|Giraffe Centre, Nairobi, Kenya|
Thursday, November 3, 2016
It has become a ritual, of sorts, at St Anthony friary to watch "Don't Mess With Kansiime" (pronounced kan see may') on DSTV between the end of supper and the beginning of Night Prayer. Kansiime Anne is a comic who does these 5 minutes skits where she freely gives her mind to anyone who crosses her path. She is very funny even if I don't get all that she says. You can catch her on Youtube. Just search for the title of the show or by her name. Here is a link if you want to see her in action.
The truth is that there is more here than just the humor that comes from the juxtaposition of cultures. The message for me is that you don't really see your own culture until it is reflected in the light of another culture. Life and death are serious things here. Many people, Catholics included, believe that Spirts roam the earth. Misfortune, illness or even success can sometimes be attributed to witchcraft and evil spirits. These are serious matters and are taken seriously. Dressing as a spirit in a village anywhere in Kenya or Uganda (I mentioned these places because I have lived there.) could result in being chased out of the village and being properly beaten or even killed.
I did't mind hot having Halloween this year. I haven't observed it in many years. I did miss the Candy Corn, which I would eat one color at a time. I also missed the cool weather and the promise of winter in the air. When I was a kid I would love it when a neighbor would put an apple in my Trick or Treat bag, especially if it was a juicy Macintosh. So take it from Kansiime Anne, don't mess with mixing cultures. You may get a scary surprise. You may get a gift you don't want.
Thursday, October 27, 2016
Tuesday, September 27, 2016
“If you hear the dogs, keep going. If you see the torches in the woods, keep going. If there's shouting after you, keep going. Don't ever stop. Keep going. If you want a taste of freedom, keep going.” attributed to Harriet Tubman
Harriet Tubman was an escaped slave from a plantation in Maryland. She left her family to flee north to freedom. Despite a bounty on her head she returned to lead her family to freedom and 50o other black men and women. through a system of travel called the Underground Railroad. She made an astounding 19 trips into the south and walked people thousands of miles to the border of Canada. This remarkable woman also served her country as a scout, spy and nurse during the Civil War.
In July I was asked to speak to newly professed friars at their profession ceremony. I lived with these eleven men for my first five months in Africa in the village of Kakoba, Uganda just outside Mbarara. I taught them and prayed with them and they helped me acclimate myself to this new and beautiful continent. I chose this quotation as a way of encouraging them to persevere in their vocation in the months and years ahead. When I thought to write about this in this blog, I was not aware that Hillary Clinton used this quotation in her speech at the Democratic National Convention. Regardless, the message of these words are universal and so I re-visit them again.
What I told the newly professed friars was that there will be hard times ahead. I said this knowing full well that many of these men came from conflict-torn parts of Africa and some lost parents to war. I knew they knew hard times. I said that there will be times in the future when they will want to quit and I told them to 'keep going'. They may spend the night reading and re-reading the same page of Philosophy but to 'keep going'. They may be lonely in a friary full of friars, but 'keep going'. When all things seem to be working against them to 'keep going'. If they want to taste the freedom of God, 'keep going'.
I offer this thought for anyone who is struggling. Keep going, the gift is ahead.
Saturday, September 17, 2016
Well I did it! I have driven a car in Kenya and survived to tell the tale. I must confess, I do not have my Kenya license yet but necessity required to drive. The Guardian at St Anthony friary fell wrong and broke his knee. So I have had to drive him to and from his doctor visits. I have been paying attention in the past few months and I was able to adjust quiet well. My only problem is using the turn signal. Here the turn signal is on the right of the steering column. So for the first few times I drove I kept turning on the windshield wipers. The other problem, which I must pay close attention to is the speed bumps. Instead of stop signs or other signals speed bumps are used before and after every major intersection. Which is okay, really because sometimes you are warned about the bumps with a sign, a black and white pole or the bumps themselves are painted black and white (what they call a zebra crossing). Sometimes however the bumps are not marked at all. So I am very cautious. Getting my Kenya license is next on my program just before learning Swahili.
Monday, September 5, 2016
Tuesday, August 23, 2016
The OF / FOR Controversy
The picture above was taken in the friary library here at St. Anthony. The third line says, (in case it does not read well) "Long Essays For Former Students". In fact the long essays are written by former students and therefore the sign should read "Long Essays of Former Students". Now I have to admit when I first saw this sign the teacher in me wanted to correct the grammar. I resisted that temptation. I was reminded of a time a few months ago when I ran across another misuse of the word OF. This occurred when I was still in Uganda living at the Novitiate.
The Novitiate is on the top of a hill and I was making my way somewhere and I encounter two novices walking up the hill. We met half way down the hill. I noticed one of the Novices had in his hand a black plastic bag, so obviously they had been shopping at the markets at the bottom of the hill. We stopped and I inquired what had they purchased. The novice opened the bag and said proudly, "Legs of dogs." At the same time I peered into the bag and saw what looked like furry legs. My face must of had an expression of horror on it because the Novice quickly added, "Legs for dogs." They had purchased legs of slaughtered goats that would be cooked to feed the three dogs that we had. I told him that was very different and we parted and I was relieved that nothing horrible had happened to our dogs and thought that prepositions can save a life.
Now, I know that one of the many things that makes English hard to learn is the subtle use of prepositions. One little word can mean many different things depending on context. For example the word "of" is defined in seven different ways. "OF" is used to indicate direction, origin and identity to name three. "FOR" of the other hand has 32 different meanings. That's a lot! All this is according to a web site I found (www.dictionary.com)
Correct or not to correct? Do I begin a crusade to eradicate improper syntax wherever it is found? How far should I go to ensure proper English usage? Will I run the risk of being a grammar goon? I think not. English needs to grow and it grows through use. My judgments aside, is it my business to correct others intent? Meaning is conveyed regardless and that is the whole point of language; communicating intent. Take the above photo. Anyone who is a former student would not be in this library looking for reading material (trust me on that fact). That person has moved on to bigger and better things. So if the Long Essays are not for former students then they must be of them instead.