Where do you find the best pork in East Africa? Well, there is a small quaint kibanda in Wandegeya, Uganda, just near Makerere University. It is run by a Ugandan lady and her (then) teenage daughter with the loveliest of legs. The place is a shack. You balance on a bench, wedged between a Ugandan and another Ugandan. The light is feeble. The chatter is blue collar. You are served on a fake silver plate. Outside, Wandegeya sprawls with hawkers and boda bodas and Makerere students wandering about their business. I can’t remember its name but it’s got the best pork you will ever eat. Hands down. And this is not an exaggeration. We used to go there between 2002 and 2005. Unforgettable.
The other place with the second best pork in East Africa? 1824 Bar in Langata.
Call a guy called Anthony and order yours. Tell him, “I will be there in an hour,” so that you don’t have to wait. They fry it with onions. It’s not wet, and neither is it dry. It’s just right. You will feel the pepper at the tip of your tongue and the spices tickling the back of your nose. It comes with fresh veggies and ugali. Once in awhile when I want to feed the body what the it craves, I go there on a Saturday at 1pm, have lunch and leave by 2.30 pm before the young-uns start trooping in to take their rightful places.
Something very beautiful happened last Saturday when I left 1824 at 2.15pm after lunch.
So I was stuck in the infamous Langata traffic jam heading to the T-Mall/ Mbagathi roundabout. It was not moving. I was listening to Kidum’s cracker that I had only just discovered and was currently obsessed with, “Mungu Anaweza,” because it’s sabbath and all.
Now, across the road, on the walkway, was a man in his late 40’s or early 50s. He was overweight, short and had on a checkered shirt (might or might not be a Kikuyu) and was clutching at a black polythene bag (might or might not contain land title deeds). He was with this small, lovely girl about 3 years old, dressed in those wonderful flowered frocks that kids love and these pink shoes with what looked like bells on them. I bet those shoes made sounds when she walked. I bet when she was left the house she was walking while looking at her shoes. Hell, I was looking at her shoes. She had chubby cheeks and was clutching at a plastic doll that perhaps the man might or might not have bought for her from those hawkers near Nyayo stadium. She seemed so happy that little girl, happy and innocent and beautiful. Perhaps they were from an outing that she had been looking forward to the whole week, and she had slid and swung and built plastic castles and had eaten ice cream and chips and ridden on her father’s shoulders, and if you would have told that guy that she could possibly get any happier than she already was, she would have stomped on your big toe with her gorgeous pink belled shoes and told you that you were a big bad bushy liar. And God doesn’t like you. Hehe. You know the expression “cute as a button”? That expression fit that little girl.
So the two were standing there looking up at this big tree right after Sunshine Academy. It had these white fern-like flowers. The man was staring up and the little girl was staring up, and from my car I could see her neck, ringed and folded with baby fat. She clutched at her doll with her pudgy little hands. Then the man started jumping up, trying to grab at the white fern-like flowers but he couldn’t reach them because he was short and overweight. He kept jumping and missing. The flower was too far. Everytime he jumped and missed the little girl giggled because his big belly jiggled. Every time he jumped the little girl giggled. And his belly jiggled. Then I started giggling too.
Now we are all sitting in this traffic that isn’t moving so really what is there to look at? And sure enough most motorists are looking at this man jump for his daughter, a herculean task. (Always wanted to use that word). He put down his black paper bag and then kept jumping and missing and at some point I thought, ‘Hey what would happen if I went and helped him get that flower?’ But then again it would not have been the same for the little girl because all she wanted was a flower from her daddy, not some intrusive guy with an odd forehead. Plus the daddy might take offence at trying to outshine him before his girl and punch me in the throat, and that would make the motorists giggle and the ruin this little girl’s day. And who wants to spoil a little girl’s day? Not Chocolate Man.
I wondered why he couldn’t just lift the girl on his shoulder and have her pluck that flower. But again, that’s not the same is it, because he wanted to GET it for her, not have her get it. So he jumped. And missed. Jumped and missed. Poor daddy. The little girl giggled and giggled. I bet motorists silently rooted for Short Fat Daddy. We all rooted for him, willed him to jump higher. Daddy kept jumping. And missing. Then he started laughing. Daddy jumped and laughed and missed and jiggled and little pretty thing giggled. At some point I wanted to roll down my passenger window and shout, “YOU CAN DO IT PAPA SMURFS! YOU CAN DO IT!” but that was a private daddy-daughter moment, right there on the walkway of Langata road at 2.30pm, the moment fathers jump for their daughters.
You will not believe this, but that man eventually exerted himself and plucked the flower. I swear I was so happy I wanted to clap. Imagine if all the motorists had started clapping for Smurf, like people do when a pilot lands a plane after mad turbulence, or in the movie when the good guys save the nation after a tense moment?
Daddy bent and handed the flower to the little cute thing in those shoes I wanted to steal and hang in my car. She beamed and giggled and put the flower to her nose and smelled the unrelenting love of her father and daddy picked his black paper bag that might or might not have contained land title deeds, grabbed the little angel’s hand and together they walked away, oblivious at how they had changed the onlookers with this momentous expression of love.
I swear that was the purest thing I had seen in weeks, especially now that everything has become so rabid and putrid, and shit is burning and people are torching stuff and frothing at the mouth. And this morning I was thinking about them; that man and his daughter and it just bloody makes you mushy, to see that compassion and dedication and love.
Hang on, is someone not going to play a violin here already? Come on guys, I’m bleeding my heart here and no violins? Nkt.
Anyway. I wrote this post this morning. The post I wanted to run today is on ice because the chap who sells space here, Ben, and the client couldn’t agree. We wanted to kick-start a campaign today but the client wants to pay less and Ben won’t take less. So everybody has dug their oars in and there is a meeting that is going to happen right about now, and there is a chance the client will stick with the amount they had suggested and Ben will walk away from that money. So he told me to hold it and I thought I might as well plug this space with the story of that little girl and her heroic father. Because we look for heroes all over; men who climb mountains and take over cities, but the heroes are the little men and women who do things that nobody will ever know.
I think right now the little girl is probably at school, in her baby class adorned with paintings of cartoons and big numbers on walls, and she’s sitting at her small desk doodling with crayons and giggling with her best friend Cindy while turning her nose at Jerome because he’s a boy and boys are stupid. And that man, that fat daddy with the heart of a lion, is probably at his workstation and nobody knows what he did over the weekend. When his mates ask him how the weekend was do you think he will say he plucked a flower for his daughter? He will say, “Ah, the weekend was quiet, boss. Nothing much happened.” Nobody will ever find out that when his daughter wanted a high hanging flower and he was too heavy to reach it, he kept at it until he got it.
If you went to that little girl today in school and you asked her who she thinks is a hero she won’t say Dora. She will probably say, “my daddy.” Because daddy jumps and daddy jiggles and daddy gets the flower.
Isn’t life beautiful, guys? Isn’t that the purest form of beauty?