nicole rademacher

Sunday, August 25, 2013

In stereo

I need to skip ahead to Saturday evening and go back to the neighborhood walk later. Jane, the kids' mother, called to say that she would be late. And because she had promised me a traditional Kikuyu dish, the girls - Damaris, their daughter, and Esther, the house help - would have to make it instead. She sent them the directions via SMS.

The three of us chatted while we prepared lunch together, which was when I found out that Esther was only one year older than Damaris, and also that Esther had only been working for them for the last nine months. Since Damaris had been away at boarding school, the girls must have only just met a month or so ago, when Damaris had returned. During lunch it was obvious that they were friendly - despite being from different ethnic tribes and, of course, the class difference. While we - and I really mean the two of them - made dinner it was abundantly clear that the two were actually quite close. There were giggles and shared knowing looks. 'Thick as thieves' one might say from watching them cook.

Damaris dictated the steps to Esther from the text message. Previously Esther had pealed and cut plantains, but it turned out that they weren't needed. Instead they were put in water and then placed in the fridge. The recipe only called for yams, squash, and kidney beans. The yams and squash were boiled together.

Today was the third day without running water, and since this morning we were out of drinking water. Jane had promised to pick some up on her way home. But because Damaris, Kirioki, and I had had our adventure in the neighborhood today, we were all parched. Kirioki decided to suck on ice cubes, but when he pulled the tray from the freezer it was covered in frost. He got out a knife and started to pick away at it. At the same time Esther started cutting up cabbage in her hand. There was that rhythm again: schka schka schka, schka schka schka... but this time it was in stereo.

I looked up from watching Esther's chopping and saw Damaris and Kirioki on either side of the fridge. Both sitting on the floor with their knees pulled in. Damaris and Esther continue to talk and laugh in Swahili. Kirioki munches on his ice, as all three of us wait for the woman of the house to return to quench our thirst.

Nicole Rademacher was in Kenya during the first part of 2012 doing research and documentation for her current project investigating domestic ritual (made possible by the North Carolina Arts Council, USA and many private donars/patrons).

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