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Tara’s background: Jesse and I always planned to settle in Kenya.
When we started dating 10 years ago, while working for the humanitarian aid organization Médecins Sans Frontières in Uzbekistan, I told him I wanted to live abroad long-term, and he said he hoped to eventually move home.
This week, our Motherhood Around the World series goes to Nairobi, where Tara Wambugu lives with her Kenyan husband, Jesse, and two daughters, Claire, 4, and Heidi, one and a half.
Here, she explains how Kenyans refer to their elders, the pleasure of outdoor bathing and 18 other surprising things about living in Kenya…
We live in Kilimani, a neighborhood with a suburban feel, where we rent a house.
On being a multi-racial family: Even though mixed-race couples in Kenya aren’t as rare as they used to be, people are surprised to see a Kenyan man married to a white American woman. Usually it’s just curiosity, but it can be unpleasant.
I always remember the children’s names, so I can easily just call a mother “Mama Mya,” if I forget her first name.
It is a sign of respect to be referred to as “Mama Claire,” and I love it.
A few years ago, a city servant responsible for collecting parking fees confiscated my car keys and threatened to put a boot on my tire if I didn’t pay him a bribe!
I asked what law I had broken and demanded to go to a courthouse so I could settle any legitimate fines the legal way. I was shaking with anger and frustration at the end of the exchange, but proud of myself for not contributing to an inherently corrupt system.