The expatriate is a chap who, back in his home country, would occasionally attend ‘functions’ such as weddings and funerals.
In the UK, for instance, such sufferings are usually still low-key and don’t involve massive public show, unlike, say, American weddings or Nigerian or Indian functions, many of which seem to feature brides who have been forced to dress like blizzards or corpses that have been painted to look like mannequins.
Each to their own, and who am I to criticise?
Functions in the expatriate’s own country tend to occur in town halls or large hotels, and often such gatherings are small, to the extent that the host institution’s facilities – from the rooms to the furniture – are sufficient to cater for everybody.
In Kenya, however, things are slightly different, and one of the fastest-growing businesses, it seems, is the ‘function rental’ service.
This is because Kenyan functions are vast, often occur in the rural areas, and are attended by every member of the village, even if they’ve not been explicitly invited.
In Europe, a place known for its appalling rudeness, uninvited attendees would be considered mere ‘gatecrashers’, and would be turned away at the entrance. Weddings are more heavily border-patrolled than Trump’s America.
Here in Kenya, every function must have: a huge marquee tent or 30;10,000; a public address system; and endless bowls and spoons for food (but, interestingly, no other cutlery nor crockery).
Richer functions might also have bottles of mineral water for the guests, sometimes with the face of the deceased relative on the label – this ‘tradition’ can be a little disconcerting for the newly-arrived expatriate, who doesn’t like the oxymoron of being reminded of death while he drinks his water-of-life.
Most of these items have been rented from the local church and written on the backs of every single chair, you’ll find something like, ‘Property of Rumuruti Protestant Church of the Apostolic Ascension of Our Lord (Women’s Group), Phone 0722xxx666′.
I pity the person who has to write all this on 10,000 chairs. Most of these chairs survive the function, but at certain moments during the proceedings, the attentive expatriate might enjoy watching the legs or backs of such chairs bend and collapse under the weight of the bride’s larger brothers.
Similarly, the tent is useless. The poles are made of 100 per cent rust and the torn plastic roof barely covers the guests’ heads, which is presumably why women on front rows always wear such gargantuan hats at weddings.
Further, during the function (a 10-hour event), the expatriate will notice guests at the edges of the tents moving around every half hour as the sun shifts, bored, around the sky, waiting desperately for its moment to set.
And those spoons? Well, approximately half of them get back home to the church; the other half end up in kitchens all around the village, where families have whole sets of cutlery, each piece slightly different and each from a different church following a different function.