Monday, August 13, 2012

Today we really didn’t do anything...

(To the theme of The Lazy Song by Bruno Mars)
Today we really didn’t do anything (do de do, do de do)
But we didn’t spent it laying in bed (do de do, do de do)
We went and picked up our hoes (Jembes)
And backfilled dirt with mighty blows
But really today we didn’t do anything
Of interest at all
We actually ate our dinner on time
We ate fajitas but that doesn’t rhyme
We made chain gangs and moved lots of bricks
(OMG lots of bricks)

In all seriousness today was largely uninteresting. We squeezed into the vans and spent the day at the worksite backfilling the foundation walls and moving bricks. We learned one of our Kenyan Rovers was actually a part-time mason and was able to lay bricks at the same rate as the hired masons.  Everything was wonderful and things went smoothly.  Although we’re fine and in paradise, this does not make for a good blog, so I thought I would write about some aspects of Kenyan culture.
Kenya is in an interesting position and is caught between the old and the new.  Identifying with one’s tribe, for example being Maasai, is a very important part of a Kenyan’s identity, but is contrasted with the modern world of Wi-Fi, cell networks, mp3s and Bruno Mars, whose modern “Lazy Song” was a favourite on their cell phones.  Interestingly, the two worlds seem to fit together well, but it was still a little strange to see a man tamping the earth at the worksite with a tool he made himself out of branches and nails while listening to rap music on an mp3.  These clashes are quite common.

Technologically, Kenya is really quite similar to Canada, except Rogers is called Safaricom, Circuit City is MiPensa and Pepsi is Coke.  Speaking of which, Coke is absolutely everywhere and has a stranglehold on the market (seriously, the first time we found a Pepsi here, it was met with ooohs and aaaahs).  Despite the prevalence of communication advertising, communication itself is a rare commodity.  Three or four cell phone calls are typically required to obtain basic information about a potential destination and telephone tag seems to be the Kenyan national sport (after soccer).  Although arriving a few minutes last can be considered “fashionably late” in Canada, several hours of Kenyan tardiness have been, for us at least, an occasional cause for concern.  After the first two hours of “free time” (read: waiting for the bus) we began to get the hang of it.  The phrase “we’ll be there in half an hour” has lost all meaning.  It’s a more relaxed, but often frustrating, pace of living, although after three weeks here we beginning to understand “Kenyan time.”

Soccer (which is called football here like almost everywhere else in the world) is of primary importance.  Interestingly, the British Premier League is watched everywhere and cheered feverishly, with popular teams being Chelsea and Manchester United.

There are other cultural differences and one really needs to visit this county to appreciate them fully, but there can be no doubt what we have seen and experienced has been truly interesting and the people with whom we have interacted have been, to the most part, honest, caring and giving.

by Hannes

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