April 30: You are Welcome (Karibu!)
Everyone here is incredibly generous. It seems that the Kenyan ‘way’ is to invite you into their lives with open arms saying, “Welcome! You are welcome!” When you’re sitting at the Hare Krishna temple eating lunch and you want to share the heaps of food you put on your plate, you say, “Karibu! Welcome, welcome…have some”. This is just one example of the eager spirit to be friendly, gracious and welcoming that is so obviously a huge part of this beautiful culture and Katy and I felt this warmth and support today in our first workshop at Sarakasi in Ngara…
Katy and I are still attempting to sync our sleep patterns with this side of the world, but let me tell you, being woken up at 4am by the guy sweeping the driveway for an hour and a half doesn’t really help! It’s so interesting observing daily life and standards in this country. People take good care of themselves. Everyone on the street looks neat, clean and well-dressed and it doesn’t matter if they came from a home with electricity or running water, there is a self-respect that is evident and this made me feel a bit ‘slobby’ walking to the mall in my yoga clothes yesterday. Every morning when Hassan comes by to drive us to our daily location, he spotlessly cleans the car inside and out. I jokingly asked him this morning if he would mind coming to Canada to give my car a clean. Despite the mud, dust and pollution on these streets, our car sparkles! The same theory applies for the up-keep of homes and even driveways for example. A 4am sweep is quite common to ensure that the ‘home’ is respectfully clean and welcoming. I actually think us ‘westerners’ could learn something from this. We are genuinely lazy at times. I mean, when was the last time I cleaned my car and swept my driveway. It certainly wasn’t yesterday!
Once our car sparkled, the driveway was clean and we had ‘taken’ our tea and breakfast, we were off to Ngara for the first workshop of the Ambassador visit. I found myself feeling anxious and slightly nervous- Would I be able to offer something useful? Would I be able to communicate clearly? Would I inspire? Then…I woke up and realized that I’ve been waiting my whole frieken’ life for this opportunity to share myself, (the good, bag and the ugly) with these people. I decided to leave my worries at the door because how is that serving me or these people who are taking the time out of their days to listen to me? A wave of excitement, calm and anticipation pulled me out of my head and useless ‘stories’ as we drove into the parking lot…
Getting ready to share my knowledge of professionalism and etiquette, (from the viewpoint of a North American), I was standing in the AYP office printing some information and greeting the teachers as they arrived. I was warmly introduced to Sami, an AYP teacher who is considered to be one of the best African dance teachers in the community. Alas, how could I let that slide by without a request for a dance, so we were whisked away, into the big red room to join the rest of the teachers for an impromptu African dance warm-up. It was fabulous! If you know me, you know that I love to dance. Karen…I thought of you as I was up there flailing my arms and legs to the sweet beats. This was a perfect way to come together, laugh, sweat and smile before the offering.
To my surprise, the workshop was a great success. This morning was my turn to lead the workshop and I was deeply honoured to share my knowledge and experience to ensure that these already powerful teachers could become even more inspiring in their communities. We started the day focusing on the definition of team, setting up the week by creating ground rules in order to support, listen generously and respect everyone participating. We decided to hold each other accountable for our ‘way of being’ during the session and I hope this can be integrated into the weekly AYP meetings so everyone can feel seen, heard and valued. Next, we set our one-year goals, wrote them down, shared them, clearly stated them to the whole group and followed this with a short visualization where we created our experience of living our goals in the present, physically, in our bodies, instead of as a distant wish.
The next topic was ‘table manners’. Mom, this one’s for you- I guess all those years of you nagging me to sit up straight and remove my elbows from the table finally paid off!!!!! It was interesting to share the North American perspective on fine dining. After setting up a mock dining table, with napkins, cutlery and glass-wear and running through the typical etiquette that so many of us have become so accustomed to that we take for granted, I was swamped with questions. This surprised me and I felt a sense of pride in having the opportunity to offer new skills to a different culture. One of the teachers shared at the end of the lesson that she was so happy to now feel comfortable to walk into a classy restaurant and feel confident that she knows how to act. WOW. I didn’t realize the impact that this could have. My favorite part of the workshop was the suggestion at the end, that all of the participating teachers should be invited to attend a dinner at an upscale restaurant in order to apply what they learned. Paige- what do you think? Hehe
We concluded the morning with a discussion on professionalism, personal grooming, punctuality and customer service. All in all, I feel it was a great success, and I think a few of us may even have had some fun. I want to thank the teachers who participated this morning. Your willingness to listen, learn and immediately apply the suggested ground-rules was inspirational. I can’t wait for the next one…
But, tomorrow is a National holiday so we will all be taking an official day of rest. Katy and I are hoping to visit the Elephant Sanctuary and maybe take a little visit to the roof-top pool that Billy pointed out on our walk yesterday. That’s the latest from Nairobi-did I mention this place is awesome, because it is. It’s AWESOME!
PS. My new favourite Swahili word is: TANGAWIZI (meaning GINGER)