It’s been such a fun few days in Kitale town. There’s nothing like coming home. Things that used to catch my attention, now are common. For example, dress, or foods, or sleeping accommodations no longer surprise or confuse me. Instead, I can easily focus on things that matter, like people. When we arrived, I quickly climbed the uneven steps up to the second story where the hotel desk clerk sits at her desk. Thrilled to see that my friend who told me once how smart I looked in my Congolese blue shirt was on duty, I greeted her excitedly, “Habari, yako!” Hesitantly, I told her that I knew she saw many wzungus (white people) come through this hotel, so she probably didn’t recognize me from our former visits. She didn’t hesitate for a moment. Instead, she confidently said, “But, Madame, I know you very well, and you are looking smart even today. Well, maybe not so smart, but even smart still.” Then, another worker here greeted me to say that she will never forget me even if I grow very, very old indeed! I think these are compliments. At least I’m hopeful! Of course, the elderly watch repairman looks up from his small station outside the hotel and grins with delight saying, “Madame, you have come back. Remember when I was talking with you before?” Of course, I do and I will never forget him, even if he grows very, very old, too!
As for my days, I’ve been to Dorcas Hands, visiting with the women who are learning tailoring, gone out to Bikeke Village to visit the school, spent time with men and women who I’ve come to know and love as church planting trainers in this region, and met a whole new group of church planters from Uganda. It’s been a very busy week. But, the highlight of my time here has been the continuation of my training in the Kenyan kitchen. As many of you know, cooking is not my forte or even how I would typically enjoy spending my time. However, in Africa cooking is not optional. Every meal is a process…a long one. I’ve learned that most meals start with a few small tomatoes and some smaller still red onions. Our trainings here are held at the home of Elizabeth and Dawson. Undaunted by numbers, Elizabeth will feed whoever happens to be in her house at the time. This week we have been feeding around 30. I’m always assured not to worry that the cooking will go quickly, which brings up the issue of time. I know the morning, if not the morning and into the afternoon will be spent inside/outside with a small .5 pound of meats, some small vegetables, rice from the large bag and, of course, mixing ugali (a corn meal mush).
Inside Liz, Margaret and I giggle and laugh talking easily about children, finances, marriage, husbands. We’ve met before many times and the mornings fly by as ours is a relationship of trust and honesty, a richness and closeness we are not able to share with others we are working with and ministering to. I’m grateful and very content that these young women feel this way. Their lives are challenging and difficult as they work side by side with their husbands to help the poor in this community. As for the cooking, they are very comfortable and welcome me to work alongside, no longer a visitor, but a friend. They’ve learned that I need instruction, so they give it without hesitation any longer. So, I wash and slice and cut and am amazed at how little is needed to prepare a huge meal with so little…equipment or foods.
Outside a large tin cooking pot has been prepared with water and placed on the rock fire pit to boil. I know from the past that the ugali cooked there must be done by someone far more experienced than myself. With baby in tow, the house girl Mama Samantha pours the maize meal into the water and stirs it easily and quickly as it becomes a thicker and thicker paste. It’s the last thing to be done before serving the crowd.
By now I know exactly where the plastic bowls for serving are and gather them along with tin spoons. One by one each one is filled with one or two tiny pieces of beef, a spoonful of cabbage, and a portion of white rice. The ugali is cut into large wedges which everyone will pick up from the green plastic tray. The soup, a mixture of fried down tomatoes, onions and occasionally a green pepper are mixed mixed with a seasoning mixture of Ryko and a pot full of water. Then it’s placed in a small tureen for guests to pour over their meal.
And, so lunch is served one more day. I’m told not to worry about dinner. They will have beans and white rice. This meal will go quite quickly…only taking about an hour or two! It’s been a great day, simple, not hurried, not stressed, sharing friendships, sharing a meal, all done in stride. Enjoying each moment, thankful for a day to be together, enough food for all, peace and visions shared, contentment felt. Home.