November 6, 2011

We sit around the table

There's not much I can think of that northern Kenya and Palm Beach, Florida have in common.  Not much at all.  One has strip malls and tanning parlors; the other has famine and inter-ethnic conflict.  Yet both share the title for the heaviest rains I've ever seen.  Like being inside a waterfall, someone said today.  Back there I used to have to pull over to the side of the road because I couldn't see more than an inch in front of the car, even with the windshield wipers on high.  Here, the roads become muddy swamps- impassible.  Transit foiled by weather all over the world.  We're not so different after all.  

And there's not much to do inside when it rains here.  I read, I work, I putz around on the computer.  Or we sit around the table in our farm-house style kitchen and share stories.

A coworker came over to take tea with us last week and shared a bunch of stories about growing up and going to school.  His family is Samburu, nomadic pastoralists commonly known to the western world through National Geographic style pictures featuring traditional beadwork.   Unlike most people of his tribe, he went to a missionary school and later to college in Nairobi.  He described coming home for Spring or Winter Break and having to search for his nomadic family, sometimes unable to even find them before classes resumed.  Another time, having located his family, he was put in charge of watching the cattle when a massive storm hit.  He went to find a cave to take shelter in, only to come face to face with a leopard.  So he threw a rock at the leopard and then lay down and went to sleep.  I wonder what someone from Palm Beach would have done.

Yesterday was Saturday, but we still did some work with a focus-group in town.  Most of our focus groups are held outdoors- sitting on rocks and basins under some scraps of tree shade.  But with the bleak weather, we held this one inside a participant's house.

Three feet.

It's the second one we've had in a home, and I love to see where people live.  Here, every surface covered in pattern.  The floor, the walls, the ceiling, the tables... a complete visual stimulation.  After the group concluded and dissolved, the hostess turned the television on to MTV and served us purple Fantas that tasted like liquid lollipops.  The generosity of people here is deep and genuine.

Out of frame: bright blue Ray-Ban style sunglasses resting above the TV display.  

On our way home, we stopped by the house of a coworker to say hello to the orphans she raises.  Her home sparkles with gold and tinsel and oozes joy.

All that glitters.

Leading me to realize that tinsel is exactly the trimming most missing in my own home.  

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