Chapati and Cultural Immersion

Chapati and Cultural Immersion

After finishing up the garden at Joyce’s house she invited us to learn how to make chapati, something sort of like naan bread. This was just one of the experiences of cultural immersion on the November Trip.

She pulled a table out into her yard and gathered all the ingredients flour, water, salt and oil. Then, started a fire in a small stove to heat a pan.

She showed us how to make the dough, stirring it with her hands. Muneria came to help as well.

Like mothers all over the world, she reminded her child to wash his hands before preparing food, which he did in a large blue bowl sitting next to the table. A special plate served as a platform to roll the chapati into perfect circles. He worked quickly, handing the rolled out flat bread to his mother who cooked them. She turned them with her bare hands, using no instrument to protect them from the heat.

Muneria then offered us a chance to roll out the chapati. We took turns, none of ours turning out as round as his. We laughed, feeling the warmth of home with this family who lives a different culture half a world away.

Sarah’s turn came up. She rolled the dough one way getting it stuck to the plate and stretching the dough as she freed it. She used more flour and rolled it some more. “That’s too big.” Joyce laughed, handing her more dough. “Try again.”

She started again, this time paying careful attention to the size, but not the shape. When she finished, it looked like a map of the United States. She handed it to Joyce with a shrug. Joyce shook her head and it was put onto the pan with a little oil to cook.

When David was finished with the water storage system, he came around the house to join us. We invited him to take his turn rolling chapati.

“Fine.” He said. “But mine is going to be round. Not corner, corner, corner, like Sarah’s.” This was met with kind hearted laughter from our group. Joyce pointed to the bowl of wash water. He obeyed.

Then, while rolling out the dough, David told us about how there are times in their culture when men and women separate and make their own food. He showed us how to roll it out to make it round. “See? Like this. You roll, and then turn it.” He pat the dough down. “Roll. And then turn again.”

He handed the dough to Joyce who watched us all with love, curiosity, and a little disbelief at how nutty this group of Americans is.

We dined together on our unifying chapati, rice, and carrots. It was the end of a full day of work, service, mentoring, and unconditional love.

When I say we experience cultural immersion, these are the types of things I am talking about. We get to be in the homes of the families. We learn from them and love them. We put our hands in their soil, climb onto their roof to put up rain gutters, collect water in rivers, dine with them, and hear their stories from their own lips.

By the time we leave, we have a new name, an expanded family, people who pray for us, and a home to come to when we return.

If you would like to join us for an expedition, learn more here.

Maasai Warriors and Brushing Teeth

Maasai Warriors and Brushing Teeth

This is Frances. I think. To be honest, I can’t remember. It seems like there were two guys named Frances though, and I think he’s one of them. At least, that’s his anglicized name. I think …

ANYway … whatever his name is, this guy is awesome. He is a Maasai warrior. I met him on my first trip to Kenya with 100 Humanitarians. Once we got to the Maasai village that we visited, he took me out in the brush to show me how the Maasai people clean their teeth. Tooth brushes and toothpaste aren’t available anywhere within less than a few hours’ drive, so they do what they can. There’s a particular kind of tree from which they slice off a green twig with their razor-sharp machete, then they simply chew on it. They also kind of rub it around on the front surface of their teeth.

It isn’t terribly effective, but hey–it’s what they have to work with, so they make it work for them.

After that little demonstration, Frances showed me his machete. According to him, it was worth about $100 American dollars. I winced, but I really wanted one. In the end, he wanted me to buy the machete, his rungu (a dancing/battle stick… they’re awesome!), and a necklace for about $350. Now … I knew they weren’t worth that, but I didn’t know exactly what each was worth. I knew I couldn’t get all three at that cost. If I remember right, I ended up with the necklace for $45.

Funny story … my last name has become a verb for those who went on that trip and have gone on subsequent trips. If you got “McCabed,” you got ripped off. Hard. Like … laughably hard. I’m okay with that. It really is kind of funny.

Here’s the thing though: yah, I got taken. Is that Frances’ fault? No. Is it my fault? It certainly is, but in all honesty, I know what that money does for their tribe, their village, their families … and in that moment, I simply didn’t mind.

You have to remember that, in that area of the Mara, the villagers see “mzungus” literally every day. A mzungu is basically an outsider who’s easily duped. No, a simple soapstone carving of some elephant is not worth $50. It’s worth *maybe* $10 if it’s intricately painted.

I haven’t seen Frances in well over a year. I have a lot of love in my heart for him, his village, his family, his people … And I have his rungu tucked away in my box of Kenyan artifacts that I’ve picked up on my trips. When I pull out that stuff and look at it, I remember him. I remember Kenya. I remember the incredible experiences I had over there–the feelings of unfettered love for a people who I had never met, and knowing that that love was and is reciprocated on their end. In the interest of fairness, Frances’ job is to sell me stuff. He did that. The common villagers, though … their job is to simply *live*. Survive. When we come to their village and help them set up a garden box, or provide them a goat or cow, their joy and gratitude is ELECTRIC. I’ll talk about that in another blog post down the road.

I really miss Kenya. I can’t wait to get back over there and see my friends. I hope that you’ll come with me on one of our expeditions. I can tell you these stories and experiences all I want, and you can read them and think, “Oh. Well, that’s awesome!”, but I promise you … there is no way to adequately do justice to the experience using mere words. You *have* to be there. Literally.

Come play with us in Kenya. Join 100 Humanitarians. Change your life. Only then will any of this make sense in any kind of meaningful way. 🙂