I have always said that Kenyan hospitality puts southern hospitality to shame, and that is a lot for me to say considering I live in the south. However, it is true, once one goes to Kenya and experiences the warm welcoming hearts of this beautiful country one will never forget. Though, the only thing that does not seem to exist in Kenya is “time.” Nevertheless, schedules are guided by the hot beverage of “tea times.”
Children laugh as they kick around a soccer ball and the funny looking “mzungu,” me, tries to keep up. The smell of lunch cooking in the surrounding huts is a welcoming smell. Though, the chicken feathers lying in a pile hints as to what is on the menu. A portable radio sits in a window as it shouts the local news in Swahili and a man and cat sit in the doorway of the same hut listening to it broadcast. A baby lays in the grass on a straw matt as a puppy lies alongside this child as if trying to entertain his little audience in diapers. Women sit together probably discussing the arrival of these “mzungus.” Men come from the far reaches of this small village bringing lumber and then proceed to shave them down than storing them to wait till the appropriate time. Black and white unites to build a house for a widow in need. The structure, a small mud hut no bigger than a small bedroom those of us who are privileged to live in the United States, yet, the receivers of this gift seem to be very appreciative of it.
The sun directly above causing shadows to be short and the heat of the mid day seems to draw out any moisture that the body had retained prior. Construction is halted, not because of lunch but because of tea. A woman with an apron that has food and tea stains perhaps from slaving over this hot beverage to make sure it was prepared with “love,” as one woman told me the previous day. As I look around at everyone, the village chief amongst the elders, young families with their children, my fiancé, and the friends that came with us on this journey from America, the thought comes to me. Smoke raises from the sugar cane fields, women and men pick tea leaves in an open field. This woman that has prepared the tea for us is the simple extension of the hospitality here in Kenya. The social gatherings do not exist around time because time does not exist here in Kenya. No, social periods revolve around tea. This simple beverage breaks through the language barriers creating an environment where men and woman practically from different worlds can communicate.