Who’s going to do the dishes?

It’s that time of the year; after a long year of toiling we come together to reflect, to give thanks (even for a particularly difficult year) and break bread or whatever pastry of choice and in Kenya Christmas is synonymous with chapatis and mandazis.

Family and friends even the occasional foe take these next few days to bond and reconnect. Somehow the pressures of everyday temporarily melt away. There’s cheer in the air, for a couple days the world slows down.

People from all walks of life find a way to make the days (and especially Christmas day) special. Both big and small gestures, food- lean and fatty meats, tasty treats and sweets are the cherry on the pie that is Christmas. We make merry and are gleeful with festive cheer as we gather our thoughts and plans for the coming year.

Yes, this is a time of the year for believers and non-believers alike to simply calm down. After all, it’s Christmas, or the holidays; whichever  suits you.

After a day of feasting and merry-making, there’s one question on everyone’s mind….

Who will do the dishes?

So we’ve eaten to our fill and everyone has contributed to making the day a success. There’s uncle who we rely on every year to pick the fattest, tastiest goat and turn it into tasty pieces of barbeque and his wife who bakes the cake, she even puts an actual cherry on top. Mum asks some of the boys to take a break from playing football and light the jiko (charcoal stove), there’s more than one if we plan on feeding this gathering of humans besides the world cup is over the best chapatis have that smokey tinge to them, she says ..


A family affair

It’s the end of day. Everyone is filled, happy but tired

A few people are exchanging knowing glances, others avoiding eye contact because they don’t want to answer the question on everyone’s mind. Who will clean the grease off the pots, scrape the leftovers from the plates, wash and put them away? Should it be dad? He woke up early to get the supplies and has been catering to all those literally doing the catering to ensure they had everything they needed to prepare the meals. It doesn’t seem polite to ask the Jiranis our neighbors and special guests for the day, they don’t know where anything goes anyway.

Then there are the children; the under 18s, varying in age, energy and skill level. Some are already conversant with chores. The older boys and girls are not particularly keen on sitting around the adults and doing the dishes may be a far better option and more importantly an escape! Besides, the blue tooth speaker in their possession turns any activity into a party!

The little ones are useful too , as they run about chasing, hiding and seeking an adult will say “take this plate there, bring that phone here” of course  beginning with the word “please”, after all, they must lead by example.

They can’t do the dishes, the crockery (the good ones at that, saved for special occasions and guests) cannot be trusted to survive their tiny little fingers and this is not the time to give one that occasional boost over the kitchen sink to “wash” their one little plate. That is more about the principle and less about cleaning the plate.

Besides it’s typically mum who does the boosting and after a day of spinning chapatis and bending over stews, her back has had enough.

Here’s an idea, maybe we should ask grandma, she’s been knitting all afternoon while listening in to the stories. She can’t possibly be that tired then. On this day everything is told animatedly. She beams with joy as she watches her children and grandchildren carry on, most of them take on after her husband, granddad who every year dramatizes his 100 km trek from his home in search of a job nearly half a century ago. The story ends with him getting the job and perhaps that is why everyone is here today.

It is not lost on anyone that every year the distance gets longer and the details more dramatic. This year, the cat seems to have turned into a leopard.  “The good old days”, he says! To some they only seem old; good, not so much!

As it gets darker outside, everyone retreats to the common area; for some it’s the kitchen as the three stones hold the fire that’s fed the group today and now can keep them warm while for others it’s the modern day living room with the modern day fireplace aka a flat screen TV that plays Christmas Carols on command- thanks Alexa! After taking all those requests, you are part of the family too.

It’s been a beautiful day, sunny and bright, so much to be grateful for. For good health and strength and the gift of life; the life of a boy born in a manger- we wonder when he learnt to do the dishes, the good book doesn’t tell us! Perhaps it should have, so that we could ask whoever that does the dishes to “Be like Jesus”.

After a great day of catching up the million dollar question remains….Who will do the washing up?


How to wash dishes – An educator’s take

As educators, we often defend our position that our job is as Malcom S. Forbes put it- to fill an empty mind with an open one. At St Andrew’s School, Turi we take that job very seriously and work on filling the heart, mind, body and soul of each student. We expect that at the end of their time in Turi, students will go out and change the world as Nelson Mandela described the intended outcome of education. It is expected that they should also be able to do the dishes. Though there are no bonus points for that.

Education can be defined in many ways; it is not only confined to the classroom. Every so often, we get questions from well-meaning individuals on whether our students mop the floor or wash their dishes. They do need to be self-sufficient adults after all and if the school doesn’t require them to do chores like wash their own clothes, they may never learn how.

Well, there are several answers to that. Among them being, while we acknowledge the importance of these skills, Turi is simply not that kind of school, have you heard about our menu? We could say that and there may be some truth to  this but a haughty and overly simplified answer would not be a reflection of our Christian values. A better answer  is that school does not end when one walks out of the school gates. We believe that everything and everyone surrounding a child presents an opportunity for the child to learn; both negative and positive lessons. Learning never stops; be it acquiring goat slaughtering techniques or how to spin chapatis or even story telling (even when historical facts are questionable).

Now that we have given you this answer, we have a few questions.

  1. Who did the dishes after the Christmas meal this year?
  2. Whose “job” is it to teach these “life skills” to children?

We also have a parting quote by Nelson Mandela who missed 28 (including December 1952 when he was charged and sentenced for violating the Suppression of Communism Act) Christmas meals with his family.

“A good head and good heart are always a formidable combination. But when you add to that a literate tongue or pen, then you have something very special.” Nelson Mandela

What is your role in bringing up the future generations? Educating the head or the heart? They are both equally important. Guess what else is important? The dishes. They have got to be done- whether by a person or by a machine, it is the principle that matters and these young ones are learning by watching!

We guess that means that you may have to do the dishes. Yes you!