Mathias Antonsson

Random subjective observations of what's on my mind

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I woke up coughing with a sore throat on Saturday. Naturally something was off. However not quite sure what else was masked behind the aftermath of the modest Friday drinks, my mind started playing tricks. It often does.

I’m not a hypochondriac by any means. Well, not in the sense that I think I’m going to die, but rather in terms of flashes of worst case scenarios. Once I get a diagnosis, then I’m rather enjoying it. My inner slacker is delighted and my conscious grants me full slacker immunity.

To get a diagnosis you need to see a doctor though. I’ve been known to tell my dad he’s an idiot for always putting of seeing the doctor until the end is near nigh. Thing is, I’ve recently come to realize I’m my father’s son in this context. That not only makes me an idiot too, but also a hypocrite. Add mild hypochondria and there you have it, the trifecta. You’re in awe, aren’t you!?

Anyway, first my hypochondriac self went to diagnose Hepatitis B. I cursed myself for not taking the second hepatitis B vaccine shot for a brief while, I mean, obviously that had to be it. Then my rational self intervened scoring the equalizer in remembering how it’s spread. Phew! In the ensuing battle, hypochondria came back strong with the left upper-cut that is malaria, leading to me sighing a bit of an understatement: “great there goes the weekend”. 2-1. Rationality responded with a quick counter attack though; can’t be malaria without a fever. This proceeded until the two combatants lost count, leaving me none the wiser.

Being honest to my traditions of idiocy and hypocrisy I labeled it a good old cold and instead invested in nasal spray. In retrospect it was correct. But more interestingly it led to the most unexpected of outcomes.

Next to the office we have an alley, one that with pride can argue to be as filthy as they come. Today, through my clear happy nasal sprayed nose, I got to experience it in its full glory. It was, well, I’m gonna go with otherworldly.

Woodvale Grove

Woodvale Grove, not quite living up to its rather fancy name

This shot does not do this street justice. Sure you can enjoy the washed away asphalt, but you can’t see the glass shreds lining the entire right hand side. Nor can you see the road kill rats. In fact they’re hard to spot even up close. Flattened beyond recognition it took me a few weeks to spot my first one. Which, incidentally, wasn’t as great as it sounds. You can however see the burn marks on the wall on the left hand side past the juice shops green and white awning. There sacrifices of unknown origin are being burnt daily. I think it might be the source. Or it’s the rats. Or both. The jury it not only out, they died trying this case.

Will say one thing though, it woke me up from my Monday morning coma. It really did.

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Crosstown Traffic

When you talk about a developing country I believe infrastructure is one of the first issues that spring to mind for many. Or rather, the lack of it. Well, it’s for a good reason, isn’t it? It is however an almost universal issue. In New York, when not using the subway, I’d walk, as I often found it quicker, but more importantly less frustrating than being stuck in a cab (despite my craving for and deep love with Indian music). I’ve also had the pleasure to sniff in the lovely fresh polluted Athens air, and laugh almost uncontrollably as me and a friend learned to cross the roads in Ho Chi Minh City (former Saigon), whilst surrounded by a river of motorbikes not seldom carrying whole families. None of this prepared me for Nairobi traffic however. Not even remotely. It’s been… interesting… traveling around Nairobi making its acquaintance.

Nairobi Traffic

Safety first…

It’s not the reckless anarchy of the mini-buses which surely all must be driven by direct ascendants to Evil Knievel. It’s not the black clouds that spurt out of vehicles that probably can’t even be shopped for parts. It’s not the leisurely, obviously suicidal, highway crossing pedestrians that surely must assume that all cars in Nairobi are fitted with Formula 1 brake systems. It’s not about the unfortunate genetic defect of colour-blindness which seem to plague most drivers and thus makes them happily expect every light to be green. It’s not the washed away pavements or the potholes. It’s not the staggering amount of accidents. It is the congestion. The jams. The queues.

Nairobi Traffic

Please note that this is NOT a one-way street…

Nairobi Traffic

I said it was interesting, remember…?

I might have spent more time stuck in traffic in my first ten days in Nairobi than in my entire lifetime previous. (Fine, that’s probably untrue, but I’m frustrated, OK!?) For every meeting I’ve spent an average of about 2½ hours stuck in traffic. (See, why I’m frustrated now?)

Nairobi Traffic

On the upside you get a chance to check out the surroundings…

Now let’s extrapolate. Nairobi has a documented population from 2009 of just over 3.1 million (how one measures the slums here I have no idea). Let’s assume 1.5 million of them are adventurous enough to challenge the traffic gods on any given day (estimation made by a reliable and good taxi driver). Let’s also assume that everybody is stuck in traffic for 1½ hour on that given day. Yes, I’m intentionally keeping that number low.

1.5 hours * 1.5 million people = 2.25 million hours = 93.750 days = 256.9 years

For a country with a life expectancy of 54.1 years, this equates to 4.8 lives lost each day. Or 1733 lives per year. To put this in perspective, the amount of people who died in traffic accidents in Sweden, with a 9+ million population, in 2010 were 266. Trivialities such as the value of human lives aside, what do you think this has for an effect on productivity? Efficiency? How many business deals do you think fall through because people simply don’t show up in time? Or for the reader with a bleeding heart, how many do you think gets stood up every night?

Nairobi Traffic

Signs of things to come…

There can be many arguments made about China, but they’ve understood this. So as we are stuck in traffic granted 256.9 years to study the Chinese signs covering many road works, I’m instilled with hope. One might even say it has a multiplier effect on my hope for the future.