The above statement has two meaning in Kenya. The first meaning is the one you and I will most often think of. It’s a thing that one kindergartener might say to another. But in Kenya it’s a little more loaded. When said by a male student to a female student it’s the kind of thing that would send that school girl into a tizzy. For me it simply comes as a least expected shock for which I have no words.
I was walking down the side of very busy Valley Road from the Daystar campus to the local gas station/chip shop for some lunch. I was stopped by a student I had met in a colleague’s office a couple of times but whose name I can never remember (that alone should be a hind of my disinterest) and who I thought was from a different neighboring country to Kenya than he is. He told me he’s been wanting to talk to me and he would like to come see me in my office. I asked him what it was about. He said personal. (I’m a bit clueless, why didn’t I pick up on it then, I could have made some reference to being here on business.)
I offered a time for that afternoon or next week. I would have been happy to walk away then, but he finally said, “I wanted to ask you something. I want to be your friend.” Because of the possible miscommunication of such a phrase, I asked, “A friend-friend or just a friend?” He smiled – I’m sure he meant to be coy. The proposal was clear. Unfortunately I suspect that colleague has probably been feeding this guy info. So here’s where huge cultural gaps come in. As if there isn’t enough going on in my mind and life right now…
I told him as politely as I could that I was not really looking for a friend, thank you.
I walked away thinking about this very odd meeting on the street. Could I or would I ever be interested in someone like this… I did actually give in a few minutes of pondering. Then came to the conclusion it’s not even a possibility. I realized that I could never consider a huge cultural leap, cold turkey like that. I would have to know the person, their character and like them as a regular friend before I could even consider anything else.
Very odd. And so not happening!