*Note: This post is somewhat outdated, since it was written the first week of September. The Sunday referenced was August 31st.*
The next day I took the bus into church to Nairobi Chapel, and it was very interesting. They meet in tents, and the main area is a huge tent with chairs set up on this patio-type area, all cobblestones. I thought the backdrop of the church was so interesting, it was this painted landscape all along the back of the stage, and it was like the epitome of suburbia. There were little streaks like you are looking through glass onto a grass lawn, and then there was a swing set and a trampoline, and then a fence and another house behind it. It looked nothing like houses I’ve seen in Kenya and very much like typical American suburbia, which we always decry in places like Wheaton. But that’s what they strive towards; they see it as a good thing. It was really weird. I really enjoyed the service, the worship seemed so genuine. It was natural and cheerful and it was great. Then they had a skit that was like the worst type of gender stereotyping, with the guy lounging on this couch they brought onto the stage watching “football” on TV while his wife is cleaning and he orders her around and is a complete stupid jerk and goes through all the tasks that a women should do. I was a little surprised, but I guess some things are universal. But then the message was really good, I was impressed. He talked about gender and he brought out things I had never considered before. He talked about how we (meaning mostly guys, who have generally determined most interpretation) view the word “helper” in the creation account as meaning servant, lower, assistant. And honestly that kind of how I’ve always seen that when I’ve read through, like it seems to set up women in a subordinate and somewhat demeaning way. But then he went through all the uses of that word, and 16 of the 20 or so times it’s used, it’s used of God: “The Lord is my helper” type of thing. And obviously when I read that I don’t think of God as being in any type of subordinate relationship to me in that context. I may have heard that before, its sounds a little familiar, but hearing it presented that way really did change my perception of that passage, which doesn’t often happen. Then he went through the commands given to men and women and how they have been distorted, and some of that is more particular to Africa but still interesting. For example, when the man is told to leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, but in African societies it is the women who moves into the compound or place of the man, generally very close to the man’s family. And how the women is cursed with childbirth and the man is cursed with tilling the soil, but the women are made to work out in the fields as well as go through the pain of childbirth. This pastor gave the keynote at the last Urbana, and he was a really good speaker and teacher. I’ve heard his session was amazing and that I really need to hear it. Then we had tea after that, and I really like their tea, I’m so glad we do it so often. Every day we’ve had a break for tea at 10, and I think that continues into the term, so I am glad of that.
I’ve been shopping three times already, and its quite an experience. I had to buy a water boiler, because all the water has to be boiled, so that’s a little different. I bought food, an electric adapter so I can plug things in, cleaner, and a bunch of other miscellaneous things. I still need a cell phone, mattress, rice cooker, and things like that. Philip (from The Gambia, which I think is really funny that its so small and they call themselves that, but then we call ourselves The United States, but like The Kenya sounds so dumb) has been one of my best friends, we’ve gone shopping together every time and I bought his things for him since he didn’t have any money. We’ve had lunch together twice and he came over to eat dinner once too since there was no gas in his kitchen. When we have breaks for orientation he’ll propose we walk somewhere like the computer lab or he’ll go along with me if I need to turn something in. I’ve also done quite a bit with Njeri, who is single, which really does help in relating to someone. She took Philip and me shopping and is a lot of fun. When we were shopping I saw Philip showing her the latest book by Joel Osteen (Becoming A Better You), and I was thinking, great, I can make fun of American materialism and individuality and selfishness with my African brethren, so I walked over there. When I got there Philip was saying, yeah this is so good I didn’t have room to pack it but I think its one worth buying and having while I’m here. Njeri was all in agreement, so I didn’t really say anything, and it struck me both how cynical I am and how unfortunate it is that those are the types of things that represent American Christianity overseas, when most people I know would be somewhat skeptical of a Joel Osteen. It was a revealing encounter. The guy who was staying across the hall from me played K-Love for several hours the first two nights, and I’m sure he loves it. So different from Wheaton culture, and even the whole HNGR social justice element. One of the standards of NEGST that I had to agree to, in the student handbook, in addition to no drinking, gambling, drugs, was that I would respect the authorities set up by God and not participate or have anything to do with boycotts, strikes, protests, riots, or any of that type of thing. They have a tendency to get very violent here, so I guess that does make a significant difference.
I’m trying to think what else I was going to say. There is so much going on and so much I’ve been thinking about so its rather overwhelming. I found that have a café here which is very reasonable by my standards, 170 shillings for a hot meal, less than three dollars, so I think I’ll be doing that fairly often, because dealing with all that cooking and going shopping is such a pain. But then I feel bad because I’m the typical American that eats meat and all these expensive foods, so I’m not sure what to do. The other guy on my floor for dinner took some potatoes, chopped them up, boiled them in water, and ate them. He had nothing else, did not flavor them, or anything. Just boiled potatoes. If that’s all you eat that can’t be healthy!! I’m the only way who has put anything in the fridge at all. Yesterday an American family invited me over to eat, so that was good. They have two little kids, and I spend a few hours over there so that was nice. Ok, so for cleaning clothes the only real option is to hire “house help,” and they get paid a standard rate of 50 shillings an hour. That’s like 73 cents, per hour!! I’ve always heard about low wages, but I figured things would be proportionately cheaper, but they’re not here. I guess if you live in a hut and just grow your own vegetables you could live off that, and probably a lot of them do, but if you go to the store and buy like a radio or anything electric or basic food like rice or canned goods it costs about the same as in America. I can’t imagine paying someone that little to do that work, it just seems so wrong. But apparently if you don’t you’re seen as really uppity because you’re not sharing your wealth and hiring someone to do your work. And most students hire people to clean their rooms and bathrooms I think and cook for them. I mean, its dirt cheap. I really think I can do my own cleaning, and it seems such a bother to go out and buy the food and then tell them what you what to be cooked, and then it case it doesn’t come out right or something, it just sounds so difficult. So for sure I’ll hire someone to clean my clothes because I have no other option, but as far as the other cleaning and cooking I just don’t know, its really weird to me.