Over the last few days, I have been writing about my Kenyan Christmas experience from the perspective of a foreigner. Now, I thought it was time to let a Kenyan tell her side of the story. The following words were written by my friend Ruth.
It’s holidays and in Kenya, this is the time when most families travel back to their rural homes to visit their parents and grandparents and meet with the extended family. The festive season involves serious eating and drinking together with the extra-extended family. This of course means some serious cooking by the Kenyan girl (mother, aunties, daughters…).
The boys will be visiting their mates and re-uniting with their friends, coming back during meals time only to disappear soon afterwards. The girls will start cooking as early as 6 a.m. or even earlier, depending on how big the family is, using mostly an open fire and immediately afterwards start scrubbing off the black soot from the cooking pots, finishing just in time to return to the pots on the same fire in preparation for the next meal!
The process will go on for the rest of the day everyday till 3rd January or so! Some girls might get lucky if the aunties think that they’re ‘born tao‘ [‘born in town’, RMA] and so not so used to this system. These will be cleaning the houses and doing other light stuff.
Actually there’s a trick that might help here: When in the smoky kitchen, remember all the sad things that happened to you during the year and cry as much as you can and the aunties will call you a few names saying how ‘weak’ and spoilt you are and that’s why you’re still not married, but if it’s going to save you from the smoky kitchen, it’s totally worth it!
However, without the Kenyan girl, festivities wouldn’t be the same. She will ensure everyone is happy and smiling after the heavy lunch. She will prepare some tea almost every minute for the new ‘uncles’ from the village she’s meeting for the first time who came for ‘kitu kidogo‘ [literally ‘a little nothing’]. She will cook ugali for 10 or more people everyday, if she happens to come from one of those tribes which think lack of ugali on the table for a full day means there’s a serious hunger catastrophe. She will ensure the kids are well fed so that there’s more laughter in the homestead rather than cries.
Well, this might not seem like a holiday as per the Oxford dictionary, but a Kenyan girl’s version, totally worth the sweat and a few tears in the kitchen.
So, happy version of our holidays, Kenyan girls, and I think you’ve done quite well Ruth Asan in your Kenyanization lessons! For the boys, we understand it might not be ‘African’ to scrub the cooking pots, but if you can make the holidays much more nicer and easier for the girls, please do.
Read the rest of my Christmas story: