14 interesting facts about life in Kenya

Throughout the course of this blog I’ve shared numerous points of interest regarding Kenyan culture, but today I figured I’d focus on some things I’ve discovered that probably wouldn’t make it into a regular blog post. Whether you’re planning on traveling to Kenya, you have a general interest in Kenyan culture, or you’re a Kenyan checking to make sure I’ve got my facts straight, I hope you enjoy this post.

Greetings

Kelly, fellow expat and friend, recently wrote a blog post about her first year in Tanzania. One of the areas she focused on was greetings. Greetings here are similar, with just a few differences:

  • Normally you don’t smile at strangers or passerbys in Nairobi. As a woman, if you smile at a dude on the street, he may very well believe that you’re flirting with him… a little something I discovered during my first trip to Kenya.
  •  When you encounter people you intend to have a conversation with, always shake their hand or hug them first (they do it the British way – clasp hands then hug right and left) and use the following greeting:

                         Old School

                          Question: Habari? (How are you?)

                          Response: Mzuri (good)

                         New School (Sheng)

                          Question: Sasa?

                          Response: Poa

Side note: if you’re traveling to Kenya and you’ve found a book that tells you the proper greeting is “Hujambo”, it’s wrong. If you use that greeting, you’ve just stamped “noob” on your forehead. People in the coastal region use it, but you’ll definitely get some side eye if you use it in the other parts of the country.

  • If the individual you’re speaking to is with friends, you typically shake everyone’s hands or at the very least acknowledge their presence by nodding at them or speaking to them. When you enter a room of people, make your way all the way around the room shaking hands before you’re seated.

Ray had a hard time with this one in the States. It really confused him that after he met someone the first time, he wasn’t obligated to ever shake their hand again. Here you do it every time you see someone.

Petrol Stations

  • Kenyans refer to gas as petrol, so if you use the term gas, they think you’re referring to cooking gas.
  • People are not allowed to pump their own petrol. You are helped by an attendant at all times.

IMG_7248

Total Kenya

When Ray came to the States, I asked him to pump gas in my car, not realizing that he’d never done it before. I had to teach him, multiple times actually, because every time we stopped to get gas there was a different system.

Once he got the hang of it, he loved it.

Once he got the hang of it, he loved it.

  •  Everyone that I’ve ever ridden with only puts enough petrol in their car for what they need that day. They calculate how much they’ll need to get from point A to point B, and that’s all they put in the tank. You never know when you’ll need that money for something else.

Children

  •  Kids gain autonomy very early in life. Around the age of the three, they’re sent to baby class (the equivalent of our pre-school), where they have homework assignments and get a jump start on their education career.
  • By about the age of seven, sometimes before, they’re able to be sent on errands for the parents, even riding on the back of motor bikes by themselves or walking home from school or the bus stop with their younger siblings.

students

girls coming home

  • They can also cook with fire or even help slaughter the chicken for dinner well before they’ve reached adolescence.
  •  Unless I’m with American friends, I rarely see car seats. Kids can sit in the driver’s lap, in the passenger seat, or even crawl back and forth between seats.

kids in front seat

Money Matters

  • When driving through any town in Kenya, you’ll notice that every other shop is painted green with the words Mpesa displayed in bold lettering.

Mpesa

  • Mpesa (mobile money) is a method of transferring money via your phone. You can connect it with bank accounts, use it to buy airtime, send money to other people, and purchase goods and services. It started in Kenya and has spread to other countries, but it’s a very impressive money management system. If Ray’s at work and I tell him I need money for groceries, he just sends it to me via Mpesa, I go to the nearest station and withdraw, and it’s a done deal.
  • I’ve previously shared that there are small makeshift dukas (shops) where you can buy veggies or staple items right outside your home (the picture below is the duka directly in front of our gate)

duka

  • But I neglected to mention that they tend to operate on an honor system. Often times if we don’t have the money at the moment or can’t break a big note, we can still go down and ask for bread, eggs, milk, or whatever we need and not pay until we have the money. It’s astonishing to me that people who may need the money would allow you to get what you need at their expense until you’re able to pay. Just another great example of the importance of relationship in this culture.
  •  Secondhand clothing from the UK, US, and China come through the Mombasa port in droves. Thousands of people make a living in the secondhand clothing trade (mitumba). There’s a great post about it here.
come rain or shine

I took this photo the first time I came to Kenya while we were driving from Nairobi to Bungoma. Markets like this can be found almost everywhere.

  •  One major item Americans seem to think they should send overseas is clothing, but you’d be surprised to discover you probably already have clothes here if you’ve ever donated them to a charity (check out the article). My two cents on the matter is that there’s enough secondhand clothing here. It seems more beneficial to send money for people to buy clothes here so that you’re not only helping the beneficiary of the clothes, but you’re also helping others here who are trying to make money by selling the surplus stock of clothes they already have.
  •  Hair is a bigger market here than it is for African-American women in the States. No matter what your socioeconomic status is, if you have some money, getting braids or weave is a priority after getting food. I’m not joking either. That’s why aside from Mpesas and dukas, kinyozis (barber shops or hair salons) are probably the next most frequent shop you’ll see in any town or on any side road.

kinyozi

  • Some of you know that I’m a natural hair advocate, but I was surprised to see that the natural hair movement is still fairly new here, and it’s mainly based in the upper class. If people in the lower class are natural, it’s usually for practicality, not style, and their hair is usually shaved very short. It’s not practical or as enjoyable to do your own hair, so most women opt to visit the salon multiple times a month. I still get blank stares when people find out that I do my own hair. My sister-in-law told me that women will pay 2,500ksh ($32 dollars, which by Kenyan standards is pretty high) to have someone do to the same thing to their hair that has become a nightly routine for me. The hair culture is very different here.

I’ve got so many more notes to share, but to keep this post from getting too long, I think I’ll just break it up into a series. Feel free to shoot me questions if you want to know anything in particular. I’ll do my best to answer your question!

Photo creds: Ray Wasike

It finally happened

I always knew this day would come. In fact, I even prayed for it, but I never thought I would respond to its arrival like this…

It was no secret when Ray and I first got together that I was the one who was holier than thou, them, and their mommas. When I requested that the Lord send me a husband who was even more deeply entrenched in spiritual matters than I was, I knew that it would be a hard task even for Jesus. I’m being a bit facetious here, let the reader understand, but in hindsight I must admit that this was essentially my reality for some time.

Marrying Ray caused a fairly extensive paradigm shift for me. He challenged every notion of what I thought I wanted in a husband. Through my relationship with him and some wise advice from some trusted mentors, I discovered that  “marriage material” for a Christian is, in the most basic sense, a man who has a genuine heart for God and is willing to learn and grow even if that means his wife has to become the primary teacher. No matter where a guy falls on the spectrum of expressions of spirituality, those components are necessary. Each of these qualities and more could be found in Ray, so I gave up “the list” and chose to focus on sharpening my husband as he sharpened me.

It’s time to get out the grinding stone

From day one, even though Ray knew I had a deeper understanding of the Bible, he took the spiritual leadership role upon himself by implementing a daily Bible study every weekday. Thankfully he understood that he could still confidently claim that role in our family regardless of who was teaching who. I don’t think he felt daunted or threatened by me as much as he was challenged.

Eight and a half books of the Bible later, I’ve noticed a gradual shift in his excitement and hunger for the Word, as well as the strength of his contributions to discussion. Full disclosure, I used to get upset with him in the beginning because he never had much to contribute and when he did contribute it was what I considered weak sauce. (Put your pitchforks down, people. I’ve changed my ways.) The past couple months he’s actually been challenging my ideas (he’s usually right), digging into cross references and commentary, and demonstrating tremendous growth. At first I was really impressed and pleased by this change.

At first.

Then last month our church did a sermon series on prayer and extended a 21 day fast to the congregation. Ray decided to join in and not only fasted, but went to the 5am men’s prayer meeting, spent time every day in the other room doing personal devotions, and even received his prayer language (something he’s been wanting for a while) while he was in Tanzania. This man has really been pressing in and God has really been doing some new things in his heart.

Meanwhile… a storm’s a’brewing over yonder

I used to be an avid faster, but it’s not something I do too much these days because of a combination of migraines and an extended bout of apathy, so I opted out. Meanwhile, my husband was becoming this super Christian, and I found myself entering this dark place. When he said he wanted to spend an hour in devotions, I tried to discourage him from being away so long. We had movies that needed to be watched after all. When he shared some significant insight he’d gotten from his time with God, I either placidly nodded my head and forced a smile or yawned and rolled over.

After having prayed for so long that he would experience such growth, why did I have such a bad attitude when it finally happened?

Mike Bickle said once at a Onething conference, that when people try to discourage you from going hard after God, it’s usually because you remind them of how much they’re not. At the time those words were spoken, I ferociously nodded my head and circled that quote in my journal because I had plenty people in my life telling me that I was doing too much for God or “too heavenly minded”. Today I have to admit that I am on the other end of the spectrum. I’m the one who feels my desire to experience the fullness of God is waning and every inch of progress my husband makes causes me to feel it even more.

Bad girl, bad girl, what you gonna do?

I’ve bemoaned a certain loss of identity numerous times on this blog, so this isn’t a new concept as far as marriage is concerned. It’s just that this time I’m coming face to face with the reality that I’ve been reveling in a presumed identity as “the more spiritual one” in our relationship, so now that I feel like my husband is a challenge to that identity, I find myself clawing at him every time he threatens to take it away.

Enough with the identity changes already!

Of course this is just a perceived threat because he has not even the slightest intention of “de-throning” me or what have you, but it’s my pride that has caused me to put myself on a pedestal in the first place, and naturally it’s my pride that doesn’t want anyone to take me off.

I need Jesus.

Though I didn’t participate in the fast, I feel like that season was a good time for me because I’ve recently taken some time to do some soul searching and to lay my pride and insecurities (technically the same thing) on the altar of God’s mercy. Once you scrape off the layers of pride, self-righteousness, and jealousy, a tender heart that desires intimacy with the Father is revealed.

That’s all I want.

Admittedly, hearing the chorus members of the Lion King sing “they [the Pharisees] live in you” isn’t a pleasant tune to wake up to some days, it’s still quite a shock to realize that I can demonstrate more of their character traits than Christ’s, but then I just plug my ears and loudly sing the song my mom taught me as a kid:

“He’s still working on me

To make me what I ought to be

It took Him just a week to make

The moon and the stars

The sun and the earth

And Jupiter and Mars

How loving and patient He must be,

‘Cuz He’s still working on me.”

 

What’s your writing process?

Recently I joined a group of women on Facebook called The Peony Project. It consists of almost 300 Christian bloggers who encourage one another through social media support, praying for one another, commenting on each others’ posts, and link ups. There are a number of link ups circulating in the group, and I’ve been tagged by Neive of The Aussie Osborns in one called “The Writing Process”.

The writing process

Here goes…

Question 1: What am I working on?

Some of you may know this from Facebook, but The Lookout magazine has hired me to do a devotional series for March 2015, so I’ve been reading through the assigned commentary in preparation for those. My goal is to get them completed before we move to Kitale next month! I also have been recording hours upon hours of information from Ray’s grandparents to pen a biography for them. They have a phenomenal story to share, and I hope to be able to do it justice as I relay it through my writing style. Aside from those bigger projects, I’ve got this blog, She Is Set Apart, and a few other freelance projects in the works.

Question 2: How does my work differ from others of its type/genre?

Within the context of intercultural marriage, I honestly haven’t found many blogs focused specifically on tackling the topic, and even if I were to find one that was intercultural with a Christian American wife and Kenyan husband, it’d be even more rare to find a Black American with a Kenyan. Our relationship in general is just… different, so our story is pretty unique. I’ve also noticed since joining The Peony Project, that I’m not as into photography and Pintrest-y sorts of things as the majority of my blogging cohorts are. If you’re looking for DIY projects to spruce up your craft room or to decorate your house for fall, let the reader understand… I’m not your girl.

Question 3: Why do I write what I do?

For my own sanity. Journaling has always been a preferred outlet for me, but after marriage I found myself doing it a lot less. When we first moved here my social life was dangling by its bootstraps, and we didn’t have Internet access unless I went to a cyber cafe, so I couldn’t contact my go-to girls. With Ray leaving every day to go to town for work, I felt incredibly lonely and even depressed. My friend Michaela, among others, had suggested before we left that I keep a blog to share about what’s happening on this side of the Atlantic, so I began to write and I haven’t stopped since. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve made for me since we moved here. I don’t write to make money or because I think I have something to say that people need to hear; I do it for me. To share my thoughts and communicate with people as if we were sitting together. That’s one reason I appreciate the people who comment a lot (Kim Cooper) or people who message me on Facebook to talk more about what I write. You don’t know how much it means to me. Thank you for that.

Question 4: How does your writing process work?

They say you should avoid friendships with writers if possible because you never know when you’re going to end up as the subject of their next piece. Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s a fact. I write from my experiences and I experience life with people, so people are often the subjects of my posts. As an introvert, I’m always observing and processing. I may not always verbalize what I’m thinking, but I’m always wondering how I can frame what I’m seeing, feeling, and thinking into a blog post or a song. I usually keep track of my ideas by putting them on my phone or Ray’s phone, in my notebook, on scraps of paper, or by starting drafts on my WordPress app. Once I have the idea down, I usually can sit down and crank out a blog in about two hours. After that I’ll edit, edit once more, send it to Ray for approval, edit, publish, and then edit again. You can imagine what I used to do to my middle school students’ papers.

Writing has been such a phenomenal outlet for me personally, but also a spiritual challenge to do the things I encourage others to do. I’d like to thank those of you who have been supporting me all the way through as well as those of you who are new readers. It’s a blessing for Ray and I to be able to share our lives with you and to hear your own stories (i.e. your comments on the post about jealousy in marriage really encouraged me to know that we would get past it as we matured, and it didn’t take long for that issue to dissipate).

I also want to thank Neive for tagging me in this. This is the first time I’ve ever participated in a link up, and I look forward to doing more as I get acquainted with other ladies in the project.

Finally, to complete the challenge, I have to tag three other bloggerss to join the link up. I choose…

Naomi Martin – Art in Liberty

Sarah Siders – Sarah Siders

Debbie Rivers – Abundant Lifestyle

Have a great rest of the week, guys. Much love and many prayers!

The anniversary countdown begins … wedding video highlights

Video

In honor of our approaching one year anniversary (one month from today), we figured we’d share some snippets from our American wedding for those of you that weren’t able to be there. Although there were two cameras during the ceremony, we only have the footage from one to share with you, but it’s still pretty decent. We hope you enjoy!

Oh, and fret not, dear friends. When I say “countdown”, it doesn’t mean that I will be bugging you with an actual thirty day countdown wherein I’ll regale you with 300 things I love about my husband (ten items per day, of course). No need to temporarily unfollow the blog. Just simmer down now.

We will continue the tradition of sharing our challenges and triumphs though, like we did at the six month mark. That was probably one of the most visited posts on our old blog page, so I guess people liked it.

Finally, I’m hoping to have finished a special surprise for you guys next month too, so keep an eye out for that. I think it’s going to be pretty awesome, but I think a lot of things are awesome that no one else does, so if you don’t like it, just smile and pretend, okay? That’s what friends do. Friends don’t let friends know they don’t like the special gift they made them.

(Side note: I wrote this while Ray was in Tanzania. I had been alone in our bedroom for five days, so I apologize for the incessant babbling. I was lonely.)

The article made me do it

Have you seen the video of the doctor distracting a baby while he gives the kid a couple shots? It’s cute, right?

A friend of mine posted this video on Facebook the other day, and after watching it I left the comment: “So precious.”

In response, a total stranger commented: “Not precious at all – Please educate yourself for your children’s sake.” Attached to the statement was a link to an article on the horrors of vaccination and why people should never vaccinate their children.

Normally something like this wouldn’t bug me, but just a few days earlier I had received some links from a friend regarding various reasons why Ray and I shouldn’t circumcise our boy(s). Now, I have no ill feelings towards my friend, and I appreciate her concern for the wellbeing of our future children (I actually agree with the scriptural portions of her point), but these two occurrences really got me thinking about how mighty the article has become in American culture.

Make room for a new king

Next to Jesus, Google is king in our home, and I’m the one responsible for making it that way.

  • If I want to know how to edit videos better, I’ll google it.
  • If I need natural solutions to ward off malaria-ridden mosquitoes, I’ll google it.
  • If my gas is smelling especially putrid… hold on, just plug your nose for the 0.46 seconds it will take Google to give me a diagnosis, and we’ll be good to go.

article blog

There are millions of articles and random folks out there in Cyberland ready and willing to tell me how to live my life, and I’m totally open to receive most of what they throw at me. Upon reading an article, well usually it’s more like skimming an article, I feel like I’ve become a semi-expert on the matter, so not only does it become a belief that I instantaneously hold personally, but anytime someone asks for help in that area, I’ve got the answer for them too. Just read this article and it will make you think like I do.

The problem is, sometimes I’m wrong.

How many times have you seen an article saying that some research institute has discovered that a certain food causes cancer causing you to promptly boycott the product until a few weeks later the “just kidding” response is released and we’re told that the food actually helps ward off cancer? (The soy controversy had me all kinds of confused.) How many people had you convinced before the “just kidding” article that they should also stop buying that particular item of food? Or how many times had you shared a video or article on Facebook about a certain event only to have someone comment, “Um, yeah, that’s fake” or “That never happened,” and then you felt salty for disseminating a lie?

Here’s a question for you: do you feel saltier for sharing it or saltier for believing it?

A quick detour from the information superhighway

Lest this rant get out of hand, let me get to my point. I have two:

Point 1: Sure, cruise the information superhighway, but remember that you have people in the car with you who have real life experiences as well.

I’ve seen many of my friends go through cycles where they get frustrated with how connected to technology people have become these days, and they get rid of Facebook for a week or a month (the hardcore ones do it for a year or more), all in the name of pressing in to be more relational. I wish that people would do the same when it came to the dissemination of information. Don’t send me an article and just tell me that what I believe is wrong, but walk with me, teach me, show me what you believe and let me come to my own conclusions. If you share an article with me, please share it within that context. I’m not going to do something just because your article told me to. As my friend Lisa once said, just as anyone can find any scripture to back up any belief they have, articles can serve the same purpose.

Ray and I went to visit our neighbors for dinner a while back, and the wife asked me where I learned to make chapati. I told her I googled it and found some videos on YouTube. She looked a bit bewildered and responded, “I’m right next door, why don’t you just come over and let me teach you?” That’s not the first time I’ve gotten that kind of response, which is one of the things I love about Kenyan culture. It’s all about relationship. Kenyans can share information with one another, but they do it within the context of relationship. Wouldn’t it be cool to teach kids more about the importance of primary sources so instead of doing a Google search on the Vietnam war, they actually talk to their veteran uncle? Articles are definitely important, but they shouldn’t take precedence over relationship.

Point 2: Maybe if we valued wisdom and knowledge over tidbits of information, we’d be smarter.

“Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?” – T. S. Eliot, “The Rock”

We are exposed to a wealth of information with the world literally at our fingertips, and that in and of itself isn’t bad, but we can be bombarded with so much information that we don’t actually know anything. I refer to this a lot, but the Hebrew word for “know” is yada. It actually has five dimensions, and the gist of them all is basically that if you claim to know something, you know it in complete detail because you’ve studied, analyzed, investigated, or personally encountered it. This is the root of knowledge. This is what we should be passing on, not information you’ve barely processed yourself but have been persuaded to believe in the two minutes you took to skim through an article or watch a YouTube video. There’s far too much information and not enough knowledge being passed around.

Please note that I’m talking to a specific group of people here. Some of you do have sufficient knowledge in the things that you share with others. As long as you’re following point one, more power to you.

There’s a reason we’re told to seek wisdom as for precious gold. It’s through our life experiences and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that we gain the ability to make correct judgments and decisions. Knowledge can help guide the decisions that we make, but it’s not the ultimate goal. Wisdom is. There was a time I was asked to speak at an AGLOW meeting, and I shared on the Holy Spirit. I had spent the summer really sitting with God and asking some questions about how to live by the Spirit, so everything I shared in my message was the result of that extended conversation. After I spoke, an older gentleman approached me and said, “I just want to encourage you because God showed you in a few months what has taken me thirty years to learn.” I can’t and don’t say that to brag, because it’s been a long time since I’ve just sat before the Lord and asked His Spirit of wisdom to enlighten my eyes instead of going straight to the computer to find articles or commentary whenever I have a question. Again, I’m not saying commentary is bad, I love using it, but I am saying that there’s something to be said about the acceleration of true knowledge and wisdom that comes from seeking it directly from the source.

Knowledge unto itself is just knowledge

In the western world we tend to value our access to information and we take pride in our knowledge, but knowledge unto itself is just knowledge. There’s no real fruit to be gleaned from it unless it’s put into action. I know people who have studied the Sermon on the Mount forwards and backwards multiple times, yet they don’t live its teachings out nearly as well as some of the people I’ve found here in Kenya that have maybe a sixth grade education and couldn’t even tell you where the Sermon on the Mount is located. It’s not about how much you know, people, it’s about how well you live out what you know. When you stand before the Father one day, that’s all He’s going to care about. Can it be all that we care about too?

[Disclaimer] I must end this slight diatribe by acknowledging that I do realize the irony of writing a blog post about why we need to stop relying so much on articles. Just doing my part to challenge you in your search for understanding. 😉

When He’s Gone

raybay

I used to love sitting alone in my bedroom for hours.

Staring at the wall, staring at the TV, staring at the laptop, or even staring at my reflection as I divulged my deepest thoughts about life to myself… if it involved staring, I was doing it. And loving it.

For some reason I was convinced that when I got married I would miss that, and at the beginning I did.

But now that Ray has been in Tanzania since Monday and won’t be back until Sunday, I’ve gone back into staring mode.

And I hate it.

Life is so boring without Ray.

The reality of how lame my social life was before he came along also sucks.

Counting down the days until he returns and I can look at his face instead of my belly button.

The challenge of living in the moment: battling restlessness

Just last week I caught myself saying, “I can’t wait until it’s Thursday.”

Some friends had informed us of a conference in Kasarani and offered to pay for our hotel room. We were definitely in need of a break, so we decided to go for it.

No sooner had I flopped onto the bed in our hotel room, I sighed, “I can’t wait until the conference starts.”

Again, sitting in the bleachers at the the stadium, I whispered to Ray, “I can’t wait until we meet up with your family tonight.”

On and on the cycle of “I can’t wait” went, and though I’ve only recently become aware of its constant appearance in my speech, I suspect that it’s been around for quite some time now.

Created to be restless

There’s a restlessness inside of me that won’t allow me to be satisfied with anything. I’m always looking for something more, something better. In the purest sense, it’s really not a bad thing.

We were created with an eternal base, an eternal spirit, so naturally there is a desire to put off these mortal garments of skin that keep us chained to this temporal earth. (Tweet this)

Scripture meme

Given that this is a natural and pure desire, I can still keep my eyes fixed ahead, but the problem is that my desire for heaven has been turned from where it should be and placed on temporal things. Instead of hoping to be with Jesus where He is, I’m hoping that the next event in life will bring some sense of happiness, peace, or purpose. The one thing that is needed is to reset my focus to where it needs to be and to see each event in life as a means to the end instead of a means to an end.

There is purpose in every single moment lived, and the sum of them contribute towards my eternal purpose. (Tweet this)

If everything I do in life is building up to eternity and my hope is set in heavenly places, I’m going to engage in each moment as though it counts for something, which really frees me from looking at each situation as an end all, be all. Instead, being with Jesus is my end goal, and He is all I ever need.

I hope this challenges you today as it has challenged me. Much love and many prayers!

Reflections on teaching and why I sought a new platform

“You’re a bad teacher!”

The moment those words were spit in my face, I knew that my days in formal education were coming to a close.

She’s got high apple pie in the sky hopes

I used to be one of those kids that asked my grade school teachers for extra worksheets before summer break so that I could force my younger relatives to come to my bedroom turned classroom for play school. If anyone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would eagerly blurt out “Teacher!” before they even finished the question.

It didn’t take a spiritual gifts test for me to realize that my gift was teaching.

Even when I reached college, while everyone was changing their majors and reinventing their life missions at least thrice, I stuck with teaching. I may have bounced between interests in kinesiology, sociology, cultural anthropology, and English, but my goal was always to teach.

Finally, I settled on English (though I was more interesting in writing than reading). It seemed like a good fit.

During my courses in the college of education, I was the student that skipped to the board and stood in the splits when I taught my peer reviewed lessons and was described by the instructor as being “loosey goosey”. Making lesson plans was exhilarating and being able to construct lessons that students actually liked was a fun challenge for me.

Here, there, and back again

Then student teaching happened.

I was placed in a school with teachers that had been there a long time and didn’t really have an interest in being there much longer. Of course because of that, they had very jaded attitudes and no qualms about passing their negative opinions onto all of us student teachers. I tried to ignore it and focus on the students (I ended up making lots of great connections with the kids, some that have lasted to this day), but nevertheless, I became very disillusioned. By the time I graduated, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to be a teacher anymore.

It took less than five months in that atmosphere for my hopes of being a teacher to wither away.

Still, I had to make money once I moved back home, so I figured I’d substitute teach. One sub job in particular turned into a part-time position, which soon became a full-time gig. Slowly but surely, working in this new setting brought me out of my funk, and I began to love teaching again. For four years I came to know and love so many students, and I put lot of effort into building relationships with them. Incoming seventh grade girls were invited to my house for facials or craft parties, I took the majority of my female students out for lunch on the weekends (until I couldn’t afford it anymore, then I just had them come to my classroom for lunch), and I ensured my classroom activities were student-centered rather than teacher-centered. I had so much fun with those kids, so much that during one teacher evaluation the principal told me I acted more like a youth pastor than a teacher.

I didn’t think that was a bad thing.

I loved teaching and I’d like to think that my students enjoyed being in my classroom.

Some of my favorite people in the entire world.

Some of my favorite people in the entire world.

The turning of the tides

Even so, I didn’t feel as though I was “called” to stay there for a long time or to be a teacher in that kind of setting once I left. I just wasn’t sure when the change would happen or what I would do afterwards. An altercation with a student’s parent, based on a total misunderstanding, was a crippling blow to my self-worth and really became the catalyst in confirming the notion that maybe being a school teacher just wasn’t for me. So much good had come out of my experience at the school and leaving my kiddos was hard (their school pictures are part of our living room decor here), but by the end, I was tired.

It was fun while it lasted.

When we first moved to Kenya, Ray suggested that I apply for teaching jobs here, and I refused to the point of tears and accusations that he didn’t really love me. My teaching experience hadn’t ended extremely well, so I had no desire to go back into that field, especially in a new setting where teachers are supposed to be strict disciplinarians (they still cane here). I’ve never been great at being professional or maintaining a strict teacher-student distance in the academic setting in the States, so I knew I wouldn’t be able to cut it here. I told him my days of teaching were over and that I wanted to find something else to do with my life.

Finding a new sense of purpose

When God gives you a gift, I don’t believe it ever dies. (Tweet this)

You may be able to sit on it for a while, but sooner or later it will come out in some form or fashion. Through all my experiences, good and bad, I’ve learned that just because I have the calling to be a teacher doesn’t mean that I’m called to be in the academic setting.

I use my gift when I write, I use it when I lead Bible studies, I use it in conversations, and I’m most definitely going to use it when it comes to The Joshua Blueprint, our fledgling organization that will be partnering with children’s homes to provide access to arts and media training. We’re currently in the process of building curriculum, which I’m actually really digging, and then once we get started, I’ll be able to engage with kiddos in a classroom setting once again.

That’s my heart.

I love the thought of being my own boss when it comes to this organization and being able to engage freely with the kids without someone telling me I’m not being professional enough. Yes, I can be professional when it comes to leading board meetings and whatnot, but I can also teach while dancing across the classroom and let students learn the way they like to learn, because JB is all about creativity and letting creatives be creative, which generally can get messy. The best part is that the Head of our ministry enjoys the crazy creative process we go through to create personal expressions of worship, and He is more eager to engage with the kids in the process than I am.

I can’t wait to get back into the classroom and watch my students create.

It feels so good to have my heart for teaching feel alive again. It’s been quite a journey getting here, but I finally feel like I’m where I belong.

If you haven’t already, be sure to “like” our Facebook page to stay updated on what we’re doing with JB. You can also read my post on our first scouting trip to Kitale to get some more background information.

My culture, my crutch: it all comes down to love

If Ray was married to someone of his own culture, he would never have to have “intense discussions” with his wife about the dishes, but since he’s not… let the games begin!

My culture, my crutch

Ray and I were warned early on in marriage to be realistic about our shortcomings as individuals and to be careful of blaming everything on cultural differences. In intercultural marriages it’s very easy to blame your negative attitude or bad behavior on culture and completely disregard your responsibility to do something about it. Just because it’s a cultural belief that you’ve held since childhood doesn’t mean it’s right or that it should take precedence over doing what you know is right.

Because the premise for this entire blog site is to share how my husband and I deal with our cultural differences, it’s clear that culture has made a huge impact on our lives. What hasn’t been clear to me is how to transcend all the recurring issues that stem from holding too tightly to cultural expectations. There are times when culture can feel a lot like law, and it becomes difficult to keep from holding it in higher regard than we hold each other. Next to the prompting of the Holy Spirit and advice from spiritual leaders, culture is one of the more dominant factors in our decision making process as a couple, and I’m still trying to figure out how I feel about that.

It all comes down to love

I’ve shared before about how I desire to adopt a heavenly culture instead of swearing an allegiance to my own or even to my husband’s culture… and that’s about as far as that went. I made the statement, felt it was profound enough to give myself a pat on the back, and walked away from the laptop without any plan of action to make that my reality. Seven months later I’ve come full circle, and this time I aim to finish it right.

When I speak of a heavenly culture, I’m talking about a culture where love is the norm. It is deeply embedded in every relationship, every action, and every motive of the heart both spoken and unspoken. 1 Corinthians 13 is one of the best places to find an explicit list of what the manifestation of this culture looks like. People who are of a heavenly culture are patient, kind, they don’t envy or boast, they’re not proud, rude, self-seeking or easily angered, they keep no record of wrongs, they don’t delight in evil but rejoice with truth, and they always protect, trust, hope, and persevere. Every culture has its stereotype, but this is the stereotype of those who belong to a heavenly race: they act justly, love mercy, and they walk humbly with their God.

If I really am an ambassador of heaven or an alien to this world, I should be living by the standards of my primary culture, my heavenly culture. To set this culture of love in our household means that I should serve my husband without expecting him to do a single thing in return for me. It means that I lose the right to nag about the dishes he leaves in the sink and he loses the right to complain if I don’t wash all the dishes before the ants come to do the job for me.

We’ve been doing it all wrong.

Removing the yoke of law from our marriage

In every conversation we’ve ever had about household responsibilities, we’ve relied totally on cultural expectations. I am supposed to wash the dishes because I’m the wife. It’s my job, as is everything else in the kitchen. Yes, that’s the norm for his culture, but sometimes knowing that it’s my job or my duty can cause me resent it, and honestly it can make me resent Ray when he reminds me that I’m slacking on my responsibilities. But if we operated under the norms of our heavenly culture, there would be no need for either of us to nag each other, because we’d naturally pick up the slack (without keeping record of anyone’s failures), and if we’re truly loving and serving each other to the fullest, there shouldn’t be much slack to pick up.

One of the love reminders I've put around the house to remind us of home.

One of the love postings I’ve put around the house to remind us of home.

Side note: I know I just posted a blog about serving with the knowledge that one day you will receive a return on your investment, and that’s still true, but I’m just saying that love can understand the reality of the “you reap what you sow” cycle and still say, “Even if I don’t receive a return, my time serving was well spent.”

Dishes may seem like sort of a trivial application for the love culture, but this principle applies to all areas of marriage. In this particular area we were trying to strategize about how to go about dealing with the dishes: I do them on the weekdays and he does them on the weekends, but we are responsible for doing our own dishes as we use them, unless you take the dishes for the other person into the kitchen, then you wash both, and blah, blah, bliggety, blah. Isn’t that gross? Coming to the realization of how love removes the “need” for law, shuts down the whole conversation. Forget all the guidelines and amendments, just love each other and it will naturally balance itself out. I’ll show honor to my husband and fulfill his expectations of me without having to beat myself up so much about my shortcomings as an American trying to fit into Kenyan culture.

Just as Jesus came to remove the yoke of law from our necks and offer himself as the purest demonstration of love, when we seek to love, the pressure of cultural law is lifted.

Love fulfills everything. Love covers all. Love never fails.

Working together for a great cause

All has been quiet on the blogging front for some time now, but for good reason. Ray and I were back in western province the last few weeks to spend some time working on a project with his grandparents in Bungoma, and to do our first short documentary for some missionaries in Kitale.

We worked our first real job together and lived to tell the story.

Is this really happening?

When Ray and I first got married, I never even suspected that this would be a career we’d pursue as a couple, but here we are starting our own little Wasike Creations business, and we’ve not only successfully completed our first job, but we’ve already got another big job lined up! God has really taken us into an area where neither of us feel totally qualified, but the whole process has literally been thrilling. So often throughout the recording and editing sessions, it was all we could do to just cling to one another and ask, “Is this really happening?”

Prior to all of this, Ray especially had a fear of moving to Kitale because he knew that with the work we want to do, we would be around each other 24/7. We tried that once when we lived in the States, and it was disastrous. We fought all the way to counseling and back, and it scared the bejebus out of my dear husband. He honestly couldn’t see how we could possibly stay married if we ended up in a position where we were working together all the time. Looking back, I have to agree with his logic. We weren’t mature enough or ready for it then, but our season in Nairobi has really helped us build an appropriate foundation for the work we need to do in Kitale and for being together all the time, so now we have no excuse.

Divine connections and strategic orders

The last time we were in Kitale we got connected with Bill and Patricia Cornell, the founders of Vision for Africa Ministries. They’re missionaries that have been serving the people of Kenya since 2001, and over the past few months they have become dear friends and incredible spiritual mentors to us. Whenever we leave their home we feel challenged and inspired to pray and love harder. While we were visiting with them the first time, they shared tons of stories about their ministry and told us that with the quick expansion of their reach, they needed to raise funds so they could serve their students better. Our offering to help was the beginning of everything.

They had $100 left in their pockets and they gave it to us to plant a seed towards the work we would do for them. No amount of self-doubt in our own abilities could keep us from working on their project at that point. They knew God connected us for a reason and were willing to invest the last amount of money they had in us. Of course God always rewards acts of faithfulness like that, because the next day they received an unexpectedly large donation, and we got our bicycle, equipped with brand new training wheels, pushed into the beginning of a new life assignment. When we got home we began dreaming and scripting and planning, all the while feeling twinges of excitement at what lay ahead.

Step by step, day by day

Ironically enough, Bill and Patricia live and work together 24/7, so they were great people to work with on this first project, because they gave us great insight on how to work together whenever we would hit rough spots. Here are a few things that they either shared with us or that we gleaned from the experience:

  • Clearly define your roles. This is one of the most important things to do before you begin working together. Ray films and directs, and I interview and edit. For the most part, knowing what each person is responsible for takes a lot of pressure to micromanage off of our shoulders. To allow him to do his own thing with his role shows that I trust him and I believe in his talent, which really emboldens him to do his best. There may be times when we switch hats and he’ll ask me to direct and I’ll ask him to edit something, but it’s imperative that you wait for the person to ask so you don’t step on his toes and squash his creativity.
Documentary Interview

Interviewing Bill and Patricia.

  • Recognize when you need help and ask for it. Even though each person needs some autonomy, you have to be careful of compartmentalizing too much. Just like in marriage, you’ll find in work that you each have certain strengths and weaknesses. Most likely your talents combined help to balance those weaknesses out, so why not utilize that? Yes, I’m the editor, but Ray understands Adobe Premiere much better than I do, so if I try to be a lone island, I’m going to be the one everyone points to when the ships sinks.
future photographers

Some local kids wanted to see what Ray was seeing while we shot.

  • Be willing to receive correction from your spouse. There will be times when your spouse reviews your work and he won’t think you did as great of a job as you think you did. Don’t argue about who is right, just let him show you what he thinks would be better and then decide from there. Sometimes I would suggest a change to something Ray did, so he would change it, we would see that it wasn’t as cool as I thought it would be, and we would go back to his idea. Sometimes you just have to give the other option a chance before you discuss so you are both in a better position to decide what works best. Just be sure when you’re correcting your spouse to speak with all manners of gentleness and love. Don’t let your titles or workspace cause you to treat your spouse like an underling.
Forcing a smile at the end of a recording session.

Forcing a smile at the end of a recording session.

  • Know when it’s time to take a break. Ray and I would shoot all day and then go into the office and work on editing late into the night. Around 2am we would find ourselves arguing over stupid stuff quite a bit, at which point I would promptly send Ray to bed while I kept working. By the end of the week we had worked out a schedule where he worked until 4:30am while I slept, and I worked through the rest of the morning while he slept. Surprise, surprise… no more fights. If you feel the tension between you rising, don’t force it, just take a break.
  • Pray together before, during, and after. This is something the Cornells told us. We had talked to them about fighting while working, and they came into the office and encouraged us to pray with each other. There’s always something calming about praying together as a couple. It also helps you focus on the bigger picture, what God wants from you and what He wants to do with you, as opposed to the problem at hand.

 

Bill helping Ray with sound.

Bill helping Ray with sound.

  • Let work be work and home be home. We were staying with the Cornells the entire week that we were in Kitale working on this project, so we practically lived in Bill’s office and basically only came out whenever Patricia called us to eat.  Once we left the office, we didn’t really talk about the project, we just focused on building relationship with them and enjoying one another. Bringing the stress of work into your personal life really adds some serious strain on your relationship and you don’t want that thing looming over your head as you try to live your life. Leave it alone, go do what you need to do, and you’ll be surprised that your perspective will have changed by the time you come back to work.
  • Have fun. Though making these videos was tough work, Ray and I made a point to have fun. While we were shooting Pastor Raphael, we took a minute to be all kissey kissey in the road, and a guy on a motor bike came by and was like, “Get off the road! This is not the place for romance!” (insert childish giggles). While we were exporting the first promo, we went outside and did a photo shoot in the very first African dress Ray got for me. I normally hate it when he wants to do photo shoots, but this time it was a welcome break. We even stopped once and I grabbed a guitar while we sang worship songs loudly and badly to let off some steam. After twenty minutes of that, we were refreshed, happy, and ready to get back to work.

African dress

snuggle buddies

This was only our first job, so we’re by no means experts on this topic, but because things ultimately went so smoothly for us and because I’m a writer, I was taking notes of everything we did. So this isn’t just a self-help list for you, but it’s a reminder for us of how to work together once things really get going. Hope it helps you as much as it helped us!

Remember, “teamwork makes the dream work”.

#teamjesus

The promo for VFA’s YouCaring fundraiser (please check it out and help them get the word out by sharing)

The full 15-minute documentary