Three simple things I learned on the Kenyan countryside

and the invaluable stories behind it

One week on the countryside is always like vacation. Leaving city life behind for a short while, I got my battery charged again. And I carried three tremendously simple but very powerful lessons from there:

People are more important than work.

We were supposed to go to the field for work that morning. I was ready. Wearing sunscreen, rubberboots, working clothes and a hat, the water bottle filled, and the hoe in front of the door. But we didn‘t leave.

A son to the family had just arrived.  He doesn’t come for a visit often. So people talked. In a language I don‘t understand. They shared stories while the sun rose quickly.

One hour later the sun had already reached a high point. It makes digging hard and uncomfortable. The earlier you start, the better. And yet, cups were refilled with tea.

I was a bit annoyed, but then I realised: This realtive is who counts now. We haven‘t seen him for long, and we want to share stories. We want to settle things that have been lingering and remained without solution. Work can wait! Let us treasure the visitor, while he is still around, instead of stressing about whether we will dig the field or not.

Now is more important than later.

One day later we wanted to visit a girl whom we regularly support. It was a one hour drive and you never know what happens on the road.

I wondered: Would we reach there in time? Would we get into rain? Should we carry an umbrella? Where would we eat lunch? How would we manage to buy things with her in the market? How would she react? How would it turn out?

What if the whole trip was not going to be successful at all?

I thought all that at the bread wholesale shop of Uncle Bread. He has the same light blue eyes like his mother, whom I call Dani, which means Granny. Suddenly I realised how welcome and secure I am in this family network.  We were in Uncle Bread‘s shop, discussing family matters, while I watched children play and ducks pass by and retailers stack their bikes with crates of bread. NOW was important.

Appreciating each other is more important than profitability.

I am paying schoolfees for the girl, and my mentality is that of an accountant. Every single cent I want recorded in a well-organised table.

But there is also the teacher who brings her to the meeting with me. There is her father who knows that I am paying school fees for his daughter, while he is struggling to feed his family. There is her mother who is hearing impaired and doesn‘t understand why all these visitors, including her daughters head teacher, are suddenly sittig in her living room. There are the older siblings of the girl, and a cousin with a baby who stays there, too. They hide in the back of the house because they think it‘s all about the school girl.

And to all of them, we give money. In secret ways, sometimes through the girl, we let them have some notes. And although they are not recorded nor being accounted for, it makes sense to me much later. It’s a way of appreciating them. They know that the girl has gotten money from us. And they will ask her for it, because money is always scarce. But for the head teacher to continue with his support, we must appreciate him. For the father to keep sending his daughter to school instead of asking her to help farming for food, we need to appreciate him. For the siblings to not become jealous, it is better to leave some money than encouraging their questions and jealousy.

It may sound strange and it took me a long time to accept it, because I come from a country where money is not that scarce, but appreciation with payment is not only accepted but a common thing to do here. And it is an accepted way we can thank those people for their continous help and trust.

Meanwhile, the Outgoing Novemeber Challenge continues, and I post photo at facebook.

I would love to find you on my list, too, so that you never miss a post.


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