My barber is a typically talkative Indian man named Alpesh. For the last couple weeks, Melissa’s been telling me that I need to get my haircut and on Saturday, I finally had an opportunity to do so. I went over to Head 2 Head at one o’clock and walked into a relatively empty room. “Is Alpesh here?” I ask a girl that works there. “He’s at lunch he’ll be back after 1:30.” I’m not sure what the merits are of telling someone the time that he’ll return after, especially in a country where time is seen as an unlimited resource and hence lunch can take a lot longer than it ought to. Is that after 1:30, like 1:35? Or is that after 1:30 like 3:30?
I decide that I’m not going to sit around and wait despite them having a much coveted TV playing Indian HBO. I instead call Melissa and tell her that I’m going to be in town a little longer as I’d rather not drive back up to Shanty Town only to return without a haircut. Without anything to do, I start walking.
I could take Minton (our 4Runner) but decide I don’t want to sit in a hot car and waste gas to go somewhere to kill time, when I can do that perfectly fine on foot. As I start down the main drag in Moshi, I realize something: I never walk the streets of Moshi anymore.
I suppose it makes sense, I have a car to get around. I know the stores that I need to go to on a normal basis and then just go to them. But there’s something deeper than that.
The only white people that walk the streets in Moshi are tourists. I really don’t want to look like a tourist or be mistaken for one. I’m better than that or so I think. I have this really bad problem that for the life of me I can’t shake. Lord help me. I’m proud. I’m puffed up. And worse, I place my identity in my status. My status as a missionary, as an expatriate, as a hard worker, as a Laker fan, as a (fill in the blank).
There would be nothing worse for me than to have perfect strangers on the street think that I’m some random white person that is just here for a week to climb the mountain, take some pictures, have a safari, and head back to the states. No, I’ve gotta drive a car so that people know that I’m different.
The thing is, I like walking the streets in Moshi. I walk past all sorts of interesting folks, see different things, its fun. Why don’t I walk the streets sometimes?
How often do I allow my pride to get in the way? Why do I place my identity in things other than my discipleship to Christ? The lame thing is that because of this, I’m missing out on stuff. I would rather be bound to an identity based on pretense and what other people think than just be released to be exactly who God made me to be.
The tough thing for me right now is that I’m preparing to come into a season where missionary and expatriate don’t apply to me. As we’re in the states for however long, I’ll have to get work/income elsewhere as in not a current employee under Hidden with Christ. Oh, its too much to think about on just this short walk.
I run into my friend Genuine, a young Tanzanian man who I met at church a while ago. He’s in the tourism business in Moshi and is showing some girl around. He introduces me to her, “this is Randy.” I grin, bear it and shake her hand. Just let it pass.
I hate getting people’s names wrong. I am not a fan of someone getting my name wrong, but its better than if I mess up somebody else’s name. It makes me cringe. It’s a honest mistake of course, but I just feel like you miss one’s personhood, their identity even.
I say goodbye to them and head back to the barber shop. I grab my book out of the car for the last few minutes before Alpesh gets back. I don’t really know Alpesh. I’m willing to bet he’s not a Christian though. Indians around here are Hindu, Muslim or Sikh. He doesn’t really know me either. He doesn’t know that I’m a missionary, or that I work at a Christian orphanage.
He returns and I pray for him and as I get in his chair. I put my book face up on his counter, fishing for a conversation. “Simply Jesus” by N.T. Wright is staring at both of us from just under the mirror opposite us. I hope for a conversation, but the talking sticks to my hair and beard. He’s actually not that talkative about much else today.
Maybe next time, I’ll bring my Bible.