Fresh Meat “Delivered” by Telegraph

It was the end of the school year for the extended primary school at the station on which we lived. The head teacher, and the other teachers and staff, worked with the students to plan a “end of year” program and party.
The school served grades 4 through 8. Each grade developed their own program – and, of course, vied to make theirs the best and take home the prize. The prize was to be Fanta Orange (a mild orange-tasting soda) and maandazi (African doughnuts). This, to the winners, was something to strive for.
For the life of me I cannot remember the skit/programs the other grades put on. But grade 8 nailed it – and the whole crowd, both students an lookers-on laughed loudly and gave them a resounding ovation.
The sun had gone by the time grade 8’s slot came up. Through the darkness, by the light of a pressure lantern, several boys brought out a table and chair. The lantern was placed on the table along with a spoon and an upturned metal pot.
Another young man appeared, dressed in what was supposed to be official uniform. He sat down at the table, started tapping with the spoon on the metal pot and writing on a tablet which he had brought with him. It became obvious that he was supposed to be a telegraph operator. He was “receiving and sending” messages to and from far away places.
With a shriek, another boy entered as an old man dressed in skins with a feathered headdress and a cow-tail whisk in his hand. He was obviously supposed to be a community “witch-doctor”. He came with a small bucket which, it turned out, was said to contain some fresh meat.
As he did so he said to the telegraph operator, “you know my son has gone to study at University in “Bulaya” (England). “Yes”, replied the telegraph operator. “Please send him my greetings”. Tap, tap, tap. Message went.
“Did he send a reply”? Tap, tap, tap. Reply came. “Yes, sends his greetings to you also”.
“Tell him that I am sending him some meat because I hear the food in Bulaya isn’t very good”. Tap, tap, tap. “Done. I have told him and he is expecting it in about 2 weeks if you send it by airmail”.
“Send it now. It will spoil if he has to wait 2 weeks”.
Tap, tap, tap. The “witch-doctor” looked into his bucket and saw the meat still there. In anger he said, “I told you to send it now”! The poor telegraph operator tried to explain that he could only send “words”, not actual things.      The old man was not mollified. “I demand you send it right now! The Bazungu (white people) have always said they can do wonderful things. If you can talk with my son, you can certainly send him something”.
The crowd watching the skit were in hysterics. Shaking his whisk in the telegraph operators face he said, “if you don’t send it I will “kuloga” (bewitch) you and your family”. The crowd roared – was it in embarrassment because that actually happens when the desires of the witch doctor are not met.
The poor telegraph operator leaned back in his chair to escape the flailing whisk. He toppled over backwards onto the ground (all this was happening out on the soccer field), gathered his wits and ran away into the darkness, leaving the irate witch doctor muttering to himself as he gathered up his bucket of meat and stalked away. The crowd loved it! Grade 6 took the cake – prize, rather. It was an enjoyable evening for all.
And for me – a crowd like that presented a real opportunity to witness, to present the message of Salvation. No, I didn’t preach. The hyenas were soon to begin their howling and folks had to get home but no way were they to go home without at least a Witness Unto Life.
P.S. – this was all pre-independence when the African population took liberties to criticize the British colonists. Tensions were running high to “kick them out of our land” and even primary schools were not immune from this attitude.

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