Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The prostitute.

My neighbor is a prostitute. Yes you read that correctly. She didn't come right out and say it. But her words didn't need to. Her actions have it written all over it. She has about 10 children, with about as many different fathers. many of them she doesn't know who their father is. She is a modern woman at the well. She has men who come to "visit" her. They "hang out" and "talk." Yet she is not married. She also, doesn't have a job and is supporting all her children. Her sister, who lives with her, is involved in the same activities.

Things like this grieve my heart. It reminds me why I am here. Prostitution is such a demeaning profession. It removes you of your dignity. It makes you feel as if you are trash. It leaves you feeling worthless, or worth just the amount of money you were given for allowing someone to "visit" you. What continues to grieve my heart is what this womans children are learning. The boys are learning that women are objects. They are learning that they can be abused, misused and left on the wayside. The girls are learning the same things about themselves. Obviously I live in Africa so we must bring AIDS into the discussion. How sad it is to me that this woman somehow reached the point years ago that she felt the only way she could make ends meet was to sell her physical body, her dignity, her self worth, and her life. I wonder where she learned this was an option. was it from her mother?

I look forward to the relationship I hope to have with her. One that gives her worth. One that points her to restoration. A relationship that restores hope. One that points her in the direction of the Man who loves her regardless of who she is, was or will be. The man who died on the cross for her years ago.

Again I hate evil.

Good and Evil.

This weekend when I was driving myself back from Nairobi (yes I am a BIG girl now!) i was listening to an old sermon of Erwin Mcmanus on my ipod. He was reading from Genesis 3 where the account of the fall of man takes place. Something new jumped out at me.

Typically, in sermons around Genesis 3:1-7 we focus on how Eve was deceived by the serpent. How he twisted God's words and she fell for it. But like I said, something new jumped out. The phrase about the knowledge of good and evil:

The serpent said to the woman, "you surely will not die! For God, knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, KNOWING GOOD AND EVIL." When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desireable to make one WISE, she took from its fruit and ate...

I then wondered, how much the desire for wisdom and knowing things that only God knows played in her choosing to do what she had distinctly been told not to do. I then realized how much I hate evil. How when I hear about things that are evil I often become sick to my stomach and want to hurl. I wonder, at the same time, how much my desire to know things contributes to my sin, and what would happen if we would all "flee from evil and cling to what is good." If only we would let God be the one who is all knowing, and trust him to reveal to us what he wants to when he wants to. We might save ourselves from having to endure such evil. I hate evil. I think from now on I will try to practice this idea. flee from it. cling to the goodness of trusting my God to know what is best for me and revel in the awe of him revealing what I need to know when I need to know it.

The outspoken American strikes again!

Well friends. We all know that I can be pretty blunt and outspoken. Some of you REALLY like that about me...and others of you...well it drives you crazy...especially when I forget to wrap the truth in Love.

Anyhow. Today. The thrify, outspoken American spoke up. You see, again, school was dumbed down for those in the class who refused to take the first course and wanted to skip ahead to the next level. Mind you, if you have lived here a while and made an honest attempt to learn, you could probably do that, but none of the people in my class have done so. They are all newbies to Tanzania!

After sitting in class, for the second straight day, and doing stuff I distinctly remember doing in the first course, for the second day in a row, I finally resolved to ask my teacher for some help. She took it well. I gently voiced my concern, in that those who are supporting me are helping to pay for me to take an intermediate course, not to retake the beginners course.

Her response: Pam you know too much swahili. (Shocking I know. even for me. I still get lost in swahili conversations!) Anyhow, it seems as if they don't know what to do either, so possibly tomorrow they will teach me one on one in my own class, because I am too far ahead of the others. It is a first for me. I was always a good student, but never really the smart one of the group!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Water problems...Language School...Returned Joy!

I failed to let you all know I was experiencing water problems...AGAIN! About two weeks ago I reached the point where my underground water tank didn't have enough water to pump water into the house. This was devastating for many reasons...I do like to wash my hands now and then, not to mention shower, and do laundry. I survivied by pulling buckets out of the tank much like you would a well, and did manage to master the art of bucket bathing...nonetheless...the most frustrating part, was I somehow managed to go through way too much water in way too short of a time. I was thankful when I learned the tank had a crack in it and I wasn't just a water hog!

However, the my thankfulness was short lived, in that a crack meant that all the water I had paid to put into the tank would have to be wasted so they could repair the tank. (I had spent about $100 US to fill the tank two weeks prior)

Well, I am happy to say, that after two weeks of no water, joy returned to my home in that water is once again flowing in my house! YEAH

Also started my LAST language course today! Another YEAH! There are five of us in the class. Myself. Two German gals. A guy from Sudan and a gal from Israel. We make up quite the group. I stand out in two ways, I am the only American, and I am the ONLY one who has taken the courses at levels prior to this one and the ONLY one who has any swahili experience! It is great to be at the top of the class, however I can say I am a bit frustrated as I feel the lack of experience the others have is already holding the course back.

And last, I was a few days late, but managed to get it done...I set up my Christmas tree! I thought long and hard last year about whether to get a mini tree when they were on clearance and boy am I glad that I did! I am also glad that I had the forethought to make ornaments with pictures of my family to put on my tiny (less that 2" tall) tree.

I am sure there is much to tell you, however, I have school tomorrow! Must get to bed!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!


Sorry I am late! Happy Thanksgiving to you all! Believe it or not I actually had a turkey dinner myself, and got to spend the day with wonderful friends! I am incredibly thankful for the friendships I have, they make being away from family so much easier! I hope you had a great day and that you enjoy your day after thanksgiving shopping!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Police...again.

THis morning was the day I was supposed to meet up with the CMF Kenya Urban Poor team to learn about their strategy for implementing CHE in the slums of Nairobi.

On my way my phone rang incessantly. It was the same person and they would not accept my ignoring their call. It is illegal to talk on the phone while driving in Nairobi. After about 3 or 4 call attemps in a row from this person, I answer long enough to say, I am driving, I will call you back. At the same time there are two Kenyan police officers on the side of the road and they wave me down to stop.

Police #1: Mam. You are breaking the law. your life is more important than that phone call. Don't you know it is illegal to talk on the phone in Kenya? We must take you to the police station.
Me: I am really sorry sir. I know it was wrong, they kept calling so I answered to tell them I couldn't talk and to stop calling.
Police #1 and #2: Mam. that is no excuse. We must go to the station and you will have to go to court on thursday.
Me: Ok. let me just call my boss so he can come with us.
Police #2. Ok.

I try to call incessantly, but wouldn't you figure my phone is not working at this point. I assume it is because I don't have enough money (I have a prepaid cell) so I pull out a scratch off card to add money to try and call. As I scratch the prepaid card:

Police officer #2 : I need money on my phone too. Why don't you give that to me?

Me: If I give this to you, then I can't call my boss to meet us at the station.
Police #1: You know, we could just settle this here, and then you wouldn't have to go to the station and you could continue on your way.
Me: But isn't that illegal?
Police #1: Well yes. It is legal and illegal. it is both.
Me: I am pretty sure it is illegal.
Police #2: It is both. illegal and legal.
Me: well sirs, I really try hard not to break the law. I didn't mean to break the law this morning, I was getting distracted by the incessant ringing. I would hate to break the law two times in the same day. I don't think we should take care of it here. (I am well aware they are wanting a bribe)
Police #1: Oh, really, you are just kind of breaking the law, not fully.
Me: Sir, I don't even want to kinda break the law. I will just call my boss to meet us at the station.

Both police officers walk away and start speaking swahili. They assume I don't understand them. I like a good mzungu listen to every word.

Police #1 then returns. "Mam, you may go, but don't ever, ever talk on the phone while driving again."

So there you have it. I have managed to be pulled over twice in three days, and leave both experiences unharmed, and have managed to survive both experiences! I now turn off my phone when I drive.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Security guards...and humility.

Helen and Amy arrived today! YEAH! It was SO good to see them! We planned almost a year ago to hook up in Kenya over Thanksgiving and we are all shocked that we are 1) here. 2) really seeing each other and 3) that thanksgiving has already arrived!

So to celebrate, we went to the movies. And thus sets the stage for our excitement for the night. I drove since I knew where we were going. On a side note, sometimes when you go into a shopping center parking lot they give you a plastic card that you must return upon your exit. I haven't yet figured out the science yet, sometimes you get one and sometimes you don't.

So we watch our movie. grab a snack and discover that it is getting late, so we should head out. Confident that I had not received a plastic card upon our arrival I inform the guard at the gate and he makes me pull off to the side. (I must also point out this was the second time today. earlier I went in to a different parking lot and didn't get a card.) A different guard comes up and says we have a problem. I should have received a card so I have to pay 500 Kenyan shillings to get out of the lot. This is equivalent to about $7 US. and I am cheap. And I am certain that I did not receive a card so I tell him I should not have to pay. He says if a card is missing when his shift is over then he will have to pay the money. I told him a card would not be missing because I didn't get one so I shouldn't have to pay for it. We discuss the situation for nearly half an hour. Finally I say, how about I give you my phone number and if a card is missing you can call me tomorrow and I will come back and give you the money. (After all I am certain I did not get a card, and I can choose to not answer my phone.) So I grab my phone to look up the number and helen takes my purse and soon says, "Pam, what is this?"

I respond. The plastic card that I thought I didn't get.

I humbly apologize and grovel with the guard who then gives me the Kenyan version of "I told you so!"

Monday, November 20, 2006

Conquering fears

I have to admit I have a fear of police. In America they are a bit intimidating, but here, you hear about all of the corruption, and it just scares me to have to even talk to one of them. Today I got to both meet, talk, and drive away from the Kenya police.

Did I mention it was my first time ever driving alone in Nairobi? And that it was after dark?

I was driving to to my guest house, but made a stop on the way to get some tylenol, as I was feeling a migraine coming on. My first mistake, was stopping even though it was after dark. My second mistake is that I took the wrong exit and got on the wrong road. About 5 seconds later as I am looking for a turn-around, I encounter a random police check. Since I am white, and have Tanzania plates, I was a definate victim.

So I was slightly harassed. I had all my ducks in a row, however the policeman decided I needed to have not only a US drivers license, and a Tanzanian one, but also a Kenyan. After 20 minutes of harassment, a few attempts to get me to pay a bribe, and many compliments I managed to be freed from his presence. Thankfullky when I had to go through a second time after turning around to go the right way, I wasn't stopped again.

I survived my first encounter with the Kenyan police.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Car Troubles...and laughter

Sunday I left for a week long trip to Nairobi. There were many things on the agenda, learning to drive in Nairobi, learning my way around, experiencing the urban CHE program here and learning from it as I plan to start the CHE program in Arusha, and also, a Thanksgiving feast. Apparently, God has some other things for me to learn.

Sundays drive in itself as a laughing experience. I have never driven my car to Kenya. I usually take the shuttle or ride with someone, but I needed to learn the border crossing process and I had so many things to do that it would be best for me to drive. I got about 10 Kilometers outside of Arusha and my car started acting up. I called the person I was caravaning with and we checked all fluids, and called the mechanic we knew in Nairobi and he said keep on driving and bring it straight to him upon arrival in Nairobi. My entire trip, my RPM's were in the 3-5000 RPM range, most often around 4. It was frustrating. I used an entire tank of gas getting here, when it should have taken 1/2 a tank. I arrived, the mechanic pulled open the hood, and wiggled a spark plug. I laughed as I thought to myself, if only I had known, I could have done that 400 kilometers ago! I really should take a basic mechanics course.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

American Grocery Stores...

When I was sending an email in response to Phil's Comment on my "Rejection" entry last week, I realized that many of you would get a kick over my thoughts on the American Grocery store:

I hadn't given much thought to missing them, until he brought up telling his friend to visit one if she ever got the chance. It was then that I fondly remembered...the Kroger on east 10th. Which is ironic in itself in that most of us from Indy would not ever fondly remember the Kroger on east 10th. We might rather glorify Marsh on 82nd and Allisonville...but alas, Kroger was my near to home one stop shop! I remembered the clean floors...which is also ironic as it isn't necessarily a clean place! I remembered the bright lights! The space, oh my goodness the space! And how everything was organized, the flowers were all together, the meat was in the same place, the dairy had its own section! You could find the cereal you were wanting and the brands you trusted! You had choices, and there was competition for the cheaper prices! Aisles were organized and made sense! It was decorated like a party with banners, bargains and various items hanging from the ceiling to get your attention! I could get my soy milk and my toilet paper all on the same store! And it must be said, that the Americans who visited knew how to stand in a cue, and Kroger did offer the three in line guarantee! What JOY! Perhaps I will have to visit my Kroger when I return...that is if it is still there!

One must comment, that as I fondly remember shopping in the US, I don't envy those of you who are about to embark on the shopping frenzy of the Holiday Season, and I am incredibly grateful to miss such an occasion!

Firsts!

The last few weeks were quite phenominal. I have had many firsts:

1. I shed tears for the first time in a public location. In all honesty, I think I was mostly just tired and fed up with the work it takes to get things done. I can truthfully say it wasn't the situation itself, it was just the straw that broke the camels back. I lived to tell about it and I am sure the workers all told their friends about the white girl who cried because she was having a hard time getting car insurance.

2. I saw my first Nairobi Fly. These are terrible little bugs that burn you instead of stinging you. It is quite painful as I am told, thankfully I didn't touch it as I encountered it!

3. I admitted that I like dogs. (Lisa I await your comment on this one!)

4-6. I went to my first Tanzanian wedding, my first catholic mass, and went to 3 weddings all at once! This requires some explanation for sure. One of our national workers was getting married and of course we were invited. It was difficult as since we are white, we are automatically guests of honor, and I still haven't gotten used to that. Anyhow, Gary, Judy and I showed up at the church, but saw a bride, that looked nothing like the girl we know, so we started heading towards our car thinking we were in the wrong place, when Scollar hollars out, guys where are you going? We turn around to see the bride that we know arriving. It so happens that they were doing 3 weddings, all at the same time. It was interesting. The wedding was a catholic wedding, which led to my first attendance of a mass. Uncle John you would be proud in that I still knew when to stand and kneel!

7. I was refered to as the socialite of Arusha. This is HYSTERICAL to me as I am such an introvert, but when I arrived, all the young people my age didn't bother to do anything. Out of my own need I have started hosting a bi-weekly worship and prayer time at my house, a long with regular gatherings for fellowship. Apparently this makes me a socialite. I beg to differ. It is just my fighting loneliness!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Lost in Translation.

Every now and then, I think i have swahili licked. I feel super confident and ready to conquer the world. Until today. Three different events took place today, that reminded me to continue studying and continue trying.

#1
A few weeks ago when I was talking with my guard about the daily routine. I meant to tell him he could leave for his lunch break in the daytime, just make sure I had they keys. Yesterday I was gone most of the day and when i got back I asked if he had eaten. He said he hadn't. Today I got back around 3 and asked, if he had eaten. He said he hadn't. He then asked if I was staying, I said no, I was leaving again. I told him to go eat, but apparently he thought that there always had to be someone at the house, so the last two weeks when I was at work all day the poor guy hasn't eaten lunch. Fortunately today we were able to clear things up.

#2
I was driving up the road to my house this afternoon when Austin hollered out "aunt pam! stop for a minute!" Austin's family lives down the road, about 1/2 kilometer from my house and his mom (also named Pam) and I have become good friends. Anyhow, a village boy he was playing with got hit in the mouth and was bleeding. He wanted me to look at it. So I stopped and looked at it and determined he had just split his lip and would be fine. The humbling part... a 7 year old was translating for me.

#3
I had the suspension redone on my car last week. It was BAD! I didn't realize it as the roads are so bad I never noticed the difference until I got it back. Probably it was bad to begin with. Anyhow, yesterday as I was bringing Austin and his brother Ty back to the house I noticed a terrible clunking, crunching sound that scared the daylights out of me. So I went to the CMF office today and fortunately we share a compound with a mechanic. I had the guy look at it, and he did. He fixed it, didn't charge me, but because I don't know the words for car parts yet, I have no idea what he did, I just know that something was broken and he welded it back together.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Rejection

Finding out you are normal and right on track is always encouraging. I personally like to be ahead of the curve, but I realize that this can't always be the case.

Today I learned, that I am right on track in the culture adjustment process. A few months back Nichole sent me the "Culture Curve." In general it shows you the stages of adjustment to a new culture over several months. According to this curve. I am right on track with my desire to reject it immediately!

The curve begins with a romantic stage. Everything is beautiful! Then comes the realization stage. Things are still good, but reality is settling in. Then the line plumments from month 4 or 5 to month 12. At that point, your emotional satisfaction is plummeting and eventually it levels off people typically make one of three decisions: Repatriation. Retreat. Readjustment.

I know in recent posts I have expressed my frustration with this place. In all honesty, I do really like this place, and I really am ok. Yesterday I was talking with a Tanzanian about life in America. They asked if I wanted to go back like everyone who has. I could answer with a very truthful "no." It is just that, sometimes, I get so very annoyed at how difficult life can be here. I don't regret my decision at all, there are days where I just wish I didn't have to work so hard to communicate, work, get things accomplished or have my needs met. There are valuable lessons in all of these experiences, and I am growing tremendously from them, growing is sometimes just painful and I would like a reprieve.

So there you have it. I am nearing month 8, so only 4 months or so left of this rejection. That is, if I stay on track. Pray that as I go through this process i would not take the first two options of the three, but rather that I would readjust, as that would be the healthiest for me and my ministry.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Life in the fishbowl

In my 28 years, i have grown accustomed to the American way of life, including Americans not noticing you or what you are doing when you are in your own yard. Life has since changed.

Now, instead of going to bed knowing there is not anyone on my property, I remind myself that the person sitting on my porch is there to watch over me, not watch me. It is quite odd. It is weird to sit at my desk when I know on the other side of the curtain not even 1o feet from me is someone sitting on my porch. It goes against all of my hospitable nature to just let him sit there and do his job. I fight the desire to invite him in, give him a cup of coffee and talk the day away.

Even though they probably aren't, I feel as if they are watching my every move, taking note on all that I do...well I guess they probably are. They probably think I am strange for staying up until midnight, and even stranger for not getting out of bed before 7. I am sure I throw away things in my trash that they think are perfectly usable. They probably think it strange that I have special meat for my dogs. (no such thing as purina here!) They think it is crazy that I cuddle my puppies and pet them and talk to them. Ahhh...life in the fishbowl it is always interesting isn't it!

What's Missing?




The pictures above show a bit of my weekend adventures. Can you tell what is missing from them? The doorknob. Yep. In my first week here I have already caused damage to my new home. Technically I was not the one who broke the door knob...allow me to explain.

Sunday morning I got up early for two reasons. There was power which meant a hot shower and I had a friend over and thought I would surprise her with breakfast. The shower happened, the breakfast did not cause I got locked in the bathroom! Yep. The handle broke. I yelled for my friend to wake up. She came running to my rescue, but to no avail. We removed the handle, we tried everything from a knife to a screwdriver to set me free, but nothing worked. She used my phone to call Gary Woods, fellow teammate who was in town for the weekend. He came and tried the same tactics we tried that had failed and since I had been in there nearly an hour and was about to lose my mind I informed him of a hammer close by and that I would somehow pay to replace the door. He listend, and I moved out of the way, as he used the claw of the hammer to remove all wood surrounding the locking mechanism of the door handle. The joys of life in Tanzania. I have since learned that if you remove the handle, the system automatically locks to prevent breakins...or breakouts!




MZUNGU! MZUNGU! MZUNGU!

Have you ever been around when a movie star was spotted in public? Have you ever heard people shout when Peyton Manning came onto the field? Have you yourself ever yelled someone's name, even though you didn't know them personally...yet they were famous and you spotted them...only to hear the rest of the crowd hollar too?

Mzungu. (english translation: white person). If there is any word that I have come to despise in the Swahili language it is this very word. Today I reached my max. I was climbing the mud ridden hill to my house (by the way it has been raining a ton! Thanks God!) which required the four wheel drive. As I was driving I had to stop because another car had gotten stuck and a tractor was pulling it out. Mind you, I was short on patience to begin with, it was getting dark and I just wanted to get home. So I am stopped on my road. It literally took 1.2 seconds for the shouts to begin and the crowd to form. "Mzungu! Mzungu! Mzungu!" It continues the entire 10 minutes I wait for my turn to pass, which seemed like hours. This word frustrates me cause sometimes, on a bad day, I feel like they are yelling something like, "leper! Look a leper!" or "crazywoman! look a crazywoman!" or something of the sort. To have nearly 30 people yelling Mzungu outside your car, to hit your car and keep yelling, puts one on edge. So I calmly (my mom probably wouldn't have said I was calm had she been here) I rolled down my window and caught them by surprise with my swahili skills. English translation: "Don't hit my car. Don't call me mzungu. I live on this street like the rest of you. I know your mom would not be proud of you right now."

Because it is true. The parents encourage respect from all people. And mind you it is only a word. But a word can be quite frustrating or harmful if said in the wrong tone. I hate being called mzungu.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Irony...

I have never been a huge dog fan. But here, they are a must if you have a home. They are added protection. While Kendra was here we searched and searched for two dogs (that way they can entertain each other!). But to no avail. All we could find were puppies...that we are certain will become quite large. So to those of you back home who know me well...enjoy the laughter you will get from me posting a picture of these really cute, I think I really like them puppies! (lisa)

I introduce you to... (Left to Right) Dulce and Anigo (I think. Not sure on that name yet. It has changed three times now.)


An American Girl

Every now and then you have moments where you want to scream, or hollar, "If I was in America, this would be SO much EASIER!" I have had a few of these moments in the last few weeks.

A few examples:
Cooking for large groups in America is much easier.
Hosting guests is much easier.
Moving. Moving is so much easier.
Getting insurance for your car is easier.
Driving. Driving in general is easier.
Communicating. It is so much easier to communicate in english.

Also, there are points where I have said, "if I were in America, this would not have happened." For Example:

If I was in America, when I moved into my house there would have been water in the tank. I would not have had to fight for two weeks before moving in for water to be delivered from the borehole. I would not have had to pay about $60 US to have a truck of water delivered to my house only to find that the water pump could not pump water into the house. So I had water, but not in the house.

If I was in America, I would know that when I was to arrive home there would be power so I could see. I would not have to remember to switch the little switch in my house to the generator or Tanesco (local power) input so that the security lights would come on.

If I was in America I would not have to handle icky gross meat that came from I don't even know what so that my guard could cook it for the dogs.

If I was in America, I would not have dogs.

So, I guess it is obvious, that this week has been an enlightening week as far as culture adjustment goes. Poor Gary had to witness my tears of frustration yesterday in the office of the car insurance company. It seems that in culture adjustment, there are days when I laugh and days when I cry. I can laugh at all of these things today, my emotions are often a pendulum swinging from extreme joy to frustration... but after all... I am an American girl.