St. Gregory Students share Gossip, Guacamole and One Direction with Kenyan Friendsby kenya on Jun. 15, 2012, under Life
St. Gregory students dance with Kenyan friends following dinner.
June 14, 2012
By Becca Rogers, St. Gregory Class of ‘13
See a bit of our day on YouTube @ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z4mEmiq2iM8&feature=youtu.be
You wouldn’t expect a trip to Africa to include boy gossip, One Direction and guacamole, but that’s exactly what this day has consisted of.
During lunch at our school, Gitinga Primary, Allie and I usually eat with a group of class 4 girls, play Duck Duck Goose, and then chat with the teachers. Today, we decided to switch it up and spend time with students our own age. We met a group of girls between the ages of 13 and 17* who had dozens of questions about American culture. They asked us if we had boyfriends then went on to tell us that many girls in their class had boyfriends, which they kept a secret from their teachers and parents. One of the only times they’re able to see their boyfriends is during school, and even then they have to be discreet so the teachers don’t become suspicious. Primary school aged boys and girls are considered too young to have girlfriends or boyfriends. In addition, the teachers feel that this would be a distraction from the kids’ schoolwork. But as in all cultures, the students learn how to get around the rules of their elders. The girls made us promise not to tell their parents or teachers because they would be punished if their elders found out. I had not anticipated that the topic of boyfriends would ever come up in a conversation here, but it was exciting being treated as a friend and entrusted with their secrets.
On our way back to Batian’s View from Gitinga, our guide, Peter, a class 7 student, accompanied us. Because he lives close to Batian’s View, Peter volunteered to accompany us on all of our trips to and from the school. Because we follow a trail that twists and turns through small farms and through a small forest, it would be easy to take a wrong turn, so he makes sure that we always make it back! When we arrived after our little journey, we were in for quite the surprise – Ngigi, the head chef, had made mandazi, the Kenyan version of doughnuts! Everyone flocked around the delicious treats, which replaced our normal 4 p.m. popcorn snack.
After enjoying our mandazi and chai, Jaxon, Olivia, Daphne, Emily and I walked over to our neighbor Jecinta’s house to prepare dinner for about 20 people. She told us that we were in “our mama’s house” now, and that we were to treat it as if it were our own home. She referred to us as her children and asked us to make the guacamole, a dish that we hadn’t expected to eat in Kenya. We sliced the tomatoes and onions and mashed the avocados, all freshly picked from Jecinta’s garden. We were then asked to peel the potatoes, a very daunting task at first. After a lot of practice, we finally were able to lumber through the 20-pound stack of potatoes and proceeded to our final task of making chai tea. After a couple hours of preparation, the rest of the group showed up and we had a huge, delicious meal together.
The night came to an end with Jecinta and a few of her friends singing a Kikuyu greeting song and us dancing with them (see the video on YouTube at the link above.) I think it was the most fun I’ve had so far on the trip! They then asked us if we would sing a song to them, and after some debate, we finally decided on “What Makes You Beautiful” by the popular boy band One Direction, and we all knew the words by heart. Everyone clapped, and even the boys joined in! Emily sang the last song of the night, “Lean on Me,’’ and then we all made our way back to Batian’s, ready to retreat to our warm beds after a long and memorable day.
* While not very common, some primary school students may be as old as 16, 17 or even 18. This is due to a variety of reason, the foremost being that the students’ parents didn’t enroll their children until they were older than normal. They may have been needed at home or perhaps the family didn’t have the required school fees. Older students are sometimes in the schools because of a severe drought two years ago in the area north of Nanyuki, roughly 50 miles from Naro Moru. Many families had to leave that area and settled in Naro Moru. During this transition the students may have been out of school for a year. Unlike in the U.S. where a certain grade is associated with a particular age, that is not the case here. Even if a student is much older than his or her classmates, if they have a chance to go to school, they take it.