>THEY’RE OUT (Part 1): Visiting

>Today we ventured out of our temporary home for the first time. Our supervisors thought they had found a home for us in the city and decided to take us visiting to “check it out” and meet with our prospective landlady. A ten minute ride in the four by four and we pulled up into a surprisingly quiet street, exited the car, and walked through the gate into the loveliest of surprises: a beautiful garden.
We rang the doorbell, and surprise surprise, no one home (despite calling twenty minute prior to let her know we would be arriving- This is Africa). So we sat outside for bit, admiring the view of the, uh, wall, and uh, iron door, and then tried the doorbell once more. This time a young house helper came to the door and silently motioned for us to go upstairs. At the top of the stairs, a lovely, middle aged woman greeted us with the classic hand on the shoulder followed by a handshake. I, of course, did not know this was the classic greeting and fumbled my way through—first offering a hand as she lightly touched my right shoulder and then catching on too late—touching her right shoulder as she offered her hand. I couldn’t help but laugh at my awkwardness and she smiled graciously, even giggled a little with me. We toured the apartment for a time, then settle in on the couches to chat (or rather, for me to listen and the others to chat). The landlady left the room for several minutes, and the three of us looked at each other a bit confused, wondering if we had somehow offended her with our stupidity. She returned with a tray of tea and sent the house helper out for “biscuits” which I assumed meant cookies. With that, tea commenced. By “tea” I mean taking a cup, filling it half way up with sugar, pouring boiling hot tea into the remaining space, and adding an extra spoonful of sugar for good measure. Translation- really, really good tea. As I was sipping, the helper returned with a tin of little cookies, which the landlady passed around to us. We each took one, ate it way too quickly, and then were offered another. Just as I was finishing the last bite of the second cookie a memory flashed into my mind of a friend telling us that in this culture, it is customary to leave one bite left on your plate to demonstrate to the host that you are indeed finished and in need of no more. I froze in mid-chew pondering my options. Spit it out and put it on the plate –not an option. Take another cookie if offered—bad idea since it probably was already a stretch on a limited pocketbook for us to have had two. Pretend to be a stupid foreigner who doesn’t know anything but smiles a whole lot and seems pleasant enough –seemed like the best idea. So smiling broadly, I covered as much of my tea saucer as possible with my hand and tried to seem normal. The evening ended with our first ride on a rickshaw (I hope you all can come and ride one with me one day soon, it’ll change your life). Four grown women stuffed in the backseat of an African rickshaw. A great way to end a day

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