There were shoes around my door again this morning. I dare you to find mine. Like my skin, they are the palest of the bunch. I never leave my shoes outside my door, but today, as I entered after greeting the students upon their arrival, I joined the Kenyan custom. When in Rome . . .
Why the shoes? I invited my graduate students to my home on Malawi Close for class this morning. Each student presented an original directing idea for a final project, and then I made everyone breakfast. I love a good get together around a meal, and I wanted to reciprocate for being taken to the nyama choma for lunch.
I served Queen cakes, watermelon, bananas and grapes, and I made cheese omelettes to order with green peppers and onions. The guys in the class have fun together, and the Kenyan camaraderie is loud and laughter filled. In class they are quiet. When they eat, they are loud and have fun. Although they speak in Kiswahili when I am not in the room, like when I was in the kitchen cooking, I can slightly follow most stories until they erupt in loud laughter. What was the exotic favorite again? GRAPES.
Entertaining in my campus house in Kenya on my dead end street on the edge of campus without a car provides a multitude of challenges. I walk to the Kenyatta University Conference Center, where I have made friends, and borrow plates and silverware and cups and saucers. I only have 2 of most things in my house. I did not have enough sugar for tea, so this morning I got up early to walk to the tuck shop in the dorm nearby to buy sugar. I failed making tea, and had to mop up milk that boiled over wildly when I planned poorly and tried to use my electric kettle. The city water at the kitchen sink ran dry today, so in order to do the dishes I had to go outside and get water from the tank on the roof and do all the dishes in buckets so they could be returned. Everything takes a little more time and effort, and you know what? It is O.K.
My Fulbright experience has shifted. I feel it. I am no longer focused only on newness, on differences, alone with my thoughts in new sights and sounds. I am no longer a newcomer. I have been here long enough that my experiences are now focused on my time with people. It took time.
And time in Kenya is mine to fill.