Saturday, February 27, 2010

Sea of Faces

And styles and body shapes.

One place that I recognize that I am my mother’s child is in my extreme fascination and simple pleasure in looking at people. I don’t get to the city center of Nairobi very often, especially on a weekday. This week I found myself there twice. One of the times, I set out to find an office some distance from where I started and since I wasn’t exactly sure where it was I did a bit of a semi-circle to get to it.

In the process I passed hundreds of beautiful and varied African faces. I passed some Indian, Asian, and European ones too. I wish I could show you the feast of faces; round ones, pointed chins, deep creases, some the color of dark chocolate to others the color of my morning coffee topped up with milk. There were tall and lanky figures, some are short or stooped, others had a “traditional African build,” some dressed in gray business suits, others in bright Punjabi suits.

To the one observing me on the street, they would have observed a mzungu lady (of traditional African build) with a silly smile on her face. Would any guess that I had that smile for the simple reason I was enjoying all their faces?

This is not my first time to post about the beauty of an African face. I wrote about a wonderful 'captured view' in a daladala while in Mororogoro. Can you tell I love being here?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Naivasha - A Wild Game Weekend

I think I saw more wild game in this weekend than any other time spent outside of a game reserve. There were even a couple times I started to well up with tears at the beauty of this magnificent country. See if you don't agree -
All these photos were taken while on foot. Not from the car! I find it such a wonderful privilege to live here.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Communication Blues

This blog is one attempt to keep up with my friends and family half way around the world. If I were motivated and a good writer, you might have a bit of a picture of this world I live in. But even so, I’m sure that I would leave things out. And you might end up with all kinds of questions, ones you never ask.

I will go on assuming that I have communicated accurately, you will believe you know what I’ve said. Both of us will be wrong. So this is your invitation to ask me more. I can’t guarantee that I will be able to paint a true picture of my life here, or harder still, what I think on any given topic even with clarifying questions.

I will try. I will make an effort to make it clear. Should I miss that mark, I ask you to first of all, believe the best. Because you have only received a slice of my life, please realize that there is so much more to it, more than I can say, more than I can ever express even to my closest friend – even one right here.

That is the joy and pain of living somewhere so far from home, somewhere outside of my own culture; it’s the mixed blessing of living without a spouse, someone who might be able to read me a bit better than my blog readers can.

Thanks for your grace to me. I hope to remember to extend it to you as well.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Caught Off Guard

When I have been working in Kenya, both in the past and now, my work involves helping people. It’s usually a combination of helping them spiritually and practically. Every week I have students in my office looking for assistance with fees for the university costs they need to pay. Daystar is so inexpensive compared to its US counterparts, but it’s still a lot of money to a struggling student.

What catches me off-guard is how drawn I am to certain students, not all that come into my office. I keep trying to make a connect to what it is that pulls on my heart. What is the internal criteria that my heart uses to make a student stand out? Is it how geographically or culturally far they’ve come to get admitted to Daystar? Is it how motivated they are, shown in multiple visits or willingness to help in the office without any compensation? Maybe it’s just my mood is more compassionate at the moment I meet them.

Likely, it’s God placing this person on my heart. I watched a quiet but thankful-for-the-help Maasai gal leave my office today and tears welled up in my eyes. She has beat impossible odds to get admitted into Daystar. She has 19 siblings! Her father has 3 wives. Her culture doesn’t usually educate girls, especially past primary, let alone secondary school. She wants to go back and make a Christian difference in her home area.

I’ve coached her on writing her testimony. I told her if she needs more help with her English on school assignments, to come see me. I pushed her to work on getting her GPA up so her chances keep increasing. I wish I could afford an extra $6000 per year for her (and three or four other students God has laid on my heart) to get through university.

But all I can do is pray for her. Pray she gets chosen for a scholarship. Pray for her to really work at getting her grades up. Pray that she makes an impact on her village even in the school breaks. And pray that she doesn’t get married off before she finishes her course. If you are inclined to, pray for her with me today. Your prayer may change a whole village for today and eternity. You never know…

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day from Me to You!

I haven’t been writing much...

If you haven’t seen me writing much it’s because my life is otherwise crammed with activity. This has been one of our busiest seasons for visitors to Daystar since I arrived. It seems the moment we get a lull it’s just enough margin to rest a bit and get organized for the next round.

I love hosting visitors and taking care of the details related to that. But I also wish I had a little more time for creativity in it all. If it were me actually hosting at my house, I’d be baking and so on. I’d even like to do a little of that for some of our little bit longer staying guests, but as of yet, I’m not that organized.

In some ways it appears that Kenyan culture works best under the pressure of a deadline. Without a very real deadline, things just don’t happen. For example, the best way of getting a guest flat ready for people arriving is tell the folks responsible for the work the visitors are coming in a week! It might take a couple more days to get at it, and you might have to push the cleaning crew out as the visitors come in the drive, but it eventually gets there – at least in some measure.

Depending on the task I work well with a deadline too. If there is anything about the task I really don’t like doing, then I definitely need a deadline. But if it’s things I like to do, even pleasurable, not so much. That is not to say I don’t like writing, or blogging. It’s just that I have had so many other things pressing in. Regardless, I hope to do better, even though our visitors keep coming.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Not Annoyed but Bugged

I’m sure that some people think immediately of bugs when they think of Africa. I mean, can’t you just picture the Siafu from the last Indiana Jones movie! (We really have Siafu in Kenya, but they aren’t quite that big nor do they kill humans.)

I’ve been having some buggy days. It started with an unusual amount of fruit flies hanging out in our kitchen. In fact they seem to be increasing. Since they are only mildly bothersome, I haven’t bothered to try to find the source and rid the place of them. I mean, we have been throwing out our past-its-prime fruit and veggies.

But then a couple days ago I was coming home in the evening and as I looked down to fit my key in the door I caught a brown scramble at my feet in the edge of my vision. I immediately thought of our tiny brown house mouse, so common in Minnesota. I’d never seen one here in Kenya. But as I got my eyes focused on the desperate-to-get-away creature, I saw that he wasn’t at all furry, but instead a very large cockroach. (Too bad I can easily identify them.)

I ran for the can of Doom and came back spraying until he croaked! I bet it was a half a can later. My Face Book friends read about this episode. It was the size of that one that really got to me.

Now this evening I was cutting up a mango into a bowl for supper. I haven’t had a sweet mango in several weeks. (It must not be mango season.) But I had been promised this kind were good. I had nearly all the meat off the pit when I noticed a few little black flecks. I thought it must be starting to rot at the pit. I cut deeper to see if it was a bad spot and out crawled a sizable bug, not huge, just way bigger than a fruit fly.

I shrieked and called my housemate to look at it. She agreed it was gross. I will get over it. But I have had enough of bugs for a while.

Monday, February 8, 2010

No One is Licensed to Annoy

Today I would like to offer a guest post from a friend in my small group: Waki is a Kenyan lady who works as a lawyer for a bank in Nairobi. She often writes articles to share with her friends and colleagues. Perhaps posting this will encourage her to start her own blog.
I am sometimes perplexed at the little annoying things that people will do. These things may not be done to me particularly, but I may see them happen and wonder.

I am convinced that a very heavy fine should be placed on anyone who throws litter outside a car or a bus window. I once drove behind a vehicle and I am persuaded that the family in the vehicle must have had to leave the house in a hurry and thus were not able to eat their breakfast in the house. By the time I got to town, I was aware of their breakfast menu! Out flew the yogurt carton, and then the edge of what looked like an egg sandwich and finally the yellow banana peel. Three questions I have to ask driver ‘x’. Firstly, were you aware of the missiles flying out of the back seat of your car window? Secondly, and of course if the answer to the first is in the affirmative, were you aware of the hazard these missiles posed to the drivers behind you? And thirdly, who may you have had in mind to pick up the litter after you?

I am now particularly excited that as buildings become high tech and modern, we are now able to press our floor numbers before we get onto the elevator. When I have to press the lift number on the wall inside the elevator, I have often felt quite uncomfortable. It isn’t strange to witness a scene whereby a slightly shorter person like myself – (actually I have been that person) is standing right at the numbers and rather than those around politely asking this person to press out their floor numbers they would rather lean forward over them and do it for themselves. So for the first few moments of the elevator’s assent, this unfortunate person next to the elevator numbers has a mass of bodies pushed against him/her and armpits literally hurled into their nose. Needless to say, I no longer stand next to the elevator numbers while in the elevator.

I think it would be safe to say that very few people are gleeful about standing in the supermarket check-out lines. But courtesy demands that you wait your turn. I have observed an annoying habit. This is when a shopper will be holding one or two items and realizes that the five people ahead have perhaps a trolley full of shopping and proceeds to overtake them without asking. I am sure that human beings are not all cruel and so I wish that this person would just politely ask the people in front of them to allow them to check out their items first. I would not say no. I just wish the person would have the decency to ask.

Parking spaces have become a challenge in most shopping malls and sometimes one will drive around severally before securing a parking. I wonder if you have ever witnessed someone patiently waiting for a parking spot and even with their indicator on. As soon as the spot becomes free, a car comes literally flying from another direction and zooms directly into the parking spot in total disregard of the waiting driver!!!! This driver then proceeds to come quickly out of their car and march off without even a glance at the driver who was waiting patiently for the parking spot! Sometimes, such drivers even have a smug look on their faces as though congratulating themselves for their speed! I believe that there should be a law against such horrendous acts!

I could go on and on and on about the annoying things that sometimes happen around us. Perhaps we are guilty of some of these things. May this be a wake up call to us that when ever we do some of these things, that we would ask ourselves ‘who gave us the licence to annoy??????’ I believe that we live in a free Country but rule of thumb perhaps would be that my freedom ends where it infringes on another persons freedom.

Courtesy and politeness pays.