Saturday, October 24, 2009

Turkana evenings

We made it back from a long day of collecting. At 4:30, everyone gathered around the table under the afternoon shade tree for Tea Time - one of Kenya's best holdovers from Colonial Britain. The tea leaves were Ketepa leaves, "Kenya's finest," cooked with water and powdered milk and a liberal spoonful or three of sugar. About three weeks into the season, Benson realized that I preferentially chose the green mug. That became Irene's mug! Stephen, the best cook in Turkana, had made us some exciting snack - some days, mandazi shaped like mandazi, other days, shaped like donuts. The days when we'd get samosas were wildly exciting, as were spring roll days. Sometimes we'd get sweet injera, sometimes we'd get gingersnap biscuits. Sometimes we get corn muffins, sometimes we'd get the equivalent of oreos with mango flavored cream filling. I'd always grab one or two of the snacks, and the Kenyans would ALWAYS try to get me to eat more.

Immediately after tea, I'd take care of water and beverages. Siphoning out water from our giant drums was easy when we'd just gone to the well, but by the end of the second day, I had to suck the water out of the hose - with varying degrees of success. Generally, there was someone around to come to my rescue. After dealing with the water, I'd fill the red basin (the laundry one) with some water, and pluck the beverage socks from the acacia tree. I had the drink orders down to pretty much a science. Coke for Matthew, Jonathon, and me. Stephen and Fritz, and usually Tony, would get Krest. Pilsner for Tab and Bonventure, and Tusker for Martin, John Mark, Boniface, and Benson. Those would get stuffed in the wet socks and hung from a netting where they'd cool until dinner.
Erin's most important job by miocyon.

After tea, I generally sat at the table, working on reading Kaburi Bila Msalaba, a Kenyan novel for 13- or 14-year-olds about the Mau Mau war. It's in Swahili, so it was slow going, but the Turkana guys all read it in secondary school and helped me with words or grammar. Some evenings, I'd my advisor cataloging fossils. Other evenings, I read from our mini-library of American books. I brought American Gods, The Amazing Adventures of Cavalier and Clay, and Infinite Jest. Someone brought Angels and Demons - that kept me occupied the day I couldn't swallow water so I had to stay home from collecting. There was also a wildly depressing book on the Iraq War called The Forever War which I read in two days and got sad... and Tony let me read a book he had on the drug trade in Baltimore. Evenings when I didn't feel like reading, I'd write in my journal, or talk to Benson about Kenyan politics.

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