"I'm speaking my language right now" I told him, laughing.
"No, right now you are speaking African. You can talk to him in your language with your accents."
"OK, I'll meet you there after the hospital. Thank you."
I shared a booth with Stephen as we waited for the American man to arrive at Sherlock's Den. When he walked in I knew instantly that I wasn't going to like him. I know, don't judge a book by its cover, but sometimes you can just tell. He walked straight to one of the waitresses and started barking orders at her in English. So far he was meeting my expectations.
He was in his thirties and had started a renewable energy company which has projects around Africa. Maybe he wasn't so bad after all. He ran off for a minute or two then hastily sat back down, "I had to round up the troops. I hope you don't mind that some people are joining us."
His beautiful Kenyan girlfriend, a Kenyan student, and a couple visiting for two weeks from Michigan showed up. The husband from Michigan was his business partner. They were in town to visit a plot of land owned by Stephen's brother which they hoped to put an energy project on. Stephen was meeting with them on his brother's behalf to take them to the property. Most of lunch was a business meeting so I concentrated on my vegetable fajitas, or "fageetas" as the waitress called them. When that was over we made some awkward small talk.
I directed my attention at the man from Michigan we were originally supposed to be meeting.
"So you said you've been living here for two years now?"
"Well, off and on for a while, but I've been permanently in Nairobi for about a year now."
"Oh, so you must know Kiswahili?" I asked him.
He laughed, "No. The way I look at it, they can adjust to my culture. They're blessed to have me here." He nudged his girlfriend and gave her a sly smile, "Right?" She grinned back at him sheepishly.
He may have been being sarcastic, but there was definitely a hint of seriousness to his tone.
Stephen told him, "I said to Gwen to come along so she could speak in her language to you and feel at home."
"Ah I already feel at home here" I said, smiling.
The man from Michigan interjected, "You feel at home here? What is Maryland like?"
He went on to tell us that Rwanda is the best country in Africa to do business in, "You know, I hate to say it, but Rwanda wouldn't be the place it is today if all that hadn't happened" he said, referring to the Rwandan Genocide in 1994. He didn't seem too torn up about it, viewing it as more of a business opportunity than anything. "You know, everyone over the age of thirty remembers it and lost family and friends during it. You can still see the scars sixteen years later" he said with a seemingly sick fascination.
I drove Stephen to the property and talked to the wife and girlfriend as we waited for the men to survey the land. The wife told me about a rural village they'd been in last week to test the water there.
"I mean these people had never seen white people before and of course they" waving off in the distance to the men from Michigan and the Kenyan student, "were working, so I was trying to entertain them. Everyone wanted pictures and the mothers would send off their kids to put on their best dresses for the photo. They were all asking me how many goats I had too. I tried to tell them that we don't really own goats or other animals like that unless we live on a farm...We ate dinner with a family one night and the three year old was running around with a needle! The mother took a burning hot pot of tea and poured cup after cup with her bare hands. They're tough! The other day we were walking up this big muddy hill and we thought we were at the top when they told us that we were only half way. We both gave up and turned around, but there were women walking up the hill in little heels and old women with canes that passed us! I mean I guess they have no choice, they're raised like that from a young age."