Somalia Medal The Canadian Airborne Regiment in Somalia
A Soldier's Journals
Wednesday, July 18, 2018  

Somalia '93




 

Rest and Relaxation

1 February 93

The rest of the platoon left on patrol this morning leaving behind those of us who are going on R & R.  I spent the morning showering, packing, and reading.  I am restless and cannot wait to go.  As noon approached, time crept to a halt.  Then eventually, finally, the time to leave arrived and we headed down to callsign 8.  Mud, Johnny, Patay, Pat, Darnell, Copeland, Jones, Hollahan, Darling, to name just a few are going.

I bought a six of beer and shared it with the others as we waited for the plane to arrive at the airstrip.  At about 2:30 the plane landed and I managed to talk to Doary for a few minutes as we crossed paths.  Apparently Nairobi is quite the city, you can get anything you want for next to nothing.  He says the women mob and grope you in the bars and will sleep with you for just a meal and a place to spend the night.

Apparently Rick, Eric and two others went into the Modern Green bar one afternoon and felt so intimidated and threatened that they turned around and left.  This is something for the guys that lived like kings in the little Saigon of North Carolina, itself an extremely rough area.  I'll definitely have to check it out.

Darnell wants to double with me on the room, but I'm not sure as I may want a room to myself.  I may just get a girl for the three days and my privacy would be a nice change.

As the ramp lowered on the Herc in Nairobi I was shocked by how green it was.  I haven't seen grass for so long.  Nairobi is a very green and very western city.  The hotel is very nice, if not too western for my tastes.

After getting my money, 48,5100 shillings or $1000 US, I retired to my room for a hot bath and a bite of food.  I ordered soup, smoked sailfish and grilled king prawns with herbs, rice and vegetables.  I washed it down with a couple of bottles of Kenyan Tusker Lager.  Such intense and exquisite tastes overwhelm me...

2 February 93

Today I was up early and off into town with Darnell.  We poked around shops of all sorts through the market area.  This is a place where you can find anything you want.  I managed to get my watch fixed, buy a couple pairs of shoes, some books, maps and souvenirs.

Nairobi is a very western city, but the third world keeps poking its head through.  Hookers and beggars line the streets and alleys.  Dirt, filth and mud are everywhere, but still it has charm and character.  This city is so alive.

I managed to lose Darnell at the hotel and headed out on my own.  I tried the Saktar restaurant, but it was closed, so I headed downtown (as opposed to uptown where we were staying.)  Here the third world runs on the surface.  Buildings are run down, the people are very poor and the shops cater to them, not to the rich people uptown.

Hungry, I wandered into the Iqbal Hotel and ordered a meal.  For 71 shillings, I had a large bowl of beef stew, one of vegetable stew and one of rice.  I finished the meal with Kenyan coffee.  Then, feeling more adventurous than Rick or Eric, I wandered across the street to the Modern Green Bar where I bought a beer and introduced myself to three Germans.  Jens Haimerl was babyfaced with long dark hair tied back in a pony tail.  He wore two hoop earings in his left ear.  Jan Munch had unkempt curly dark hair and a scraggly beard.  Wolfgang "Special" Arneth was heavy set with shoulder length sandy blonde hair.

Sitting with them were two Kenyans, Susan Gichuki and her fiancee, Jeff Othigo. Susan was well travelled and well educated having studied both in London and Chicago.  Jeff is a street wise, well built Kenyan who makes his money through his knowledge of the street.  If anyone needs anything, he can get it.

The Green Bar is an interesting place.  It is open 24 hours a day, seven day a week and attracts all types of characters.  People spend days here, drinking, passing out on the tables, waking and drinking some more.  Some only leave when they run out of money or their wives find them.  The bar is surrounded by metal bars.  You pass your money in and out comes a beer from between the bars.  The Green Bar attracts travellers, prostitutes, mercenaries, thieves and drug dealers.  You couldn't ask for a more interesting place to spend your time.

After a couple of beer, a guy from South Yemen sat down and joined our conversation.  He studied languages in such places as Trinidad, London and Montreal.  He is an Arabic Jew and has such has very strange views about Israel, Saddam Hussien and Somalis.  So we sat drinking beer and discussing politics, religion and Somalia for the afternoon until we eventually wandered down the street to a bar with even more character.  The Kaimasi or kia for short was down a small side street and up a long flight of stairs.

The kia was half brothel and half bar.  Prostitutes smoked lazily by the bar as they waited for their nights of work.  It was a small place and we dominated the place.  Jeff sent someone off to find food.  They returned with two kilo's of beef, vegetables and bread which one of the hookers cooked for us over charcoal on the roof.  It was enough to feed seven of us well and only cost 150 shillings, or about 3 bucks.

After eating, we sat on the roof talking in three different languages.  We smoked a few joints, drank a few more beer and watched the sunset over the shantytown built in the valley below.  Chino, the guy from Yemen, could not hold his beer and passed out on the table.  We managed to sober him up enough to get him walking and took him down to the matatu and send him home after Jeff spoke to the driver.

The rest of us cabbed it up to the YMCA where the Germans were staying.  They grabbed their bags and we headed back downtown to the bus station where we put them on the overnight bus to Mombasa.  They will be meeting their girlfriends in a couple of weeks in Nairobi then move on to Tanzania and maybe South Africa or India.  They have already been through India.

Now alone with Susan and Jeff, we return to my hotel for a beer then stop back at the Green bar.  It was too crowded so we went back to the Kaimosi where we sat drinking beer till after midnight.

Jeff then dropped me off at the New Florida Bar where I was supposed to meet some of the troops.  It cost me 250 shillings just to get in and as soon as I entered I was swarmed by hookers.  Every girl there was a whore looking to go home with you.  I was not impressed. I prefer the Green Bar and I expect that is where I will spend most of my time.

3 February 93

I spent a lazy morning eating a continental breakfast and reading the paper on the balcony.  Who knows what today could bring?

Jeff and Susan showed up early in the afternoon.  We walked down to the Kaimosi for a beer.  The owner greeted me like an old friend, our party of seven last night was a crowd for his small bar.  Later we went looking for Chino up at the Green Bar.  I met an French retired soldier and his African wife.  He retired here and lives comfortably on his small pension.  He is happy to be able to speak french to someone for a change.

As I sat in the back of the bar drinking, I watched a friend of Jeff's pick a whore's pocket.  He knew I was watching so made a game of it by being overly daring.  Chino never showed up, so we headed into town where I bought some ebony carvings.  Later, back at the hotel, I found the same things at three times the price.

A bunch of us went to the Carnivore for dinner tonight.  The meal starts with a steaming hot towel to wash your hands and face.  Then comes soup, rolls and salad.  Then they bring out the sauces, nearly 20, followed by the meat.  There is lamb, sausage, pork ribs, chicken, beef, chicken livers, elan, zebra, crocodile and a couple more.  The meat was cooked and brought to the table on Maisi spears and then carved off onto the hot metal plate in front of you.

They keep bringing you more and more meat until finally you surrender and say you can't eat any more.  Then they try and bring you dessert.  All this for about $12.

Afterwards we went back to the hotel casino.  I hate gambling, so I soon headed up to my room and sat on the balcony with some Kenyan coffee.

4 February 93

I got up around eight, had coffee and started running all over the city on a last minute buying spree.  I bought books, carvings, knives, paintings, everything...  Back at the hotel I quickly packed a bunch of stuff for mailing back to Canada and sent them off.

I met Jeff and Susan at the Green bar.  They were talking to a German, Peter, from Zaire.  Peter was a hotel owner in Zaire until soldiers looted everything.  He lost his passport and papers, his hotel and a large amount of gold and jewellery.  He then spent nine days without food making his way out of the country.

So, here he is, another expatriate at the Green bar trying to get his life together.  Jeff got some money changed for him, then we headed down to the kia.  At the kia I met Billy, a crazy, bearded, bald British expiate and a self confessed 'ex-criminal.'  We got along very well.  With Billy was a french African.  We spent a long time talking in french on the roof.  For some reason I can always converse well with people who speak parisian french, but I can't understand a word of quebecquois.

Later, I took Jeff and Susan out for dinner at the Angus Steak House to thank them for their hospitality.

5 February 93

I woke up early and packed to head back to Beled Weyne.  The plane was delayed again and again, so we sat on the runway until mid-afternoon.  Finally we boarded and after a quick stop in Mogadishu I was home.

On my cot there was a bunch of care packages and letters from home.  It is a nice way to come back.

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