Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Lost In Translation

Yes, life can be serious, but today I'm taking a lighter approach and sharing with you some of our "lost in translation" moments...

    While walking in our village the first few days everyone kept saying "Fine" or "I am fine" when we would pass by.. but wait... I didn't even say anything... At the most all I said was "hello"

Apparently, the Swahili and Luo greeting for "Hello" also means "How are you?" So, if you say hi to someone expect to hear how they're doing.

     While visiting the local clinic for the first time with Ezekiel all the women kept staring at him. Yes, he's very fat and VERY white, but he has one thing that is very different from their babies... a pacifier. They don't use them and most of them have never seen one. So, why on earth do I have a piece of blue-green plastic shoved in my baby's mouth???? One of the women eventually came up to me rather angrily and said "Why do you not give him your breast?!?" I tried to explain that he is breastfed, but just likes to suck on it... they didn't seem to care and still thought I was a crazy "mzungu" (foreigner). 

     Our first morning in Nairobi was a breezy 70 degree day. There we were at the local bus station with our 2 hiking backpacks, 2 LARGE rolling suitcases, 2 small backpacks, and a baby in the ergobaby with our pathetic white chicken legs hanging out in shorts. We felt great! We were finally in Kenya and the weather was amazing! I noticed something though. Lots of strange looks... stink-eye actually. They were directed at me and at Ezekiel. Was his shirt on backwards? Was his arm bent strange in the carrier? This is Nairobi, they've seen white people before, but then I noticed it. Everyone... and I mean EVERYONE was wearing coats. No, not a sweater or a jacket. I'm talking fur lined, hooded, puffy coats! All the women kept staring at me with my child in just a onesie his poor chubby legs exposed to the frigid air! They kept telling me he was cold and I would just politely smile "He's OK". 

Finally, an elderly lady probably in 70+ came up to me. She grabbed Ezekiel's legs, told me he was cold, and needed to be covered. I pulled out a little muslin blanket and put it loosely around him to appease her. Not good enough! As about 5 other women watched she took the blanket and completely wrapped it and tied it around Ezekiel and me. She made sure his little feet were tucked in and bald little head too! Then without a word, she walked off. It was really sweet, but defininetly one of those funny awkward moments in another culture. Later we noticed that all the babies (including newborns) wear sweaters, pants, socks, tennis shoes, and are wrapped in multiple blankets. Wouldn't want to catch a cold :) 

    During a meeting with the main manager of Dominion (he's a local Kenyan, Chris) he told us all a story about how poor he was as a child. He told us how far he used to walk and that he never owned shoes. Then he told us the story of the day his Dad bought him his first pair of "panties". He would just walk around the village with his head held high in his panties. He was so proud to finally have his own! I think he said they were pink... He didn't even care if they had a pocket. Wait, what???

OH, PANTS. He meant to say he got his first pair of pants. He couldn't understand why we were all laughing so hard. 

     In Kenya, women are not allowed to whistle. I asked Elias' Kenyan friend, Kennedy, why not. He said "Because women will not do it properly". One of our friend's Florence explained that if a woman whistles at night it is believed that she will be cursed and can never have children. So, now we know why Kristen got such dirty looks when she whistled for the kids to come inside :)

     Final story... I can't remember the total dialogue but it was something like this...

"Florence, be careful of that one. She is dangerous." -Security guard to Florence the office secretary. 
"Who?" -Florence
"That one"- the guard pointing to Esther (one of our team members)
"Why is she dangerous?" -Florence
"Those people are very good fighters. Watch her in the mornings. She does her warming up." -Guard
"Watch when she stands... she's warming up" -Guard explains how she was standing in place and kind of swayed her hips back and forth.
He then tells Florence how he should watch her if she does any sudden movements or stretching. She scares him. 

Well, needless to say.. our security guard as well as most of the men in the village are terrified of Esther. Yes, 5' 3 Esther (sorry if I got your height wrong Esther). Yes, the one that plays soccer with the kids, always is super helpful to EVERYONE, posts all the clips of Kenya on facebook so the family's back home can see our daily lives, the friend that you could depend on no matter what. Always laughing and smiling...Yep, that Esther. Apparently, she can kill you. She's VERY dangerous. Although, I've never heard her say anything bad about anyone or ever been the slightest bit rough. In fact, she's the kind of person you would want to be your kid's preschool teacher. But, in Kenya she's a cold-blooded killer just waiting to make her move. Waiting to attack, waiting to... karate chop you in the back...

Esther is a Korean-American. She was born in the States. She likes french fries, bike rides, pizza, playing soccer, going to starbucks.. yeah, uhh she's an American... no accent, nada. But, thanks to the wonderful world of television. The only Asians most Africans see are the ones in Kung-Fu movies. Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan. So, apparently all Asians can fight. They're sneaky too... just waiting to pounce... sneaky Esther.. "Esther-The-Killer"... you better watch that one or she'll get ya! :)

We have many more funny stories, but I just can't remember them all and I definitely can't do them justice.. but there is just a sample. Hope you enjoyed it!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Discouragement and encouragement...

Today was "one of those days"...

The last few days have been full of emotional and physical ups and downs. All of us are feeling spiritual warfare, discouragement, and overall we're just drained. 

Yesterday, it was just the little things that were bothering/annoying me. Things that in "normal" life wouldn't bother me. 

For example: the water pressure.  The water on our compound comes out piping hot from the pipes. It's wonderful! Especially when you want to do dishes or take a shower and don't want to wait for the water to heat up. However, sometimes the water pressure goes crazy and starts blasting out of the pipes or is reduced to a slow trickle. I've been scalded more times in the last 2 1/2 weeks then I have in the last 2 1/2 years! I was standing there doing dishes and all of the sudden the water kicked in and I was sprayed with boiling water. Normally, I would just say "ouch", turn off the hot water, and continue with what I was doing. Yesterday, it was all piling up and I couldn't resist but tally it all up in my mind. First, it was a whiny baby that has decided to be picky about what side he nurses on, a washing machine that we don't have access to and a pile of laundry a mile high, hot water scalding me, a headache, hand washing cloth diapers, a discouraging meeting with our boss, and then finally deciding to make beans for dinner only to discover the sack was infested with little beetles. It wasn't the laundry, or the water, or the beetles, it was another person's words that had me feel overwhelmed. 

We were told that we were no longer allowed to use the internet for purposes other than those pertaining to the farm. We are only allowed to SKYPE our families for 5 minutes a day. Wow, no internet, no tv, no radio, no cell phones, no cars, no washing machine, and very little communication with our family back home??? Talk about feeling isolated. I'm not a baby and I didn't come from a huge house, my own car, or tons of money. I came from a studio apartment, no dishwasher, no garbage disposal, single family income, not even a kitchen table, but I loved it. Because I had community. I had my friends and my family. I had encouragement. One person gave us all lectures throughout the last week almost on a daily basis. Discouraging words about our parenting, our relationships, our style of living, our spiritual maturity, and our circumstances. All of it was assumption and all of it was wrong. 

Feeling defeated I went over to my sister's house and we just talked. She made us iced coffees and we just sat around laughing and talking. It was what I needed. I needed community, I needed family, I needed her empathy. After I left her house I turned on some music and read my Bible. I just sat there thinking about the day and the things that had happened throughout the week. In that moment I was reminded how much words affect you. We've all heard it a million times! But it's SO true. One person was able to completely discourage and isolate 6 adults with just a few thoughtless words. This blog isn't intended to harp on that individual, but rather it was a reminder to me to choose words that are uplifting and bring encouragement. A little verse can change someone's entire life. Simple words like "thinking about you today" can be all you need to make it through. 

Often, Satan uses my brother's suicide to ruin my day or discredit the person God has made me. My mind will wander back to the day he died. Why didn't I just tell him I loved him? Why didn't I tell him how much fun I had that day playing on the computer with him? Why didn't I thank him for being a great brother? Maybe that would have changed everything... Man, my words could have given my parents the chance to see all of their children get married and have babies! But, there's nothing I can do to change that now. Thankfully, glory to God, I can change tomorrow and today! I struggle so badly with feeling insecure about encouraging people. I find myself noticing God's character in others and I want to tell them I see and appreciate that quality. Sometimes I just want to tell that stranger that she is so beautiful or she's doing a great job with her kids. But I don't. I chicken out. I feel too embarrassed. This is a reminder to ALL of us to share those loving words! Be empathetic. It will always be appreciated! Tell that single mom she's doing a great job raising her children. Encourage those newly weds that marriage is tough but God is there. Tell those new parents that they WILL get sleep eventually. Remind that graduate they'll find a job, or that retiree that they still have worth without a career. 

Please Lord, help me to remember the words that others have given me that gave me strength to persevere. Thank you for those people! Thank you for my mom encouraging me to stay strong and for her empathy for my situation! Thank you for grace. Thank you for a new day. Thank you for forgiving me when I discourage others. Thank you for providing me with opportunities to ask for forgiveness from the people I've hurt. Thank you for your Word.  A Word that will not return void. A Word that is a refreshing spring. Thank you for life. Thank you for this lesson. Thank you for today.

P.S- In case you were wondering... we ate the beans with the beetles. I just rinsed them really well and thanked God for any extra protein! lol

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Kenyan Darkness

Kenya is dark. Spiritually, yes, but physically. 

As we flew into Nairobi around 9pm I watched the city out my window. I saw a different view than I'm used to. I've always enjoyed flying into a new country or state and looking down at the city lights. This time however, I saw few city lights, I saw village fires. As you fly into to the capitol you see the small orange glow of fires that light the streets and rural villages of Kenya. I knew at that moment this was going to be a different overseas experience than I'm used to. 

Our compound is beautiful. Our property is emcaulate and the landscaping is riddled with bright hibiscuses and vibrant greens of the jungle. Our walkways are lined with gravel and the lawn is always mowed. (The gravel is literally made by hand. Large boulders hammered down into small rocks.)  While you're on our property it's easy to forget that you're living in a rural village in the middle of the "Developing World." But then you turn on your faucet, the water runs brown. You walk out the gate, you're on a dirt road surrounded by cows grazing and villagers sitting beside their shanty huts. You're sitting in your home checking facebook under the breeze of the fan, and the power goes out. The power goes out... a lot. At least 5 times a day. That's when you snap back to reality. With the surge of electricity you're no longer in your living room in America reading your friend's status about how she just had coffee with so-and-so 10 minutes ago. The lights go out, the computer shuts down, the fan squeaks to a hault, and everything is silent. It's such a strange silence. An eery silence. It's lonely. You hear the ribbit of a frog, the chirp of a gecko, and the stillness of the air. 

Only 18% of Kenyans have electricity in their homes. I only know how it feels to be without electricity for a few hours after an Oklahoma blizzard or tornado. I wonder how many of us could handle even one day of real life without electricity. Boiling the water to drink, cook, or bathe. Eating dinner by the fire or before the sunset, no cable television, no wifi, no lamp beside your bed to read at night, no nightlight in the bathroom. Just try something... turn off all the lights, lamps, the a/c, fans, alarm clocks, anything that produces light and just sit.. I guarantee there will still be the headlights from a passing car flash through your blinds or the glow of a street lamp or neighbor's porch light... That's America. There's always a light on. I've never felt utter isolation or stillness like I have in Africa. Yet, with the stillness there is a peace. There's no need to rush anywhere or get something done. You can just stop. Everything else has. You can be silent and listen to the birds. You can listen to the voice of the Lord. He speaks so softly and so sweetly. Goodnight from Kenya friends, --Carolyn (Carrie)

From my reading tonight..."And my soul shall rejoice in the LORD; It shall exult in His salvation." Psalm 35:9