It’s official! I have now passed the half-year mark of being in Kenya at Kabarak University (Oct 29th-April 29th; for Bruce, a few months longer, as he arrived August, 2015).
Slowly by slowly, I have settled in and am relaxing a bit more into my role and life here on this lovely, leafy, pastoral Campus-on-the-Equator.
As the Kenyans say, I am now “somehow getting used” (used as in “used to”; pronounced like boost).
Just a bit different than that first time around in 1992.
Twenty-three+ years ago, we came to settle into Kijabe, Kenya with our three kids and 35 pieces of luggage in tow. For five people. Seven items per person. (And yes, I do cringe just admitting that now, although it seemed like a good idea at the time).
At Kijabe Hospital that December, 1992, Bruce was one of four primary care doctors, one of whom also functioned as the Hospital Administrator/Medical Director. No other specialists, no clinical officers or interns, only one (two?) surgeon(s), and two nurse anesthetists.
Therefore, Bruce was immediately sucked into the black hole of the hospital a few days after our arrival from across the world to Kenya. We arrived on a Friday; by Monday, he was “on call”.
I got a bit of a reprieve, however. Initially a stay-at-home Mom, one piece of advice I received a few days after arrival was this:
Don’t feel like you have to do much of anything for the first six months here except just learn how to survive.
Wow. Seemed like a long time to just settle in…(although unpacking all that luggage did take awhile…).
But guess what? It did seem to take all of that time, together with my stretched-to-the-max ingenuity, creativity and willpower, just to get comfortable with the basics:
- How to actually breathe/get oxygen in the rarefied, 7000-feet-above-sea-level air, at a place where directions consisted mostly of “up” or “down” (the escarpment)
- Where to get “stuff”: all of the Xs, Ys, and Zs, or at least reasonable facsimiles thereof = “Blue Band” for margarine; “UHT” for milk; “fillet” for hamburger
- Learning how to make almost everything from scratch (breads & sauces: not bad; mayonnaise: not so much) in order to assemble reasonably palatable meals that my kids would actually recognize/eat
- Soaking veggies and fruits, bought from the door by the never-ending parade of vegetable ladies, in bleach…(to avoid acquiring unwanted “micro-friends”)
- Making American and Kenyan friends; learning Swahili; hiring both an inside and outside houseworker (did we need them? Yes we did)
- Wrapping our brains around the new form of currency (“Monopoly” money: all those Ksh/ 100s, 200s, 500s..)
- Remembering to lock the iron-grilled gates and barred windows each night… and wondering, initially, are my kids safe here? (Yes. Very).
- And…finally…learning how to operate the old Landcruiser, navigating it carefully on the “wrong” side of the road (took four months for me to work up the nerve to drive into Nairobi; a much shorter time for Bruce)
So, these past six months or so here in Kabarak? Piece o’ cake. Right?
He is one of “those kinds of people” who can dive right into whatever life, whichever hemisphere he happens to find himself in. He never looks back, never thinks twice about any of this kind of introspective stuff.
However, surprisingly (or not), it has taken all of this time for me. Even with no kids and no massive amounts of luggage, even with all my past of living here, being extremely familiar and comfortable with the road-traffic situation/people/foods/quirks/ways of life that I truly love….
Somehow, just like in 1992, six months in seems to be a “magic key”, a turning-the-corner point, the period of adjustment that I have needed to relearn and feel at home with everything here, once again.
Transitioning time needed:
To learn how to relax (when the power goes out; when the taps go dry; when the wonky Internet doesn’t connect; when the piles of laundry pile up, sometimes for weeks)
To learn how to breathe (when negotiating roadspace with lorries, tuk-tuks, boda-bodas, animals, people; when perhaps confronting a bat, “hanging out” on the outside wall, this close to my front door)
To learn how to let go (of missing family, home, dog, my American life; to quit scheming for ways to perhaps go there for just a bit; to turn my eyes and heart away from the longing of it all).
To learn how to commit (to the not-so-intuitive ways of doing things at this nursing school; to learn other perspectives, points of view, to adjust expectations and learn by doing, all things I had thought I learned before, but am somehow learning all over again).
To begin to embrace this life that I have been given, that I have been called to live here, with all of its challenges, opportunities, trials…and joys.
One six-month step at a time.
In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.
For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.
It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the gray promises that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.
Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plenitude opening before you.
Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life’s desire.
Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.
~ John O’Donohue ~ (emphasis added)