In addition to picking up some Swahili words and phrases, I've had to learn some new English terms as well. When I asked for a trashcan I was met with blank stares and it took some explaining before they realized I meant a "dustbin". Other words are "plaiting" instead of braiding, "sitting room" instead of living room, "chips" instead of fries, "tomato sauce" instead of ketchup, "boot" instead of trunk, etc. They're all very similar but sometimes when I forget and say the version I'm used to it takes a second for people to understand me.
I've been slightly nervous about today ever since Fridah told me that Alexia would drag me to church. I don't usually go to church, so when I do I never really know what I'm supposed to be doing. I tend to stay in the back and follow people in front of me to know when to sit/stand. I end up looking really awkward so I try and blend in and not be noticed...I knew that wouldn't be a possibility today!
Today was the coldest yet and I threw on a fleece when I saw Alexia wearing a puffy winter coat. Mist hung suspended in the air as we walked out to the car. During the drive, Stephen told me that Alexia asked him last night "Why did God make Gwen white?". She said that she was the wrong and ugly color. It made me so sad to hear that! At lunch she said that next month she will sleep with me so when she wakes up in the morning she will be white. Stephen was joking with her and said "What is this on your hands? Are they turning white already?". She looked at her hands and said that yes they must be.
The church is down a bumpy dirt road and around the corner. It's plain and simple but very pretty. The stones the church is made from can be seen both inside and out. Along the base of the roof are square holes with screens to act as windows and bring in light. On the back wall above the stage are three blue curtains that say across the top in white letters "Jesus-Our Greatest-Gift".
I walked in with Alexia and we were the only ones there aside from an elderly couple in the front. I thought maybe just maybe I could remain semi-unseen. I was so wrong.
The leader and preacher were both women which I found out later was because the women's fellowship was leading the service today. The topic was "Everyone is worthy before God" which she explained to mean that everyone has gifts and talents and no one should ever feel inferior. It was a nice message.
When we first arrived a few people were singing on stage next to a photo montage of horses. There were horses running by the beach, and through the hills, and even in front of windmills, each photo looking more like it was taken in Europe than Kenya. A man to their left was playing a keyboard which added an electronic beat to the singing. I couldn't help but think that it sounded like what Mates of State would sound like if they started singing gospel. My favorite parts of the service were when the women's fellowship sang beautiful songs in Swahili. Everyone (even me) got up and danced. Alexia asked me why I wasn't singing along not understanding that not only had I never heard the song before but it was in a language I didn't know! Hopefully I'll learn a few songs while I'm here.
At one point the two little girls sitting in front of us turned around and perched their heads on the back of the seat to stare and smile at me. Other than that I'd managed to stay slightly under the radar until....I got called out. "I see we have a visitor here!" I looked back at Stephen and he waved me to stand up. I'm not sure if they were looking for a speech, but they got one. It went a little like this, "Hi! My name is Gwen. I will be here for 4 months so you'll be seeing me around haha. (blank stares) Thank you for welcoming me here today. (even more blank stares)". I sat down (scattered clapping). Yikes, so much for making a good first impression. Not to worry though, things got better from there.
Everyone was really friendly to me when we got outside. A young girl instantly ran up and grabbed my hand. I asked her her name and a few other questions but she seemed to be at a loss for words. Even when some of the adults spoke to her she didn't respond, she just continued to cling to my hand and allowed me to drag her around to get tea and talk to people. One man chuckled and said to me, "She likes the mzungu". She might not have been talking but every time I looked at her she had a huge toothy smile on her face.
I met one of the doctors at the hospital I'm working at and will be visiting tomorrow. He said he'd show me around and introduce me to the head doctor. A few other kids shyly walked up to introduce themselves to me. I felt very welcomed by them. When we got in the car to leave I saw the girl who'd been following me and waved at her through the window. She had the saddest look on her face. I tried to tell her I'd be back next week!
When we got home I asked Barita, who takes care of the house and Alexia and cooks, if I could help her prepare dinner. I was so happy when she got really excited and said yes. While we cooked she taught me some Swahili and I helped her with her English. I found out that she is originally from Tanzania but moved to Kenya about 10 years ago. She was impressed by my soup cooking skills and my repetition of some Swahili phrases saying, "My girl, you are African now!" Best news she could have told me!