Monday, July 13, 2009


These last couple of days have been fascinating. Mostly due to the conversations but also because I have been in a couple of really scary (for me) situation. Let me share...

Went to Rachel's last night and we had a gourmet meal...squash risotto, an avocado/mango/tomato salad, chicken, and an eggplant casserole, topped with great wines and an apple betty type dessert. Her apartment is gorgeous, kind of a yellow Moroccan structure and we were about 10 people.

My cab driver going over was a character and he allowed that he prayed I was not talking to Kenyan women. might ask? Because Kenyan men like their women to obey and men have to be in charge of the home. We American and British women teach bad things to Kenyan women!! So, I asked him if HE cooks and helps his wife clean and take care of the kids? He said not...that is why he got married. Now, this cab driver made it to Rachel's house in six minutes and he looked about 14 years old. We made a 20 minute trip in six and I opened her door and asked her to pour me a drink!!

The return trip was worse...the cab driver, who took off immediately after I entered the car, asked, "where?" I said, "to the Hilton." He had no clue what I was saying, did not speak English, and I finally called Rachel to ask her to call the cab company. I suggested to him, "National Archives," because we are right across the street from that but he said, "National Theatre?" I have NO clue where that is...and, of course, we are now yattering with the company in Kikuyo and he is trying to get directions, while I am talking with Rachel. Best thing I ever did was buy a telephone!!

Anyway, today, I went to the Nairobi Star, a new independent newspaper on the streets only two years. Very eager, hungry and interested to learn new methods, ideas etc. Very rewarding. Going back in a couple of days to their energy, their openness etc. The circulation guy, Patrick Ndende, took me to lunch and while talking, he explained that Kenyan men get married to have help in the home and to carry their babies. Dead serious.

At dinner, we had an eclectic group of Americans, Brits, and two Kenyan women: Ruth, a reporter for NMG and her sister, Anne Marie. What was super great was getting to know more about Kenyan families, their food (we discussed ugali, a maize type of polenta but with a totally different color, texture and flavor and which is a staple in Kenyan homes) and their work lives in a male dominated culture.

Another cultural difference, it is rude to ask a woman if she is married and to ask how many children she has. Children belong first to the home and so if a man has several wives, all of the children belong there. They aren't the product of a man and woman, rather the product of a home. And since health care is/was such a huge issue here...a woman could have had 10 children but only five are alive. Or had 16 pregnancies with 10 children. And of course, we Americans always ask after family, marital status and children.

And then, to top off the evening, my friend from Tegucigalpa, Brady Walkinshaw, came over to the Hilton for wine and laughs. We caught up. He is here working with the Gates Foundation on an agricultural project. And good news for him...he plans to run for political office. This young man is 25, sits on the Princeton University Board, worked in Honduras, for the World Bank and eventually will go to law school. Logan and Kenz met him in DC last year. Quite fun to meet a friend from another continent again..on the other side of the world.

I am pooped and off to bed. Am being picked up at 6 a.m. by a circulation guy...going to show him what I see happening on the streets. Buying goes on...selling of newspapers does not.


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