The agenda for the day was to drive around and look at places where Steven might have been when he was a street boy. We wanted to trigger memories. Memories are very important.
“Do you remember this place?”
“No,” he always said. Maybe he got frustrated that we always asked and he never remembered anything. People would speak to him in Swahili and he wouldn’t understand a word, even though we all thought that it would all come back once he heard it again.
Nothing came back. But we did see a group of street boys, sniffing glue and looking vacant and delighted when we gave them candy canes and took pictures.
(The reason behind the black box on the boy’s shirt is that it had on it two bad words and a very naked lady.)
(All photo credits go to Mom, btw)
We stopped at a park. A man came up to us with a cooler of corn ice cream.
I said, “what is corn ice cream?”
“Oh, here, here,” he said, and pulled off the lid of the cooler. “Only ten shillings.”
“But it’s corn ice cream?”
“Yes, yes, cown ice cream!” (Kenyans don’t really pronounce r’s much)
“There is corn in the ice cream?”
“No, no, here is cown!” He held up the bag of cones in his other hand.
“Oh, it’s cone ice cream, like, ice cream in a cone!”
“Yes, yes, cown ice cream. You want some? Only ten shillings!”
We all laughed except the man selling the cown ice cream who didn’t get the joke. He just wanted money. But we didn’t buy any.
“I wish you wouldn’t have asked the man that,” said Mom, “I think when you did he expected you to buy some.”
Maybe. But I didn’t want to buy some, I just wanted to talk to him.
We went to a Chinese and Thai restraint for lunch and I ordered fish and chips. I felt very multicultural.
Giving up on triggering memories, we decided to make one more stop: the animal carving place.
There was a lot of cool Africa paraphernalia and carved animals and jewelry and woven purses all under five bucks or so. The thing is, I did not want to buy anything. I don’t just go around buying stuff unless I can think of a very good use for it or it is a gift or I specifically think I deserve a special treat.
Still, I was hounded, hounded, hounded. “Sistah, come look at my shop! You like this? Only fifty shillings! You can use this for flowas! That is a tea spoon! You like these little powses?”
Once I said to a guy, “will you be angry with me if I don’t buy anything?” And he laughed and said no. Then we talked for a long time about his carving business and where he gets his stone and why he chooses here to sell and also about my adopted brother Steven.
It was very nice.
I just wanted to talk, and know people, but I didn’t want to buy anything. I felt so bad. They acted as if their whole life depended on me buying one stupid stone hippopotamus. One man said, “if you buy from me I will use this money to buy myself food for dinnah.”
I didn’t want to shut myself up in the car just because I wasn’t going to buy anything. I wanted to look. It was all so beautiful and fascinating and amazing and I wished I could have just walked through looking, like a museum, or wal-mart.
I didn’t want to buy anything, just look, and talk, and absorb the beauty.
One last thing: on the way to the carving place Steven said, “I remember that place. I used to sleep there.”
Mom and I of course freaked out and wanted to stop but Steven got an annoyed look on his face and so we shut up.
But she got a picture.