Sunday, January 30, 2011

Saturday's Craft Results

Inspired by a 'free' Saturday, I pulled out all the valentine paper crafting items I could muster here in Kenya.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The New Year Resolved

Well, I missed what sounds like my most interesting class on Friday due to some silly case of food poisoning. The class: Art and Culture. I hope the teacher is understanding of the very incapacitated state I was in.

Due to this state I also missed church today. And for one reason or another it’s been challenging to get there. Since lying on the couch was about all I could do, I listened to a sermon I had on my iPod by John Piper. I’m sure I’ve listened to it before. But his words are so full of Bible that they never grow old of being repeated.

He was urging a bunch of young people at Passion 2000 (I think) to not waste their lives, but live for something beyond themselves. Oh how I needed to hear that myself! Even though I am a missionary, I have a tendency towards a small view of things. I am sure that I do some things that are big to our students every day. I don’t focus on that, instead I get lost in the things that aren’t going right.

There is something about the way in which JP preaches that helps me see God again, focus on the Cross, and see the insignificance of me in the whole scheme of things. I think this is the break I needed for the New Year, the new beginning. The takes the ‘edginess’ off. It gives the point of reference or goal to move forward in.

I may have missed doing it right on New Year’s Day, but I am starting to feel much better about the direction I’m going this year. It has to be all about God.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

New in Class

Today I attended my first class as a real student for the first time in…a long time. If I was in a freshman class in the US I would stick out. I dress different than teens and my gray hair gives me away in any culture. But add to the average differences that I’m white, very white and I stick out! There’s no getting around that awkward conspicuous feeling. I honestly normally never feel like I stick out, at least very rarely.

The room is a buzz with excited first-years. They know one another from the full week of orientation down at the Athi River campus that took place last week while I was in my office on the Valley Road (town) campus. When I arrived the classroom already had well over a dozen chattering students and more were filing in. By 7 minutes after the hour our lecturer arrived. Things came to a haul as far as the verbal excitement. He carried on for an hour and a half before mentioning a break. But in the end he just kept going for a little over 2 hours straight.

I came in feeling so out of place. But the class is about communication and culture. Quite suddenly sticking out seemed it might be an asset, at least to the lecturer. We shall see - at least I survived.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

What I love about my E-Group

E-group is the name my church in Nairobi uses for small groups. It comes from the Greek word ekklesia and that means something related to church or sent out from the church or something profound like that.

I’m the only non Kenyan in my group which is part of why I love it so much. Technically, I love the people in my e-group more than the group itself, but our group dynamics are pretty good. There are roughly 12 of us and of course with busy urban lives there are always some people missing. I would like it if people made it a bigger priority, but I try to keep in mind how cultures are different and so it’s slightly easier to excuse frequent absences especially of those who don’t have a car to get to and from this evening group.

We break for about a month over the holidays because in Kenya everyone takes time off. Most people travel somewhere, if not to their grandparents in a rural area then to a hotel at the coast so their kids can play in the water. (I’m talking about urban middle class Kenyans.) So tonight, our first night back, I hosted a ‘social’ night.

I dashed home after work to pull together some typical Kenyan snacks. We had peanuts, popcorn, matoke (cooking banana) chips, carrot sticks, British style sausages and I whipped up some scones. Most of them love my coffee which is especially gratifying since Kenyans usually prefer tea.

We ended up sitting around the table full of snacks and chatted about everything from what the local expectation is when relatives come in from upcountry to who plays Cricket or Squash. I’m always enlightened. I could spend every meeting listening to these guys explain Kenyan culture to me. I love hearing stories of Arthur’s high school days, how Ian will raise his son if and when he ever has one and how Monica is raising hers and all the other ladies’ opinions based on how they have raised theirs.

Four of our members are lawyers; in fact they are two couples. So we often get some insight into a political situation or some other aspect regarding the law. This was very helpful last year as we came up to the referendum signing.

Tonight we tried to help Arthur with how to get his 15 year-old son to not wear baggy clothes. (It really irritates Arthur.) We also touched on Nairobi driving habits and how to get your way when driving. Arthur thought that if you opened up the head of a matatu (public minivan transport) driver it would be a pile of worms crawling and wriggling all over themselves because that they way they drive. We all got a good laugh out of that.

I wish you could come visit my e-group. They are simply the best.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Undiagnosed Edginess

I seem to be a little on edge lately so I was thinking as I sat in traffic on the I seem to be a little on edge lately so I was thinking as I sat in traffic on the way home tonight that maybe I have a case of undiagnosed culture stress. I have no real idea if that is actually a problem, but it sounds plausible. I started thinking about what might actually cause culture stress. It seemed to me that it might be losses of certain freedoms, or not knowing all the perimeters or ‘rules’ to life here.

Odd thing is that I know a lot about Kenyan culture and Nairobi culture in particular. So I probably know more of the perimeters than some, and certainly more than when I first came. So why should it catch up with me now?

Also I got to thinking about a friend who has been living and working in a ‘closed’ country for about 17 or so years. I once visited her. There are lots of western freedoms she has had to give up. She doesn’t need to dress like the nationals in her adoptive country but she does dress covering from wrists to ankles everyday – even when it’s hot, really hot. I wonder if she ever feels this kind of culture stress. If that’s what it is.

Anyway, I didn’t come to any real conclusions about my current situation. I shouldn’t feel edgy, but I don’t know what is causing it. The days are only going to get more challenging as I try to figure out how to balance work and school.

C’est la vie.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

2011 Already?

The New Year has slipped in virtually unnoticed. I did entertain on New Year’s Day for a celebration, more of an excuse to have people over for a potluck. I left the invitation open for folks to bring others. It ended up being the most international event I’ve had in a long time.

I hosted Americans and Kenyans, Ethiopians, a Canadian, French, Irish and even a South African. Oddly there were only about 21 or so people there, so I think that’s a pretty good mix. It was mostly a time of visiting with others. But one Ethiopian gal that is a struggling refugee came with everything to make traditional Ethiopian coffee, it was a real treat!

I hope to post some photos eventually.

The date of this post indicates I’m a little behind on things...

Friday, January 7, 2011

Never Too Late?

Today I chatted with one of my favorite lecturers at Daystar, a kindly, elder (and not very cool) Bible teacher. When I made some reference to me being an 'old lady' he told me a story.

When I was a pastor in Massachusetts I was invited to a birthday celebration of a lady turning 99. I asked her about her life and her story. She told me that when she was 72 she and her younger sister (age 58) bought a piece of land and build a house. She had lived there ever since. I celebrated her 100th and 101st birthdays with her too. She told me you are never too old to start living.

So, nearly 30 years after graduating from high school and almost 20 years since the last time I was in a formal education situation, today I was admitted as a student to Daystar University for a communications degree in Public Relations. The Rev Daniel Mutungi who told me the story said I should be studying International Relations. Although there is no degree in International Public Relations, perhaps there will be by the time I finish. Which might be quite a while since I will continue in my role at Daystar as the Communications Coordinator for Daystar US fulltime as I have been, only taking one or two classes per semester.

I was handed my admission letter today. On Monday I will get a student number. Next week sometime I will register for classes. The week of the 17th they start. Between now and then I will be doing some research to see what classes were in my AA degree that would be the same as ones in this program. So we'll see what happens from here. I sure would appreciate your prayers for a number of items related:

Most of my credits from Lutheran Bible Institute will transfer and I won't have to retake classes I have already taken.
This 48-year-old gray matter would be able to comprehend what I'm taught.
I would be able to be disciplined in all areas of life so school work doesn't get overwhelming.

Thanks for your continued support in every way.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Rain Forest - Day 4

Our hostess, Julia escorts us on an early morning ‘sounds’ walk. We are off by 6:15 or so and Julia is feeding us information about the features of the forest. It isn’t long before she says, “That’s the call of the Great Blue Turaco!” This is a large metallic blue bird that this area is known for. Julia gestures to a nearby tree just off the road. She instructs, “Watch, one will call another will answer, then one of them will move to another tree.”A moment later we see our big bird, full wing span and distinctive crest make its short trek to a nearby tree. It’s still too dim to make out the color but we know it’s our bird by the call and crest.
As we turn into a path off the main road, Julia points out a tiny toad stool. A few more steps and our soft conversation disturb some Colobus monkeys overheard and then begin jumping from tree top to tree top.
I turn to go back as the others go on. This time alone is the time I can really hear the forest. Birds I can’t name crisscross the road. I stop to take a photo of a flower and listen to a bird whistle that sounds like a person starting to whistle a tune. I freeze. I want to hear it again but I can’t even bring myself to try to imitate it. I don’t want to chase it away. I wait. It whistles again, less confident itself. I press on.

Behind me is such a deep and loud croaking sound that I imagine a frog the size of a Volkswagen Beetle. But I remember Julia saying that the Blue Monkeys make that croaking. I turn to see if they are following me. I can’t see anything there, thankfully. This type is the more aggressive ones and I had a couple of up close encounters with them during our stay. They must have helped coin the British saying, “cheeky monkey” since they are fairly bold about coming in the house, etc.
In the afternoon I try to finish a water color painting I’ve started on an earlier day of a very large tree in the garden of Rondo. My friends think it’s pretty good but my mother wouldn’t be impressed. Not that she’d discourage me from continuing to practice and probably give me a few pointers – mostly on lighting.
It’s a wonderful place and so restful but it will be good to get back home too. We travel back by bus the following morning and it takes us all day to get home. We get to see the landscape of Kenya on the way. We agree the tea fields are probably the most beautiful carpet of green the countryside wears. Some places we pass are all tea fields as far as the eye can see.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Day 3 - Christmas Day!

The four of us, Julia, Jane, Laurel and me had a wonderful breakfast together and opened gifts. Late morning found us on a long walk. We started out down the ‘dirt’ road out the main gate. After a few hundred yards its forest on both sides of the road. Jane spies a chipmunk looking rodent crossing the main road. The flora is beautiful along the main road.

We turn off the road on what looks like an old logging road. A sign marks the road, “Yana River” points us down the lane. Along this way we see and hear the forest insects, birds and other animals – and evidence of locals. There are piles of cut wood, small trees along the side of the road. It’s being gathered for pick-up later. I feel anguish about the forest being cut but at the same time I know the locals need fire wood for cooking. It’s hard to be very upset over that. Still there are many good reasons for the forest not to be cut down.

After walking for more than an hour we reach a tributary of the river and my two companions decide to explore a smaller side trail. I opt to stay by the stream and rest a bit. Sitting quiet I am privileged to watch a multitude of various butterflies; small white or little lemon yellow ones, black and orange ones, large turquoise and black ones, huge yellow and black ones. My friends return and we hike back by another route through the forest. This two hour hike tells me I’m not very fit.

Every afternoon it seems to rain. Maybe that’s why they call it a rain forest. It’s the perfect opportunity to play a board game. Julia says the word and a staff member comes to build us a fire in one of the sitting rooms. We play a game of Clue while having our afternoon tea. Before we break, Laurel reads us some of the things she’s written over the years about Christmas. Laurel has worked with refugees in a lot of places around the world. Most of her prose is centered on the fact that Jesus and his family were also refugees.
It’s good to remember the challenges along with the bliss of having our Savior arrive. Our “God with us” understands the tough things humanity goes there.