Where do I begin?
I’ve been here for only two days and already a combination of culture shock, diet, climate, altitude and whatever else has hit me hard.
Time moves slow here. My host Laban Rotich was a 3:47 miler in his day, and he’s been taking me around, showing me the sites. It has to be one of the oddest experiences of my life. The tours consist of him showing me his properties, his farms, his buildings, his schools. Laban is a wealthy man here, and he knows a lot of people. So inevitably, wherever we go, many people we see come to say hello. When I say ‘many’ I basically mean every single person. Part of it is because Laban is well known, the other reason is because I’m white- a Mzungu. Elders in villages around here tell little children that if they touch Mzungus then their skin will turn white too, and that’s seen as a good thing. So I’ve learned now that any time I leave the house with Laban I’ll be gone the whole day. Half the time I don’t know where we’re going, or why, and I can’t understand anything Laban and his friends talk about, so, on a day like today I probably spent four or five hours standing quietly listening to what I think is Kiswhahili.
Today we went to a water fall nearby that has been dubbed a cultural spot of sorts. There is usually traditional singing and dancing with people dressed up in traditional dress wear. Today there was a miscommunication so the traditional dancers weren’t there, but a group of women sang some traditional songs for the audience.
This being one of the oddest experiences of my life hit home at the cultural spot we visited today. The line between who was being put on ‘display’ was very blurred. When I was checking out the waterfall and exploring the different footpaths, the other people at the site followed me around the entire time. Again everyone had to say hello to the Mzungu. Then I was ushered into a small building, with an even smaller room. Laban, his friend and I sat down with the chief, the director of the place, and some important women. We talked for a bit, the chief asked me about Canada and Ottawa, because he had taken some classes there, then food was served. I was sick this morning so I didn’t have the stomach to eat, but I was getting the feeling that it would be bad not to accept something, so the director got me a coke. After everyone finished eating, we went and sat under some tents in white plastic chairs to watch and listen to some women singing traditional songs. The youngest seemed to be a bit bored and were yawning through the songs, but the older ladies were really belting out the tunes, and shimmying left and right. Unexpectedly the assistant chief pulled me up to clap and dance (I hope they weren’t expecting me to sing) along with the traditional singers. The crowd took a lot of pictures. I felt awkward as hell but I smiled and clapped. Eventually I was allowed to sit down again. Then the chief picked up a mic and proceeded to give a speech and introduce people of important in the crowd and asked them to say a few words to the crowd. Out of the blue I was asked to say something. Increasingly I’ve been treated as a delegate, almost like I’m on display.
I ate something last night that didn’t agree with me, all night I was tossing and turning, and I could hear mosquitos near my ears which bothered me more than anything, so I didn’t get any sleep. When I woke up for the classic Kenyan 6am run, I was sweating and dizzy. Before getting all my clothes on I stumbled out the front door just in time to be sick outside. After getting it out of my system I felt fine, and finished dressing to go for my run. It was tough. Even though it was an easy run, the altitude is no joke. But I’m going to give myself some slack for being sick and not getting any sleep. I’m feeling a lot better now, so I’m looking forward to getting into a rhythm. It rained today, so running early tomorrow morning is kind of out of the question. I’ll have to wait for the sun to come out and dry the clay roads.
Having the feeling of being overwhelmingly unprepared was spot on.