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Greeting People

Greeting people is very important in Kenya, and you can't pass someone you know in the street without stopping to greet them and talk with them for a bit. Greeting men (if you are a woman) seems fairly straightforward. It is usually a simple handshake. The man might use both hands or put his left hand on his elbow, as he shakes your hand. Occasionally, as well as shaking your hand, they will do a thumb hook thing, before shaking your hand again. Greeting women is more complicated. They might do a simple handshake, or the handshake/thumbhook/handshake thing or they might tap you on the left shoulder with their right hand before shaking your hand and doing either a simple handshake or the handshake/thumbhook/handshake thing. Or, they might hold their head next to yours on one side, then on the other (right first then left) before a simple handshake or handshake/thumbhook/handshake thing. No idea whether this is a general Kenyan thing or specific to the Kalenjin.

I am staying in an Kalenjin community. The subtribe is called Keio (I think). There are a few Kikuyu here, but the overwhelming majority of people are Kalenjin. The Kikuyus are the biggest tribe in Kenya. They originate from central Kenya, but many have come to the fertile highlands to start farms here.

One of the biggest differences between here and London is probably time and people's attitude to time. people in general seem to have more time in rural areas than in urban areas, even in the UK, but the attitude to time here in Flax is taking some getting used to for me, especially after 4 years in London. People rarely turn up at the agreed time. And no one bats an eyelid at this. It is what is expected. In fact, someone who is good at time keeping will tend to be nicknamed ‘mzungu’ (white person), because good time keeping is considered a ‘white’ tendency.

Funerals take almost an entire day. Sunday services can take hours, as well. Last Sunday, we had a service in

Kiluka Church. We were late for that service, but took time first to talk to the Sunday School. I think the service was supposed to have started at 10am, but it didn't start until 11am. In this service, a civil

marriage was blessed. This involved not just the blessing of the marriage, but speeches from the couple and from other relatives. Then a family wanted to give thanks for the fact that their son and husband had

been succesfully treated for cancer. The church had helped raise the money for the treatment. They gave a sheep to the church. There were lots of speeches from the son/huband, from the wife and the parents, an

uncle and some other people. Then there were lots of baptisms. Each person being baptised and each parent having their child baptised spoke about why they were being baptised or having their child baptised. A

large group of children from the Sunday School were baptised, too, as well as speeches, they recited the Lord's Prayer, the Apostolic Creed and something else. I tried to keep my sermon short, but the fact that

it was being interpreted meant t hat that took twice as long. Finally, there were prayers for the relatives of a 24 year old who had died the previous Friday. It was almost 4pm by the time the service was finished.

Then there was lunch. The family who had given the sheep in thanksgiving for their son's recovery, had prepared a massive lunch for everyone there. They had strawberries for me, fresh from their field! Fresh

strawberries in February -- what a treat. After lunch, there were more speeches. Initially about the son and the family, but eventually also about me in order to welcome me. At the end, the women formed a circle

and everyone danced past me, greeting me, before joining the circle. Last of all the men joined us. During this, everyone was singing. I was given lots of food items (more strawberries, peas, mangoes, corned beef,

onions, tomatoes, oil) for my stay here.

After the service and the festivities, we went to see the family of the young man who had died, to offer our condolences. It was nearly 7pm, by the time we got back to the vicarage! I used to moan when there was lots of tidying up to do after Sunday services and I wouldn't get back to the vicarage until

after 1.30pm, but that seems early now compared to church life here. What amazed me the most was that, because of my refusal to get on another motorbike, a driver had to be found for us. The people's warden at St Christopher's in Flax, sent his son in his car to the 8am English service. This young man then drove us to Kiluka Church after the English service. He stayed for the service and acted as interpreter for my sermon. He stayed for lunch and the speeches, then drove us to the house of the bereaved family and finally drove us home. And never a word of complaint. He works on his parents' farm and is very busy during the week. He probably has things to do on a Sunday as well, but he seemed happy to wait around for us all day. I found this very impressive.

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