19 June 2005

all around

beginning to settle in.

In the 1970s book "Advice for Overseas Travellers," (that I picked up during my annual trip to a fishing shack book sale) was intented for Americans planning international travel. The first traveller was a pre-departure orientation of sorts, guiding Americans through the delicate process of shedding their unique cultural baggage and becoming "culture sensitive". Anyways, I skipped through that as i was certain I wouldn't be making any of the ignorant comments the book warned against.

Chapter 8 was all about the different stages and effects of culture shock. Some of the main symptoms were:

1. Idealizing the homeland.
2. Obsessive counting and cleanliness.
3. Staying indoors and avoiding contact with new people.

1. Alright so I am guilty of the first one I'll admit. At times I have longed for English, for anonymity and for quiet, safe nights. However I have come to love the sense of community, the fact that I know who will be sitting where on each porch as I walk down the street, and I love the cold showers.

2. It started out that way. I labelled each day of my malaria pills and sorted them into labelled ziploc bags by week. Now I am sliding into my more "relaxed" habits.

3. It's tempting to hide away and avoid the reality that most of the time you have no clue what people are doing...but Africa will charm you if you let it. I decided the best way to adapt is to fight the symptoms. So I took my watercolours outside, sat on the steps and began to paint my neighbourhood. that didn't last long cause within minutes, quite a few kids started gathering around to see what the mzungu was doing. I invited them to sit with me and painted pictures for them on their hands. I also painted them into my city scene, which was fun. They stayed with me for about an hour and helped me learn the kiswahili words for all that I saw. Star= "nyoto".
Later on, Pendo (our cleaning lady who I thought was my age but is actually 37) went for a tour of the city. We walked for hours as she told me all about the city. I only caught about 1/20 of what she was saying, but I appreciated the effort. We took a shortcut through the Maasai jewelery market...I love the maasai. Some sketchy old man came up and told Pendo I needed a husband. She showed him my pseudo-engagement ring and told him I was already engaged. (thank God I planned ahead for such an encounter). Everyone here knows about my "mchumba" (fiancee) which is pretty fun. The walk did my heart good, as walking always does. I am doing my best to embrace this town and adjust to living just south of the equator where the sun sets at seven all year long.

Hope all is well across the ocean.

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