Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Yesterday during my Sociology of Language class we had a guest speaker who is an Ethnomusicologist (studies the use of music in cultures/society) working with SIL (a Christian organization that does translation work). What was most interesting about this class was the variety of music we listened to. The styles were so dynamic, everything from 'talking drums' from Malawi (which literarily speak.....I knew the drum beats gave a message, but to realize that whenever the drums were hit, it wasn’t just an amorphous message like "Come, its time to pray", or 'HELP!' but watched a video which showed that it is actually a detailed surrogate language, where words are differentiated according to the different tones of the drum which are adjusted according to the tightening of some ropes, so one man was drumming and another man was actually translating what the drummist was saying 'crusade style' giving specific instructions and messages like 'Praise God my soul....the Lord reigns from on high' was mind-blowing!), to tonal languages in Siberia where we listened to a song that had only one word which was sang at the end of the song, but the song mainly comprised of the sound of water running in a stream and a man making a type of water sound with his voice that fluctuated up and down forming different notes and tones, all this the people from that particular tribe can understand and interpret into the story of the song! Music, is a tool of communication, it speaks for a people, reflecting their culture, their beliefs, their heart, their essence.
Growing up listening to Mother Gooses songs, graduating to Cool and the Gang, Michael Jackson (remember 'Off the wall' ) all the way to being sucked into the Wonderful world of Rock sampling the likes of Aerosmith, through to U2....Music that embodied the culture and expression of my people did not exist for me, the most I heard of Kikuyu music was in matatus or family/community events like weddings and funerals, where in both, the style had a distinct 'western flavor' , such as Kikuyu Hymns which are actually English Hymns translated into Kikuyu, or just didn’t count considering 'werokamu!...wakinya....sitidowni!' it has a lot of borrowed words. (..I never heard a Kikuyu traditional song at the Music festivals as a child..which I really didn’t participate in, expect to play the guitar!) Sitting there in class was just absolutely amazing, as I listened to a myriad of expressions of the soul and the hearts of a people, expressions that were different, actually quite weird sometimes, but authentic just did not fit into my narrow experience. In fact the amazement I had slowly turned to a distinctly saddening feeling ...I found I was startled to discover that even with the advent of vernacular FM stations, the language(s) may be alive, but is the music dead? Though I am African, somehow I suddenly felt I was unethnic! Could this be true? Is that actually a possibility. Yes, I may not speak the language, but I still consider myself a Kikuyu, a Kenyan, an African, but what makes me these things apart from the color of my skin, my kinky hair, my name and the location of my house? Is that enough? Yes, culture is dynamic and changing, and we definitely can't (and don't want to) go back to cow hides and cowrie shells, but if music with its rhythms and tones, melodies and harmonies is a reflection of a part of ourselves, then have we lost a part of us? we care? And even if we do....considering many of us grew up in this New Africa, would a rediscovery of our past be a reclamation of our real self or just a neocolonialism of the New African by our education, desiring a connection to the tarnished 'glory' of the past, enslaving us to chasing a wind that can never be captured?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


For some more serious news, I am still in my first year, slated to graduate in 2010, though will most likely finish class at the end of 2009 (there's only one graduation in the way the pic is of my little reading cubicle in the library...its nice and private, which is a must for me because get easily distracted). This term I am taking Greek 1 (its suprisingly not that hard, just lots of cramming! our goal is to be able to comfortably read John and 1, 2, 3 John in Greek by the end July), Sociology of Language ( we have to do some group research for this class...we're hoping to research the practise of language switching amongst the presidential aspirants during the upcoming campaign...we'll mainly be carrying out our research via the media...but maybe we'll attend a rally or two...maybe not!). Also taking Hermeneutics (interpreting the bible, writing a Hermeneutical paper Habbakuk 3, just got my first paper back on narrative, studied 2 Samuel Kings 21...very interesting stuff...sometimes the bible is like a movie) and Homilectics (preaching class... yesterday presented a sermon in class on Putting God First from Haggai about being nervous!..but people seemed to be feeling me...nodding there heads and saying Amen! I really love my classmates...they are soo encouraging even when you know your totally making a mess of things....and got some good advice afterwards too for the next time) and also Early and Medieval Church History...writing a paper on Augustine...not too sure which direction it should take, just starting out my research now...

Whenever you get a chance please pray for me, that I would handle my work with integrity, diligence and creativity.

A NEGST Mystery

About two weeks ago was talking to my friend Wainaina, who is pretty interested in getting a bike Wainaina's wife does not like that idea (she's not interested in having a bike hanging on the walls of her beautiful house...) so we were just chatting about alternative storage etc...then Wainana decides to confess that he was once tempted to 'borrow' my pink beauty on the first day I brought it to school, he had spotted it outside the classrooms and because it wasnt locked and he needed to dash across the quad to the library to get something he had forgotten, he seriously considered 'borrowing it'...but listened to the angel on his right shoulder and decided to walk instead.
After that discussion I began to lock the bike...So anyway I usually park my new baby right out front in the portico right outside the classrooms. Last week I parked it in the usual spot, locked it to prevent anyone from being tempted to take a joy ride (...imagine that! Ha! as if any pastor ...apart from Wainaina...would be caught dead on a pink bike!) then dashed off to class....After class as I was heading towards the library I noticed the lady who was cleaning the floors looked like she might need my bike moved, but she said it was okay where it was so I continued on with my day. Later as I headed back to class noticed my bike had moved to the opposite (left) side of the portico...figured the cleaning lady changed her mind, so I just ignored the move....later when leaving the classroom block again noticed the bike had moved position...the lock seemed to work...what was going on??!!! Rechecked the locks, everything was headed back to work....on passing by again later on in the day begun to think more seriously about this move and begun to work myself into a frenzy, checking constantly in between classes to make sure it wasnt moved again. By the end of the day had gotten slightly miffed...and everyone standing around had no idea about anything, in fact they all looked quite they were thinking "Hello! we have more important things to do then guard your bike!" So as the day rolled to a close, I talked to a few more people...who knew nothing...then left...wondering if I was loosing it. URGHHHH! Recently have been having trouble sleeping so now begun to worry ' I really that tired? did i really park it where I thought I had? Maybe I didnt...hhhmmm...' So over tea the next day was chatting with Wainaina again, telling him how tired I was, that I was worried I just may be close to some sort of breakdown...then he begins to laugh..and laugh...turns out he had moved the bike, and had been planning on moving it some more, and then planned on watching me getting all steamed/confused....There he really had me...the mystery of the moving bike was finally solved...OK so its not much of a mystery, and the joke was definately on me...but had a good laugh anyway...Funny!
PS: Since I started riding, been sleeping like a baby :)

Adventures in Pink!

The trip to school has become much more fun with the acquisition of my new bike...The walk was always fun, but in a bid to get a bit more fact a lot more exercise considering was getting absolutely none before I got the bike...thought this would help me along in that direction...not to mention it would reduce my commute time by half, which is good for some of us recovering chronic late comers (Hi! My name is Njeri and am a CLC).
So anyway about 4 months ago started saving in earnest and 3 weeks ago, gathered what I had and pooled my resources with Angela (my sister...who agreed to split the costs and now rides on the weekends) and got us the cutest pink bike.

Buying the bike was quite an adventure...went to Nakumatt, picked out the girlest i could find, then they spent around 20 minutes trying to get the proper pump...eventually the Nakumatt attendants brought me this shinny new bike for me to try out. Now have heard people say things like ...'its like riding a bike, you never forget' but for some reason when they presented the bike to me, I wasnt too sure about that. Ciku (aka baby sis) was with me, so tried to convince her to try it out, she adamantly refused...wondering why I had pulled her out of the comfortable pose she was lounging in at home, dragged her to Nakumatt to buy a bike, then refused to test it. So here we were arguing back and forth over who should try the bike, with Nakumatt chaps looking on, watching like us a tennis match.

Eventually realised my silliness and plucked up my courage and managed to haul myself over the bike and arrange myself pecariously on the seat, with the Nakumatt attendant helping me out holding the bike in place. Eventually after a few false starts he started me off...note the bikes at Nakumatt in Karen are parked right beside the glassware and I gingerly set off....and wobbled, wobbled....wobbled for about 1/2 a meter! Disaster! but figured, we had been there for about an hour, the Nakumatt chaps had done so much work getting the bike ready...I couldnt turn back now..I had to take the bike. So dusted off my thoroughly worn pride and bit the bullet.

So the next day got on the bike, scared out of my wits and wobbled off..around the round about outside our home, once, twice...Yipee! I'm not dead yet! and wobbled off down the road....making it to school ....very sweaty, shaky but in one piece.

Been riding for 3 weeks now...still alive, less wobbly and alot less sweaty...Praise God for lifes little adventures...learning new things everyday, this months lesson...Risk or Rust!

Philippians 3:12-16 (NLT)
I don't mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection! But I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Christ Jesus saved me for and wants me to be. No, dear brothers and sisters, I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven. I hope all of you who are mature Christians will agree on these things. If you disagree on some point, I believe God will make it plain to you. But we must be sure to obey the truth we have learned already.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Fun at Seminary

Is it strange that I think I am actually having fun at that actually possible? or is my version of fun...not.....
I often wonder if I am enjoying myself too much...and what does that make me?..a hoax? am I somehow being the "real me". For example would it be considered fun to discuss the existence of diglossia* in Kenya for 2 hours (out of class, over coffee, wrestling with questions like 'does it exist here in Kenya....1 hour sheng a language? hour 2) and leave thinking "that was so interesting...can't wait for tomorrows class!...Yey!"
The reason I wonder about this is that this is from the same person who just three years ago, around this time of year would be sitting planning "Exactly how much tummy should I show in my television show in order to keep my male audience watching, while not scaring off 'serious' advertisers...hhmm is my tummy as flat as my competition? Its okay she's got buckteeth..teeheehee, oooh I wonder if we're getting comps to the new club thats openning tonight???"
This thing I now call my life is sometimes so shockingly different, I wonder 'did time slow down over the last 3 years, giving me time to change my character, my priorities, my dreams, ambitions, friendships....somehow....all in the span of 36 months?...or is the real me on sabbatical about to rear her not so ugly head again when I least expect it?' Is change, lasting change, just a matter of happens. Or is it more complex? does change just happen like that...dorothy clicking her heels twice and wishing really hard, then in a twinkling she's somewhere else? Is this new me home? or am I just visiting? Is Njeri, the real Njeri the person she wants to be or the person she is? If what I want to be is what I present to everyone, is that really me, or a cover version?....(on that note is a cover version of a song still the same song? or is it something else? Or when they remade Oceans 11, is it still Oceans 11, or does the presence of Brad Pitt and George Clooney somehow make it Oceans 11.1?)
Then where is God in all this? Am I a NEW CREATION VERSION 1, batch 2003.19.10 with extra Christianese personality plug ins, or is my personality, the character that is me (SHAPE and all) allow for some original Njeri to stay without tainting the "NEW CREATION NJERI VERSION 1.1? Do we have to lose ourselves to find ourselves? or am I thinking too much about this, and should I just they say?

Today is my 3rd birthday as a believer (or rather the day I adopted to commerate the beginning of this journey 3 years ago), on this adventure, self discovery has been transformed to self reclamation. Its availability to God's renovation. A reclamation of the original image, that which I was intended to be, discovered from the prototype.

*Diglossia as I understand it is two versions of one language that exist, used for different functions (eg the formal version for education, the nonformal one in the home...on that note just had a test on this Sociology of Language stuff....the test was not so fun..).