It’s amazing what may happen when you slow down enough to start living your moments, moment to moment. I have stories from the last few days that, are actually meaningless to some, entertaining to others, but to me, very special. Because it’s been a long while since I’ve lived, since I’ve absorbed, since I’ve emitted, since, since, since…. I have to write this down, so that when one day, when I am absorbed back into the rat-race, I can remember a time where i just lived. Simple stories, but life, nonetheless.
Father Moses had us all in his apartment tonight, and we spoke about a few simple things in the context of a Bible study. Father Moses sat across, on his couch, Bible in hand. shaded lamp filled the room with a warm glow of soft light and Nadia sat reclined next to him, occasionally checking her SMS’s for new deliveries. With Mena at my 10’ oclock, and Father Moses’ wife, Aida, at my 9:15. Father Moses’ youngest daughter Sarah, totally oblivious to our presence, and us to hers, for in her world, the Bible study and her living room had dissolved into a stage in south France, where it was no one but her on stage in front of an audience of fans, and she jumped, and hit the floor with a rolled up bunch of paper, and occasionally held up her letter to her best friend Pinky to the box seats, for further approval. It was a wonderful study, about mercy, about brother/sisterhood. We spoke about treating everyone 100% as a brother, and not as an enemy. A mentality like that, may change the world.
So I was introduced to the world of the Nyama Choma. A nyama choma is basically a BBQ place, where you pick your carcass, and they cook it up for you, and give you all the dressings and such. Sometimes you can bring your own carcass, but in this case, the goats were hanging freshly killed for the picking:
But anyway, back to the goat carcasses! We ATE, and I mean: this food was incredible. 3 pounds of goat meat, 3 plates of kachumbari (a spicy salsa like salad, similar to Israeli salad but heavy on the tomatoes) and this dish which was a mix of potatoes and pumpkin leaves, and of course, UGALI. Now what is Ugali?
Well, my friend, ugali is the staple starch of East Africa. It’s a food made of corn-meal, that is eaten by being kneaded in ones hand, shaped into a bowl, and scooping up other pieces of food on the table with it. Ugali is made so that it sits in your stomach like a stone, and is slowly digested over the course of the day. This stuff fills you UP!
A few months ago, a group in Egypt donated a container to the church here in Kenya, with many things that were thought to be useful. In this container included 3 tons of rusted steel! Now, there ought to be a law against donating shit that people just don’t need! What’s the church in Nairobi gonna do with 3 tons of rusted steel? So after having it sit in the back of the church for months, Father Moses found a Steel Factory that would buy it to be melted for raw materials. Fair enough.
Father Moses, is the man, for real—I’ve never met someone like him before. He just knows how to deal with people. He is kind, he is tough, he is wise, he is simple, he is shrewd, he is innocent. He has this perfect balance of all these things that make him able to win over people just in meeting him. I spent the day with him as we drove down to the industrial part of Nairobi. When we got near the factory, we found ourselves near a slum, driving down a long narrow road, lined with little out door shops, the road was one of the dustiest roads, many pot-holes, mud, etc. Just driving down this road, the amount of dust and mud is enough to cover an SUV. Conveniently, at the end of the road we see a sign that says “CAR WASH “.
We dropped the steel off, and it was sold for a nice sum of money in KSH (but not as much as one would have gotten in USD), but alas, the dude didn’t have the money. He told us that we were to go with his assistant to another office on the other side of town, and there he will get paid. So Father Moses bought the assistant a Sprite (and me a Fanta) and we drove down to the accounting office of this steel company, where we walked up the stairs to find a man sitting in a closed office, the only occupied office on the floor.
We entered to find the place smelling of rotten cheese. He was workin on a computer, but was wearing gloves, and the skin on his face was very dry and looked almost infected. there was definitely something very wrong with this man’s health, yet he was plowing away working very hard on the computer. Apparently work was more important than his health.
We asked about payment when he snapped at Father Moses and told him “You are lucky you’re even getting paid today! I’m busy now! I have to do something for my boss! Wait 30 minutes!” I was thinkin “now I get to watch Father Moses go nuts on this guy” but Father Moses did the exact opposite! He replied simply “I see you’re very busy, we will wait out here.” I was frustrated! Irrespective, I held my tongue and sat down by a table, where my eyes fell upon a magazine, with a motorcycle advertisement, which had the following poem written:
I am not a star
There is no halo over my head
Fate doesn’t like the colour of my eyes
Struggle and strife are old friends of mine
Who am I?
I am survival. I am guts. I am pride.
I like odds.
Especially when they’re stacked against me.
Because there will
Come a time when I will
stare them in the eye
And smile the smile of
the one who’s pulled it off.
I am the guy who will have
deep lines on his face someday.
And it will make me look good
when I laugh.
Because that is the day
I will fear no fear.
And taste sweat that is sweet,
And look back for the
very first time and say,
I did it my way
The long hard way.
That was the line that struck me the most. Whether this is a real poem, or the product of some advertising agency’s creative department, I like it.
The 30 minutes passed by, and Father Moses entered again inquiring of the payment and the man became belligerent saying “can’t you see I cannot help you now – you think you’re the only ones waiting for me? You’re not! Give me 30 more minutes.”
I was like “Abouna (father, in Arabic) this man has no intention to pay us today!!” Father Moses, who at this point I expected to get mad, or confrontational about the situation, remained absolutely calm, and was like “I see you’re very busy, we will wait for you to be done.”
He said “This man, is obviously very sick. He is in a lot of pain, and he needs mercy.”
Mercy? This guy was obviously pulling our leg. I was gettin pissed. I have a hard time thinking bout showing mercy to strangers, in business primarily, who fall back on their word. I stepped back and followed Fr. Moses’ lead, but I was boiling inside. Also primarily cuz I was hungry and I wanted to get back to the apartment to make a sandwich or something.
We waited in that 4th floor of the office building behind the barred windows overlooking Industrial Nairobi, and we made the time pass, speaking of good times, old friends, new ideas. And eventually we were invited back to the room to receive payment for the steel, which was dropped off so many hours ago.
He and Fr. Moses began speaking more in depth, and i just stood back, still taken aback by the stench, but mezmorized by the transformation I’d seen.
We drove back to the compound, thru traffic, crowds, and even a huge building fire in the distance, and life continued on as usual. We’ll probably never hear from that man again, but it’s just as well. We all had received something that day, more than steel, capital, or satisfaction.