Kitui Country, Kenya
I’m sorry for the long space between posts, but frankly, it has been a slow week. It is not that nothing happened, but it has been more of a compendium of small experiences rather than an overarching theme. It has been a week of settling into my life here. Some of it now just feel like routine: eating surrounded by chickens, limited electricity, sleeping under a mosquito net, using the eco-toilets. Some of it however sounds like it belongs more in a Laura Ingles Wilder book than in my 21st century existence. Currently, while I am writing this there is a goat bleating about 100 yard away. This goat will be slaughtered later this afternoon for a feast that we are having tonight in honor a large group from Wisconsin who is leaving. My big excitement for this week is that I get to go into town on my birthday to buy the fixings for a chocolate cake. Almost everyone else goes to bed between 8:00pm and 9:00pm because with limited electric light/electricity in general, there just isn’t that much impetus to stay up. Even I am getting more than my normal quota of sleep. In all, it is a drastically different existence than life back home.
In terms of actually doing work, things are very much still in flux. This is has been the main reason for my delay in writing. While I have an exorbitant amount of free time with which to write, I have not had that much to write about. Last Sunday, I was introduced to the community during Mass and participated in a fundraiser (There are a bunch of photos of this up on the Flickr). Attending Mass here is a quite unique experience. Although it’s mostly in Kikamba, and I’m a life long Methodist, I went to enough Masses on the Camino to follow along. However this being Africa, the Mass last significantly longer than 2 hours. There is also a lot more singing and dancing than I remember from Santiago de Compestella. I meet with the Chaplain almost every day and have found some places to fit into the religious life in the community. On Friday, I preached to the 8th grade class related education as an act of worship. It went fairly well. They were attentive, for 8th graders, but did not fair as well with group participation. This makes them the exact opposite of the 8th graders that I thought in DC, but it was not an unwelcomed change. The plan is still for me to make home visits around the community, but I have yet to work up to doing much of this. The language barrier remains a bit intense. However, I hope to start to make good on this part of my task in the coming week. I actually have a fair amount slated for this coming week. On top of home visits and turning 26, I have speaking the primary school on Friday again, this time to 6th or 7th graders (No matter where I go, I never truly escape middle school), Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I will be working with a small group of high school boys, and I am meeting with a girls Bible study on Saturday. Now to be fair, this past week had a similar looking schedule on paper, but things have a tendency to not work out quite as planned.
The fighting evil part of my title refers to what I did for most of the week. I fought the evil of computer viruses. Yes, I traveled 7,000 miles from home to a rural Kenyan village, and I am being brought computer to repair and secure. This started when my colleagues from Emory, Anna and Rachel, asked me to take a look at the computer in the Clinic. Working on that particular computer has turned into a four-day project. Part of it is that the Internet is so slow out here that it takes a long time to download things like virus scanners. The other problem was that 20% of the computer’s files had been infected by said viruses (at total of over 12,000 files). I should be done with that computer first thing tomorrow morning, but I have a stack of three more laptops to look at. I said above that I could not escape middle school, nor can I escape what I did in middle school - fix computers. Still, in the words of Elwood Blues, “The Lord works in mysterious ways,” in this case, through tech support.
I do not want to pitch this as a story of trials and tribulations. It is more of a slow start and an adjustment period. There are also many unexpected joys. I spent Tuesday evening learning how to cook Kenyan tortillas with some of the clinic staff. The cantina got an unexpected shipment of small Cadbury’s chocolate bars (I only bought 2), and one morning as I was walking along in front of the social hall two small children, no more than 5 years-old, randomly took me by the hand laughing and smiling. I started to swing them around in circles and pretending to use them as barbells doing arm curls. After a few minutes of this, they went on their way, but I was left just smiling. They couldn’t have known me by more than sight, but they gave me a strong reminder of what I am doing out here.
With the way next week is shaping up, you can hopefully expect more regular updates from here on out. Thanks as always for your comments, thoughts, and prayers.