Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Another Nairobi Adventure

Yesterday night at around 9 P.M. on Ngong road, close by Nairobi Chapel, my friend Aaron and I were returning from getting some pizza when I noticed that my motorbike was starting to sputter, and then it stopped entirely. Now I had been thinking that since I haven’t filled up for like a month, I should probably get gas soon, but I didn’t…I miss having a gas gauge. Anyway, this happened about 200 meters from a gas station, so I was like no problem, I’ll just push it down there and fill up and we’ll continue on our way. Now as I pushed the bike down the road, I remembered I had to walk right through the police checkpoint. To give a little context, I live, or rather drive, in fear of the police. I long ago determined that unless he has a gun and looks like he’s really going to use it, I will never stop for the police. I haven’t had to put that to the test until this past Sunday, when I was going down Ngong road in front of Junction and there were like 4 policemen standing out in the middle of the road, and one of them flagged me down, pointing right at me. I floored it and went right through. Like really, you’re on foot and I’m driving, and you expect me to stop…sorry, you can extort me some other time.

There were about 4 police on our side of the road, and only 1 on the other side, so I pushed the bike across the road and continued towards the checkpoint. Of course, they noticed me, and called across the street, asking what was wrong. I said I was out of gas, and was going to fill up. They said there was no gas there. I said, what do you mean, of course there’s gas there, and continued undeterred on my way. They asked me my destination, and I called back, actually that doesn’t matter, and hurried past them.

Getting to the gas station, prominently marked 24 hours on their sign, I see they are clearly closed. Now I had to think what to do. We are right by a heavily forested area known for bandits who carjack those going through. One of my friends lives not far away, so I could leave the motorbike there, and then we try to catch a matatu home, although they run less frequently at that time of the night, and it is more dangerous. Or I could call someone to bail me out and bring me gas. I called Ben, and he said just wait there.

While we are waiting, someone comes up and asks if we need any assistance. I said that I would really like some gas, and he informs me they are actually closed. I asked why there were closed when their sign says 24 hours, and he says that it is too dangerous to stay open after dark. Cool… So the two of us defenseless mzungus continued to sit by the gas pumps by ourselves, alone with a rather expensive piece of equipment, discussing African church history and marriage in the African context… But then Ben showed up, and I fueled up, and we drove home. Another Nairobi adventure.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Reflections on Relationships

I think interpersonal interactions are some of the most interesting aspects of being human, and have spent something like thousands of hours over the last several years analyzing and dissecting every aspect of guy-girl relationships. My sophomore year at Wheaton, there would times when I would spend eight hours a day going over every new detail or potential development in a certain situation with my group of relational advisors. I had about 15 guys and a number of girls as well that I would confide in, and with any new development I would make my rounds, getting feedback and advice. People have told me that I overanalyze things, so if you’re reading this and thinking um I need to say something…don’t worry, it’s been said. After a while I decided this was becoming a little ridiculous, and did cut down on the time spent in this area. I have often wondered how much higher my gpa could have been if I had arranged my time slightly differently... But hey, there was a whole lot that I learned in college that didn’t take place in class.

It wasn’t only my own situation that we would discuss, but a lot of people would also come to me and bring their questions and problems. I was always interested to hear what was going on and offer my interpretation and sometimes suggestions for the way forward. My first year at NEGST, I made a decision that I would avoid all the problems I faced at Wheaton, with the hope that my academic performance would adjust accordingly. I decided I wouldn’t become good friends with girls, wouldn’t spend a lot of time talking to them, and wouldn’t become close. I was coming here to study, and my primary goal in coming here was not to find girls, which I did not necessary expect to find here. I was somewhat surprised when I was met at the airport….but that’s another story. Since when I first came I didn’t know how flirting and such things are perceived in this context, there were some girls I was afraid to look at. I remember sitting in one of the first events of the single’s community here, when we all introduced ourselves. People went around and introduced themselves: name is “ –“, and I’m single and praying. Name is “ – “, and I’m single and waiting. Name is “ – “, and I don’t want to become the Pope.

Now I’m fairly sure I am as interested in getting married as any of them, but I would never put it in those terms. I guess in my particular American conservative-Christian cultural background being discreet and avoiding being obvious is prized above all else. I made note of any such female personages and was extra distant with them…just to be sure. Possibly I was too careful, but it worked, and I never had any problems in this arena last year. So if you want to know how to avoid such drama, that’s how you do it. This is very debatable, but I personally tend to feel that a close guy-girl friendship is by definition impossible. Yes, there are some exceptions, and I can think of a few examples in my life of that, but it is for all practical purposes impossible. Now in my definition, I would say that if at any point either one of them becomes interested in the other it is no longer merely a friendship. It may appear to be such, but that is not actually the case. So you can fairly easily have a functional friendship, but it most likely will shift at some point.

It often amazes me that anything ever works out. I have so much respect for all the married couples I know, especially those that have made it work for like a long time. It’s impressive to me. Now I have thought about this a fair amount, and I do really feel that if you both make the commitment, then there is no reason it wouldn’t work out. The key as I see it to recognize that the person you’re with is almost certainly not the best possible person for you. The goal is not to find the best possible person, that “one” this is idly waiting out there for you. The goal is to find someone that is compatible enough with you, and then commit to being with them.

I think if you’re trying to find the most ideal person, you’ll find someone and be so excited. Yeah, this is great, and this is the person I’m supposed to be with. But then, when things start not going so well, or you meet someone else, you realize, wow, that other person is actually a lot better for me. So you end it, and that attitude will not stop once you’re married. I question that very premise. You will never find the person you are best suited for. Like seriously, there are six billion people in this world. So don’t try! I’m fairly sure there are a number of girls somewhere I could marry and have it work. The key now becomes to have high enough standards that the person you choose fits into that category. For example, when I was dating, I made the decision: I’m pretty sure if I spent the next fifty years full-time just looking, I could find someone I’m more compatible with than you (now that could take like thirty-five years, because I was pretty happy with her, but eventually, it’s a pretty good chance). So I don’t care. You’re not the best person for me. But I’ve chosen you, which means I do not care who else I meet. It becomes utterly irrelevant to the decision that has been made. But not everyone thinks that way, as I found out. However, I maintain that attitude, which is what I will bring into my next relationship. Now the goal is to find someone else who thinks that way…and I hope it doesn’t actually take thirty two more years.