Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Random Thoughts from Kenya!

One of my many "selfies"
A few years ago I dreaded the thought of writing a blog. Now I find it therapeutic and a great way to process my new life. I also worried I might not have much to write about. Boy was I wrong, God continues to provide me with new and exciting experiences every week. Even when I feel that all I do is sit in class and study, He manages to bring fun to the school in the form of fried termites for our chai snack and Masaii men challenging one of the students to a jumping contest. Wow they can really jump.

In the next few weeks my summer newsletter will be mailed out. Summarizing my first four months in Kenya was a big challenge and I am glad that the CMF media office is helping organize my thoughts and pictures and will have it printed and mailed out for me. Thank you to everyone involved. Most of my communication will still be by email, but twice a year (summer and winter) the office will send out a printed snail mail newsletter. If I do not have your mailing address you can still send it to me and be included in this newsletter. You can also pass on my emails and the print newsletters to others. I am careful with what I say and will let everyone know if things should not be shared. I appreciate those who have asked about this, since this is not true for many missionaries.

Yesterday I took my third test in Swahili. You know you are advancing in the class when the whole test is written in Swahili, yes that means all the instructions also. Thank goodness the teacher and I translated them together to make sure I understood. However, looking at that test reminded me of those bad dreams where I realize that its finals week and I have to take a calculus test for a class I did not even know I was registered for and I never even bought the book or went to one class and of course its too late to drop the class, because it's finals week! Am I the only one who has that dream? (Again my mental health professional friends will be all over the meaning of that!).

Actually, I had never been so excited about a test in my life. Well not so much the test itself, but what it meant to be at that level in my Swahili class. That was the point the teacher told me I needed to reach before he would start teaching me Turkana. This is what I have been waiting for, longing for, and dreaming of for so long. Today was the day and I was excited. I should have had someone take a picture of me on my "first day of school" (for Turkana) to add to all the other "first day" pictures I have been enjoying on Facebook today.

Beginning Turkana is wonderful, but it adds another layer as I am also continuing with Swahili classes and conversation, giving a devotion each week in Swahili, keeping up with my accounting, communicating adequately with everyone, writing thank you notes (a task I would be happy to have to do more often-- hint: I could still use more partners), continuing to learn how to live life here and preparing for the biggest transition of all when I move to Turkana permanently.

So, you will have to forgive me for copping out this month and just sharing some "Random Thoughts from Kenya", that's about all my brain can handle today.

 ZEBRAS: So I may have mentioned it before, but I SAW REAL LIVE WILD AFRICAN ZEBRAS grazing by the side of the road. That still has to be one of my favorite memories and really made the drive to Turkana worth all the dust, sore body parts and bruises.

MONKEYS:  I saw a three legged monkey at the home of other missionaries. They told me he
A four-legged monkey with no bananas. 
was a regular there, well a regular thief, who stole their bananas. He was really quick, even with only 3 legs and I was not quick enough with my camera. However, just after posting something about that,  a monkey jumped down off the roof of the house where I was staying. I did get his picture, then quickly closed the window, since I have been told they will get into houses and wreak havoc. Since more students have moved in here at the language school, we have some monkeys that like going through the trash at night. After seeing that mess I can only imagine what they would do in a house!

I finally sent something on Hump Day!
CAMELS: I was so excited to begin to recognize Lodwar (the town where I will live in Turkana) as we drove up in April and to see camels along the sides of the road there. Made me feel like I was home. Sorry I haven't done any Dromedary Diaries lately. They may be reprised as I get further into my Turkana studies.  

NEVER SAY NEVER: I once said I would never take "Selfies", along with I will never write a blog, I will never go on a mission trip out of the US, I will never go back to Haiti, I will never go to Brazil (too many snakes) and I will never be a long term missionary. Oh boy, you think I would have learned "never to say never". (Guess I could have done a selfie for my first day of school today!)

GRAMMAR and SPELLING: Learning Swahili has helped improve my knowledge of English grammar (still not perfect, but improved), but my spelling skills are getting worse (and they also were not great to start with). In Swahili everything is basically spelled the way it sounds, which is great, until you can not remember how to spell a word in English. The other day I could not remember if "office" had 2 "f's" or 1 "f", because in Swahili it is written "ofisi", and "office" just did not look correct to me, so I just wrote "ofisi" and kept going. Also spell check is my new nemesis! It does not like how anything is spelled in Swahili or Turkana and changes my words all the time. I guess it is helping me learn the words when I have to retype them about 3 times before I can get spell check to leave them alone and realize that is exactly what I want to say! And I did think about just turning it off, but since I am usually typing in 2-3 languages and as I mentioned my spelling is poor in English I do not think it would be good to turn it off completely.

Swahili Fun!
MANENO ya SWAHILI (Swahili Words):  It is nice to get to the point where some Swahili words automatically begin to be a part of your language. Besides having all the test instructions in Swahili, today my teacher was using the swahili words to help explain the Turkana words and I was using them also. On most of my note cards one side is Turkana and the other side is English and Swahili. I did not even think twice about it. Also, just to warn you when I come home in 3 years I will likely call Walmart a "duka" (store), may ask "Sukari wapi?" (where is the sugar?) and when I stand up to talk I may begin with "Bwana asifiwe" (Praise the Lord).

PHILIPPIANS 4:13: I can do all this through him who gives me strength. It is nice to finally have a good understanding of the 7 Swahili noun classes, their subject prefixes, object infixes, linking and possessive prefixes, and their demonstratives and relatives. Just in time to add Turkana and learn that while the nouns are the key to sentence structure and language in Swahili, it is the verbs in Turkana. They have 2 verb classes and unfortunately the dictionaries I have do not tell you which class a verb is in. Just something else I have to figure out and memorize. They have different subject prefixes for the different classes, but some overlap, so it is very important to get this right. In addition there are masculine, feminine and neuter nouns, but my teacher assures me that is the really easy part of  the Turkana language. Good to know he thinks something is easy about Turkana. "Mungu akinijalia, Ninaweza." (With God's help, I can do it.)

TRANSLATING:  So even that last statement has a slightly different direct translation, but I am beginning to understand how to make things sound good in English and keep the same meanings. In the beginning this was very hard for me, even with the basic greetings. They ask about  "habari" (news) with "Habari za leo" or "Habari za nyumbani" (What's the news of the day? or What's the news at your home?) and "jambo" (concerns or matters) with the negatives  "Hujambo" and "Sijambo" (You don't have any concerns do you? I do not have any concerns). One of the funniest statements made by another "mzungu" (white person) missionary to some Kenyans who had just finished watching the evening news on TV was "Habari za habari?" That literally means "What is the news of the news?" It made me laugh out loud, but the Kenyans just looked at us with blank stares. I get a lot of those stares from my teachers and other Kenyans when I make up words. Just so you know there are a lot of "borrowed words" that just get a "i" added at the end, so when I do not know a word I "borrow it". Sometimes this works, sometimes I just get the stare. I once tried "watchi" for watch and "scarfi" for scarf and got a little laugh along with the stare. I then remembered that watch is "saa", but after a few minutes of discussion, my teachers said they could not think of the Swahili word for scarf, so I voted for "scarfi" again and got a few more laughs this time! (I did find a word, but it is not that common, so I chose not to learn it and instead use that brain space for a more useful words.)

Turkana men leading the song and dance. 
DANCING with the KENYANS: I love that the Kenyans are so expressive and dance and clap when they worship. I had the privilege of learning how to do different styles of dance at our training in May with the church leaders from different tribes. If I concentrated really hard I could almost do it, but I am pretty sure I looked rather ridiculous, or maybe like I was having a seizure, or maybe like Elaine dancing on Seinfeld! I never claimed to have grace or rhythm. The funniest part was when the Kenyans said, now we will dance like the "wazungu" (white people) and they stood stiff as boards and clapped randomly and off beat. It was so funny to see them doing this and I suppose that is about what we look like compared to them.

TECHNOLOGY:  I just do not know how I would be making it if not for technology. Getting to FaceTime with my parents and family has been wonderful. Skyping with my other single missionary friends in places all over the world is priceless. Being able to see your pictures and chat in real time through emails and messages helps me feel connected still. Sending pictures, blogs and email updates that reach you all in seconds instead of weeks or months is almost hard to believe. All this technology is incredible, even with poor connections, lost signals, having to stick my phone out the window to get my hotspot to work or standing outside with my phone raised up to the heavens to get emails to send. I am blessed and I know it.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: There have been so many students and teachers with birthdays these past few weeks
A birthday gift for me, Christmas ornaments!
that Happy Birthday has become our theme song. We start in English, transition to Swahili and then our Korean students lead (and we mumble along) in Korean (complete with making a heart shape over our heads and then pointing at the birthday person). It has become such a fun time that when one of the babysitters left to go back to America this week and the teacher said we needed to sing her a song, guess what was suggested. You got it, another round of Happy Birthday. Next week we have Chinese students  joining us, so I guess we will add another language.

THANK YOU:  Four months ago I celebrated my birthday by arriving here in Kenya. I know many people sent messages on Facebook, but I was never able to see and read the majority of them, even though Facebook told me I had them. Yesterday,  when going back through my page, there they were, plain as day, no problem "Hakuna matata". What a blessing to see them now and get to read all your encouraging and sweet comments. God knows what we need and when we need it. 

Zapping bugs is good stress relief!
REALLY RANDOM: horseback riding in through the Kenyan tea fields, eating termites as our chai time snack, class field trips to a tea farm and to the local market, using words like shelf stable ultra high temp pasteurized milk routinely and not just with my public health friends, learning what a cassava is so that I can remember how to say cassava in Swahili "muhogo", finding the "Kernel's secret spice recipe for chicken" in a cookbook for Americans living in Africa and then learning it is only a few pages away from the Cockroach "dawa" (cockroach "medicine"- hopefully that's medicine that will kill them, not make them healthier!), having a friendly relationship with the bugs and spiders in my house until they get too friendly, then they get zapped! 
Friends who share flowers are the best!
Too pretty not to share with you also!

Thank you again, to all my wonderful partners and everyone else who prays for me and reads my updates. Please continue to pray for peace in Kenya, for my Turkana and Swahili language learning and for me to know how to work alongside the Turkana people to help them understand and embrace development and no longer be satisfied with the handouts. 

1 comment:

  1. I love reading your favorite part is Hakuna matata! Think of you often and keep your pic on the fridge to remember to pray for you. Will keep on praying for the language learning and safety for you. So glad you found those bday wishes!!! Blessings...