Sunday, November 15, 2009

What tribe are you?

On any US roadtrip you may expect to see some roaming cows, wandering horses, and maybe a few beautiful birds, but on our journey to Loitoikitok yesterday zebras, giraffes, and ostriches lined the roadside. Loitoikitok, located on the border of Kenya and Tanzania is a beautiful town with a spectacular view of Mt. Kilamanjaro (or so I’m told, as the clouds have yet to part). The one paved road is bombarded by children yelling Howroo?” over and over again.

My host family consists of baba Macharia, mama Jane, Robert (17), Maureen (13), and Morris (5). My baba is off at university for another month though, so I will be spending most of my time with the mama and kids. They are all very welcoming, helpful, and curious (the children seem to stare at me all the time). On my first night, while talking about America, my mama asked me, “What tribe are you?” and my response was, “Californian?” So there are some definite changes in life that I will be getting accustomed to in the next few weeks, starting with learning the tribes of Kenya.

While the language barrier is not a big problem (because some members of my host family speak English), the use of the choo (toilet) seems to be my biggest challenge. A Kenyan toilet, or choo, consists of a tiny hole in the ground. For someone with years of practice, aiming into said tiny hole would be easy. BUT for me, who is not trained in such an art, it is quite a challenge. I’ll spare you the details, but you try peeing into a 3 inch hole.

There are times when everything seems like a challenge. Take for instance, walking 30 minutes home in the rain. While in the US this would be no problem with the aid of an umbrella, walking on the dirt roads of Loitokitok pose a serious problem for the slightly unbalanced. The rain turns the roads into a muddy mess that cakes to my shoes making me wobble more and more with each step. Thankfully, my host family has been very helpful in my adjustment here, teaching me how to remove inches of dried mud from my shoes with a machete and reminding me to take my rain jacket.

As the week goes on I’m mastering the art of peeing in a choo, eating ugali with my hands, avoiding and killing the giant bugs and spiders that appear in my room, and absorbing as much Kiswahili as possible,

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