Sunday, January 08, 2006

Chicken Soup for the Chicken-Brained

Am being a total bum today, but mostly because I think I have a mild fever. Must have been something I ate because I’ve been getting to know the choo a lot today. So I’m just taking it easy, flipping through old travel journals from Asia and Kenya, and browsing the notebook that Joyce gave me as a going away gift, reading some of the quotes she put in there from Anais Nin and Nelson Mandela.

This one reminds me of why I’m here, and how sometimes I get bogged down worrying about inadvertently offending people with some type of cultural or moral imperialism by just being here or telling people in the wrong tone of voice what I think. Nelson says to stop that.

“We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually who are you NOT to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us…And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Excerpt from Nelson Mandela’s 1994 Inaugural Speech, attributed to Dag Hammerskjold and Maryann Williamson.

This one reminds me of how morning looks and feels from my pillow every day, or at least on days when Larium isn’t giving me stress dreams.

“A leaf fluttered in through the window this morning, as if supported by the rays of the sun, a bird settled on the fire escape, joy in the task of coffee, joy accompanied me as I walked.” – Anais Nin

One of my windows faces east, but the trees from the forest filter the morning sun into lively dances of elves, and it reminds me of the winter sun in Texas, when I was a kid and would wake up and go sit in the warm column pouring through the den window until my Mom would yell at me to go wash up and get ready for the day.

10:13pm. I Really Need a Life.

Seven things you would never hear during a job interview in the U.S:

1. Are you a Christian?
2. What church do you go to?
3. Do you believe in the Bible?
4. How often do you read the Bible?
5. Can you recite six Bible verses for me – three from the Old Testament and three from the New Testament?
6. We want to hire a Baptist for this position.
7. We don’t want any Catholics or Seventh-Day Adventists in this position.

Hillary interviewed for a social worker position today and these were some of the questions he was asked. In their defense, the organization is funded by the Baptist church and provides support and counseling for orphans. But it made me realize the degree to which anti-discrimination policies have been institutionalized in the U.S., a reflection of the American obsession with not offending anyone for any reason. I could show up for an interview at the Jewish Community Center and no one would dare ask about my religious beliefs, much less my marital status, whether I have kids, how old I am or if I’m gay. And frankly they probably wouldn’t care. In a way it’s understandable that an organization under the Baptist church would prefer to hire a Baptist, but my in my secularly-biased American opinion, a person’s religious beliefs and knowledge of the Bible aren’t going to affect his or her ability to provide quality counseling and case management to kids. But that’s not the way Kenyans see it. In Kenya, if you are a saved Christian, you are automatically a morally upstanding person with the highest integrity and respect for the law and for others. You would never beat your wife, rape a woman or a child, have pre-marital or extra-marital relations, steal money, lie, exchange money for sex, or commit corrupt acts. And as I learned yesterday from my neighbor, people who don’t go to church drink a lot of beer and get drunk all the time. I mean, what else are you going to do on Sunday mornings? I need to find out what Kenyan Christians assume about the moral character of Kenyan Muslims and Hindus, besides that they’re stingy businessmen that horde their profits and send them back to India.

Around 6pm I decided I needed to get out of the house because I was getting lethargic and homesick from composing moody journal entries on my laptop and listening to Lynn’s Chriskwanukah mix. (Tied for favorite tracks: Adam Sandler’s Chanuka Song and Shirley Q.Liquor’s 12 Days of Kwanzaa. No Kenyan I’ve talked to has any idea what Kwanzaa is, even though it’s a Kiswahili word.) I was walking through the forest when I noticed six of the neighbors’ kids running after me. “We want to run with you!” they said. I had only planned to go for a short stroll, but now I had fans to please. I taught them some basic warm up stretches, and then the yoga stretch where you stand on one leg while holding the other high above your head behind you like a figure skater. That one keeps them amused for hours. It was getting dark so we only ran about half a kilometer up the road that leads into the rainforest, then turned around. On the way back to the school compound we came upon a guy walking his Chinese fixed-gear clunker of a bike up the hill, so I told the kids to help him push. They sped his bike to the top of the hill and still had tons of energy, so I challenged them to a race to the football field. Now I know that the headmaster’s nine-year-old son runs faster than me. When we got to the goal line, I had to be the human chairlift and hoist each of the kids up so that they could grab the top bar of the goal and swing back and forth until their arms got too tired to grip. Some of them wanted to go for a second ride but I was the party pooper with no energy left. But I came home in a much better mood. Maybe I don’t hate kids after all.


Post a Comment

<< Home