“It takes a million people
To build up a good reputation.”
– Teach the World, Lucky Dube
Life in the village in southwestern Kenya last summer was calm and tranquil. Every day we looked forward to morning tea in our schools, when we would be served with super milky chai and mandazis (traditional doughnut-type dessert) or bread with butter. At lunchtime, we were again treated to a feast, but the menu never changed: ugali was ever-present, sometimes paired with local vegetables like sukuma wiki or managu. Salty scrambled eggs with burnt spring onions completed the meal. Sometimes chicken made an appearance, but we politely declined: we’d sworn an oath to be vegetarians, more for health than for ethical reasons.
From being vegetarian in the village, my project partners found it extremely extraordinary indeed, how we could tolerate so much eggs in our diet — we had it virtually every day, for brekkie, lunch, and dinner. Our stomachs and palettes adapted accordingly. Dinners at home were always something to look forward to. “What’s for dinner tonight?” was always a discussion we never got tired of between the three of us. We cooked together in that tiny kitchen, fortunately equipped with a proper gas tank and stove. We would have dinner in the living room, sometimes with the sound of heavy rain pounding on the roof, and a movie playing on our laptop. It was nice to eat something off our menu for a change.
But through their ugali and sweet teas, we have learned the true meaning of Kenyan generosity and hospitality. And this, I feel, is sufficient reason to return, be it in the near or far future.