Share this story
Close X
Switch to Desktop Site

Bwana Jaji Moto in Kenya

Matunga was our cook on the trail in northwestern Kenya. We were out in the bush on an expedition looking for ancient pillars that the long-ago inhabitants of that region used for determining a calendar -- somewhat like England's Stonehenge. We had been in the bush about a week and were rather looking forward to a shower or bath at the game lodge that evening. It had been raining, and we were all cold and wet, but the gorgeous African double rainbows had not let us down, and the lake near Nkuru lodge was the home of an amazing 2 million pink flamingos.

We were all, however, quite disappointed to find upon arriving at the lodge that there was no hot water in our rooms. Struggling through a rather cold washup I thought of the desk clerk's words, "Hapana maji moto," no hot water.

About these ads

Matunga had gone to the cook's quarters, which had cost about one-tenth as much as our rooms, although I'd heard they were nevertheless quite comfortable. He had nicknamed a few of us with Swahili names. For example, one of our English companions who wanted to stop regularly for tea in the afternoon was called Bwana Chi, Mr. Tea. I was called Bwana Nyota, Mr. Star, after the constellations I was always pointing out while teaching our group how the ancients derived a calendar.

When I saw Matunga that morning I said, in Swahili, that it was too bad about no hot water. He said in surprise that he had had a hot shower. Apparently, the cook's quarters was the only one with hot water. This man of 60 years, two wives , 10 children, and three grandchildren began to laugh until tears came. It was one of the funniest things he ever heard of. He was the only one of us that had had any hot water the night before, and he had paid only 25 shillings! His quiet hilarity soon had us all laughing. I said, "Wewe Bwana MajiMoto" -- you are Mr. Hot Water -- which only brought five minutes' more laughter. From that time on we called him Bwana Maji Moto, and it always brought a smile to everyone's lips.

Thinking back to our spry and wonderful Bwana Maji Moto, I know I would have forgone 20 showers to see his laughter. It refreshes me still.

Follow Stories Like This
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.