Kitui County, Kenya
Life here now has taken on a distinctive rhythm. I work on computers in the morning, teen club in the afternoon, and leading prayer in the evening. The weekends are completely quite. I read, watch TV on my laptop, and catch up on my years worth of sleep debt. Between naps and sleeping at night, I get close to 8 hours of sleep a day. My meals are equally predictable, bread in the morning, and some combination of beans, rice, and corn for lunch and dinner. I buy fruit, chocolate, and peanut butter in town, so every day; I have a piece of fruit, some peanut butter for my bread, and a few squares of chocolate. Roughly once a week, I go into Kitui and have a meal at a restaurant. Last week, it was a place called Bavaria Paradise, run by a German immigrant. The menu has everything from ribeye to pizza to Chinese, but in true European fashion, it takes two hours to cook. We do not always have water at the guesthouse, so showering can be once every one to three days. It is the dry season here, so literally everything is covered in a fine brown-red dust. This includes my laptop, my camera, the computer labs, my feet through my socks and shoes. Nothing escapes the dust. The Internet only really works outside, so as I write this, I sit at a picnic table outside the guesthouse, while Sunday dinner happens around me. Things usually shut down for the night around 8-9pm. This may seem like a boring opener to a post, and it probably is. However, I wanted to give you a sense of the everydayness of life here. One can easily get a romanticized view of life in an African village. It can come off as exotic, but it settles into a rhythum that reminds me that everyday life happens everywhere. This is drastically different from my life back home that of a young, urban, semi-hipster, seminarian. This isn’t that, but it is the daily life of the people who live here.
When I graduated from high school, my family went with the Hoffmans on a trip to Rome and Venice. Hotels in Rome can be frighteningly expensive, so we stayed outside the city and took a bus in. My brother commented that it felt weird to him staying as a tourist in a place where people were living their normal lives. I have never given him enough credit for that comment. It does sometimes feel weird visiting among someone else’s daily life, especially when I missed things that seem so fundamental to my own life. I do miss easy access to electricity, running water, and eating a wider variety of foods. It is the same feelings that I had when I’d go to scout camp. However, I am not at camp. I am living in someone else’s daily life. It is only by accepting this as my daily life and not dwelling on the difference that I can move beyond the discomfort Drew felt in Rome and become a part of this daily life, a part of this community. At the meeting of the Shushus last week, they gave us each Kamba (the local tribe) names. Mine is Mutuwa, which means “the one who comes and stays.” In order to separate mission from tourism, I must live up to my name and be the one who comes to stay and not the one who longs for what he misses.
I’m not sure that I intended this to be an essay on the nature of missions, but despite my intentions, the differences in lifestyle can be quite striking. One of the things that we joke about is Kenya time or Shushu time. This means that nothing starts on time and sometimes, starts comically late. I had a meeting with a tech support guy scheduled for 11:00am. He arrived at 12:45. Kennedy and I were supposed to meet some high school students at 2:00pm. No one really showed up until 3:30pm. My favorite was the Shushu meeting that we had last week. It was scheduled to start at 10:00am. Lilian told us not to bother to show up because no one gets there until around 11:00. The meeting did not actually commence until after noon. The phrase that they use here for this is “pole pole,” which roughly equates to “no worries” or “take it easy.” This may seem a little bit like the pot calling the kettle black. I am notoriously slightly late to everything and more than slightly late on many assignments. However, it would seem that we have found even my breaking point. Shushu time has been the hardest thing for me to adjust to.
I promise a post later in the week that is more news report and less Sunday editorial. If you want some idea of what has been going on check out my photos. I am going to start putting a link to them at the bottom of every post because I have noticed that people are having trouble getting to them There are about 150 up so far. As always, thanks so much for your comments, thoughts, and prayers. Please let me know when y’all get tired of my rhapsodizing about the nature of Christian missions. Seminary is ruining my blog.