Thursday, March 25, 2010

"Stuck in traffic" reflections

For some strange reason, this was written on a bus I saw in town today:
"co·zy /ˈkoʊzi/ [koh-zee]: snugly warm and comfortable, protected from unpleasantness".

Among us "exchange junkies" it's a well known fact that one is not truly Norwegian untill he or she understands the meaning of "koselig" or "cozy". No one can "kose seg" like Norwegians. And surely, we are very well protected from unpleasantness.

At the sidewalk behind the bus I saw a man. Maybe 30 years old; his hands and feet were too deformed for him to even be able to walk. Deprived of the ability to work because of his handicap, he was begging on the street of Nairobi. The word "cozy" is so far from his reality, it probably has no meaning to him.

Soon I'll be back in "koselige" Norway. But I doubt whether I will be able to "kose meg" like I did before. Reason? After six months of knowing poverty, hunger, corruption, crime and drug abuse by name, I am no longer protected from unpleasantness.

But I thank God. I would prefer knowing what I know today over "cozyness" anytime  

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Psalm of the day

This psalm is to be found in the book that we use for staff praise and worship.

Lord, I was blind! I could not see
In Thy marred visage any grace.
But now the beauty of Thy face
In radiant vision dawns on me.

Lord, I was deaf! I could not hear
The thrilling music of Thy voice.
But now I hear Thee and rejoice
And all Thine uttered words are dear.

Lord, I was dumb! I could not speak
The grace and glory of Thy name.
But now, as touched with living flame
My lips Thine eager praises wake.

Lord, I was dead! I could not stir
My lifeless soul to come to Thee.
But now, since Thou has quickened me
I rise from sin's dark selpuchre.

For Thou hast made the blind to see,
The deaf to hear, the dumb to speak,
The dead to live; and lo, I break
The chains of my captivity.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A camel was suddenly not as interesting anymore.

This blog post was supposed to be called "The day a camel escaped into Kamukunji", because untill 2 o'clock in the afternoon that was the most interesting thing that had happened today. At that particular time I was coming from town, and after paying a ridiculous amount of money in registration fee for the "Test Of English as a Foreign Language" I was pondering how to manage through the rest of the week with 200 shillings (15 NOK) left in my pocket.

(John, also called Nusu (=Half) and Simon)

As I turned the corner to get to my house a sight met me that was going to make my day a lot more interesting: 7 kids were sitting outside my front door, their shabby appearance far outweighed by the smiles on their faces.
- Kristina, we have come to visit! We have been waiting for you.

(The guys really went crazy with my camera.)

A moment later my house was filled to the breaking point of 10 to 15 year-olds exploring, playing on the computer, taking photos and doing every other thing that can be done in my tiny Kamukunji house. 70 out of my 200 shillings were spent on bread and tea to feed my hungry visitors.

("Do like Jackie Chan!!")

With the fun we were having we barely noticed that it was about to get dark. I asked the guys if they shouldn't be getting back "home" to town soon.
- Uhum... Yeah... was the only answer I got. Then Kevo, the non-formal leader of the group, found courage and told me what they were all thinking.
- We were kind of hoping we could spend the night here?

(Nusu and "Ndogo" (=small). Ndogo spent the evening washing dishes and cleaning up the house. When  tried to ask him to sit down and rest he chased me away.)

So that is how Carol and I ended up hosting seven kids for a sleepover tonight. As night fell I wondered how I would make sure my guests would not be left hungry: I was still pennyless and the house did not have anything but a few tomatoes and some maize flour. I started making "uji" (maize flour porridge), apologizing for not having anything else to offer them.

(With a bit of creativity anything becomes a good motif, even a pen.)

As I was cooking the kids ran outside, and soon they came back with some small mandazi (doughnuts) and chips, bought with the few shillings they had brought along.
- Phew, at least they won't have to sleep hungry, I thought. And as my mother instincts were running overtime I decided I didn't care whether I would take supper myself. Then I heard Kevo calling my name.
- Kristina! Let's share my mandazi! That's what we do right? We help each other with what we have!
Soon all the kids were coming, each giving me part of the little food they had bought.

(A somehow stressed Kristina trying to make sure nothing it broken in the midst of the fun and games.)

As we shared this small meal, I was almost moved to tears. I thought to myself that this is what the family of God is all about. So many times I have helped people out financially and said "I know you will do the same thing back the day I am the one struggling". But to be honest I had never thought that day would come so soon. Having a street-kid sharing his supper with me so that I wouldn't sleep hungry, it really humbled me. And it reminded me once again that before God we are all equal: that there is no giving and receiving side in His kingdom. We all receive, and we are all to share of what we receive.

(It was a memorable night for all of us.)

And now, as I am writing this post looking at 7 boys sound asleep on mattresses on my floor, I can only thank God for all that He has given me: education, tons of experiences, the ability to travel around the world; and tonight He gave me seven little friends who helped me out in a rough situation.
Tonight psalm 14 makes sense: "Fools say in their heart: There is no God". 

Monday, February 22, 2010

The photos are here!

Finally I have found a way of transferring my photos! So here are a few pictures from my world in Eldoret. These photos are mainly of our everyday life; Christian Union photos will be coming soon.

This is the village of Kamukunji, my home untill the end of March. I have come to love the place a lot! The photo is taken from my favourite spot at Reflection Hill.

This is inside our plot, which is usually full of kids, chickens, cows and every other thing you can imagine.

My front door: the one you should be looking out for if you feel like stopping by for a visit.

This is the kitchen area, complete with a gas cooker, a sink and a shelf for storage.

This is the bedroom: Carol and I are taking turns in sleeping on the bed and the mattress.

This is the office, where I can be stuck for hours reading.

This is the dining area, which can hold a total of two people, or four if you get creative.

This is Luis, our neighbour. He usually stops by every so often, especially when we are cooking.

These are the guys from my last blog post: Job, Samuel, Wilson, and Ken asleep on the bed.

Job: 12 years old, really bright, makes really good ugali and has become a good friend of mine.

Ken fell asleep almost as soon as we reached Hillary's house. I guess it had been some time since he had such a soft surface to sleep on.

I invited Ken to visit our house yesterday, and ended up with 14 kids in our tiny, one-room house.

It was a bit crowded, but we all had a great time!

The kids had a blast listening to music and taking photos of one another.

More pictures will be coming.

Friday, February 19, 2010

A cup of tea, cartoons and a whole new perspective

"Today, if you meet any street kid in town, you should invite him for a cup of tea." This was the first thought that passed my mind when I woke up this morning. Surely, sometimes God can be very specific.

And surely, almost the moment I reached town I was approached by one of the hundreds of boys who roam the streets of Eldoret, dressed in rags that you can just guess the original colour of, and with their bottle of glue faithfully installed on their upper lip. "Help me with a ten-bob for a cup of tea", he said, a phrase that I have heard from dosens of other children on dosens of other occations during my stay in Kenya.

But this child, and this occation, would turn out to be a bit different.

The next thing I knew, Carol and I found ourselves in a small restaurant, together with Samuel (that's his name) and his friend Wilson. As we took tea and mandazi, we listened to these 13 year-olds' stories of how their parents had passed away, leaving them homeless and without money for school fees. At the counter of the restaurant there was a small television, and the two kids soon fixed their attention on the "Scooby Doo" movie that was playing. I remembered how I used to love movies when I was their age, and asked myself how often these guys could be able to sit down, just relax and watch TV.

One thing led to another, and suddenly I found myself on the back of a motorbike, going together with these kids and two others who joined us along the way, to my friend Hillary's house to watch cartoons. We ended up spending the whole afternoon there, watching "Finding Nemo", having lunch, playing computer games, all those things that kids usually love doing.

"Do you use glue?" I asked one of the kids who joined us on the way. His name is Job, he is one of the most clever 12 year-olds I have ever met.
"Yeah," he said. "But not so much. I only use it at night, because if I don't I can't sleep."

After an afternoon that was definitely out of the ordinary for all of us, it was time to part. Job and Ken escorted me to the bus stage, as is commons courtesy in Kenya. When I was getting into the matatu I asked Ken where he and Job were going next.
"I guess we'll start looking for something to eat for supper", he said. As we left for Kamukunji, the other passengers must have been curious to see the "their mzungu" in the back of the vehicle, struggling to hold back her tears.

Now it is 11 o'clock at night, and almost bed-time for Carol and me. But I'm wondering whether I'll get any sleep at all, knowing that Samuel, Wilson, Job and Ken are spending the night in the dangerous streets in town. That there is noone around to make sure they have food in their stomacks and that their clothes are clean, to care for them when they are sick or protect them when they get scared.

And that these four friends of mine are only a few of the hundreds of boys who roam the streets of Eldoret, dressed in rags that you can only guess the original colour of, with their bottle of glue faithfully installed on their upper lip.

(Today more than ever I wish I had the cable for my camera, because Job took some amazing photos today that I would have loved to share with you. Instead I guess I'll have to illustrate even another post with some impersonal photos taken from the internet.)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Life at its best:

- To wake up in the morning, fetch water from the well and use it to take an ice cold bath.
- To walk for ten minutes to a river in order to fetch drinking water.
- To rush through the beautiful landscape of rural Kenya on the back of a motorbike.

(Finally I've been there, photo taken from the internet)

- To go for a swim in the crystal blue, crocodile-free lake behind Reflection Hill.
- To have everything from kids to hens running in and out of your house all day.
- To be greeted as "mkenya" and not "mzungu" at the town market.

(Public transport in rural Kenya, photo taken from the internet)

- To sing "Pamela come to God" with the children of Kamukunji, and pray with them for God to bless their families and their homes.
- To sit with an old lady on Reflection Hill, realizing that even if we don't speak the same language our Bibles say exactly the same.
- To see a young mother in the village come to realize that God loves her no matter what her past looks like.

(Any wonder why I love this country? Photo taken from the internet)

- To do all this, knowing that you are exactly where God wants you to be, and that without Him nothing of it would be possible.
Jeremiah 29:11

(By the way, I am sorry that I'm not able to post any of my own photos. The reason is that I clumsily have misplaced the cable for my camera. But photos will be coming... one day...)

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Mathare effect

It has been said that many years ago someone received a vision from God about the Mathare. This someone saw a light; emerging from this infamous valley, spreading all over Nairobi, covering Kenya, travelling across Africa and reaching every corner of the world.

(Photo taken from the internet)

"How are you wamekuja, the howareyous have come!". After a 6 hour journey I found myself back in Mathare for a weekend visit. As I walked down Juja Road together with Audhild and Miriam, familiar faces kept turning up. For every "old" friend we ran into, greeted, hugged and talked with I realized a bit more to myself: this is home.

(Photo taken from the internet)

I have a hard time explaining exactly why Mathare means something to me that nothing else can. Of course I could make my life easy by saying that it's because of my wonderful friends there, the things I have gotten to experience and the hospitality that we have met. But that's not all. There is something that runs much deeper.

What is it that makes not only me, not only the four of us, not only Norwegians, but the world; love Mathare?

(Photo taken from the internet)

Now, you may not believe in visions. You may not even be a Christian. But everyone out there who has interacted with Mathare knows what I am talking about. Mathare is not the only place of its kind; it's not even the largest. Yet an Italian has given his blog the name "Mathare for life". Yet there is a man in Nevada testifying of how the place changed his life. Yet there are countless organizations all over the world working towards the growth and prosperity of this community and yet there is a 19 year-old Norwegian sitting in her home in Eldoret right now, trying to put into words emotions that are still to big for her to really understand.

(Photo from the internet)

But there is another girl who has been able to express what I am trying to say. The following poem was written by Phoebe, a Mathare resident, when she was 16 years old:

"People ask you where you come from!

They like you because you are pure and
you have what they lack.
Do you know what you have?

You are brave, strong and courageous.
You fight for your lives and strive for
your future.
The rich can't use money as their
weapons, so they need you to be their
warning sign.

They inspire you and always respect you.
Do you know what you have?

You should appreciate that you have
Be proud that you are special.
Thank God that you have a big name
flying all over the world.

The big name "Mathare" that is what you have."