Kenya vis Norway

This is a brief account of some of the obvious differences between Norway and Kenya, as per my observation. The observations are not exhaustive neither are they exclusive; they are simply a part of my perspective…

  1. Driving: In Kenya, driving is done from the left hand side, while in Norway it is done on the right. This means that pedestrians have to walk on the opposite sides; a reality that confused me time and time again… While driving, the traffic rules are fully obeyed in Norway. This includes when a pedestrian is crossing the road at the white crossings. It is very interesting when one day a driver didn’t stop on time while I was on the white crossing, and I had to stop; and he judiciously apologized for that. In Kenya, well, let’s just say that the traffic rules are rarely obeyed! 🙂
  2. Food: In Norway, bread is a central and key meal; it is actually what is called food!! It is eaten in the morning, mid-morning and can still be eaten at lunch and even during dinner and supper. In Kenya, bread is a snack; and is mainly eaten in the morning with tea. It is considered a very light component of food, that simply helps in preparing one for the day’s work in anticipation for “food”.
  3. Water: Norway has the freshest water I have ever taken. The water running in the taps is always fresh and can be consumed at any time of the day. I noted the difference when I was in Denmark for about five days. Furthermore, the water that is found in the mountains is very fresh and undiluted, and is thus taken despite the color… In Kenya, much of the water has to be chlorinated (treated). If not, it has to be boiled to get rid of any micro-organisms that may be present. Not every running tap water in Kenya is safe for consumption.
  4. The bus: The Norwegian bus works on time schedules. Thus, it doesn’t wait for anyone. If anything, the passenger is expected to wait for the bus. It is very common to see people, old and young, men and women alike, running after the bus. The bus in Norway, especially in the city, only stops at the predetermined bus stops; it cannot stop anywhere else. The bus fares are fixed in Norway; no bargains!!! If it is NOK40, then it is that amount without question. The bus is also very quiet; enhancing the serenity and peace for every one. The Kenyan side of the story is a bit different. The bus (called matatu) “looks” for people; and there is someone who keeps “shouting” to attract the passengers. Thus, the passenger gets to choose depending on their convenience. The matatus also have loud music; which acts as part of attraction means for more passengers. The young people tend to board newer vehicles, due to the nature and loudness of the music being played. The matatus also give room for bargaining especially when the passenger numbers are low; so the person tends to go for the lowest offer. In additon, the matatus can stop possibly anywhere as long as the passenger wants to alight…
  5. Weddings: In Kenya, weddings are social events; gatherings where everyone is welcome to join in and participate. In Norway, weddings are invites-only events. You only come if you’ve been invited! There is bride-price in Kenya for the bride; but none in Norway! So, it is quite easy to get a wife in Norway than in Kenya, especially if you’re to follow the right route… 😀
  6. Church services: In Norway, most churches don’t have any kind of “movements” when singing despite the intensity of the music. The much that I have seen, in most gatherings, is the lifting up of hands and seldom kneeling. Thus, most Norwegians worship by standing and with least movements with the other parts of the body. In Kenya, worship is about open expression of one’s inner desire for his God. Thus, this may take the form of jumping, dancing, shouting, kneeling, whistling among many other ways. It is a rigorous exercise such that great body energy is consumed; and most of them say they keep aping David when he danced for the Lord until his robes fell off… In Norway, the sermons are called speeches; and they indeed are given as speeches. One talks continually until they finsih; there are no breathers at all; apart from a few jokes which take the shortest time possible. In Kenya, the sermon is a sermon; the Word ministration. It takes between the neighborhood of 50 minutes and one hour. And the whole congregation will end up having participated with the numerous breathers of “Praise the Lord; Hallelujah…”
  7. Garbage recycling: Norway is generally a clean country; and this is largely because the environment is everybody’s responsibility. Thus, someone cannot just dump his garbage on the road or street; they have to get it to the garbage bins. The garbage is accordingly sorted in readiness for recycling. Plastics are put aside and so are paper and metallic materials and then others. In Kenya, littering is a comon phenomenon; not many people care that much!! The sense of taking care of the environment seriously lacks. Despite the government efforts to put litter bins all over, it is sad that one cannot walk for over 50 meters without finding a hovering piece of garbage. And recycling is definitely an idea that hasn’t been fully embraced!!
  8. Currency: Most Norwegians prefer the use of cards (both credit and debit) in their transactions as opposed to the use of “hard cash”. It is so common that even in churches, offering is given via card transactions. This is quite the opposite in Kenya, as it is very common for individuals to use cash and less of cards. In Kenya, the cards are mainly used in the withdrawals; though it is becoming common for some people to transact with them in shopping malls. This is an estranged idea in church givings… As such, most Norwegians have very little liquid cash on them; something that is quite the opposite in Kenya.
  9. Hiking: It is very common to find Norwegians going to the forests for walks. They love being outdoors; and they do this as a way of getting to know each other and to get off from the busy weekly schedules. And indeed, it is something greatly rewarding. This is largely possible given the large forest cover that Norway enjoys. In Kenya, hiking is not common at all. Inasmuch as Kenyans have some great sceneries, those sites may have been visited more by external tourists and not necessarily by the locals. It is simply not a cultural norm. In additon, the forest cover in Kenya is quite slim and so, not much forest resources are at the disposal of the numerous  Kenyan people. It is amazing that in their spirit of hiking, Norwegians jokingly say that they never get lost! Thus, even if they genuinely lose their way; they will simply be exploring new grounds…!!! 🙂
  10. Electricity: Norway is steadily powered by renewable energy mainly from hydropower. Given its large chunks of water, the hydropower supplies its main power grid. It is thus, not known in Norway if there can be a power blackout or an outage. It is a very strange idea! Most of the technologically-endowed industries are ably sustained given the smooth power supply. In Kenya, the opposite is not far from the truth. There are quite many outages and intermittent power blackouts. Most industries have to have backups just incase there is such a blackout. Given the high electrical power availability in Norway, there are even electrical cars which help in enhancing the green environment, reducing pollution. In Kenya, this is still far-fetched.

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    An electrcial car and pump

  11. Social system: Norway is an egalitarian society; a society in which all people are equal. No one is more superior than the other; thus, there is nothing that should elevate one person beyond the other. There is respect for everyone as an equal. In Kenya, there are social classes; depending on whether someone is rich or poor; educated or illiterate; religious or irreligious. All these contribute to how people view each other…

The differences above could be courtesy of culture, resource endowment or governance structural variances.

Counting my blessings

“Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your many blessings, see what God hath done!
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.”

“Count your blessings, name them one by one,” the song declares! Well, I don’t know how many of us ever take time to simply count our blessings and name them as we thank God for what He has done so far. I also don’t know what the above song really means to you as a person… For me, the above song has been real to the letter of every one of its words. And it has been quite evident in the journey I have had so far in Norway. I have witnessed and experienced so many blessings, that on naming them I am short of words to express my thanks to the Sovereign Lord! So, today I just want to count by mentioning the blessings I have gotten in the various families that I have gotten to visit. I do all this as a way to simply relay my heartfelt and sincere gratitude to God for having allowed these families to be a blessing to me in my short stint in Norway.

My various visits have given me a clear picture of love in families. I have gotten to see and appreciate genuine love in a family; to witness submission from children to their parents; stable love among the couples; and generosity at its best. I come from a warm culture in Kenya and we are generally hospitable; but what I have experienced here so far is a rare kind of hospitality! It comes in a very resounding manner. It has some degree of simplicity and humility that is difficult to describe with mere words; it is best felt and experienced. And the centrality of unity keeps sprawling within… All these are, despite Norway being a cold culture!!!

Firstly, is the Normann family. Joyline and I visited this family back in September. We were still very new and they gave us a notable warm welcome. Despite being in a hurry, I couldn’t help but notice the passion for God present in the home. Ben David, who is the second of the three sons to the lovely couple, is my “roommate” and he is a true depiction of that passion. We took coffee with some chocolate and engaged in several chats ranging from faith, to social, to church history, to civics matters. I enjoyed the simplicity with which Olaf, the father, took it all especially in sharing his Christian faith. At least from my chat with him, I noted he has a notable hunger for God and His Word. And the great library of books that he has is also something to mention. Given my love for reading, I’ve already engaged two books from his library “Living water by Brother Yun and Farewell to God by Charles Templeton”. Am proud to say that this family gave me another view of what it meant to be Christian in Norway.

Secondly, is the Kiplesund family. This is the family to John Olav, one of the Hald students in Madagascar. Here, we got an exposure to further simplicity and I sensed genuine love in the family. Listening to the talks in the family really brought me to the grand realization that there is power in humility. John Olav is one very humble yet friendly young man. And on visiting his home, I noted that indeed the humility had its source in his upbringing.  We had dinner in what is considered a Trøndish delicacy…

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Trøndish delicacy

…after which we went for a boat ride with our friend…

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Out for a boatride

…and then, after dessert, we had varied talks about different things including the reality of being in a different culture. From this, we got to express some of our fears and “culture shocks” we had encountered by being in Norway. It was really great to hear their comforting encouragement. For me, it was very sobering to see that the family had some concerns for one of their own going away. Hearing Tormod, the father, saying that “it is our son’s decision after all” was quite solemning! This cemented the very love for one of their own; supporting him to the very end, and giving him an opportunity to go out.

Having done all this, the family still surprised me when they gave each of us something to keep us warm during the impending winter…

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Hand-knit socks 

Thirdly, is the Opedal family. This family has, to say the least, been amazingly good to us. Our first interation was courtesy of their son, Eivind, with whom we are at Hald and who was going to Kenya on exchange. It was a wonderful union through which we talked, laughed and even played “Ticket to ride”, a typical Norwegian game. We had a fun-filled encounter with a good part of the family. And their willingness to host us; to know us; to listen to us was quite astounding at first. There was no question as to whether I had felt at home or not; it seemed like we had known each other for so long!

We had the Trøndish special for dinner and then had dessert…

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Cake and coffee for dessert

 …and we had some time for a family photo…

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The Opedals have become our mentors; and what a joy it was for us (Joyline and I) to learn of the news!! They have been more like our parents; always looking out for our welfare and asking the right questions at the right moment; extending the hand of support in this very cold Norway. There is a warmth that I cannot put in words at all… Just this week, we had some great meal together in an Italian restaurant downtown! And it was awesome partaking of the delicacy in the company of new-found friends; people you can look up to and ask the difficult questions about life in the new culture. When with Jan Peter, the father, and seeing him listening and asking those questions not out of duty but concern, it prompts me into reminiscing the great family and warmth back in Kenya. This has helped me come to terms that God is still at work, and in full control.

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…then receiving one of the best gifts ever, given the winter season we are in. This gift came at a time when I was already struggling with cold in my hands despite my gloves…

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Warm hand-knit mittens

And for the love of reading, I am already going through one of the books from their library called “Barack Obama: Dreams from my father”. I think there is more to learn from this lovely Opedal family; and I am keen to tap as much as I can…

All these experiences have helped me specifically realize how God can and will always have His remnant; to use in demonstrating His love and greatness.

The red letter weekend

When I was in Primary school back in Kenya (equivalent of “barneskole”), there was this very common essay that we used to write titled “the red letter day”. This used to capture the most outstanding day of one’s life. And I rememeber how I nostalgically used to write captivating stories of my expeiriences then. All this was aimed at being as creative and, potentially, as genuine as possible. The question that looms now is why I’ve chosen such a topic at such a time and in such a context. Well, this past weekend has proven to have been one of my most memorable weekends ever. What I experienced remains fundamentally great and innumerably impactful on my life.

Joyline and I visited Levanger, which is a small municipality to the north-east of Trondheim, for a worship experience. This worship weekend, dubbbed iWorship, is a 42 hour worship time that runs for a whole weekend from Friday to Sunday at the Nordic Mission Senter. I only got to have an 8-hour non-stop worship session there and I think this was an encounter for me to reckon with.

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At the Bønnesenter with new friend

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Team Kenya just outside the worship hall

Singing and worshipping freely
It was a great time to simply sing to the Lord with a live band intermittently leading the sessions. The freedom for everyone to express themselves was notable. People could lie on the mattresses that were on the side of the hall, roll on the floor, sit on the ground, kneel with hands raised, lie on the chairs, and/or jump just in adoration of the Lord. I loved the choice of the songs as they reminded me of what apostle Paul says to the Ephesians “singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts.” It is really a blessed experience to just sing to the Lord from the bowels of your heart. Some of the songs we sang are hereunder:

“You are the everlasting God,
The everlasting God,
You do not faint, You won’t grow weary
You’re the defender of the weak
You comfort those in need,
You lift us up on wings like eagles”

with

“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior”

with

“Set a fire down in my soul
That I cant contain
That I cant control
I want more of you God
I want more of you God

and

“(Let there be) no reservations, no walls
But just an open door in my heart for You

I want to give all that’s inside of my heart
I want to give all that’s inside of my heart to You”

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Leif speaks out on “The Philippines mission”

Pray genuinely
I found the time in this worship weekend very fruitful especially for me to just genuinely relay myself to HIM. There is no better experience than when you pray and you keep having the reassurance that God is listening and answering you. I just broke before the Lord as I cried out in reverence to His name and glorious nature. I kept marveling at His love; this love that has neither been challenged by the lapse of time, nor the diversity of cultures, nor the expanse of our rebellion, nor the magnitude of our fallenness. The love that is so unconditional and limitless; the matchless love of Christ. That He could die on the old rugged Cross just for the filthy me!! This moment in His presence just made HIS love so real to me that I couldnt help it but give HIM all glory, and all honor; and all power; and all thanks; and all majesty. This was one of the few moments I have had in my life just to be in the presence of the Lord; and worship HIM for who HE is and not for what HE can do for me…

Read the Word of God open-mindedly
The best way to worship God is when all that is declared is in line with God’s Word. I had some great time just exploring God’s Word. As I did that, Psalms 34:8-10Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. Fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him lack nothing. The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing” stood out for me. And all through, I longed to simply taste HIM so that I could experience HIS goodness afresh. That longing is what kept me going and desiring more of HIM.

New divine friends
After such an awesome time worshipping the Lord, we visited a Norwegian family with Liberian descent. Need I mention the warmth of hospitality, the African way! Speaking English without having to repeat myself a number of times was great. And listening to the West-African accent was really amazing for me. Not forgeting the fact that we watched an African movie together…

We shared in the West African delicacies of varied nature..

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Okra soup, Cassava leaves, and Palm sauce

…did I mention trying out the shrimp!!!

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Shrimp in okra soup with rice 

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Trying out the shrimp; not bad!

We met Pastor Lemuel Kulah’s family…

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New-found family
Having taken dinner, we just needed some time to refresh in song and laughter

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Pastor Lemuel, his wife, Victoria and son, Shadrack

In Pastor Lemuel’s home, we were African again!! Not that we had transformed but in its expression. We talked about everything, freely interacting. A new bond of friendship was birthed, and we became part and parcel of the family…

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Helping out in making breakfast

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Pastor Lemuel and I at a dinner table
This man gave me lots of insights on life in a new land

And after all had been said and done, we had to bid farewell. So, the entire team of seven had to fit in a 5-seater car all the way to the train statetion…

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Let’s just say it was kinda difficult to let go…
Fully loaded on the back seat of the car, all smiles just to see us off

This experience definitely goes direct to the most notable annals of my history. To God be the praise for such a blessing!

Out with the children

Camping is very common among the Norwegians. That being the case, I had a camp to Solhaug with NMSU from 2nd to 3rd November. Here, I marvelled at the display of the desirable child-like traits. I have all along thought that the context that a person is in determines how they behave. Inasmuch as this is true, I was inevitably shocked to realize that children have common underlying behaviors regardless of where they are… What I observed brought me to the conclusion that we all have similarities that are so inherently glued in us that we cannot avert them. And children are the very best example for this fact!

In this camp, I had the privilege of interacting with about twenty 10 to 14 year old kids. Hanging out with these children was very fun and momentous. They were so energectic and warm. Really eager to learn more, asking questions as much as they could. Running helter skelter as they chat with each other…

Expressing oneself
The children had no fear of expressing themselves, whether they were wrong or not. Actually, what I noted is that any time they were faced by a difficluty, the first person they could ask was one of the “teachers” present. It was fun to see how they kept realigning themselves depending on how friendly they were to each other and how they could gain in the long run. If a child notices that you are hostile, they express themselves by avoiding you. And if you are frindely, then they will keep flocking around you.

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Children always desire to give their view

Games
The camp wouldn’t have been complete wihout a variety of games both for team building and for fun. The children were divided into groups and the games commenced…

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Listening keenly to the instructions

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Øyvind explains how to use the bow and arrow

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Experiencing the inclined climbing

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Bjarte joined the kids in “board football”

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Filling up a bucket using sponges!!

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Crossing suspended bridge

Entertainment
Children love fun; and so that Saturday evening, there was a time for entertainmnet. In this, the children were encouraged to come up with creative pieces that they could present to the others. And many of them came up…

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Mathias and Oliver: Out for mischief

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Got you!!
Two of the teachers getting washed for not answering the questions correctly

The pictorial truth:
This is just a snapshot of some of the other many things that happened during this camp; the many encounters, the funny moments, the hideouts…

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Asgeir and David: Boys will be boys!

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Asgeir and David
Had to take a photo with these boys in their relaxed mode

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Mads, Victor and Morten
These boys are not only relaxed and obedient but also very lovely

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My new Ethiopian-Norwegian friend, Andreas.
This boy is very bold, very expressive and very friendly.

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Which of these two phones do you think belongs to the children?
A wrong guess; it is the iPhone!!

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Taking some time off to be alone in the arena

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Time on the train: Reflecting and jotting down

Food
Food in this camp was exquisite. We took lots of Norwegian delicacies which largely comprised the bread. But then, my favorite was the taco; this food with a Mexican origin! It was great seeing how it was made and how to reputably consume it…

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A plateful of taco

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Enjoying taco in the cosy candle light

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What a marvelous comparison!

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A cup of chocolate
This was to give us the Ethiopian feel!

The teachings
It was great just having the children participate in a number of devotions and Bible study sessions. They engaged by asking many relevant questions. There was a session on missions; that blew me out! How do you explain the wholesome message of Christ’s mission to 10-14 year olds without sounding so complicated? This simply gave me an insight into the beauty of “coming down to the level of the seeker” in all endeavors. To speak to the child, you have to become like one; you have to speak as they speak, to engage as they do, to laugh as they do, to play as they do. The illustrations used should be those that they can understand and easily relate with.

So, we shared the Good News with the children…

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Using water and sugar to explain the concept of Christ in us

…and we prayed together around the Cross. The teachers began to pray and it was just so glorious to hear the kids start to mention their own inbuilt prayers to God, the Father…

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Gathering around the Cross

The team
This camp would not have been a success had it not been for the team of about nine teachers. I was glad to have been a part of this team. Meeting every night after ensuring that every child had gone to bed and reviewing how the day had been was a great eye-opener on how difficult it can be to be a “parent”. It is worth mentioning here that not every child went to bed as expected; there were those who were simply stubborn, and were out to make the “teachers'” lives difficult… All the same, the time was great and we enjoyed serving these amazing children…

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A section of the teachers: Henriette, Marit (leader), Bjarte and Simiyu

This remains one of my best camps ever! The time with those children was a great adventure…