Most Sundays I join friends for “prayers” at the local fabled watering hole that feels more like a club both in decor and exclusivity.
This Equatorial club must endure the odd out of sorts tourist who flushes through, their khakis and Tevas and dazed expressions are evidence that they flew in straight from a safari in the Mara. They appear impervious to the Beach Boys psychotic drug-induced rants over at the grassy knoll desiginated for Beach Boys. Their mind boggles — I hear this in New York city all the time. But in Lamu?
The other kind of semi-tourists are the U.S. Navy boys based near Magagoni or the so-called Manda Bay military base near the future Lamu port site. I had heard that these young bucks frequented this bar for their weekend R&R, but for all the Sundays I had genuflected over Young Pals, I had yet to lay eyes on any of them. I had assumed that they were more or less hard to detect for their stealth-like discretion. Maybe they were wandering around pretending to look like ultra-clean shaven backpackers.
Last Sunday, I got more than I bargained for — not only were they obvious by their mid-Western accents, large high-tech water proof Army issue watches and Oakley shades, they were shirtless, exposing bellicose tats, ploughed and talking to anyone who would listen. I bailed on my usual pew partners, when the boys invited me on an afternoon dhow ride replete with a fresh red snapper lunch.
But forget the fish (or indeed the young officer young enough to be my son, but who had made a pass at me all the same); I was infinitely more intrigued by the can of DORITOS that was being passed around. COOL RANCH, no less. Out of sight, out of mind, indeed. Never knew how much I missed them – the Doritos.
— “Mark” from Mississippi, all of 23, proudly confirmed that all food served on the base – even Christmas turkeys – is transported directly from the U.S. to prevent potential food poisoning by the likes of Al Qaeda or indeed by poor local Swahili fisherman. Mark had relayed this as if this action were a clever (if arguably paranoid) preemptive strike on part of the US military. Never mind that the Doritos themselves have enough poison in the form of preservatives to kill an Al Qaeda training battalion.
In the space of an hour, our lovely old Mozambique dhow morphed into a sailing college dorm party; people kept walking on a pair of broken Oakleys and an Iphone, straining with the tinny sounds of heavy metal music; we slipped on chapitis and grilled snapper by then creamed to a paste on the wooden floor of the dhow.
I thought I had lost my appetite when I noted that a spilled can oozing a slimy cocktail of tobacco chew and Tusker beer. While the boys (and some girls) were swilling down the Vodka and Tuskers then diving off the dhow, I remained on board devouring every last Dorito, though not before slowly licking the ranch salad dressing flavor off each side.
You can take the American out of the poison, but you can’t take the poison out of an American. Give me Junk food poison or give me death!
Categories: Conflict In Context - Field Notes