Comments on the Poem, African Memories

I just posted a poem about Africa and the memories one has after leaving the continent. It was posted on a facebook group called Kenyan friends reunited. We are wondering if any Old Africa readers or friends knows who wrote the poem. As I read it, it brought back memories of when I left my high school in Kenya and traveled to the USA for university. Somehow, I could never get Africa out of my mind. I healed my homesickness with cups of chai shared with Ben Mshila, a Kenyan friend at the same school in California where we both played soccer and rugby. My book, Dust of Africa, is a deeper look at the transitions faced by those of us who were raised in Africa but have ancestral roots in Europe or America. Old Africa books recently published a book Tribal Origins that speaks about the same issues. There is a powerful theme of finding where home is when you’ve grown up in a different country and culture.  So, if you know the author of the poem, get in touch. If you want to read more about living between worlds, read Dust of Africa or Tribal Origins. Both are available on the bookstore on our...

More African Memories

I was born in Africa and its seasons shaped my soul.
 I knew my place beneath the sun, the warm earth made me whole,
 Those arching skies and brilliant stars fixed my position there,
 That brooding space my boundary, the far horizons clear.
 I belonged to Africa and knew no other home
 I had no wish to leave her and no desire to roam.
 The heat, the storms, the droughts were all familiar scenes to me,
 The hills, the plains, the valleys and the green acacia tree.
 It’s tempting to resist my fate, to look back and complain
 At the stealing of my birthright and who or what to blame,
 For the loss of those I loved and knew, and the places I have known.
 My memories will always take me back to friends that now have flown
 Regrets and blame are the past and I must walk the track
 That takes me on this journey, where there is no turning back,
 I must embrace the changes that old England holds for me
 And see the old with eyes anew where I was meant to be.
 There is beauty here in England and it’s steeped in history,
 It’s land of both my parents and my ancient ancestry.
 So I must look beyond the dross and open up new doors,
 And blend my life that’s yet to come with what has gone before.
 I do not have to be there to hear the Masai song,
 It lives forever in my mind where memories belong.
 When I sail through the sunset, the truth will set me free
 Take me out of...

When a Little Bribe Benefited Everybody

Anybody who ran a car in Kenya during the 1950s or 1960s will recall the name ‘Hassanali,’ because that was the name of the Asian parts dealer in River Road, Nairobi. He sold large amounts of spare parts for motorcars at half the price the main vehicle agents sold them. The main agents advertised profusely to persuade car owners to buy only ‘genuine parts’ and reject the non-genuine, pirated parts. Most of the local new vehicle outlets in Kenya were owned by and affiliated to the overseas manufacturers and they insisted on employing expat parts managers assuming that African managers would succumb to Hassanali’s inducements to encourage them to buy locally from him. There were, however, parts mangers like myself who realized that Hassanali’s spare parts were not pirated at all; many were the identical part that went into the new vehicles. Most of the British manufacturers like British Ford, Austin Morris, Vauxhall and the Rootes Group as well as many of the German, French and Italian manufacturers did not manufacture their own pistons, for example, and would all use Hepolite. It was Hepolite pistons that Hassanali bought. The overseas vehicle manufacturers marked up the cost price of their spares to ten times the amount it cost them to produce them. If anybody was mad enough to assemble a car from spare parts, it would literally cost them much more than ten times the cost of the vehicle! Nobody criticised the manufacturers from doing so. The main overseas agents stocking spare parts for their vehicles had to keep 100% availability to maintain the vehicle’s reputation. The slow selling body...
Kenya High School

Kenya High School

I was pleased to read the article ‘Kenya High School Days’ in the October-November Old Africa. I was one of those who helped with fundraising for the new school chapel. We were each given some money at the end of a term and told to increase it with work in the holidays. I invested in harpooning equipment and climbed down the Ras Serani cliffs on Mombasa island at low tide, to harpoon catfish in the pools below. I sold my catches at Mombasa fish market, whose smell still lingers in my nostrils today. All pupils had to create tapestry kneelers for the chapel, portraying the school badge. I still love doing tapestry. We had our two-yearly Kenya High School reunion on 29 September, in Guildford. So many people wanted to come that some had to be turned away. People came from all over the world – from Australia, New Zealand, Seychelles, Portugal, France, Canada, Denmark, Switzerland, South Africa and Belgium. Old friends met up again and the room was full of laughter. We sang the old school song with its rousing final school motto, ‘Servire est Regnare.’  There were tears in many eyes. Schooldays, sometimes traumatic at the time, are best recollected in the tranquillity of age. Most of us were happy at the KHS, with its spacious grounds and excellent teaching. But many of us were very far from home – children from Seychelles, Somaliland, Ethiopia, Tanganyika, Uganda and Ruanda Urundi all attended the KHS. On the subject of schools, a new website has been opened, for old boys and girls of Mombasa Primary School. The website address iswww.mepsoldboys.com...
The Green Mamba

The Green Mamba

My family lived in Katangulu, an AIM mission station in Tanganyika, back in the mid-1940s following World War II. We lived about two miles from the shore of Lake Victoria, the world’s second largest lake and we frequently traveled by boat on a varied assortment of crude crafts. I had been quite ill with malaria and my parents had taken me to the government hospital for treatment.  Due to her other family duties Mom had to return home to care for my dad and my siblings.  I can’t whether I was in hospital for a few days or a few weeks, but one day Mom returned to bring me back home. She came via the poti-poti, as the Africans called the small motor launch. Mom never did well on any form of boat or ship, always becoming seasick and nauseated to the point of becoming bedridden. When we finally reached our home after a long trip across the lake and walking the two miles uphill to our house, Mom was exhausted and not feeling very good.  She went to her bed to slump in a ball of stomach upset, hoping to find relief. As my mother flopped on her bed, she noticed something green leaning out of the corner of the room and staring her in the face. Mom made an instant ‘recovery’ and sprang super charged from her bed, yelling for help.  “There’s a green mamba at the head of my bed!”  Her shout alerted the mamba to its plight and it tried to make a quick escape. The snake met its quick demise, bludgeoned by the blunt...