I had one of those “ah hah!” moments today when I was walking home from school. I realized why so many Kenyans respond to greetings with a grunt or other guttural indecipherable noise (ok, maybe this theory only applies to me, but bear with me) but I think it may be because they’re too fucking tired to do much else. Let me explain. After a day of carrying buckets of water on your head, washing dishes by hand, scrubbing clothes (again by hand), starting fires to cook meals for your 10+ kids, picking vegetables to eat, tending to your livestock and garden, and then carrying more water to repeat all that dish washing and cooking for dinner, you’d be pretty tired too, right?
While I don’t nearly work that hard (my mom tells me I have princess wrists- too fragile to do “real” work) I still exert way more energy than I have ever before. With my daily 45 minute walk to and from school and 12 hour teaching days six days a week, I’m completely exhausted by the end of the day. Today was especially tiresome as I walked the hour and a half to the post office to check for mail (false alarm, your package hasn’t arrived yet, mom!) and on the way back the blazing heat and hilly terrain gave my (gasp in horror) Kilimanjaro flashbacks (ok, I’m exaggerating a bit, the walk isn’t THAT bad). In addition, I ran around like a crazy person searching for some place to print my exams, but alas, the stima (electricity) was out everywhere in Paw Akuche and in Miranga there was only enough electricity for a television, but of course, not enough to power a printer (wtf?). Anyways, after my intense climb back to school and then back to my house, all I could muster back to my friendly neighbour was raising a few eyebrow hairs in response to his “good evening.” I hope he noticed my effort. So that’s when my lightbulb went off, maybe (maybe just maybe), that’s why there are so many nods, “mmmm”, and “aaaaah” in response to questions and comments here, there just isn’t enough energy left to say much else.
The reason this theory definitely applies to me is because I swear I am way peppier in the morning and will muster enough energy (even at 5:45am!) to respond to your “good morning” (maybe, if you’re lucky, I’ll respond in dholuo AND Kiswahili) but by the end of the day you can expect a much less enthusiastic response (maybe, if you’re lucky, I’ll respond with a half nod or pathetic wave). As I sit here, writing down this world shaking theory of mine, debating whether to move my biweekly bucket bath schedule so that I can rinse the Kilimanjaro climb’s dust and sweat off of me, I request of you that if we are to meet in the future, please acknowledge my ¼ of an inch eyebrow raise as a legitimate greeting (at least if it’s in the evening hours).