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the flying ants of Muthaiga

It had rained most of Sunday, and the flying ants were out in full force. The DCM (Deputy Chief of Mission) and his wife had invited us out to dinner. The rain had eased up when they pulled up at the house to pick us up, but it was not the DCM’s smiling face that greeted us when we opened the front door. Instead, we found ourselves in a maelstrom of rapidly beating wings that swarmed ferociously around the lights outside. We had to do some investigative work to figure out that what the locals refer to as flying ants are actually termites. Apparently, they leave their nests in large swarms after the first long rain of the season and fly in search of an acceptable mating site. Termites are poor fliers and tend to lose their wings with the slightest gust of wind, nesting wherever they happen to shed their pinions. Given that they descended on our compound by the thousands, we are fervently hoping that our house will not become a termite breeding ground.

The DCM’s cook was out sick with malaria, so we went instead to dine at the Muthaiga Club. History buffs, take note! The Muthaiga opened its doors on New Year’s Eve, 1913, and continues to provide a glimpse into Kenya’s colorful colonial past. Once catering to a coterie of British aristocrats and playboys, the Muthaiga remains a members-only club with strict standards. Jackets are compulsory, ties highly encouraged. No women are allowed in the Member’s Bar, and the list of counterintuitive prohibitions is impressively long. Among other things, no flip-flops, T-shirts, cell phones, or hats “other than those integral to national costume” are permitted inside. Those who have seen Out of Africa (the 1985 adaptation of Karen Blixen’s famous memoir, featuring Robert Redford and Meryl Streep), will recognize the Club’s distinctive pink walls, but don’t believe everything you see. Though the story takes place at the Muthaiga, most of the movie could not be filmed on location due to the Club’s draconian admission policies. D has toyed with the idea of learning to play golf, but even if he finds time for this new pursuit, it is unlikely that we will be purchasing a membership at the Muthaiga. So, we especially appreciated the DCM’s warm welcome to Kenya and the opportunity to take in this important relic of its colonial past.

One Comment Post a comment
  1. Megan #

    Please tell me that baseball caps count as “integral to national costume” for Americans?

    July 21, 2011

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