After five weeks of working with the maintenance men at the hospital I am well versed in the schedule of each day and I have worked with one man, Tosha (Swahili for “enough”), the entire time and we have become quite close.
Each morning of the week, begins at 8 with chapel, which lasts until around 845. The chapel services in the mornings are in Kikuyu (the local tribal dialect), except on Wednesday which is in English, so I don’t go into work each day until 830. After chapel, Tosha and I go over what our work for the day will entail. This is usually about two to three projects including tasks indoors (floors, doors, and windows), building furniture or cabinets, or working on the occasional roof leak. Usually by the time we figure out what we will be doing for the day and go to look at it, it is a quarter to 10 which means that we head back to the shop for tea time. Tea time lasts from about 950 to 1030, we drink either Kenyan chai or hot chocolate and the guys eat a variety of different pastries. After tea, we go to work and are hard at it until about 1 when we break for lunch (this took a little getting used to because my stomach likes food around 12). Lunch lasts until 2 and we have a short afternoon of work that usually stops around 430 even though they can’t leave work until 5. Because the work periods are broken up and abbreviated and we have to walk every where we work, getting two tasks done, regardless the difficulty, is a full day.
One trait about the Kenyans that hinders how much work they get done, and is different from that of the U.S., is that they value relationships and talking with people more than they do getting things done. I have learned that a job always has time to be finished but if you see a friend or an acquaintance along the path and you do not stop to chat for 5 to 15 minutes, then you might offend them. Whereas, in the U.S. if we see somebody we know but we have something to get to we simply say “hello” or ask “How are you?” and we only slow down long enough to get a rushed reply. Another thing about relationships is that because I am new and they do not often interact with muzungo (white man), they have all sorts of questions for me. Their questions vary from how I live my in America, or what work is like in America, to “Now this professional wrestling, the WWF, is it real? Do you know the Undertaker?”. Sometimes their questions are really quite absurd but because they have had no one ask before I get a good chuckle and answer the best I can. Because we can get in rather long conversations about America (like when I spent nearly 3hrs convincing them that not all Americans are rich, and that there are poor people in America) some days we do more talking and figuring one another out than we actually do working.
This experience working with the maintenance men has been a fascinating one for me and I learning many lessons but spiritual and practical. These people and this trip won’t be something I will soon forget. I thank God for bringing me to Africa because I have learned so much about myself and the people here and am seeing God in ways that I never could in the comfort America.
One last note. The hospital maintenance staff consists of around 30 men who are carpenters, masons, electricians, welders, and grounds keepers. They are quite capable of doing almost anything and I will write more about how work is done another time.
Two and a half weeks to go and Jodi and I ask that you pray for spiritual strength while we remain here and for safety as we travel about Kenya.