We reach back from the safari. Nairobi again! Those observing stares again! And meeting the family we know again.
Wait! Still, something is different. With the family. A rank stench of perfume welcomes us together with the family. The hostess has clothed herself in Sunday outfit and the boys are wearing fitted shirts. The family spends their Sunday in the church, from 9 AM to 6 PM. When we ask, what do they do there the whole time, Susan answers enthusiastically: Oh, there is so much to do! Sing and pray!
Tired from the safari, me and Terje decide to have a lazy day and just watch, how the locals spend their free time:
1. From the day we got there, John has been telling us that we have to kill a hen for dinner. To get fresh meat. At first, we thought John was joking, he just wants to shed blood under the eyes of mzungus. Later on, we learn that he actually meant we have to slaughter a chicken, because it’s too brutal for him. More of a women’s job… That’s how it goes, daily. A guy sits next to us in a matatu, with a screaming chicken in a plastic bag. I joke: Today’s dinner?
No, for tomorrow.
Who’s killing it?
My wife, of course.
2. When coming back from the grocery store, I watch tiny Susan carrying a huge plastic bag on her crooked back, barely getting a hold of it. Obese John is walking behind her, with a wide smile to his face, holding something light. What a lout, I think to myself, and help Susan with the bag. A minute later, I glance at Susan again, and what do I see? Little Susan carrying a smaller bag on her back, and John is now whistling a tune, walking behind her with hands in his pockets.
3. 5.00 – 9.00 AM. Susan wakes up and prepares a three course breakfast.
9.00 – 10.00AM eating
10.00 – 12.00 AM Susan does the dishes, washes the clothes and around the house
12.00 – 3.00 PM time to cook a four course lunch
3.00 – 5.00 PM eating, cleaning up the leftovers
5.00 – 7.00 PM cooking a six course dinner
7.00 – 8.30 PM eating and cleaning up the kitchen
8.30 – 9.00 PM an evening shower and going to bed
What does the husband do? Sits behind the table, with his belly hanging over his belt, eating fruits and telling Susan busy in the kitchen to bring him dessert.
1. If we have a stereotype of Africans as uneducated banana farmers, then Africans sure have a stereotype of mzungus, too. People don’t work in the Land of Mzungus, they don’t have fields, they don’t get their hands dirty. None of us has probably ever seen an animal apart from a teacup poodle. John decides to change that.
Come and see, how people live in Africa, says John, rolling his eyes in a very exotic manner and smirking down to us. He drags us to a bean field, exactly like my grandmother has in her backyard, and starts to school us: These are beans. They grow into a green ball of food the size of your thumb. He demonstrates, how to pull them out of the ground and is convinced that we could not do it. We pull the beans out of the ground for about ten minutes just to please him. John offers us to take the vegetables we picked with our own hands to Europe, ignoring completely our attempt to explain to him that we have vegetable growing in our gardens, too.
2. Sunday is the day for laundry. We ask water and soap from Susan and go to the yard to do laundry. John rushes there to see the miracle with his own eyes. Quick, someone get the camera, your friends couldn’t believe this!
Everybody in Kenya want to do good. If you’re not involved with volunteer networking, there’s probably something wrong with you. You must have a heart of stone. You are bound to go to hell. Let’s see, how people do good in Kenya.
1. John goes to the church to sing on Sundays. We drive pass the church, which turns out to be four tin walls surrounded by stone walls. We ask for an explanation. Susan, the biggest fan of volunteers, radiates when answering:
A group of helpers came from America and started to build a church. Next year, they’ll come back and will build some more.
We check the construction – three rows of bricks tossed on top of each other. Susan’s euphoric talk makes us suspect that a bunch of Miss Americas came here for the sake of world peace. Instead of hiring some local homeless for cheap and finish the church construction. Instead of promoting education and distributing ideas, American volunteers are offered the jobs every local could handle.
2. Susan and John go to the orphanage to donate on Sundays. Generous, isn’t it. Selfless, some might say. We decide to join the family and buy a couple of kilos of fruits from the market for a dime. We get a warm welcome. 50 children of chocolate look at us with their brown eyes and chants: Hello, hello, we are happy to see you. God bless you. But for some reason, John isn’t happy.
Do you know who I am?
Do you know who my wife is?
The children answer yes obediently. John tell them to sing the thank-you song couple of times more. And to know his name. John the Great Helper.
Terje has to make a speech. She talks about the cold weather and the importance of education. We write our contacts to the guest book and leave to the sound of grateful chanting that John wanted to hear. It was about time to go home to eat.
In the Matatu
For the first time during this trip, we can browse the town on our own. Finally! In fact, we are so pleased with our freedom we don’t even notice it’s getting dark. It’s probably hard to explain this to an Estonian, but in Nairobi, being alone in the dark equals suicide. We are talking about the city where the locals prefer to take a taxi instead of walking.
We get a ride with a matatu. But the matatu doesn’t leave it’s spot before it’s full of people. And the matatu-coolies are responsible for getting the matatu full of people, for there are many competing vehicles.
We sit in the bus and watch the matatu-coolies have catched someone going to Roisse. The dispute on which bus should the woman take, gets bad. One is pulling her from the one sleeve, the other from the other side. When a helpful bypasser saves the woman from the coolies, the men indulge in a fight. But our time is running. It gets darker and darker. The bus must be get full soon! We wave to he pedestrians invitingly who, when noticing the showpieces, fill the matatu in a second. When we reach Roisse (Nairobi’s suburb), it’s dark outside. But there’s no John anywhere. Only the pitch black street, black people and a gas station. Fortunately we are clever enough to persuade someone in the gas stop to help us with our mzungu charm and get home safe.
(the picture is taken from the backseat of the matatu)
On the first night, when we go to wash our hair, Susan is very surprised. You wash your hair at home? And do your own hair? It turns out, that they let only the professionals do theirs. A professional, who asks 0,30 € for a hairdo. That’s how Susan gets her hair done in a beauty shop (on the picture) 3-4 times a month.
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