Monday, March 25, 2013

My Journey - Kenya - Culture

Both times that we’ve been to Kenya in the last couple of years I feel like the first couple of days your eyes are literally trying to readjust to what they are seeing. Kenya ascetically looks like nothing I’ve ever seen before so the first week your body and mind seems to be trying to regroup and adjust to the new circumstances. It looks different, the people look different, the food is different, the houses are different, the cars are different, the stores are different, I actually can’t think of one thing that looks the same as what I’m used to. Both times that I’ve gone I’ve definitely experienced culture shock. It lasted a couple of days and then you seem to settle in. You settle in and you began to be able to see all of the great beauty that is innately around you.

After breakfast the first day, we all got ready and Mark showed us around the farm. In Kenya there is no such thing as social security so older people have farms and sell their goods to sustain themselves into old age. The farm is completely self sufficient and I loved walking around with my husband hearing stories and him showing us the place that he grew up. If you are married to someone from a different culture or from a different country I highly recommend going to that place where they are from. You will learn things about and understand your spouse like you never have before. Here are some pictures from around the farm that day:

 They grow their own feed for the cows

 Banana Tree on the Farm

 This is an aloe plant...huge!

The next day was a day that the traveling market was in a nearby town so Mark’s grandma who is called Cucu (sho-sho), Mark’s aunt, Kaya and I got in the car and went to the market to buy some the weeks produce. The market is one of my favorite places to go while in Kenya. The produce is unbelievable and naturally organic because the Western world hasn’t (at least yet) infiltrated the farming practices of Kenyans. The food is fresh, bountiful, and extremely inexpensive. Cucu has formed relationships with some of the vendors over the years so as we stopped at one stand to pick up some tomatoes, a little girl was at the next stand over, selling fruit with her dad. She saw Kaya and I and looked in awe. The village where his grandparents live does not see white people often.  She had a pin wheel and walked up to Kaya and offered it to her. The little girl stood there with no shoes and wanted to give Kaya what was probably her only toy. I told the father that I was appreciative but that his daughter should keep it. He insisted and Kaya took the pin wheel and thanked the girl. It was such a small jester but such a powerful one for me. Worldly possessions meant little to that family; it was a lesson that was duly noted.

We walked around the market and I took pictures and observed as Cucu bought her goods. I later realized that taking pictures is not the greatest idea. One because it makes you a target, someone could have stolen the camera and two, Kenyans don’t really like their pictures taken. This is not because they think the camera steals their soul or whatever else you might that heard. Cameras are a relatively new technology especially among the older population. Think about pictures you see of people from the 1800’s that what you’re going to get if you take a picture of and older Kenya. They do not have the flair for posing as Americans do.  
The one thing that I noticed about the people of the markets and of the village is how healthy they all were. Kenyans as a population walk immensely more than Americans do. They all had perfect skin and perfectly white straight teeth. This fact was also curious to me and I stored it in my brain for a further reflection. Here are some of the things that I saw in the market that day. 

 Those are mangoes. The best mangoes you will ever taste in your life!

 Sugar Cane Vendor

 This is what happens when you donate clothes to Africa...they get sold in markets.

We were also able to go to the coast for a week but I can’t seem to find pictures from our first trip. Here are some from our second trip. One of the great highlights was that we were able to spend Christmas there. Mark’s grandparents had a cypress tree cut down for the kids and I and we decorated it. I had packed toys from the U.S. and wrapped them and put them under the tree Christmas morning. Christmas was one of the biggest eye openers for me. My whole life Christmas has been a huge deal and a huge exhausting charade. It doesn’t help that Kaya’s birthday is the day after so Christmas ends up being one huge long week of craziness.

I put the Christmas presents under the tree the night before and Cucu asked Mark what they were. He told her presents from Santa. “Santa” she repeated and then laughed as she walked into her room to retire for the night. My kids awoke that morning to three presents each from Santa, which was significantly less than they would usually get if we were back home. They opened them and then we all sat down to breakfast. Mark’s Uncle has a house walking distance from where Mark’s grandparent’s house is. He and his wife have two kids the same age as Kaya and Malik. They also walked over for breakfast. She was carrying a new doll and he was carrying a new soccer ball. One new present each of them from their parents on Christmas and mind you Mark’s Aunt and Uncle do very well for themselves. I was a bit in awe at the under extravagance of the morning, as it was not what I was used to at all  but I chose to sit with the feelings that I was having instead of immediately drawing comparisons to what I was used to.

That afternoon the whole family drove an hour or so to a town on a lake for dinner. It was at a country club and all we had to do was show up. We had also decided to celebrate Kaya’s 5th birthday at the same time. The dinner was perfect, we ate and drank and walked and chatted. I wasn’t stressed and I wasn’t worried about getting to the next house for the next event. I was making memories and having meaningful conversations with family. It was by far the best Christmas that I have ever had. 

 A choir that was there sang as they brought the cake to the table.

And then the Maasai group that was playing came over to sing to her also.

 After they began playing again and Malik walked over to them and helped himself to the drums. 

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