Time to give!
Sorry it has been so long since I last posted. I have found, despite living more simply, that I can be just as busy as I was in the U.S., just with different things. I hope to do several posts in the coming weeks since I am now on Christmas break. But it just doesn’t feel like Christmas without colder temperatures. The weather is getting warmer here, since the southern hemisphere is moving into summer. Although being on the equator, average temperatures don’t change more than 10 to 15 degrees F between the ‘cold’ and hot season. In Nairobi, which is a plateau of about 6000 ft above sea level, it is cooler than in the grasslands or on the coast. It feels like perpetual spring, especially with all the beautiful flowers blooming.
A beautiful Rose of Sharon bush right by my parking space in my apartment compound.
So what have I been up to???
School work takes up a lot of my time since I have to prepare for four different classes and I tend to be a perfectionist in preparing my lessons. I like to teach using power points which take time to do in such a way to make them more interesting to the students. Not anything fancy (as the bells and whistles can distract students from what they are to learn), but pictures included and video clips linked to help them understand the science concepts I teach. I have also found that trying to teach with technology here can be somewhat of a challenge. Why you may ask? Well for one, internet is SLOOOOWWWW, think dial up. So when I am trying to do something on the internet it seems to take forever compared to the high speed I was used to back home. For example: when I try to download a video from an educational site, it takes twice as long to download it as it takes to watch it. And then there is the power. It is randomly shut off, and without power it is difficult to do much on the computer. I do have a battery back up, but it is only about a 2 hour span, and the power is usually off most of the day when that happens. And the internet does not work if there is no power, so no pictures and no downloads. I usually just finish whatever I am working on and then turn off the battery. I have even graded papers by candlelight and got a taste of what most of the rest of the population here deals with frequently, as there are many places with NO power at all. It was a stark realization of the blessings we have in the US. (PS: the power went out while I was typing this and the internet wouldn’t come back up after the power went out). Anyway, school work has taken up a lot of my time in recent weeks.
My beautiful campus.
I have also been using my free time to learn more about Kenya and the people here. I have gone on several day trips and one overnight safari which I will be writing about in upcoming posts. But I wanted to focus this blog on the people of Kenya and what I have learned about the country.
First off, this is a relationship based culture NOT a time-oriented culture like in the U.S. and the west. Fostering relationships are more important than keeping a schedule, but it is more than that. When a Kenyan says that X event begins at 10:00, it means that is when they stop doing whatever they are currently doing and begin getting ready for the next event. As Americans we have to be specific in what ‘time’ we are talking about or we end up waiting. I have become very specific in asking ‘What time will you arrive at X place?’. If I arrive at that time, I then wait less, usually. Compounding the problem, is the fact that most Kenyans do not have cars, so they use public transportation, which is fairly reliable but traffic here is horrible. And if you get stuck in traffic, well you are just stuck. And the way Kenyans drive just makes it worse, as they will try to go around in the other lane (opposite traffic lane) and then block both sides. They will also drive on the dirt shoulder to go around. So sometimes, there are three lanes of traffic all trying to travel in the same direction, when there should be two going opposite directions.
This matatu van made its own lane on the sidewalk next to the bus I was riding in. And he was only inches away from the side of the bus.
And I have yet to figure out why traffic is WORSE when there are police directing traffic. No joke. If there are cops directing traffic at a roundabout or intersection, the traffic barely moves. If no police, everyone just merges and takes turns and traffic moves. (PS: there are very few traffic lights and half the time they don’t work so are ignored entirely). So I have learned to be very patient and not get stressed out over what ‘time’ I am to be meeting someone. I am concerned however if I will develop bad habits that will be hard to break once I get back to the U.S. Habits in punctuality and in my driving.
So what else does a ‘relationship’ based culture mean? Well, it means that if you see someone you know, it would be very rude not to stop, and say ‘hello how are you’ and have a conversation about how each of you are. It is not simply a greeting but an expression that you care. And be prepared to talk for at least 10 to 15 minutes if not go sit somewhere and have a cup of coffee. Think about how often you say “Hi,how are you” as a greeting and expect the “I’m fine, how are you” and after you both answer “fine”, you each go on your merry way. Next time, tell them how you really are and odds are they will be surprised by the answer. In the states, they might also blow you off as they have to be somewhere and can’t/won’t be late. I think it is difficult to find a balance between these two. Some Kenyans who went through the British private school system here, are more time oriented, but I also can see they have a balance to both the ‘time’ and the ‘relationship’. They seem to be able to prioritize which is more important more easily than I can. It is something that I am learning and trying to incorporate in my life. I think that Jesus showed us by example, that it is very important to show those around us that we care, by giving of our time. Maybe it comes from the fact that for people with few resources to give, they can still give of themselves through relationship and time spent with each other. Maybe in these hard economic times, it is a lesson that all Americans should think about. Do you have talents and abilities that could help another, with little or no financial resources needed??? Can you show you care about others, by doing for them???? Or do they just need someone to talk to them and let them know they are cared about??? There is a quote I was reminded of recently that is tied to all of this. (I can’t remember who said it). “People won’t care about what you know, until they know how much you care.”
Another thing that I have noticed about this culture, is how many people will help you when there is a problem. Get a flat tire…people stop to help. Get lost….people try to give you directions. (I said try because even IF there are street signs, most rarely know what the street names are). Need a guide to take you somewhere you have never been…someone volunteers. Look like you are struggling walking up the hill with four bags of groceries…multiple people ask if you need help. A few of these might be looking for payment for their act, but most are just doing a kind deed. My housemate and I have been blessed many times by these acts of kindness and friendship and so we do what we can. We are blessed to have a car (old that it is) and so when we can, we offer rides to some of our coworkers. Every morning we give rides to work so they don’t have to spend time and money on public transportation. And sometimes when we are leaving, we also give rides into the city and let them off at a major bus stop. And in the process we are forming relationships with these lovely people, learning about their culture and they are learning about ours as we talk and share.
My heart aches with the needs of this country and while I am only one person, I will do what I can to make a few lives better. My ministry to my students, coworkers and strangers I meet always revolves around the idea that I am the hands and feet of Jesus and I think, what would HE do in these circumstances. I hope that as you read this, you will consider the fact, that everyday God puts you in a position to help others, but are you so busy that you don’t take the time to see it? I challenge you to get to know those in your neighborhood, your work, and your community. Most can’t give a handout, so where can you give a hand up to someone in need? Where can you apply your time and talents to show someone else you care?
Click on the link below to see a photoshow of some pictures I have taken in and around Nairobi.
People in need; Thanksgiving and Christmas in Kenya; Awesome Animals (safari); Meeting my needs while helping others in need.
God Bless, Pam