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« Conversation over Breakfast | Main | To Kenya & Back, pt. 1 »
Tuesday
Jan132009

To Kenya & Back, pt. 2

Upon arriving in the orphanage, we were greeted by what felt like a great deal of fan fare.  The children and staff even had been anticipating our arrival for several weeks and were glad to have us with them.  In many ways, we felt like royalty - at times uncomfortably so.  

As we piled out of the vans, the children streamed to meet us, singing songs of welcome and touching our white skin.  All of which was incredibly moving.  

For our first Kenyan meal we were introduced to Ugali; a mash made simply of corn meal and water all boiled together.  You serve ugali with a kind of stew that has either beef, chicken or fish in it along with some greens.  You eat it with your hands.  

So much of this experience was new for me.  Yet at the same time so much had echoes of places previous.  The sounds of African children singing; it has a distinct ring, cadence and soothe to it.  The language is different, the tribe different, the location - all different.  But I'm flashed back to a similar greeting in a little village in Nigeria.  I remember children rushing to the van to welcome us.  And the singing.  I can still hear it softly.  

We ate with our hands in Senegal 7 years ago.  We ate with our hands in Nigeria.  And we're eating with our hands again.  For Americans, there's something a little weird about eating with your hands.  I'm not talking about eating with your hands like you eat fried chicken, hamburgers or pizza with your hands.  I mean, like your eating the side dishes - mashed potatoes, mac 'n cheese  and your salad w/ dressing all with your hands.  Admit it.  It feels a little strange.  And again, it feels a little familiar for me.  We didn't have ugali in Nigeria, we had pounded yam.  I suspect the difference is that corn grows better in Kenya than yams do.  But the ball of mash with which to eat your stew is still present.  We didn't eat anything weird or creepy.  Now, I know there are places that eat strange things, including here in the US.  But i think the truth is, most people in most places would just prefer a chicken leg, a fish filet or a cut of beef over bugs, intestine, tongue or whatever.  It's when we're poor that we begin eating the other stuff - out of necessity or delicacy.  And though it might not seem that way, there is a very fine line between necessity and delicacy.  

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