Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Old Friends

In the past few weeks I have re-met two very dear friends from when I lived here in the 90’s (which is sooo long ago now.) I realized we are old friends when I got introduced as “an old friend”. (I don’t really feel I should be forty-something but I am.)

Kinuthia Mungai was an intern at the ministry I was working in back in 1994. As office mates we became fast friends with my many questions about cultural dynamics and his insightful answers. We talked business, culture and art, sharing interests in a number of areas. I always thought of Kinuthia as so young. He was just finishing university and I was already in my 30’s. Today Kinuthia is married with two children. He’s a business owner and I can rightfully call him Mzee (the term for a respected male elder.) It’s so nice to see someone you have known a long time.

Irene Bilah also appeared in my life. Irene is from Uganda. She was my house worker when I lived here before. Marta, one of my roommates from then still has her working part-time at her house. Irene has a very special place in my heart. She had lived in Kenya for many years when I met her, raising her 5 children on her own.

Although Irene managed to keep the house, dishes and clothes clean for three of us, she also gave me a ton in terms of moral and spiritual help. Whenever I was stressed or down Irene would preach me a sermon. She encouraged me like no one else could. She might say the same for me. I know for sure that she has often prayed for me. And taught me many things about the meaning of quality of live.

Irene is a grandmother now. If my friends are old, does that mean I am old too?
Irene Bilah; friend, encourager, prayer warrior, oh yeah, house help too.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Considering Another Year...

fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, "Fear not, I am the one who helps you." Isaiah 41:13

Normally, I am very contented with who I am and my place in life. I am thankful for the flexibility my singleness gives me. I am glad to be working at Daystar in Nairobi. I love this new job and it’s where I want to be. It’s the right place at the right time.

However, there are times when I wish things were different. I wish I didn’t have to be the one to always ask, “When will my desk, chair and computer arrive? Is this office permanent or temporary? Would it be possible to be with my department rather than in another building?” These are just reflections of a deeper longing to not always be autonomous or all on my own.

Its times like these that I am so glad that the Lord in on my side.

There is a certain comfort in knowing that Someone is taking my hand and holding it. It’s as if I am again a 4-year-old and I don’t have to be the one to worry about crossing the street by myself, watching for cars and trying to work out the timing.

I don’t often feel fear, but I am sometimes dismayed. God comes along to help me, of all people! If I ever think it’s the other way around I am sadly mistaken. The weight of this help humbles me and brings tears to my eyes.

What a mercy to me. I can do nothing but be grateful.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Stepped on a Nail

I have been having a little trouble with my rear left tire. It seems to get low from time to time. It doesn’t go completely flat and it doesn’t happen all that often, just like every few weeks or so, and not even regularly. (I think it’s been longer this stretch.) I’ve located a service station nearby that has a working air pump. This is where I get pressure. (Try to say that with the classic Kenyan difficulty of mixing up r's and l's.)

Recently the guys had it off to see if they could find a hole to fix, I was told, “You probably stepped on a nail.” I smiled at the way I'd been told I’d run over a nail. Often automobiles here seem to have human qualities, with arms up to the shoulder sticking out either side, now my tires step on nails.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Aptly Named

Jo, a friend in China recently wrote about her Chinese name and how she got it. Her article got me thinking about my names, here. I know of a few and there are probably many more names that I get called behind my back and I don’t even know it. There are probably more to come too.

When I lived in Kenya in the 90’s there were different times when I did or did not have a vehicle to drive. Thus I was on busses or matatus quite often. Every mode of public transportation has a conductor or tout. Because I was so often doing a very typical Kenyan thing, I was named by the touts on my route, Wajiku. One of the most typical names from a girl from one of the main tribes in Nairobi.

I quizzed my friends from that tribe about the meaning, and there isn’t one. It’s just typical, normal, everyday. But one friend in particular enjoyed playing with my last name and dubbed me, Kabole. That’s the name of a 5-shilling coin. It’d be the equivalent of calling me Nickle.

When my friends from another tribe heard about being named by touts, they made it clear that that wasn’t any way to get a Kenyan name! So they named me from their group, Mwende. To this day it’s my favorite Kenyan name, because it means Loved One.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

English in a land far away

My friend, Abraham often writes about English and how it’s dynamic and therefore we should accept the changes that have been introduced into it. In principle I agree, yet I also like a standard. I don’t speak or even write perfect English. But I try to follow the rules in an effort to be understood. Living in a country that doesn’t have English as a mother tongue makes it a little more challenging to keep the standard.

I really like knowing the local slang, called sheng which is often a mixture of English and Swahili. But I want to be understood when I speak with Americans as well. If you find my English off, please forgive me. I’m trying to be understood in two different continents.

As my friend Rose always used to say, “Don’t blame me, English came here by ship.” An odd enough statement in itself, but her pronunciation of “ship” comes out “sheep”.