As I recline on my couch balancing my laptop awkwardly against my raised knees, I experience a moment of horror. An ant meanders across my arm — as another one casually saunters up my leg — as a mosquito buzzes stentoriously in my ear. I wail to myself.
The ants are on the march and are steadily taking over my home. They first started peeping out from under the fridge, next they moved stealthily across the kitchen, now they are brazenly making themselves at home in our living room. Where next?
Outside, I hear the increasingly familiar sounds of an unruly crowd roaring and vuvuzelas being sounded. What is the reason behind the latest protest, I wonder?
Ants and protesters are closing in on me. I feel ambushed.
Never a dull moment living in our rabbinical residence smack bang in the heart of downtown Nairobi.
Indeed, since we arrived here in September 2013, when RBS (Rabbi B S, aka my husband) took up his position as rabbi for the Nairobi Hebrew Community, life has become very restive, to say the least.
Seeing the smoke rising as four terrorists are busy mowing down innocent Kenyan shoppers at the Westgate shopping mall just down the road; student riots on our doorstep in which we hear Kenyan police fire repeatedly at the crowds, killing one student in the process; driving alongside maniacal matatu (think rickety Israeli sheruts circa 1980s belching out black exhaust fumes and roaring music) drivers on the pothole-ridden streets of the city; paying bribes to corrupt Kafkaesque policemen, and as a pedestrian, learning to wander casually à la Kenyan across immense ten-lane highways as trucks hurtle towards you because there’s no safe place to cross.
On the home-front, attempting to assuage my Western guilty conscience and get used to a standard middle-class Kenyan privilege – having *staff* – just the word alone still makes me cringe – take care of most of our domestic chores. (Although, in the event, it turns out we couldn’t hack having a full-time housekeeper – it simply felt absurd having a strange person cook all our meals and clean our house every day. So we’ve settled on a nanny and a part-time housekeeper who comes in to help with the Shabbat cooking and cleaning.)
And not forgetting the shul politics and usual entertaining dynamics of Jewish communal life – because, of course, even if we’re in the heart of East Africa, Jews will still be Jews. Except this time, I’m no longer an occasional shul-goer who can afford to ignore such trifles; thanks to RBS’s position, I’m necessarily caught up in all sorts of inter-personal dynamics with unusual, quirky, or irate (or even sometimes very nice) parishioners, shabbat guests and visitors, and other people from all walks of life who regularly cross my path. And having to cope with people invading my personal space and making personal comments about my appearance and body size because of my prominent position in the community. Lovely!
Outside, the vuvuzela-blowers seem to have moved on for another day. But they’ll be back. And as for the ants, a warning to you mites – I’ll root out your nests and exterminate you all.