Friday, June 20, 2014

Tim the Tarantula

Last March God taught me a lesson on how to become friends with a spider that I named Sam. Him and I spent countless hours together in my bathroom while I recovered from an allergy to cheese. He prepared me in many ways to survive here in Kenya, taking speedy showers, living with spiders and other creepy crawlers and gaining confidence to be able to kill bigger and more scary creatures that exist here.

But on Tuesday of this last week, a new record of spider experiences occurred that I believe (and sincerely pray) will never be broken. I was sitting on my bed in the village (minding my own business!) writing in my journal about the day and listening to Shrek on my computer. It was a beautiful evening actually, a slight breeze blowing through the window as I wrote down my fairly uneventful but good day that had taken place. I glanced over to the wall at the foot of my bed because I saw something out of the corner of my eye move.

My body paralyzed, my net down but not tucked, my voice gone for about 30 seconds, no I think it was closer to 5 minutes I really had no idea what to do. If I move it may move. If I speak it may move. I was obviously not thinking rationally but how can anyone when this thing is so close to you??!!

I know the picture really doesn’t do it justice. And just for fun here’s a comparison of Tim the taratula from Tuesday and his cousin, Sam the spider, from last March. Tim was hairy, a big body and about 3.5-4inches in diameter (my American roomie vouches for the measurement).

I refuse to take pictures but I have gotten a bit more confident killing cockroaches. They are huge here, many fly/have wings, and they are soooo fast!!! Two nights ago I went to the bathroom in the middle of the night to find one near the “toliet” and there was no way I was going back to bed without accomplishing what I had come for so I bravely (because everyone was asleep) smacked the very large roach with our broom. Unfortunately that did nothing to him and he quickly tried to make a run away but they only way to go was at my feet. Since God was the only one able to see I’m pretty sure He was laughing because it was a sight to see.

I did win the battle though, him dead and in the water I was able to “flush” him down and then complete my business. I still don’t like them, I do prefer someone else to accomplish the task but if it comes down to it, I will complete the job.

I’ve come a long way in almost a year. Who knows what God has next!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Culture Shock

After 16 hours of travel, and all potty breaks done on the side of the road, I found myself on the western side of Kenya and I was ready for a bed. With a few hours of sleep I awoke to my alarm and immediately knew I had another alarm inside my body that had been ignored the day before. 

I live north of Mombasa about 2 hours, the drive from my home to Nairobi took 10 hours and then we went through Naivasha and stayed in Nakuru 6 hours later.
Before I go any further I have to help you understand that at this point just about every part of Kenyan culture, Kenyan life, Kenyan everything was wrong, frustrating, and I wanted nothing to do with it. My attitude was horrible, my behavior even worse and I was ready to give up. I was over the mundane meal choices, lack of manners and the language learning. I was not my joyful, smiling self and everyone in the house was suffering. (yes culture shock had hit full force)

So when I was 16 hours away from the triggers of these feelings, in a hotel like what you would find in the western world, you would think I would be thrilled to find a toilet off the ground. But to be honest, the tears fell, because I wanted nothing more than my squat potty to make going to the bathroom that much easier. Out of all the things that I could have rejected and easily left behind, the toilet was not one of them!

My bed at the guest house we stayed at.
Just in case you needed a reminder of my bed in the village.
I hope you can laugh with me because as I reflect back on this strange moment I’m totally laughing inside, but I think it explains the unexplainable feelings one feels when suffering through culture shock. It’s not always the immediately noticeable differences that frustrate one person, it’s the little things.

During the early days of culture shock, God gave me this beautiful picture to help me understand what I was feeling both emotionally and physically. I am a bird that had been born in the wild, within hours of birth I was soaring, there was no place I couldn’t go and I was free to be me. That bird that knew freedom was now trapped in a cage that wasn’t large enough for his wings to open. God had created me to soar and now I was trapped, unable to be who God created me to be.

I think those who really know me can testify that I am one of the most independent (and stubborn) people you will ever meet. I soar when I can do things on my own, make my own decisions, and have time alone. Living with parents in their house in their culture, where no matter how old you are you are treated like a child, was bound to have some effect on me at some point. Hopefully, with that you can begin to understand that almost a year into this term its about time I go a little crazy.

So this last week we sat down as a family and had a meeting. To be honest, it was a lot harder than I thought it would be to put into words (and be culturally sensitive at the same time) what I was feeling. Actually, I didn’t do a very good job at all. Even through the tears, my words were taken personally. Not only am I still dealing with culture shock, but now continually trying to explain that all the things I communicated as wrong are not actually wrong, they are just different to what I have spent the last 25 years knowing. Even when situations come up and I try to use them as teaching moments to explain, yes that is completely normal in your culture, but we don’t do that in America, it still doesn’t fully make sense in their minds. Things are still difficult but my heart is doing so much better. I’ve been smiling a lot more and my kids continue to remind me just how much I really am needed and wanted here.

I’m blessed to say I’m posting this from Malindi, one night away with my American teammate, to get some space, spend some time at the beach (one of my favorite places to meet with God), enjoy some different food, make our own plans and who knows what else God has planned. Culture shock is not fun, at all. And it’s also not something to brush off. It’s completely real and life jolting.
This will be me in again about 30 minutes! (Picture taken during my first trip to Malindi in August 2013)
Beautiful beach of Malindi that is about a football field away from where I currently sit. I can't wait to put my feet in that water, its been way too long!
As I expressed my feelings and attempted to help them understand how I might feel by giving them an example of how it might feel for them to be called to America (alone), I was given this advice: You need only to be strong and push through because God is with you. However, I responded with scripture, 2 Corinthians 12:9, Jesus words, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness. There is absolutely nothing wrong with admitting I am weak, for it is in my weakness that God’s power can shine through!

I have found much comfort in meditating on the fact that Jesus knows my pain greater than any person ever could. He left the comforts of heaven and entered a foreign land, a land where every person did things different than He would have liked. He made it through by clinging to his Father. What better example and support can I find than in Jesus Christ himself?

Jesus, thank you for being willing to come to earth, in your humility, putting aside your physical God-nature and put on the flesh of humanity and limitations of man. You understand my desire to want to wear jeans and show my shoulders because you knew what glory meant in Heaven. You lived with people who did everything backwards to what you had always known. You accepted the things that were noble but stood up against those that hindered your relationship with our Father. Help me Jesus to do the same, to accept the things that won’t separate me from your love, but the things that go against your truth, help me to be bold and a voice here where you have called me. Thank you for bringing me to this place, to serve your kingdom, to be a tiny seed in the great harvest that you are growing. Help me to remember just how small I am and that my being here is not about me or my comfort but about your glory and honor to be seen in those around me. 

You have knit me together in my mother’s womb to be the person that I am, not by mistake. Show me Jesus how I can soar here, how I can be free to be me, within the limitations of this culture. Give those I am living with an understanding heart to what my heart is struggling through. Help us all to have patience with one another, grace when we have hurt one another and lots and lots of forgiveness. Help me to decrease so you can increase. In your name Jesus I pray, Amen

The group of us at Lake Bogoria (about 2 hours north of Nakuru) where we spent the day with these amazing people.

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