They say that home is where the heart is but my heart is in many places. I guess this means that my home is where I reside among the hospitable. I have now been adopted by two Kenyan families. Meet my lovely Luo family as you accompany me into life in the Kenyan village of Manuanda.
Sad to leave Uganda amidst violent riots, I took heart by anticipating what the final leg of my trip would bring. During my last trip to East Africa I spent the largest portion of my time in Kenya so I have friends and organizations there that I've long hoped to revisit. It was a wonderful feeling to get off the bus in Kisumu and to know that the rest of the trip I would be with Kenyan friends. Moses Adero Ndisi along with his brother and cousin picked me up from the station and we set out for their hometown village. I met Moses at the World Social Forum in Nairobi, in February of 2007. Discovering that we had a lot in common, we became fast friends. During my final stint in Nairobi, Moses took me around town showing me the city's best cultural spots. Lacking time to visit his hometown village on my first trip, we planned to do so "next time" and our chance had finally arrived.
Manuanda lies amidst a rural area several kilometers from the lovely Lake Victoria. Although Moses has lived in Nairobi since his university days, he has maintained relationships in his hometown community and endeavored to make it a better place. I could see the respect and appreciation that the community had for him as well as the pressure that it must place him under to have so many requests for his assistance. It made me feel selfish to see a young man my age who is doing so much to care for more than his own concerns by reaching out to assist his family and community.
As they gave me a tour of their family property, traditional East African life began to make more sense. The family homes included those of each of their children as well as their deceased grandfather and uncles. Acquiring property to hand down to your family is the way life is sustained. Moses explained to me how he will one day build a house there and then live there when he retires. This is a retirement plan in Kenya. Live with family and sustain life together.
One of the homes on the property has been converted into a small nursery school for children who are between the ages of 3-6. They sang for me the next day and it was absolutely adorable. I learned that although the childrens' families cannot pay for the schooling, Moses' family continues to run the school as a contribution to the community. The teachers are widows who need support and would love to see the children have proper desks, chairs, and lunches but they do their best with what they have.
Moses' grandfather built a church on the family property and it has served as the community's place of worship ever since. He also used to travel around the region preaching and serving people in a way that has earned his name a respected and appreciated legacy. In what has become typical fashion for me while traveling, the pastor of the church asked me to preach a few minutes before the service began. After sharing with them about the faith in Christ to meet needs that caused four men to dig through a roof to bring a lame man to Jesus for healing, the pastor shared with me that the people were touched. It was a delightful experience to share that time of worship with them.
Living so near the lake changed the typical cuisine by inserting fish as the primary staple. Walking along the lake that morning, we watched people mending their nets, coming and going in their boats, and working together to pull their nets full of fish to the shore. The tilapia, also known as Nile Perch, made for delicious meals alongside ugali and greens. Ugali is made from corn and is similar to but much denser than our cornbread in the West. One of my favorite things about local life was tea time. Drinking the most delicious tea along with mandazi or local bread and butter was a highlight of each day for me. They mix the tea leaves in with a mixture of milk and water and heat them all up at the same time. The results made for wonderful tea every time.
African hospitality has a way of making you feel like family. I enjoyed sharing this two days of life in a Kenyan village with Moses and my Luo family.