After a long day of travel (my Kenya Airways Flight from JFK in New York direct to Nairobi was almost 14 hours!) I am now comfortably ensconced at Dan Otieno’s place near Ramula, Kenya. We are quite literally on the Equator. I can cross the equator, changing hemispheres back and forth within an half hour’s walk along the road. I haven’t (yet) done the test to see if water drains in a different circular direction in the North than in the South.
I have known Dan since 2004 and have see him one place or another in East Africa almost annually up until the COVID pandemic shut down international travel. We are like family. I am not sure who adopted whom. I have been to this homestead three times previously. The last time was to attend his marriage to Mercy, who is a Clinical Officer at a clinic about three hours away. His 4-year-old daughter is named Heather Maddie. We have quickly become fast friends, bonding over Paw Patrol. She speaks pretty fluent English with a Kenyan accent and will soon learn both Luo and Swahili as well. She looks at books, turning the pages and taking in the photos and when she closes the book she says “and they all lived happily ever after.”
Like my family at home, they all call me Dedo here. I took on that name when first granddaughter, Maddy, was born 21 years ago. I was working in Bosnia at the time and wasn’t quite ready to be “Grandpa” so I took on the Bosnian name for Grandfather, Dedo. It stuck. Now adults and children alike here in this household call me Dedo.
Dan has hired a young fellow from Kisumu named Evans to help make food when I am around so he and Mercy won’t be preoccupied with meal preparation . He is working in a little kitchen area that is just outside the house. It is quite common for Kenyan homes, in addition to an indoor kitchen, to have an separate building with a wood-burning stove that they use for cooking. It is a bit of a throwback to the traditional ways of preparing food.
I was amazed to hear that this building was actually made out of mud. To build it, a frame was made out of wood and mud from the yard was packed into the frame and allowed to harden for two to three months during the dry season. Another layer was later applied and smoothed and than the outside was painted. It looks like stucco and feels firm. The paint protects against rain damage and termites. It is not expensive and reasonably durable. Rainwater from the roof of the main hose supplies all the water.
The finished mud house kitchen
Tomorrow I am going to show Evansf how to make focaccia! He works as a cook in Kisumu so he can return with a recipe for Focaccia to impress his friends. We are having lots of fresh fruits including pineapple that we picked up at a street market on our way here. It was picked yesterday and is ripe and sweet and totally unlike the pineapple we get from Costa Rica in Food Basics.
There are chickens in the yard that produce a few fresh eggs. There are also a few goats, a couple of geese, a stray cat and some vervet monkeys in the trees.
Network coverage in this very rural setting is a big hit and miss so posting might be more of a challenge than I anticipated. Hang in.
John, ao good to hear your news from Kenya. A BIG hujambo to Daniel and family. I can feel the dirt under my toes and the sun on my face reading your words. I can see your big smile as you reacquaint with family, friends, and mother earth 🌍 which seems so much more present there 😊
Hey John, Good to know that you are settling in at your second home. Dan looks to be well established with his beautiful family and lovely property. Your photos bring back happy memories and make me wish I was in Africa again. Continue to enjoy both East Africa and Paw Patrol! Hope the focaccia lesson turns out well and yeast and rosemary are readily available.
Dan has a really robust rosemary plant in his garden. That’s pretty much what stimulated me to say let’s try it.
We had it tonight and it turned out great. Evans is going to take the recipe back with him when he goes back to work.
I was trying to see how I could post a photo of us making the focaccia in this reply but I guess that is not an option. Dan has a big rosemary plant in his garden which spurred the idea for me. We got some little packets of yeast at the supermarket. And Heather Maddie who is kind of a picky eater wolfed it down. We will make some more this weekend.
Much love ❤️ to Dan, Mercy, and Heather Maddie. Send Evans my way to cook 🧑🏾🍳 for me!! 😋