Visiting another culture, another tradition is a good experience for both the visitor and the one visited. That at least has been my experience and it was further highlighted for me recently. Sr. Margaret Mary Chileshe and I had the good fortune to visit our two students in Kenya (Sr. Helen Namutami and Sr. Nancy M’kandawire) for five days and these were days in which we were richly blessed by the people we encountered there.
We were warmly welcomed by our sisters and this welcome was also extended to us by the Kiltegan Fathers and students at whose house we stayed.
Tangaza College and its surrounding neighbourhood is affectionately known as “small Vatican” – in fact I might be inclined to say omit small and just name it “Vatican”. Everywhere you turn there is a Religious House for women or men. We were informed that in Nairobi alone there are 118 female congregations and 87 male congregations.
The Kiltegan Theology House was a haven of peace and tranquility especially having experienced the traffic and congestion on the Nairobi roads coming from the airport. It was a place to recharge batteries and reflect. The community could not have been kinder to us and it was great to see again some familiar faces and catch up on happenings since their time in Zambia.
The area may be known as “small Vatican” but it could equally be called “small Zambia”. Quite a number of Zambians are studying in Nairobi and they have formed an association and gather together from time to time to “meet and greet each other”. It is a truth that you value your own national identity more when you are outside your own country.
During our visit we not only spent time with our two Zambian sisters but also met with our Nigerian sisters who are also studying in Nairobi. This was great, re-connecting with some we had met before and meeting new people. The Zambian diaspora also made themselves available to us and willingly helped us out where they could. This help brought us on a driving tour of Nairobi, a beautiful city with many historical buildings and areas such as Freedom Park which was developed to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Independence. Seeing it begged the question – how will Zambia celebrate 50 years later this year? From a distance we also saw the biggest slum in Kenya – it is sad to think that in the midst of wealth many people in all parts of the world live in abject poverty. A further call to take our Chapter logo to heart – “Companions at a new table” – what can be done to empower those who are in such situations and what can we learn from them?
A highlight for us was visiting the Resurrection Garden, a place of pilgrimage in Nairobi. In the garden salvation history is depicted in art form and one can follow the Stations of the Cross right through to the Ascension. Open spaces with trees, flowers and shrubs lend an atmosphere of tranquility to the place. We were glad to visit it on a day and at a time when it was not too crowded and we felt blessed coming away from it.
Our hosts, the Kiltegan Fathers and students were at pains to say that we could not leave Nairobi without experiencing some of its culture so on our last full day there they brought us to a dance exhibition where dances were performed from various parts of the country. This was a very lively and entertaining event and we appreciated the cultural similarities and diversities among the people of that country.
We really appreciated the kindness of those who made our visit to Nairobi such an enjoyable and informative one. Business was mixed with pleasure and every moment was worthwhile. We thank and wish God’s blessing on all we came in contact with during our brief visit.
Srs. Margaret Mary Chileshe and Marianne Doherty
Sr. Helen Namutami Sr Margaret Mary and Sr. Nancy M’kandawire