Five things we would not have known 2 years ago

Posted on August 20, 2014


1. We will never stop being a spectacle

While we’ve come to expect being stared at ALL THE TIME, it still makes us uncomfortable. Walking down the street, talking to a neighbor, standing in line at the grocery store. Everywhere. Pretty much if we are within eyesight of anyone, they are staring at us, and generally they are not even trying to hide the fact that they are staring at us. They watch our every move, meaning even an attempt to discreetly pick a wedgie will have inevitably been seen by at least 15 people. This can become even more uncomfortable when our 2 year old starts getting upset about whatever it is that toddlers get upset by (which we all know can be practically anything). Suddenly all the people who were previously just staring, are now stepping in to ask, “what is wrong with the child?” with deep concern laced with a bit of judgement. At certain times of the day, like when flood of pedestrians are walking home from work toward the entrance to the slum just down our street, there could easily be 150 people staring at me while I try to buy a few potatoes for dinner. Just. Because. I’m. White.

2. The disorientation of having no seasons

Time here seems to both standstill and move quickly. The rhythm of spring, summer, winter, fall that I’ve known MY WHOLE LIFE is absent here. I’ve realized how much I use seasons as an anchor to the timeline of my life. It’s like the change that happens every few months in the weather (at least in the Northwest) provides a framework for the passage of time.  Technically there are seasons here, but they are long rains, cool(er) season, long rains, and warm(er) season. And of course because we are just south of the equator, the warmer season is during the time of the year I know as winter, and vise versa.  Weekly I find myself forgetting entirely what month it is. Recently it has been the cool(er) season, which means I might actually put on a sweatshirt in the evenings, and apparently I consequently keep thinking that Christmas is coming. It’s quite disorienting when you catch yourself daydreaming about baking Christmas cookies only to be jarred back to reality by the realization that it is the middle of July.

3. Just HOW MUCH we would miss “home”

Family and friends are the biggest piece of this, but often in unexpected ways. Of course we miss the ones dearest to us, but I also find myself feeling sentimental about people, who, to be honest I have not really even been that close to for a long time. Or I get emotional about not being able to attend a wedding or visit a friend with a new baby, when in reality they live in a part of the country that, in all likelihood, I would not be able to visit them EVEN IF I were still living in Washington. Somehow, it is knowing that it is impossible to see them that makes me all the more sad. I am realizing how much of my life until now has been lived with the “backdrop of the familiar.” Even in difficult seasons of life, the vast majority of everything around me was familiar. Familiar people, places, music on the radio, products on the shelves, and pretty much everything about the way life is done and how people interact. While it is not so much that I miss all those things, I am realizing I miss having the familiarity.

4. Just HOW MUCH we would feel at “home”

Simultaneous, I am astounded at how much this place feel like home. I have easily adopted to the insane ways that people drive here, though I do occasionally have those residual guilt feelings in my gut when I deliberately go right through a red light. I am rarely shocked by what I see people carrying on their backs, heads or motorcycles. Walking to the market used to feel like an adventure, and now it is quite simply a way to get my daily avocado supply. We have settled into rhythms with friends, work at the airport, church, date nights, camping trips. Even things like the electricity going out or the city water being turned off seem like just a regular part of life. In a hundred little ways, Nairobi is home. Familiar faces in our neighborhood, people we have come to love, and an general affection that can be expressed as the desire to give the whole of this place one giant hug.

5. How unimportant we feel

I don’t think that we could have anticipated how normal we feel like our lives are. How normal we are. We don’t feel like we are doing anything epic or that we are super-spiritual. We feel like a normal family. Struggling to love one another, to love God, to love our neighbors. And we fail. A lot. Our daily lives here are not transforming the entirety of Africa into a place of peace, justice and love for God. Of course, we don’t like to admit that because then perhaps all the people sending money to keep us here will stop sending money! But we are also at peace with that. We know that God is in the business of using normal people who often fail at the simple command to love your neighbor. And that often it is lives that seem the least dynamic and influential that can actually communicate the goodness of God— that he can transform prideful people into vessels of his grace to a hurting and broken world. Pray that we would be that.