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Archive for March, 2012

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A quote from John Hanning Speke, written in a book by him about his travel and exploration of the dark continent during the Victorian era, that culminated in his ‘discovery’ of the source of the River Nile, caught my eye:

‘As his fathers ever did, so does he. He works his wife, sells his children, enslaves all he can lay hands upon, and, unless when fighting for the property of others, contents himself with drinking, singing, and dancing like a baboon to drive dull care away. A few only make cotton cloth, or work in wood, iron, copper, or salt; their rule being to do as little as possible, and to store up nothing beyond the necessities of the next season, lest their chiefs or neighbours should covet and take it’.

Now like many parts of east Africa, This Victorian explorer is celebrated in History and is actually viewed with some fondness. He has roads named after him as well as two posh hotels. But after reading excerpts from his book it makes me wonder how he could have got away from it for so long. And the simple truth is that we do not read too deeply about our history, especially the colonial one.

In fact it was only after I read ‘the lunatic express’ that for the first time I really had a proper picture about how the modern states of east Africa were formed. It is a must read for all of us and one will then realize how sanitized the history we read in school really is. In fact, if I remember correctly, we only study Ugandan history in primary school and there is no time or mental capacity for serious detail.

Hence a racist Victorian explorer can get by for 150 years being feted and admired by the same people he despised so much.

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An idle chat during a work break a fortnight ago brought out a forgotten aspect of our childhood: the African photo comic magazine. With heroes like ‘fearless fang’ (an african tarzan) and the ‘son of Samson’ (an african superman in a wrestler’s body suit) we waited every month back in the seventies and eighties for latest edition to hit the news stands. They were sold under the brand name ‘African Film’.

The leading photo comic magazine was of course ‘the Spear’, featuring Lance Spearman, the super cool detective who drove around town in an impossibly named coupe (the stingray), sporting a panama hat and smoking a cigar. Not to be outdone by 007, he too had a bevy of beauties at his beck and call. He was super cool and we all wanted to be like him, right down to the suit and the bow tie.

He pursued the baddies with gusto, outwitting their conspiracies,over coming evil and saving the day…….all in must one issue of the magazine. It was really a portfolio of black and white photos, complete with oval shaped text boxes that included all the sound effects that a kick and a quick upper cut to the jaw could possibly produce. Month in and month out we were spell bound by this African hero hunting down villains and bringing them to justice.

Nostalgia for this long lost mode of story telling has hit me pretty bad and searching for copies of the lost art form has knocked me out for the ten count. All the Internet could cough up was the fact that the series of photo comics were part of the Drum publications stable, but speculation was that the characters were from south Africa, perhaps Nigeria, perhaps Uganda (but I doubt the last bit).

No real photo of any of the characters from the comic is available, Only 2 pictures of the actual magazine can be found. And that is a sad tragedy.

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Kenya Airways performed a minor miracle last month! On a return trip to Mombasa both flights left on time! Was this just a fluke never to be repeated?

As always I checked in online the evening before and printed my boarding pass. The reason being that I think it is less likely that will get bumped off an over booked flight if I have already checked in and hold a boarding pass……..then again this is KQ.

I got to the airport with an our to spare before my 11.30am departure. Though the JKIA domestic terminal is still it’s old worn out self security checks were a breeze (is that a good thing?) and I was at the check in counters in no time only to find there was no bag drop for passengers who have checked in online. So I queued, though not for long as I was soon¬†directed to the business class counter that was not too busy. I thought I would breeze through that until the check in agent told me I owed the airline 3000/- for changing my booking. I bit my tongue and calmly explained that I had gone to their sarit centre office and paid the penalty. He made several calls to some other desk, but the phone was’t picked up and seeing the growing frustration in me he waved me through………?

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The departure gates have gone through a much needed face lift and more importantly there is plenty of seating available. I avoided buying my favorite coffee from the dormant stand for various reasons and this will be the subject of an up coming post on this blog.

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We boarded the B737 plane smack bang on time and the plane was rolling towards the runway at exactly 11.30am. It was an exhilarating feeling to be right on schedule on a KQ flight for a big change.

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On the way there one could not help noticing the brand new terminal that is being built to provide more passenger handling capacity at this over stretched 1970s era airport. It promises extra parking space (I can’t wait) and will also separate arriving and departing passengers ( apparently a serious security issue that prevents direct flights to and from the USA). The completion date¬†is not too clear, but it won’t come to soon.

The 45 minute long flight was smooth and pleasant. We got our complementary tea and coffee and macadamia nuts. And soon descended into mombasa, bang on time.

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Moi international airport Mombasa is a small airport in comparison to JKIA, buts it’s clean, orderly and quite efficient. The luggage came quickly and I was off into town in a flash.

Three days later days I checked in online again and printed my boarding pass. I arrived 90 minutes before my flight’s scheduled departure time of 4.40pm. The security checks were again breeze……..should we be worrying about this? Check in was slow and tedious and was no different to pulling teeth. Checking in online does not save you time on KQ.

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The domestic departure lounge is large airy and functional. There is an over priced coffee shop kind of set up that is really daylight robbery, but this is the price one pays for being a ‘captive’ market. The real benefit is being able to see the few planes taxiing and taking off from Mombasa. And Ethiopian airlines did not disappoint.

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We boarded the B737 flight back to Nairobi and were in the air smack bang on time, again! My previous experiences were simply awful and to enjoy a double on time performance from KQ was unbelievable. I wonder whether this will be maintained when I fly again in a few weeks time. Any one willing to make a bet???

At some point I had to arrive in Nairobi and when we did land at JKIA it was 5.30pm. The monstrous evening rush hour traffic was in full swing and waiting. By the time I got home I could have flown to Mombasa and back in the same journey time!

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