Village life the Kenyan way
- July 16, 2016
- Milica Radović
In Kenya, we can identify three ways of life: urban, tribal and rural. I spent a couple of days in Nairobi and I had a terrible time. Everything is barred: pharmacies, stores, kiosks, newstands… At the entrance of each building there is a security guy who searches your bag and checks you with a hand-held metal detector. This says everything about how secure Nairobi and probably all major cities are. I could not wait to get out of there.
Overall, Nairobi is not so secure, especially if you are a white woman walking around on your own. Everyone is shouting at you and everyone wants to tell you something. They approached me and asked me two things in general: women wanted me to find them a job in my country and men asked me to marry them. Every Kenyan dreams of marrying a white woman. Women’s position in society is such that they do not have any authority. If a man wants to have a sexual intercourse with you, he will have it, even if he has to do it by force. They justify this by calling girls promiscuous. The most horrible thing is that no one held accountable. I had a chance to see pregnant 13-year-old school girls. It is a common sight in Kenya. I have heard that it is very common for professors to sleep with the teenage girls.
Kenya is one of the former British colonies. The British came in 1920 and left in 1964 when Kenya declared independence. The British sped up the urbanization process, but also left a lasting impact. One of these consequences is that the locals see white people as a potential for them to make some money. Such a misconception is a result of foremr colonists’ superior attitude. White people are considered an urban legend. They call us Mzungu – meaning a white man. Funny thing was when a neighbor asked if I dye my hair. When I responeded “no” she was in schock. She thought all white people have white hair and that black people have black hair. Not only do they not know anything about white people but they think less of themselves because of it. They think that white people do not want to shake hands with them because they consider them dirty because of their black skin.
Right now I’m in the countryside, in the heart of Africa. Security is on a much higher level than in the cities. Everyone is kind, open and most of them are curious because they had never seen a white person in their life. Locals in the countryside see as aliens, some imaginary creatures living in paradise far from Africa. They believ that all white people are fit, that there are no fat people and there is no crime where we live.
They mostly live in mud houses which do not have windows. If they do have a window, it is usually very tiny. In the pictures bellow you can see a typical house and its interior:
The villages are very similar to any other European village,the only difference is that they grow papaya, mango and banana in their yards while in Serbia pears, apples and plums are grown in the backyard. When I told them that Serbs drink goat milk they were surprised. They keep goats for meat only.
They also keep cows, chickens, sheep and donkeys. Crops are really important there since they feed their families with them. Most often they grow beans and corn. This year there was no rain so their crops failed and they do not know how they will survive the whole year. Some families have up to fifteen children so it is understandable that sometimes they remain without food for days.
AIDS is the biggest problem. Many people die from this disease. During sexual intercourse they do not use protection and often change partners, or have several at the same time.
Polygamy is one of their customs. Men are considered more powerful if they have more women. If they have more than ten children, they are proud of themselves, their ego is big because they think they did the job properly.Women are ok with this because they think that the more children they have, it is more likely that one of them will be successful and pulled out of poverty. When I explained to them the the philosophy is much different in Europe that we, on average, have two children and we believe that it is better to provide good conditions and education for two children wather than have fifteen children and not be able to provide everything for them. They asked me what we do if one child dies since we are left with one child less then. That’s their logic- if one of my kids die, I have another one. What’s wrong with that.
There are some who are conscious and educated, but there are a few of them. The woman I am hanging out with has two of her own and two adopted childre. They have developed a sense of connection with their community and their village that they are unable to leave an orphan abandoned. Although they do not have enough for themselves,they will adopt more children in orderto provide them better conditions. Take a look at my friend Millicent and her children. You will recognize which two of them were adopted.
One day for lunch we only had salted rice. The other day just baked corn or beans. Sometimes I eat with them out of respect but sometimes I am really not able to. The other day they had cooked corn flour for lunch. When I saw her cook and all the flies landing on food. I really could not eat. Their kitchens have furnaces on the ground serving as a stove.
Water is obtained from the rain. Most of them have a tank that collects water when it rains. They drink this water and use it for cooking. Those who do not have this tank must go to the lake to bring water on their heads. In this lake are bathing, doing laundry and dishes. They use the same water for drinking and cooking.
Yesterday when I went to the lake, there was a woman taking a bath in it. She asked me to join her but I did not because I saw a small alligator’s head emerging from the water. In these lake there are two-meter long lizards, alligators and other dangerous animals. I have no idea how these people are not afraid.
Children and women are the ones who perform physical tasks. They carry buckets of water and other things on their heads. Men do not do that. They are privileged. Everywhere I turn I see mothers carrying buckets of water on the tops of their heads, holding their kids in each hand, walking in hurry while the man is walking beside them like a gentleman.
Electric grid is developed only in the cities. In the villages they do not have electricity and they use solar power. I any store you can charge your phone and pay half EUR for that service.
They have one market day when they all go out of the house. Markets are very dirty. You can see that in the pictures below. Next to the fruit and vegetables they are selling second-hand things. This is good for recycling.
The funniest thing to me is their religion, which is torn. Until the Britishcame, Kenyans lived in the countryside, and their religion was Nature. They believed in the mountains, trees, lightning, clouds, rain, grass and crops. With the arrival of the British, locals took up Christianity. However, this is not Christianity as we know it, this is a modified version. Their churches are ordinary houses, sometimes even tents. Their priests are not educated, they are ordinary people. They have no uniforms, no frescoes, no ceremonies. They only have a church that is made of walls and a man inside who organizes these gatherings. That’s it. Several educated Kenyans told me that they feel torn between the tribal religion dedicated to nature and Christianity that was imposed on them.
A catholic church
On one occasion, I found myself in the company high-school teachers. We were talking about religion. I said that I do not believe in Christianity or any other form of religion that the humanity imposed on us. I only believe that we should do good to one another, the only religion that will keep us alive. Then they asked me who I talked to when I had a problem if not to God. I told them I do not turn to anyone, I sit down and solve the problem. They were surpised because they they are used to praying when they have a problem, .
In Kenya, everyone shakes hands. But I’ve had enough of it. Because it is simply not hygienic to shake with everyone from professors to the child who picked his nose a minute ago. And there is no water in abundance so I am not able to wash my hands every minute. When there is no spoon, we eat with our hands so I cannot eat with dirty hands. You simply cannot avoid shaking hands with people you know and do not know. And it is getting so annoying to do the more time I spend here. Everyone is yelling in the street Mzungu, Mzungu, look at me, how are you … What helps me a lot is that English is their official language. Otherwise I would have a problem understanding 42 tribal languages in Kenya.