Sunday, December 11, 2016

The difference between don’t worry and stop worrying, is the difference between sympathy and empathy.



“Tiga Kũmaka. “ I heard my brain telling me as I headed out to go do a most daunting task.
-and now we are taking you to Zebra Centre, here you shall be able to see the last three surviving white zebras in the world. Keep in mind, they are kept under lock and key…….

I was sure I would scramble my head proper but the voice telling me, “leave off worrying” reassured me.

Then I fell sick. Each time I fall sick, I am in denial for about three days, drinking concoctions and forcing myself to rest and hoping it goes away. Like the average Kenyan, I don’t trust hospitals.

 I once was transcribing a research interview and some questions went this way:
Interviewer: Do you go for an annual overall check?
Respondent: (silence)
Interviewer: Do you go into the hospital when you are not sick just to get checked?
Respondent: Why?
Interviewer: When do you go to the hospital to see a doctor?
Respondent: (mwambie labda nipilekwe nikiwa mahututi)
Interpreter: He says, when he is unconscious.

So Day three I realized, oh my goodness this must be the big one, the one that carries me off to my final resting house and I’m gonna just go lay down in Lang’ata while people continue to eat cheese and drink red wine. 

Man, it’s almost midnight but I need a doctor.
And my two friends arrived in less than ten minutes.

Many times on my way home, the song- don’t worry be happy- will be playing in the matatu but I get home and my worries arrive at the same time. 

We like to throw the phrase- ndũkamake, or don’t worry – at people. Don’t worry, you will find another job, or don’t worry,the rain will eventually stop. Since Nairobians fear rain more than acid attacks, you’d think the rain was acidic. Though it’s not a great idea to walk in the rain-look where it got me.

But, it’s until someone tells you- Tiga Kũmaka, leave off worrying- that you actually stop.

 If someone tells you stop worrying, they redirect your attention to something else, leave off your worrying and re-organise you head, or look out of the window.

One person will find you trying to balance a suitcase on your head and two Nakumatt bags on both your hands and will smile and tell you,
“ if you need anything, just tell me ok?”

Like you’d ever.

Another will take the two bags from you and walk slowly with you the 500 metres to the bus stop, and they will have saved your life. You will wave at them the next time you pass by dressed up in heels and a glittery handbag and their friends will elbow them for knowing someone shinny.

So automatically, when I became  nerve wrecked, what came to mind is what granny would say- Gathoni, TigaKũmaka, kau nĩ kaũndũ kanini, natũtigatenderie ndeto mũno- and I stopped worrying.
But If she said don’t worry about it, it meant she didn’t take my problem seriously.

I find a lot of empathy in deaf  culture. We are one community, one tribe. If  a member of the tribe is unwell, then  we buzz around them until they are back on their feet.

So  at 1a.m, as I listened to the two souls trying to make sense of my kitchen turned jungle, I realised it’s not where you are but who you are with that makes people run to the doctor, just so you can spend a few more days with such good fellows.
wild roses are the best                Empathy and Sympathy

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