Friday, May 31, 2013

A Bad Jembe

My bad jembe that can't dig a proper hole.
“It is OK,” said Pastor John trying to make me feel better about the fact that I had just dug a hole for a tree that did not meet his standards.  “It must be your jembe.”

Must be my jembe?  I smiled.

I had heard about this cultural difference, but had not seen it on such vivid display yet.  Here in Kenya, personal responsibility is often not assigned to someone when something goes wrong.  In America, if a friend is at your house and drops a plate and it shatters to pieces, we know they did it and it is their fault, but we try to make them feel better by saying something like:

“Don’t worry about breaking the plate.  That plate had a chip in it anyway and I was going to throw it out.”

Here you would not say such a thing because your friend did not break the plate - the floor did.

So there I was on the mountainside with 10 RVA students and a local pastor planting trees.  When Pastor John saw the hole I had just dug, he thought there should have been more loose dirt in the bottom of the hole.  He asked for a different jembe and did a bit more digging while saying:

“It is OK.  It must be your jembe.”

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Why I Don’t Have Dry Pants


 A helpless feeling washes over you when you hear the rain on the roof and realize that the laundry is still on the line.  What makes it worse is that you know that it could be days before there is a dry spell long enough for the laundry to dry.  That bright sunshine that you thought would last just an hour ago has betrayed you once again.

 If you are a small family, a dry day here and there is probably enough to get the laundry done, but for the nine of us, these sporadic dry spells were insufficient.

This is what led us to string lines in our attic.  A seemingly perfect solution until our clothes started developing holes in them.

This is what led us to borrow a hand made mouse trap from a woman at a local duka (store).

This is what led to the capture of our chief foe.

And that is what led to me having dry pants once again.

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Blessing of a Car

“Will you give these guys a ride?” Martha was saying as she was getting out of the car.  My new friend Martha had flagged me down a few kilometers back as I was driving down the mountain on my first drive in the vehicle we were purchasing.  It would be hard to convince the guys along the roadside that I don’t stop to pick up people when someone I had just stopped to pick up was getting out of my car, so I said, “Sure.”

The two guys got in.  I didn’t ask where they were going at first since there was only one road.  The only question to be asked at some point was how far they were going.

“So you are from RVA?” the older one sitting up front with me asked.

“Yeah,” I said.  There was no hiding that fact since there was an RVA gate pass on the front windshield.

He looked at me a bit warily.

“But you are driving Mr. Jones’ car,” he said not turning his gaze from me.

There are no secrets in Kijabe.

I explained to him that I was buying the car from the Jones’ and I must have been believable since he seemed to relax.

It turns out that both of my passengers have worked for years in the laundry at RVA.

When I asked him where he was going he said, “Mai Mahiu.”

“That is a long walk,” I said, and they told me it takes them about 2 hours to walk down the mountain to their homes at night and an hour or so longer to walk up in the morning.  Now that is a long commute.

When we got to Mai Mahiu in the valley one guy got out and I offered to drive the other one to his home.  After a few more kilometers we came to his house.  He is just six months from retiring and he invited me into his compound to see the home he had been working on for the last nine years.  While it is not done yet, he has laid every stone by hand with loving care and was full of pride as he showed me around.

Our new-22-year-old car turned out to be a blessing for both of us that day in what I hope will be the first of many more opportunities to help over the years.  Even though the car is old, the chief mechanic here at RVA has told us, “This is a good one,” and a good one it has proven to be so far.