There are two types of people in the world: those who immediately recognize the scar on the inside of your right calf because they have one and those who ask what it is. Before 7 February 2018, I belonged to the latter group. I had been trying to juggle writing a dissertation and a fiction manuscript for three months, and there was barely anything left of me by the time I took a working holiday in Kilifi the first week of February. It was more holiday than work, which I needed, and if I did not feel entirely ready to return to the work waiting for me, I felt less depleted.
At the end of the holiday, I was scheduled to fly out of Mombasa to Nairobi, from where I would catch a flight back to South Africa. My lover and I caught a matatu to take us to the airport. The Mombasa traffic was promising to make me miss my flight back in Nairobi, so I kissed my lover goodbye, got off the matatu, and got onto the first bodaboda I saw at the side of the road.
Kenya’s intensifying security measures make airports largely inaccessible to anybody who doesn’t have a car or cab money, so the bodaboda driver warned me that I would have to get off at the main airport gate and figure out how to get to the terminal on my own. I was hot and resigned and distracted by terrible news a friend had shared with me on a phone call when I was still in the matatu, so when I got off the bike, I realised—way too late and very painfully—that its exhaust pipe was not covered by the plastic heat shield that has kept my right leg safe in all the years I’ve been using bodas.
My leg could not have touched it for more than a moment, but for several seconds, I was sure my brain had switched most of itself off. I could not even figure out the source of the screaming pain. Every part of me except my leg felt like it was on fire, but when I finally convinced my neck to let me turn my head downwards, I saw it. I wish I could explain what colour my leg was but words were not real at that moment, and none that I have reached for since do it justice.
I was making restrained ssssssss sounds at this point, and the lone pedestrian on the other side of the road crossed over and made the appropriate noises of concern. Unfazed, the boda driver told me to put some toothpaste on it as soon as I could, and insisted that it was not a major wound. The two of them flagged down an airport cab to take me to the terminal, whose driver insisted I go to the first aid room before I got on my flight. There, the medic peeled the skin off, applied an ointment, and told me not to worry about it.
There are two types of people in the world: those who immediately recognize the wound on the inside of your right calf and will always show you their matching one, and those who need the story behind it. The first time my wound was recognized, I was trying to photograph it for the doctor I had to go see a week after I got burned because it got badly infected. I was at a villa for a writing workshop on Bulago Island, Lake Victoria, the kind that comes to mind when you hear the word “rustic,” but whose overnight stay costs about as much as an organ on some black market somewhere. The owner found me in the lounge one afternoon trying to find good lighting for the shot. Immediately, she lifted her pants’ legs and said, “You got it on a bodaboda, didn’t you? I have one exactly there!”
2018 brought about the mass incorporation of bodabodas in Nairobi by taxi apps; my resolve to quit using bodas lest I get burned again was, thus, short-lived. The scar is dark and almost perfectly round and as of a few weeks ago, a starfish inspired by Prince sits just below it. As part of a bigger, long-term plan to ink my whole leg, I plan to cover the scar up but I love telling the story of how I got it when the second type of people in the world ask.
Across social media, many people are accounting for 2018. Writers are generating lists of what they wrote and musicians are streaming music they created. Before the year ends, we are pushed to account for how it was lived. Most lists highlight successes: I graduated, I got a job, I married, I published many things, I collaborated successfully, I traveled, I reconciled, I loved. If you listen to the quieter registers, you hear stories of the unfinished and the discarded, the stalled and the failed. If you listen even more intently, you will hear stories of scars and the processes that created the wounds. Some of us may have survived 2018, but it left its mark on us.
Popula is 100% ad-free, reader-supported journalism accountable only to you. Every dollar of your subscription goes straight to our work. Thank you for supporting Popula.
Hmm, looks like you don’t have MetaMask activated!
If you know what MetaMask is and have it installed, activate MetaMask and refresh:
If that doesn’t make sense to you, click here:
The MetaMask window should have popped up and asked if you want Popula to have access to your MetaMask. Click the ‘CONFIRM’ button.
Don’t see the MetaMask window? Click here to request it again:
You have an old version of the MetaMask extension installed. Before we can continue, you must install the latest version.
- Uninstall (don’t just disable) the existing extension from your browser.
- Restart your browser.
- Go to metamask.io and re-install the extension.
- Come back here and try again!
We know this step is inconvenient, but it’s necessary to make sure this all goes smoothly!
Your MetaMask extension is running, but for privacy purposes you have to allow us to connect to your MetaMask wallet.
You need to connect to the Main Net before you can actually tip. Click on your MetaMask icon so the window pops up, then select ‘Main Ethereum Network’ from the dropdown.
How much do you want to tip?
You can adjust either amount to see how much ETH or USD you’ll be sending.
You can adjust the tip amount in the MetaMask popup window before confirming the transaction.
Popula’s authors contribute 5% of their tips to Popula to help with the overhead of running the tipping system.
Author participation in the Popula tipping system is optional; if an author declines to participate in the tipping system, your tip will be refunded to you in full within 60 days.
Your MetaMask window has popped up now, and you need to confirm the transaction.
Hit that ‘CONFIRM’ button to make it happen!
Did you reject the transaction by accident? Want to adjust your tip amount? Click here:
Maybe you’re not quite comfortable with this yet?
That transaction didn’t go through for some reason.
Try clicking on the MetaMask button in your browser bar (looks like this: ) and see if you have any transactions listed at the bottom of the popup. If you don’t see the tip you just tried to leave, then try again:
Or just want to ask us about it? We’ look into it personally for you.
Thank you so much for your tip, and for your direct support of journalism. The author will appreciate it a lot, and so do all of us at Popula.
Want a receipt?
To see your transaction logged in MetaMask, click the MetaMask button in your browser toolbar—this one: —and your transaction will be listed in the popup.
You can also track the transaction on the Etherscan website. It usually takes under a minute to process, and you’ll get a notification from MetaMask when it’s done.Track on Etherscan
If you have any questions at all, please let us know!
All set?Home to Popula, please!
We know this cryptocurrency stuff is new and weird. We’re here to help you understand. Ask us email@example.com
ETH is Ether, a popular cryptocurrency generated on the Ethereum blockchain.
You’ll need some Ethereum cryptocurrency (ETH) in a MetaMask wallet in order to tip an author. Currently it’s not possible to tip in other cryptocurrencies, or in dollars or other fiat currencies.
For a comprehensive FAQ to help get you started, please visit our help page, “How to Tip Your Favorite Authors with Cryptocurrency on Popula!”
If you have any questions at all, please let us know!