18 December 2009

"Are you ready to go home, my husband?"

Imagine my surprise yesterday when I was thinking of what to blog about this week, and I realized that, aside from a few brief mentions, I’ve not described my roommates to you! I have two roommates, Jacky Stephen and Beatrice Kateti.

Jacky is 24 years old, and the accountant for one of the projects at the church. She recently graduated from college with a degree in accounting, and speaks English very well. She is from a town up in the north, near Lake Victoria, and is engaged to a man who lives in Dar es Salaam. A few weeks ago her mother and one of her brothers came to stay with us to celebrate her graduation and birthday.

Beatrice is about 25 years old, and she volunteers at the church right now. Her father is a very dear friend to Bishop Amos, so he asked to send Beatrice to work with the Muhagachis. She and I became friends when we were both living at the Muhagachi house. She doesn’t speak very much English, and I still don’t speak very much Kiswahili, but, surprisingly, we are able to understand each other very well, although Jacky helps a lot. This is Beatrice and I at Jacky's graduation party.

When we first moved in together, we were joking one day that I am like the father, because I am responsible for paying the bills, fixing things that break (to the best of my limited ability), and breaking down bedroom doors whose locks fail to unlock (no joke, that really happened). I am rather inept at cooking over charcoal, washing clothes properly and efficiently, and recognizing when the floors need to be mopped, but fortunately, Jacky is excellent at all of those things, as well as budgeting for food for the month, and cooking creatively with what food we do have, so she is the mother. Beatrice spends a lot of time talking on her phone in her room, and tends to help Jacky only when Jacky asks for help, so we call her our daughter.

The dynamic in our house started as a joke, but we’ve settled into our roles quite nicely. When we have guests over, I sit in the living room and entertain them while Jacky and Beatrice cook in the kitchen, just like a real African husband/father. When Beatrice needs a couple of hundred shillings for a soda or for phone credit, she borrows from me. We’ve started calling each other by our titles. Jacky calls me “my husband”, and Beatrice often calls me "Baba" (father). I make sure to tell Jacky every few days what a good wife she is to me, and pat Beatrice on the head and call her “mtoto wangu” (my daughter). The staff of the church hear us talking to each other this way, and just laugh, as do our friends who come over to visit and see this dynamic at work.

Seriously, though, we complement each other very well in taking care of each other, but also as peers and friends. I trust them both implicitly with the struggles I have in daily life, and we pray for each other and each others’ families every night. It is a joy to come home to such wonderful sisters in Christ, and I’m so grateful for them! (Here is Jacky and I arm wrestling with Beatrice looking on and laughing.)

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