Today at lunch I ate a fish—like a fish that was pulled right out of the lake, dipped in a fryer, and then put on my plate. Head, scales, bones and all. Yum. So I’m sitting on our bench outside, the plate on my lap is filled with ugali, unidentifiable greens, and of course, the fish. I just have a napkin and no fork, and I’m thinking: now how in the world am I supposed to eat this fish? All I can say is thank goodness for Bethuel. He is so patient and usually tolerates my Americanness. “Sarah,” he says, “you just have to poke it!” And sure enough, he succeeds in breaking through the ribcage of his fish and draws out the white, fleshy, good-to-eat part. I try to do the same thing, but end up poking the little side fin of the fish, which simultaneously blocks my attack and grosses me out. Long story short, I waged a war on this fish and eventually won. But it wasn’t a pretty picture, and I left a lot of uneaten carcass on my plate. Deborah reprimanded me for wasting so much of my food and added that many people in Kenya don’t get enough to eat. So obviously I felt horrible and proceeded to shove down more of my ugali…
After lunch, I found out that some of the staff were going to play soccer after work. Kituo is playing in a soccer tournament in two weeks, and they need at least one girl on their team, so I said I’d love to at least practice with them even if I’m not in town on the day of the tourney. I haven’t been very active here as the pollution doesn’t make for a great jogging atmosphere, so I was really excited to do something physical. I made sure that some other girls were going to play before I went and got my sneakers. Then I came back to Kituo and we were about to head out when we were stopped by the head of the Legal Aid department. “You can’t leave!” She said. “We are having singing practice and attendance is required!” (Kituo is having a birthday dinner/party on Friday night, and the staff members from each branch are supposed to perform something for the crowd. Our branch is going to attempt to sing a song.) So we had singing practice for about 45 minutes before we were able to escape. Then, on the way to the field, the Kituo van broke down and we were delayed a bit longer. Eventually we made it to the soccer field—in some places, the grass came up to my knees. We all poured out of the van, but then the girls who said they were going to play soccer ended up getting right back in the van and drove away. Apparently, people here joke a lot… they say things like: sure I’m going to play soccer, when really, they have no intention of playing soccer. I guess this is called sarcasm. I’m having a difficult time here figuring out when people are being serious and when they’re joking. True, I’m a very gullible person in general… but in Kenya, my gullibility seems to be heightened tenfold.
Now that the van is gone, I have no choice but to follow the group of men towards an empty spot on the field. We put our things down, and they start stripping at once. Three of them strip down to their boxers, and several of them take off their shirts (granted they were all wearing work clothes and you can’t play soccer in a suit and tie). Meanwhile, I’m thinking Oh dear lord, what have I gotten myself into? I’m going to have to play soccer with a group of half-naked men. At least I have Harvard Law with me who is also muzungu and keeps his clothes on.
We kick the ball around for a bit to warm up, and then the men introduce me to their coach. Their coach?? I thought we were just going to play a game of pick up! The coach is a little, quick looking guy, and he’s the only one wearing actual cleats and soccer socks. He proceeds to make us line up and run suicides. Are you kidding me? I’m freaking 24 years old, and I have a coach telling me to run suicides? No one tells me what to do; I’m not in high school anymore! I exercise if I want to. I run fast if I want to (which is never). Why am I here with a bunch of African men running suicides?
Praise the lord, he gives us permission to stop running, and we do some stretching. Now here is something I am good at! My friends are very impressed with my ability to touch my toes. Finally, we get to play some soccer. We divide into teams, and overall, I have a very good time. At one point I stop the ball with the outside of my foot, and someone commends me for it and notes that’s how Beckham used to do it. I should have gone pro.
Aaron (Harvard kid) and I decide to scoot out early at 6pm because it is starting to get dark. And after all, we are in Nairobi—aka New York City in “I am Legend”— and if we don’t get home before dark, we’re likely to get killed by zombies (or mugged).
All in all, it was a very fun afternoon. Plus, it was cool to hang out with a group of Africans… even if they are all men and speaking in a language I don’t understand. I didn’t come to Africa to hang out exclusively with white people. (No offense to Jamie, Consuelo and Aaron.)