Saturday, September 11, 2010

Now You're Speaking my Language

This is an account of all the tasks and things I was in charge of doing at Ol Malo. The range is fairly large and I loved/appreciated doing all of it to prove I was a hard worker and earn my keep.

I must first introduce you to a woman named Wenjiku. She is a very hard working woman who runs the House at Ol Malo. This means that at any given time she is responsible for making sure up to 20 people are well fed and have absolutely everything they might possibly need (and trust me, these guests pay a lot to ask for the most outlandish things you've ever heard of and she makes it all happen). I worked a lot of the time with her at the House and got to know her well. She is single (which is unusual for her mature age) and in charge which makes it extremely difficult for her since men don't respect women in authority positions and many of the other workers are male. She is probably the hardest working woman I have ever met aside from my own mother and I came to admire her very much for her ability to do whatever Andrew and Chyulu asked with such grace and determination. I spent a lot of my time working at the House with her and learned all my odd jobs through her instruction.

Everyone who knows me knows I am capable of massive amounts of cleaning at once and that I am very thorough. Ol Malo is constantly kept in top condition and everything is cleaned and dusted everyday which makes for a huge task since there are six large rooms with at least two beds each in the House. I scrubbed floors some days, took everything off shelves to dust, cleaned the bathrooms, swept hallways, you name it! The rooms are so much more beautiful than the pictures online can capture, and I was caught frequently sitting in empty bathtubs just admiring the view and scolded for it. :) I worked twice as fast as anyone else so I figured taking short breaks to look at the workmanship of the high ceilings or lose myself in Samburu artwork in the corridors was okay! I washed dishes in the kitchen and got used to the Kikuyu music playing on the radio. My favorite thing was to get the more serious guys in the kitchen to dance with me as we washed and dried and put away hundreds of dishes and everyone would laugh at the crazy Mzungu trying to dance like they did. If nothing else I think they appreciated my attempt at making what they came to call "deesh-time" more fun.

Give me four days, two large very chaotic pantries, and free reign and I will work a miracle. Chyulu gave me permission to clean and organize the food stores. Oh it was such fun! Most people (actually I think everyone else) would think I'm crazy, but I really enjoy organizing pantries, cupboards, etc. I had so much fun re-labeling food shelves and cleaning out containers people started to watch as though I were putting on a show. I think the main reason the kitchen staff in both the Lodge and the House liked me so much was because I made their job of finding butter beans and saltanas so much easier. I made an inventory system for them as well to keep track of how many of each item they had left, and established pars for each item so they knew when they needed to order more. I felt so much better afterward and we celebrated with cups of Kenya tea and a newly discovered bag of dried apricots.

I put together a recipe book for Wenjiku and taught Dixon, George, and Kazungu (the kitchen boys) how to make all my favorite things. We had fun serving this food to the guests and looking through the windows at their reactions to this food since the staff have very different tastes to most Westerners and thought my food was rather gross. Most guests approved though and I picked the most simple recipes to share so the kitchen liked how easy it was to prepare. The recipe book was a gift to Wenjiku when I left and she said that all the recipes in it were to be named after me. On the last day we had "Kezi's Bean Salad," "Kezi's Quiche," "Kezi's Fried Rice," "Kezi's Bloody Mary" and "Kezi's BBQ shrimp." I felt really guilty for inadvertently taking credit for these things that weren't my creations but thought it was a sweet gesture.

I was usually scared before spending time with guests I had just met. The people who stay at Ol Malo are all very well off, very well traveled, educated, influential, and generally way more interesting than I will ever be. These people are difficult to talk to, but I found myself having amazing conversation with them and enjoying serving them their drinks and making sure all was as it should be. I have come up with a list of these interesting characters, some very cool and some not cool at all:

A family from SANTA BARBARA! I was amazed at meeting this family on my second day at Ol Malo. The young girl actually applied for a job at Santa Barbara Roasting Company and I recognized her immediately. Taken so far out of context, I only knew she looked familiar and she looked at me the same. I was astonished that I had actually done a phone interview with her and we had mutual friends in SB. It gets even more weird...her mom is best friends with Mark Gustafson's mom! Mark is the guy who visited Guy who was with him to pick me up at the airport when I first arrived in Nairobi! She was talking about the son of this friend of hers who was visiting a schoolmate from S.B.and I said, "Are you kidding? Is his name Mark Gustafson?! I spent 8 days in Nairobi with him! I went to Vegas with him! I am his friend!" Oh wow, I couldn't believe that here I was in the middle of nowhere in Kenya and here are these people from Santa Barbara. What. A. Small. World.

Along the same lines...a politician and his family from Newport Beach who are originally from SAN LUIS OBISPO, CA. They lived off of Hwy 227 in SLO and actually knew where my house was. They had family who graduated from AG High. No way. The dad was taking a last vacation before returning to California to run for public office. He was very nice and I would vote for him. :) All his children either graduated from Harvard, Stanford, or Duke University, so they were educated and interesting people to talk with.

Dr. Green from E.R. My mom would appreciate this reference because most people know this man as Goose from Top Gun, but I knew him as Dr. Green because we watched E.R. after dinner sometimes at home when I was younger. He is a very nice man, has a very down-to-earth family.

The man who invented the Mac Book: He is very nerdy, somewhat socially awkward, but a very nice guy. His family included a spoiled six year old named David who was the worse-behaved child I have ever seen. No one else in the family even heard David once he started whining and I thought they must have all developed a high selective hearing condition because this type of whining was impossible to ignore. After getting to know the dad I asked him why MacBooks don't have a USB port or CD drive and he laughed and said it was "all part of a larger plan" ...ya, to make money I teased. He responded with an all too well rehearsed "Can you wait for the second version?"

Future Duke of Yorkshire. He was part of a bigger group traveling with Andrew's family, and after about two stiff drinks this rather scrawny and pale English boy named Edward or "Eddie" divulged that he "rather fancied [me]." He actually stole a guide's machete, ripped off his shirt and asked me, "Would you kiss me if I told you I tamed lions?" When I bit my lip and swallowed my laughter he quickly removed his glasses and asked, "how about now?" I was rolling after that, along with everyone else, and it's one of my fondest memories of any car ride at Ol Malo. I did get out of the car, bow in his presence and kiss his hand just to be fair. That's probably the closest thing to royalty I am going to get without my sister being around. :)

There were also some authors, doctors, businessmen, a rich spanish guy we all called "oil tycoon," a few fun newlyweds, adorable babies I got to take care of for a few hours here and there, a guy who worked with Obama and had a bunch of pics on his camera of funny things in the White House (like dancing on tables and licking statues!), and then just some small families vacationing in Africa looking for some adventure. I really got along with most the guests and insisted on hugging them all when they left. It is amazing how close you can get to people just by serving them their tea or swimming with their kids in the river during the course of only a few days.

I loved all my odd jobs at Ol Malo, and for every privilege I was awarded there was a lot of hard work to be done. I don't think I have ever been so fit and tan in my life after spending so much time in the hot sun doing so many different things. I am now known as one of the hardest working crazy Americans in Kenya which isn't a hard title to earn since there aren't many of us here. :)

More to come...

Love, Cacey

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