You can’t expect to find all the items you’re used to when you move to another country. Nor should you expect that they will be centrally located in your neighborhood supermarket. Most families in our neighborhood (i.e. the school campus) have a garden in their yard to grow a number of vegetables. Folks around here call it a ‘shamba’ which is the Swahili word for garden or farm. The ones around here are virtually all fenced in on all sides. It is almost a luxury to grow your own vegetables. The Kenyans who live in the surrounding communities lament the fact that they cannot farm. Vegetables will grow here, but they are subject to marauding bands of baboons. The Kenyans I’ve spoken to scowl when they speak of baboons because they eat or steal any bit of food in sight. Baboons are also protected, so there is little that anybody can do about them. We’ve only had monkeys in our trees so far, but we expect the baboons when the loquats ripen in the next couple of weeks.
We can buy vegetables at an open-air market just ten minutes down the road on foot. Ten or so ladies sit huddled behind their spread of vegetables waiting for customers. They all sell the same limited variety of vegetables. Who to buy from might present one with a dilemma if custom didn’t already dictate that you are supposed to buy something from all of them! Eva came home from her first shopping trip with quite a load. Erik told me the story of one missionary lady who was uncomfortable having to buy from each vendor on each trip. She made a deal with the ladies that she would buy all her vegetables from one lady per trip but then rotate to a different stand the next trip. The sellers agreed to this plan, and they never forgot who was next in line to sell when the missionary came to shop.
The vegetables you buy are not always the same variety you would expect either. Sometimes the shape or color is slightly different, not to mention the taste. Take the green onions for example. They’re huge! (Okay, so I know they are leeks and not green onions, but fat vegetables leads me into my next point about vegetable fat). The margarine we use here isn’t quite like what we’re used to. It tastes fine, but it was a mistake to put it into the refrigerator. The tub is labeled “fat spread”, which isn’t an altogether appealing description. We leave it out at room temperature, and even then, it is a bit difficult to spread. It goes great on hot toast though.
More familiar items in more familiar packaging in more familiar store displays are available in Nairobi, but that isn’t a trip we take too often. And Sam’s Club is a distant dream, but we’re happy here in our small corner of Africa. We will adjust to new habits and routines. We simply feel privileged to be able to serve here.