The people here are clearly getting used to me, too. In Eldoret, I am still a novelty and people will call out 'mzungu' (white person) when they see me, but here in Flax only the children do that now. The adults have got used to seeing a white person walking around their village. On Sunday, someone mentioned in a speech that white people haven't really been seen in these parts since the colonials left, some 50 years ago. Apparently, there are still some white families around, but they must keep themselves to themselves, because they aren't usually seen much. According to the speaker, people of his generation are used to seeing white people, because they still remember colonial times, but children in this area only know white people from television. I suppose seeing me must be similar for them to seeing some mythical creature that they only know from television in real life. A bit like children in Shooters Hill meeting Elsa in real life? The people are incredibly kind and welcoming and warm. It makes me feel guilty that there was a week when I wasn't so keen to be here. Mind you, there are still moments when I wish I were elsewhere, especially during the seemingly endless speeches that appear to be part of most church services (especially weddings, funerals and social events). I've never been a fan of occasions with lots of long speeches, but when they are in languages that you don't understand, they seem even longer. I thought that I had come up with a clever solution. I invested in some wool and a set of knitting needles and last night, at a fund raiser, brought out my knitting. I had only knitted a couple of rows when the woman sitting next to me took my knitting from me and carried on knitting. So much for my 'clever' plan. I still had to sit there, listening to speeches I couldn't understand, without anything to keep me occupied.... I am hoping and praying that there aren't too many people around who know how to knit. I am impressed though with how good practically everyone here seems to be at public speaking. No matter what their age or level of education, most people seem very comfortable to speak in public, at length. They are expected to speak in public from a young age and at baptisms parents are expected to make a public declaration about why they would like their child to be baptised. I think parents coming to us at CC for baptism might be a bit worried if we tried to introduce this practice at CC....
Life is actually quite comfortable here in the vicarage. I am getting used to most things, like doing laundry by hand. I am, however, finding cooking a bit of a challenge. I am still not entirely sure which pots are supposed to be used for which things and I am a bit nervous about using a gas bottle for cooking that is inside the house. In Wales, we use a gas bottle, but that one is outside the house, not inside. What makes me a bit nervous, as well, is that all the windows here have bars on them. There is only one door to the house and that one next to the kitchen. It seems a health and safety nightmare to me.
While I am getting used to a lot of things, there are some things that continue to baffle me. Celestine, the 16 year old girl who lives in the vicarage so that she can go to vocational college here in Flax to learn to be a dress maker, started school on Monday and is home today, tomorrow and Monday for half term break. I don't understand how it can be half term when the course only started last Monday. Another thing that continues to confuse me is how relatives are described. Children are seen as belonging to everybody, in a way, and not just to the biological parents, to the extent that an uncle will be introduced as the father. Makes it harder for me to work out who is married to whom. Actually, matching husbands and wives is a challenge anyway, as they don't tend to sit together, either in church or at social events. Generally speaking, women sit together and men sit together. Spouses don't tend to touch each other in public either, with the exception of marriage services when the couple will sit together holding hands for the second part of the service. Public displays of affection are frowned upon -- even holding hands.
It is fascinating, though, to be able to get a bit of an insight into another culture and another way of life. What is a huge privilege as well is that I am not the only one to benefit from my visit. To these fairly remote communities, my visit seems to speak of the love of God in a very special way. That a Christian from another part of the world would fly thousands of miles to be with them, to minister among them, to speak to them of the love of God, seems very powerful. That in itself makes this trip worthwhile for me. It is a huge privilege to be allowed to testify to God's love for all people, simply by being here. Simply by living in this community for 8 weeks. It's making me look at the incarnation in a different way. Not that I would want to compare myself with Christ, but there are parallels with the incarnation here, to my mind. Christ came to live among us to proclaim the love of God. My living here, in a very small way and for a very small while, seems to be conveying something of the same. It is possible to proclaim the love of God simply by being somewhere, it would seem, you don't even have to do anything in particular (well, apart from flying half way across the world and learning to live amongst people whose languages you don't understand). It is proving to be a very interesting Lent for me.
I hope you are having a good and blessed Lent, too.