Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Jamhuri Day

Yesterday was Jamhuri Day which celebrates Kenyan independence from the British in 1963.  My housemate Barbara's boss, Josephine, invited all of us over to have lunch with her family.  Josephine and her family live in Kangemi, the slum which surrounds my neighbourhood on three sides.  She is a local leader in the community and her husband's family has been there for generations.

Nancy, another of Barbara's colleagues, stirs the rabbit.
We arrived around 1pm as the cooking was underway and were greeted with bottles of soda (and realised I could count on one hand the number of sodas I've had since I arrived in Kenya). Much had been prepared in advance, but I went outside to see if I could help (I was not surprised to be told no) and watch Josephine and her friend Nancy finish preparing the salad and the rabbit (yes, rabbit).  I learned through this that there are two types of lemons in Kenya - green (which I often see) and yellow(ish).  The green are better for cooking with and yellow better to use fresh.  Who knew? Lemonade anyone??
Barbara and Josephine

Lunch was soon ready which included typical Kenyan dishes of chapati, irio (mashed potatoes, peas and corn), rice, chicken and vegetables.  There was also rabbit on offer (the first time I've seen it in Kenya).  Lunch was great and we all had seconds.  The TV was on in the background during lunch and we caught snippets of the national celebration taking place at a stadium in Nairobi which included dancing, some rather interesting dramatic interpretations of Olympic running and a speech by President Kibaki which I couldn't tell if it was in English or Kiswahili.


Following lunch Josephine took us on a tour of her house and grounds, which ended up a tour of her local area and tea (and a reggae boogie) at a niece's house.  We saw a row of shacks which her family lets out to other families, a small cemetery in the garden where her in-laws are buried, and a lot of children (who thought it was funny that 3 wazungu were walking down their road).  Just a note that it's actually not usually ok to photograph people you don't know in Kenya, whether children or adults. There is a myth that Westerners are making money off the photographs being taken and therefore one can cause considerable insult or get into a sticky situation taking photographs at the wrong place or time.  As Josephine knew all the people on our tour, she gave us specific permission to take pictures - which I am happy to share with you.

This is a row of 4 separate family houses.
We felt a little like the Pied Piperettes. 

Josephine's nephew shows us what to do with corn.
Kangemi borders our neighbourhood.  You can see and hear it from our front porch.  I go there once a week to buy my fruit and veg.  But after spending 5 hours there yesterday I was left confused by the gap between the wealthy and the very poor in Nairobi.  10 minute bus ride away and I can be at a shopping centre, cocktail bar, or restaurant that rivals any in London.  There are many middle-class children who live on my street who are daily out ide playing with their bikes and toys, yet less than a 10 minute walk away are children with no shoes who literally play with small bags of rubbish - empty wrappers or cans.  I wonder about the kids on my street and what their perception of the kids in Kangemi is.  As they grow up, how are the kids on my street coming to understand the world and the city they live in?  I find it difficult to get my head around.

We came back from our wander and had a final glass of wine and brownie (both our gifts to our hosts) and made our way out into the yard for a group photo (which ended up as 20 group photos to ensure we had the possible group combinations!)  We were also very kindly invited to Josephine's son's wedding in February which we are already looking forward too!

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