Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Wow! Last week I had this fantastic, peaceful week in Kenya... this week I am riding a wild emotional roller-coaster!
Thank God for the ocean, because the beach has become my place of refuge. When I feel like I'm going to have a nervous breakdown, I grab a water bottle and fly out the door... its about a 20 minute walk to the beach... I take a good, hard 20 minute swim... and then hoof it back... and feel sooooo much better. The sound of the waves, the smell of the salt, the warm waters, hard exercise... it all just soothes my nerves.
BUT... there are some annoying things about the beach... namely what the locals call the "beach boys". These are young Kenyan men who have made it their occupation to hang out at the beach for the point and purpose of picking up white women. Sadly, the Kenyan coast has become popular in Europe for "sexual tourism"... mostly its old men coming to pick up young women, but more recently its become a hot spot for middle aged white women to come find young men. I've been to the beach often enough that most of the regular beach boys recognize me and know I am not interested... but there always seems to be at least one who hasn't gotten the message yet. Ooooh Lord, they annoy me. They say things like, "Mama you have the finest body I have ever seen, and I am ready to love you." PFFFT!!!! My standard reply is, "If I was your mama, I'd cane you for talking to a lady that way." The really persistent ones will follow me into the water... at their own peril. Most of them can't actually swim... and I am a very strong, confident, accomplished swimmer. I go straight for deep water and leave them coughing and sputtering in the surf.
Beach boys aside, Kenyans do have an appreciation for a full figured woman... which is refreshing, but nerve-wracking. Its bad enough that I already stick out like a sore thumb because I am white, but my body draws a lot of unwanted attention. In the USA I could quietly go about my business, and nobody noticed me... unless occasionally it was to remark on my obesity! I certainly didn't draw any unwanted male attention. I miss being able to be invisible! I wonder how pretty women in the USA deal with this? I am never sure whether I am flattered or annoyed or just plain embarrassed. I should add though, that while they are vocal and obvious about their "appreciation", the men here have never made me feel threatened. Not even the silly and outrageous beach boys. They annoy me, but they never cross that line.
Sooo... Monday my feelings got hurt, and I ran for the beach. Tuesday I nearly got arrested... I'm not actually allowed to talk about what happened, but it was THE most frightening and traumatic thing that has happened to me since coming to Kenya. Thank GOD somebody stuck out their neck and got me out of that pickle. Today... I found out that the money that was allotted for the ENTIRE month for food for our school kids, has been used up in one week. I'm pretty upset about this, because the board was very clear that money was ALL we had for the month, and it needed to be used carefully... and I don't understand how its all gone in one WEEK? Actually I know how... because of poor planning, poor organization, and poor execution. And me, being the typical american, expressed my unhappiness in a very direct way... which did not go over well... so I got the cold shoulder from the Kenyan board members, while I'm still shaken over the almost-getting-arrested thing... so 8:30 this morning, I dragged everyone out the door, and back to the beach! Hey, the good thing about going so early?? No beach boys! Just a few fishermen!
Things settled down by this afternoon... I had a good chat with my sister, then it was off to church for the Wednesday night Bible study, which was SO awesome. They do services in english and swahili, and they also do worship music in both. Tonight i was very blessed and refreshed by the whole thing... first because they chose two of my most favorite worship/praise songs... second because the Bible study was on Ephesians chapter 6 - putting on the full armor of God... which contained some spiritual truths I badly needed to hear after doing "battle" this week. It was really a blessing, and I came home refreshed and renewed and ready to once again throw myself fully into my work with the kids here.
So, there's good and there's bad. The emotional ups and downs are kind of bad, but I think my coping strategy is tremendously good and healthy. Instead of running to food, I run to the ocean. I am shrinking at a rate that is a little shocking... when i came back from the beach today I had to throw away my bathing suit. It has become so big, its no longer decent. The bottoms are flapping in the breeze... literally. The top is a halter top, and I can't tie it tight enough to get "full coverage". I was swimming through a big wave today, and completely lost my bottoms, down to my knees! I had a mad scramble to get them back in place. And I can tell by my sunburned "matiti" that the top did NOT stay where it belonged either. I have one other bathing suit I brought that still kinda-sorta fits... if I wear a sports bra under the top. If something happens to that one, I'm in trouble, because there is no plus-size clothing to be found here. I'll have to order something from the USA and have it shipped over, which is SO expensive.