Friday, August 07, 2009

Mzungu, your baby is cold!

We are currently holed up in a hotel in Mombasa, fugitives from an angry mob of machete-wielding villagers who chased us out of their hamlet for child abuse.

OK, I am exaggerating. But just a little.

It is the cold season in Kenya, which means that temperatures are dropping as low as 14 degrees centigrade. Now, Nats and I are Scottish and that is the threshold that heralds summer in Scotland. When the thermometers hit such heady heights in Glasgow, pasty white, hairy legs are unfurled from beneath shorts that have lain, forlorn and unused, in a drawer for eleven months. Everybody begins licking an icecream. Exposed beer bellies drink up the sun like wobbly solar panels.

So, while we have acclimatised to Kenya and are finding it a little chilly, it is far from cold. Charlotte, being Scottish and all, is dressed much the same as we are - top, trousers and maybe a light jumper or cardigan.

But Kenyans like to keep their babies warm. In fact, they like to keep their babies roasting hot. There are kids roaming around Nairobi right now in balaclavas and snowsuits. Yes, snowsuits. One kid we saw was clearly also wearing about five jumpers under his suit. He couldn't bring his arms into his body and was walking with his legs wide apart. I couldn't decide if he looked more like a mini Michelin Man or the Gingerbread Man.

It makes me wonder what Kenyans would do if they ever went to Europe during the winter. After all, where do you go after you've gone nuclear? A survival pod?

But anyway, each to his own. The only problem is, Kenyans can't seem to understand that other people might not want their child to sweat like Gary Glitter in a room full of 12-year-old boys. In the last five weeks, we've had plenty of comments about Charlotte being cold. But today's incident took the biscuit, the packet, and an entire sachet of those little triangular jelly things that go on top of empire biscuits.

I have been sent to Mombasa on an assignment involving pirates and relieved, released German hostages, so I decided I may as well drive down and bring Nats and Charlotte. Along the way we stopped in a small village - pretty much just your typical collection of ramshackle buildings that serve as hotels, bars or brothels for passing truckers.

All was fine, until the villagers spotted that we had a baby. With its head exposed to the FREEZING COLD BREEZE. Of around 21 degrees C, since we were close to the coast.

Soon we were surrounded by a gaggle of locals trying to explain we should cover our baby's head or she will die horrendously of pneumonia. I explained that she was Scottish and they should all fuck right off (ok, I didn't say that).

The ladies finally got the idea and backed off, deciding that if the stupid Mzungu wanted to let his child suffer a long and painful death punctuated by hacking coughs, it was his lookout. But one bloke persisted, trying to pull the blanket over her head. He even attempted to take her off me. The funniest thing was that he had the longest, filthiest talons I have seen on a man in quite some time, no doubt jammed up with the detritus of regular nose picking (I don't see any other reason for a man to have nails that long). I suspect the health hazard to Charlotte came from those nails, rather than a breeze that would pass as the Sirocco in Glasgow.

We managed to politely but firmly extricate ourselves and drive away, although I half-expected to glance back and see a pickup truck full of villagers waving blankets and shouting: "Your baby is cold, Mzungu. Cover her!"

Even now, sitting in the hotel room, I have made sure the door is locked and a chair is wedged up against the handle. I'm worried we might all wake up wearing snowsuits.

1 comment:

Nats said...

No, we didn't put Charlotte in a snowsuit. It's just a scary resemblance that demonstrates what is expected by our friendly, roadside randoms.