Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Being sappy when I should be studious...

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Today was my last day in Kimana Market… not ever because I don’t want to say ever. Just for a while because I’m kind of going to Tanzania in 6 days and it’s kind of unavoidable.

When I left for Kenya, I kind of just thought it’d be a stop on my way back to Moyo Hill, but KBC and Kimana have become just as special to me. There’s something really wonderful about the bustle of Tuesday markets, the beautiful reds and oranges and purples of Maasai fabrics swinging gently in the wind, and really the joy of everyone I encounter.

We’re finally at the point where we’re pros at navigating the market. A single “not today, mama” with a smile actually stops very insistent Maasai women from trying to sell you bracelets now. We ask prices and barter in Kiswahili (and people actually answer us in Kiswahili! ). Kids still point and yell “Mzunguli!” (My mzungu!) as you pass, but giggle when we look around confused and jokingly shout back “Mzungu ako wapi?!” (Mzungu? Where?!)  I met a little girl today, Kiri, who was very amused at my search for the mzungu. We chatted for a little bit (well, we pointed at different things and said English and Kiswahili words for them) before she gave me the two small rubber bands she was wearing on her wrists. She put them on my thumb to wear as rings, but later I moved them to my watchband. She gave me a red one and a green one, so, on my black wristwatch, they make the colors of the Kenyan flag.

I will truly miss how genuinely friendly everyone is here when I go back to the states. I walked into a restaurant a few weeks ago and there were no open tables for my friend and I. We awkwardly asked a man reading a paper and drinking chai if he minded us joining him (we weren’t quite sure what the etiquette on disturbing strangers was…). To our surprise, he legitimately did not mind and he was happy to chat with us as we drank our chai. I’ve done something similar in dining halls at Purdue, but I can’t say anyone’s ever been quite as happy to have a stranger join them for a meal.

We stopped at a curio shop on our way to Nakuru. It was the same curio shop we had stopped at on our way to camp from the Nairobi airport. No longer jetlegged and with some serious experience on bartering, we were much better prepared this time. One of the sellers was chatting with us, and of course trying to sell us some wares but quickly stopped when we started conversing with him in Kiswahili. Suddenly, my willingness to buy a woodcarving wasn’t nearly as interesting to him as my recount of our absolutely miserable loss in soccer against the local secondary school kids. He was genuinely interested in hearing my story and genuinely happy about our speaking to him in Kiswahili. He told me to go to the bookstore and buy a Kiswahili book for practice when I go back the States. He was very insistent that I shouldn’t forget my Kiswahili when I went back to the states. I really hope I can keep that promise.

I sat and talked with the tailor for a little while before expedition. We talked about a lot of things like my hair cut, sewing, and school (her husband had studied wildlife management). She told me about an American student that had stayed with her for two months named Amanda, and how she really missed her. She asked if I had a Maasai name. I told her “Nashipi” and she laughed and said it was fitting. She said it was her sister’s name. She introduced me to her mother and her brother-in-law who were in and out of the shop. Her brother-in-law asked my name and I told him "Colleen." He shook his head and corrected me with my Maasai name. They asked what Colleen meant and I had to admit that it just means girl in Irish. They decided they liked Nashipi better (sorry, parents). I wanted to go say good bye to her today, but her shop was closed by the time we got to Kimana. I think we’re going in once more this week, just not on market day, so I’ll try again then.

Yesterday, the student affairs manager and I took a quick trip to Kimana to buy some paint for my camp beautification project. There was a man at the gate talking to one of the Askaris and my ecology professor. He was heading home and lived between camp and the hardware store, so we gave him a ride. Of course when we dropped him off, his wife came to greet us and we were invited in. His kids were all very polite and very excited to shake our hands. We sat down in their living room and I (attempted, to they were speaking very quickly okay) follow along the conversation in Kiswahili. I caught bits and pieces. They were so warm and welcoming, and I wish we could have stayed longer but we really did have to go to town to buy paint and fencing for our garden. He was a pastor named Isaac, and his wife’s name was Veronica.

And nothing can really quite match the warmth and welcome I got from my Maasai mama, Jen. I think about my homestay a lot, and I’m really looking forward to my next one in Tanzania as well. We’ve invited the mamas over for lunch this week, and I’m really excited to extend the same friendliness and hospitality all the mamas showed us when we stayed with them. The attitude and friendliness of everyone here has really made a huge difference, and I can’t think I would have even had a fraction of the amazing experience I’ve had here without it.  

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