10 on the 10th, Sounds of Kijabe
I love Kenya. The beautiful people. The diverse population with its mix of languages and dialects. The mountain and valley views. The majestic animals. The breathtaking sunsets. And the sounds. So for today’s Ten, I’m posting about 10 of my favorite sounds that will forever be Kenya to me…or at least Kijabe. (Note: Sadly, I couldn’t’ figure out how to upload the videos I collected for many of the sounds, so you’ll have to use your imagination.)
1. The wind. Kijabe means “place of the wind,” or at least that’s what I’m told. Every single night, without fail, the voracious wind comes whipping down the side of the mountain back down into the Rift Valley. Sometimes it sounds like a freight train. Other times I’d swear it was raining from all the noise the leaves are making as they are forced to collide with each other in the air. It’s a strong, loud sound, yet somehow still calming. I suppose the calm comes from knowing it’s bedtime and I’m safe from the “storm” outside. Once the wind really picks up, it’s nature’s clock reminding me that it’s time to snuggle down and hit the hay.
2. Football. We’ve learned to distinguish between the terms football (soccer) and American football since living in Kenya. The former is almost as predictable now to me as the nightly wind. Across the street from us is a football field. Most nights there’s a rowdy, yet cheerfully sportsmanlike game of football going on between many of the local Kenyan guys. The shouts of teammates to each other in Swahili and Kikuyu mostly, mixed with the cheers of the fans on the sidelines makes for a fun way to round out our afternoons. And the field is just far enough away that it’s not too loud. More like a sweet background soundtrack to my evening meal preparations. Not to mention entertainment for my boys, keeping them out of my kitchen while I slice, dice, chop, simmer and saute.
3. Birds. I have a love/hate relationship with most of the birds in my life. For the first few months we lived in this house, a pair of ibises made their nest just above our bedroom window. Around 5:30 am, EVERY morning, they’d sound like babies crying “Mahhhhh” for their mommies, back and forth to each other. And then there are the hornbills who laugh loudly at each other from the tops of nearby trees. They sound sort of like the Count on Sesame Street, “Aah aah aah aah!!!” But then there are the simple morning songs of the sweetest birds ever. Reminding me, when I happen to be up and out earlier than the rest of my clan, of how calm and otherwise quiet it is in this peaceful place we call home.
4. Our washing machine. I know this sounds so stupid, but our washing machine sings the best little 27 note ditty when the cycle is complete. Abigail and I crack each other up most days as we catch one or the other of us happily whistling along to this familiar tune. I mean, what’s happier than a song that announces the laundry is now smelling fresh and clean?! Seriously, depending on the depths of the mud/dirt stains, some days it’s an announcement that a pure miracle has happened and the stains have been removed, yet again.
5. Kenyan Accents. I love listening to Kenyans speak English. My favorite thing, by far, is the way they sing Happy Birthday. Sadly, I don’t have it recorded (yet), but trust me. It’s perfect. I know most people are familiar with the many African Children’s Choirs that are out and about on tour or heard in the background of plenty of songs. We are lucky enough to get to hear both children and adults alike singing every time we attend the local church. Every time I just think about the many accents we will hear in heaven when we all worship together. Forever.
6. Monkeys. Whether it’s the sound of monkeys loudly sprinting across my roof as our dog barks and chases them, or the actual sounds the different monkeys make, it’s still amazing to me that monkeys are an every day occurrence in my life now. The fact that I can distinguish between the sound of a Colobus and a Sykes monkey continues to impress even myself.
7. The Airtel Lady. Here in Kenya, we “top up” the minutes on our phones regularly. While it’s truly a frustrating moment every time it happens because it means I’m gonna have to pay before I can make a call or send a text, I’d be remiss not to mention this sound as one that is strictly Kenyan for me. “Sorry (roll the r’s), u do not have enough credit.”
8. Kids singing Kenyan National Anthem. So, I’m pretty sure my kids no longer know the lyrics to the Star Spangled Banner (somebody hook us up with some Royals or Chiefs tickets next time we’re in KC and I’m sure it would help!), but one thing they all DO know, is the local national anthem. Hearing them sing in Swahili in unison is one of my latest favorite pastimes. The lyrics in English are pretty great too. “O God of all creation. Bless this our land and nation. Justice be our shield and defender. May we dwell in unity, peace and liberty. Plenty be found within our border-er-ers.”
9. The (blessed) Rains (down in Africa). It drives my children crazy when the rain on our roof makes whatever movie they are trying to watch inaudible. I, however, love it. Between the more serious drought and the less serious problem of the overabundance of ants storming my kitchen and bathroom everyday on their quest to find water, I am always happy when it rains. I’m even happier when the rain is coupled with a chill in the air, so I have the excuse to sit inside by a cosy fire and just listen to the drops as they fall.
10. Maasai Mara (safari on the savannah grasslands). While not exactly a part of my every day life in Kijabe, I simply must mention the incredible sounds of the majestic Mara. I love that our family has had the experience of hearing lions in the wild roar to each other while we sit safely by and listen. Sutton can expertly make the sound of both hippos and wildebeests, which sound strangely similar to each other, yet he can make the distinction. We’ve heard the sound of hyenas in the distance and elephants trumpeting each other as they request their turn rolling in a mud bath. And while each of those animal sounds is amazing in their own right, the thing that is even more Mara-esque to us is the silent, lack of sound that surrounds the entire 700 square miles, or at least the bit we’ve been able to explore. If we’re out right before the sun rises, and if the animals (or our children) aren’t roughhousing yet, the silence is overwhelming. Nothing to hear but the wind.