Being a Kenyan woman: lessons from Lilian


Within the first few days of our arrival, Lilian said to me, “By the time you leave, you’ll be Kenyan.” I was determined to prove her right! I took every opportunity to learn from her how to do the labor-intensive tasks that she takes on daily, how to serve family and Petals, and how to do it all with a constant smile and a joyful calm that puts others at ease. By the end of our time in Ngochoni, Lilian had grown used to having a shadow almost all the time. The cow never did allow for anyone to milk her except for Lilian — I suppose that skill will have to be learned later. These are some of my highlights:

I loved this setting for washing clothes: outside under this huge tree, with the well nearby for getting clean water when it was time to rinse everything. The techniques I learned are serving me well in India and Thailand, too 🙂

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One morning I insisted upon helping to wash the dishes, so I went with Lilian to the well to carry water on our heads back to the compound. Eddie just had to document:


Of course, after this, I felt confident enough to go to the well by myself and I continued to increase the amount I could carry. I appreciated the independence especially when I wanted to wash my hair (which I decided was easier to do during the daytime rather than in the dark). Soon I could carry an almost-full five gallon bucket from the well, boil some water, and wash my hair with my head upside-down–all by myself.


One weekend while Lilian was gone in Nairobi, I made banana pancakes on Saturday morning. When she returned, we traded secrets: I showed her how to make the pancakes and she taught me how to make mandashi! I even got to be creative with the shapes of the mandashi and made some hearts. (Side note: when we got to India, I wanted to make a Kenyan breakfast for Ian, but something went wrong with my mandashi dough… I’m tempted to fly back to Kenya so Lilian can help me figure out what went wrong!)

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Lilian: for me, she is a mother, a teacher, an example of dedication, resilience and strength, and a dear friend.


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