Monday, May 23, 2011

Clash of Cultures

Well, we arrived back in Mombasa this morning after a long, tiring, emotional, exciting, relaxing, eye-opening trip. It felt so good to crawl into my own bed this morning and pass out for a good 4 hours. 

We took a 14 hour bus ride to Migori which is the closest town to the village where Kelvin's mom lives. It was a long bus ride. We arrived at his mom's place completely exhausted but happy to be home. She welcomed us with fresh lemon grass tea and chappatis. 

I had forgotten how boring it can be with out electricity. We spent most of our first day sleeping or talking or sitting outside or generally doing nothing. I read half a novel in a few hours. Sometimes having nothing to do is exhausting. Nonetheless, it was enjoyable being the simple and quiet environment. 

The next day we headed to Kelvin's dad's ancestral land to check out some land that his father had inherited. Kelvin's dad passed away over 15 years ago and with Kelvin being the oldest male sibling, he takes on a lot of the family responsibilities. The trek to his dad's home land ended up taking longer than we had thought with both of us not feeling the greatest. The last motorcycle we took was treacherous as our driver didn't exactly know where we were going even though he insisted that he knew our exact plot. We ended up getting stuck in all sorts of mud and bumping up and down leaving my bum all bruised. By the time we found his father's land, I was exhausted and a little on the cranky side. We were so far from any sign of civilization that I began to wonder if God even knew this place existed.

It was emotional for me as well. I found it so interesting to meet his father's family when I have never met his father. It also blew my mind to think that this was ancestral land. The same tribe/family has lived on this same land since only God knows when. Kelvin's grandfather had many wives so the land is divided between all the wives and their kids. I ended up meeting all sorts of people who were all related to Kelvin. They introduced themselves to me as my mother or auntie or sister when really they were my grandfather's other wife's child or the 3rd wife to Kelvin's uncle. I couldn't keep track of it all. I just ended up succumbing to the fact that we were related somehow. 

Our purpose was  to see the land that Kelvin's father had inherited and see if we could do some planting on it. That was really all I wanted to do but I guess you can't come all the way there and not meet everyone and have a meal. We sat around waiting for them to cook a nice meal of fresh chicken, traditional greens (which I have realized are just weeds), and ugali. Now, both of us were having tummy problems and had no appetite at all. We tried to get out of it, but we couldn't. When they placed the food in front of us, I just prayed extra hard. I don't think they noticed that I ate very little. Kelvin and I didn't end up eating supper as we were so turned off from our big lunch. 

We headed back home after a few hours there. Next time we will have to plan to stay a night and come prepared. Let me just say that it is an incredibly challenging environment for me. The water is dirty, there is no toilet but just a bush where you hide behind, there is no shop in sight, no electricity, not a lot of food in general, and so much more. I was so happy to get back on the motorcycle and head back home. 

Over the next few days we just hung around home and went into town to do some errands. I think I hit some big culture shock this time around. The first time I went to visit Mom, I was more of a guest and treated that way. However, now I am a part of the family and there are more expectations on my shoulders. It really overwhelmed me. Mom explained to Kelvin that she was proud of the effort I was putting in in trying to fit in. That left me in tears. 

This was a precious sight. This is Kelvin's real uncle. He is the only brother to Kelvin's dad from the same mother. Did you get that? Anyways, he has been taking care of our land while we have been away. He was so delighted to have Kelvin around. He was a very sweet man and had such a lovely wife. 

A little sunkissed after a long day. We took 6 different motorcycles that day. 

We got the chance to go see Kelvin's twin sisters who just joined high school. Usually you can only visit family on certain days but we were given some grace because we told them we had travelled all the way from Mombasa. We only got 5 minutes with these precious girls but it was better than nothing. 

Their names are Harriet and Joan. Do not ask me which one is which. They are completely identical. They do everything together. They laugh the same and talk the same and have the same mannerisms. They will even answer if you call them the wrong one. Kelvin has another set of twins in his family but luckily, they are a boy and a girl. 

A young boy in the village who picked our unripe avocados and chewed on them everywhere. The second after I took this picture, he burst into laughter. 

The environment is truly amazing. Everyday has the most incredible sunset and sunrise. 

Kelvin and his mama. He is definitely a mama's boy. 

We took 10 different motorcycles in 3 days because the places we went to were so far into villages that cars couldn't get there and it would take hours to walk. The two of us straddled the back as we zigzagged through the villages. 

We left Migori to meet up with one of my best friends from college, Marika! This was a complete culture shift as all of a sudden, everything Canadian came back to me. It was SO GOOD to be with a good friend and really reminisce about Canada. It was refreshing for me. I am not sure how Kelvin felt as he has never really seen me in my little Canadian world but he managed well. I am sure he had a bit of culture shock as well. 

We went with Marika and the two girls she came with to a boys rescue centre that they were volunteering at. We had a fun afternoon with 40 rambunctious former street boys. 

Dance session!

I know this picture looks gross but let me explain. Marika wanted to treat us to dinner to celebrate our engagement. We went to this super posh italian restaurant. I ordered this asparagus and parmesan risotto! It was amazing!  We all enjoyed the lavish food. Garlic butter, foccacia bread, balsamic vinegar and olive oil, pizza, fresh rosemary and mint, lattes, grilled vegetables, and so much more! I had forgotten that food could taste so good.

We all went dancing on Saturday and had a blast. It was so incredibly nourishing to relax and fall back into the Canadian Nikole (although I do have a lot of Kenyan tendencies that threw Marika and her friends off a lot.) I am so thankful for my time with my beautiful friend! 

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