Things fall apart. It’s the title of an incredibly famous (and well worth your time) book by Chinua Achebe and it is also the way things go sometimes. They just fall apart.
We bought a stove from ‘Matts Place’ – a kind Kenyan businessman capitalizing on the high turn over rate among the expatriate community, buying things from those leaving and reselling them to those coming.
Stupidity disclaimer – we never saw the stove before we agreed to buy it.
Tidbit of current Kenyan foreign relations – Kenya’s army is currently in southern Somalia in response to several incidents of kidnappings in northern Kenyan. The kidnappings were deemed the responsibility of a Somali terrorist network, al Shabab. In response to Kenya’s pursuit of al Shabab, an individual associated with al Shabab carried out two grenade attacks in Nairobi about a month ago. He was arrested, security remains heightened in Nairobi, and the Kenyan army is making good progress in Somalia – with their only expressed goal being to push al Shabab away from the Kenyan border in order to stabilize Kenyan national security.
Ok – so, the stove. When the stove arrived it was much, much smaller than we anticipated. But, it had four burners, was a gas stove (which is highly preferred, especially as the power in our apartment complex has been going out approximately 2 times a day for approximately 2-3 hours each time), and was only $130. All of my baking dishes, so carefully brought over from the US, fit inside with the door closed so we agreed on the stove, with the request Matt contact us if he ever came across ‘an upgrade’.
The stove was doing fine despite its diminished stature, food was cooking fine, and though the pans on top of the stove wobbled a bit when I stirred their contents, we were relatively content.
Come Thanksgiving pt2 on Saturday (we had pt1 on Thanksgiving) – the goal was to eat at 5 with a group of individuals in their 20s who are all living on our side of town & are in similar working situations/life stage.
I proceeded to prepare the pumpkin to make pumpkin casserole – which involves cutting a pumpkin into slices (it took Scola, our househelp, a good 30 min to cut the pumpkin into 6 pieces as the shell was so hard), covering it in butter & cinnamon, & roasting it for about 1 ½ hours. The pumpkin is then mashed, and at this point is reminiscent of canned pumpkin. I can then engage in the actual recipe making, baking, and presenting.
Now, I had noticed a flame coming out of the bottom of the oven when I lit it – I thought it was a bit odd, but not alarming as all gas stoves have flames on the bottom (just usually contained beneath the bottom panel of the oven).
So, I filled up my only 9x13 pyrex baking dish with pumpkin & let it bake & bake. Scola and I were happily working in the kitchen on other things. I took out the pumpkin at the appropriate time & set the pan on top of the stove. As I walked towards the sink, I heard a crack similar to ice popping and thought ‘my only 9x13 just cracked…and it took up so much suitcase weight getting here!’
I mentioned the cracking sound to Scola and as we both looked at the stove, and began to take a step towards it there was a loud explosion and literally thousands of pieces of Pyrex glass went spraying across the stove & it’s surrounding area.
I stood there surprised (there’s the possibility some sort of expression of surprise I hope Kai didn’t hear snuck out of my mouth). Scola screamed and literally ducked behind me, peering out from behind my shoulder, Chris came running to see what happened, Kai said “wow! Boom!!! More? More?” and Mika slept.
Things to be thankful for:
* the pumpkin was salvageable & eatable
*Kai, I think to his disappointment, was not in the room
* the trajectory of small pieces of heavy hot glass is not far from the origin of the explosion, and therefore no injuries were sustained
* the gas line connecting the gas tank to the gas stove remained completely intact
Things to be unthankful for:
* I no longer have any 9x13 baking dishes
* I’m going to be late for Thanksgiving
* I have a huge mess to clean up – and it involves hot, sticky glass
* My stove is incredibly, and irrevocably dysfunctional
- Return policies are not always easy to navigate
- The exchange rate continues to drop so my stove is actually now more
expensive than when I bought it.
Things to be amused by:
* I wasted 4lbs of space on a Pyrex destined for a spectacular, and immediate, demise
Reason #1: “Well, Mama Kai, are you still thankful? Is this still your Thanksgiving?”
Reason #2: When, after the initial shock of the event wore off, I pointed out Scola obviously hiding behind me she responded with “well yes, I was scared! I thought it was al Shabab!”
Reason #3: At the end of the day, as we were walking out the door after quite a few things had gone wrong (not just the exploding pumpkin Pyrex) she said “well, I think Satan probably feels pretty bad because he tried very hard and we are still happy!”
So – we made it to Thanksgiving (we didn’t eat until 8:30 because our hostess had to actually go out and purchase another stove because her first one was broken – and then the second one broke), and had a wonderful time making new acquaintances & hopefully some new friends.
Sometimes, things fall apart – but in Kenya, the people are incredibly resilient, and smile easily, and we are quickly becoming that way.
We are learning to graciously smile, and finding our venues for needed brief retreats.