Tuesday, March 25, 2014

First Impressions

Lots of great memories with these two!
Just one week ago I was in Indiana preparing to leave for the airport. While I had been saying “Good – Good Byes” over the past month, there were a few people I was not able to connect with before leaving. I am sorry about that. However, I am glad that my last few days were spent quietly with family and that I was able to attend my niece’s birthday party. I think my hardest Good Byes were with my niece and nephew. They will grow up and change so much while I am over here. Thank goodness for technology so we can video chat.

Leaving was hard, but my training helped me deal with saying Good Bye.  I also had the blessing of knowing that friends from my January training were going to be on my same flights overseas to Kenya. This was not something we planned, but was obviously God’s plan. It was great to see their smiles again, catch up and share how we were all feeling. We arrived safely and I am thankful that all my bags arrived as well. By the next day my friends had all theirs.

Reality hit me in the middle of that last flight. I felt crowded and uncomfortable. I could not go back to sleep. I just wanted to be on the ground….. and for about two hours I wished that ground was in America, not Kenya.  So I prayed and remembered my training. We had talked about categories of “Guaranteed Losses in Your New Vocation” The title was not, things you may loose or might loose or could possibly loose. It said “Guaranteed”. Right then I was dealing with the loss of my “identity” as part of my family, a veterinarian and an American. Now I am a stranger, foreigner and outsider. The key to dealing with this loss is remembering my identity in Christ. That is what has not changed and what I will not loose.

Mayfield Guest House
The rest of the flight, picking up my bags, making it through customs and arriving at the Guesthouse was uneventful. When I landed it was noon in Indiana and 7 pm here. I stayed at a guesthouse for 2 nights, where I napped, relaxed, studied a little Swahili, met other missionaries and learned about their work around the country. I spent those first 3 days in a jet-lagged fog but am doing much better now.

My teammates picked me up on Friday and we did the most important thing…..got my phone working. Can you believe a SIM card is only about a dollar here? Feel free to email anytime. I now have my “I message” and “Face time” working and it should be free for you and me. So, if you have “I” devices, please use my email stuckerdvm@gmail.com not my phone number.

I was still in that jet-lagged fog on my birthday, but I was so happy to be here and to spend the day with my teammates. Thank you to everyone who sent birthday wishes, from near and far. I even got to have a burger and milkshake at Java House! Thank you all so much for helping me get here. 

View from the CMF office
Right now I am in Nairobi and will be here for a while longer getting everything set up, learning about the team and attending a team meeting. Then my Turkana teammate will drive us up to Lodwar and most of my stuff will be trucked up. I will have a few weeks to settle in to the house, start learning Turkana and attend more meetings. Then I head back down here to Swahili language school. Since “flexibility is the key” to missionary life, I am prepared for this plan to change again at any time.

Now I want to share some of my impressions of life in Kenya and some of the things we have done. I was here last year for my vision trip so technically these are a continuation of my first impressions from last year. Remember, these are my Nairobi impressions and Nairobi and the area where I will be at language school are very different than Turkana.  I will write another blog with my Turkana first (continued) impressions next month.

Wood for scaffolding. Looks scary!
Going to the Safaricom store (my phone and internet provider) seemed like being in an American store. Well, after the car was searched inside, outside and underneath and we were allowed into the mall parking lot. Parking lots here are much smaller than in America and you pay for parking. Then we stopped at the guard station at the entrance to the mall, which is outside (since the weather is nicer here!). At the checkpoint they checked our bags, before we could enter the mall. The mall almost seemed like something familiar; until I realized that most people were speaking a language I did not understand. However, I did seem to pick up on when they were talking about me!   

Shopping at the Nakumatt is another common task. There is one at most of the malls here. It is like a small Walmart type of store, however, unlike Walmart, the trip was much quicker since I did not bump into anyone I knew! When I really begin shopping for food and other items to take to Turkana it will take longer. The labels are in English, however, I do not recognize the product or know what some of the items are. Secondarily, I need to calculate the prices and understand how much I am spending, or determine whether it is worth buying.

While the SIM card was cheaper, other things are not. I was looking for a curling iron with a Kenyan plug. After finding the only 3 curling irons in the store, I checked the price of the one I might have bought and decided it was not worth $60. Mine works, just slowly and intermittently with my adapter and converter. It was nice to see some lotion and shampoo that I like. Even though the prices were about double, splurging on that may be what keeps me going, along with Pringles and chocolate!

If you have experienced any driving in a foreign country you can relate and probably have your own
I forgot about the loaded carts!
variation of this scenario. Getting anywhere in a vehicle is exhausting for me and I am just the passenger. I am not sure I will ever be comfortable driving in Nairobi. Imagine starting out disoriented, because you are riding in the left front passenger seat and the vehicle is on the left side of the road (and you always forget which side to get in on!). Now the vehicle is on the road and other vehicles are honking and flashing lights. This is a way of “general” communication here, more than a way of “angry” communication. But then, the driver makes a quick left turn without even stopping or looking left and there are cars coming. You panic because you are sitting on the left side of the vehicle. Then you remember the left turn is the “easy” turn here, not across coming traffic!

Now you are on the freeway and the buses stop to let people on and off. Yes that is correct, but then you have to slow down anyway, because there are speed bumps and then people walking across the road and walking everywhere on the sides of the road. Then there are the matatu’s (van type taxis) loaded with people, some hanging out trying to tell the driver when to stop or just because there is no more room inside? Then you throw in the pikis’s, (motorcycles that carry passengers), more speed bumps, people on bicycles, more speed bumps, people walking beside the road and crossing the road in front of you, more speed bumps, the animals grazing beside the road, more speed bumps.
Heading to the office

Can you tell what I like the least! Then you get on the non-paved roads and dodge the potholes, ruts, rocks, animals, people, and piki’s all over again and cannot wait to get back on the paved road with the speed bumps. (I just realized that my pictures do not do justice to the conditions of driving here. I think I was holding on too tight to take pictures during the "good parts".)

Nursery on the side of the road
Right now Kenya seems like a place with such extremes, from the dry brown desert of Turkana to the lush green of Nairobi, from the slums to the fancy malls, from the tribal people to the modern business people. I have so much to take in and learn. It all seems overwhelming right now, but little by little I will begin to understand, build relationships and communicate with these people, all so I can share God’s love with them. I am so thankful He is with me through all this. He is my strength and I need Him every day and every hour.

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