Friday was a chill day mostly at home, punctuated by a walk to Valley Arcade for lunch and a late-afternoon-into-evening baby shower for my sister-in-law Courtney (married to Harry's youngest brother Patrice).
I was really honored that the hosts of her shower purposely planned a date during our visit here so that I could attend. One of the deep sadnesses of living so far away from part of our family is that I don't get to celebrate with them at weddings, baby showers, births, or graduations (or to grieve with them at funerals or memorial services). So it was especially meaningful to me to share in this celebration of Courtney and her baby.
Her third child (with husband Patrice, Harry's youngest brother) is officially due in early October, but she's already been ordered to take it easy or else she'll be put on bed rest because she's been having some intense and frequent Braxton-Hicks contractions and tends to deliver way early. Because of that, her natural tendency to be organized and prepared has kicked into high gear, and those of us who were going to attend the shower had trouble buying a gift for her before she bought it herself! :-)
But our intrepid party organizer and fellow guests managed to find out that she hadn't yet bought a bathing station, so we were able to pitch in and get her one. A bathing station is like a mobile changing stand; the changing pad lifts up and tilts backward to slide in place behind the station, revealing a plastic tub underneath which can be filled with water to bathe the baby and then easily drained via an attached tube. Super convenient! Daniella (the party organizer) and Wabi (one of my other sisters-in-law, married to Harry's eldest brother Mark) did an impressive job assembling the station, with some crucial assistance from yet another one of sisters-in-law, Wambui (who is conveniently an engineer).
The Uber ride to the party took me AGES. What should have been an 8-10 minute drive took about 30 minutes, mostly because we were waiting in crazy traffic at an intersection near the mall. It can't even be called bumper-to-bumper traffic because it was not as orderly as that. Cars kept pushing their way into the intersection and trying squeeze between or around other vehicles. I seriously thought I might just have to get out and walk because it didn't seem like it would be possible for any of the cars to budge. A stoplight would have come in quite handy.
Eventually some matatu drivers hopped out and forcefully directed traffic, and we finally emerged from the intersection oh-so-free!
I approached the door of the party feeling a little anxious because I was sure I would be late. Joanna, the hostess, opened the door of her apartment and laughed when she saw me. "It figures that an American is the first to arrive!" The Kenyan fluid relationship with time had worked in my favor, which was a huge relief to me since everyone in America knows that I've been late for pretty much EVERYTHING since I had kids.
There was a ton of food: hot dogs complete with buns and condiments, crisps (potato chips), bananas, poppyseed bread, carrot cake muffins, bruschetta topped with sliced courgettes (zucchini) and eggplant, samosas, dark chocolate quadratini, digestives. and almond cookies.
As for drinks, there was water and mango juice next to the door, and Joanna pointed out a side table with a tray of tea cups and two carafes of something whose name I didn't recognize. I was wondering where the tea itself was — there's ALWAYS tea at a Kenyan gathering — but figured maybe it would come out later. As the party rolled on (so much great conversation and rollicking laughter!), I noticed one woman and then another return from the side table with cups full of tea, so I asked,
"What's in those carafes again?"
"Nylon. A mix of warm water and milk."
"How do you spell that?"
How could I have never before heard of this thing that is apparently a staple at most Kenyan functions?! Crazy. It really IS possible to learn something new every day.
As often happens at baby showers, there was a lot of talk about mothering. They all joked that raising a baby in the communal culture that is Kenya can be challenging because other mothers all feel they have a right to tell you how to care for your baby. They told Courtney that people are always concerned that a baby isn't dressed warmly enough, and that people won't hesitate to scold, "Pakwata mwana!" if your baby is crying. (Usually it's meant as "Soothe your child" or "Calm your baby", but it can literally mean "Nurse your child to make it quiet!")
We also talked about families in general, and Daniella shared a funny story about a time she asked one of our nieces (Noni) what her uncles' names are. Noni thought for a minute and said, "I don't know. They just call each other 'brother'." So true!
It was a fun afternoon-into-evening with a bunch of hilarious, vibrant women. Having grown up with just one sibling (a brother, and a confirmed bachelor at that), I never expected to get to experience having a sister — let alone FOUR — so I'm loving this chance at sisterhood, especially with these particular souls.