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9.08.2010

Women in White

In the year 2000, before I had met any African Quakers, I had a recurring dream about worshiping with a large number of African women wearing  white. The dreams were in a Language that I did not then know, but later discovered to be Kiswahili. These dreams prepared in me an interest in Africa. And I started to study a bit of Kiswahili just on spec.

But as prophetic dreams go, mine were not very accurate - My invitation eventually came from Burundi where there is no custom of wearing white on Sunday. Kiswahili is minorly useful in Central Africa but it is the third or fourth language.  Until this trip Kenya was only a transit stop. So I was looking forward to my traditional Kenyan experience. What I got was the Sun n Sand (no complaints).   We did everything in English, but they do where white on Sunday.

One of the fun parts of the stay was arriving a couple of days early and then watching the Euro-tourists adjust to the sudden influx of 350 Kenyan women. You could see them working through "We didn't come to Africa to mingle with actual AFRICANS..."  On the other hand you had the very conservative Kenyan ladies dealing with middle-aged, hairy-backed,  hard-drinking German dudes in Speedos.  The whole spectacle was rather entertaining.

The pools and ocean were a real trip and temptation for the ladies from out West. They tended to  be real scared of the ocean, but the sparkly pretty pools were tempting, and though they had no proper "swimming costumes" many got in. American ladies were kept busy with swimming lessons.  Some of these women came from dry places and had never seen this much clean water in one place at one time. I had one conversation with a lady who was rather disgusted that they were letting people bathe in the water that she assumed also came out her bathroom tap and in the kitchen. (I mean seriously - those men look nasty!) I assured her that the water systems for the pool and the taps and the cooking were all separate and sanitary - really - they have that much water! She was amazed and a bit dubious.

By Sunday, our last day, the bravest of the Women decided to wade into the ocean. Terrified and delighted, they were. In their beautiful whites. I kept looking around for John the Baptist - it was his kinda scene.
The Resort draped their chairs in white "dresses" everyday - changing the color of the bow daily - a very nice sartorial touch, if you ask me. I thought it looked especially nice on Sunday. 

Anticipating the Kenyan custom I had brought along a flouncy white skirt and gauzy white shell and blouse set - a real confection - I thought.  I said something to one of the Nairobi ladies at lunch about how glad I was to be able to join in - and she said "You call that white - do you? I would say it is cream, at best,  you would never pass in that at my home meeting" I was able to retort with a chuckle "Well, It matches the condition of my soul - it's not exactly white either!" 

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Comments:
More Silly Poor Gospel. Well you are in good company. Who was admonished for having a bit of lace on her bonnet? I can't remember.
 
I was, by the way, not in the least bit offended and quite entertained by my sister's comment. I give great sartorial homage to African women who look so consistently smart with little or no access to dry cleaners, washing machines or ironing boards. They amaze me!
 
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