Saturday, April 26, 2014

Two Weeks in Turkana

As I sit here in Nairobi, land of vibrant colors, clean vehicles and cool air, I am sad that I am not still in Turkana. After 3 weeks in Kenya, I made it up to Turkana with my stuff and began learning how to live life there. Since I begin my next transition tomorrow and my Turkana impressions will soon begin to fade I wanted to share them now.

Zebras by the road!
The first day of our drive up to Turkana was nice, with decent roads (even with the speed bumps), cool temperatures and wonderful scenery. The zebras were the best part by far. I just keep saying to myself "How cool to see real, live, wild African zebras." They were just grazing by the road.

The sign at the equator was pretty neat also. We stopped to take pictures from the car and this lady with her donkey tried to move him out of the way. I like the animals in the pictures.

It only took us about 6 hours to reach Eldoret. We had a nice lunch at a restaurant along the way and then dinner that night with friends of my teammate. It was great to visit with and meet other missionaries and hear their stories of life in Kenya. We stayed at a guesthouse there in Eldoret and had a nice breakfast. Then the not so fun part of the trip began.

The changing landscape.
We headed north and picked up one of the mission workers at another town. It was good to have him with us to speak Swahili and help if there were any problems. He had come down from Turkana, the day before on the bus. Poor guy had to endure those roads 2 days in a row! I don't even know how to describe those roads to you, or should I say lack of roads, since most of the trip was spent driving off the sides to avoid more of the potholes, but even that didn't really work and we shifted from side to side many times. There wasn't much traffic, but when someone did come along you just hoped that your side of the road was the good part at that point.

Camel welcoming committee. 
The entire trip took about 10 hours. That did include a stop along the road for lunch and a bathroom break. Literally both of those were along the road. No rest areas on this route! You could see the landscaping changing. The dirt was lighter brown and sandier. There were fewer trees and plants. You could also feel the change in temperature and the dust really began to fly. I should have taken a picture of what my hair and clothes looked like when we arrived.

Thanks for all your prayers during our trip. We made it safely with only 1 flat tire. That is improvement from my previous record of 2 in one day! Luckily we were in friendly Turkana territory when it went flat and the worker with us got the spare on quickly and then we were back on the road. We arrived in Lodwar before sunset and had a few camels to greet us along the way.

My home, lots of room for visitors!
I don't think I have ever been so happy to arrive anywhere. I spent a few hours assessing my new digs and doing some basic cleaning (shower, bathroom and bedroom) and slept well that night. The next few days were filled with more cleaning, unpacking and organizing, with a few trips into town for food and supplies. It was fun discovering the items left by other missionaries. A cow hide covered drum, a few walking sticks, a bow (no arrows found yet) and some Turkana baskets and trivets. I have used most of those items to help decorate the house.

Language learning.

I was learning how to live life in Turkana and learning that the heat seemed to slow my body and my mind. Language learning was difficult, but another missionary and I spent 3 mornings learning basic greetings, questions and responses and of course how to say "What is this?" A very important phrase when language any learning.

You learn a lot about a culture by learning the language also. Interestingly, I learned that the Turkana don't have words for "Thank you", "Please" or "Sorry". It is a hard for me to comprehend that they wouldn't need or want words like that.

The language helper also told us that they are "color deficient". They don't have words for orange and purple is just described as blue-black. However, we did discover that they have many words for all shades and variations of brown. That makes sense in this culture, where most things are brown or tan or chestnut or chocolate or....well see we technically have lots of words that could describe browns and versions of it also!

The language helper gave me a Turkana name, since Shannon is hard for them to understand and say. I am Apetet, which is a thorny tree. Which one? I couldn't even tell you, since there are many thorny trees everywhere. I will need to wait and see if that name sticks or if I get a new one from someone else.

Ladies at a farm sharing how thankful they are for the well and irrigation so they can grow food to feed their families and sell. 

The rest of my time in Turkana consisted of 3 days in the bush visiting farms, a nice Easter Turkana
Learning how to do a budget. 
church service, then Easter dinner with other missionaries, and lastly 3 days of meetings about accounting and budgeting with the Turkana church leaders and others involved with the ministry here. The days were long and hot, but the information was good and I learned a lot about Turkana and the people and churches here by listening to their discussions and seeing what they put in their personal and church budgets and what they didn't.

Did you know last Monday was a holiday. Apparently Kenya has lots of holidays and it was Easter Monday. I mention this, because I was so thankful for it, because they left the electricity on all day! It is typically off during the weekdays for 6-9 hours but you just never know which days it will be off or it they might leave it on all day. You might get excited when it is still on at 10:30 only to have it be shut off just after that.

Batman and Robin our guard dogs!
I know this is just life and I am adjusting so please don't think I am complaining. I am so thankful and blessed to have a house with concrete walls and floor. I have electricity and running water, with water tanks that I am learning to remember to fill when the electricity comes on. I have a washing machine, refrigerator and freezer. I even have an air conditioner in my bedroom. I enjoyed that more than I thought I would, I set it at 30 C and sleep well (yes that is 86 F and it is wonderfully cool compared to outside that room). I am very blessed and thankful to have furniture, like my dining room table that I can wipe the dust and sand from 3 (or more) times a day. I am thankful for the 2 dogs and the guards that help make me feel safe and protected at the house. I am thankful that the snake that tried to come in the house, only made it onto the porch, before my screaming and hysterics made him go out under the other porch door. I am thankful that I had 2 weeks in Turkana to begin to adjust and see how to live life there. It was rather tiring, but I was really sad to leave.

I got some good deals and useful items at this yard sale. 
I flew back to Nairobi yesterday and the 2 hour flight in a/c was much more pleasant than the drive. I am now ready for my next transition with a move tomorrow to the language school where I will live for 4 months.  Please pray for me during this next transition and for my language learning. The life of a missionary is full of transitions and right now I am ready for a routine and a place to unpack and stay for awhile. Please also pray that I continue to be healthy and stay warm. After being in the dessert heat Nairobi's 80's feels like natural air conditioning, but I am heading to higher elevation and this is the beginning of "winter" here, so it will be cool. I have my sweaters and fleece blankets ready. I even bought some Maasai blankets today at a big yard sale at one of the international schools. The lady who sold them to me said I should just wrap up in them when I go to class so I can stay warm. She was really sweet and even demonstrated for me. I enjoyed talking to her and buying from her.  It makes me even more motivated to learn Swahili and Turkana so I can speak to these people in their languages and begin to make real connections with them.  I am so thankful for my two weeks in Turkana and I wanted to share these thoughts while I had a little down time before my head begins to swim with Swahili. The adventure continues and I can't wait to see what else God has to show me and teach me during the next 4 months. I'll keep you posted. Thanks again for all your prayers and support.

1 comment:

  1. What a beautiful post. I really enjoy your descriptions of your adventures and the pictures. I will be praying for your language learning and general overall mission. God bless you Shannon!