Sunday, October 9, 2011

Culture, Thoughts and Reflections...

It has been a busy couple of weeks, with much to do to finish the Neema school. The realization that time for this stay is running out, has caused a lot of reflections and realizations. This project which I had originally thought would be simple and completed in a few months time, turned out to be a much larger challenge taking much more time then i had anticipated. This is Africa and I know that the only thing that can be planned is that things will not go as planned.
A few weeks ago the acting foreman said that he would be leaving to get rich doing work for the government in Nairobi. Since he left about two weeks have gone by, and I have been learning from the other guys at the site why this was a more challenging project then I thought that it would be. The foreman had been taking the instructions that I had given him and then told the guys to do things different. He would then play the workers against me and vice versa.
Unfortunately do to the culture here fear is always present in a Kenyans life, which is one of the reasons that corruption is able to run rampant. Everyone is in fear, if it is a fear of confrontation or just the fear of a person in authority.  This fear is instilled in a Kenyans life at a very young age, if it doesn't start at home then it starts when the child goes to school.  In school children can be cained for the most ridiculous reasons, such as having a scuffed shoe, or messy hair. As i have come to understand it doesn't matter if its a public or private school, instead of right or wrong all that I have seen being taught is fear and memorization.
This is the reason that the men i work with never came to tell me of any problems, they were afraid of the foreman, who had warned them not to talk to me. From the beginning of the project I had told the guys that this project was for them and their community. To give them work and for them to be a part of building a school that would help girls from their village to be able to learn skills and how to use that new skill to provide for themselves and their families.
All things aside things have been getting accomplished. The floors have now been finished, the electrical work was completed on Friday, ceiling boards have been finished in the offices, and the interior door has been hung although its door handle still needs to be fitted. Next week most of the painting should be under way and if things go well the fascia boards will be started.
The ground has been broken for the dorm which I am really hoping to be able to get a roof and slab completed for before my visa expires in just less then a month. I know that its not possible for me to finish on my own or even with the help of my Kenyan team but I know that all things are possible through God whom gives us strength. It has started to cross my mind to get a ticket to Ethiopia just to stay there for a few days so that I would then legally be allowed to enter back into Kenya and get a new visa in order to finish what has been started.
The perception here is that "mzungu's," which is the Swahili word for European or white person, just have unlimited money, they all live in mansions and drive fancy cars, and never have to work. Of course this stereotype that has come from what is seen in movies. To a lot of Kenyans its like a free pass to raise the price of goods or services for the mzungu. Sometimes its understandable and within reason and other times it blatant robbery, so while here its best to always be aware. The other place that this type of mentality has reached the people here is that missionaries come here and without establishing a relationship with a group or a person give to them financially. Which is thought to be a good and noble deed, but often it is done out of guilt to get a street beggar to leave them alone. The financial gift only reinforces their behavior of begging and not working, which really just robs them of their self worth. They get the mentality that they don't need to do anything because someone will come along and give whatever is demanded of them, but this will only meet the short term need without ever solving the problem.
Amos lives close to where I am staying and I would often to see him on my walk home. We have had many conversations but an interesting conversation came up one day, after he found out that I wasn't getting paid for the work I was doing and that I was doing it to help the community. He told me that there were some pastors in a church that he was a member of (not at the church that he is part of now) that would take pictures of children in the congregation and say that they were orphans in need of sponsoring, then take that money that came from abroad for themselves. He wanted to know how we could still be doing missions when there are people like that taking advantage of the generosity of people and churches. I told him that I have found it very important to build relationships with the people or group, otherwise it could very well be a scam like the one his former pastor ran. Criminals always take advantage of peoples mercy, weakness or ignorance.
One day I met a kid in town while getting passport photos to extend my visa his name was George. He asked me if I was new to town and if I would buy him some chi, and give him some money. I told him that I wasn't new that I had been in town for a few months. After I had gotten my photos I walked and talked with George. He told me his parents had died and that he was living on the streets. I asked if he went to school at Oasis, which is a free school for street kids. He said he didn't because when he went the kids would beat him and take his money. This seemed odd to me because he speaks really good English, or English really well, maybe better then me. Anyway later on that night or maybe the next as a group of us were walking Shawn and Meredeth home I heard George yelling, when I asked if that was him he shouted F* you. The next time I had to go into in town to get some things from the hardware I bumped into George again, I confronted him about living in Milimani which is a really nice part of town to live in, and a look of shame crossed his face but he wouldn't answer the question. I told him that he had a filthy mouth, and that I was disappointed with him. He continued to walk with me saying that I had promised him that I would by him chi. So I asked him if he went to school, he wanted to know if he could tell me the truth. I simply responded that it would be great if he was capable of it. With a smile he said yeah I go to school but we are on break now and I do live with my parents. He then told me that he was going to go bath in the river. I didn't see him after that my guess is that he goes to a private boarding school, and comes from a family that is very well off here. Yet he puts on some ratty clothes to go into town to get some extra spending money because it is very easy. This is just one example of why it is important to build a relationship with those that are asking of handouts.
On the flip-side in the time that I have been here I have found that there are a number of organizations and people that are doing great things. They have a needs for expansion, or just help with some maintenance but don't have the time to make sure that things are being done right, and honestly. Construction here is a problem, there have been numerous buildings that have collapsed in Nairobi, even here in Kitale there was a school that crumbled. I hearing the Lord say “who will go?”
Here I am Lord, but will I stay? I know that if it cant be worked out to stay now if its in Gods will I would like to return very soon, to finish what has been started and continue to follow the needs of the widows and orphans, and to live the life that God calls us to. Glory and praise belong to God!