Continued from Newbie in Nanyuki
Sunday was blend-into-the-community day. And what better way to do this than to go to church. When I was getting lost yesterday, I spotted one PCEA church and one Baptist church down the road from the hotel. However, a friendly guard told me that the PCEA in town was much better and was not all Kikuyu. Hehe. It’s like I look like those people who pretend not to know Kikuyu. I followed his advice anyway and walked. He was concerned about why I was walking though and I told him walking is the best option for my chill mode. As you can tell, in places dominated by Kikuyu people PCEA is a church you will see everywhere, just like home. And they keep mushrooming.
So I set off on my little adventure of Nanyuki town. As a lot of major towns in Kenya, Nanyuki is pretty linear, with buildings congregating along the Nyeri-Nanyuki road. Remember your Geography lessons about types of towns/settlements? It is not quite the short distance I assumed it was from Sporty (as locals fondly refer to the hotel) to the church. I had to ask a bodaboda rider for further direction. It gets real hot in the morning here, funny enough. I kept walking, thinking all the while that I was clearly lost, but I was not going to ask another person for direction. He said it was opposite the Nanyuki General Hospital. No way I can miss that, right? Eventually I came by an old lady who was limping to church. I could tell she was headed to church because she was wearing an AIPCA headscarf tightly around her head.
“Mutumia ungi,” she started. (Translation: Another woman. Basically this is one of the many forms of interesting Kikuyu conversation starters.) I was a bit confused because, first, I don’t think an old woman would call me a mutumia. I mean, look at me. Secondly, I thought she was talking to someone else because at this point she was behind, but I looked around and there was no one, so I turned back to look at her.
“Ndukandige,” she continued. (Don’t leave me.) This is going to be interesting, I thought.
“Wathii kanitha?” she asked. She wanted to know if I was going to church. I told her yes, I was going to church and I was new here so I was not very sure I was headed in the right direction. She offered to help and I smiled acknowledging her AIPCA membership. If you don’t know, AIPCA is the other very popular church other than PCEA in predominant Kikuyu settlements. Also called Indi (ka-Indi) in Kikuyu as short for Independent. If you remember your GHC lessons, we learnt about Kikuyus who formed their own church that would allow circumcision for girls and other Kikuyu customs that missionaries frowned upon. This is the African Independent Pentecostal Church of Africa. My newfound friend mentioned that AIPCA was in the same direction but she’d leave me near the PCEA entrance and take a right to her church. She continued to narrate how her legs were failing and her eyes (no wonder she called me a woman 😀 ) but how she can never fail to go to church, even though she had no fare and that’s why she was walking. She said this over and over again while we walked. I told her walking is good for exercise even though that was not really the best point to make to someone walking with the aid of a stick. But then again, maybe it is. Some things we say to carry conversations along are standard responses stored in the brain. We had now come to the point where I could see the familiar PCEA branding on signposts on the other side of the road. She then pointed to them and told me I had arrived, but not to use the first gate. I thanked and blessed her then crossed the road to avoid any awkward moment where cashless Shiku had nothing to offer kind grandma. She walked on to the opposite side.
The other side of the road welcomes you to a church on quite a huge chunk of land compared to where I come from where we squeeze everything into a tiny plot with no parking. The Woman’s Guild women were all over, it was their Sunday across all PCEA churches. The lady who greeted me offered a programme and told me that the English service sermon was just starting. I figured I would just sit through it and wait for the Kikuyu one that I wanted. I walked down the aisle until I got very close to the front. I never do that, but there is a compactness to this church that I felt did not bring out the difference between back and front that much. Everywhere you were, you could see every corner of the T-shaped church. The woman at the front was preaching about the rich and successful Isaac and the wells he dug while the Philistines buried and quarrelled over their ownership. I had listened to this exact preaching the previous Sunday at my village church delivered by yet another Woman’s Guild member. I am not sure why she chose to deliver it way before the actual Sunday it was meant to be delivered. So in total, I listened to the be-a-peacemaker-like-Isaac sermon thrice in seven days. 😀 I don’t mind though, since you can never have too much peace anyway. Refer to Genesis 26:12-32 and see how you should be the bigger man, like Isaac. Walk away from fights.
The English service came to an end and ushered in the Kikuyu one. The one difference I noticed here is that Swahili is embraced in a way it is not in my hometown. Everyone mixes the three languages with ease. The praise and worship session was fantastic, especially the Kikuyu murugarugo ones. Something else that was rather interesting was that women operated the computer that projects the hymns and readings. Of course I had to notice that. Oh and there is a sign language interpreter who sits at the front! That was a pleasant surprise. Then the women sang and performed a skit, with one of them pretending to be a man. Even though I don’t know them, I found it hilarious. They sang their anthem and talked about their ministry–sponsorship programs. For once, I felt like I wanted to be a part of the guild. That thought has never occurred to me but for some reason it did this time. They seemed so dedicated and pretty in their blue/white headscarves, purples dresses and skirt suits. The children came in singing cute songs and a prayer was done for them, then visitors were asked to stand and greet the church. Shiku never ever stands during these moments. No thank you. I kinda wish I did though but nope, stick to the usual plan.
The church chairman stood up and asked if there was anyone who felt they had the gift of teaching Sunday school. I was like oh no he didn’t! He made me remember my kids back at home who I have not seen in a month now. No one lifted a hand in the congregation. Food for thought. Maybe I will move to Nanyuki permanently and set up camp. A woman’s guild member who was not very keen on looking people in the eye delivered the sermon in Kikuyu. Thanks to her and some politician, this Catholic song keeps popping up in my head “Thayu wa Kristu uromuikurukira, Giai na thayu na mugie naguo muno.” That’s the other different thing about this PCEA and ours. Politicians are not allowed to campaign at my home church. Here, there were two just in this service gunning for Laikipia county seats. The chairman made a joke about one of the Senate aspirants joining ka-Indi by making it sound like Independent candidature was pretty much like leaving PCEA for AIPCA.
After church I looked around and discovered many structures around the compound, including a school for girls and a women’s spinners and weavers project. Walking back I stopped by Cedar Mall, the newest mall in the town which houses Java, Chandarana Foodplus, Goodlife Pharmacy and a bunch of other stores both open and yet to open. My friend thinks that malls will be the end of me. To be fair, I did stop by here too often for my own good, but I had to grab a dawa (for my sore throat) and lunch to keep me going. The guy who served me at Java was a delight. I have learnt that when you are alone out here, you find people who are willing to entertain you, for free. Seriously.
My walk back revealed a string of tiny Safaricom-green kiosks that were filled with men chewing miraa. I don’t think I have seen this kind of thing anywhere else. Seemed like quite the popular hangout for dudes here. When you Google “miraa Nanyuki”, you find a location result: Stage Miraa Base. LOL. I really need to tembea Kenya more.
Time kinda flies when nothing is bothering you. To be continued…