Part II – The Mini Purply Eggplant and My Lost Opportunity to Become a Princess
Fast-forward ahead 7 years from the Batrasi Resthouse in West Pakistan to Nairobi, Kenya. My father was working as part of a Harvard Institute for International Development project with the Kenyan Ministry of Agriculture, and my mother was bopping around the country in our VW Bus doing research for her Phd on Women in Development. My mother quickly found a charming British doctor with a lovely sense of humor named Doctor Batey, who shared her “You’re Just Fine” mentality. I was so “fine” that I think I had a friendly, although sometimes slightly irritable, amoeba living in my intestines for the first year in Kenya before Doctor Batey got around to doing anything about it. But to be honest, I was so happy in Nairobi, I don’t think that my Amoeba really bothered me too much anyway.
I was a teenager during the three years we lived in Nairobi from 1976 to 1979 and it seemed that our lives were filled with swashbuckling, handsome 20-something men and I was hopelessly smitten with them all. My brother’s third-grade teacher, Pete Logan, was a tall, Marlboro Man lookalike complete with mustache and cowboy boots. After school on Fridays he would hop on his motorcycle and head out to the Loita Hills to hang out with his Maasai warrior buddies and do macho things like hunt lions with rungus (short wooden sticks with a heavy doorknob of wood carved out at the end), and then at dinner-time slit a goat’s throat and drink a bit of its blood from the jugular before making goat stew over an open fire. (I am not kidding, I participated in the goat part myself once). See photo above with stunningly attractive Maasai warrior Moses, awkward 13-year-old me and my “Just Fine” Mom. Then there was Montague Demment (Tag to friends) who was a sort-of Kenyan Jane Goodall, but with Baboons. He was a big, burly teddy-bear guy with a great blondish beard who had an infectious sense of humor. He spent his days walking around with a baboon troupe.
During one Christmas holiday when the weather was spectacular in Nairobi, my parents organized a dinner party with lots of kids, families and several of these terribly macho men. The party began late afternoon with a basketball game in our driveway. The game was getting a little competitive and scrappy as Tag whipped the ball over to my father and I — desperately eager to impress– jumped up and stuck my hands out to intercept it. I think that ball cracked the bone in my pinkie. It hurt like hell, but I was not going to stop playing. There was Tag to impress.
When it was time to go in for dinner, I pulled my Dad aside and showed him my rapidly swelling pinkie. “Wow, looks like you’ve jammed your finger, don’t worry, you’ll be fine,” he said and gave me an affectionate pat on the back.
The next day we left on safari for two weeks camping in the Tsavo game park. We spent days watching lions and elephants and putting up our tents next to rivers with crocodiles and hippos. My aching finger swelled up into a purply mini-eggplant. I showed it to my mother. “Let’s have Doctor Batey look at that when we get back to Nairobi,” she suggested, adding, “But I am sure it is fine.”
Back in Nairobi, I marched into Doctor Batey’s office and put my mini-eggplant pinkie down on his desk. “Oh NO!,” he said, banging his palm on his forehead. “This will never do. Now you can’t marry Prince Charles. It wouldn’t be possible to have the Royal Wedding Ring next to a dreadful looking finger like that. Imagine the photographs?”
He picked it up and pushed it around a bit and asked me if it hurt (it didn’t hurt much anymore). Then he put it down, looked straight at me and said, “Look, if you really think you would like to marry Prince Charles, I could take a hammer and break it again, put a nice splint on it and get it fixed up properly.”
I decided I could live without Prince Charles, and that was that. No x-rays, no fuss. I went home with my mini-eggplant pinkie. I still have a funny looking finger to prove my lack of interest in becoming a Princess, and Mom was right, “I was Just Fine,” but my adventures were not over.
Tomorrow: Part III – The Missing Pocket Watch and How I got Myself into a Thorny Situation