The one where I get locked in the bathroom

Tuesday was one of those “I can’t do this anymore” days. My morning started with the man I unaffectionately refer to as the “car wash bully” telling me to buy him lunch. Not asking. Telling. The car wash bully has come up to my car window and stopped me frequently at my apartment complex to ask if he can wash my car. He wanted to wash my car every day. I don’t need and can’t afford to have my car washed every day. I have told him in the past not to wash my car unless I ask him to but still sometimes he’s washed it then come asking for money. I’ve had to use my stern voice with him. I don’t like having to use my stern voice. He works for my apartment complex and him being around makes me feel generally uncomfortable. Besides him being pushy about washing my car, he just generally gives off a creepy vibe. That being said, when he came up to my car window when I was trying to leave to go to class I was not pleased. I was even less happy that he told me to buy him lunch. I said, “no.” He asked, “Not today?” and I simply said, “no” again and drove to class. These sorts of situations really bother me because I feel like people are trying to take advantage of me. I’m getting better at standing up for myself when these sorts of things happen though.

During my language class, the moral of the story that our language teacher told was literally “do not discuss things with your wife.” I was not amused. I’m continually surprised by the negative attitudes towards women in the culture that I’m working with.

When I got home I called the repairman that I’ve been trying to get to fix my laundry machine. At first he was supposed to come last Thursday at 3. He said he was coming and didn’t show up, didn’t answer his phone when I called him several times, and didn’t explain why. Then on Friday he said he would come at 2 exactly. He showed up at 3:30 but at least he came. On Friday he told me that he would need to buy a part and that it cost around $50. I gave him the money to buy it because I don’t know where I would go to buy the part. He said he would come back on Saturday before 10. I called him at 10:15 and he said that he was still waiting for the part but that he would come at 3. He didn’t come and he didn’t answer his phone or tell me what happened. Sunday I didn’t bother calling him. Monday I called and he was supposed to come at 2—same thing happened as on Thursday and Saturday. We rescheduled for 2 on Tuesday (yesterday). So I called him around one and he said he would come at 2:30. Not a big deal. Come at 2:30 that’s fine. Except he didn’t come then and I called him several times and he didn’t answer.

Finally, I sent him a couple of texts letting him know that it wasn’t okay for him to be doing this and that I don’t want to sit at home waiting if he’s not going to come. At this point I was furious and worried that he had just taken the money for the part and wasn’t going to come back to fix the machine. I left to go grocery shopping. I was walking up the monsterous hill that is the driveway to my complex , thinking all of the angry thoughts, fighting back angry tears, when he called and said that he had just gotten off the bus. I told him that I needed to go buy groceries and asked him to wait for a few minutes. I passed him on the way to the store and explained I would be back soon.

I went to the butcher and bought chicken and then to the green grocer to buy vegetables for the Thai green curry I was making for dinner. At the green grocer I was still fighting back angry tears. I bought myself roses because I was feeling sorry for myself and because they only cost about $2 for 20 so it’s a nice little treat.

I returned home and the repairman started working on the machine.   I needed to take a shower before my dinner guests arrived. But I had a strange, unreliable man in my house. So I locked my bedroom and the ensuite bathroom door to be safe. Except, when I finished showering, I couldn’t open the door. I was frantic. I was locked in my bathroom. I had no idea if I can trust that repair man or not. I didn’t know if it’s a good idea to let him know I’m stuck in the bathroom or if he would use that as an opportunity to rob me. And, if he were to help me break out, he would have to break two doors to do so.

I called one of my teammates and to tell him about the situation and to get advice on how to get out. On the phone with my teammate I was laughing hysterically and nearly crying. Thankfully, this wasn’t my first time being locked in a bathroom in Kenya. I remembered that two friends used a screwdriver to loosen the door handle when I locked myself in their bathroom my first night here. I looked around for anything that I could use to loosen the screws. I grabbed my tweezers and tried them. I had called my parents and they called me back while in the process of trying to use the tweezers as a screwdriver. I was crying and stressed, talking about how I needed to get out of the bathroom to start cooking dinner for the people coming over, wondering what would happen if the repairman finished before I got out or if I was still stuck in the bathroom when guests arrived. My parents talked to me, calmed me down, and offered advice from 8,000 miles away. Thank God for FaceTime. The screwdriver-tweezers worked! I took off the door handle, but still no luck. I won’t bore you with the inner workings of my door handle, but after a bit of trying and failing to open the door my dad had an idea of what to do and it worked. I was free! I was probably only stuck in the bathroom for 15 minutes. I don’t think the repairman even realized.

I started cooking dinner and talked to my parents some more. Friends came over. I got some much-needed hugs. We ate dinner a little later than planned, but it turns out my friends didn’t mind. It was a great to have people around to laugh with at the end of a stressful day.

Carrying Heavy Things

I write about my friends back home a lot. They’re really great. This post is about my friends here in Nairobi. But, because everything in my mind is connected through stories I’m going to start with a story from back home.

My senior year of college I was beginning to move out of my sorority house. I was packing up a load of things to bring home went I drove back to Orlando for spring break and I still had a few boxes left to put in my car when a friend came by to return a plate that I had given him cookies on. I asked him if he would mind carrying a few things to my car for me. He enthusiastically replied, “I love carrying heavy things!” He quickly stacked the boxes and carried them all at once to my car. What would have taken me three trips on my own, he did in one. How joyful and eager he was to help me was really spoke volumes to me. I feel insecure asking people for help—like I should be able to do everything on my own. From that point on I have joked that one of my goals in life is to be able to carry heavy things but to always be with someone who wants to carry them for me. Surprisingly, a lot of times I’m successful with this goal. Turns out people are really helpful when it looks like you’re too small to handle your carry-on luggage.

Since moving to Nairobi I’ve had a lot of heavy things to carry—groceries, furniture, the weight of every old insecurity resurfacing as well as discovering new ones, grief over friends dying, adjusting to being around multiple new cultures, worries about family back home. I am so thankful to be able to say that I have had people walking alongside me here day-by-day helping me carry these burdens. When I moved I had several friends that helped. I made them dinner to say thank you. All of them said that they honestly didn’t feel like they did enough to merit a thank you dinner. I was talking to one of my friends who helped and I was humbled (and almost started crying as I thought about it later) when he said that it wasn’t necessary, that he would have been happy to help without anything in return. Him saying that made me realize how much I don’t expect people to be willing to help me with something just because they care about me. It spoke truth and grace to my insecurity.

I’ve been a mess the past few months. I know that a big part of this is because I’m going through the time period that is typically the worst for culture shock. I have burst into tears on many occasions—walking into team meetings, at parties, during church, alone in my car, inside Coldstone in Westlands, Monikos at Valley Arcade, and the food court at Yaya. My friends here haven’t shied away from the tears, from the messiness, from the weight of all the different things I’m dealing with. They have held me as I’ve cried. They have prayed over me and spoken truth into my life. They have treated me like my best friends back home do. Moreover, they have told me that it is an honor to walk through these difficult things with me. So often I feel like I have to have my life perfectly put together, that I have to be able to handle everything effortlessly (and in heels and red lipstick), that people only want the bubbly, happy, witty Hannah. My new friends in Nairobi have shown me that me making good friends in college and high school wasn’t a fluke, that people do actually like me even when I’m not at my best. They have also shown me that people are kinder and more generous than I often give them credit for.

Through these circumstances God has shown me the importance of community. Some things are just too heavy to carry alone. (Can you imagine me trying to move my oven up three flights of stairs to my new apartment alone? Not possible.) It is okay to need other people. It is okay to be a mess. It’s okay to ask for help. Needing others doesn’t make you inherently needy. You are not a burden.