Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Kenya Email Update #6

Well hello there! Guess who’s still alive and kickin’???

It’s me! It’s that Barry kid who left the States TWO WHOLE MONTHS ago! Can you believe it? That means I’m already a sixth of the way through the year! Crazy.

Ok, let’s clear something up. In my last update I mentioned that I was really sick and that I had eaten roasted goat intestine. A lot of you thought that the two were somehow connected. Alas, the events were separated by 2 weeks, so I doubt it. Still, it should have probably made me a little more wary of eating gross stuff (that’s why I’ve only eaten gizzard, cow innards, and goat liver since then…).

Speaking of eating stuff (now that you’re hungry), I have eaten some amazing food. Right down the street from Chapel is an awesome fruit stand where they cut up a bunch of fresh fruits (mango, pineapple, banana, watermelon, etc.) and give it to you it in a big bowl with a spoon. Sooo good. And it only costs about 40 cents! I’ve also discovered the beauty of roasted maize (for those of you who aren’t farmers, its called corn). The taste is basically a cross between pop-corn and corn-on-the-cob. Awesome. A whole cob is about 12 cents (where in all of America can you get food that cheap???). I shouldn’t even mention how much I love chapati and mandazis and chai masala and samosas!!!

Oh here’s something new: Taxi drivers have stopped harassing me whenever I pass by. They used to see my blindingly-white skin and call out “Taxi? Taxi?” Then, as if I hadn’t heard them, they’d yell louder “TAXI???” and gesture to their car in case I was deaf or German or something. For some reason they don’t do that anymore. Perhaps it’s because now I’m tan and I walk like I know where I’m going. Or maybe it’s because I shout Swahili swear words at people as I walk down the street (just kidding… I don’t shout in Swahili!).

I’ve been reading a ton. Since leaving Indianapolis, I’ve finished 10 whole books. I’m currently in the middle of 4 others. I guess that answers the question of what I do in the absence of XBox!

Alright I’ll be honest with you. The experience here has not totally been a bed of roses. There are some days where I really, desperately, tragically wish I could be back home. There are some Kenyan foods that I just can’t stomach. I miss having a car. I can’t escape into video games here. I’m tired of people staring at me when I walk down the street. You get the picture…

Something that has led to quite a bit of frustration is the fact that in general, Kenyans are much more comfortable with chaos than Americans. Working at Nairobi Chapel, I have been consistently confronted with tasks that I am expected to complete without any directions. Good communication between staff members is a rarity. Unclear expectations are totally normal. Basically the environment here makes Grace Community Church’s history look like a study in sharp, disciplined effectiveness (those of you who work at Grace are probably chuckling right now)!

Anyway, even though some of these experiences are frustrating, I am learning from them. I’m learning that immersing yourself in another culture is one of the best ways to truly understand your own culture! I’m learning that following the Holy Spirit’s guidance often doesn’t come with a bulleted list of goals and expectations. I’m learning that walking everywhere is great exercise, that reading is a great escape, and that Kenya has some great food!

So all in all, my experience here has been difficult but valuable, painful but formative, frustrating but life-changing. To answer my old roommate Erik’s question “What percent are you?” I would have to say roughly 76%.

Sorry again for the length of my email updates. They seem to be getting longer and longer don’t they? By December I’ll have to have my emails bound hardcover and shipped overseas! Thanks again for those of you who have kept me updated on your own lives. Checking email has become the highlight of my day (other than dragging myself out of bed at 5:30am of course…)!

Here’s the address where I can receive letters/packages/etc. I hesitate to give this to you because now you’ll all feel obligated to send me something. Don’t. This is just for the people who actually care about me (totally kidding!). Seriously though, I just figured that since several people have asked about it, I should just put it out there for ya’ll.

Barry Rodriguez
Nairobi Chapel
P.O. Box 53635, 00200
Nairobi, Kenya

Well, I’m off to begin another month of fun, challenges, and intense life-changing cultural adaptation! Later!


p.s. What percent are you???