31 July 2011

My Nemeses (written a few weeks ago)

At various points in days gone by, I have talked about how this person or that person was my “nemesis”, usually a person who I’d met recently and opposed me in some area of work or ministry.  Actually, as it turns out, I’ve been abusing the word for years.  I just looked it up in Oxford English Dictionary:
nemesis /’nεmisis/
n. (pl. nemeses /-si:z/) the inescapable agent of someone’s or something’s downfall, especially when this is deserved
So first let me offer an apology to both the English and Greek languages for my persistent misuse of this word (although it’s such a nice word – fun to say and more fun to pluralize).  I also owe an apology to those I labeled as a nemesis inappropriately.  In God’s funny way, though, I think every single one of those “nemeses” eventually became good friends!
Now let me introduce you to my actual nemeses, those things (not people) which are inescapably contributing to my downfall, whether such downfall is deserved or not.
1) A certain rat
I hate rodents, even guinea pigs and hamsters, but I especially hate rats.  The family who used to live in half of the large house that Fred and I live in were not particularly tidy or careful about storing food, hence attracting a whole troop of rats.  When they moved out, taking that messy food source with them, the rats began touring the house looking for my carefully stored and sealed food stuffs.  Fred won’t tell me how many he’s killed so far, but there is (at least) one intrepid creature which likes to climb up our stove at night looking for bits of something.  I not only hate, but fear rats, and on a recent late evening I sat in the kitchen reading by candlelight, the rat took advantage of the dark and quiet to pay a visit.  I began hurling empty water bottles in the general direction of the noises, hoping to frighten it away.  This rat has escaped Fred on a few occasions, and I am no help in the catching or killing, so the rat continues to imperil both my dignity and sanity as I sit with my feet tucked up in a chair praying for vengeance!
TANESCO is the nationalized power company in Tanzania, and I already hated them from my time in Dodoma, because a) the political science student in me recoils at the inefficiency and waste of a national utility company without private sector competition, and b) they tried to make me pay a gigantic power bill because they couldn’t check my meter (long story).  Anyway, it seems that since late last year Tanzania has been experiencing almost daily blackouts without explanation or warning.  This is particularly inconvenient for me because it brings into conflict my two main responsibilities.  I am most productive as an employee of Lahash if I have power for my computer, but I am most productive at home if there is no power to distract me (with, y’know, work).  I’m the kind of person who likes to have a plan and a routine for my day, but when I’m at the erratic mercies of TANESCO, I often end the day without feeling much sense of accomplishment.  (Plus, no electricity at night encourages the rat.)
Still, in spite of the worst these nemeses are throwing at me (the other night Fred killed a rat IN OUR BEDROOM), and the other difficult things of my current life, like being far from family and friends, I have a lot of peace now.  Although this isn’t a busy time of life for me, I’m learning to be content with that.  I think God might be teaching me that the “downfall” of my preferences and comforts and fears even, are for my good, and that there’s a lot to be said for the seed which falls into the ground and dies to produce new life.  It remains to be seen what that new life might look like, but it’ll be good…even if there are rats.

08 July 2011

Living Room!

We have the beginnings of a living room! Many thanks to Imago Dei’s Global Mission fund for some extra money this month, enabling us to make the trip to Uganda we’d hoped to take in June and buy some living room furniture and a bed for Innocent, who’s coming to visit next month.  

(I had a photo of our furniture to put here, but I can't find the cord that connects the camera to the computer. Too bad...it was going to be a rare photographic insight into our life here!)

It may not seem like living room furniture is particularly missional, but I’ll tell you, in Africa, it is. Hospitality is such an important part of life here, and until now, we simply couldn’t have anyone to the house, even for a chat, because there was nowhere but the kitchen or bedroom to invite them into. Both these locations are problematic culturally. In Luo culture, it’s very much not done to invite a visitor to hang out in your kitchen, so my only visitor thus far has been a young co-worker of Fred’s named Goodluck. He’s from a different tribe which doesn’t have such stipulations against sitting in kitchens. Actually, his being from a different tribe and excellent English are two factors that have made us friend-ish. I think he often feels as much an outsider in Shirati as I do, since neither of us speaks the Luo language.

Our plans for the coming weeks are such:
21st July – Travel to Nairobi
22nd – 23rd July – Nairobi, visiting with some of Fred’s family and Edwin’s family
24th July – Travel to Kampala
25th – 26th July – Kampala, meeting up with Mama Susan, Tim Bata, and Jaclyn Konczal
27th July – Travel to Kisumu and Sindo
28th – 29th July – Sindo, picking up Innocent and Dadi (Inno’s cousin)
30th July – Return to Shirati with the two boys
Inno and Dadi are going to stay with us for several weeks in August, after we return them to Sindo, we’ll travel to Dodoma for a week or so.