Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Lost In Translation

Yes, life can be serious, but today I'm taking a lighter approach and sharing with you some of our "lost in translation" moments...

    While walking in our village the first few days everyone kept saying "Fine" or "I am fine" when we would pass by.. but wait... I didn't even say anything... At the most all I said was "hello"

Apparently, the Swahili and Luo greeting for "Hello" also means "How are you?" So, if you say hi to someone expect to hear how they're doing.

     While visiting the local clinic for the first time with Ezekiel all the women kept staring at him. Yes, he's very fat and VERY white, but he has one thing that is very different from their babies... a pacifier. They don't use them and most of them have never seen one. So, why on earth do I have a piece of blue-green plastic shoved in my baby's mouth???? One of the women eventually came up to me rather angrily and said "Why do you not give him your breast?!?" I tried to explain that he is breastfed, but just likes to suck on it... they didn't seem to care and still thought I was a crazy "mzungu" (foreigner). 

     Our first morning in Nairobi was a breezy 70 degree day. There we were at the local bus station with our 2 hiking backpacks, 2 LARGE rolling suitcases, 2 small backpacks, and a baby in the ergobaby with our pathetic white chicken legs hanging out in shorts. We felt great! We were finally in Kenya and the weather was amazing! I noticed something though. Lots of strange looks... stink-eye actually. They were directed at me and at Ezekiel. Was his shirt on backwards? Was his arm bent strange in the carrier? This is Nairobi, they've seen white people before, but then I noticed it. Everyone... and I mean EVERYONE was wearing coats. No, not a sweater or a jacket. I'm talking fur lined, hooded, puffy coats! All the women kept staring at me with my child in just a onesie his poor chubby legs exposed to the frigid air! They kept telling me he was cold and I would just politely smile "He's OK". 

Finally, an elderly lady probably in 70+ came up to me. She grabbed Ezekiel's legs, told me he was cold, and needed to be covered. I pulled out a little muslin blanket and put it loosely around him to appease her. Not good enough! As about 5 other women watched she took the blanket and completely wrapped it and tied it around Ezekiel and me. She made sure his little feet were tucked in and bald little head too! Then without a word, she walked off. It was really sweet, but defininetly one of those funny awkward moments in another culture. Later we noticed that all the babies (including newborns) wear sweaters, pants, socks, tennis shoes, and are wrapped in multiple blankets. Wouldn't want to catch a cold :) 

    During a meeting with the main manager of Dominion (he's a local Kenyan, Chris) he told us all a story about how poor he was as a child. He told us how far he used to walk and that he never owned shoes. Then he told us the story of the day his Dad bought him his first pair of "panties". He would just walk around the village with his head held high in his panties. He was so proud to finally have his own! I think he said they were pink... He didn't even care if they had a pocket. Wait, what???

OH, PANTS. He meant to say he got his first pair of pants. He couldn't understand why we were all laughing so hard. 

     In Kenya, women are not allowed to whistle. I asked Elias' Kenyan friend, Kennedy, why not. He said "Because women will not do it properly". One of our friend's Florence explained that if a woman whistles at night it is believed that she will be cursed and can never have children. So, now we know why Kristen got such dirty looks when she whistled for the kids to come inside :)

     Final story... I can't remember the total dialogue but it was something like this...

"Florence, be careful of that one. She is dangerous." -Security guard to Florence the office secretary. 
"Who?" -Florence
"That one"- the guard pointing to Esther (one of our team members)
"Why is she dangerous?" -Florence
"Those people are very good fighters. Watch her in the mornings. She does her warming up." -Guard
"Watch when she stands... she's warming up" -Guard explains how she was standing in place and kind of swayed her hips back and forth.
He then tells Florence how he should watch her if she does any sudden movements or stretching. She scares him. 

Well, needless to say.. our security guard as well as most of the men in the village are terrified of Esther. Yes, 5' 3 Esther (sorry if I got your height wrong Esther). Yes, the one that plays soccer with the kids, always is super helpful to EVERYONE, posts all the clips of Kenya on facebook so the family's back home can see our daily lives, the friend that you could depend on no matter what. Always laughing and smiling...Yep, that Esther. Apparently, she can kill you. She's VERY dangerous. Although, I've never heard her say anything bad about anyone or ever been the slightest bit rough. In fact, she's the kind of person you would want to be your kid's preschool teacher. But, in Kenya she's a cold-blooded killer just waiting to make her move. Waiting to attack, waiting to... karate chop you in the back...

Esther is a Korean-American. She was born in the States. She likes french fries, bike rides, pizza, playing soccer, going to starbucks.. yeah, uhh she's an American... no accent, nada. But, thanks to the wonderful world of television. The only Asians most Africans see are the ones in Kung-Fu movies. Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan. So, apparently all Asians can fight. They're sneaky too... just waiting to pounce... sneaky Esther.. "Esther-The-Killer"... you better watch that one or she'll get ya! :)

We have many more funny stories, but I just can't remember them all and I definitely can't do them justice.. but there is just a sample. Hope you enjoyed it!

1 comment:

  1. Trying to mix two cultures can be challenging, but it does come with some good stories. I hope you keep sharing them.