It takes a village to host an intern. Or such is the generous custom of the people in Bukura. Even in the last weeks I have not gotten used to my being received as such an honorable guest. People still hop up to offer me their chairs whenever I walk into a room, give me extra treats at tea time, and make sure that I always travel places safely and am never ever alone. In the evenings after school when I would go to my host mother’s cell phone shop I would meet many of her friends and people who worked in the neighboring market shops. On our walk home from the shop we would pass by many of the same people each day and greet them. In the mornings when I was walking to school alone they would recognize me and say hi. Or sometimes, in a fantastically uninhibited manner I would hear “Mzungu, greet me!” as I walked past.
Some of the female teachers at school began to call me their little sister. By the third of my eight weeks of work at the school one of the teachers offered to have a dress tailor made for me. So on our walk from school to my mother’s shop after school that day, we stopped by the tailor and she had me choose the fabric. They made it in the traditional Eastern African kitenge style. In the last week when it was completed and I wore it to school, my students told me I looked smart.
Even the students took it upon themselves to make me feel very welcome. One day in Class 5 after we had had some time to ask me questions about the US – during which they inquired of Albert Schwarzenegger, Tom and Jerry, and flying cars – they offered me an orange, some pop corns they had packed from home, some biscuits also brought from home, some mango juice, and ground nuts. Apparently I wasn’t grading their homework harshly enough. Another time when we were at a musical competition, some Class 8 students offered to buy me a myriad of snacks from the vendors who had lined the walkways. Once when we visited the house of my mother’s friend and she found that I liked fish, she sent me home with some hard-to-come-by canned tuna. When early on I expressed a satisfaction with roasted sim sim (sesame seeds) and ground nuts (peanuts), they were almost never absent from the tea table. I am still marveling at the extent to which people supported my being there.