My accent has been messed with:
The more places I live the more my accent changes and gets to be a mixture of each dialect. From Chicago occasionally I elongate and flatten my o’s, especially when saying the word coat. From the summer in Wisconsin I know how to correctly pronounce Wisconsin. When speaking to my international students and Kenyans I slow down, give pauses between each word, and hit each t and d. From California I still drop an occasional ‘dude’ into the bunch. Here in Nairobi I hear so many accents (Belgian, English, Canadian, Kenyan, Korean, etc.), so many different ways of bending the words of the English language that I almost don’t know what is going to come out of my mouth.
Each new place I live I gain a new appreciation for something particular about that area. From Colorado I have an obsession with altitude and now love climbing mountains. From Chicago I miss the ethnic foods and have a deep appreciation for what it really means to be cold. From California I ache for the beaches and a real burrito. I don’t know what I’ll gain from Nairobi, what things I will miss, what foods that I can have here that you truly can’t get anywhere else. There are no true deep dish Chicago style pizzas outside of the Chicago area. There is nothing like a San Diegan tacqueria. Will I miss the ugali and sukuma wiki? Will I miss the chai? What taste or love will I gain here?
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So I am a painfully observant person, sometimes I take in so much visual information that I want to close my eyes for awhile to process what has been soaked up. I’ve been observing Kenyans and culture and things about their land and here is what I have noticed.
1. Skinny men and not so skinny women: one thing that I do love about Kenya, I do not feel overweight at all. Most of the women are luscious and hippy. I don’t have magazines and television glaring at me to tell me that even though I’m smaller than the average woman I am still not small enough.
2. Kenyan music videos are amazing: lots of those luscious women swinging their hips around and shaking, and they’re delightfully fully clothed. And it’s just pretty dancing. Well, prettier than our scrawny cheer leaders, but that’s not saying much.
3. Food products go bad here super fast: ‘Scott why does our butter smell like cheese?’
4. As my friend Jill stated, ‘Why is it that the toilet will flush buckets and buckets of water down the toilet but it still remains?’ I think it took us seven flushes to get it down one day.
5. Picking your nose is not taboo. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been having a face to face conversation with someone and they start digging around in their nose.
6. Everything here is more hard core; it could be just a snake, but no it has dangerous neurotoxins in it’s venom, it could be just a caterpillar, but no if you touch it gives you a rash, it could be just a fly, but no if it bites you it will give ‘sleeping sickness,’ it could be just a mosquito, but no it has malaria, it could be just water, but no it has typhoid….you get the point.
In keeping with the ‘everything is more hard core’ theme yesterday I saw the largest spider I have seen outside of a cage in the classroom next to my own, which I use as a short cut to the teacher’s lounge. I quickly dodged away from the wall and sped through the room and opted for a different route the way back and have since stopped taking that short cut, because on another unfortunate trip I also encountered a large dead rat. Two encounters of dangerous and dead vermin are enough for me. So at lunch time I mentioned this large arachnid to my coworkers who then proceeded to tell me that particular type of spider has a bite that necrotizes one’s flesh. One coworker’s dog’s face swelled up to twice the size after a losing encounter with said spider and another coworker had to take her child to the hospital after the child’s arm began to disintegrate. So needless to day I spent the rest of the day cringing every time I opened a drawer or a cabinet picturing this fuzzy brown creature with too many legs rearing up on it’s hind legs and sinking it’s unnecessarily large fangs into my hand, or perhaps leaping and planting these fangs into my face. All of this is made equally more ridiculous if you know that my classroom consists of a wall of seven floor to ceiling cabinets full of art supplies and that I was inventorying them that very day.
Speaking of dead vermin last night right before we were having our next door neighbors over for dinner an infestation of weird insects that look like ants with oversized wings took over our living room. Apparently they were getting in through a small crack in the window and were attracted to the light. They quickly proceeded to die all over the place and drop their wings everywhere. Wherein my response was to clap my hands to my forehead and yell, ‘I don’t know what to do, whadda we do?! ’ Several times, repeatedly. Okay, I can handle almost every emergency one can think of, spurting head wounds, suicide calls, cat seizures, sobbing children, etc. However infestations of dying bugs reduce me to a blithering fool. We ended up stomping on them all until we were sure they were dead and sweeping them up.
Back to ‘more hard core,’ almost every weekend I have been outside I have incurred a large and painful sunburn, which upon seeing another white person always elicits the question, ‘Did you wear sunscreen?’ To which I usually feel like responding, ‘Look, I am from a place where tanning is a sport, I know more about achieving a perfect golden glow than your pasty Michigan….’ Anyway, I actually have been wearing sunscreen and am discovering that my religious adherence to SPF 15 does nothing here. The equatorial sun has a way of searing through any cream under SPF 1000. I’ve actually begun contemplating wrapping myself in tin foil before leaving the house every morning. I’ve also begun to wonder how the English ever thought they could colonize a place like this before the invention of oxybenzone and Doom.