I have been told that the experiences I have had in the last week have made me a real Kenyan.
Over the weekend, I traveled to Shaan's house in Kiberia (not to be confused with the slum Kibera). At night the traffic is really bad and we were stuck for a long time. People are not considerate drivers in Nairobi, because if they are, there will be no possibility of moving anywhere. When there is a traffic jam in Nairobi and the area surrounding it, it really is a jam. Vehicle narrowly miss each other by less than a foot sometimes. People drive onto the sides just to squeeze in wherever they can. Some people were pretty mush stepping off of the matatu (small bus) to ensure a spot for them in traffic.
When I arrived, we had authentic African supper. We ate rice with some sort of goat stew over-top of it. There were six women staying in a small two room house. Compared to the surrounding homes, this place was like an oasis. They had their own garden and laundry on the line. Their home was part of a compound holding 4-5 other families, from what I could see.
On Saturday, I had a shower, which was an adventure all in itself. The people I was with were kind enough to heat the water. We use a bucket on the floor and just bend over and slop it onto yourself. Washing hair was similar to washing it in a sink. I ate some pancakes for breakfast, which are more like crepes. They tasted like they had nutmeg in them or something of the sort. They were very yummy!! I spent the day reading and watching movies. In the afternoon, I went across the street to purchase a Coca Cola. When I went outside there was no one really in sight, but as I was waiting for the cola (2 minutes) the children were standing around, wary and gawking at the same time. After that, Sheila (one of the women of the house) told me that it would be best if they didn't take me for a walk that day.
On Sunday morning I had the same "shower" and went to Church via public transport. We had to leave about 2 hours before Church actually started, to ensure that we would not be late. Thankfully, traffic wasn't very bad and we arrived quite early. There is no rhyme or reason to how long it takes to get anywhere by public transport. I took a large bus from Kiberia to the city central. It was quite a ride. For all those who love sitting in the back of the bus because it's the bounciest place, should ride in a bus here. I was bounced half a foot out of my seat several time during the course of the travel. When I arrived at City Central, I them took a matatu to a stop about a ten minute walk away from the Church. Matatus are chalked full of seats and there is barely enough room to get into the back seats. They fit about 14 people into a vehicle that is about the size of a mini-van.
Church was wonderful. I love African Church!! The worship was so nourishing and filled me in a way that I was desperate for. I was feeling spiritually dehydrated, though I thought I was just feeling overwhelmed by the culture. I drank up the wonders that are the LORD, yesterday. I sat and watched the children's service. It will be very different, as there are no tables for doing crafts. The children sit on chairs and the teacher tells them a story and asks them about the meaning afterwards. I am not good at just standing in front of people and talking. I prefer to do something while I talk. Alas, our God is stretching me in yet another way. I am terribly nervous for next week and need some inspiration and peace.
In the afternoon on Sunday, I spent my first time alone in over a week. I didn't know that I was craving some time alone until I was given the opportunity. I allowed myself to cry a little as I really needed it after a week of not feeling like I was being useful, and feeling inadequate for the tasks I had been given. I later talked with Brenda and she gave me so much encouragement. She told me that it was good to cry and that it didn't make me any less brave for doing it.
Today, I awoke from my first night by myself. I saw the beauty of God's creation and spent some quiet time in His presence. I am feeling refreshed and spiritually filled. I prayed that God would show me a purpose for my being here, and He surely did that. From the morning and all through the day, people were delegating things to me and giving me things to accomplish. I was doing accounting in the morning and went to see a boarding school in the afternoon. I also went shopping for materials that the children who will be boarding at the school, will need in order to start on Wednesday. The school would have been nothing too impressive if it were in Canada, but here, this is a place for the children to feel safe and be cared for every day. Often the children in the slums do not have enough food each day and often miss school because their uniforms aren't clean. In a boarding school, they will be educated on a regular basis and will have all that they need. These children will be brought to the school with the parent's consent, but it is still hard for these mothers to say good-bye for the time being.
Shopping wholesale was an sight to behold. I wish I could take pictures. It is nothing like a Costco. Basically, there are bundles of item along the roadway and there is little nook in a building where the patrons stand to give their orders to the employees behind metal bars. There are bundles of things hanging from the ceiling and encroaching on what little floor space there would be if it was cleared. I had someone shake my hand and tell me that it had been a long time since he had seen a mzungu (white person). He just wanted to have the pleasure of shaking my hand. Everyone was staring at me. Even when I went to wait in the car, people were peering in the open windows at me. I couldn't tell whether it was a blessing, not to understand the language at some points during my trip today. I am so thankful to George, who drove us to do our errands. He kept checking on me as I was waiting for our order and never strayed from sight. It was a great comfort to know that he was there standing guard when I was waiting inside a parked car with open windows. On the way home, I had the pleasure of having raw sugarcane for my first time. For those who don't know how to eat sugarcane, they people you buy it from, peel the bark off of it a cut it into large chunks. Then you break pieces off with your teeth and suck the juices out. Don't attempt to eat the cane, though, because it tastes like you're chewing strings of thread mixed with a distinct woody texture.
I was told today that by the time I return home, the only part of me that will be Canadian, will be my passport and my skin colour. Shaan said this because I have tried and done many things in my first week, that many mzungus are afraid to ever try or do. I am feeling built up by these words, and the comments that the ladies have given me to indicate their joy over my being here.
Blessings, fond thoughts and prayers to my Canadian family and friends.