Tag Archives: nature

What really is a zebra crossing?

17 Apr

A zebra crossing is a type of pedestrian crossing used in many places around the world. Its distinguishing feature is alternating dark and light stripes on the road surface, from which it derives its name. A zebra crossing typically gives extra rights of way to pedestrians.

However, in Kenya, a zebra crossing could be many things, including a live zebra crossing the road!

Long live diversity!

An African thunderstorm

20 Mar

An African Thunderstorm

David Rubadiri (Malawian poet)

(A group of friends requested me to present some African poem and this was my pick, and my thoughts regarding the same)

From the west
Clouds come hurrying with the wind
Turning
Sharply
Here and there
Like a plague of locusts
Whirling
Tossing up things on its tail
Like a madman chasing nothing.

Pregnant clouds
Ride stately on its back
Gathering to perch on hills
Like dark sinister wings;
The Wind whistles by
And trees bend to let it pass.

In the village
Screams of delighted children
Toss and turn
In the din of whirling wind,
Women–
Babies clinging on their backs–
Dart about
In and out
Madly
The Wind whistles by
Whilst trees bend to let it pass.
Clothes wave like tattered flags
Flying off
To expose dangling breasts
As jaggered blinding flashes
Rumble, tremble, and crack
Amidst the smell of fired smoke
And the pelting march of the storm.

About the poet: David Rubadiri was born in 1930. He studied literature inMakerereUniversityand later on in the University of Bristol where he graduated with an M.A. in English literature.  In 1964, he becameMalawi’s first ambassador to the United Statesand the United Nations.

The poem describes a typical African thunderstorm, with all its intensity. In African society, rain is a blessing; everything loves the approach of rain, not just children. It is good for the crops and the animals, as it increases the harvest. However, when we read this poem, we don’t get the feeling that the author is happy; he concentrates on telling us about the damage that the rain and wind do. For example a plague of locusts is never a good thing, at least for the crops. It calls attention because the poet uses this simile while referring to the wind that brings rain, a good thing.

It is possible to interpret the poem as the effect of colonial domination on the native land. The time that the poet has lived- his country got independent in the early 1960’s- can be convincing.  At least he was familiar with that part of the history of his country. It also alludes to domination by such words as “trees bend to let the wind pass”, “clouds ride stately on the back of the wind”. The tattered flags have a nationalistic connotation.

The interpretation provided could be making a mountain out of a mole- hill but also, there can be more than meets the eye. That is why it is important to know as much as possible about the historical context in which the poet lived. Rubadiri fell out with his president a year after his appointment as ambassador. It would be interesting to find out when he actually wrote the poem and what he did afterwards, a challenge I launch out to you!

The most beautiful place on earth

17 Mar

Dawn. The birds chirp, perhaps unsure of themselves at first, but soon give vent to the full potential of their lungs. The young ones cry out for food, and the mothers hastily leave the nests to look for the daily bread… oops … worm. They say that the early bird catches the worm, but woe unto that early worm.

The sun can barely be seen on the horizon, on which is reflected the whole gamma it contains. It is a sight to behold, one of a lifetime, never to be repeated. The night gently gives way to the light, as if acknowledging the power of a rival, a scene reminiscent of the raising of a theatrical curtain. As the light increases, the faster the bird moves, it has no time for contemplation of the universe. The sunrise finds the bird busy, feeding its young ones.

***

Down in the savanna, the young gazelle runs frantically after its mother, bleating. It can barely see the receding back due to the long brown grass, and the mother is determined to get to the watering hole in no time. Now and then, the mother stops and listens for the child. The young one bleats in reply, trying all the time to keep up with the rest of the herd. Consoled, the mother resumes the journey.

***

It is twelve o’clock in the East African plains. The hot air balloons can be seen in the air. The jeeps on the ground are innumerable. People from far and wide have come to witness what is really a wonder of the world: the wildebeest migration across Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and Maasai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya. Why do 1.5 million of animals undertake this feat? They do so in search of pasture, without which they are doomed to extinction. It is truly the planet’s last great epic of life and death.

Heedless of all the attention, river Mau, now brown in colour as a result of the rains, flows downhill. It encounters no obstacle; in fact, its course is now easier to effect. The Mau River has burst its banks.

The crocodiles lie in wait. They are feasting today. The great animals are crossing and it will be no problem hunting, what with so many stuck in the mud and unable to find their way across the torrents of water passing with unquenchable force.

Off the river, at some distance away, the lions are thinking the same thing. Their strategy: the weak, the old and the young. There is no point wasting energy attacking a healthy bull. Besides, there is bound to be some stray animal, separated from the rest. It is just a matter of time. Patience, they all nod in unison.

***

Need I also tell the story of the fishes in the Indian Ocean, and the feasts of the kingfishers and their relatives on the shores of Lake Victoria? Need I go to intricate detail of the dances of the apes on the slopes of Mount Kenya and elsewhere?

They say that seeing is believing, and I sure hope that they are right.