Jenn(y)

Kenya is the only place I let people call me Jenny.

If someone shortens your name or makes it cutsie, it means that they really like you. Normally, I hate being called Jenny and, save a short time in 4th grade, I’ve never gone by it. During my days at Trisect, I was affectionately referred to as Jenn-Y (like Gen-Y) due to my youthful energy and research topics, though no one ever called me Jenny. But here in Kenya I make an exception. Not only is it strangely endearing to go by Jenny, but it’s just easier. When I introduce myself as Jenn, I’m usually either called Jane or told that John is a boys name. When I introduce myself as Jennifer, I get a whole slew of creative spellings. These include, but are not limited to: Jinipher, Jenepher, Gennepher… you get the idea.

Kenyans tend to simply alter your name to one that they like better. Maryl, one half of the Australian couple that sponsored the building of the Medical Clinic and Business Centre at Pipeline, has given up correcting people when they call her Mary. “Half of the women in this country go by Mary,” she explains, “so why should I be any different?”

Tami, who comes in October to join me, was thinking of introducing herself by her full name – Tamara. Tambone, I say don’t even bother. They’ll love you from day one, and you’ll become Tami whether you want to or not.

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