nicole rademacher

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Guests and Gifts

The homestead gate opens. A man holding a small boy's hand walks through. The man has the little boy's colorful backpack in his other hand. He greets Anne with a big handshake. She laughs and her boys come running in to greet their cousin. We walk over to Eve's house. The man is Eve's brother-in-law, Mom's son. He, Simon, lives in the city and has come for a visit. Simon reaches into the colorful backpack and hands small bags of peanuts to Paul and Daniel, a lollipop to Eve, and a hard candy to me.  By the looks of it, this piece of candy has been in that boy's backpack for a very long time. As everyone else unwraps theirs sweets to chomp down, I follow suit.

After Eve and Simon have had a short conversation in Kikuyu, he asks me in English, "You don't speak Swahili?" There is a small exchange about my inability to speak Swahili, though feeling inadequate I do mention that I speak other languages. Though, eventually I say, "Kidogo" (a little). Hoping that will suffice.

"100 bob?" He asks matter-of-factly.

I am confused and think that maybe I didn't understand him correctly. He repeats himself.

"No," I respond just as matter-of-factly.

"50 bob?"


"You don't have?" he asks.

"No. What I have is for Anne and your mother." Despite my initial apprehension of actually paying my participants, I learned very soon after my arrival that guests are expected to arrive with gifts. Traveling with pounds of flour and sugar are heavy. So, following advice of Kenyans, I decided to not only bring sweets on arrival but also give money to my participants (and new Kenyan families) upon my departure as a gesture of appreciation.

"How much?" he questions.

"That is between me and them," I tell him.

"10 bob?" He requests.

I shake my head at him.

"You don't have?" He asks in utter disbelief. "I want to smoke"

I look at him blankly.

"I want to smoke." He repeats.


"I want to smoke. 10 bob."


I say good-bye and pass Mom as she enters Eve's land.