Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Way of the Nomadic Chameleon

There are a lot of white people in Minnesota. I don't know if you can call it culture shock to be surrounded by people of your own race, but as near as I can figure it that's what I experience coming back to the place I was born and raised.

In Ngong where I live in Kenya, I am "the mzungu." It's frustrating when grown adults taunt you because of the color of your skin. But you can chalk that up to cultural ignorance. Most of the time people treat you with the same respect that you give to them. And when people get to know you, you become their mzungu and pretty soon you are just, you. In this case me, Jessica, the nomadic chameleon.

Someone once told me that I don't live in the moment, that I am constantly moving toward something... maybe they were right. If I was to define the persona of a nomadic chameleon I would do it this way: someone who is comfortable everywhere and nowhere, someone who is at home wherever they are, someone whose people are not solely their family but everyone with whom they are able to form a bond, someone whose life can be packed into a suitcase, but whose memories would overflow the Taj Mahal, someone who is never lonely even when alone, someone who is capable of great love, but is propelled by wanderlust, someone who knows the limits but steps outside them, someone who seeks justice and passion and truth on the path that no one else would choose, someone who sees life as a journey without a destination, someone whose goal in life is to care for all those who God puts on the path.

I'm actually not so stressed about re-entry this time... because God has put Wezesha By Grace on my path and he will pave the way for me to do HIS WILL.

POSTA II: The Saga Continues

FYI - If you haven't had a chance to read the previous post about the Kenyan Postal System, please do so before you read this blog.

There were two boxes "lost" in the Kenyan Postal System when I rescued the first box that was sent by my mom. That day I told the Postmaster that there was a second box but that I didn't think I would be able to get a tracking number for it. She said I must have the tracking number and dismissed me. Had I not been told that recovering the package without the tracking number was all but impossible, I would have avoided the following frustration...

When my friend Rebecca couldn't get a tracking number for the package she sent, I went back to the POSTA and quite literally threw myself on the mercy of the missing parcel ladies.

As I mentioned in my previous postal blog post, there are no computers by which packages are tracked, so I was given a stack (maybe 25 receipt books) to look through until I found a receipt with my name on it. On book number 7, I found my name... I do believe at that moment the heavens opened because I felt this huge sense of relief... the battle had been one... the package was here and within reach...

I walk back downstairs (the missing parcel office is off by itself - it's kind of like walking through a police precinct floor with cells everywhere to get to the the office) with a small bounce in my step! I know, from my past package extracting experience, that for the next hour or so I will be shuffling back and forth between different people along the long postal counter, but because there will be no surprises and I have filled myself with all manner of positive energy - this will be a piece a cake.

And things go fairly smoothly, I get said package, I open said package, a new POSTA employee (it must be her first day) is going through everything in my box and making a list of the contents so that her colleague can tell me how much customs tax I owe... I take the comparatively cheap customs form to the cashier window where I am given another form to take to the bank across the street to pay.

Last time it took me 5 minutes in the bank. This time I stood in line for an hour because the system that they need to put the customs information into was down. Then they told us to go to another bank... when we got to that bank they told us the system was down there too!

At this point my box is open on the counter of the POSTA... and I'm supposed to be in a meeting in a matter of minutes. I wasn't sure quite what to do but I decided to go back to the POSTA and throw myself on the mercy of the cashier... or just whine so much that they would have to help me... either way it's no easy feat to get back to the POSTA. You have to cross a bridge across a very busy street to get back to the POSTA. In this particular POSTA there are about 1 million postoffice boxes... so there are no shortage of people crossing this bridge... not to mention the people begging on the bridge that make it difficult to move quickly for fear that you will trip on their outstretched legs.

The Cashier tells me to go to the lady in the other office, who tells me to go to the lady in the office next to hers... this lady tells some man name Moses to help me. I give them the money for my customs tax and go to collect my box... mind you I don't have the proper form, so I have to explain my story all over again... luckily the postmaster is around and comes to my rescue. She tells the man who I am supposed to pay a fee to because they have been storing my box for 2 months to let me off the hook with only a 70 shilling fee ($1 USD). Even though she has told him, he won't do it until she signs the form. So I have to take the form back to her for her signature. I then pick the box and take it to the man who then has to sign it out of the postoffice. With that done and now late for my meeting I rush to the elevators.

As I exit the elevator the old man who sits at the desk in the hallway asks to see my receipt for the package I am carrying. I fumble for the receipt... I had taken the paper wrapping off the box with the number on it and it thrown away upstairs as the box while not heavy is an odd shape to carry and the paper was making it more awkward to handle. Luckily, he lets me go without the proper documentation...

Two and a half hours after enter the POSTA, I exit the building into the the smoldering Nairobi midday heat. Postal drama behind me, I head back across the bridge to downtown, hoping I'm not too late for my meeting...MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!