This Might Offend You

Why on earth would anyone in their right mind title their post about offending someone? It’s because what you see below might not go with your theology or world view. I hope it gets you to a point of asking yourself ‘why do I believe what I believe and why do I do what I do?’

1. I try to never to call myself a missionary

The only exception is when I’m getting ripped off by a local and I say “Look I don’t work for the UN, I’m just an Australian missionary” then they understand that I really don’t have much.  As far as I am concerned I’m an ‘international development worker’. I believe everyone of the Christian faith is a missionary. One of the best things I learned under our pastor from Sydney is that we are to be ministers in the marketplace. We are all ‘sent out for a purpose’. Sure it might not be behind a pulpit, it may to be a business person, parent, police officer or office worker. It’s about being the salt and light to the world. It doesn’t matter if I’m hanging with some high member of government or a mama in a slum. We are all in need of a relationship with Jesus. I cringe when people say ‘Oh, you’re a missionary’. It reminds me of the long skirted, bi-spectacled, bun wearing elderly nun that people have in their minds. Me, I wear tight jeans, a lot of black and even sometimes listen to rap music (cue Toby Mac).

2. Lying is still lying

People call it a ‘white lie’, ‘making it easier to go down’ or ‘that’s the culture of the place’. If it’s not the truth, it’s a lie. If you say you’re going to do it, then do it. I learned this the hard way a very long time ago. Their was a friend who when I said I must come for a visit replied ‘you always say that but it never happens’. She was right and I felt gutted. I don’t care what country you’re in, if you say ‘yes’ then let it mean yes. Sure, theres cultural things like turning up on time, which can be relevant  SEE HERE but let’s get honest about honesty.

3. I refuse to think small or backwards

I’ve lived a lot of my life with feelings of insignificance and not in a small way either. I remember when I was much younger in the early days of marriage. Pete and I would go to pastors conferences and I was so overwhelmed by insecurity that I would say to him “Don’t you dare let go of my hand”, simply because I didn’t know anyone. Sure, getting up in front of hundreds of people was no problem, but in a one on one situation I was so uncomfortable. Mind you, walking into a pub was so foreign to me and I felt so uncomfortable that I couldn’t wait to get out of there. While I still abhor pubs (with the stench of beer which I hate) I am now very comfortable meeting total strangers. I would hate to go backwards and to what I was.

I also despise thinking small. I’m always trying to find more innovative ways of doing things. It makes people who’ve ‘always done it this way’ very uncomfortable.

To do the same thing over and over and expect a different result is a sign of insanity (Albert Einstein).

In the words of the Matrix ‘there is no box’.

Instead of limiting ourselves by our personal skills, resources and money, why don’t we think like God and ‘do it anyway’. Quite frankly, there will always be people who are better than you, have more degrees than you and way more money. So what? Does that mean we sit in a corner sucking our thumbs and going ‘woe is me’. Forget what you don’t have and look at what you do have.

I have enough regrets in my life, I’m trying to add as few as possible to that list.

4.  I’m not the handbag type

Someone in the office asked me the other day if I actually owned a handbag. You might think that was a random question, but a valid one. That’s because I normally have an orange bag made by Jeep, one that slings over your shoulder. It is really handy because it has some good hidden pockets (much needed in Kenya), is washable and I can wear it over my shoulder and in the front of me. I originally bought it for our 2011 trip to Africa. It has been my constant companion wherever I go.

A close friend of mine, Ros told me once that I had the ‘classic look’. I’m not into flowery dresses but plain colours, wear Converse more than heels and shock the office staff when I wear dangly earrings. Sure, I can dress up with the best of them when I have to but mostly wear jeans and a hoody, simply because it’s comfortable. Right now I’m sitting in an office with my feet up on a drawer with my headphones on. There’s no rhyme or reason, just that it’s good for working in.

What it comes down to is be who you are created to be. Stop trying to be a people pleaser. You can only please some of the people some of the time.

bag

My bag is a burnt orange and not pink – I dislike pink.

5. I believe in an even playing field

Out of everything written this is probably the one that will offend people the most. I don’t care what colour, gender, age, nationality, tribe or at what income level someone is. We all label people. In Australia you would say ‘You can’t trust a P plater’, that was someone on a provisional driving license. Here, it is said “That’s because they’re a (fill in the tribe)”. Sure, certain ethnicities exhibit predominant behaviours, but why do we label a whole people group with the same paintbrush? There’s a generation gap because we formed it. There are divisions, racial hatred and animosity between rich and poor. I’ve had the privilege of sitting with a homeless person in Sydney right in Martin Place and ask them their story. Sure it was great to buy them some sandwiches and drink, but it was more important to sit and just talk with them. I’ve also had a cup of tea at the Governor General’s house in Kirribilli. It makes no difference to me if I’m working with locals in Hawaii or Kenya. I don’t distrust someone because of their skin colour or the language they speak. Over the past 8 months I’ve met some incredible people and others I wouldn’t trust as far as I could throw them. And there are lots of different nationalities here.

At the end of the day we all bleed red.

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Thank you, thank you very much (Elvis)

In October last year Pete, Liz and I left our home, our family and friends and our youngest daughter to move to Nairobi, Kenya.

Note that I said moved and not just to visit.

There is a huge difference from going somewhere for a couple of months each year to actually packing up and relocating. Sure, people will put up with your habits, idiosyncrasies and weird ways of doing things. Give it 6 months and they may want to quit before you do!

There are days when it is really satisfying, especially when you can help one of the local leaders do their job better, or when a teenager who never talks to you comes up and says ‘Thanks, keep on doing what you’re doing, it’s great’. Other days suck to the max.

You get over every second guy on the street yelling out ‘Muzungu’ (yes I do actually know that I’m white but thanks for pointing it out anyway). Or the traffic is so bad it makes you want to beg the next driver to do you a favour and run you over. Or you just want to be with old friends but know that YOU’VE made the choice to leave them.

Moving country, especially to a developing one, is not for the faint hearted. I think I’ve discovered more about myself than anything else in the 7 months we’ve been in Kenya. I don’t always like what I see, but I hope it’s a passing phase.

Sometimes we just want to escape Nairobi and get away from it all. We do that by going to look at potential water projects out of town. That may mean driving to another country but it’s worth it. Personally, I’m looking forward to going to Tanzania later in the year. It’s only about a 5 hour drive (okay, add another hour at the border) but that’s nothing. We’ve a number of friends there doing stuff like schools and training programs and I think I’m going to enjoy just being with them for a few days.

While you can’t always escape a situation, you can always do something really out there. For me, it means having a latte. Sure, you can mock, but I’ve never been into coffee so to go and actually pay for one and drink it is a huge thing. Pete and I have found it a way of doing cheap therapy. Mind you, there’s this really nice gluten free brownie that is phenomenal.

Amongst it all, I am truly grateful for what we have right now. We have electricity, which is a bonus, especially since it’s been off for most of the last 3 days. Today, we got curtains for two of the bedrooms. It’s got to beat having a blanket up there. Last week, a very generous business offered us the funds for a car – that is absolutely huge. I love it when I get Facebook messages, text messages or emails from people to let me know they haven’t forgotten we exist.

Thankfulness is a real key to being in a place like Africa. You get to rejoice in the little things – like having access to a flushing toilet or a car that someone lends you. But it’s also being thankful when things don’t go your way. The Bible says to give thanks IN everything, not necessarily for it. I’m not overjoyed when I know that some of the kids in the child sponsorship program are struggling with alcoholic parents, aren’t making it in school or may be married off in their mid teens. But I am thankful that they can actually go to school and get a chance to make their future different.

So, I can sit and whinge that there’s no electricity to cook Pete a nice roast meal, or I can get over myself and get the gas going and put it in a frying pan.

thanks

Yes, this is sometimes us.

Kenya 101

As we hit the 7 month mark of living in Kenya I thought I’d share with you some of the things you will never find on a website nor in a Lonely Planet book.

  • They are called ‘blinders’ here not ‘netting curtains’.
  • There’s no cell phone, nor mobile phone, we just call it a phone.
  • You’re either from Western Kenya, Central or The Coast – seems like nothing in between and definitely no South.
  • Kenyans don’t like Ugandans. It’s a relationship similar between Aussies and Kiwis.
  • Asians tend to belittle Africans, it’s like they are the superior race.
  • All Muzungu’s (white people) are considered rich. They think you have enough to give them extra work, extra money and extra for when they don’t have it.
  • You get a fine for being on your phone when crossing the road. A council worker will grab you by the arm into their car, then you pay them off.
  • Everything is negotiable, especially when they say ‘what are you prepared to pay’.
  • If someone says ‘it’s possible’ it probably won’t be.
  • If someone is directing you in traffic or on the footpath they might say ‘straight’ but may mean left or right depending on the direction their hand is in.
  • People will say yes to your face, but what they really mean is no.
  • Someone will say ‘yes, yes’ which actually means they don’t understand what you just said.
  • Tipping is not mandatory, but it is highly appreciated.
  • Your ‘friendly’ traffic officers have no worries about paying their kids school fees with your ‘donation’ to them paid at their discernment (or lack of it).
  • You can wear whatever you like in the city, but it’s a big coverup for the ladies in the country.
  • Up country doesn’t refer to the direction you’re going, it means you are traveling more than 2 hours out of town.
  • You seem to be every Kenyan’s ‘friend’ especially when they want to sell you something at the market.
  • Always make use of toilets available, especially when you probably will be stuck in traffic for 2 hours after a meal.
  • A meal without ugali is not a real meal (Google ‘uglai’)
  • Having dinner (called supper here) before 9pm means you will need a snack before going to bed
  • If you want to leave work, you just don’t turn up to your present job, it’s usually done just after payday. No resignation letter, no text message – just don’t show. While it ticks your boss off, you’ve been paid so that’s all that matters.
  • No matter how bad the singer is up the front at church, you clap anyway in appreciation.
  • Kenyans top at hospitality. Even if you’re super poor, you put on the most amazing meal for your visitors.

If you learn this by heart before you come you will be years ahead of us!

Meet My Therapist

We had a wonderfully (not) sleepless night thanks to some very loud music being played in our Nairobi neighbourhood. So it gave me lots of thinking time for this blog.

I just read an article that says that nearly 20% of Americans have seen a therapist and 20% are on some kind of medication for anxiety or depression.

Don’t worry, I’m not either depressed or have overwhelming anxiety. Sure, there’s plenty here to keep you awake at night (besides loud music), worry about finances, wondering about the future, kids that are struggling. It doesn’t matter if you’re here in Kenya or in a developed country we all have those sleepless nights.

Over here there are lot of ways to de-stress. Join a very expensive club (one has a $3,000 joining fee). Go for a run or walk (trying not to get hit by a car in the process). Get some retail therapy (that’s if you have the money for it). You can go to a safari park (but how many animals can you look at over the year). Some choose to fly to the beach at Mombasa for the weekend (hmm, we usually work on weekends).

cinema

Our movie theatre is called Cnemax Cinemas

Me, my therapy is to go to the movies every now and then.

You see, my therapist is cheap as chips. He costs only $6 per session, in comparison to $18 we were paying in Sydney. I think it’s value for money.

My therapist has lots of options for the challenges I face. Sure, a movie might come out a month later but we get them eventually. Right now, I’m waiting for the next Star Trek movie to come out, apparently it’s in June, it was available 6 weeks earlier in Aussie. Sometimes, you just have to wait until your therapist is available.

My therapist shows me that it’s not all about poverty here. When you’re working with some of the most disadvantaged youth, are sitting for endless hours in front of the computer looking at projects or wondering where your next dollar is coming from, my therapist gives me choices. When I come out of a movie I feel refreshed, nothing changes, but it does. I feel better, relieved and recharged. For a brief moment I can forget everything else and just enjoy being entertained.

My therapist makes me laugh. I choose my therapist wisely, I don’t want to hear crappola from him, sometimes I just want to laugh. One of our kids (Hannah) is like me, a bit of a movie buff. I think her therapist is definitely movies – and chocolate. We don’t always have the same tastes, but it is really good to have a conversation with movie quotes in it. We have a multitude of favourites, but it’s the humorous ones we love the best. I definitely laughed out loud during Iron Man 3, it was fantastic. It’s not often I want to watch a movie twice, but that one was definitely on my list of future DVD purchases.

I am not ashamed of being in therapy. I’ve recognised I have weaknesses in my life and need a bit of assistance every now and then.

I’m not dependent on my therapist for getting me through – that’s what God is for. I can’t fix all of the problems in the universe (let alone in my own world) but He sure can.

That doesn’t mean I have to totally deprive myself of a few indulgences while here though.

I like my therapist. I’m going to keep my therapist. I will keep seeing him from time to time for a bit of social adjustment.

Hi, my name is Sharon Crean and I’m in therapy. Why not join me.