Thursday, October 29, 2009

kairotic time

Dear Friends,

Okay, something has become clear to me tonight, thanks to a friend of mine in Seattle. I Facebooked that some people are early and some people are late. She pointed out to me that this has to do with kairos time and not chronos (chronological) time. Kairos is more God time.

Living in a new way, a different way, different, different, different. The housecleaner woman came an hour and a half early this morning. I was in bed. The water people have not brought back the brand new water machine that broke the second day I had it. They picked it up on Sunday and this is Thursday, tomorrow is their Holy Day and they aren't going to bring it then. The woman who I was supposed to call after the housecleaning woman left so we could go do something had her cell phone off the hook all afternoon.

Oh Lord, I am trying to be a good sport about it all. People keep wanting me to be settled into the apartment. Having water I can wash vegetables with so I can cook is part of that settled in -- I need the water machine to get organized. I can't use the tap water even for washing the food because it might have guardia (is that the correct spelling for the little micro beasties?).

So I am praying tonight to come to love kairotic time and not demand to live on chronos time. Grrrr.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Earth is Slower Here

Dear Friends,

The traffic is mad and crazy here and people are always walking about, on their way to and fro, from somewhere going to somewhere. On the other hand, there is a sense of timelessness here and a different sense of movement. I am sure this is in part why it is taking almost a week for my brand new water machine to be repaired. There is not a Western sense of urgency here. Things will be done when they are done.

In chapel this morning at the college I was aware of what a privilege it is that this is the place to which God has called me. The men and women here are solid and they are on a path. I am at the margins of life, and this for me is where life is the most vibrant and full of color. By the time the margins reach the center there is too much to lose. The center has become the status quo and is invested in remaining the same. Here is Sudan there is hope for change. At this little college in Khartoum the students ARE the change.

I don't know how different the poverty would be in the country if the British had not colonized Sudan. My understanding is that colonized countries often struggle with the realities of independence for a long time after the occupying country has left their lands. Would it have been a different story if Great Britain had not come here in the first place? Of course the reality is that GB did come so that there is no way to know what things would have been like otherwise.

Wahiba drove me to some remote, dusty and impoverished areas of greater Khartoum today. In its own way in the dust, the brownness, and the occasional burst of green growth in the form of a tree, this place is beautiful. It is so different from the West that there is simply no way to describe it adequately. I am hopeful that some of the pictures which I took today will aid the descriptions. It is a land of donkeys, goats and cows. It is a land of women in tobes. It is a land of men in the long white gowns and coverings on their heads. It is a land of extreme poverty. It is also a land of hope.

I realized today with a chuckle that if I do not feel called to serve the wealthy it means that I am not going to be wealthy. I am going to be on the margins. But, I have known before that the margins have been for me where life is. And beauty. Brokenness and healing. Hospitality and love.

The African dresses that I will soon be wearing are in a sense the reflection of all that this continent is for me so far, and I believe that my awareness and oneness will only deepen and grow. The dresses are colorful, comfortable, not form fitting but still attractive, made for the hot weather that is here. A hot climate produces both dust and color.

Out and Khartoum

This is a picture from the Khartoum International Church. Anybody can attend the church, including locals. If you look closely behind the pulpit at the back (which is considered the front) there is an awesome cross cut-out in the wall!

The Nile River.

The Nile River.

Posted by PicasaOne of the bridges over the Nile River.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I found out that I have to have a license for photographing so my Swiss friend took this picture of me in the souk. The man to my left is one of her friends that she buys produce from. The fruits and veggies are both available in the same place, unlike in China.

I took this picture just as the lizard bolted behind the kettle and out of view of the camera.

If you look down in the picture at the dark area which is the stovetop, the little beast scurried between that stovetop and the wall. I really don't understand how it could have become so small....
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lizards, lizards and more lizards!

Dear Friends,

I'll try and and get another blog entry with the places that lizards have been in my kitchen today....they are too quick for my camera....there have been three sightings today. AND tonight I first heard the infamous "click, click" which is the sound of a lizard. I went cautiously into to the kitchen that is separate from the apartment and stamped my foot, causing the lizard to scurry from sight under the cabinets. Clearly I am going to have to get all of the food into airtight containers --- really soon!

I went to the souk (marketplace) today with the new Swiss friend who is moving now in two weeks. As wonderful as it is to spend time with Patris' sister, a native Sudanese, it is also helpful to see things from the perspective of another ex-pat. Her awareness is what it is like to be new here and tentative about many things. For Patris' sister this is totally home.

Well, I must say, the souk was totally overwhelming. In many ways it reminded me of East Jerusalem, the old city, the Arab Jerusalem, except that the old city is covered and this souk is not. The vegetable and fruit markets in China are separate, this marketplace had both fruits and vegetables.

Just as in China I realize it is going to take me time to figure out what to get where and to write a good shopping list for the long haul. We went to a grocer and I found some things there. Christine, my Swiss guide, said it is a good store where they do not overcharge. On the way home we stopped at a shop for freshly made bread that is similar to pita bread, and FALAFEL!!! This shop will be on my way home from the college....I see what my wonderful succulent dinners will taste like when I am teaching -- a feast!

Christine was good at helping me orient to the quadrant of the city where I'll mostly be. The street that the college is on is very long. At one end is the college and then at the other end are some small grocers and the pizza places. In between are furniture shops, a stationers shop, appliance shops. I can find various ways to get home from there, one of which goes by the fresh bread and falafel shop, others of which go through the souk. It will just take time to get used to a new place. We also passed a shop that does pedicures, haven't found a hair place yet....

I have seen soooo many donkeys today! The little beasts must be easy to keep because I've seen no horses or ponies. I think of Jesus each time, choosing the humble donkey for his triumphant entry into Jerusalem. I think the donkey was conveying a very specific message. A King is to be a servant, not an oppressor.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Khartoum International Church

Dear Friends,

Last night I went with new friends to the International Church in Khartoum. The couple is international, he from New Zealand and she from Switzerland. They have three lovely children, it is so nice to be around kids again!

I am coming to see now that probably most major international cities have International Fellowships or Churches -- and this likely includes cities in the United States. I really like the international churches because they are truly international. There were people from Germany, India, Switzerland, New Zealand, the states, etc. there. And the very best part is that this church is not for passport holders only, the Sudanese people are welcome to attend, worship and participate. That is very important to me!

I will still get to some other churches in the area, the services are apparently in English in other churches as well. Perhaps I will ultimately strike a balance of the international community two Sundays a month, and another church the others. It remains to be seen. I need to have a better balance here in Khartoum than I did in Nanjing. In Nanjing the majority of my friends were Chinese and it was a detriment to not be able to feed the part of me that needed my own culture. I don't want to swing the other direction here and have only international friends, I want a balance. I am NOT Sudanese and I need to value and respect that, on the other hand I am not here to insulate myself from my host culture and I need to value and respect that as well.

Springboarding off from these thoughts is the issue of Scripture and culture. In Nanjing I discovered that I did not know if encouraging children is Scriptural or Western. This is something I must find out more about.

Today I learned the lay of the land a wee bit more. Patris came with the water machine men. They took the water machine away to hopefully fix it and then Patris and I walked to the Western Union office and a small grocer. While I am a distance from the college (especially in the heat here in Sudan mind you) at least things are laid out fairly well. Western Union and the grocer are straight ahead about two blocks from my front gate, one to the left and one to the right. The college is to the right, straight down from the grocer. And the pizza places are to the left. I could hardly believe it but the one pizza place where I have been was closed today, but to the rescue there was another one across the street! Who knew? Two pizza places across the street from each other!

After church last night the family took me with them to get take-out. I am in seventh heaven! I found hummous and falafel. When I asked Christine how to get hold of lentils and hummous and falafel she told me that while I can buy them ready made it is really cheap to make them myself. I can get the ingredients in the souk (marketplace). So tomorrow morning she is going to walk me to the souk and introduce me to merchants and help me find the stuff I need. Oh Lord, I am going to have to learn to cook! But it will probably be worth it to be able to eat this good Middle Eastern food!

So now I am waiting for my new bookcase to be delivered -- but I am also learning here in Sudan that the norm is for things NOT to happen when they were supposed to. And I have got the music from Mamma Mia! running through my brain -- it is about driving me crazy! I am probably going to have to watch the movie for the third time in a week just to try and get it out of my mind!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Fruit stands like this are prolific, often with five or six of them in a row.

Women sell tea at small tables on street corners and in parks. In this park there were groups of men and some women and children enjoying their tea.

There are many kinds of trees in Khartoum, this was a palm tree lined street. It was lovely!

Another beautiful kind of tree, lots of shade.
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Saturday, October 24, 2009

African Tailor Shop

This is a portion of the shop where we went to get the material and have the African dresses sewn. This is one of the three tailors.
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A Day Exploring Khartoum

This was taken on October 23, 2009. These women were very welcoming about having their pictures taken. This was in a market area in the Khartoum area.
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Electricity and Shopping....

Dear Friends,
Greetings again! Slowly things are coming together here in Sudan, although I would say that in some ways it is happening more quickly than it did in China. While I am still spending the majority of my time by myself I am not lonely, and that is indeed a huge blessing. The first year in China was spent in much loneliness. Perhaps I have learned to either amuse myself more effectively or I have just gotten more used to my own company. At any rate, all is well.

I am getting a better of idea of the utilities that I will be responsible for here. There is the water which is on a flat rate, sometimes paid monthly and sometimes bi-monthly. There is the cell phone which depends on usage. There is the internet which is a monthly flat rate. Garbage is paid when the bags are put out -- that happened last week but I wasn't the one in charge of it so I'm not sure yet how it is paid. And then there is the electricity. The set-up for electricity is similar to what I have seen in Europe. It is paid ahead and not billed later according to useage as in the United States. A sum of money is paid to the company and then a receipt is given with a number to put into a meter. The meter then registers the amount of money and it subtracts money according to the usage of the electricity. I put in 50 Sudanese pounds this past week and will have to see how far this goes. When I get low I'll have to replenish the money so that the electricity continues to flow. I've been told that using the gas on the stove is the most cost-effective, that to use the electric elements is very costly.

Yesterday I was taken shopping for African dresses. It was great fun! The day before at the perfumery shop I had purchased material for two outfits, yesterday I bought material and ordered two dresses and a top from the material. Oh my goodness the material is beautiful. The shop is quite different from the tailor's shop in Nanjing, China. There were three men working at their sewing machines, and piles of material. They do not live in the shop. In Nanjing the tailor and his wife each had a machine, they did not sell the material instead it was sold at local cloth shops and they lived in their shop with their daughters. I will try to get pictures attached for the perfumery shop and the African tailor shop.

Tomorrow I will be going to the International Church service at 5:00 p.m. with an ex-patriate family. The husband is from New Zealand and the wife is from Sweden. There are apparently other Americans in the area here and I am hoping to meet some of them.

Today I have been doing laundry and generally cleaning up around the apartment. I am also reading a book on African theology. It is an anthology by a number of African women. The issues are so very different from those of Asia and the West, reading it is a constant reminder of how much I have left to learn and also leads me to a question that arose from a market area that we went through yesterday on the way to the tailor. Why are Asian, African and South American cultures so colorful in comparison to Western cultures? The texture of life is different, the colors are more intense and prolific. Sometimes Sudan reminds me of the Philippines. The Philippines was like coming home to color heaven for me -- and that is how I have felt here several times as well.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The sign on Nile Theological College

I took this picture driving by the college. So here it is! The first glimpse of my new college!Posted by Picasa

Of shopping malls and Toffee Yogurt.....

Dear Friends,
Today I was taken out by the sister of the man who works at the college, the friend who took me to the wedding reception last night. She also took me to the Catholic church on Sunday.

We went looking in another part of Khartoum for a woman who sews African dresses -- since, imagine this, I want to dress African now that I am in Africa, just as I dressed Chinese in China. Due to high rent the woman's shop has moved so we will search for her tomorrow.

I got some pictures taken today and will get them into blog and facebook asap. What strikes me as I am a passenger on occasion now in exploring Khartoum is how darn big the place is. It is flat, dry, brown with a few places of green that quite exceptional because they are so rare. The city is not like a New York of even a Nanjing. It is simply not that developed, but it exists on an enormous amount of real estate.

I have now seen the place where the Blue Nile, coming from Ethipia, and the White Nile converge and become the Nile. Having seen the Jordan River and the Yangtze River it has been a thrill to also see the Nile river that flows from here into Egypt and out to the Mediterranean Sea. This is the sea where by its banks in Egypt Moses' reed basket was discovered by the daughter of the Egyptian Pharoah. In 12 Step Circles it is famous for the saying, "A River called Denial". God has taken me to so many Biblical places on this journey, and so many places of profound impact on human history and God's breaking into that history to stand and walk with us, God's well loved creation.

I also saw what may be the only shopping mall in Sudan. I was shocked. I had been told that there are no shopping centers/malls, everything is small shops. Everything I have seen had borne up that rumor. Well, today I discovered, or rather was driven to, a real, genuine shopping mall! I need to go back and spend more time there because I think there may have been an imported food section in the supermarket/grocery/food store. I can find shampoo, conditioner seems to always be a challenge in the countries I find myself in. China was stocking it before I I found something that stays in for about 15 minutes and is rinsed out. The hair oil is apparently NOT conditioner and stays in.

Now, the biggest and the bestest (spelling intended!) today was that I found TOFFEE YOGURT!!!! I had not had that since Northern Ireland and England. And it is good! So now I have a new food item to prowl for.

I am discovering that the older women wear what might be called a body scarf. It is a beautiful piece of material that wraps around all of them. There were many of the women present at the wedding last night that had the wraps over their clothing. Many of the younger women seem to prefer a scarf with their street clothes, so to speak, showing.

Yesterday I went shopping for a bookcase and found one, it will be delivered on Monday. The apartment will look more like home. It is going to be blue to go with the decor of the living room. The shop owner was very nice. He has two sons studying in Australia. He asked where I am from and when I told him he said that Australian and American accents are very different -- yes, indeed! There was some beautiful furniture in that store -- particularly living room furniture. I have to remind myself that it isn't in the budget.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

It really and truly isn't Kansas anymore....

Dear Friends,
At some point I will have to take a look at the notes I have been jotting down to share with you. For now I want to tell you about the Muslim wedding celebration which I attended last night.

A friend from the college came and fetched me and took me to the celebration. When we left the car and walked towards the festivities I could see that a large group of men was sitting at tables outside of the enormous tent which had been rented. We walked through the crowd and went inside the tent.

The tent was mostly for the women, although there were a few men (more as the evening progressed), including my friend. The women were seated at round tables and the first thing that struck me was how colorful they were! Most of them were wearing either headscarves or material wrapped around all of them. My friend told me that the ones with uncovered heads are not married. I was not aware of that distinction in Islam.

I could not tell why some had scarves and some had full wraps. Occasionally someone would have a scarf that slipped down and her hair would look just lovely in a bun or other hairdo. I need to find out more about the reasons that Muslim women wear head coverings because I was aware that in spite of how beautiful the colors were of the scarves, I would have loved to see their hair as well. By the way, some of them were incredibly creative and fashionable with their head coverings.

Primarily the guests at the celebration were Arabic, but I also saw many African guests. As a broad generalization in Sudan the Arab population is usually Muslim and the Africans are usually Christian. Northern Sudan, where I am, is considered by many to be Arabic and is Muslim. Southern Sudan is considered by many to be African and the majority population is Christian.

I learned last night that in a Muslim wedding there is a contract that is signed before the wedding festivities, and then the celebration takes place afterward where friends are invited to join in with the wedding party. This particular celebration was lavish, there were several bands and singers, plenty of food and soda being passed around, much noise, many children. There was not a formal reception line and I didn't see a wedding cake. The bride and groom began in beautiful Arabic clothing and at some point in the evening changed and came back wearing what I thought was traditional Western wedding gear -- she was in a white gown with a veil and he was in a suit.

I learned last night that in Sudan a dowry is paid by the man to the woman and her family before they can marry. Also, it is the man who pays for the wedding, whether lavish or simple. In India the dowry (or brideprice) is paid to the woman. In China the dowry is paid to the man. By the way, in Sudan it is not only the Muslim men who pay a dowry, a bride price, it is the Christian men as well.

What I am trying to figure out is which way is better for the woman? In China a woman has traditionally been considered a liability. But does a woman become an economic commodity when the dowry is paid to her and her family? If anyone has thoughts on this, I would be interested in "hearing" them.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A lot to absorb in the last two days!

Dear Friends,

What a day! It is only noon and I've seen a big lizard crawling on an outside wall and a little lizard. Had I seen the little lizard first it might have looked big, but not after the BIG one! Just now I heard knocking, knocking on the metal gate and thinking that it was the engineer come to finish work on the loose tiles in my living room I opened the gate. There was an Arabic woman talking at me very quickly in --Arabic, of course! Then behind her I could see a cart drawn by a donkey going down the street. I called the man from the college who seems to have been assigned the unfortunate fate of helping me and had him talk to the determined woman. She is apparently going up and down the streets reading the water meters which are inside of the house. My meter happens to be inside the landlord's garage and I have no access to it. Minutes later I could hear her knocking and knocking on the other side of the compound -- I don't think the landlord or his family is home.

So I think that Patris is equivalent to a waiban -- the person at a college assigned to work with the foreigners. He is long suffering as my list of issues seems to be to be never ending. He is very patient and very kind as all of them have been. To give credit where credit is due, my first waiban in China was also patient and kind. It was after he left the college in China that things went downhill.

Yesterday Patris' older sister took me to the Catholic service in town. It is a morning service. Okay, this confuses me. The Protestant services are in the early evening because people work on Sunday morning -- so why is the Catholic service in the morning? Who knows. Her children were in school until 2:00 in the afternoon. It always throws me when the week is different in another country -- how ethnocentric can I be?

The singing was amazing at this service. Beautiful voices blending together. There was a woman directing the singing from the front. The singing at the Catholic services in Belfast was beautiful too, but it was called the Entertainments and was a ministry of a choir, this singing seemed to be the whole congregation.

I accept in myself now that I love liturgy. I love the stillness and focus it brings to me. In this church there were all of the Catholic trappings, the icons, the candles, what I imagine were the stations of the cross on the walls, and the prayer kneelers. The kneelers however were unpadded wood -- I hurt. Liturgy helps me go inward and outward at the same time. It is mystical and mysterious at the same time.

One of the things that I will briefly mention here is that the church service this morning, and the one I went to in Nairobi, feel/felt free. As far as I know the state does not control the church -- the services did not have a feeling of being controlled.

I am aware after a week that Africa speaks to me more than Asia did. I cannot explain this in rational terms yet. It is just so. Maybe some of it is that because it is less developed here I sense that the pace of life is different. I also notice that many of the women are of a more realistic, or more Western, size than the diminutive Asian women. I may be able to find ready made clothes here. I think it is some other things too, and I imagine that these things will be revealed to me in good time.

I am aware of the issue of of public transit being one of the things which is not well developed. I am feeling quite dependent right now on other people for most everything because I am not independent in my modes of transport. In China I was able to flag a taxi or walk in five minutes to the subway system or take a bus not far from my apartment. I have been told that I can call the college and ask if someone is available to pick me up and if not to ask if someone would call a taxi for me. Now, get this: someone suggested that at some point I might want a car. Apparently reliable, gas efficient Korean made cars run almost $20,000 US dollars. Hah!

Patris' sister also took me "grocery shopping" on Sunday. QFC doesn't exist here, at least not that I have seen. I am just not sure where I am going to find supplies that I need to cook. I always think of the dry staples and then the fresh stuff. The staples, like lentils, don't get purchased as much where the fresh stuff like milk, yogurt, fruits and vegetables are several times a week. There is an ex-pat family that lives nearby me, unfortunately they will be leaving in three weeks. The wife came over last night to see if I wanted to go to church with them. I had to wait for the washing machine but I think she will introduce me to the "souk" (marketplace) on the way to the college. She said she could help me get to know some of the shop keepers. I think this is a good idea. And maybe I can find out where the staples are.

I did see my first KFC yesterday. It was very different than in the US or China. It was dusty and looked old. But it was a KFC.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

So many new things all at once!

Dear Friends,

I am writing in letter form without pictures because I am using my small Acer in the apartment. So far this is the only one of my two computers which has been successfully hooked into the wireless system here in Sudan. The Apple is being temperamental. The Apple is the one with the primary picture collection, thus Facebook and the Blog are rather dry right now. I have also been told I need to be cautious in my picture taking for a while.

This is most definitely a different world. I would say it may be the most like Palestine of any place I have been. Some parts of Khartoum remind me of Kosovo, Nairobi is definitely a developed city in comparison. I have not seen any of the large kind of shopping malls here as I saw in Nairobi. There was a Sarit Center and a Nakamatt there. I have now today been in a center that was one large room that contained household goods, bedding, dishes, things of that nature. Two of the men from the college and the man who has been doing the repair work on the apartment accompanied me to seek out an automatic washing machine. We discovered that the most commonly available machine is NOT automatic. They are larger, taking more floor space, because of the separate compartment which is included for spinning the clothes. We went to three stores before we found an acceptable one. It will be almost $700. US, which in my opinion would even be expensive in the states -- but then it has been one heck of a long time since I purchased a washing machine in the states.

We also found a water cooler machine that I will be buy as soon as I have more money wired to me from the states. In China I had a machine that produced room temperature water and hot water. I always swore that the next one, if there was a next one, would also have COLD water. Lo and behold, this one has cold water! Very exciting!

As I listened to the men speaking Arabic in the back of the car today I realized it didn't sound like anything I'd ever heard before. I asked them if it was indeed Arabic that they are speaking. It turns out that in the Arabic countries, perhaps this would be Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, etc., it is a different Arabic that is spoken. And there is Classical Arabic and regular Arabic. This was true in Greek in seminary. There is Attic Greek, written and spoken in Biblical times by the elite -- and then the Greek of the Scriptures, Koine Greek; the Greek of the marketplace. Well what they were speaking almost sounded like Tagalot, the language of the Filipinos. Go figure.

As we drove around today in the college car I was struck again and again by how different Khartoum is from Nairobi, let alone anything in China or North America. I can tell that it is an Arabic culture and that is not so much a shock since I have spent time in the Middle East. It is the head coverings of the women. They wear the scarves. They wear beautiful, bright colors. It is the men in the long white gowns. The men with the beards. There are no Asians and I don't think I've seen any other Caucasions except at the college. Black or Arabic. Jerusalem is an international city and there was more diversity.

So on Friday, yesterday, was a day off. Now, I can't quite figure this out. I of course might have realized that in a Muslim country Friday would be a day off. I was thinking like a North American though and had the work week at Monday through Friday with Saturday and Sunday off. Church of course on Sunday morning. So today I went in to the college and met with the Principal and he told me that Friday is the day off in this culture. Then he told me that church is in the afternoons because the people work on Sunday mornings. This is the I can't quite figure this out part. So there is a day and a half off, not two days? Are they workaholics? I am sure that eventually this too will become clear.

There are no Costcos here. This goes along I guess with the no mega shopping malls. As I shopped in a little corner grocery today and surveyed the supply of shampoo, no shower gel, I found myself thinking that. There are no Costcos here. However, I did find out that BBC is available in English on TV! That made up for a lot of things! Once I get the washing machine and water cooler taken care of I may think about the satellite dish and the TV. Preaching is supposed to be a newspaper in one hand and the Bible in the other hand, well then as I can't read Arabic I may have to have BBC in one hand and the Bible in the other hand:)

Tomorrow God willing (Inshallah) I will have my washing machine and clean clothes. And in the morning I will meet the sister of one of the young men from the college and get a little bit more help with shopping. There don't seem to be a lot of buses here. There certainly is not a subway system. And I found out that a new car would cost almost $20,000. US. There is a used car market, but I didn't found out how much that would be yet. I may have to learn to get around here by taxi.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Khartoum Sudan

Dear Friends,
It has been a few days since I have shared with you. As you might imagine, it has been a hectic time of flying out of Nairobi on Sunday, getting to my new apartment on Sunday night and then a week of adjustment to my new home.

The kindness of the people at the Nile Theological College, my new colleagues in ministry, has been almost overwhelming. I had failed to tell the college of my eight boxes, two suitcases, carry-on and personal item. The young man who picked me up at the airport had to wait two and a half hours as I argued with passport control (I didn't know that I would have to register upon entering the city, after all I already had a visa), had two porters assist me in getting all of the baggage onto carts and move them for me, faced customs and then finally rolled out the door of the airport to find him. As to customs I will simply say that God blessed me by sending someone who sped me through.

Patris, the young man who fetched me from the airport, had a car, not a van. I was simply in awe of the two porters who managed to get every single piece of luggage into that car. I had to have a van in Nairobi to get me to the airport on that end. These two men were clearly talented.

Patris welcomed me to Khartoum, to Sudan. Upon arrival at my apartment he welcomed me to my new home. He had provided water, a big bottle of Pepsi, cheese, yogurt, bread, instant coffee, sugar, tea, cheese. I almost started crying. Such contrasts in life, let those who have ears to hear, hear.

I now have a Sudanese SIM card in my Kenyan cell phone. It doesn't do international texting as I could do in Nairobi, that is a pity, but otherwise it works well. This was after we found out that I could receive calls but not make them because the company had failed to unlock the SIM card.

I am at last connected to the Sudanese wireless internet system. I am amazed that both Kenya and Sudan have this system, but we in the states do not.

A man has been here at the apartment making repairs for two days. He is pretty amazing -- he does everything from repairing loose tiles in the floor to replacing shower heads and preparing pipes for washing machine installation. He got water to the kitchen and repaired the leaky faucets in the bathroom. I can only assume that his "Honey Do" list at home gets finished with such dispatch.

The Principal of the college came to visit me yesterday with another colleague. They thought I might be lonely, more or less trapped as I am in the apartment for now. How many places in the world would the Principal of the college come to visit a teacher in her home? He asked Patris to arrange for someone who speaks both Arabic and English to accompany me in learning how to shop at the souk (marketplace) and negotiate town by walking, taxi, or having a car come to fetch me from the college. I am being integrated into the life of the community here and my heart is overjoyed with the attention to detail.

Tomorrow hopefully my Apple computer will be wired as well as my small Acer and I hope to be the proud new owner of an updated washing machine. There is one here in the complex we discovered yesterday but it the old fashioned sort where the clothes must be moved from washing to spinning. The Sudanese man who is doing the repair work informed Patris that I need a more modern machine that automatically does all of this -- I thought that was rather cute!

In closing I will share with you that an Indian couple in the Nairobi airport tried to get me to move to India so that they could marry me off. Use your imaginations on this one -- I kept a sense of humor about it as best I could. They were clearly well intentioned and horrified that I was without a husband.


Friday, October 9, 2009

From the Karen Blixen House Museum in Karen, Kenya

This picture was from an outside covered walkway at the Karen Blixen estate. The flowers were exquisite as they covered the sides and the roof of the cement walkway.

My driver for the morning, Joshua, told me that Karen Blixen was extremely popular and well thought of in Nairobi and in Kenya as a whole. She was of course Danish and not British. I asked Joshua if the British were rather happy to see her go when she returned to Denmark. He laughed and said yes.

Karen Blixen upheld the African people and did her best to improve the lot of the folks who served in her house and all of the African people who she came in contact with. One of the young men who was in her household was essentially adopted as a son and she educated him as well. I believe that Joshua said he became a doctor and practiced medicine locally.

I had a sense both from Joshua and also from her home and the surrounding area that Karen had truly poured herself into this mission of counteracting the colonializing affects of the British occupation. She grew coffee on her farm and taught the Kenyans how to grow it as well. This gave them an avenue to employment and independence.

Her legacy is strong and is evident as each place I passed in the Karen area bore her name. The Karen road, the Karen shopping center, etc.

I have enjoyed learning these past few days about projects that have been started by non-African women in order to provide a vehicle for transformation for African women. As life is transformed for the women, so it will be for the men and children as well.

In Nairobi proper.

Posted by PicasaThis picture is to give you, my readers, a sense of what the downtown area of Nairobi is like. The people in this picture are all peddling goods to passing cars. It isn't begging, although I had at least one mom with little baby on her chest begging for money (my driver told me not to give it to her because mothers will often use it to buy glue to sniff). In Petra, Jordan, I can remember young, young peddlers being very obnoxious in their selling tactics. I realize now that it was not begging, although there were cetainly beggars there as well.

This is a a time for me personally to become increasingly aware of the poverty in other countries. For Petra the question might be, why are these small children peddling and not in school learning? In Kenya I think this may be a matter of development. The driver, Joshua, told me that the unemployment rate in Nairobi and all of Kenya is very high. The cost of living increased two to three fold about ten years ago and never went down.

Some of the sights of Africa II

Posted by PicasaMy driver for the morning of sight seeing, as I mentioned in a previous blog here, was an African gentlemen. As we passed through Nairobi and then into the countryside towards Karen I learned a great deal from him. He told me that Nairobi means "a place of water." Before the British colonized Kenya the Masai had brought their cattle to water in Nairobi and thus it was given its name.

He told me that when Kenya was given independence from the British that the British were given the choice whether to stay or go back to Britain. Many of them sold their land to the Kenyan Government and left. The land that the government purchased was divided up and given to landless Kenyens. Some of the British chose to stay and remain to this day, living primarily in the very wealthy parts of the city. The British had originally brought Indians from India with them as Britain had of course also colonized India. The descendants of the original Indians are often now employers are present Nairobis. Something seems a bit out of whack in this picture to me.

I saw a large amount of people in wheelchairs, and they were getting themselves around. That was very odd indeed to me. My driver, Joshua, told me that only in last 20 years or so has Polio been eradicated in Kenya. So many older people have the disease. And also that there are cases of the Polio vaccination actually causing Polio in the children that receive it.

In one of the other pictures in the blogs from the 9th of October there is a woman with a burden upon her head. I am seeing much of this. Joshua told me that there are five slums in Nairobi. The largest slum has 800,000 people living in it. Nairobi has over 3 million people in all. He said that the government has a plan over the next twenty years to house the people from the slums in affordable and basic housing in order to eradicate the slums.

Some of the sights of Africa

Yesterday, Friday the 9th of October I hired a driver and went to the Karen Blixen home in Karen Kenya. It is not far from Nairobi itself. Our first stop was the Karen Blixen home which has been turned into a museum. I understand that the movie Out of Africa was not filmed at the house itself, although the front porch was certainly familiar to me from the movie. I guess that movie sets can imitate real life most convincingly at times.

I spent time in the Gift Shop connected with the museum making careful choices on what to purchase. I am pretty sure that the woman who helped me had not before met an American on a strict budget. She was very glad to know I was going to Sudan to teach, but did not seem to understand why I could not purchase all of the things that I liked.

Next we went to the Kazuri bead factory and store. Kazuri began in 1975. It was an experiment in making hand made beads from local clay and was begun to give employment to single mothers in the villages around Nairobi. It was a great privilege for me to have a tour through the facilities. The women are very creative. They sit at great long tables and chat as they work. Their children are in school or watched after by child care providers.

Finally the driver took me to the Sarit Shopping Center where I was able to purchase more minutes for both internet and cell phone. Then we headed back to the home where I am staying. This particular picture, above, was taken on the final leg of the journey.

The most special thing for me about the day was my driver. He was an African gentlemen, very gentle in spirit, and very knowledgeable. I asked him a great deal of questions and he was able to give me a very good education from his point of view.

The daring "back seat" driver of an SUV

The second part of my sight seeing yesterday.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Of hummingbirds monkeys and laundry.

This has been a day to relax except that the dogs kept barking. Reminds me of why I like cats.

Yesterday there was a tiny hummingbird outside -- I had never seen one like this before though. Its body was a bright metallic blue color! Today I have been watching the monkeys with facination. This morning I realized that one of the trees in the back of the house must be a monkey tree -- there must have been five or six of them swinging to and fro, chasing each other, having a merry old time. Then this afternoon I went out to read for a while and a monkey jumped on the roof of the house, walking over the several levels of this house and jumping into a tree on the other side. Just as cool as could be. Cool as a cucumber.

I've also been watching as the laundry is getting putting up on the outdoor lines. Africa, as Asia and much of Europe, does not have dryers. I saw one dryer in Lisburn, Northern Ireland and one in Hong Kong. Something tells me I won't see any here. It really does slow the pace of life. I've been waiting several days now for clean clothes. I'm trying to adjust to waiting. It is a challenge for a North American.

I just got word that there may have been a mix-up in my housing situation in Khartoum and I may need to delay my flight. I am remembering that it is Christ who lives in me and my life is a vessel for his life. It is hard to get my humanity out of the way.

I must say that the present situation in which I find myself definitely makes it easier to live in the present. The past is clearly not here and the future appears to be allusive. I am not terribly sure how fond I am of the present however. Oh well, nobody ever said I had to like it. :)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

British Influence

Maybe I am wrong, given the fact that I have only been in Nairobi for about a week now, that is totally possible. This city is reminding me something of Hong Kong with the international and particularly British presence. I don't know, maybe they are all Australians but there is something very British about the many Caucasians who I am seeing here. What do I mean by that? Remember this is only my own opinion based on what I am seeing and feeling here, and I am observing this from a coffee shop at the Sarit Shopping Centre that may attract a certain clientele. A British influence to me is a certain kind of person who is well to do, that is probably wealthy. Sometimes there is a sense of entitlement emanating from the person. There is a sense of the person being out of touch with the realities of life in a developing country beyond the protected, gated, manicured sanctuaries that have been created for their pleasure. Now, in all fairness, I also saw this in China and sometimes it was even with some of the wealthy Chinese men themselves. There was a sense of entitlement with some of them -- a hunch that no one had ever said no to them about anything. I have thought of an illustration. If any of you who are reading this ever saw the movie Exodus, the military high command and families exhibited the characteristics that I am describing. They lived in a world beyond the life of the ordinary people and rarely ventured into that world. They were protected and gated.

I will be very interested to see how Khartoum contrasts with this. Speaking of Khartoum, I now have my ticket to leave Nairobi and fly into Khartoum on this coming Sunday, October 11th! Time is short here now. I looked into visiting a Game Reserve and the cost was far beyond my modest budget so instead I will be staying locally and going to the Karen Blixen estate. Karen Blixen is the amazing woman who was portrayed in the movie Out of Africa. So I am quite excited about this venture! Also, the beautiful jewelry called Kazuri was inspired (I believe) by Karen Blixen. This jewelry is hand made out of locale Nairobi clay and provides a living for about 350 single women/mothers who would be otherwise unemployed. I have done my share to help support this non-profit business venture which is part of the reason that I cannot afford to go to a Game Reserve. Ah well, another time!

This has been a good morning. I got to have a shower and wash my hair -- this seems so basic in the United States, but here in Nairobi, it can prove to be a real blessing and not to be taken for granted. My laundry is being done at the house where I am staying as I write, I will be so thankful for clean clothes once again! My laundry was supposed to be yesterday but with the power outage that happened on Monday night that did not happen. I look forward very soon to being able to organize my life in a way that will allow me to withstand power outages, etc., in a more efficient manner. It is very kind of the people who are housing me right now, and at the same both they and I are very aware that this is a way stop on the way to my new home and my new life.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

No Electricity

A truck hit a powerline in the neighborhood of the house where I am staying. There was apparently a big boom in the middle of the night. I didn't hear it but certainly noticed when the lights would not go on for a dark trip to the bathroom.

The water supply here in the house depends on electricity to draw the water into the pipes. We are using very little water because there will be no more in the pipes until the power company restores the electric supply. Tomorrow I will likely be going out to a shopping center for coffee, internet access (my computer battery will run dry soon enough!), grocery shopping including for water.

My Sudanese visa has come through and I will be leaving sooner than later for Sudan. I am excited for moving into my new home!

Monday, October 5, 2009

You Know You Aren't In Kansas Anymore When....

You know you aren't in Kansas anymore when....there are monkeys inside and outside of the house you are staying in! I came home after a morning of Sudanese Embassy and first time taxi taking in Nairobi and when I walked by one of the open bedroom doors in the apartment that I am staying in -- lo and behold through the open grating leading to a little second floor porch there were two monkeys swinging away happily on the bars of the grating! Then one of them was trying to get through the door that leads from the porch to the living room area -- and I realized what has been making the noise and moving the door every day that I've been here! I am so glad that I saw the monkeys this way instead of having one suddenly appear in my living room with me! After getting pictures of the two of them, including a tail on the top picture in this blog, I was in the living room and looked outside. Lo and behold there was a monkey in a tree branch eating something! Grabbed the camera again! Not in Kansas anymore....

Okay, if it is Tuesday it must be Belgium. If I can look outside of the window again and this time see two monkeys in different trees it must be Africa. How amazing is this! I got to watch one of them lithely climb branches and go swinging just like in the movies. I will admit that the Philippines had similar attributes, but Africa so far is different even with the similarities.

This morning I saw school children with uniforms and found myself remembering my time in Belfast. The children in Belfast also wore uniforms and I remember being told that one could immediately tell who was Protestant and who was Catholic by the uniform that each one wore. I found out about the private ex-patriot schools here in Nairobi. The foreigners send their children to private schools each according to their own nation in order that their children will stay abreast of the curriculum in their home countries. There are few locals who can afford the cost of the private schools so only a few Kenyan children are in school with the foreigners. Draw your own conclusions.

The taxi driver took me back to my guest home through a wealthy are of town. I asked who lived in it. He told me it is primarily NGO employees. NGO's are Non Governmental Organizations, in otherwords they are supposed to be non-profit organizations who are here in Africa to help the poor and work towards creating justice and sustainable industry, etc. He told me that there are a few very wealthy Kenyans in Nairobi. They buy land and build great houses and then rent them to the NGO's for their employees to live in. I have just finished reading Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, a book by the husband and wife journalist team of Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn. Among many other things in this book they discuss NGO's which descend on countries and cities in their SUV's and lifestyles that are lavish by local measures. It is interesting to me to have a local person point out something like this that at least seems to verify some of what Half the Sky spoke of.

Okay, a monkey just came into the living room! I have now closed the open window.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

African Worship Picture

Posted by Picasa

African Worship Pictures

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My First African Worship

I went to my first African Christian worship service this morning. I had some feelings similar to what I had when I saw my first glimpse of the Great Wall of China. I marvel at God's power and might to bring me to this place called Africa. I was worshipping with people who are not African Americans, but Africans!

I have come to colorful clothing heaven. The clothes, the hairdos, the jewelry. So many reflections of the wonder of God's creativity and majesty.

The worship was longer than an American service -- about an hour and a half. A whole crowd of babies was dedicated -- not baptized. There was a lot of singing and praying. This week was unusual I was told because there was not a sermon.

I am adding another thought later in the day: I wonder if it is in cultures where most things are reliable -- i.e. electricity, water, internet, etc. -- that time is so important. Being on time, not using too much of someone else's time, etc. And perhaps it is in cultures where most things are not reliable that there is a different relationship with time. When we get there. When it happens. Don't worry. Etc.

Saturday, October 3, 2009


It is raining. Not sprinkling or the vague kind of mist that we sometimes have in Seattle. It is rain. I can hear it, I can see the pavement darken. Nairobi, and if I remember correctly much of Africa, is in the midst of a drought. From the conversations that I have heard in the last few days I know that this rain has been prayed for and much anticipated. I have never lived in the Global South before so I have not been in a place that has experienced long-term drought. I've been in California before when there were placards asking people to reuse towels because of the need for water conservation. And in Palestine there is a constant shortage of water because of the control that Israel maintains over Palestinian water access. But I think that this prayed for and much anticipated rain is different. So far it has been raining for a few hours. We will see what the morning will bring.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

international community

Something that I forgot to mention in yesterday's blog and will now elaborate on is the international community presence in Nairobi. I have been told that Nairobi attracts the headquarters for many NGO's -- Non Government Organization. For instance, the Presbyterian Church USA of which I am a part is an NGO. Also Save the Children and other such non-profit groups.

What this has meant is that the people in Nairobi, particularly those of the middle class, are exposed to a larger worldview than the one which most Africans share. I am going to draw a parallel here with Shanghai, China. Shanghai is a very international city and there are many foreigners who work there and pass through there on the way to other points in China. There are many English speakers and a standard of living which allows for international travel, education and an awareness of many issues beyond one's daily life. As in Nairobi, this does not mean that Shanghai is without its poverty. What it does mean is that there is a sophisticated middle class which can work towards producing changes in global awareness and in progressing towards global standards in health care, education, etc.

I spoke with someone recently about the situation in China where there is such a critical lack of opportunity or options for people and realized, perhaps for the first time, that it may take another 20 or 30 years for things to change in China. It will take at least that long in Africa I would assume. Africa is the poorest continent and due in part to the crippling effects of a colonial legacy, there is a huge amount of work that must be done just to get to a point of having the basic needs of most Africans met. So perhaps Nairobi is a point of reference, a compass, a city to watch to see what the future possibilities may be for the African continent as a whole.

A New Continent!

Dear Friends,

I left Seattle on Tuesday September 29, 2009, 7:27 a.m. Pacific Time. I arrived in Nairobi at around 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday September 30, 2009, local African time. 5 hour plane trip to Washington D.C. from Seattle -- 5 or 6 hours across the Atlantic ocean to Zurich, Switzerland. 7 hours to Nairobi. After approximately 30 hours I was so thrilled to arrive at nearly bedtime in Nairobi!

Today I have done alright except for a brief nap this afternoon. After a good night's sleep I was taken cell phone shopping and a trip to the Sudanese Embassy to find out that it was already closed for visas to Khartoum, will try again tomorrow.

Memories from the journey: The Swiss were reserved and not overly friendly. The airport was compact and clean. Zurich must be the German speaking part of Switzerland as all of the signs were in German. The airport in Nairobi is well organized. The people spoke English, the signs were in English, and people were friendly and helpful.

Nairobi reminds me of the Philippines. There is color, amazing overgrown foliage, and the slums. My kind man who picked me up at the airport and brought me to the house where I am staying drove me to my destinations today. He drove me through one of the Nairobi slums so that I could see the contrast between the rich and the poor here. The slums are regular self-functioning cities, people are busy, have places to go and do a brisk business in their ventures within the slum. My guide told me that many people leave the slum each day to go to work in other areas of the city. They choose to live in the slum because it is easier to live a more comfortable life there on $3.00 a day than in other places in the city. They live in structures that are made of cardboard or boxes or corrugated tin.

I bought a cell phone today and a wireless internet device that goes in the UBS on my computer. All of Kenya is on wireless that is accessible with this small tool. So I am sitting in the guest apartment of my host familie's home using wireless with it.

I am being encouraged to visit a Game Reserve. This sounds like a really huge adventure for little ole' me, but I may give it the good old college try and expand my comfort zone! I will find out more about this tomorrow.

Signing off for now, more news to come in the very near future.