Friday I walked to the ILRI office and was warmly welcomed by all of my colleagues there. I stocked up on Hershey chocolate bars while I was home and surprised people with them. It’s an unwritten rule that when one leaves East Africa one brings back chocolate. I have no idea why. But I am terrified to break the rule. After a 4 hour meeting that started 2 hours late, I jumped in the ILRI vehicle and went and bought boxes and boxes of food and supplies to take back to the farm. It was an interesting experience in fact because the driver, someone I had never met before and who is filling in while our usual driver is on leave, insisted on coming with me while I shopped. Not only did he want to come in to the store with me he insisted on pushing the cart behind me, up and down every aisle, as I half-walked/half-ran up and down every aisle stocking up on all of the essentials of life that I can’t always find in town near the farm. What essentials you might ask? Well you know, things like Tang, and potato chips, canned mushrooms, rice vermicelli, hot chocolate, olives, mayonnaise, pasta sauce, chicken thighs, ground beef, and coconut milk. But I digress. Dashing up and down the aisles with my driver in hot pursuit I felt myself a cliché and faintly uncomfortable about it. Why in the world wasn’t it okay for me to push my own shopping cart, and later unload my own groceries onto the conveyor belt (which does not convey in fact it is only a belt that never moves), and again into a cart, and again into the vehicle??? Well it’s because everyone has a job and in that situation my job was to select, drop into cart, and pay. His job was to do everything else I guess. I was reminded of Mathew Crawley, of the tv series Downton Abbey, who is unused to having a valet and insists on dressing himself for dinner so his valet feels ridiculous and unwanted. When Lord Crawley explains that everyone has their job, and a valet’s job is to select his clothes and dress him, Matthew finally concedes and let’s Mosely do up his cufflinks and help him with his jacket. The shopping thing is a situation that makes me uncomfortable because I’m used to doing it all myself, and I am capable of doing myself, and don’t want anyone in the store to think I told him to do all that so I can stand around until it’s time to pull out some cash. I don’t actually mind the help, in fact it was really fast and easy to do groceries that way, but it just felt, well, strange. “We have people here to do that” I’ve been told by other shop owners when I decline their offer to find “a boy” to push my cart out to the car. Sometimes, not wanting to offend I relinquish my shopping cart and meekly lead “the boy” with the cart to the vehicle, stand and watch him load the bags into the car, then hop into the passenger seat, and my driver whisks me away. We’re definitely not in Kansas anymore Toto.
Not having eaten since breakfast, and having attended a four-hour long meeting then sprinting around a grocery store (not to mention having to stand at the till and watch all that work happening around me) I was pretty hungry and thirsty when I got home around 4pm. I wolfed down half a bag of potato chips and a couple of liters of water, lay down on my bed for 3 glorious minutes, brushed my teeth, changed into jeans and walked up to meet a friend for a drink. After a lovely visit I hopped on another boda boda and went to a great Italian restaurant that I was introduced to a few months ago. Over a couple of t-bone steaks and a ½ litre of white wine, my friend and quickly caught up then proceeded to solve the problems of the world. I took a taxi home and crawled into bed by 10, tired, and ready to sleep. I did sleep. Until about 2 am and was awake until after 5. Of course when my alarm went off at 7 I was dead asleep and could have kept going for hours. Maybe tonight’s the night.