July 11, 2004
Another Sunday rolls around, and the crew is taking a well-deserved rest. I'll go out with the Geology Field Course students for part of the day, and then hope for some quiet time in camp to catch up on reading and maybe some notes.
While I was in Nairobi on Thursday evening, Amanda and Lynn got to spend dinner with Muteti. They asked about his life when he's not the foreman of our excavation crew. Like most of our crew, Muteti Nume is Mkamba, a person from the Kamba tribe, who live mostly as farmers southeast of Nairobi. They own large shambas (plots of land) on which they grow maize, beans, potatoes, and all sorts of vegetables, which they eat themselves. When asked why he didn't sell some of the food, Muteti said he would need to have a tractor in order to make enough to sell. Rather than go into commercial farming, many of the men take jobs in Nairobi to earn some cash. They live in the city during the week while their wife and children take care of the farms. The men like to return home on the weekends. To Amanda and Lynn, the distance sounded awfully far, but Muteti said that he thought many Africans live separated from their families. In any case, it's the only way many people can afford to live, since they can't make money from farming, but don't make enough money from the day jobs in the city alone to support their families. Happily for Muteti, he sees his children frequently, as one of his sons is our project's car mechanic, and another one works in the Nairobi Museum, where Muteti also works during the rest of the year.
You might imagine that living as a farmer in rural parts of Kenya would lead to a very secluded life, but don't be deceived! Partly because tourists are attracted to Kenya's wonderful wildlife reserves, and also because tourists and scientists alike are fascinated by the country's prehistoric discoveries, Kenyans get to meet and become friends with many foreigners. One of Muteti's best friends, Dr. John Barthelme, is an archeologist from St. Lawrence University, whom he sees about once a year in Kenya. I also invited Muteti a couple years ago to the United States, where he worked at museums and visited friends for several months. He's been to New York City, Chicago, and Washington, DC.
Not even all Americans can say that!