At the mention of Boxing Day, I asked the boys, “What exactly is Boxing Day?” The response was: “It’s the day after Christmas.” Of course it is. After a little bit of google research and asking a Canadian, I now know about Boxing Day. Here in Kenya I spent Boxing Day doling out gifts to the boys that Stella and I had put together for them (yes, I am ashamed to say that I was a day late because we never had a chance to sit down on Christmas and open presents). Then, we went to meet John’s sister and her family who were in from Nairobi.
Onesmus and John opened their presents, and they were shocked. Shocked! First they were excited over their shirts and a few bracelets, but the Manchester United scarf, a watch, and a deck of playing cards were the big hits. They put their new gifts away, except for a bracelet and a watch, and we set off on foot to visit their sister. It was a sunny day but not too hot.
We walked through fields, past a few cows, a sheep, and bougainvillea and sunflower plants and arrived at the sister’s family’s home. She greeted all of us, and I watched as the boys ragged on their sister. Some things are the same across all cultures it seems :) She and her sister-in-law invited us to sit inside and then before I know it, we are being served goat stew, chapati, and hot chocolate. I can’t be rude so I manage to partake in a second lunch and am relieved that I don’t spot any hairy goat meat. Actually, his sister and her family had prepared a really tender goat stew and I even picked up some of the pieces on the bone and tried to prove myself by tearing the meat off of it. It felt a little barbaric actually, but at least I tried to look like a local before I passed some of meat to the boys. I’ve never been served hot chocolate in Kenya, as chai is much more typical, but being the Christmas holidays, I was spoiled with a treat. While John’s sister Felister was busy in the kitchen, her husband and daughter showed up and made conversation. We touched on the importance of women having good hair in Africa. While I’m always told how dirty my shoes are by locals, I was told at this lunch that I have good hair. Score one for Laura. Since Felister has her own salon (well, as they say in Kenya, ‘saloon’), hair was quite a big topic of discussion. Her husband wanted to know why white people have different colored hair. I wish I knew. And when I told him that as a blonde, my hair has gotten darker as I’ve gotten older, he asked me if my hair would turn black. A very logical assumption if you don’t know about white people hair, but I had to explain that, no, my hair would not turn black.
As it got late in the afternoon, we got up to leave, but first I wanted to take a photo of John and Onesmus with their sister. It turned into a family photography session, and I loved seeing the toothless grins of the husband’s parents. They were such warm and friendly people.
The skies looked dark and a few droplets fell from the sky. We decided it was more urgent that we get going, and we said goodbye to the family. Felister and her brother-in-law wanted to walk with us part of the way. Not even five minutes later, it starts raining, and I swear you would have thought that Kenyans would melt in the rain. With haste, we turned down a path to a house to seek shelter under the overhang of their roof. Suddenly the rain turns into a torrential downpour, and a lovely woman invites the five of us inside. She lights the oil lantern and kids peep out from the dark corners to stare at the muzungu. The woman places wash basins outside to catch the rainwater, easing her burden on collection the following day. The tin roof is rusted in parts and water drips from the tiny holes. No homeowners or motorhome insurance exists in these parts. After fifteen minutes or so, it is starting to get dark, and I decide that I should go ahead and leave. It’s not all that safe for me to be out at night here, plus I can just imagine trying to find my way in the dark while sliding in the mud. The rain lets up a little, and the homeowner goes to John’s church so she offers him an umbrella. We are standing at the door, and the woman also tries to give me a sweater. I was touched by her hospitality towards this random white girl that shows up at her house in the rain, but gently refuse.
We make a bolt out the door and try to avoid the puddles that have already formed. I run ahead of John, knowing that I’m going to get muddy and wet anyways, so the umbrella doesn’t really matter. From behind I hear, “Laura, you must wait for umbrella. Laura!! Wait for umbrella!!” I give a ‘Muahaha’ laugh and explain to John that the rain won’t kill me. To ease his anxiety, I attempt to stay under the umbrella, at least for a minute or two. We slide on the muddy paths and both agree that we will need to wash our shoes the next day. About halfway home, it gets dark, but we had at least made it past the most uneven parts of the path. The unexpected downpour of rain leaves me chuckling inside, as it reminds me once again, that the days are always unexpected in Africa. I’m grateful that I can huddle in a complete stranger’s home to seek refuge from the rain and even be offered a sweater by her. I’m happy that my shoes were already muddy and dirty so who cares if I splash in the puddles… it can’t get worse. And I smile knowing that I have answered a lot of questions that day about what crops we grow in America, where Arnold Schwarzenegger lives, whether kids get the dangly things in their throat cut off when they’re little, and why muzungus have different colored hair.