Saturday, 1 October 2011

On Tribalism and the old boyfriend

Since we've been here most people have decided to place me into a tribal group upon meeting me. I am usually mistaken for a kikuyu (largest tribal group in Kenya and typically comprises most of Kenya's government) or a Tita (a tribe from the coast, usually lighter in complexion). I realize the purpose for this continuous categorization and enjoy the fun of it all. We as humans are inclined to classify people according to our own empirical paradigm. This helps us not to feel suspicious of others. Once someone acts outside if the parameters that we have created for them great strides must be made for mental reclassification of the individual under the magnifying glass. The effect is a neo-tribal society where the tribes are known as country clubs, churches, lodges, socioeconomic status, and the like.

While living here I think back to the days when first moved to Jerusalem. Part of the difficulty that we experienced living there several years ago was that our neighbors and other Israelis who we met on the street could not classify us according to their paradigm so the automatic response was to be wary of us."Ok so let me get this straight, you are from Bermuda which is next to the US but you're not American....but you hold a British passport and you look African/Cuban... but we are speaking to each other in Hebrew now....and why did you say you wanted to come here again??" This was the usual course of conversation for at least the first year. Once they started to believe that we were not spies or even worse, missionaries, some very dear friendships began to form.

Back to Kenya where I have been adopted by a very dear Kenyan family as their kikuyu daughter (as they call me), we were eating dinner, talking Kenyan politics (my third favorite conversation after sex and education), I suddenly began to feel a huge sense of loss-like I missed I had just broken up with my boyfriend. As the conversation about Kenyan politics began to fade into the distance I saw the one that my heart was pounding for. He was 21 square miles long and shaped like a fish hook. Now before any of you women get excited you should know that I am talking about my homeland.  For those of you who know me you have heard me express often about how Bermuda is too small to contain my dreams and ideas and from the moment that I touch its shores you know that I am mapping out how I can escape from the invisible, monotonous chains that lay claim to the soul that dares to try to make a small difference in her sphere. I sang this song for over 20 years of my life until a few, just a few of my dreams were realized when my book, "The Lizard & the Rock" became a Bermuda sensation and the unique and beautiful snowballing effects that followed.

As the conversation about politics and the state of the economy became louder and louder in my ear I realized that this new location, with its ethno and neo tribalism, was inviting me to get to know it, with all of its goodness and faults while the old boyfriend was fading into the salty shadows-for a while. And in the midst of Kenyan food, great fun and my newly classified tribe, I had to admit that I miss the old boyfriend, Bermuda but I am ready to embrace newness.


  1. Please tell more about Kenyan food!

  2. hey Donna yesterday I ate this wondrful coconut milk fish stew with rice. Indian chapati and chicken pilau have also become Kenyan favorites. There is also a Kikuyu dish where maze is cooked with beans which is also really yummy. Of course no meal is traditionally complete without ugali, the staple food here that reminds me off stiff cornmeal.

  3. Yesterday I ate an amazing tasting coconut milk fish stew with rice. Indian chapati is also a favorite here along with chicken pilau. There is also a kikuyu dish where the beans and maze are cooked together which I enjoy. Of course no meal is complete without ugali. The look and texture of ugali reminds me of stiff corn meal.