Comedy critic Kate Copstick’s back – bitten in Kenya & banned on Facebook

Copstick’s back in Mombassa, Kenya – as banned by Facebook

Below, more edited extracts from Kate Copstick’s diary. The last ones were three days ago

She is currently in Kenya, where her Mama Biashara charity gives seed money to impoverished people wanting to start self-sustaining businesses. It also gives medical aid and advice to those people whom other charities overlook.

Her last diary extracts were about insect bites, traffic jams and the prostitutes of ‘Ho Central’ in Mombassa.

Yesterday, she posted a photo of her back covered in insect bites on her Facebook page and Facebook immediately blocked it as unsuitable imagery. I would not necessarily dispute this, but have no such qualms about displaying it.

Now read on…


A 50 km traffic jam on the Nairobi-Mombassa road in 2015

TUESDAY

My selfless provision of an all-you-can-eat buffet for the nightlife in my mattress continues. Luckily no one here is remotely interested in my body as I look positively plague ridden. The boss man says he will move me to another room. The tiny mattress inhabitants will be devastated.

The traffic jam still stretches into the distance. Last night the police made a load of lorries turn round and go back to where they came from. So far, one woman has given birth in the jam and one old man has died.

Doris called a lawyer she knows for advice about the goings-on in Ho Central. We were thinking of going to see the Big Boss Policeman. But the lawyer suggested a magistrate at the Shanzu Court who he thinks will be helpful.

So we are in a matatu – me with ginormous mango in plastic bag – going to Shanzu. I am panicking because my fingers are all sticky from the mango and I cannot shake hands with a judge like that. I buy a bottle of water.

We find the judge and we have the most surprising meeting I have had in Kenya.

We explain the horror of the night before. I run through my understanding of the law and the parameters of what the police can legally do. The magistrate is appalled about the brutality we witnessed. She has suspected shit was going down as she has been seeing injured girls coming before her in court. She is very understanding of the girls. She usually sentences them to sweep the courtyard, to go and see a counsellor… she is on our side.

“Society has turned its back on these girls,” she declaims. “They are just doing what they must to feed their children”.

She takes our contacts and makes a list of the people she is going to contact. She has control of several counties and is contacting head police officers, judges and magistrates and the Big Bod himself, police wise. She controls a big committee that oversees a huge area and deals with complaints and procedural hoo-ha. She wants us to come and speak at it.

OK… so our heads are now firmly above the parapet, at least in Mombasa, but in a good cause. I hope the meeting will be soon.

The stifling ferry to Ukunda (photograph from TripAdvisor)

WEDNESDAY

We go back across the ferry to Ukunda to do a meeting with the working girls there. They are also being terrorised and extorted by local police. We have leaflets, information, tea tree douche and metronidazole. We are going to drop the meds with Vicky in Ukunda and make a trip to a market in Lunga Lunga which is the border post with Tanzania. Vicky says there is a huge market there.

I am excited because if I can buy a load of stuff here, the necessity for going back to Nairobi lessens. Mombasa, for all I am in constant, sweaty discomfort with the myriad bites and am mildly, subconsciously worried about the various fevers that abound here, given my lack of white blood cells, is sooooo much more relaxing than Nairobi.

We dice with more heavy metal poisoning on the ferry – passengers and heavy goods vehicles board and stand together for the crossing. And the disembark is quite a smoggy experience.

The country bus to Lunga Lunga is like something from a movie. The door is open as are the windows. None of this Nairobian obsession with pneumonia arriving with every gust of fresh air. The bus is piled high with bundles of flour and things in boxes with airholes punched in the sides, big bundles of water containers and sacks of veggies. It is crammed.

The conductor could not be more helpful. At a place called Ukunda we pass the bags with meds and milk through the window to Vicky and I get a mango from a lady hawker. We are few when the bus pulls into the Lunga Lunga stage. And Doris and I are confused. It appears to be a petrol station of sorts. No town.

Copstick-eye-view of pikipiki trip on road out of Lunga Lunga

We explain to the crush of smiley pikipiki boys about the soco and they all look puzzled. I mention wood carvings and they nod. We board pikipikis. Eight kilometers, they say. Not quite as Vicky described. Eight kilometers down the road and through the Customs post, we are at the Tanzanian border when we turn right and go cross-country.

Finally we arrive at a little collection of tents made from coconut leaves. Good news: there is definitely carving going on. Bad news: there is bugger all else.

Nada. Nothing.

We are firmly steered away from the actual carving by a large man who does not look local. We are shown the duka (the shop). To say it is a disappointment would be like saying The Sun newspaper is frequently, unfortunately worded. We leave. Bouncing cross-country. Back up the eight kilometers to the stage. And back to Ukunda where we have left the medicines and the stuff for Poor Mama’s Plumpy Nut. It is dark when we reach Ukunda.

No girls are around because the police have swooped again and the ones who have not been beaten up/’arrested’ are now in hiding.

So we go on to discuss the Great Lamu Raincatcher Project. A big group of old ladies on Lamu want to put a raincatcher in their village. Water is a huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuge problem in Lamu. A raincatcher would be perfect.

A Mama Biashara style raincatcher erected earlier this year

OK, I say they wanted a raincatcher. They actually wanted a water tank. But when I explain to Vicky about the raincatcher and show her the pictures from last time in Western, she almost needs a rub down with a wet copy of Water Fancier’s Monthly.

So Lamu gets its first raincatcher with a 3,000 litre tank. We arrange to return tomorrow by which time we hope the girls will be out and about again.

Vicky goes off with 7.5 kg of dried milk and the rest and Doris and I get a matatu back to the ferry and a tuk tuk home.

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