OUR HOUSE IN BAMBURI

 

FROM AUGUST 1961 TO FEBRUARY 1964

 

We departed from Khartoum on August 5, 1964 at 4AM on the British Airways early morning flight to Nairobi. A few persons knew the time of our departure -- definitely nobody of the Yugoslav community. Our good friend in Khartoum, Abdel Halim Shawki, arranged with a police officer to take care about us the moment we arrive there. The flight had delay but we landed safely at Nairobi International Airport a bit later that morning. Thus we did not have to wait for too long for the flight connection to Mombasa.

 

Short before midday we arrived at the Mombasa airport where Mrs. Mandl was waiting for us again. We stayed in the Oceanic Hotel where we spent few days in January already. Mrs. Annie Mandl, Managing Director’s wife, left us to get soon wishing us a good rest needed badly after the past rather exciting 24 hours since our departure from Khartoum. The next morning would start the seriousness of a new segment in our life but in an entirely different surrounding. In Mombasa we have expected to find more security and safety for our future considering the hazards of furtive departure from the Sudan. We were on the way to demolish the ties with our home country that was Tito’s totalitarian state now.

 

The next day a factory driver came to pick us and I went to the factory where as Ljiljana and Vesna drove on to view the house that the company bought recently. In the Head office I was introduced to all senior staff members and shown to a room that would be my office for a short while. It was anticipated that I should stay on in Bamburi works for say 3 to 6 months at maximum. Soon it would turn out that I would keep on here for almost three years. Dr. Mandl invited me to his house for lunch where Ljiljana and Vesna were waiting already. My two girls were so excited about the house they had inspected in the morning. Ljiljana asked our host if we could move into it as soon as possible. The house was almost fully furnished and company’s skilled workers were to complete the refurbishing in no time after all. Thus our host promised to fulfil Ljiljana’s dear wish and two days later we moved in to our new residence.

 

      

 

At left Ljiljana sketched of our new domicile in       The first pictures of the house on a coral outcrop

                         her first letter sent to our parents on 17.08.1964           taken from the garden lower boundary

 

The house built on a coral head outcrop had a wide veranda overlooking the Bamburi Beach some 100m far only. Dr. Mandl’s house was situated next to the coast and some 40m right down from our new domicile. From our veranda we could see the coral reef and hear quite loud the surf on it as it was some 400m craw-flight far only. Beyond the reef stretched the openness of the Indian Ocean in all wideness and splendour that changed with the tidal movements and daily lights too.

 

The 6 years old dwelling has been erected on a plot of about four acres of almost pristine land. There were a few large trees and several papayas growing along the northern plot’s boundary. Beyond the later one was the virgin bush in that probably lived some number of wild animals including a variety of “dudus” (= insects or anything that creeps). Ljiljana should have a lot of work to make a garden to her like on that huge free space around the house. There were two grassy level surfaces and a coral rock face that needed her attendance.

 

 

View from the veranda onto the Bamburi Beach cum Coral Reef and Indian Ocean

 

Coming back to the plant another surprise of that first day was waiting for me. I got a company’s a second-hand VW “Beetle” for my personal usage. The car was of the same type like the “Rat” I had in Khartoum - except for its colour that was beige now. It had some 75.000km on its tachometer but it served us well throughout the whole time we stayed in Kenya. We used the car on many safaris and had some dramatic troubles with it – about those I may write another time.      

 

My new job asked for all my awareness as it differed wholly from the one in Khartoum. Already on second day I had to fly to the construction site of new works some 30km north of Dar-es-Salaam city. The commercial flight from Mombasa via Zanzibar to Dar-es-Salaam took some 2 hours that was quite a waste of time. During the stop of some 30 minutes in Zanzibar passengers were not allowed to get out. Only goods that one could buy on board were clove seeds stuck on small plastic balls. Smuggling of cloves were from Zanzibar was strictly forbidden and under severe penalties then. At that time Zanzibar had a totalitarian regime under the guidance of DDR (= German Democratic Republic).

 

On the third day we moved to “our” house and the daily routine started for all three of us. I started my work in the office at 7AM so Vesna joined me to catch up company’s school bus. The children were driven to their various schools in Mombasa so Vesna got to the Loreto Convent Girls continuing her education without any interruption. Ljiljana wrote on a piece of paper what ever she needed for kitchen or house like vegetables, fruits and other likely items. At lunch time I would get all these purchases delivered to my office whereas the bill went to the accounts. Ljiljana did not need long to organize our household and she had accustomed to local markets in Mombasa including the many shops and stalls around there. Soon she started driving to town alone to obtain what ever we needed.

 

At fist two dogs visited our house on the coral outcrop playing around during daylight. Ljiljana fed them occasionally and the younger one got her sympathy immediately. The owner of the elder dog belonged to the former owner of our new dwelling. They left soon for South Africa and took their dog with. The younger dog named “Knocker” belonged to an English couple. They had to leave the dog in Kenya because of the quarantine rules in UK thus we got “Knocker” a few weeks later. Our new household had been complete when “Knocker” joined us to stay until we would leave Kenya to another still undisclosed place in future.

 

       

 

                                   The road access to the rear of house             The view eastwards to open sea and Vesna

                                      and the garden at upper level                      sitting on the cantilevered roof over veranda 

 

There was a farewell party for my mentor from Zagreb Univ. Prof. Otto Werner a few days after we moved in. When we returned from Mombasa later that night we got a shock discovering that there happened a burglary during our absence. We found open a narrow window of WC at the ground floor that steel handle was fixed to slightly open for ventilation. It was an easy job for a thief to yank it up and enter into the empty house as we did not have a dog yet. We called the police next morning as they would not come during the night though. Only then the police determined what missing and told us to be patient as sooner or later they catch the thief – they promised at least.

 

The burglar took Ljiljana’s straw hat with a decorative braided red-white ribbon fitted on and the pair of my black shoes the only I had brought here. But more worse was the disappearance of my beautiful lizard-skin briefcase. I packed few office papers and passports of Ljiljana and Vesna that I was supposed to hand over in Head office next morning. Our Yugoslav visas were to expire soon and we needed some official documents that would enable us to travel free in the East African Union.

 

The Union was created by the Governments of Kenya, Tanganyika (later to become Tanzania) and Uganda. The members of the Union had joined their transport facilities like harbours airways and railroads, and customs. We were supposed to apply for the Three Partite Pass that would be of considerable help for me travelling to Dar-es-Salaam more often now. Of course, the loss of passports was a great shock for us. Fortunately Company’s important links to the Kenyan Government helped fast so we had got our Three Partite Passes soon after. Likely I left my passport in the office after my first flight to Dar-es-Salaam in Tanganyika at those times. The procedure got through fast and we almost forgot this nasty incident.           

 

An unexpected turn in this first unpleasant event occurred few weeks later bringing the wholly story to a humorous epilogue. Driving to the town (left-hand driving in Kenya) Ljiljana spotted her light yellow straw hat on a native’s head walking right along the road. Taken by surprise she decided fast to turn into the first access road that lead to a sea-side lodge. Arriving to the White Sands Lodge she asked for the manager and then explained to him that she wants to call the Nyali Police Station for help. The manager smiling replied that this would not be necessary as there are two guests in the lodge to deal with her demand. The two gentlemen turned out to be high ranking police officers from Nairobi on leave. Both jumped up leaving their breakfast and told Ljiljana to return to the main road and drive slowly towards the incriminated person.

 

When Ljiljana came to the place where she saw the Kenyan but he disappeared. She stopped apologizing said to the police officers following her that the man has vanished. One of the officers pointed to a bush track and told Ljiljana to drive slowly onwards. The man could not be far so she should pass him and then by a hand-wave point that this is the person they would be looking after. True, Ljiljana saw the man walking few hundred meters in front and he stepped aside politely to let her pass. The approaching officers’ car stopped at the man with a straw hat abruptly. One of them stepped out and pulled in their car the poor chap without any trouble. Both cars continued on this bush track and arrived at the Bamburi village where they turned left leading to the main Mombasa road.

 

The whole scene did not last too long so soon both cars arrived to Nyali Police Station. There the fresh captive went straight and stood still at the wall leaning with hands up for the police search. One of the high rank officers pointing to the obvious burglar smilingly said: “You see, Madame, he knows how to behave. He was your burglar.” Ljiljana went to the Court in Mombasa several weeks later to attend the legal action of a burglary.

 

The accused admitted the burglary extenuating his action as being under the moon’s influence. The straw hat was one of the evidences provided that included my lizard-skin briefcase. The seems of it were cut for a better carrying of other objects found in chap’s possession from other burglaries he had done. The Yugoslav passports were sold to Tanga (a harbour in Northern Tanganyika) and my shoes were gone too. Ljiljana did not want back her torn down straw hat and the skin of my briefcase was very much ruined and useless for anything except for another unfortunate burglary again.    

 

 

The rising sun woke us always around 6AM

 

 


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Email Zvonko Springer at : zzspri@aon.at