Tuesday, August 2, 2011

"Go back to Germany!"

I had a really strange encounter today.

I was waiting on the side of the road for a matatu (a public transport vehicle) when all of a sudden this older, muslim woman came out from under a shade and started yelling at me.

"Who do you think you are? Why do you come to Kenya?! You come and ruin us! Stay away from my husband! Are you a citizen? You think you can come here and disturb us? I will kill you! Go back to Germany!!"

She probably went on for a good 7 minutes just yelling at me words of hate. Meanwhile a large bus a school student pulled up right in front of me. All these heads popped out of the windows to see what the commotion was and started giggling to themselves as this woman blasted me. It was terribly embarrassing. Some people stopped just staring at her and staring at me and wondering what was happening. One guy asked me, "What happened?" I said, "I have no idea who she is. She just started yelling at me." She was getting really angry and I refused to give her the attention she was wanting from me. I thought she was moving closer to me and would try fight but she didn't. Eventually she settled down and went back to sit in the shade.

The whole thing broke my heart.

I know I didn't do anything. I had never seen the woman in my life. But she was obviously hurting. I suspect that she had been hurt by a white person somehow, maybe something to do with her husband because she kept telling me  to stay away from her husband. I didn't know if it was some crazy satanic attack or just a woman who had gone mad.

I went to my friend's place for lunch and told her the whole story. She told me that she was probably chizi (literally insane in the head). I didn't know because most crazy people I have encountered don't make sense when they talk. I actually had some crazy guy push me with his right hand in the middle of the street last week. I thought it was a friend who was trying to get my attention but it wasn't. I also had a guy tap my butt once. I turned around, gave him a stern look, and wagged my finger at him. I felt I could have slapped him or yelled at him but what would that do to a crazy man. However, this woman was speaking full english sentences and clearly knew what she was talking about.

It did make me think about how people see us whites. There are a ton of white people  in Mombasa. A lot of people come for holidays (tourism is the main industry here). Many of the older ones come and settle here seeing that life is cheaper and they can usually find a cute, young Kenyan to enjoy (note I said 'enjoy' not 'love'). Right now there are lots of young white people who have come on short volunteer things. I think it is great but there is definitely that feeling that they 'come to help the poor' and that sort of makes them superior (although most of ones I meet don't have that mentality at all but for some reason Kenyans just assume that about them). At my bible study the other night, the girls told me that, when a white is in a church, they assume they are a missionary, but when a white is wandering the street, they assume that they are sleezy.

These assumptions don't come from no where. There are whites who definitely make a bad reputation for all of us.

However, I want to be different. I think and pray about this a lot especially because I am marrying a Kenyan. We can't hide the fact that we are in a cross-cultural relationship but we do have the power to show people what a loving, selfless, Christ-centred relationship should be like no matter what the skin colour is. It will take a while to establish ourselves but it will happen eventually. Just the other day, one of my neighbours told Kelvin, "She isn't pregnant yet? Now I really believe you are Christians." This came from a young, sexy kenyan girl who married a rich, older white man who owns a few clubs in Mombasa. She sees the difference in us. Even as I walk through Kongowea, I am no longer just a white girl passing through. I belong to Kelvin and am respected for that. We still get cheeky comments here and there that hurt us, but we just shrug it off and keep going.

That woman is on my heart. I will keep praying for her and what even pain she is feeling. I will also be more careful of how I conduct myself in this city so I can portray Christ's love.


  1. Hi- found yoru blog from your link on mine- just reading and loving some Kiswahili!! You are in Mombasa?
    COngrats on your engagement! Love this post- I often think the same thing....it was not about you but we can learn from this and be humble and not react in anger..it does come from somewhere for sure. Much love sister and look forward to checking in on you....your work looks amazing! May He bless it richly!

  2. hey!! Yes I am in Mombasa. Actually, I used to live with Shannon and Justin Brown. That's where the connection is. I also hung out with them and Ginger before they came over to see you. Love your blog. Actually took some ideas from it ;). If I ever get to Zanzibar, I will let you know!