Friday, November 02, 2007

... and all I got was this lousy t-shirt

Technology: wonderous when it works; wank when it won’t.

Technology: the bane of my life these last weeks and the scapegoat whose gluttonous neck is being shorn in preparation for a much-needed blood-letting and, with it, the prospect of a carnivorous addition to my otherwise vegetarian diet.

I’m starting to confuse metaphor with reality which can’t be healthy. Forgive the ire it’s just with no one to turn to and vent my occasional spleen, it is to the non-judgmental digitised face of my laptop that I must revert. In many ways it’s a bit like the family pet to whom the world and their wives spill their collective troubles and in its doe-eyed, non-comprehending manner never implies anything aside from undying loyalty, adoration and unwavering, slightly sycophantic devotion.

You innumerable masses(!), whose lives revolve around my spewings from these peculiarly foreign parts, will doubtless have realised why the usually rich pages of monologue that adorn the walls of this literary guide to the darker recesses of my mind were left blank last week. t.e.c.h.n.o.l.o.g.y ... an etymological grafting of the prefix ‘tech-’ with a bastardised, abbreviated, hybrid of the phrase ‘no logical reason why it doesn’t work’.

So I’m sat here in the balmy wilds of an increasingly sweaty Godola in an attempt to defeat the power-surges and post an update by composing it ‘off-line’. Thursday’s showered and ready for bed and a host of leapy, jumpy things sound as if they’re trying to break through the sheet metal that is my front door. There’s a preying mantis on the roof, doing it’s finest Daniel-son impression while shivering with excitement at the veritable buffet of insect life it has strayed upon in the ever-alluring flicker of my one working light, and the spiders, whose variety makes Mr. Heinz look like a one-trick pony, are casually trying to drop the sticky, gossamer-wrapped cadavers of the flies upon which they have feasted to the floor; all that happens though is they end up stuck to my walls. Not only does my broom work overtime on the floor cleaning up dust and dead insects, but it now does a weekly circuit of the roof to get rid of cob-webs, and also the walls to get rid of fly corpses. It’s a miracle I have time to do anything else.

The craziness never stops ... actually that’s a lie. More often than not it’s the mundane and tiresome that buzzes on like the Duracell bunny, seldom interrupted by anything approaching even mild-lunacy, although when the lunacy does arrive it does so fully lit, hamper free and missing most of the face cards.

An example: A neighbour wondered whether I’d like to go for a wander in the fruit rich fields beyond the river where many a mango has been permittedly purloined and which is now stiff with guavas [a brief aside: what, indeed, is the plural of ‘guava’? Guave? Guavi? Or does it do a mouse mice thing and go weird on us: guice, perhaps?]. It would have been rude not to, especially seeing as the guice are good and they taste that much better when they’re free. “Don’t forget a bag to carry them in”, he added.

Took a bag.

Filled it.

Anyone got any ideas as to what to do with 136 guice? That is indeed one hundred and thirty six. Cent trente-six. Nya soom-choo took. 00010001. It would have been 140 but he very reluctantly took four off me. Extremely generous or dafter than an entire brush factory? Who knows. He had skipped class earlier in the day, perhaps it was an obscure fruit-based apology. Who needs Hail Marys or Al-lah U Akhbars when you’ve got a guava tree or three.

Another example: Was in town on Tuesday and ventured to its finest bakery, whose ovens were cold and shelves bereft of baguette type fare, much like those of every baker in the whole of Maroua, when I’d been doing my messages on Sunday. Whatever hadn’t been there on Sunday was there by the barrel load on Tuesday and with nostrils as cavernous as those which adorn my face I could just pick out the smell of freshly baked bread over the infinitely less appealing odours of dried/drying/dying fish, rotting fruit and veg, poo and the all-pervading stench that is humanity in this oh-so-fragrant corner of the world.

Squatting outside said bakery was an old feller footling around with something I couldn’t quite make out. Eyes focused, hastily unfocused and I thought pleasant sunny thoughts of nice things as opposed to the one that had just assaulted my unprepared consciousness.

Said old feller was forcibly prodding his male groinal appendage of the same name with a stick. And not just prodding it but giving it the kind of chim-chiminee-chim-chiminee-chim-chim-cherooing that Dick Van Dyck and his army of harmonious and sickeningly chipper colleagues could only dream about. The less you think about it the better, believe me ... I only hope that he found whatever it was he was looking for; it was clearly of some importance to him: the philosophers’ stone perhaps or the lost treasure of the Sierra Madre. The secret to eternal life. A recipe for guava.

Sometimes you think you’ve seen it all; many times you wish you had ... not sure what the t-shirt for ‘I’ve seen an old man sticking sticks up his’ would look like but if there is one, I can now add it to my collection, along with ‘I’ve eaten that bit with which they didn’t know what else to do’.

Talking of which, the entymological feast has yet to transpire. That said, rumour has it that there are purveyors of cooked insect life to be found on the streets of Maroua. Couldn’t work out why I’d never seen them given that in South Korea pretty much every street corner had someone selling boiled silk-worm larvae (apart from actually eating filth which, I hasten to add, I’ve never done, I’m not sure there’s anything I’ve tasted that was more disgusting. Not quite sure what I was hoping for but it wasn’t that). Dawned on me the other day that I tend to frequent the Muslim area of town for my weekly purchases and, as you’ll all be well aware, insect life is not Halal and so is off-limits to the sand-crusted propheteers of Mohammed.

Never quite understood that Halal thing until this week, by chance, Mr S Rushdie of address unknown, in one of his more Fatwah inducing works, explained it in as simple language as he is able, and I quote:

”He [The Prophet] vetoed the consumption of prawns, those bizarre other-worldly creatures which no member of the faithful had ever seen, and required animals to be killed slowly, by bleeding, so that by experiencing their deaths to the full they might arrive at an understanding of the meaning of their lives, for it is only at the moment of death that living creatures understand that life has been real, and not a sort of dream.”

Perhaps the aforementioned old man was doing the same to his, although why anyone would wish to is beyond me.

Insects, for that matter and from my experience tend to die either fully intact for seemingly no reason at all, or in a crunching squishy manner that is wholly contrary to the concept of bleeding. If prawns are banned, other-worldly as they are, then it figures that insects would be too. Still not convinced by pigs but as a self-professed porcomaniac, that’s probably not that surprising.

It’s now well past my bed-time but tomorrow, being Friday, I have a lie-in. Don’t have to be in school till 9.30 but by the time you get your eyes on this the day, the date even the time will have passed. What does it mean? Absolutely no idea ... not sure I really care either. The bulbous boil of verbosity has had its much needed lancing and that’s what counts. Don’t discount a Post Scriptum, though, as you never know what might go galloping through the mine-field of my mind ... watch this space.

P.S. An additional moment of lunacy to add to the ever-lengthening list: Whilst quietly minding my own business in my habitual manner awaiting the arrival of any form of transport that was willing to take me and my backpack into town, the local mad woman approached me and let me know that I just had to say when I wanted her to prepare my rice and she’d set to it, arms and hands covered in cow-shit up to the elbow and clad in a fetching pair of plastic-bag bootees.

The bootees have been encountered before: it was only when they were kicked off did I notice that they too were full of cow yuck. A student who was passing casually hinted that she was mad - the woman, that is, not the student. One has to hope she is, otherwise she has made a conscious decision to walk around with shit-filled bags on her feet … each to their own.


  1. Anonymous6:16 pm

    Er !!
    Time to come home??
    Next stage is actually starting to cook some of these things - or get the MRSA free one, with the dung filled boots to do the honours!

    136 Guice !- even dried - that's a lot of Guavas. Perhaps you can make a sort of Guice pie with a light , if not crunchy invertebrate pastry.

    I feel sorry for the computer - it gets all this first hand.

    Just seen " Alex" the play - Good -

  2. sibling gender femail9:49 pm

    personally I get all my best recipes from, my personal favourite being the simple, yet delicious, chocolate coated crickets:

    25 adult crickets
    Several squares of semisweet chocolate
    Prepare the crickets as described above. Bake at 250 degrees until crunchy (the time needed varies from oven to oven). Heat the squares of semi sweet chocolate in a double boiler until melted. Dip the dry roasted crickets in the melted chocolate one by one, and then set the chocolate covered crickets out to dry on a piece of wax paper. Enjoy! This is a little time consuming to make, but definitely worth it...the crickets are deliciously crunchy!

    Although, antbrood tacos are another festive favourite.

  3. sister sibling type9:50 pm

    female that is. not femail. which is something completely different, and not without postage issues.


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