Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Kenyan Initiation

I have now been inducted as a full Kenyan: robbed on a matatu. This has been quite a weekend. On Saturday, I went down to Nairobi to meet with Pastor Emmanuel to discuss my future church involvement. As I got out of the matatu once we had arrived downtown, I realized my phone and iPod were no longer in my pocket. I was the last to leave the matatu, and I assumed it had fallen out of my pocket, so I went back to check, but it was gone. I had been reading during most of the ride down Ngong road into town, ideal for maximizing my time, not quite so good for guarding against thieves. Thinking back, I remember when the guy next to me sat down, he stumbled, slipped against my leg, and apologized. At the time I thought nothing of it, but I’m sure that’s when he picked my pocket. Losing the iPod is pretty lame, but my phone is quite cheap, and I’m really glad they didn’t get my wallet. That would have been not cool. I have always been skeptical of the possibility of someone reaching into my jeans pocket and removing something without me noticing. These pockets are not loose! Half the time I can't even get something like an iPod out without the headphones getting all tangled in everything. But he was good, and I have a certain respect for someone who can do that without me noticing.

I waited for Emmanuel for an hour and a half, and was just about to leave when I walked into him. Our meeting place is “bomb blast,” the location of the American Embassy bombing in the 90s, and we had met there several times before. We had both been there the entire time, and I don’t know how we missed each other, but when he called me and I didn’t answer, he assumed I wasn’t there and waited in a restaurant. Frustrating. We went to Safaricom customer care, and were finally able to transfer my old number to a new sim card, although I didn’t have my passport with me, didn’t know the serial number of my phone (seriously!!), couldn’t come up with three numbers I normally call, and didn’t even know what my tariff was (the rate you’re charged for a call). Emmanuel provided his number, which I had called, otherwise I would have had nothing. I also found out that the guy who had stolen my phone transferred 980 shillings of credit to another account, which is traceable. I had put on 1000 shillings worth of credit half an hour before it was stolen, something I do about once every six weeks…

I filed a police report, which required going to the front desk, the waiting room next to it, room 5, then being told to go to room 4, going to get an abstract from this sketchy cafĂ© place behind the police station, then having to go upstairs to room 6, finding there was no one in room 6, and then going back to 4, and waiting for a stamp. I finally got it. I went back to Safaricom to track down my things, but was told I had to go to CID HQ, the Criminal Investigation Department. It’s like the Kenyan FBI. So on Monday, I went back to Nairobi, and after at least an hour of wandering around, finally found the bus station and a matatu on route # 100, and went to CID. I went in and was told at the front desk they could do nothing unless they have an official letter from the police station where I made the report. I was not pleased, and said that I had been told to go there, and was not returning with nothing. This eventually brought me to the next person, who explained the same thing, but I just sat there and kept looking at him, and refused to accept that. That brought to an agent, and she seemed pretty on top of things. She was from somewhere in the Middle East, and I don’t think I would want her tracing me. She took all my information, and called Safaricom, but they didn’t want to tell her anything without an official letter. While I was waiting in the waiting room, the other guys waiting with me pointed out that however transferred my credit must have known my pin number. I had not thought of that, so they said it must be an inside job, someone who knows me very very well, most likely my girlfriend. I told them that was actually rather unlikely. Another guy waiting next to me was this clearly rich business man, and he had received a death threat a few days ago. After threatening him, this person wanted to meet to arrange for a higher payment than whoever had hired him. The businessman decided to go to the police instead, and was trying to figure out who was trying to kill him. Since both him and his wife had been called, he thought it was someone close, and was suspicious of his driver.

I finally accepted that I would need to go back to the police station and have them send CID an official letter. So if I had known that, it would have taken about 5 more minutes on Saturday, to have them send that letter. Instead, it took me 8 hours to figure that out on Monday, but that’s Kenya. I figured I had the time and was curious to see how the Kenyan police system worked. We'll see if anything happens.

In other news, I finally took all my exams and finished all my papers, so I am now free. It's quite nice. I'm either going camping at Naivasha Friday night, Saturday, and Sunday, and then taking a bus from Nakuru to Tanzania on Monday, or riding with Dr. Rasmussen to Tanzania on Saturday. The rains have started, so I'm a little skeptical about camping. We'll see how it works out.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Kibera Praise

This is the church I've been involved with in the Kibera slum of Nairobi, the second largest slum in Africa. I like to describe it as "carnival music." It is high energy and they love it.

I love the dancing! They really get into it.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Cultural Insights from Sociology of Language

In every culture, there is significance in how you greet someone. For cultures, this is more defined than for others. In Japanese, you use entirely different forms to address someone who is considered a member of the “outside group” than you would in addressing a member of the “in group.” In many African languages, there are different ways to address someone depending on whether they are the same age as you, older than you, or younger than you.

How you address your father is also very important. I learned that in many cultures you can never use your father's first name. If someone else has the same first name, this can become tricky, since you can't say it and have to find other ways around it. In some ways, America is the same: it would be very strange to call your dad by his first name. However, in Africa it certainly seems a bigger deal. In Nigeria, the wife does not even call her husband by his first name. She calls him another word, maigida, which means literally “the owner of the house.” If there are children present, then you address the father with the name of the son: father of so and so. I hear this all the time: Mama Hannah, Mama Ada, etc. It seems to work well.

I just finished a history exam, and I think it went well. We had to write an essay on revivals from the 18th to the 20th century. I know a bit about that. Now I'm off home to finish editing someone's paper, maybe work a bit more on my sermon for Sunday, take a shower, and make some rice for taco night. Then I'm off to taco night, and tomorrow the work continues. 3 papers left, 2 finals, 2 weeks. Manageable.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Death at NEGST

One of my friends from my academic advising group lost his one year old son a week and a half ago. It was so sad. It was really sudden, he got sick Sunday afternoon, they took him to the hospital and then he died at 12:30 am. I don't know what it was. It really shook up the community last week. There was a huge stream of people that came through his house to visit the morning after, and I also went and sat silently for about 30 minutes and then I left. For two nights last week we had meetings around a bonfire, having us gathered around in the dark, singing songs, hearing messages of encouragement, and praying. I haven’t experienced anything quite like that in America. It felt really genuine to me. One of our chapels last week was dedicated to him as well. The burial was on Saturday, at his home upcountry, and there was a big caravan from NEGST that went, 37 I heard. I was debating going the whole week, but since I was not feeling well on Friday and it would have involved traveling all day, I decided against it. Had I known I would have canceled preaching on Sunday, I might have reconsidered, but it was probably better for me to stay.

It is not common for a member of the NEGST community living on campus to die, but certainly death, especially of infants, is much more common here. There was a former student who lost her son one day after he was born just a few weeks ago. What do you say when that happens? I'm glad there were so many others to comfort and talk to them, and I didn't have to say anything. I think its usually better just to be there and not say much. I think that's what I would want if I were in that situation.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Last Few Weeks

The last few weeks have been pretty busy. I did win the race for secretary, which has brought an entirely new onslaught of responsibilities. Counting the votes was really interesting: we all voted, writing the name on a little slip of paper, and then putting in a box. Then each candidate picked a rep, and the electoral commission and the reps dumped all the papers onto a table at the front of the chapel and separated them into the separate piles. Then they went through the piles as the entire group counted aloud. Never heard of that before. I managed to pull it off 65-29.

The first couple weeks being secretary were kind of rough, and I had so many hours of meetings, and my emails probably doubled. These last couple weeks haven’t been as bad, and I haven’t even had a meeting since last Monday. I’m not positive about this, but I bet I’m the youngest student to ever be on the student council. I wonder if there’s any way to find that out.

After my week devoted to student council, I really buckled down and started working on my assignments. Last Wednesday was a banner day. I saw in my room all afternoon and wrote four papers (4)! It was incredible. It’s probably the most productive day I’ve ever had, and none of them were due the next day. They came to around 14 pages. Granted, most of them were reflection papers, and I had thought about them, and had written down a few words in brainstorming, but I still wrote them all. 3 of them were for church ministry and mission, and 1 was for power encounter. It was about time though. We have four papers to write for church ministry and mission, all due at the very end of the class, and I had written none of them, and it was the 9th week out of 10. I really like that class. Two of the papers were about our church visits to churches outside of our tradition, and one was about our tradition’s view of ministry and authority. I visited an Eastern Orthodox Church with a group from the class, and I wrote my second paper on my church in Kibera, which is quite unlike any church I’ve attended in the States. Then I wrote up a paper on the Orthodox Presbyterian Church’s view of ministry and authority, which I have thought about a great deal so it was not too difficult.

I’ve also been sick about three times the last several weeks. None of them were very serious, although I did go to get tested for malaria once and it came back negative. Twice I ended up feeling really tired and sleeping all afternoon Sunday and Monday. This Sunday I was supposed to preach, but my throat has been sore since Friday and I couldn’t talk very well Friday or Saturday, so I canceled that. As Christine pointed out to me last term, there is no soap in most of the bathrooms, and almost every time you pass anyone, and definitely whenever you greet someone, you shake their hand, so...not a great situation. I hope I’ve finally getting over this cold, I’ve been feeling a bit better today.

Now it’s the 10th, meaning last, week of class. Crunch time…