Day 379: Our home

by lara, lara@trippingonwords.com

…has continued to stumble on recently. There may be no power, no water, no food at various points, but we’re making it work. This is particularly impressive as it happens in the face of extreme skepticism from the Kenyans, who think we do not know how to cook or function for ourselves. The woman who cleans our apartment, for example, just came in to tell me “the food was smelling,” meaning that as I was standing over the stove, she still felt I should be told that my food was burning.

It all began when Claire decided to start up a conversation with the kitchen staff about the beans they make here, which really are quite good. They offered to provide some for us when they made it for everyone else. We accepted. We also asked to buy tea. They refused our money, but bring the tea. Rumors began that we were starving.

Then Manager decided to surprise us for uninvited dinner on a night when we were smugly eating only the bread we had made ourselves that day and leftover soup. We invited her to a “simple meal” and she has never forgotten it. The one time she came over for invited dinner, Jonathan cooked, so she now believes that Claire and I are helpless in the face of our kitchen, and do not know what to do with ourselves. She brings this up at every possible opportunity, though happily it has led her to come over to cook ugali for us, a weird corn-meal, semi-solid pie that ended up being good when not cooked en masse for 200 urphans, as they occasionally call themselves.

Their belief that we are incompetent is actually a fairly valid point in Kenya, as I do not know how to get basic things done here. Take our laundry, for example. There is currently a spreading pool of water in my bedroom from the laundry overflow. This is because laundry here is a multi-bucket, multi-bar-of-laundry-soap, multi-hour process of intense labor. We love Nancy, the woman that does our laundry, precisely because it is such a difficult process. We did it ourselves for the first few weeks, but I can now see when I get my laundry back each week that this is in many ways a skill that I just haven’t learned.

Same with when our sink got blocked. I went to manager to see if there was any drain-o in Kenya, and she just sent me with a kid to help. Said kid simply unscrewed something, filled up a bucket from the now free-flowing sink, and then screwed the same thing back on in silence. I told her I would usually have my dad do it. She sighed. She said she knew, wazungu are not “realistic.” After figuring out that she meant practical, I was slightly less offended, then slightly more so.

Our sourdough bread starter also went bad inexplicably, and when I wandered into the kitchen this morning, I heard the sound of something about to explode. Turned out it was the watermelon Claire and I had been looking forward to, which had apparently begun to rot, and had sprung a high-pressure, ominous-sounding leak.

But we are continuing on, and dinner is in the oven. I’m sure it will be exceptional.

3 comments:

Radioactive Jam said...

I can honestly say I've never contemplated an exploding watermelon. Clearly I have much living yet to do.

Also, "exceptional" - heh.

Miz S said...

God, I love you guys.

Allie said...

Claire and Lara,
Please share with us some of your bread-making recipes, now that you have more time with the kids back in school. =)

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