Sunday, May 6, 2012

Keeping busy in Nairobi

This post will be a sort of 'round up' of what's been happening with me in Nairobi over the past couple of weeks.

A Wedding

On Friday 20th April we celebrated the marriage of two gorgeous people, Kristen (another VSO volunteer) and Jack. After a small civil ceremony at the Attorney General's office the couple invited close friends and family to a dinner and celebration that mixed Kenyan and American traditions.

Kristen receiving lots of household
items as presents from Jack's aunts

Receiving a beautiful cooking pot

The happy couple kick off the dancing

Veronica gives a speech on behalf of the VSO volunteers

By Kenya standards it was a small affair (with about 100 guests as opposed to 400 - 600+) but it had all the elements of a good Kenyan celebration. There was food, there was music, there was dancing! Lots of dancing. Luhyas (which is the tribe Jack comes from) are known for their love of music, and of dancing in particular and the entertainment for the night was provided by an amazing group of drummers. All the mzungus gave the Luhya dancing a go (which mainly involves shaking one's hips and shoulders) and I'm sure we provided much amusement to the Luhya guests!

Mzungus attempted Luhya dancing

Trying to shake my shoulders

Giving it socks

Once the drummers were finished a DJ took over and the music became more of Kristen's taste, ie cheesy 90s dance tunes. When 'What is Love?' by Haddaway came on I rushed to the dancefloor and I was unable to leave it for the night.
This is when the 90s dance tunes started.
(Photo courtesy of Kristen)

VSOs - they scrub up well!
(Photo courtesy of Kristen)

An Opera

The day after the wedding Laura B and I decided to have an afternoon of culture by heading to a matinee performance of an Opera being put on in Braeburn school theatre. The Opera was a thoroughly Kenyan tale. It was written over 30 years ago by an Englishman who was teaching in Limuru Girls School in the 1970s and 1980s. The Opera was performed in the girls school at the time and then lost. Many years later past pupils from the school (including one woman who is a now a famous Opera singer in Norway) organised to have the opera performed again.

The opera told the story of Ondieki, a fisherman on the lakes of Lake Victoria. It was a tragic tale of a man who was lazy, who beat his wife and who eventually ends up drowning. Not very light stuff for a Saturday afternoon! But the singing was brilliant, the costumes were so vibrant and colourful and for an opera the production team captured the African vibes within an opera setting perfectly.

The full (massive) cast of Ondieki the Fisherman

Some of the main actors from Ondieki

An Arrival

On May Day I went to the airport and welcomed my friend - and distant cousin - Amy to Nairobi. Continuing the Wickham tradition of making silly signs* and embarrassing family members in airports and other places I made the sign below to welcome her to Kenya.

Amy is going to be in Nairobi for the next 3 months as she will be interning with the United Nations Environment Programme, which has it's global headquarters in Nairobi, in the same complex that I work in. So I've had lots of fun showing her around Nairobi, bringing her to and from work via many, many matatus, bringing her to my local market. Amy has been to Kenya many time before but she hasn't spent too much time in Nairobi. By the time she's done 3 months of commuting she'll be a pro though! I'm hoping to convince her to write a guest blog or two so hopefully she will be sharing with you guys some of her impressions over the coming months!

*When I arrived home from Calcutta in 2006 twelve members of my family and friends greeted me with signs saying 'Welcome Home Sr Andrea'. The joke being that I had become a nun after spending so long in Calcutta, the city Mother Theresa and her homes for the dying and destitute.

To this day there is a sign on my brother's door that says 'Seomra Fuinneog' and 'Failte Ar Ais Fuinneog'.  One summer in the Gaeltacht Colin had been given the nickname fuinneog (the Irish word for window) as his bed in the room was next to the window and it was his job to open and close it. Mum and Dad took much pleasure in making lots of clipart posters with pictures of windows on them.

However my favourite embarrassing signage story comes from my Gaeltacht trip back in 2000. When my parents came to visit me on one of the weekends I told them how the highlight of the week has been the 'Lá Mór Cumann' which for the non-Irish speakers among you However, my parents completely misheard me (and never bothered to clarify) and thought I had said the lawnmower coming. They thought the highlight of my week had been a lawnmower. Even after having it clarified in a letter I sent them the following week, when they arrived to pick me up on the last day they had covered the car in pictures of lawnmowers. There were pictures of lawnmowers from the Argos catalogue, pictures of ClipArt lawnmowers, handdrawn lawnmowers, and signs saying 'Caution! Lawnmower coming'. As a 14 year old this was possibly the most embarrassing thing they could have ever done but now 12 years later I'm over it. Just about.

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