Sunday, July 18, 2010

Two Worlds, Revolving Independently

"... it was like living in one world while another co-existed, but the two scarcely ever meshed. Sometimes, when Tilly made a cake, she let me use the beater, which had a red handle that you turned. The two arms of the beater whirled round independently and never touched, so that perhaps one arm never knew the other was there; yet they were together, turned by the same handle, and the cake was mixed by both. I did not think of it at the time, but afterwards it struck me that this was rather how our two worlds revolved side by side." The Flame Trees of Thika, Elspeth Huxley

Elspeth Huxley grew up in the countryside of Kenya in the early twentieth century on a farm settled by her English parents. They employed Africans, went to a local chief to intervene in problems and disputes, and otherwise lived amongst the native peoples. I love the metaphor of two arms of a mixer that are closely intertwined yet not touching.

There is a little market area just down the road from our home. Along a row of simple wooden kiosks and tiny "shops" I am able to buy items such as eggs, rice, beans, sugar, salt, matches, cookies, and cellphone vouchers(!). Across the way in the open dirt women set up tables with fruit and fried fish. Some sit on the ground behind boxes displaying cassava french fries. They seem to be there all day. I make my rounds, picking up whatever is on the list this time. I speak enough Swahili to make purchases, but not enough to have a free-form conversation. I walk home, receiving, as usual, stares from some Tanzanians, for whom a non-black person is such a novelty.

Returning home I boot up our laptop computer and enter expenses into a spreadsheet. Since the computer is on, I connect to the Internet. An email from a relative in California informs me that the book I ordered on arrived and will be sent on to me. I read an article on the New York Times website about the psychological effects of long-term joblessness on many Americans. Dinner that evening consists of pasta salad with avocado and cucumber. The pasta was boiled in water purified by our Swiss-made water filter. We start a game of Scrabble, playing obscure unheard-of English words that are only found in the Scrabble dictionary.

Nearby, in another of the buildings on the grounds of the church where we live, the choir is practicing. We can hear very clearly their beautiful Swahili voices. Some of the songs are familiar from liturgies back home. Others sound distinctly African in rhythm and melody.

Do the arms of the mixer brush against each other from time to time? Is real contact possible?


1 comment:

  1. Establishing lasting and meaningful relationships is difficult - no matter where you are. Joe and I admire you and Diane for your generosity in sharing your lives with people half a world from California.
    Joe and I have been busy lately, moving Leslie from Pasadena to San Diego, her new home. We leave tomorrow for another visit with her and a couple of days of just being tourists in San Diego. The last trip we saw only packing boxes and the inside of her condo! We will celebrate Joe's 61st birthday and Leslie's first day of work on August 1st. I will be away from my computer so am taking this opportunity to tell you that we think of you often and continue to pray for your health and well-being. Tell us if you need anything from CA - we'll send it to you.