A Month In Kenya: Day 11 (Saturday, July 1)

The day began quietly for me and Harry because the boys had been sleeping over at their cousins' house. We had our coffee (Harry) and tea (me), and did some reading and writing, then Harry walked to the store while I got ready to go out. I took an Uber downtown to Laico Hotel to meet Wambui.   

Wambui and I spent most of the afternoon at the Maasai Market. Sadly, I couldn't take a single photo. Harry had advised me not to take out my phone while we were there, and Wambui agreed with his advice. 

On our way to the High Court grounds' entrance, we passed a tall black wrought iron fence layered with colorful products. It made me so excited to get inside and see everything! The vendors' booths were packed together closely, separated by aisles barely three or four feet wide. I wanted to stop and examine things, but we were surrounded by a throng of vendors clamoring for me to buy things. "Lady, look here!" "Come and see my things!" "Madam, please, you will like these very much!" I wanted to be able to take it all in stride, but I have to admit it was overwhelming. As we passed the first several booths without really looking, just trying to get past the frenzy, the vendors eventually gave up and returned to their booths, but two men followed along with us and kept talking, one to me and one Wambui, explaining something in partial English, partial (Swahili? Kikuyu? It was so chaotic that I wasn't able to pay attention). The gist of what they were saying was that if we saw anything we liked, we should just point it out and they would gather it all together then bargain for a total price at the end and they would take care of paying the vendors. It all made me feel uncomfortable — I would rather have dealt individually with vendors — but I didn't know if this was just how things were done so we just kept walking and letting them assist us. But after we'd visited several dozen booths and had accumulated items from seven or eight of them, Wambui whispered to me that she didn't feel right about it either. We looked at several bags at the next booth, and Wambui asked the vendor how much for the bag she liked (3000 KSh). One of the men told her in Swahili/Kikuyu that she didn't have to worry about it because she would get the bag for free. That's when she lost her patience. I was so proud of her (and grateful) that she confronted the men, asking them questions about how they work and saying that she's not comfortable with the process. One of them told her that she shouldn't worry about it because she'll get the bag for free. She asked how that would happen, and they said they would sell the bag to me for 4500 KSh but it was actually worth 4000 KSh, so they'd be able to give her the bag. She told them that she already knew the bag cost 3000 KSh, not 4000 KSh, and furthermore I was her sister, not some person she's trying to make money on. They got angry and argued with her, but she said, "No, we're going to just part ways here." It was a shame because it meant leaving behind the things we'd collected thus far, but it was the right and necessary thing to do. 

We were both unsettled by what had happened and it had put a damper on our day, but we were determined to press on. Thankfully we were able to enjoy the rest of our time looking at all the bright jewelry, fabric, pottery, and art under the hot sun. Wambui helped me bargain for some great stuff, and we left after three hours with several heaping bags, hot and thirsty and hungry.

We walked the several blocks back to our car, stopping briefly at a Domino's Pizza to get some water (the menu showed a Wisconsin 6-cheese pizza!) and resisting the temptation to stop for ice cream. Then we met Maurice and Lemayian at a birthday party for a friend's three-year-old daughter. The party was held on the lush, beautiful grounds of the hotel owned by the host and hostess, and it was quite the spread. Under the huge tent, which was festooned in purple cloth, were a long, rectangular kid-height table and a dozen or so round tables for the adults, a bar, and the photographer's area. On the lawn was a ball pit, a motorized mini-train, and a bouncy house/slide. As we made our way toward the food table, a photographer stopped us to take our picture together. We then helped ourselves to the ample food spread. I had roast chicken, rice with "vegetables cooked Swahili-style", chapati, and some tomatoes. Once seated, a waiter brought us juice and an entire bottle of water each (hallelujah!). In the U.S., I would have felt really awkward about showing up (sweaty and in jeans, no less!) at a party to which I hadn't been invited, but in Kenya there just don't seem to be those kind of societal rules. I was welcomed warmly and treated like I belonged.

We had fun talking at the table with some of the other guests and I was happy to see one of my other sisters-in-law (Faith) arrive with her two kids Toria and Keru, my first time seeing them since the family party the previous Sunday night. 

While Wambui and I were doing all this, Harry and Patrice had gone to a Junior NBA game with the boys where Ezra won a basketball and apparently all the Kenyan schoolkids who were there were super curious about the boys and thought they were Chinese. 

The boys got back to our apartment about 5:00 and we got home about 6:40. Wambui, Maurice, and Lemayian stayed to chat for awhile before they headed back to their place. 

I had a massive headache after my eventful day, and we were all worn out, so we called it an early night.