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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Country tunes and tortillas...

Surprise, surprise (or how some of you know me to say “suuuuprise!”). Here I was today sitting in my Kenyan family home doing some of my Swahili homework and probably annoying my Kenyan “brother”, Stephen, by asking for so much help when we transitioned our Swahili conversation on a completely new tangent. We had the radio playing in the background when all of a sudden I heard familiar lyrics….” I can be your hero, baby…” At the first few words of the song I began to laugh, first that this song was even playing, and secondly at the song in general. We then started talking about our favorite types of music. Stephen informed me that his favorite was 80’s music from America. He said that the new music that comes from the US is “too much ruckus.” I agreed with him. He then asked me what my favorite type of music was. I wasn’t sure if he would know what Country music was so I almost said something like Rock or Alternative but decided to take a swing at it. I told him that Country music was by far my favorite then followed up by asking if he had heard of it or wanted to? He just shook his head and said “Country music is too slow.” I figured he didn’t really know TRUE country music but then I was surprised to hear him timidly singing one of my favorite “deep south” country songs: “Country Roads…Take me home…too the place where I belong! West Virginia, Mountain Momma. Take me home, Country roads!” I wasn’t sure if I heard him correctly until he belted out the West Virginia part…sure enough, He knew EXACTLY what country music was! I’m learning that I can have absolutely no more preconceived thoughts on the people here in Kenya. They cease to surprise me on a day-to-day basis and I love them for that! I’m starting to wonder what their preconceived thoughts on me were/are.
I often find myself sitting at the dinner table where English is RARELY spoken and trying to listen in on their rapid-paced Swahili conversations, straining my ears to see if I can pick up a familiar word or phrase. More often than not I’m left in the dark. Recently, however I’ve been entertaining myself by imagining what they COULD be talking about knowing full well that their conversations probably don’t consist of what’s in my imagination. For example, the other evening I was craving tortillas and knew the only way I would be able to have them was if I made them myself! I have never had previous experience with making tortillas from scratch but figured there was a first time for everything. They turned out OK but didn’t look like Rio Grande’s by any means (oh how I miss that tasty food!). Instead of being perfect round circles, mine were more, lets say, “hole-y!” Some were round-ish, some were half round with some dough hanging off in an odd shape, some were going for a more square look…you get the picture, they looked crazy! At dinner I placed the plate of tortillas on the table and gave m little 5 second apology about the look of the tortillas…forgetting that if you had never seen tortillas before, you wouldn’t know how silly they looked (however they do have a food called “chapatti” which is similar to tortillas). Well after that, the Swahili conversations began! I’m sure they were talking about important things but since I had no idea, I imagined that they were probably all discussing what this strange Mzungu made:

Momma: “Oh my…we need to get this girl some cooking lessons, any takers?”

Stephen: “I think she was going for Chapatis, but completely missed the whole “round” part.”

Dad: “Don’t be so harsh on her, she spent 3 hours to make these little pieces of flour-like “things.””

Sami: “Just 3 hours, I felt like she was in there FOREVER!”

Alex: “Shh…Why is she laughing? Does she understand us?”

Momma: “No way, have you heard her practice her Swahili lately, she sounds like a two year old!”

Andrew: “But hey, as long as she brings Betty Crocker over to our house, She can talk like a two year old as long as she wants.”

Ok I must say that I know that this really isn’t what goes on around the dinner table but it entertains me while I sit there in silence….but then again who knows, my Swahili isn’t that great, maybe that really IS what they discuss?!? I hope that by the time my month here is done that I will be able to surprise them and join in their conversations…how fun that will be!


Ryan Joyce said...

Ha ha, you had me laughing at this post. Keep on cooking, learning the language and loving the culture! (And keep on posting, we all read the blog!)


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