shocking that I may be culture shocking so quickly

I am tired.

Each evening the symphony of insects eases me into slumber, and each morning the tropical vegetation awakens my senses.

As soon as I walk through the station compound, though, I feel I have entered an altered universe. I don’t know how to speak the language, yet that is the easiest aspect. I don’t understand what the people value, or how they relate, or what I should or shouldn’t say. I’m pretty sure I should say less, because they’re always giggling. As always, my self-deprecating approach generally puts others at ease around me, but I am not at ease.

A walk through the market yesterday, a toddler took a look at Zach and burst into frightened tears. Her mother was amused, but understanding. Not every day would she see someone her size that is washed of colour, and blue eyes to boot. Still, the little boys in the center (main street shopping) stop to talk to him. A two year old, George, stopped to shake his hand.

Michel, a nurse from the male med/surg ward, stopped by our home, and asked if I remembered who she was. I have met so many people, I’m sorry I don’t. She invited me and our family for authentic Kenyan dinner of rice, spinach, cabbage, chapati and lentil stew, with mangoes and oranges for dessert, and a spot of chai tea. Wonderful! She vaguely pointed to her home…it’s down that way. No mention of the time. Edna, a super helpful station assistant, dropped by at 5:30pm, our supper time, to ask when we should plan for the meal and she will convey the message. Whenever it works. Oh no, she said, then I will say a half hour before and she will be ready when you agree. I keep hearing about the differences of time management between our culture. Without embarassing anyone, indeed, the stories bear true.

I sent the girls and Zach to Sandra and Jonathon’s cottage with a plate of chocolate chip cookies. Jonathon is a visiting orthopedic surgeon from North Carolina. Sandra brought chocolate chips from home. The girls were thrilled to see chocolate again, so we baked up a batch of cookies to share. Sandra confessed that the most difficult adjustment has been the cleanliness, or lack of familiar cleanliness. Certainly the iron-rich chalky soil dyes the clothes, the water, it blows in onto the floor and sticks to our heals.

Agnes, our house helper, was most surprised when I added a capful of bleach to a bowl of water when I wash up all the produce (optional in Canada, not so optional in Kenya). I bought an extra large bottle of bleach for cleaning everything else too.

My husband took us to the mountaintop hospital to meet Moses, his patient. Irony? I think so. But Elvis was looking after him (a nurse). There’s an odd thought. Pristine views from this mission hospital. Pastor Charles’ grandson, Victor, was walking him to the unit so he could spend time comforting the patients and families.

My husband showed us the chapel where 150 people crowd into Wednesday mornings. On the wall is a poem from Mother Teresa…Rachel asked if it was written by me. Ha. I have often introduced myself as Mother Teresa, just not so saintly, because people remember my name that way. The poem struck me as ironic in my present situation. Love them anyway…despite our differences of understanding.

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3 thoughts on “shocking that I may be culture shocking so quickly

  1. I remember once, while on a walk, a young Kenyan child came up to me, grabbed my hand and with his index finger started furiously rubbing the back of my hand. His mother explained that he was trying to “rub the white off to see if you are black underneath!” He was quite puzzled that he couldn’t get the white off. Wish it would work on “age spots”! He’d make a fortune in the west! Loving your messages and continued prayer for you all.

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