A Month In Kenya: Miscellany

While things are slow, I wanted to share some various observations and photos I've accumulated so far. 

1. BRITISH INFLUENCE
It's appropriate to begin with Kenya's colonization by — and eventual independence from — Britain. Kenya was a British "protectorate" from 1895 and an official colony from 1920. Through a series of resistance movements from 1944, including a violent rebellion by the dreadlocked Mau Mau in the mid-'50s, Kenya finally gained independence in 1963 and became the Republic of Kenya in 1964. Due to the colonization, British influence permeates Kenyan culture. The most obvious evidence of this is that English is one of the two national languages. Written English employs traditional British spelling conventions like "u" (colour, favourite), double "l" (travelling), and "-re" instead of "-er" (centre, theatre), as well as date notation (day/month/year). Kenyan English also includes British terms like flats (apartments), lifts (elevators), chips (fries), crisps (potato chips), boot (trunk of car), and hoot (honk, as in car horn). British influence is also evident in money (Kenyan currency is denoted in shillings), driving (cars travel in the left lane and drivers sit in the right seat), and naming. Many people are given English first names (like Harry), even though among family and friends that is seldom the name used in actual conversation. 

All of these conventions, though seemingly benign, illustrate the power of a ruling body over every aspect of its colonists (e.g., Britain over Kenya, Britain over American colonists, or American colonists over the people native to America). It takes much determination and intentionality for people to recover and nurture their own unique cultural attributes when an imperial nation has tried so vehemently to stamp them out. 

This is uncomfortable for me to face, because I come from a background that has granted me much unearned privilege simply due to my race and cultural history. I am very aware of my whiteness here when I am in public. There is an awkward sense of deference and accommodation tinged with something that feels more negative (resentment? dislike? fear? any of which would be understandable and forgivable). I feel like I want to apologize to everyone I meet for what has come before, and obviously THAT would be awkward and not at all helpful. But I pray that God continues to breed humility and empathy in me so that I can treat all people with authentic respect and will have the courage and foresight to recognize and stand up to marginalization, oppression, or diminution of any fellow human beings, and the awareness when I myself am participating in any of these practices. 

2. PLANTS
On a much lighter note: I continue to be amazed by the vegetation here. The glossy green leaves, splayed fronds, flowering vines, backyard fruit trees, towering bamboo...it's all quite wondrous. And to think this is WINTER! Don't get me wrong: I would never want to trade this for a Wisconsin winter. But I love it nonetheless. 

There are even places where they planned ahead and left space in concrete slopes for plants!

3. INSTAGRAM ADS
One of the benefits of having a local SIM card is that Instagram ads (which I normally abhor) are aimed at the Kenyan market, so at least it's fun getting to see what types of things are marketed to Kenyan Instagram users. 

4. GATES
Gates are one of my favorite sights as we walk or drive around town. There are so many interesting designs. Unfortunately a lot of my pictures are blurry because I'm trying to capture shots on the move. I really want to do a little book of all the different gates I've seen, but I would have to hire an Uber to drive me, drop me off, wait, drive me, drop me off, wait, and I'm not quite sure that would work! 

5. PEANUT BUTTER
Peanuts = Groundnuts

6. IMPORT STANDARDIZATION MARK (ISM)
The Kenya Bureau of Standards requires all imported products to bear this official trackable sticker. I think it's pretty. :-)

7. CAR REGISTRATION
Many vehicles have their registration number etched on each of their windows, side mirrors, and sometimes other elements of the car. I asked around and apparently this is intended to prevent theft and to trace the part back to the owner if it does get stolen. 

That's all I can think of right now!