Eating breakfast in our garden one morning shortly after our arrival to Nairobi, we saw an iridescent bird fluttering among the flowers. It sparkled brilliantly in the sun, dipping its long, curved beak into the open petals. Excited by the prospect of hummingbirds in our own backyard, S bought a hummingbird feeder. We glimpsed other birds too, so S bought birdseed and a squirrel-proof bird-feeder – an unnecessary precaution, as the only squirrels we’ve seen in Kenya are the slender ground squirrels one sometimes sees on safari. Determined to transform our garden into an avian Eden, S even contemplated getting a birdbath, but other projects soon claimed her time and the idea fell by the wayside.
With November 6 just a few days away, not talking about the elections would be akin to ignoring the giant elephant in the room (and the donkey too – we don’t want to appear partisan). Living 7-8 hours ahead of the U.S. news cycle and without a television set, we’ve been spared the barrage of electioneering advertisements, though we’ve been following the news online and have caught the campaign’s more salient soundbytes. As election day nears, it seems that the outcome is all anyone can talk about, so it was refreshing to meet some people who were oblivious to the election’s minutiae – at a recent trivia night, our team’s name, Mitt’s Binders Full Of Women, elicited puzzled looks from our British hosts.
Youths in Kenya are defined as anyone 35 years-old and under, so leaving one’s twenties behind doesn’t seem nearly as depressing here as it might elsewhere. To the best of our knowledge, there are no special birthday traditions in Kenya, other than the ones attached to the coming-of-age rites of some of the tribes. In fact, since many Kenyans don’t have birth certificates, they celebrate their birthdays on January 1st or not at all. We’ve even heard that it is impolite to wish the country’s older, venerated political leaders a happy birthday.
Bargaining is somewhat of an innate ability for S, likely inherited from her grandmother who, rumor has it, would even try to bargain with the cashiers at Macy’s. Like her grandmother, S has no qualms about bargaining from a weak position. For example, when we arrived in Zanzibar late in the evening, D went over to the taxi stand to negotiate our fare in Swahili. After the driver agreed to drop his “listed” fare, S coolly informed him that he had not dropped it enough and that he had to lower it further before she would agree to go with him. One could imagine the driver replying just as coolly, “Fine, suit yourself – spend the night at the airport,” but he did not and we got a better deal.