Sunday, October 31, 2010

Driving Down Memory Boulevard

I grew up on Minnetonka Boulevard, the edge of Hopkins and Minnetonka. It was somewhat rural in my formative years. And the house my parents lived in for 53 years still stands on 2.5 acres of mostly marsh. (We called it a swamp when I was growing up. Now it’s “protected wetlands”.)

I’ve been staying only about a mile from that house for the last 4 weeks. This has given me lots of opportunity to relive memories from the past. My hosts wanted to see the house. So we even drove down the little lane that was once our dirt driveway. I told them about the “olden days”.

Probably the oddest memory recently was a trip to Ridgedale, the shopping mall I frequented as a teen. As I passed through Penney’s bath and bedding department I was flooded with a memory of shopping there with my mom shortly before her death in 2005.

The experience was overwhelming sadness at missing her. I stood for several minutes in the otherwise peopleless towel section crying without being able to stop myself. I dug for tissues and finally propelled myself from the section in the hopes I could dry my tears. I was thankful there were few customers that morning in the store.

This and other recollections have prompted me to show you some of the past I’ve found among the photos I now have stored in my attic thanks for my brother cleaning out his. Watch this space for pictorial stories of my history.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl

I started reading a book I got at the DG Conference. Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl is an interesting read. It talks about all things ‘normal’ in very imaginative ways. It helps me look at some of what I take for granted in a new light. I expect that was probably the author’s intent and he’d be happy about that.

Maybe it’s easier to look at things from a new perspective when you have recently jumped cultures. I tend to write about traffic – but all my best subjects come while I’m driving whether about cars or not.

The other day while I was driving I was staring at either a new business I hadn’t seen or one that seemed to be missing from its spot and I nearly missed my left turn. I admonished myself, “Pay attention, Jan. You don’t want to get in an accident.”

It’s so easy to become board while driving here and I wondered if most accidents in this town were due to being distracted because there wasn’t much to keep your attention while driving except the things you might be passing by.

I doubt that is the reason for most accidents in Kenya.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Unconsciously Kenyan

Yesterday I did something very culturally Kenyan without realizing it at the time. I had two appointments, one at 10:30 for coffee and another for lunch. At the coffee appointment I was chatting away, catching up on life with a friend so the time was creeping up on me. I looked at my watch at 11:55 and wondered what time the lunch was for. The person I was with asked me for what time the lunch was scheduled. I glanced at my calendar while she finished what she was saying.

Here is where my brain flipped into Kenyan mode without me even being conscious of it. I noted that my lunch was to be at noon and that I was already late. Inside my thoughts seamlessly told me, it’s more important to finish this conversation. Don’t cut it off, let us finish naturally. Then I vaguely hoped the other person would still be there and understand even though I’d already been late to other appointments this trip.

Another twenty minutes passed before the conversation came to a natural pause that I could break into. That’s when I started to think about what I had done. I was nearly certain I didn’t have her phone number, but now I was bent on getting to the other location as quickly as I could. By the time I reached the restaurant, it was now 25 minutes later than the planned time. When I didn’t find my friend there I was sure she’d come and gone, but I hoped she was really late too.

I checked in my phone to find her mobile number. I called; no answer. I left a voice mail. In a way I was relieved, perhaps she’d left her phone at home and I wouldn’t have been able to tell her I was late anyway. I knew she didn’t live far, so I called someone else to get her home number then called her there too. There was no answer.

After trying the cell again I just decided to wait a bit longer. I didn’t know what else to do. Eventually we did find each other and were able to have a nice visit over lunch.

It dawned on me as I sat there that this was a very Kenyan approach to events. In fact it’s was the culture learning books refer to as event-oriented culture. It’s kind of the idea that the current relationship is the most important at the moment and the next thing (person) will wait. This is the opposite of being time-oriented, where getting to the next event on time is the higher value. A little scary. I'd say it was good if I were actually in Kenya.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Here's a Fun One

I love trying to give "pictures" to describe things. Josh Sowin over at Fire and Knowledge posted this interesting info he found on how big Africa is based on what countries fit into it. Remember though, Africa is a whole continent. I often tell people that Kenya is about the size of Texas.

Friday, October 8, 2010

American Auto Etiquette

One glaring difference in driving between here and there is how you go about things. Today as I sat in a line of cars at a very long light I thought about doing a U-turn right over the median to get back to back on the road I had recently turned off of because it was taking too long. I didn’t do it – but I certainly thought about doing it.

Then this evening as I was on the freeway during the evening rush hour in what is known as “slow and go” traffic I held up a bit to let someone merge in ahead of me. I was a bit offended when that driver didn’t wave at me out the window or give me a thumbs-up. That’s what a polite driver in Nairobi would do to say thank you for being let in.

So far I have been trying to suspend my judgments on traffic behavior here and see what happens, I hope I don’t get too used to it here and forget about what happens there. In the meantime, I’m relearning the traffic rules.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Staying with the Mahins!

Hello Friends -

Just letting you know that I am now staying with Pat and Cheryl Mahin in Minnetonka, not far from where I grew up. If you want to reach me here they have a landline: 952-935-7104. I'm in the Daystar US office during the day quite often. The number there is 952-928-2550.

This Sunday is my open house at the home of the Maves in South Minneapolis. Please join me there or call me to get together another time. It's hard to believe that my time here is going so fast, but it's always like that.