First impressions of our new home

Posted on July 28, 2012

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By Clarissa

Six months have passed since leaving Spokane, and now we are at Africa Based Orientation sitting on twin beds pushed together in a dorm room of a small college 60 miles outside Nairobi. Outside my window I hear people singing in a language that is foreign to me. I can’t see them, but I know they are just beyond the fence around our dorm, and perhaps a few postage-stamp-sized maize fields past that. This afternoon we strolled along the red dirt roads around the college, greeting passerbyers with our limited Swahili, exchanging smiles. A quaint way to spend the afternoon, but we feel like mere visitors. Yet we are not. This country is our new home.

Home. It is not a word I can yet use to describe Kenya. But neither is Washington home anymore. Home has become this amorphous concept that has no shape. Day by day, though, my concept of home is materializing, taking on shape.

Riding on a Matatu (15 passenger public transport) or walking through the market place, Swahili phrases flow around me, through my ears, but rarely making sense in my head.  My incompetence at even basic communication feels like a constant handicap…just one more thing that marks me an outsider. For a while (perhaps a long while) home will mean stumbling over language,  cultural blunders, and a whole host of what I’m sure will be less than pleasant expereinces (which will hopefully teach me a lot of humility and  to laugh at myself). Home will mean learning how to furnish a house without craigslist or thrift stores. Home will mean getting lost in a big city, saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, and having my “personal bubble” invaded. Home will mean letting go of what I think I need to feel comfortable and secure.

I am grateful that along this potholed road of Kenya becoming home, the people are friendly and forgiving of my mistakes, eagerly welcoming me to their country. I often wonder if I was ever this friendly in embracing “outsiders” in my own context in the U.S.

I am a learner here, and I will be for quite some time. My prayer is that my heart would be content to stay in this position of learner, and not rush on ahead. Certainly there is much to learn from the people here, as well as from God who is reminding me daily that my understanding of the world around me is not nearly as comprehensive as I once thought.

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Posted in: Africa, Clarissa