I am sure many of you who generously give toward us being here are starting to say….”the beach again?” First, let me explain that this month it is Ramadan so the vast majority of people here are fasting. It is taken so seriously here that it is actually illegal to eat or drink at all in public until sundown each day and there is a huge difference in the amount of activity this month (many schools are closed, people only work half days, etc). The no eating rule can be pretty tough given the heat and humidity so we have been careful; unsure as if we would really be arrested but also not interested in finding out. Of course, we also want to be sensitive to the culture so we have been eating and drinking indoors (this does not apply to small children so Annikah can drink water, etc when we are out). Since we arrived it feels like we have been moving nonstop, getting a house set up, learning language, practicing language, meeting people, and relearning basic tasks in this new culture. We have also had lots of opportunities to meet our neighbors and other locals as well as hanging out with our team members. We are slowly learning the social “rules” of this culture. For example, people stop by randomly and unannounced ALL THE TIME! This is a great as we want to get to know people and it really is a blessing that they feel welcome and comfortable in our home. It also forces us to practice language which is always helpful. I must be honest; though, my Western self sometimes cringes a bit when I hear someone yell “Hoody?” (meaning “Hello, I’m here, may I come in?” loose translation) from our gate as I was just sitting down to read or preparing to do laundry but I am learning that people are more important than tasks. One of the woman from our neighborhood came by the other day with her baby and I invited her in. After all the greetings and small talk I know we sat in silence for about 10 minutes (which although makes my skin crawl did not seem to make her uncomfortable at all). I then began to show her my kitchen and the things I like to cook. We both laughed at my Kiswahili (or lack there of) and then I remembered that I think I am supposed to offer her food (again, this is SOO different, you would never show up to some one’s place in the states unannounced and expect food to be served to you but here that is totally normal, in fact many times we have been invited in to people’s homes just as we walked past on the road and been served food). Luckily I had some leftovers that I had made the night before of lentils and coconut milk so I quickly offered to heat it up (she is not fasting because she has a newborn). She communicated that she wanted to take more of it home to her family so I found some Tupperware and newspaper to wrap some chapatis in and a bag to put everything in and about 30 minutes later she was on her way home. It is such a stretch to relearn social context but at the same time so many things are universal. Because I cannot speak the language yet it has forced me to just listen, something that, if I am honest, does not come naturally for me, but this experience has been so enriching as I learn to just be with people, to listen to them, and learn from everything I am surrounded by.
We have kept busy and realized after some reflection that we still need to maintain sabbath and rest even though we are in a vastly different place. We decided that each Saturday and Sunday we are going to do something fun as a family; hang out with friends, go to the beach, check out the tons of touristy stuff around the island, basically just recharge and experience the creation around us. After all it would be a sin to miss out on all the amazing things there are to do here because we are so focused on “getting things done.” This is a problem that did not originate here, it followed us from home, our need to be task orientated. While this is great as it helps us work hard and accomplish important goals we also are learning balance between work and rest.
Our teammates let us tag along with them yesterday to a private beach they know about about 45 minutes away (we decided to explore this beach because we can a. swim and b. eat in the open). The drive was hilarious as we went off-roading like I have never done (read here branches breaking off and flying into the car window- Annikah thought is was a blast and kept saying “more bumps”!!). We had faith we would eventually emerge onto the beach as we could see a sneak peak of the crystal blue water through the trees every once in a while. We arrived and it was beautiful, in fact that word does not do it justice, it was amazing, stunning, and a place to just be. After a fabulous day we feel refreshed and ready to learn more this week. The milk is about to boil over in the kitchen so I gotta run but just wanted to update everyone on the busyness & the bliss.
Annikah gets over her sand aversion (the Keens help:)