I have been a lot of places in my life. I have to say that the places I am visiting in Africa are among the most strangely wonderful. This is not a place for people who are looking for order and symmetry; it’s raw and exposed and decidedly unexpected.

We visited James’ homeland and spent some time with members of his family at two different homes and at a school. The hospitality that I enjoyed was made even more special by the fact that the people sharing it with me don’t have all that much to share.

Fumbling to make a great impression on James’s mother Priscilla, I decided that after the long ride and before sitting down to lunch, I would pay a visit to the toilet. Amanda showed me the way to the outhouse building and waited for me outside. The inside of the building was immaculate. I put my feet on the clay footprints on either side of the hole and was off to the races. I thought I was doing great. I mean, I didn’t fall over and kept my balance in my extreme tuck position. I seemed to have avoided my clothes. I was quite proud of myself until Amanda said: “Um – I can tell by the sound that you have probably missed the hole.”

OMG!  In the semi-darkness I was able to see that I had pretty much hosed the place (while still successfully avoiding my clothes and I know you ladies out there are impressed.)

Amanda saved my bacon by getting some water and washing the floor down.  Priscilla does not speak a lot of English – so I was spared the inevitable and embarrassing “How do you like me so far?” conversation.

Our next stop was James’ widowed Aunt Mary. She has an easy smile and was so happy to see us. As a widow with 4 kids and many challenges  it is positively inspirational to see the way Mary deals with her life.  She busied herself with food preparations all the while engaging us in conversation.

When Mary’s daughter Jacqueline heard us talking about the hazelnut trees on their property she sneaked away to collect some; presenting them shyly from within her closed palm.

Mary came out of her kitchen shed with a measuring cup filled with warm water which she poured over our hands in turn to wash them. She brought out slices of white bread for us to eat alongside our drink. The chai was hot and sweet and made with care over an open flame. The family’s kindness and hospitality left a mark.

After chai and bread we went to visit a school where James’ cousin is a teacher. When we pulled into the schoolyard, there were excited cries from the kids of “Mzungu! Mzungu!” (white person). They had just been released from school and were getting ready to go home. Here is a little of that conversation:


Africa. It’s not only about what I am seeing but what I am thinking and feeling as well.