A note on children

I am taking a break from writing captions for the pictures to explain some things about Kenyan children. Ok, so first off, Kenyan children should be in school on any given day, except they do a 3 month cycle of school and then 1 month holiday. So for a quarter of the year, there are just a lot of children around (ages 5 to 10 apply here).

So these children, when taught english, are taught one thing first, “How are you?” They don’t know the appropriate responses to this phrase, but they know that when they see a white person (muzungu), they should say “How are you.”

On top of this mentality, Kenyan children are also indoctrinated quite early into the collective cultural mentality that permeates Kenyan society (and is the bane of my existence here, but that’s for another post). Thus when one child spots a mzungu, word spreads like wildfire, and soon enough there is a chant and chorus of, “How are you, How are you, How are you!” being screamed by dozens of children. Every day, for 2 months, we would receive this.

Some of the more daring and intelligent children had expanded english capabilities because they are taught at home that Muzungu all have money and it is the Kenyans right to have that money, if asked for politely enough. Thus, from some of the older children you get, “How are you? Give me money.” or “How are you? Give me sweets.” My personal favorite encounter was, “Tomorrow, bring me a bicycle.” I didn’t even get a how are you.

All of this is endearing for maybe the first week, but it gets tiring very quickly. We would joke that we knew whenever a fellow volunteer was approaching our home-stay house because we would hear the “How are you?” alarm. One time, a fellow volunteer responded with “Mbaya!” which means “Bad!” and made the kid run off.

Oftentimes if you respond in any swahili at all the kids become confused and stop chanting. Apparently they aren’t taught that a muzungu can learn swahili just like they can learn english. Yet again, acculturation is out best defense. Funny how that works.


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