Nyumbani.

I think that means home in Swahili. Or at least house. I am currently in my house, in Mill Valley, California. How weird! I came home around lunchtime on Thursday, and I have since gone to two MA concerts, gone for a run, unpacked, and gone through some of my pictures. It is so, so good to see my family and friends, and to eat the food here again, and I can’t wait to see the rest of you. Tonight, I am cooking Kenyan dinner for my family, which should be quite an experiment.

Here are a few observations of things that have surprised me about the Bay Area versus Kenya.

1. Tap water is okay to brush your teeth with, and even to drink.
2. Everyone is well-dressed – boots, long coats, stylish dresses. Too much work for me.
3. Food is ridiculously expensive. $20 dinner? How about filling up on 10 cent chapatis from the street!
4. It’s winter here! And it’s cold… it feels like it could snow any minute, to me (although it’s really 50 degrees out). Somehow, I never considered that I would be returning from Africa to find seasons.
5. The rule “if it’s yellow let it mellow” does not apply.
6. Cats are enormous. Even Austin (wait till I see Tyco). I have no idea how to handle him anymore because I’m used to tiny African cats and even tinier African kittens.
7. I can leave my passport locked in the car, or lying on a table in my house, without worrying about theft.
8. Food is available all the time, so I can’t go by the African rule of eating everything that I can lay my hands on, because I won’t be eating until my next meal, and in order to not waste anything.

At first, I slipped seamlessly back into my post-Marin Academy life. It unnerved me how easily I could fall into the way of life that I am so used to even after undergoing such a radical culture transition. Marin is about as far as you can go on the opposite end of the spectrum from rural Kenya. Now, however, the culture shock seems to be hitting me late. I can’t even handle shopping in outdoors stores anymore, or driving short distances. Everything related to money – such large sums of it, compared to daily life in Kenya – is foreign to me. I can play the part of being at ease in my normal life, but there’s a visceral feeling of dissatisfaction that goes along with it. I crave going back to a place where I am connected to the daily necessities of living, rather than being distantly connected with wealth serving as the middleman. I know that it will get better, and that I will learn to bring things from Kenya and Nepal to living life here. Marin will always be where I grew up, and will always be a home for me, and I certainly will not try to isolate myself from that. However, I think that now it is somewhere for me to return to, but not somewhere for me to live and stay. Maybe it’s just the jumping off place. Right now, I feel like I could jump off to somewhere else already… just let me bring my family and friends with me!

There’s so much to post about from my last week in Kenya… leaving the Daraja girls, Safari, and more. I’ll space out the entries over the next couple of days, then sign off for the month (unless you want to hear about the daily life of the Went Family via the internet!). I will post pictures online later this month, after I have gotten to show people the slideshows first. For now, get excited to hear some Safari stories tomorrow!

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4 Responses to Nyumbani.

  1. Jessica says:

    It’s so interesting for me to hear the things you notice about life in the Bay Area compared with Kenya – because there were definitely different things I noticed about life in the Bay Area compared with life in college. I can’t wait to get home and talk to you more in depth about this – because I find it really fascinating how our view of the Bay Area changes now that we have been spending much less time there on a day-to-day basis. I’m so glad you’re home and are enjoying things like MA concerts and runs in nature, and I hope your Kenyan dinner is a huge success!!
    love

  2. yang says:

    word up to jess, and it was WONDERFUL TO SEE YOU! as jess said, i’d love to talk you more in depth about all of this. oh the bubble of marin.

    tyco will never be a normal cat. more like, a wise old ferocious (occasional) lovebug the size of a lion cub.

    teach me your cooking ways! i need new recipes…

  3. tycoon says:

    i want to snuggle wichuuuuuuu!

  4. Grandma says:

    What a wonder you are to us! Today we received the Marin Academy journal, so we got a double dose of Cora! I’m starting a “fame” file! Love always, Gma

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