After a few days without internet access, I’m back in Nairobi and can resume my updates. I’ll have a post with lots of pictures of the safari soon, but first I wanted to share a few observations around Kenyan hospitality.
When a house guest comes for a visit, hospitality can kick into overdrive in Kenya. For virtually every meal I ate at someone’s home, not only would I be served first, but many times the children and even the other adults would refuse to serve themselves until I had at least started eating. Often the children and workers would eat in a second sitting after us. And trust me, the other volunteers and I tried insisting that they eat with us, but we were rarely successful.
I thought the level of adherence to hospitality customs was particularly interesting when I arrived at my latest host’s home. As you may have seen in my last post, my former host, Joshua, had major car problems on our trip. When we finally made it to our destination the next morning, my new host (Emmanuel) asked if Joshua could spend the day with us, but he politely explained that he needs to get his car fixed and then spend another 8 hours driving home. Before he could get on the road, they first sat down for tea. After tea, we all went to take a “quick” tour of Emmanuel’s school (both Joshua and Emmanuel run schools in Kenya). After a very interesting but thorough tour, we of course had another round of tea. That was followed by a short presentation by the students. At that point it was lunchtime, and of course we couldn’t send Joshua off without lunch. While we arrived that morning around 8:30 am, Joshua didn’t end up starting work on the car until early afternoon and finally hit the road around 2:30 or 3:00 pm. What I found most interesting was that not only did Emmanuel keep politely offering things, but Joshua kept politely accepting. I suppose it would have be considered rude for either of them to have acted any differently, even though they both knew Joshua had a long trip ahead of him.
I’ve encountered this custom several times while at the villages as well. Often after meeting with a women’s group, there was no way I was leaving without drinking at least two cups of tea and eating something. Even once when a storm was clearly about to hit, we still stayed for almost an hour, resulting in us standing in a random barn for 30 minutes on our way home to escape the torrential downpour. Overall I think it’s a nice custom, but be forewarned that there’s no such thing as a “quick visit” in Kenya.
I’ll be continuing work on the Kibera water kiosk model over the next several days, but I’ll also post a link very soon to some of the 250 pictures I took on my safari yesterday.