Saturday, 11 April 2009

Kids and Curiosity

Sitting at a table outside a café in Kisii, I naturally become the centre of attention, especially for the kids walking home from school.

The bigger kids smile shyly and wave, the little ones stare, wide-eyed.

Some of the bigger kids encourage the smaller ones to come over and touch me. I hold my hand out so that they don't have to get too close to this weird, pale person sitting in the main street of their town.

Kisii, is not a major tourist area and as such is visited by very few Europeans or Americans, other than volunteer students, usually young and female, taking a gap year.

So, to see a mature white man in town is quite a sight.

It was the same in Komarock, a suburb to the east of Nairobi. As my hosts do not smoke, I took to sitting on the step outside their walled plot to have a cigarette.

At first, the local kids passed on the other side of the road. Then, some became braver and walked closer so that they could get a better look.

The ice was broken when I sat there with my digital camera. "Please, take my picture." "No, me, me, mimi!"

These kids live near the capital city, but many, especially the younger ones have never seen a white man, certainly not in their neighbourhood.

Watamu was different. Although it is still a small fishing village, because of the white sands protected by the reef, it has become a tourist attraction. There are many high-end hotels, run by Europeans. There are a lot of white people around. In the local supermarket, next to the Commissioner's office, European customers outnumber local residents.

People do not look twice when I am walking down the road, unless I am accompanied by my two step-children, Natasha and Ian, who are Kenyan.

It can be a bit disconcerting, being stared at, but I quickly realised that it is sheer curiosity - nothing sinister, just inquisitiveness - I can happily live with that.

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