Saturday, June 25, 2011


Never have I been as popular as the time I have spent here in East Africa.  Everywhere I go, I have friends.  I mean, why else would all these people yell "rafiki" (friend in swahili) every time they see me?  They can't possibly know that I have seen the Lion King a thousand times, can they?  Have they heard me singing in the shower?

Or do they just recognize my impeccable table etiquette? image by ~Blue-J23

Every African I meet wants to make my acquaintance, some going so far as to try and impress me into friendship by showing me their handmade paintings and carvings.  They obviously recognize my innate knowledge and impeccable taste when it comes to artwork, and the artists clearly hope that I will consider the them worthy enough to be brought into my circle of friends.  The painters show me their paintings, ahe hat sellers display their hats, and the newspaper salesmen fight each other for a chance to show me the day's headlines.   My favorite are the street kids dying to tell me all about the newest safari, because they can clearly tell that even though I am currently wearing office clothes and carrying a briefcase, I am always up for a spontaneous safari!

In this photo: running down a hyena on a spontaneous safari

Even though I walk the same route, past the same people, the same stalls, every single day, they still insist on greeting me and showing me their wares-- yet again.  I know what you're thinking, they are clearly desperate for my approval and friendship.  I totally understand.  I know that I am totally awesome, something that they clearly recognize as well.

Please make sure not to stare directly into the sheer awesomeness emanating from this photo.

As a westerner, they know that I am inwardly dying to buy every piece of art, sculpture, newspaper, map, pamphlet, or hat that I see on the street.  Even though I pass them every day, and never buy anything, they know that someday their yelling, gesticulating, or hissing, will break me down and I will befriend them, and possibly even grace them with my generosity, purchasing everything they have, and travel home laden with goods and souvenirs to remind me of my friends back on the dark continent.  I wish I knew the Swahili equivalent of "bitch please!," so I could truly impress on them of the chances of that actually happening.  I am on my way to work, and my office is in no need of re-decoration with cheap, mass-produced, trinkets and obviously printed, "hand-painted," works of art.

The other day, I had a newspaper seller follow me for half a kilometer to work showing me his newspapers. He was absolutely shocked that I didn't want to buy the newspaper he was trying to sell me, no matter that it was in dutch and over two weeks old.  He didn't believe me when I told him that I couldn't read the contents of that paper, because as every good East African newspaperman knows, all wazungu come from the same place, speak the same language, know each other, and are probably related.  He did make a pretty compelling argument, however, when he confidently stated that we all look the same.  I couldn't even argue, since at the time, there happened to be passing by a group of incredibly good looking, male-model-type, tourists, that were looking at souvenirs.  Clearly, this was a man who knew what he was talking about.  Checkmate.

He was pretty much the Buddha of East Africa.

The group that is the most desperate to befriend me, is the city's taxi drivers.  They are the ones that yell "rafiki" the loudest, the most often, and often go so far as to make use of their horns in trying to get my attention.  This morning, I was waiting on the street in front of my apartment, waiting for my friend to drive over and get me in his truck.  As soon as I hit the street, a cacophony of honking that would rival a Los Angeles rush-hour began. Confident, I tried my usual tactic: ignoring them.  You must understand, it gets so very hard sometimes having so many friends!  I cannot hope to befriend them all.

One taxi driver was not having it, really wanting to be my friend. Yelling "rafiiiiikiiiii" like we grew up together in the same village, and honking no less than fifteen times, he tried his very best to get me to come speak with him.  First, he let fly a couple of staccato honks.  Then, a honk every couple of seconds.  It was very kind of him to try so very hard.  I mean, I could have easily missed his first five honks, no matter that he was parked no more than 15 meters away from me.  Who knows?  I could have been deaf and in desperate need of his friendship and taxi services.  Realizing this, he started waving his arms, and even drove across the street and parked his car right next to where I was standing, giving me one last, pathetic honk, before giving up.  Alas, I already had so many friends on the road to work, that my social circle was totally full.  I was forced to ignore him and try my very best to forget how incredibly silly he looked.  I wouldn't want to laugh and make him feel worse than he already did, having suffered the worst possible tragedy: being shunned and rejected by me.

Pictured: An African I rejected.  Not really, he was crying out of sheer inability to comprehend how awesome I am.

Disconsolate, he must have phoned-ahead to his buddies, however, because later in the day, walking past a roundabout, the air was suddenly split with the sound of loud hissing.  They obviously knew I was coming, and were very prepared to befriend me.  In East Africa, the people know that whistling is useless, and that hissing is clearly superior  as an attention getter.  A good, sharp, hiss is the social equivalent of a "How do you do, old boy?  Fancy sharing a fag and discussing the most recent news from the NIKKEI and Wall Street markets? Or maybe a glass of brandy and a good rousing game of croquet?"  It is a very powerful thing, a hiss, and these men were doing their best to hiss me over to their taxis, shops, and sidewalk displays.  When that eventually failed, they fell back on the good-old "rafiki" routine.

You must understand by now how truly popular I truly am.  What is that you say?  They only want me for my money?  Ridiculous!  I am not an idiot, and I was NOT born yesterday!  Everyone knows that only base and vile women do that sort of thing, and I am shocked that you would even think the sort of these amiable, hard-working, folks, that clearly recognize me as a man to know and love.  Shame on you!

As long as I walk these streets, there will be people wanting to be my rafiki, my friend. It is a hard job, being as totally and incredibly awesome as I am. A truly solemn and trying task, that I do not take lightly, and would never wish upon anyone else. 

1 comment:

  1. Well done, rafiki. You have managed to highly entertain The Roberts this afternoon.