but because we have Jameson on our table – and women love men with Jameson on their table – they’ve already scored some mamis, who are now busy groping and making out with them like their rents depend on it. It’s pitiful, and disgusting; sort of like listening to Octopizzo’s music while driving.

 

 

You get up and head towards the Gents to do your business. It smells like shit – because it’s where people shit anyway. There is some chap being told to cool off in there. Blue cap, hairy knuckles, red eyes, crappy shoes. He looks mad at something, or someone. These guys are telling him, “Hatuwezi pigana hapa na sisi ni maboyz maze. Kesho bado tutakunywa tu pamoja.” He looks like those guys who really like starting fights but don’t even know how to fight. Those chaps who just want to appear vexed so they can be pulled back and sweet talked; it gives them some sense of authority, it massages their ego, it makes them feel important. Mimi I never start a fight because I don’t know how to fight. I talk big, a lot, but when shit hits the fan, I get my ass the hell out of there. Real quick.

 

 

“So what do you guys normally do anyway? Do you just drink and make fun of people and dance like robots all night?” Your boy’s cat asks when you get back to your seat. She’s alone at the table, Frank must have followed you to the loo, or gone outside to pick a call, or finally decided to hit the dance floor regardless of the consequences, Whatever. Now, because you’re drunk and you’re feeling like a smart ass [also because you never liked her ass from the get-go and have just been waiting for an opportunity to embarrass her], you say, “Nothing much. We usually just walk around the club tickling all the ladies’ nipples.”

 

 

“Uhmmm, Excuse me?”

 

“Okay. Well, we also spank them on the ass and kiss a few but I didn’t think you’d wanna know all that.”

 

“Are you serious right now?”

 

“It’s Boys Night. What do you think we do? Braid each other’s hair, drink Chardonnay and watch The Good Wife?”

 

“I thought maybe you guys just played FIFA and talked trash about women or something.”

 

“Oh, Yeah, We did that too. Before coming to the club.”

 

“What? Why wasn’t I invited to that?”

 

“Technically, you weren’t even invited here, you just bloody showed up. Secondly, you’re not a Boy. And thirdly, invite you so you can hear all the complaints Frank has about you? Hells to the No.”

 

“Complaints? What complaints? What bloody complaints?”

 

“Well, for starters, your food tastes like ass, that weave on your head stinks, and you don’t even know how to give head.”

 

“The Fuck? But he says my food is perfect.”

 

“Every man says that because they don’t want to sleep on the couch.”

 

“I’ll have you know, nobody gives head like I do.”

 

“Well, do you want to try it on me? I could be the judge, from neutral grounds, you know”

 

“You wish.”

 

“The only thing I wish for in this world is a lap dance from Rihanna. Naked.”

 

“Oh, grow a pair.”

 

“Already did. Wanna see those too?”

 

“You’re disgusting you guy.”

 

“I know, right? I wonder what women see in me.”

 

“They don’t see anything in you. Something’s just not right with their heads.”

 

“Something’s not right with Frank’s head either.”

 

“Why? Because he sees something in me?”

 

“No. Because he’s been seeing that thing in you for two whole years. I dont know how he does it.”

 

“I hate you, Ian.”

 

“Oh, I hate me too.”

 

“You know, when I first met you, Frank told me you were a nice guy.” [She’s beginning to get mad. Which means you’re succeeding.]

 

“But why would he misinform you like that? I’m a total ass.”

 

 

Frank comes back to the table. “Take me home, Babe. Take me home,” she says. Frank turns to you and goes, “Chief, what did you do this time?” You say, “Nothing, man. I only said her hair looks amazing.” They walk out. And that’s when you lock eyes with her.

 

 

Over by the counter, seated alone, drinking something – wine, presumably -from those really long glasses, dressed in a classy blue dress that transcends to just above her thighs when she sits. You notice each other almost at the same time. She smiles, then shifts focus back to her glass. She looks beautiful. She looks happy. She looks free. You grab your glass and walk up to her and say, “Excuse me, is this seat taken?” She smiles, again. “Well, it is now,” she says.

 

 

“I’m Ian. Can I buy you a drink?”

 

“Lisa. And that line only works in movies cutie-pie.”

 

“Oh, you think I’m cute?”

 

“I think flowers and puppies are cute. I don’t know about you.”


“But you just called me cutie pie?”

 

“Who says that necessarily means cute?”

 

“The Urban Dictionary.”

 

“The Urban Dictionary was written by a human being, just like the Bible.”

 

“What, you don’t believe in The Bible too?”

 

“I believe there is a God. I just don’t believe someone gave birth without getting down and dirty under the sheets.”

 

“The Lord works in mysterious ways.”

 

“So does the government.”

 

“What’d the government do now?”

 

“What didn’t they do? Have you been living in ice?”

 

“Okay. How about I buy you that drink and we talk about something other than the government and the Bible and puppies, aye?”

 

“Like, what, crappy pick-up lines?”

 

“Maybe. That could be a start.”

 

 

Three tequilas later, we’re talking like old pals. She’s telling me about her stubborn folks and her brother – he’s a rapper – and her schooling – she’s in Medical school, she hates it – and how her ex-boyfriend left her for some top government official’s daughter. She’s yapping on and on about how the world is twisted and she’s pissed that Ben Carson endorsed Donald Trump and all the things she would do if she were President for just a day. You hate people who talk too much after a couple of drinks, but you just sit there and listen, because it feels like it’s going to be a good night.

 

 

An hour later, she says, “Let’s get out of here. I stay not so far away.” And you let out a silent sigh of relief. So you call an Uber and, about 20 minutes later, you’re pulling up in Desai, Ngara. A neighborhood so shitty it looks like one of those places that receive relief food from the West. Ngara doesn’t move an inch at night, it just stays still, like a month old piece of dog shit. She walks you across some corridors and into some building that looks like government housing for the homeless. She fumbles with her keys and when she finally opens her door and turns on the lights, you want to scream for help.

 

 

You walk in and you wonder if this is where Hitler plotted his moves during the World War. The place is a mess. There are clothes tossed all over, all manner of dirty dishes are piled up in the sink, the floor looks like it was last cleaned when Museveni was a teenager, hell, there’s a family of roaches on the wall. What kind of woman lives like this? I’ll tell you what kind of woman, the kind that harvests balls and armpit hair and ships them off to Timboroa for auction. That’s what kind of woman lives with a family of roaches. Lisa disappears into the bathroom and comes back with only her bra and undies on. You want to ask her if she’s homeless, but that sounds offensive even in your head. So, instead, you ask if she shares the room with someone else [like a freaking vampire, maybe]. She chuckles and she says, “No, I stay alone. Don’t worry.”

 

 

“You’re not a serial killer though, are you?”

 

“Excuse me?”

 

“Forget it. The roaches, they don’t get on your nerves?”

 

“You’re scared of roaches?”

 

“I’m scared of snakes and my mother. Roaches? I just don’t think it’s healthy sharing walls with them.”

 

“I don’t mind them. There’s probably even a rat here somewhere, eats all my bloody food, but it’s nice having them around.”

 

“A rat? You stay with roaches and a rat and you’re cool with that? I wonder what’s under that bed, a bloody zoo?”

 

“I didn’t say it was cool, I just said I didn’t mind.”

 

“Well, you should.”

 

“Fine. I’ll do something about it tomorrow. For now, just come closer.” [She’s taking off her bra, slowly, seductively.]

 

“No. I think you should take care of this now.”

 

“Now? It’s the middle of the fucking night. What do you want me to do, call the police?”

 

“I have a guy.”

 

“You have a guy? I’m taking off my bra, getting ready to have sex with you, and you’re telling me you have a guy? Well, what the hell were you flirting with me for?”

 

“No, Shit, I didn’t mean it in that way. I’m straight. I meant I have a guy for this sort of thing. Pest problems.”

 

“Oh. Can’t that wait till morning?”

 

“No, I want you to call him now.”

 

“Jesus Christ. Well, do you have a bloody card or something?”

 

“Not really, but I have his details. Just take out your phone and punch them in.” [Puts bra back on. Takes phone out from her purse.]

 

“Okay, Shoot.”

 

“His name is Thomas Chacha, but – when you ring him – call him Tom, he likes that better. He runs this company that deals in cleaning and pest control, it’s called Imagine Care. Their email address is imaginecarekenya@gmail.com

 

“Too much information. Just give me his bloody phone number damn it!”

 

“Right. 0734 912 982 . That’s 0-7-3-4-9-1-2-9-8-2…….”

 

“I heard you the first time, Idiot. So, taking care of pests, that’s all they do?”

 

No, actually, they also do indoor cleaning. Say, you had a party and you’re tired of doing the dishes, call them. You spilled food or wine [or blood from one of your victims, hehe] on your couch or sofa or car seat, call them. Bedbugs keep you up late at night, call them. Or, maybe, rats keep running around in your office when you’re trying to work, call them.”

 

“Okay. Oh, and just so we’re clear, I’m not interested anymore. You can go sleep with the moon tonight for all I care.”

 

“I texted my Taxi guy the second I walked in here.”

 

“You’re an asshole.”

 

“Funny thing, I’ve been told that twice tonight only. But, hey, at least I care for your well-being. Now, you promise me you’ll call that Pest Control guy tomorrow, aye?”

 

“Whatever. Get out.”

 

Why do people always have to be so mean even when you’re just trying to be helpful? Ama she was just angry she wasn’t getting my balls and armpit hair tonight? Hehe.