Things I’ve said in the past week:
1.) “When you say ‘nothing planned for Friday’ do you mean you’ll be home all day or you’ll be gone from 8:30-5:30 instead of 7-6?”
2.) “What do you mean I have to fill out an extensive form in an management office if I lost my parking token? Can’t I just pay the daily maximum?”
3.) “I need 12 pillows.”
4.) “Kai, say hi back to them” (to the large, intimidating men in camo carrying AK47s in broad view at the mall)
5.) “Never mind, I’ll do it myself” – after being told it would cost the equivalent of $500 to have couch cushions made – I already had the couch & the fabric, just needed the cushions. (note: this may make #3 seem a bit more reasonable)
6.) “Babe, I just counted 24 women in the last 3 blocks who are all sitting on the side of the road looking for work.”
7.) “Don’t be so friendly with them, Chris! They might actually come over & I don’t want them to.”
8.) “Our dining table would seat 10 comfortably! Oh, we don’t have 10 people to have over for dinner…we need to make friends.”
* “Is our dining table slanted?”
* “Are there still bugs in the dining room table?!”
9.) “You spent hours last night around 11pm bucketing water out of your kitchen because it flooded?” – to Scola
10.) “Chris, get out and help him” referring to a crippled man struggling to push his huge wheelchair up a huge & steep hill, in the middle of a road, because there were no sidewalks, in the thick of rush hour traffic and in a torrential downpour.
11.) “Your daddy is a good man Kai. He’s helping people. And that’s what you do. When people need help, you help them” – when Chris without hesitation helped this man push his wheelchair up the hill until he was on level ground away from the densest traffic.
12.) “Excuse me, who do these children belong to?” The answer: “um, maybe they come from the apartment complexes way over there.”
13.) “Can I get a rag? The milk is dripping all over the grocery store floor in the check out aisle” long pause and a blank look from the cashier. Me: “Can I get a rag, a bucket, a mop, a basket, a towel, some paper?” Another blank look. Me: “ok, never mind"
14.) “Do you have shower curtain hooks?”…”No? Does anyone in Nairobi?”….”No…they are all sold with a shower curtain.” – my shower curtain is going up tomorrow with zip ties.
15.) “Kai, don’t…
a. touch the computer”
b. drink the bleach water we use for rinsing dishes”
c. take that man’s keys out of his back pocket while he is loading our groceries into the car”
d. pull your sister’s pacifier out of her mouth and throw it across the car while I'm driving"
e. run out into the middle of the apartment complex parking lot – naked.”
f. open the fridge without permission”
g. pee on your mattress, floor, chair, mama”
h. use the broom to ‘sweep’ up the poo pile you just left in the middle of the hallway”
As you can see, life in Kenya is full. Life with children is full. Life with other people is full (or when you move, sometimes a bit empty). Life as a wife is full. Life with all of these things combined is very, very full.
There is a depth to each day that I can find myself hardened to because absorbing it threatens to be overwhelming. One man telling me that it will cost $500 to have couch cushions sewn is offensive not because of the price (though it marginally is), but because in the next few hours I will directly & closely interact with individuals who don’t know what they’ll give their children for supper.
It’s quintessential to talk about the sharp contrast between rich & poor, or the palpable tension (should I choose to acknowledge it) when I purchase initial groceries for the house & then drive past beggars on my way home. But however mundane this conversation may be, I must bring it up again to challenge myself. To wake myself up. To remind myself that though things are, they shouldn’t necessarily be. And then to ask, where do I go from here?
I think most times there isn’t a universal answer – Chris should’ve helped that man struggling to push his wheelchair up the hill in the rain; if I had been by myself with the kids, I shouldn’t have. But there is something I am keenly aware of, if only because I fear I will quickly fall into it – the easiest answer to these very difficult questions is to not see the need to ask the questions.
I cannot help each person I pass who needs help – On some days, even many days, I may not even be able to help one. But God forgive me should I neglect to see them – should the discomfort I feel at the needs of others cause me to ignore them completely.
I feel honored to be here – I feel a huge responsibility raising my children here, and wonder what incredibly difficult conversations we have as they are unavoidably & daily exposed to the harsh realities of life.
There is no real conclusion to this blog entry – it was meant to have a humorous strain, which I hope it accomplished at some point. Humor is sometimes the best response to the harsh realities of life, if nothing else than to lift our spirits so we can embrace another day, and allow our souls to breathe deeply of each bit – whether beautiful or ugly. Because each day contains both, and the depth we allow our soul to breathe, I think, is an indicator of how much we see and how much we live.