No crazy updates for this week… feels like I’ve always been here and like life is moving along at a good pace. Like life in Texas or Seattle, getting acclimated felt really quick and our calendar is already full of social engagements with new friends.
- Amos is the herd boy and he had us over yesterday to learn how to make mandazi. He’s also been trying to teach me the local birds and is totally helpful with all questions about our shamba (farm/garden). He says I’m the best “lady farmer” he’s ever seen, and I think he’s serious! I suspect it’s merely because mostly men farm, but I’ll take the complement either way.
- Nancy came over last week for lunch and English lessons. While she was over, she also taught us how to make chipati. We have an old school Kenyan cook book for basics stuff like cow’s blood stew (with real cow’s blood), sour milk (hang in a gourd in tree for 4 days until “nice and tasty and sour”), ugali (maize meal porridge that is eaten by hand like injera with Ethiopian food), etc. However, while the cookbook can be helpful, it’s much more helpful to have friends teach us and way more fun too.
- Angela, Cindy, and I are going to lunch tomorrow at the hotel at the Total station. (It’s the gas station and it has a hotel, which is only called a hotel, it’s what they call cafes here). Angela’s one of the therapists and is a modern Kenyan woman. Not married, not into the idea of serving a man for the rest of her life, not interested in abusive relationships, etc. She’s the only woman I see in Malava wearing trousers (pants here are considered “inner wear” – Brit speak and all). Apparently the hotel at the Total station has been and Angela’s convinced it’d be okay if we had a drink there some day over lunch, so we’re going tomorrow for the first time. We’ll see how it goes. Angela is also convinced we can wear trousers to work or around town, but Sr. Judi doesn’t seem as comfortable with the idea. As the rest of the women in town all wear skirts, I suspect we’ll stay in skirts for a long while to come.
- Tonight Nekesa is having us over for dinner and we get to meet a friend of hers from Nairobi. Should be fun. Going to someone’s house for dinner is pretty rare as it’s not safe to go out after dark. However, they have a car and are willing to drive us home afterwards, so it’ll be our second ever dinner out of the house! I know she bought tumbo (cow intestine) earlier this week, but I’m not sure if that’s for dinner or some other cut of meat. I’ll likely eat some as cultural norms appreciate that kind of thing. I think I could rebel, but it at this point it’s easier to try a tiny bit and load up on whatever veggie is the side dish. I survived having omena at Angela’s one day (omena are tiny sardine looking 2 inch long dried fish that stink to high heaven). I suspect I can survive misc cow meat too.
- Carol is supposed to come over for tea tomorrow and we’re going to try out our new mandazi making skills. Yes, I’m eating not only meat here, but wheat too. It’s hard to avoid. As a former British colony, we have tea time daily at work at 11am. Tea and a slice or two of white bread. I avoided the bread at first, but now eat it almost daily. My body was in total rebellion at first, but is doing mostly okay now. It’s still not ideal for me, but it’s painful. Besides, a snack at 11am after being up since 6am is a nice thing. Mandazi is also wheat, as are chipati, but we don’t have those very often. Maybe once every week or two? Mostly we eat sukuma and other greens, potatoes, etc.
- Next week we’re going to dinner at the parish priest’s house. He’s offered to take us home with him to Tanzania, and has offered to teach us how to make Cow’s Blood Stew. I’ve politely declined, and hope dinner next week will be something less scary like chicken or mutton or veggies. Speaking of meat… most of the dinner options live in our front and back yard. We have chickens, goats, sheep, and a bull that live on the parish land and wander around our house all day grazing. I’d hate to notice a particular goat or sheep missing one day and find it on the dinner table, but know that’s what they’re there for.
I think that’s all of the updates I have time for today. Work continues to treat me well, as does the time outside of work. The weather is still super hot and sweaty, and with a few hours of rain this week the bugs are out in full force. We’ve got tons of beetles, spiders, and giant ants in the house… more than usual. We also had our first giant jumping spider this week (yikes) and our first cockroach too (eww). I saw a tarantula in the garden the other week, but happily never saw him again. My mosquito net keeps they away while I sleep, though they continue to buzz around my head and the army gathers clinging to the outside of the net. It’s a little gross, but not bad enough to keep me up at night. I still sleep soundly… and am actually sleeping almost 6-7 hours most nights! (Impressive for me… it’s been one of my goals to try it and see if it makes a difference in my energy or mental health. I’m not sure it makes a difference, but I’m continuing to try sleeping normal hours anyway. I still keep busy… learning Kiswahili, learning guitar, doing yoga, working lots, journaling daily, sleeping, cooking, reading, etc. We made a trip last week with two Sisters to Kisumu… our first time in the “big city.” It’s one of only three cities in Kenya, and since we’re already been to Nairobi, we only have Mombassa left to check out some day. Kisumu is on the shores of Lake Victoria… the largest lake in Africa and the 2nd largest lake in the world. It was gorgeous to eat lunch lake side, and was a productive day. Cindy and I each bought a bike… fancy by Kenyan standards but still of very poor quality. They’ve made transportation quicker now getting around Malava, and will afford us more freedom to explore on the weekends. Kisumu was also super hot as it’s further south and lower in elevation, and super humid as it’s right on the lake. I hope to go back later for longer than a few hours, hopefully sometime when it might also be cooler.
Okay, really, that’s all of the updates I can muster right now. The over theme continues be the same: Life Is Good. Mail is always appreciated, though emails will happily do. I’m trying to get online once a week, but just know that while I love reading your notes, I don’t have much time at the cyber cafe to reply in a timely manner and the connection here is painfully slow. (How long does it take gmail to load? About 5 minutes, and there’s barely graphics!) But don’t let that stop you from emailing or sending stuff by post. Dad wins the award for first piece of mail, Rod wins the award for most mail and first package to arrive, Josh gets the award for favorite “stranger” to support me on this adventure with gifts and mail, and Martha (oddly enough) wins the award for most emails sent!! Not that mail is a competition… I’m just excited to hear from friends, no matter what matter of arrival. Asante sana to everyone for your continued well wishes and moral support! I’m off now. it’s Friday which means it’s market day in Malalva… more excitement and more people than any other day of the week! Kwa heri!
I’ll finish with an unrelated African proverb I heard on BBC-Africa this morning. Take care!
A knot made by a wise man cannot be undone by a foolish man.
PS Remind me next time to talk about Valentine’s, plans for my marriage(s), and my favorite quote for the week from a nun: “Jesus is my Valentine!”