Entries from February 2011
It is so easy to be misunderstood. In fact I am convinced that to be misunderstood, is to be human.
When one lives in a society that speaks a different language than one does, well miscommunication is just an everyday part of life. The consequences are sometimes more severe than the lost reader or donor.
We received a phone call from a woman here in Nakuru who was acquainted with Grace’s mother. (Grace is a 17 year old girl who has lived with us for the past 3 years. She was abandoned by her mother at a young age.) This lady tells us that Grace’s mom has died at the hospital.
Naturally Grace was upset about this. Even though they were not close, she was still her mother. Plus Grace is the only contact to the rest of the family.
So I send her and Ali off to the village where Grace’s grandmother lives. I used the last bit of cash we had on hand to do this. They speak with the family. The family decides someone needs to go to the mortuary to verify that this woman really is dead.
I was like, why? But you see there are so many cultures and languages here, that everyone is used to being misunderstood, and so they have a hard time trusting that what has been said has been said properly.
In the mean time we were getting reports that Grace’s mother might not be dead, but simply admitted to the hospital.
Turns out the acquaintance had not really understood the situation, and had given us bad information. Ali and Grace found Grace’s mother at the hospital. Very much alive. (Though not very healthy. Her lifestyle does not promote good health.)
All a miscommunication, thanks to an acquaintance who was not well acquainted with the facts.
Today we celebrate Ben & Pauline’s daughter’s birthday.
Happy Birthday, Mercy! You are SIX!
We also got news that Grace, our oldest Kenyan kid, her mother passed away last night.
Grace was abandoned by her mom. It’s a long, sad tale, one for another day. But despite her lack of good parenting, it grieves Grace that her mother is dead.
* added note: It turns out that Grace’s mother is actually still alive at the hospital.
A true tale from my house.
The girls huddled around the glossy world map, it’s edges curled. Milly pressed her face in close.
I could see them studying and hear them chattering in Swahili. I thought it was wonderful that they were educating themselves. They were actually looking at the map! I felt proud and left them alone to DISCOVER and learn.
As I sat at my desk, Andrew strolled in with a cheeky grin. “Hey, Mom, the girls are all looking for a SCHOOL in North America!” he chuckled.
I looked up from my laptop in disbelief. “ Seriously? A SCHOOL?” I couldn’t help but laugh.
Then Mildred, our 15 year old ‘orphan-no-more,’ walked into my room. She noticed I was using my computer so she asked me, “Can you look up Harry Potter’s school on your computer?”
“Yes. That’s the one.” Milly replied with confidence.
<Insert record scratch sound effect here>
Yes, this actually happened this weekend at my house. My Kenyan children were trying to find a fictional school of magic and wizardry on a WALL MAP. Not only that, they were looking in North America for a fictional school set in England, AND they didn’t notice that there were no other schools listed anywhere on the map.
Does this tell you anything about my Kenyan children?
I love them.
Ya know, I (Kate) usually stay in the house. I’m here. Yep. I take care of 16 children, and I love it, but it’s interesting to note that since moving to Kenya 6 years ago, Johnny’s and my roles have kind of switched.
In America, I was the social one going and doing. I stayed busy. Although I was a stay-at-home-home schooling-mom, the ‘stay at home’ part really didn’t describe my lifestyle. I toted my kids everywhere with me, and they learned by it.
Here in Kenya, Johnny usually is the one to run the errands. I appreciate it, honestly, as I stay busy teaching school and managing our home of 20.
However, in 2008, Johnny took a trip back to the USA, and while he was away, I was busy about ‘his’ work. I drove our small car to town, checked the mail, paid bills, distributed food, etc… just normal stuff, but I felt so free having WHEELS!
I know it’s crazy, but being able to hop in the car and drive to town was liberating. I felt ME again.
When Johnny came back, I knew that he would be gone with the small car every day, and I felt almost trapped. Stuck at home.
Since that time, Johnny and I discussed my need to be able to GO when I wanted. So in 2009 when our friend and fellow missionary Denny Huebner needed to sell his 1972 Mini, I was elated! Usually, we don’t have the money for that sort of thing, but it just happened that we had the means ($1,125). (That is a whole other article). Johnny bought my mini for me as a gift.
Here she is. My ladybug. She is a symbol of FREEDOM. I don’t know why, but yes, I actually love my car.
Actually, I do know why… Because when I drive by, instead of a blank stare, people smile and wave. They can’t help it. Everyone gets happy when they see my mini, and even happier when they see a white baby poking her head out of it, too!
I am free to run to town, or to visit a friend or to take my kids to the playground or to the pool for a swim. I am free to drive away to a quiet place. Free to dream beyond these walls...
I spy Éowyn. Do you?
Yesterday was a day of confrontations. I’ll tell you how one of them went down.
We have a sweet Indian neighbor who wants my children to play with her daughter.
After an hour of play, Butterfly came home earlier than the rest looking miserable, complaining that she had “SO MUCH SUGAR!” at the neighbor’s house she felt as if she needed to get out of there, come home, brush her teeth, and rest!
Later, all of the little ones who played there complained that they were too full to eat supper. I inquired, “What did you eat?”
“Ice cream, cakes, and chocolate!” they chimed.
Granted it was Valentine’s day, but this wasn’t the first time this has happened at this lady’s house. It’s becoming a pattern…
I haven’t met our neighbor friend at this point, so I decided that now is a good time to introduce myself.
I walked to the iron gate where a guard greeted me. He called the lady on the phone and explained who I was.
She unlocked the house door, peeped out, and made eye contact with the guard. I could hear her voice in the phone as she moved her lips about 10 feet away… “Come get the key.”
The guard walked from the gate to the front door of the house, snatched the key, then walked back up to the gate to open it for me.
I ducked through the small opening. Then he proceeded to lock me in.
My neighbor greeted me as we walked through the front door to the house. She turned and locked the door behind us. “You can never be too safe around here,” she whispered.
My eyes widened.
I noticed a very old man sitting in a chair on the veranda. The lady’s son had a Wii controller strapped to his wrist, and the man of the house is considerably older and less kept than his wife.
I explained to my new acquaintances that I was grateful they invited my children over to play, but now it was supper time, and they were too full from cakes and chocolate to eat.
“Would you like some tea?” she asked.
“No thank you. My dinner is waiting. I just wanted to ask you to kindly not feed my children cakes and sweets when they come over because they are refusing to eat their supper.”
“I understand. I’m a mother, too. Would you like to eat some cake?” she pushed.
I forced a smile that hopefully didn’t give away what I was truly feeling… “I appreciate the offer, but I don’t want to spoil my dinner. Thank you.”
I glanced beside me, and sitting on the sofa next to me, my neighbor’s 6 year old stopped sucking her thumb for a moment and grinned in my direction exposing cavity ridden front teeth.
“This is going to be interesting,” I thought.
The conversation didn’t get much deeper than the above. Finally, I decide it was time to return home to my cold meat loaf.
The neighbor unlocked the door and relocked it as we stepped outside. I asked her if she’s ever had any problems with security here in Kenya.
“No. Knock on wood.” she remarked. “We can’t be too safe, though.”
I explained that I’ve never really worried about it, our gate is always open, even our house doors. We’ve lived in Kenya for 6 years with out guards or dogs…
“You don’t have dogs?” She nervously asked.
The guard unlocked the gate and let me out.
I walked to our gate which was cracked open. No one was there to greet me. I pushed my way in and walked into the house through the never closed door…
I was taught, and assume a great many Americans are taught, that honesty is the best policy. I’ve found it to be true. If you just tell the whole story truthfully, usually it works out. It has for me in most cases, though dealing with a different culture where people are easily confused… sometimes it doesn’t, but MOST cases, it works, OK?
I’ve learned that a number of my close Kenyan friends do not follow this honesty rule. In fact, I’m beginning to believe that in Kenyan cultures, it’s OK to lie. I’m dumbfounded by it. Husbands lie to their wives, even good, Godly ones. Friends lie to their friends for no apparent reason.
It’s just wrong, to me.
One lie begets another and breaks the foundation of friendship, in my opinion. I just don’t understand it.
A person who lies, cannot trust other people because they assume that everyone lies just like them, resulting in very shallow relationships.
I’ve lived in Kenya for over 6 years consecutively, and for 7 total accumulative years of my life… I have tried to build strong bonds with my Kenyan counterparts.
It’s tough. I’m still trying.
Facebook has revolutionized our lives. I’m not sure Kate and I could have survived here in Kenya had we not started to use social media. We were very lonely, cut off from all that we knew and those that we loved.
Certainly we love and appreciate the African cultures that we interact with here, but the very color of our skin (something we have no control over) limits our ability to assimilate into those cultures. Not to mention that we simply do not appreciate all aspects of those ways of life, like polygamy or circumcision.
Facebook allows us to connect to people from our own culture, as well as people from other cultures. Even Kenyan friends are popping up on Facebook now.
Not only can we share photos, witty updates, videos, and what day of the week it is; it has actually changed us.
We are not living the same way we were before using Facebook and this blog. It has created a new culture for us.
I believe for the better. I know and love so many more people now, mostly because I have a venue to know them through. Without social media I wouldn’t know most of you. I like you guys, and am glad to know you.
I truly don’t understand those updates about how one is spending too much time on Facebook or the internet. I mean let’s ignore the fact that the person is using the very thing they complain about to complain, I just don’t see why building relationships or enjoying one’s self is all that bad. It’s not bad, it’s good.
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