Monday, September 1, 2008

The physical world in Kenya seems to be more animate

This place it definitely more organic in nature. It’s common to see tiny little pick-up trucks overloaded with green Napier grass. The load is so wide and so high you might wonder how a big bush could be moving so swiftly down the road. With the vehicle and even its form hidden it appears the way parade floats seem to move without seeing what propels them.

But beyond the organic is a sense that inanimate things seem animate. I recently saw a wooden cabinet walking down the road. Behind the cupboard that seemed to be walking all on its own, was a woman carrying a dining chair. Of course, the cabinet was also being carried. But it was so much bigger than the woman under that all I could see was her legs. She walked with it strapped to her back and hunched over.

Probably the most ‘normal’ inanimate/animate object seen in Kenya is motor vehicles with arms. Especially matatus (public transportation in the form of a 14-seat van), the driver often has his arm out the window all the way to the shoulder. He will wave you by or flap downwards to signal that you should slow down or he is slowing down. Oddly enough sometimes the passenger’s side has an arm out too, creating the effect that the vehicle really has grown arms. More often though a head will be sticking out the other side where the sliding door has opened and the tout is calling for riders. Smaller vehicles do utilize the passenger for such signals. And there are some security guard vehicles that have printed on the back, “no hand signals” so you aren’t expecting what everyone comes to expect here.

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