In Chinua Achebe’s masterpiece, Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo returns to his homeland after a seven-year absence-his punishment for accidentally killing a man. Okonkwo had many expectations when he returned. He thought that his daughters, being the age of marriage, would make him a popular man, and that he would return to his place of prominence in the tribe.
Things did not work out as he planned (well, they fell apart, not surprisingly). Christianity had gained a strong foothold in society, helping to fragment society, and the land he returned to was not the same that he had left.
Ironically (I suppose), we are also returning to Kenya after a seven-year absence. Now, before anyone misunderstands, I am not expecting the same things as Okonkwo- and certainly not that young men will start coming around expecting to marry my daughters. I’d need to go get a big stick, I guess. (Or expect several hundred cows as dowry)
No, we are well aware that things will not be the same as we return. It’s like the old saying- it’s not possible to dip your foot into the river at the same place (I’m paraphrasing here).
With that said, here are some reflections from our first few days in our old and new home.
- In many places, the roads are in better shape, but the traffic seems to be worse. Of course, rules do not seem to apply, which makes driving both fun and hair-raising. Last night, I was returning from watching a basketball game at Nyayo Stadium, and it took me over an hour to travel maybe 10-12 miles (I’m guessing at the distance). And, of course, I drove straight over a traffic island by accident. Good thing we have a vehicle with clearance!
- Nyayo stadium is terribly run-down, even worse than it was before. The league doesn’t even have nets on the rims, for pete’s sake- and this is the highest level of basketball in Kenya!
- Rosslyn has made some really cool changes since we left, like the pool. The girls have already been swimming twice, although it may feel better in the summer (it’s winter right now, but it’s been a mild one. Temps are running in the 80’s during the day right now.)
- Sometimes, I just have to shake my head. We bought some pizza for lunch yesterday, and noticed that the place offered “bottomless Cokes.” Refills? In Kenya? So we ordered our large pizza, and then asked about the offer- ah, it’s only for people who order smalls and mediums. What? And then the offer of twisty bread for 90 shillings, only, you have to buy two for 180. Reason? The machine makes two, and if they don’t sell both, they will have to “throw the second batch away.” Hmmmm.
- We aren’t getting stared at near as much as we did when the girls were small. Are mixed families becoming more common, or do we look too much like tourists yet?
- I still love the smells during the day, and the birds at night. (I’m writing this, due to jet-lag, pretty early in the morning, while I listen to the birds.)
- Electricity is still a dicey proposition. It’s clicked off a few times already, but it’s come back on quickly each time. (The first time it went off, Glenda had just left the room, so of course I thought she was teasing me. Alas, it was not the case.)
I’ll wrap it up for now. We have pictures to download, so I’ll try to get some up here before too long. Thanks for all the prayers and emails, everyone!