Thursday, May 25, 2006

More languages...

When I was preparing to come to Tanzania, I knew that I would spend extensive time studying Swahili but I didn't think about the many other languages I would have to learn as well. For example, I am now retraining my brain to think in the metric system, and to see 22 degrees and know that it is not below freezing or to guage the weight of meat by kilograms or grams! Another language that I am getting to know is body language. This is pretty self explanatory! In addition to body language, there is a language concerning your clothing. What you wear here speaks tons about you and about your willingness to be respectful of the culture. One language that I didn't expect was to be learning a new form of English...some might call it proper English! I have always spoken American English, but here, the English that is spoken is so influenced by the Europeans, that I am often trying to figure out what people are trying to say...in my own language! HA! Pretty fun eh?

Join me in praying that as I tackle each of these languages that I would be willing to make mistakes, but that I wouldn't make mistakes that would hinder my ability to minister in the future.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The not so lovely voice...

It is interesting how something can be funny one minute and incredibly annoying the next! The voice. The Japanese lady. The first day she was hysterical! The second day, she was funny. The third day I chuckled. The fourth day I wanted to rip my hair out.

Thanks to many of you, we have figured out what the mysterious contraption is. It is a pre-paid toll card reader. This obviously won't do me any good in Tanzania, but if I lived in Japan I suppose it would have been quite useful. Now that we knew there wasn't a purpose for the instrument, my next ambition was to get it to stop talking! I am happy to report, that the voice is gone, thanks to a new friend Rick! I drove home yesterday without hearing any Japanese, or any other voices for that matter! It was a beautiful drive.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Module 5

My training projects are called modules. Today I started module #5, the one regarding culture shock. My last assignment for todays work was to "Reflect on the first stage of acculturation, the glamour stage. Describe in specific terms the glamour stage you experienced on arrival to your mission site." I thought you might be interested in my response:

I arrived in Tanzania 2 months ago. I remember my first morning, being taken back by my new home. I thought to myself, “this is not what I expected, I can do this!” I was amazed by mangos, the pineapple, the passion fruit, the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables, the joy expressed in the faces of those around me. I was in awe that there was a supermarket! I was shocked when I saw the “American garden” labels on canned food, or that there even was canned food. I quickly fell in love with the newness, I was taking it all in…WHAT A GRAND ADVENTURE! I loved hearing Swahili, even though I had no idea what was spoken, I loved the color, the modesty in dress, the people! I laughed at the power outages, the smell of the cows, and the goats in the road. I laughed as I watched a chicken cross the road and remembered the joke from childhood…finally getting it!

Then a few weeks passed. I then started to feel that itch inside me of annoyance. I was annoyed by the bumpy roads, the canyons in the roadways that require slow speed, a strong neck and a tough car. I was bothered by traffic. I was craving Mexican food, even taco bell would suffice. I became frustrated with the people and their speaking Swahili all of the time. Instead of laughing at the cows, goats, and chickend I found myself saying “what is that chicken doing in the road! It is in my way!” I became frustrated with myself. I then lowered my expectations for everything, which can be very dangerous. I thought if I lowered my expectations I would not be disappointed. Again…Very dangerous. I remember being extremely tired a lot of the time, and I don’t think it was just because of jet lag. I remember being afraid. I was fearful of all of the unknown things in my new world. I realized then, that racism was still very much a part of the world that I worked and lived in, it went in both directions, me towards them and them towards me. Arriving in Tanzania I didn’t expect to fear everyone like I did, but I projected my bad experiences with impoverished Americans onto the impoverished Africans. I never knew these feelings existed inside of my soul. I was embarrassed. I am still embarrassed. I was afraid to go for walks alone in my neighborhood. I longed for freedom. As much as I liked change, about the second week I longed for a bit of familiarity. In week two I actually sat down and made a list of the similarities and differences. It amazed me how good it felt to find some familiarity, and also how fun it was to put down the differences and my thoughts about them. I was thrilled to turn on the tv that was provided in the temporary apt to find one station in English…the Disney channel. It was in this time, that I realized that I was experiencing a bit of culture shock. I both loved and hated things about my new home. I didn’t like having to pay for water at a meal, but I enjoyed that tea was always offered. I was excited as I made my first trip out to the bush. I was amazed at my first trip to Nairobi, even though I can honestly say I don’t ever want to live there. I honestly, didn’t give too much thought to the future work. I actually became annoyed with a teammate that insisted on talking about it every time I was with them, and I kept thinking to myself, “I haven’t even learned how to live in this culture, how can they expect me to talk strategy for ministry?” How selfish I can become in the midst of culture shock. I am again, ashamed of myself.

I remember driving through town, and thinking, how do people live here. “Can I really do this?” How does that mama let her child beg? Or on other occasions, “where is the mama of that poor little child?” I also laughed as my teammates shared stories, and cried as I realized what I left behind. I laughed when I went to the wrong side of the car to ride in the passengers seat, and longed for the comfort of a dear friend back home. I longed for the intimacy of that friendship that every time I saw or heard something new I would think to myself, “I can’t wait to tell Lisa about this!” It became a game in my mind and my heart, to see and find new things to tell her. I then realized, my heart was still in America. I was not adapting, but coping.

Eventually though, as I look back, I see how I have let the fear and tiredness get in the way of my engaging in the culture. I still find myself extremely tired, all of the time. I am told that is normal. Everything requires so much more work. I know though, that deep down at times I allow these things to keep me from running errands, or even just taking a walk around my neighborhood. I am challenged today, after my reading assignment, to stop these things from getting in the way of my adapting to this new culture.

They say these feelings, emotions, fears, moments are normal. Everyone who moves to a new culture experiences them. That doesn’t mean that I like them! I need to be real with myself. I need to remember that God plays a role in every culture, sometimes we allow Him to play a smaller role than He would like. I need to remember that there is good in all cultures, and not good. The day I landed at Kilimanjaro International Airport I said to myself, remember, “Different is not bad, it is different.” I think I forgot that before week two.

At the two month mark, I can say that although I often find myself annoyed, I am still thankful for the spirit of laughter. God has been faithful in helping me to laugh again at the chicken crossing the road, the Japanese voice in my car, and the bumps in the road, both the literal and figurative. He has been faithful in helping me to find new foods that make up for those I left behind. He has provided other sources of protein and iron in my refusal to consume meat here unless it is the only option present. He has given me constant Joy. He has given me Peace. He has renewed my Hope. He has reminded me of my Passion to be here. He has given me Jesus. At least I can give Him a bit of my life.

I pray that he teaches me how to become a part of Arusha. That I would not feel like an outsider, but that I would be able to communicate in Swahili and make national friends. I pray that as I am in town, he would provide opportunities for me to chat with the ladies on the corner without the herd showing up offering me yet another mango. I pray, that Arusha would be my home, that I would feel comfortable to love others the way Jesus did, that I would not be weary of walking around my own neighborhood because I know my neighbors well. I pray that one day I will have more to express my gratitude to my guard besides a smile. I don’t want to cope here, I want to adapt, all of me, not just physically, but emotionally, and relationally as well.


Now many of you will probably respond to this email with great concern, thinking I am falling apart, but honestly, I am not. God is faithful in keeping me standing! I would never refuse prayer, as I know I have a lot to go through as I adapt myself to my new surroundings, but worry not, God provides for the lilies of the field...He also provides for me!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

But I DON'T speak Japanese!

I didn't know this would happen when I bought a car. Of all the crazy things I could think of, this was not one of them. Never did I imagine, that my car would come with a nice ladies voice that talks...very surprising on such a used car! There is one problem however, this lovely voice, speaks Japanese! It caught me off guard the first time I shifted from Park to Reverse. Today I tried all different maneuvers to see if I could guess what this voice might be saying...to no avail! Regardless, I find it funny, and so do the people who have ridden in my car. There is also a contraption, that I am unsure about in the car, that may actually be the source of the voice. If anyone knows what to call the contraption in the picture below, what its purpose is, and how it works, please drop me an email, one day I might get tired of the lovely voice!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Ramblings.

I should be going to bed, but thought I would try to share a bit first. There have been a few things running through my mind. One, hit me hard today. I had someone come and clean my house, I hired her to do so once a week. I am told, that its helps her, as she would be without a job, and also, frees me up to minister, and soon, I will be so busy, that I will love having her come. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE Mama Flor, as she not only cleans, but speaks swahili and makes me laugh as she strongly encourages that I stumble through swahili to tell her what I want to say and then gently corrects me...but I still think it is weird to have someone clean my house. If I tried hard enough, I know I could find the time, and I wonder, if in some strange sense, if this puts me in a different class than her, which is the last thing I want, but it may just be that way because of the color of my skin. The other issue, is I think if my life is so crazy that I can't even clean my own toilet then something must be out of whack! I eagerly await your thoughts. She is a blessing, but am I being a blessing back to her? Am I creating a separation that will make it hard to minister in the future?

Another thought. God the Father. I have been astounded by how often God expresses himself as Father in scripture. This is a puzzling phenomenon for me, as there are SO many different types of fathers out there...which is he? I know that He is all knowing, all loving, etc...but, if He would take the time out to describe himself as father, I wonder, what model of father on this earth is He most like? I of course have my preferences, but I will keep that to myself! This is leading me to look more into the word, its meanings and what it looks like.

I picked up my car today, or rather, my car picked me up! I could not get to the car place, so the salesman drove it to my house and I in turn took him back. I had this new found freedom fill my soul. I can go to the grocery store all by myself! I am thrilled about this new freedom, but I wonder, will this new freedom take away some of the joys I have grown accustomed to over the last few months, for example, seeing my teammates so often in order to tag along with them and get things done? I fear I may have more time alone...I don't know if I need more time alone!

Care packages. Some have asked what I need. Honestly, the only thing I find myself needing is long sleeve t-shirts. It is cold here! Today I switched my thermometer from Farenheight to Celsius to feel better about being cold. I didn't expect it to be this cold, I brought a jacket and a few long sleeve t's and a few sweatshirts, but what I didn't think about was how long it takes to dry things in damp, cold weather...

So the skinny on care packages. Many of you want to send them. I am not going to stand in your way. Feel free to check the wishlist for books I desire to read. A few of my favorite things, that I can live without, but if you really want to send a package are the following:
  • Seasoning packets (Chili, taco, enchilada, sloppy joes)
  • chocolate chips
  • peanut M&M's
  • Pictures of you (and your family if applicable)
  • Did I mention books??? I finished what I brought with me.
  • itunes gift cards

Rules for care packages:

  • Make them small. Preferably small enough to fit into a smaller padded envelope.
  • Make them cheap. They can get stolen. The more expensive they look, the more likely they will get stolen and the more likely I am to get charged a horrendous amount to retrive them from the post office!
  • Send them air mail, this is easily done with padded envelopes.

Address:

Pam McKerring

CMF International

PO BOX 2582

Arusha, Tanzania

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Raindrops in my sleep...changing ears...and Spanish anyone?


God has been faithful to a request I made a LONG time ago when I read Phil's blog about his time in Jerusalem. Before then I hadn't even thought about the fact that moving here would put distance between my closest friendships at home and leave me in a community where for a while I would lack intimate friendships. Well, thankfully, God heard my plea, and in the picture above you will see Tanya, myself, Anna and Charnelle. These girls I know are going to be great friends, we have moved beyond "acquaintances" quite quickly, and to be honest with you, I love that they are around!

A little while back I reported that my eyes are changing. This was in little reference to the fact that I had to get glasses just before coming to Tanzania, but was in fact to say that in my new home, I notice things, and I notice them differently.

Alas, my ears have changed too. No, the sound of dogs barking I still find incredibly obnoxious, but other things have become quite beautiful. One thing that is different is silence. I never experienced so much silence when I lived in the United States. There was always a radio, tv, cd player or ipod disrupting my silence. Only then, I didn't know it was disruptive, in fact, I was the one who turned them on! Well, the lack of a tv, or radio leaves me with few options, the ipod and computer, and sometimes it is just too complicated. At first the silence was a bit scary to me, but I have come to love the silence, to enjoy the quiet, and to wonder how I ever lived without it!

I have also concluded that my ears have deceived me over the last say 28 years. When I do disrupt my silence with a song, it means something completely different now. The lyrics of Matt Redmans song, Blessed be your name, touch my spirit in a completely different way, as do the lyrics to an old friend John David Webster's Now. The list could go on...Speak to me by Aaron Shust seems to be the cry of my heart quite often, and I can't leave out Africa by the legendary 80's band Toto, or Let that be enough by Switchfoot. I hear words in these songs and in many others that I don't recall hearing before. My heart resounds differently to these and many others. Funny how moving to another world changes EVERYTHING!

On a completely different note, I have recently discovered that I am fluent in Spanish. This helps me very little as I try to learn Swahili, but it does serve as an encouragment many times as I stumble through learning this complicated language! I am using the same method I used to learn Spanish while I was in Chile several years ago, and apparently it stuck better than I thought. I have begun to have dreams in Spanish again, and quite often, I try to talk to my language helper in Spanish, which of course is little help! Again, we laugh, and laugh and laugh!

And then there is the rain in Africa! There is a very fine line between being joyful and complaining. I have vowed many times to never complain about the rain or ask it to go away, Africa needs it. The people I have grown to love need it, and since if you really think about the fact that the food I eat grows here too...I need it. I will never ask you to ask God to stop the rain, but can I make a different request...that you ask Him to have it just rain outside? I am running out of buckets! My apartment has two bedrooms, up until two nights ago I have been sleeping in future roommate Kendra's room on a guest bed borrowed from the team while I waiting for my bed. Last week, I awoke to rain drops falling within inches of my head. Two nights ago when I got my own bed and moved into my room, I thought, now I can really sleep! Imagine my dismay when I awoke to rain drops falling...on my bed...and on my head! The song is funny...but I am not laughing so much right now! The fundi (worker) has been working on the roof since we discovered the leak in the bathroom weeks ago...he has even said it seems like they are putting a lot of energy into their work for nothing!

Rain included I still love this place and the people. I look forward to developing relationships in the future that allow me to minister to the people here. I look forward to getting dirty (this is Africa) and extending the Grace that keeps me looking heavenward.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Peek a boo!

Today was a day of laughter with my language tutor! She sometimes forgets that I know NOTHING about swahili, and starts rambling, or when we are doing a lesson, goes way ahead of where I currently am. For example today, we were talking about commands. For example, pick up the paper, put the pencil on the paper, etc. After a while of going over them again and again, I asked her to ask me "who" "what" "where" and then allow me one word answers to her questions. So, she told me to pick up the pencil. I then instructed her to ask me "who picked up the pencil?" so that I could give the one word response, "me", or two word, "I did." So we tried it, and every time I gave the answer "me" she would correct me, and want me to say the Swahili phrase for "I picked up the pencil." Now, I know it sounds like a simple little phrase however for the life of me I could not get the phrase, the goal was just one or two word answers today...after all, in swahili, I am a child.

Finally, after much deliberation, I related myself to her as a child. Mama Lisa has a 5 year old daughter, and I asked her, please talk to me like you talked to your daughter when she was 2. She laughed, quickly understood, and then asked, "but you aren't 2?" I said I know, but as far as swahili is concerned, I am an mtoto (child). Go slowly with me, help me, but help me like you would help a child.

Enjoying being a kid again! Today, in addition to the already mentioned exercises, I learned "nose" "ears" "mouth" "eyes" and "head" in a way that I have often relayed these facts to the infants I cared for. Inside I almost felt like bringing peek a boo into the game! The flys on the wall were laughing...of this I am certain!

Monday, May 08, 2006

My eyes are changing...

I am starting to take notice of my surroundings. I have been bombarded the last 7 weeks with newness, labels on can's look different, store fronts are different, everything is different. With all these differences you are left with a lot for your mind to absorb. Sometimes you don't remember what you saw, or you just stop seeing, cause your are overloaded.

Well I noticed something today. I noticed the people and my heart was grieved. It seems that now that my eyes have gotten used to seeing my surroundings, I am able to see more of what is taking place around me, and I am not too sure how I feel about my eyes being opened.

I noticed these new eyes today as I was walking down the lower road. I have walked parts of this road many times, on it lie my favorite bakery, the bank, around the corner is an amazingly cheap store to get spices. I was looking for a mosquito net and pillows. I saw so much more. What I saw left me thinking...and it is keeping me awake. So I am doing something incredibly dangerous, processing what I saw on an online journal.

I first saw the man sitting on the corner, literally on the curb, hunched over. At first, I thought he was handicapped, then I saw what has become familiar throughout my life and experience at Outreach, Inc., the man was drunk. He was too drunk to stand up. He was also angry. My heart wonders, what drove this man to where he is. Where has life led his heart to be sitting on the corner, too drunk to move out of the way of a car.

Then I saw a mama sitting on a blanket, begging. People beg all over town here. It is in many ways a job for so many. The fact that she was begging was not the disturbing part. What was disturbing was that she was using her child, to gain sympathy of the passers-by. And when it comes right down to it, in a way, I felt that she was selling her child. No, there would not be an offer by anyone to take the child in exchange for money, but in essence, her child was earning money for her, and I wondered, what drove that mama to be in such a place that she would use her 1 or 2 your old precious child to earn money. I then wondered, what this child will grow up learning and feeling about herself. Will she one day sell herself because that is what she knows? Will she one day know the God who created her for so much more?

When you park your car in town, there are several young boys who offer to "watch" your car for you. They are street kids. You don't need someone to watch your car, but they need money. I don't know enough about this town to know if someone then comes along and takes a portion of it, or if there is a quota they must meet or if they will take their earnings home to help provide for their siblings...all I know is that today, I took a look into those brown eyes. The hurt that filled those eyes was astounding. Will this boy know, that God gave him gifts, talents and skills, and will he ever have someone believe in him enough to nourish these talents? Will he ever know the depths of the love of God, and the healing that comes with being loved by the King of Kings?

I also saw beauty. Amidst the struggles of these people, I see hope. It amazes me. If you watch, you will see those young boys turn into boys again and tease each other between watching cars. If you pay close attention, you see the mama hug her child and tenderly caress her face. If you take a moment, you will see a woman who comes along side the man on the curb, encouraging him to move, and trying to help him.

I then think upon the teachings of Christ, and I am left with a dilemma. What is it that He wants us to do? How do we best share the love of Christ with these amazing people, and how do we help that mama provide for herself so she doesn't have to use her child to make an income? The problem is big, bigger than I could ever grasp. The answer eludes me. But this I know, that Jesus said to love our neighbors. These people have obviously been unloved, and I pray that God gives me the grace, the mercy, the opportunity to demonstrate His love to them. I pray that he continues to open my eyes to the people, to their needs, and that my heart would not get numb and lose its ability to grieve for my new neighbors.