Saturday, January 31, 2009

Journey to Korr

I've posted this and one more below - "Elephants and Rhinos and Giraffes, Oh my!"
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After delays and delays in Nairobi (Nick and Lynne, the missionaries I’ll be living with, had SO much to buy for the start of the new school year, and buying in Kenya is no easy feat), we left Nairobi late Wednesday afternoon for Nanyuki – a town right on the equator! - where Nick and Lynne rent a house for when they have to come down south. They did some more buying there, and I also go to meet Grant and Loki and their two adorable chatterbox girls, Abbey and Katie. Grant is Nick and Lynne’s son, and also a missionary in Korr. After a day and a half in Nanyuki, finally we were off to Korr!

Everything I’d heard about the road was that it’s terrible. The pavement runs out in Isiolo (about an hour from Nanyuki) and after that it’s a dirt road with deep ruts that run perpendicular to the road – think of what corrugated cardboard looks like on the inside? Well the road is kind of like that – that bounce you all over the place and pretty much shake everything loose on you, the truck, and whatever else! That, and/or you’re driving through talcum powder-like dust about a foot deep. Hot, bumpy, dusty, dirty, 8 hours to Korr in a loaded down land rover… bring it ON!

Around lunch time Nick and the men who work at the house loaded up the land rover with everything they had bought – school supplies, textbooks, groceries, hardware, suitcases, a chair, a bike, pretty much everything under the sun. Boxed up, tarped over, and strapped down tight, we were on our way. Oh, but one more thing, all three of us jammed in the front seat would also be traveling up with a puppy on our laps! Nick and Lynne’s great dane, Lily, had puppies just over two months ago, so we were going to bring one of them to Korr with us.

Before we’d even gotten to Isiolo, the puppy got sick. Luckliy, Lynn had thought to bring a mat for him to sit on on our laps, and it all landed on that. Thankfully I noticed that the mat on my lap felt a little heavy and caught it before it went anywhere. Out the window it went (sorry, environment!).

We weren’t so lucky the second time.

“Hmm… my knee feels kinda wet,” I thought. I looked down just time to see puppy puke spewing all over my lap, down my leg, between my toes, into my purse and all over the floor of the car. How one little dog had that much in him (especially after barfing once already!) I’ll never know.

We stopped the truck and I got out, rinsing most of it off with our water bottles, but realizing I was beginning that long, hot, bumpy dusty, dirty drive with puppy puke all over me. It was gross, yes, but really REALLY funny. “GMT!” said Nick – Good Missionary Training!

In Isiolo, we stopped for gas and a potty break. I bought more water for us – as ours had been all used up on the puppy incident – and thouroughly washed off my purse. There was so much I wanted to take photos of there, as it was typical of a small Kenyan town, but Lynne warned me that might not be such a good idea. The town is made up of mostly muslims, who really really don’t like their photos taken, and many wouldn’t think twice about stoning the car if they saw me taking photos. Ah. Point taken. Camera stays away.

At the far end of Isiolo is “the barrier.” Essentially it’s a police check before the official “North” begins. Lynne was telling me that they don’t let just anyone into the North, as it can be very dangerous, especially along the road. There are no police really in the North, and at times there are bandits who will ambush passing cars. If there have been reports of bandits, sometimes the police will wait until there’s a caravan passing through and make everyone go together to the end of the barrier, about _____ km farther up the road... but mostly they just wave people through.

Lynne – who has more phenomenally amazing, jaw-dropping stories than you could ever imagine – told me of one missionary who had a load of people traveling along the stretch of road known as “the barrier” when they were ambushed. They saw the bandits ahead and so turned around to speed off back the other way. The land rover, however, had a really big turning radius, so it took a while to turn around. As they were turning, the bandits were approaching, guns drawn and shooting at them. They were still far off, and the truck was moving all over the place as it was doing its 16-point turn and they missed the tires they were aiming for to try to cripple the vehicle. One passenger on the vehicle, however, panicked and jumped out of the truck, thinking he could run off into the bushes and hide, and as he jumped, he was shot. The driver actually somehow was able to grab him, but, seeing he was already dead, left him there as he sped away.

Ok, then.

Thankfully we had no such adventures!

The hours passed and we bumped along happily (with no more puppy incidents, thankfully!). As the sun was beginning to set, we pulled off the road for a quick potty break and to stretch out legs. Out among the bushes goats were grazing, birds were chirping, crickets buzzing, and the odd camel in the distance clanged its bell and … what sound do camels make? Brayed? Mooed? It kinda sounded like a cow belching. The air was sweet with whatever bushes were growing, the shadows were growing long, and the breeze was warm – it was a beautiful place to stop. I took some pictures, careful not to take any of the camels. Many people in the north believe that if you take a photo of a camel, it will not have any babies, and so it is very, very bad to take a photo of a camel. I didn’t see anyone around, but Lynne assured me that though I don’t see the herder, he sees me, and is watching everything I do. Point taken. I just hoped he didn’t see me squatting in the bushes (though I’m certain that the goats did!).

The one concern we had as we got closer to Korr was whether or not we could make it over a large river bed. It’s usually dry this time of year, but we had heard that there were rains in the area a few days back, so there was some uncertainty about whether or not we could cross. There’s no way of knowing if the water is flowing, so all you do is drive there and hope it’s dry. If it’s not, you have to back track all the way to the main road and take a detour that adds nearly two hours to your trip. At the last town before the riverbed – still nearly an hour away – we stopped to ask some truck drivers if they had passed by there or if they knew if there was water. They all reeked of alcohol and each gave a different story, so we weren’t sure who to believe. A woman, however, approached us and, after all the greetings, told us that there was no water running in the river. We weren’t sure, but she seems a whole lot more credible than the truckers, so we decided to take the chance. Thankfully she was right – we drove right over the riverbed and all it was was dusty dry sand (getting stuck in the mud and spending the night in a truck in lion-infested area would have made a great story, but I’m kinda glad we didn’t have to go there!).

Though we didn’t see any lions, we did see some wild life. I had asked Nick and Lynne if we night see anything, but they told me it was very rare to see much more that Dik diks (a kind of mini antelope/gazelle) and African hares. We saw a lot of those – all over, really – and lots of birds. It was fun to watch the dik diks bound into the bushes and the hares dart all over the place, huge ears lit up by the truck’s headlights. But apparently Africa’s wildlife was out in full force for our drive that day. In the twilight, there was something big on the road. A goat? A cow? As we drove up closer, we saw it was a warthog. It ran off the road as we approached, but we slowed way down enough to see a whole warthog family under a tree by the side of the road! So cool! Not long after that, I was digging in the bag of sweeties for a treat when Lynne shouted, “Zebra!” I looked out my window in time to see a lone zebra grazing beside the road. Wild! Not in a zoo or a game park, just there! Apparently it’s a zebra unique to Northern Kenya and that area, and they are extremely rare, so to have seen one is quite remarkable! Just after the zebra excitement had died down, I caught sight of a giraffe having a late dinner, too! It was SO crazy! Dude! I’m really in AFRICA! Where you see zebras and warthogs and giraffes out in the wild! SOOOO cool!!!

Oh yeah, and we had to slow way down for a herd of camels that began to cross the road. We stopped for them, which I guess to them meant that they could take over to road, so they abandoned their “cross the road” plan and took up the “run down the middle of the road directly in front of the land rover” plan. They ran along in front of us in their kooky lilting trot for a while, till Nick started hooting the horn at them trying to get them off the road. Most went off, but one decided darting towards the truck would be a better plan, and we narrowly avoided a creating a new dish for the Roadkill Cafe. Oh, and even been downwind from a herd of camels? Pheeeee-ew!

We finally arrived in Korr about 9:30 and were given a delicious dinner by Jim and Laura, the third of the three missionary couples in Korr. Upon arrival at Nick and Lynne’s house, I eagerly opened the door to jump out and stretch my legs, but Lynne warned me to just wait for Nick to bring the torch/flashlight. “We have scorpions that come out at night, and not the good kind. They’re veeery dangerous. We don’t walk anywhere at night without a light.” Alrighty then. I will remember that!

After making up my room, being given a mini tour of the property, given a wash bowl and a chamber pot (!!!) in case I didn’t want to go use the outhouse at night, I was assured that the property is totally safe, and told to shout up to Lynne if I needed absolutely anything during the night. “The hyenas circle our house at night, and you might hear them, but don’t worry – there’s a fence around the property and they absolutely cannot get in.” Good to know.

Exhausted and stiff and dirty from the journey, I quickly washed my hands and face and feet and crashed into bed for my first night in Korr.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

When the Sun Sets

I’ve kind of gotten the hang of the main areas I would need to go here in Nairobi – the bank, the pharmacy, the photo place, the Nakumat (kind of like a Wal-Mart), YaYa centre (a local mall), the Toi market (a market for used clothes), and a few other places. I’ve been walking most places, but also getting to know a few of the matatu routes and am able to at least say a few sentences in Kiswahili – it at least distinguishes me a little bit from being a tourist and people are much more friendly (even more so than usual) when you’re able to at least make an effort in their own language. As I make my way around my corner of the city, I’ve been feeling relatively secure… at least during the day.

But Nairobi is a very different place at night.

Mostly, I have not been out after dark, and never on foot. In fact, the guard at Mayfield won’t let anyone out of the gate after about 6pm unless they have a specific plan to be picked up, as there have even been a string of muggings at dusk or a little later not more than 500m from the gate.

I did go out one night to take advantage of a cheap movie night with some friends. We got picked up by people who lived in Nairobi on the way to the theatre, and for the trip home, my friend Jenny and I called for a taxi. Mayfield has numbers of a few reliable taxi drivers, so we made use of one for the ride home. Turns out we were glad to have it.

Part of the way home, our driver turned down a side street instead of carrying on the normal road, perhaps to avoid traffic or even the police, who often stop cars to hassle them for bribes. If his aim was to avoid a police check, he was not in luck.

A few blocks down the road, there were three or four police with big flashlights and even bigger guns who had stopped the car ahead of us. Our driver pulled around and slowed down beside the stopped car, but as the police approached us, maglights blazing in our eye,s and signaled to roll down the window, the driver hit the gas and began to drive off. The police began shouting, running after us, and banging on the car yelling in Kiswahili, “YOU! Hey! STOP! YOU!!!” but the driver just sped away.

A few blocks down, once we knew that they weren’t going to chase us, we asked about the police and about night time road blocks. The driver explained that, particularly on a side street at night like that, they were just after bribes, particularly if they saw two mzungus (white people) in the back of the car. Clearly we’re rich because we’re white! We asked if there would be any repercussions for him for blowing through a police check, and he said that all they could do was write down his number and hassle him the next day, but he could just say that, on a dark street, how could he even know if they were real police and not thugs who were impersonating police and just trying to rob us.

Though to a westerner, blowing the police check seemed kind of sketchy, but it turned out that we were glad to have a trustworthy driver who was looking out for us and knew what he was doing!

Of course, that was until we related our story of relief to a missionary who had lived in Nairobi for many years…

“He blew through a police check???” he asked incredulously. “You don’t do that. The only reason he would have done that is if he was doing something illegal. Maybe his licence or insurance has expired.”

My friends and I looked at each other, eyebrows raised. “But he said that he couldn’t know if they had just acquired uniforms and were impersonating police?” we asked.

“That might happen upcountry, maybe, but that never happens here in Nairobi. Surely they were police…. Man, you do NOT run through a police check. Usually what happens when you do that is that they start shooting at you.”

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sooooo, let’s scratch that guy’s name off the list of taxi drivers to call then, shall we? Yikes!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Elephants, Giraffes, and Rhinos, OH MY!

This weekend, two other short term missionaries staying at Mayfield and I were able to head out and enjoy two different outings. On Saturday we went to the elephant orphanage and on Sunday after church we went to the Nairobi giraffe centre. ( I’ve posted photos of both here.)

The elephant orphanage is a place where they bring very young elephants that have been found either orphaned or abandoned in the wild. It’s part of the Nairobi Game Park, and the goal is to raise the elephants in such a way that they are able to be released back into the wild. They only have contact with the public for one hour a day for feeding, and the rest of the day they wander the game park with their keepers.

I was amazed to learn how human-like elephants are in terms of their social interaction. They actually form really strong bonds with their keepers, who sleep in their stall with them so that the elephants can have contact at all times. The keepers have to rotates, so that the elephants don’t get too attached to any one person, which would make it harder for them to eventually head out into the wild. Also, there is one elephant at the orphanage whose mother was killed by poachers when she was about a year old. Park rangers found her nearby, and still to this day, she has quite a mistrust of humans because of what she saw humans had done to her mother. The poor thing is psychologically scarred! (I recently read an article on elephant poaching, and it’s so, so, SO terrible. My goodness…)

But OH! These babies were ADORABLE! They are still bottle fed, and the really young ones are just learning to use their trunks, which made for some pretty cute elephant watching as they attempted to take up water and get it into their mouths!

After both groups of elephants had come out and fed, they brought out a baby rhino (they also have a few rhinos in the centre) who was only three weeks old! He had stage fright and wouldn’t come close to the people, no matter how much the keepers tried to push him along. Eventually they just scooped him up – a RHINO! – and carried him off!

On an excellent tip from a friend, we booked a driver and headed out on Sunday after church to the Giraffe Centre, too. It’s sort of a conservation/education centre with about 10 giraffes. There is one side where they come for the day and the public can come to feed them and the other side where they go in the evening to roam free.

On the public side, there’s a platform you can climb up and feed the giraffes. Only “Daisy” was around, enjoying the attention and food from all the visitors. The keepers are really good at taking pictures for the visitors, giving you all kinds of ways to pose with the giraffes. MAN, those animals are big! But they’re really gentle, and super soft! (Well, they’re gentle unless you being teasing them or they think you have food but you don’t – then they head butt you! Thankfully I avoided any giraffe head butts!) They might be the favourite animal I’ve seen so far (though I don’t know, the monkeys we saw on the side of the road were pretty cool… as were the elephants… and the warthogs running around under the giraffes… hmmm… ok, it’s so hard to pick! hehehe!)

There’s one way in particular that you can feed the giraffes that provides from some pretty great pictures… you’ll just have to go check out the set to see! :)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

How to make a girl's day

* Jan 22 - 3 new posts: How to make a girl's day, Flexibility Required - Update, & Karibu Sana *
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There are a number of Mennonite families staying here at Mayfield, and I’ve become friends with five of the kids – four girls with long blonde braided hair (age 10, 9, 5 and 5) and one cute-as-a-button toddler. The girls and I just finished playing outside – follow the leader, hide and seek, and general silliness out in the yard. As we were heading in, the following conversation ensued:

10 year old: So who is your husband?
Me: Oh, I don’t have a husband.
9 year old: Really?
Me: Nope!
9 year old: At breakfast I saw you at the table with that guy with kind of long hair coming down, and I was sure he was your husband!
Me: Nope! I just met him today. I don’t really know him. (I wasn’t even sure who they were talking about!)
5 year old: You should get a husband.
Other 5 year old: Yeah. Ladies need a husband to have babies!
Me: Ah!
10 year old: Yeah. But I’m kind of glad that man isn’t your husband.
Me: Oh, really? Why is that?
10 year old: Well, he didn’t look like such a great guy to me.
Me: Haha! Oh dear!
9 year old: But you should definitely get married.
Me: I should?
9 year old: Yes! You should, because you’re SOOO pretty!!!
Me: Oh my! Well thank you! We should play together more often!

Flexibility Required - update!

Well, I’ll bet you’re not surprised to hear that my travel plans continue to change! After all, this is Africa… :)

Last I left you, it was Monday and my flight on Tuesday was cancelled and I was going to drive up to Korr on Wednesday with Nick and Lynne. Well there’s been some issues with the funding required to buy the supplies that they needed, so on Tuesday, I was told we’d be leaving Thursday… and on Wednesday, that we’d be leaving Friday… and today, Thursday, there is still paperwork to straighten out. If it’s not done today, it’ll have to be done Friday, and then supplies will have to be bought. Everything is closed on the weekend, so it will be done Monday, and we’ll be leaving Tuesday…

And so day to day, I’m finding things to do, ministries to visit, and spending some time in bed trying to knock out a silly head cold before it knocks ME out. Not sure yet who’s winning the battle.

I’ll get to Korr eventually, I promise! It really has been a blessing to have this time to see different ministries here in Nairobi and to have some time to unwind from the insanity that was my December. Next up (after my cold is gone!) is visiting a nearby orphanage to help with feeding, changing diapers, and spend time playing with babies! Yahoo!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Karibu Sana (A warm welcome)

Since arriving in Kenya, I believe that the word “Karibu” (kah-ree'-boo) is the word that I have heard the most. I have felt most welcomed wherever I go – handshakes (the common way of greeting here in Kenya), smiles, and warm welcomes have abounded. I have been told that in Africa, a visitor is seen as a blessing, but living it here has been another experience entirely. I feel so blessed to be a guest wherever I go, but sometimes it borders on feeling uncomfortable. I came here to serve and to work, and over and over again I end up coming away blessed by the warm welcome that people have given me!

At church on my first Sunday, I and the other first time guests were treated to tea out back after the service by a welcoming committee.

At my home stay, my host mother, Esther, didn’t let me help with anything. Instead, I was given tea in the morning and afternoon, served dinner, taken to the places I needed to go, and was granted such warm hospitality the whole time I was there.

While working in Mitumba, the teachers would do anything for me. I tried to help – find my own chair, help with grading, help with lunch, but over and over I was told to just sit and relax, and they would bring me what I needed. I mentioned one time to the pastor’s wife that I was feeling like I was creating extra work for everybody while I was supposed to be there to help, but she assured me that just by being there, it showed them that somebody cared, and that they were happy to serve. But I’m supposed to be the one there to serve, to help, to bless...

I have felt overwhelmed with the kindness and the generous hospitality of Kenyans wherever I go. One experience in particular, however, will remain with me forever. It was such a touching gesture, and gave me a new picture of Christ-like humility, service, and grace...

It was Saturday morning and I had just arrived at Mitumba for the Bible club. It had been raining in Nairobi for two days, and my runners were in my other suitcase at the AIM office, so all I had were my sandals. My sandals and feet were caked in mud, and my calved were splashed with mud as well. I arrived at the door but didn’t want to go in with such dirty feet and make a huge mess on the floor. The children had removed their shoes, but I didn’t really want to go barefoot. As I stood there wondering what to do, a girl from the standard seven class, Rose, came up beside me.

“Your feet are dirty,” she told me. “Please, come with me.”

She led me down the alleyway to an open classroom. “Wait here.”

There I stood in the empty room, rain thundering down on the tin roof, thinking she was maybe going to bring me some water to wash my feet off. Indeed, she arrived with a bucket of water and motioned for me to take off my shoes. I did, and before I could pick them up to rinse them off, she had them in her hands, bent over the bucket, and began to scrub off the mud. I just stood there awkwardly as she worked. “Can I help you?”

“No, no, just wait.” She smiled at me. And so I did, unsure of what to say until she had finished.

“Asante sana, Rose. Thank you very much!” I bent down to put my shoes back on my muddy feet, but she again motioned to me to stop.

“Just wait.”

Again she disappeared out the door with the bucket, only to appear a few minutes later with a fresh bucket and fresh water. Without a word, she gestured to me to put my foot in the bucket. I hesitated, all kinds of thoughts flying through my head – discomfort at a young black girl serving me, a white westerner, feeling guilty that she was making such a fuss over me, looking at her own muddy feet and thinking I should be helping her… but then I just sensed that I should allow her to do this for me, so I dipped my foot in the bucket.

Rose bent over and splashed water over my foot – scrubbed it down with her hands, all over my foot, between my toes, and then rubbed off the muddy water that had splashed up onto my leg – first the right, then the left.

As she worked, I couldn’t help but think of Jesus washing his disciple’s feet… this person who should be served bending down to serve, and I wondered if, standing there, I caught a little bit of what the disciples must have felt as Jesus performed the same act of love and service Rose was now doing for me. I was so incredibly humbled by this gesture and touched by the grace she showed me – how was I deserving of that kindness?

It was a beautiful glimpse of Jesus in the heart of this little girl living out her faith there in a Nairobi slum.

Hakuna chakula na maji

(No food and water)

Though the rains that fell in Kenya on Friday and Saturday were welcomed with relief, they were not enough to help ease the crisis this country is facing. The government has declared a national state of emergency because, in a country of approximately 36 million people, there are 10 million who are in danger of starvation. There is a very real and serious famine here in Kenya right now.

The rainy season this year was not nearly as wet as it should have been, and now the dry season is very dry. When the rains came, crops were planted, but then failed for lack of water. The post-election violence of last year, too, has played a large part in this current crisis, as well. Much of the violence happened when crops were supposed to be planted. Instead, people were driven from their shambas (farms) and fields and homes were burned. Not enough crops were planted, and many grain stores were burned.

In addition, there are still many people in internally displaced people camps as a result of the elections, and the government has declared that they will soon stop food aid to these camps. People are being told to fend for themselves and go home. But where will they go? Their houses were burned and it was their very neighbours who drove them away!

Add to this the rising costs of fertilizers, the general state of the global economy, and rumours of some creating a manipulated shortage. It’s no secret that corruption is a huge problem in Kenya, and many are wondering if the powers that be are withholding grain to drive up the price. Even just this week there have been stories on the news of traders buying up government-subsidized grain and then re-selling it at a higher cost to those who so desperately need it.

And then there is the shortage of water. Because of the lack of rains during November and December, reservoirs are dry, and even here in Nairobi there have been water shut-offs and city-implemented rationing going on for the last few months. Upcountry, the rural areas are really feeling the shortage. Children are being sent home from school because there is no water, livestock are dying, and people are at a loss of what to do. In Korr, a place where water is scarce at the best of time, I can only imagine the situation. In fact, just tonight there was a story on the news about the water shortage in Marsabit, about 80 km north east of Korr, where even camels are dying for lack of water. You know that when camels are dying, things are really, really bad.

Please, pray for Kenya. Pray for rain, for corruption to stop, for food to be fairly distributed. And pray for the people who are struggling just to meet their basic, basic needs for survival.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Flexibility Required

There's another new post below, and a bunch more below that. Posts will slow down considerably in the next few days, so don't run away! hehehe!
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When I flew to Toronto for my orientation on Monday, January 5, my schedule for getting to Korr was as follows: I’d be in Toronto until Wednesday evening, arrive in Nairobi Thursday night (Nairobi time), have orientation from Friday to Monday, and then catch a flight to Korr on Tuesday morning, January 13.

Ah, but this is Africa, and things don’t always go according to schedule...

At lunch on Tuesday in Toronto, I was told that the rules are changing quickly in Kenya regarding work permits. It used to be that as long as the paperwork was in to the office, it was ok to come and start working. But no longer. They now want to have the paperwork on file for a certain period of time before one is allowed to begin working. The problem is, nobody seemed to know how long that period was. There was, therefore, a question as to whether or not I would even be allowed into the country. The AIM co-ordinator in Toronto told me that it was possible I’d have to hang out in Toronto for a few days, or even, depending on how long it was going to take to get approval to arrive in the country, perhaps fly back home to Vancouver while I waited. HA! And you thought saying goodbye at the restaurant and then walking to your cars together was awkward! Hehehe! Thankfully that didn’t happen, and I got the approval to fly to Kenya and proceed with orientation as scheduled, with the understanding that when I arrived in Korr, I’d just have to hang out for a while – learn some language, get to know the people, etc – until I had the permit to begin working. Well, perfect! I was actually kind of glad of that – it allowed me some buffer zone to settle in and learn a little language, etc first before BLAM-O! I was teaching in a new place, new climate, new language, new culture, with new people. Perfect-o! So off I flew to Nairobi...

But again, this is Africa, and things don’t always go as planned...

When I arrived in Nairobi and went in to the AIM office, I was told that the missionaries I’ll be living with, Nick and Lynne, were going to have to come down to Nairobi for supplies right around the time that I was supposed to arriving in Korr, and could I please delay my arrival in Korr until the 20th of January? OH! Um, sure! I was definitely not complaining about staying at Mayfield, let me tell you!

So I did my orientation, and the short-term co-ordinator here in Nairobi set me up with the ministry in Mitumba for the week and found me a fabulous Kenyan family to stay with while I worked there. While I am kind of itching to get to Korr, I’m really quite grateful that things have worked out the way they have. Had I flown up on the 13th as planned, I might never have known about Mitumba and would certainly have never met Esther and her family, who I have very much enjoyed staying with.

So that brings me to today, Monday, January 19. Up till last night at about 8:30, I wasn’t too sure what was happening today and with my flight to Korr on Tuesday. And then when the co-ordinator called me, I still wasn’t too sure! The missionaries, Nick and Lynne, were on their way down to Nairobi, and he was having a hard time getting hold of them. There was the possibility that I’d be able to drive up with them instead of flying, so he wanted to check in on that, but couldn’t get hold of them. So the plan was made to go ahead with the flight as planned. Te co-ordinator’s assistant, Janet, would pick me up from my homestay this morning, head back to Mayfield, do some last minute shopping and orientation, and I’d fly out on Tuesday morning as planned. Perfect-o! Sounds good!

But this is Africa, and things don’t always go as planned...

Murray, the co-ordinator called me this morning to tell me that he got an email from Nick and Lynne, and that, yes, they would be able to take me (and all my stuff!) back to Korr with them. They will be in Nairobi on Monday and Tuesday and will be driving up on Wednesday and Thursday, probably arriving in Korr on Thursday night or Friday sometime, depending on the roads.

But this is Africa...

They’re not sure if they can cancel my flight with one day’s notice, and they’re not sure if there’s room at Mayfield for me tonight, and they’re not sure if I should stay at Mayfield on Tuesday night or perhaps with Nick and Lynne so we can leave early on Wednesday morning...

So here I sit, waiting for Janet to make all the phone calls and arrangements. I might do orientation and errands today and fly tomorrow and stay with… I don’t know? I guess the other missionaries in Korr until Nick and Lynne get back? Or I might go back to Mitumba for the day today and stay in my home stay one more night (after I’ve already said all my goodbyes! Hehe!) and do the errands and orientation stuff tomorrow? And get to Korr on Friday? Or Thursday? Or tomorrow? Who knows...

Basically I’m just sitting here laughing my head off. I love it! Don’t misread me – I am not complaining at all. I’m actually kind of enjoying the different pace of life and really appreciating how organized everybody is, given the difficulties of communicating and co-ordinating with so many people and in such remote places. Murray and Janet and everyone have been amazing!

AH! My phone is ringing as I type! Hold on ...

...

YES! A plan! They were able to cancel my flight, so I’m being picked up in about 45 minutes, will do some errands this morning, have my last bit of orientation this afternoon, stay with Murray and his family tonight because Mayfield is full, perhaps help Nick and Lynne with their shopping tomorrow, perhaps stay with them tomorrow night, and drive with them to Korr on Wednesday morning.

WAHOO!!! Korr, here I come! :)

... but then again, this is Africa, and things don’t always go as planned...

A Heartbreaking Blunder

There are all kinds of very legitimate ways of justifying it, but still I am so bothered by something that happened on the way home from a cyber cafĂ© yesterday. One of the daughters of my hostess, Mary, and I were walking through the neighbourhood on our way home, when some boys dressed in rags began following us and talking to us. This had happened on the way to the cafe as well, and it is very common in Nairobi for children beggars to follow people and beg for money, particularly from mzungus (white people). Generally my response would be to just ignore them, cross to the other side of the street, or just tell them “Hapana” (no).

So as we were approached by these two children who were maybe 4 or 5 years old, they began talking and I, not knowing what they were saying but assuming they were like the others asking for money, just gave a cursory glance over my shoulder and said, “Hapana.” A few steps later, Mary told me what they were saying, and I was heartbroken. They must have been kids from Mitumba, because they were saying something along the lines of, “Hello! Look! Our new teacher!” AH!

Here I am, supposed to be bringing the love of Jesus to these kids, and when they had recognized me and were saying hello, I just shrugged them off as beggars without a second thought. I can only imagine their confusion. One minute, Teacher is shaking hands, greeting them, playing with them, singing with them, and the next, when they see Teacher on the street and they say hello, she just says NO and keeps on walking. Argh!

Everything is a lesson, and this was a painful one. How do I find the balance of being loving all the time – not just when I am “on duty” – and yet still not give in to begging kids or people asking for gifts or money??? Language helps, of course, but still, it’s a delicate balance – one I got completely wrong yesterday. Thank goodness for forgiveness. I can only pray that what the kids remember of me is the smiles and the love, not the cold greeting they got on the street. Oy.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Posts 'n' Pics!

Ah, yes! It's true! I have pictures! Not oodles, as uploading is reallyslow, but pics none the less!

And basically, what I'll be doing here is blogging offline, then doing a big ol' blog dump when I do get online. So here's your notice - I have two new posts up just below this one - "Thoughts on School" and "Mzungu" - and a link to another post with more about the Kenyan education system here if you're interested. Sooo... enjoy!

Here's a link to my pictures (which are also posted on Facebook).

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Thoughts on School

I’m learning a lot about the education system here in Kenya, and it’s been really interesting (me being a teacher and all!). The system is quite different, and I must say, Kenyan children work waaaaay harder than kids in Canada. I’ve been stunned to learn about the schedules and workloads of kids in high school (and even elementary/primary). Wow. Kids back at home have NO idea! (If you’d like to read more of what I’ve learned about the Kenyan system, click the link at the bottom of this post)

As I have been observing in the class in Mitumba, I am realizing the challenge that is before me when I go up to Korr. Education here is done mostly by rote/memorization as opposed to understanding and analysis. I definitely want to teach in a more Canadian style and encourage the students to think critically, give their own opinions, and to engage in discussions. But I also know that there is a lot of material to cover that the children must know, or they will not pass their exams. And I’m definitely trying to think creatively in the absence of many, many of the resources I am used to! I’m not sure what kid of resources are in Korr, but I know they will be scant. My time in Mitumba has been good even just to see some of what the teachers there are doing. One really great idea I have seen are posters that are in the preschool/kindergarten class. Paper is not durable and gets dirty very fast there. So instead, the teacher has taken plastic – a kind of woven sack – and used oil paints to make her charts – letters, numbers, days of the week, etc. On some of the charts, she has taken yarn and embroidered around the outside of the words, which add colour and texture, too. Because the charts are plastic, they last a long time, and can be washed when they get dirty! It’s ingenious!

As I’ve been learning about the system here, it’s been interesting to draw parallels to the education system back at home – to compare and contrast values, methods, and even politics. I’m looking forward to learning how to find a balance between bringing what I know about good teaching practice and fitting into the Kenyan system, which obviously I can not change! I already have some ideas for running teacher’s workshops in Korr once I get there. It’s funny, before leaving, I thought, “What can I possibly teach? I’m just a baby teacher myself!” But now I see that there are so many areas in which I’m excited to be able to teach teachers. One example is in teaching composition – in one class I have seen, the children (class 4) were given the topic of “My Best Friend” and left to write two paragraphs. When they were done, the teacher takes them, corrects all the mistakes, deducts a mark or a half mark for each mistake, and gives the student a mark out of twenty. AK! He knows no better, so I can’t blame him at all, but suddenly my mind lit up with things I could teach him – rubrics! Six traits! Teaching one part of writing and marking only for that! Setting kids up for success! The list goes on and on, and that’s only one part of one subject! I can’t wait to get to a more permanent placement where I can begin gather ideas and teaching both kids and other teachers. (Though don’t get me wrong, they will have much to teach me as well! The last thing I want to do is come in as a mzungu and have an “I know everything” attitude and “Here, let me change you!” Yikes!) One step at a time!

If you’d like to read more about the Kenyan education system, click here for another post.

Mzungu

My back to the door, I was watching a lesson at the school in Mitumba when behind me, I heard a sound. I turned just in time to see a little girl maybe four years old peeking around the door frame at me. As soon as we made eye contact, she whispered, "Mzungu!" flashed a quick smile and ran away…

Walking across the courtyard of the school, I passed by the window of one of the classrooms and was greeted with a chorus of, “Hello, Mzunguuu!” …

Down one of the passageways in Mitumba are several classrooms. When I arrived the first day, school had already started (I arrived late after being dropped off at my homestay), and there was nowhere I could stand without all eyes turning to me and whispers of “Mzungu!” rippling through the class…

Walking down the road on my way to Mituma, I pass many people heading to wherever they are heading. This morning as I walked, I passed two women with toddlers on their backs. One pointed at me with a big smile and called out, “Mzungu!”

Those of you who know what “Mzungu” means are chuckling and perhaps nodding your heads because you’ve been there. Those who don’t let me let you in on the secret: Mzungu means “white person.” Whitey, if you will. Where ever I go, but particularly in the school, I feel like quite the spectacle.

The first class I sat in on was a grade three class, and one girl, Esther (Aysta) just sat, turned around in her desk, staring at me. I would catch her eye, she’d smile and turn away, but would be staring at me again in no time. I’m fairly certain she didn’t catch ANY of the lesson that day! And the kids love to stroke my skin and my hair, too! I’m quite the curiosity!

I think the mzungu experience that has stood out the most, however, have been two very young girls – maybe two years old? – one yesterday who was maybe with her sister after school as we were cleaning water bottles getting ready for water treatment, and one today who was waiting in the preschool class while her mother was out for a bit. Both of them were staring at me, and I went over to say hello. “Sa sa! Habari yako?” (Hi! How are you?) I’d ask, and extend my hand to shake theirs. But as soon as I approached, they both burst into tears and turned their backs to hide their faces. “Hapana! Hapana! Pole! [poh-lay]” (No, no! Sorry!) I’d tell them. I gestured to myself and told them, “Rafiki! Rafiki!” (friend) But it was no use. Me and my white skin had terrified them and they would not stop sobbing! For a moment an Arrested Development moment flashed through my head and I felt like calling out, a la Buster, “I’m a monster!” Ah! Poor little sweethearts!

I guess I’d better get used to my new name! I have a feeling I’m going to be Mzungu for quite some time yet!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Hope in Mitumba

As I write this, my feet are still caked in dust and splashed in mud from my trip to Mitumba, one of the slum areas here in Nairobi. I went this afternoon to visit an informal school that runs there. I will be helping there for the next few days in between my Swahili lessons and orientation, before I head to Korr on the 20th. While at Mitumba today, I learned so much, and came away with even more to think about. Allow me to share the story of what is happening in this small corner of Nairobi…

Mitumba was a place of poverty and hopelessness when Shadrach and his wife first got there in 2002. There was no food, no water, and people lived in unimaginable poverty. He referred to this place he found as Sodom and Gomorrah. Mitumba is right between Wilson airport and a development of middle to upper-middle class housing complexes. Even the scavenging from the garbage heaps that happen in other slums was not possible in Mitumba, as all the housing complexes are surrounded by high walls and guarded gates. People had not even a dump from which to scrounge some scraps. As a result, children, starving and looking for something to eat, were reduced to eating dirt and sucking on used condoms.

Let that sink in a little bit. Children. Eating dirt. Drinking from condoms. I even wonder if I should write such things. But such was the life – if you can call it that – of these precious little children. Ignoring it, hiding it – that doesn’t make it go away. Poverty. Disease. Hopelessness. But also, a pastor and his wife. A calling. A message of love that doesn’t just make warm fuzzies, it brings hope and the incredible power to make a change…

In the six years since Pastor Shadrach arrived in Mitumba, what a change God has made in this place. There is still poverty, yes. But there is also hope.

There is now a primary school with over three hundred children who are fed breakfast and lunch each day. There are teachers who are not only skilled, but feel God’s clear call to love these kids and to teach them about the love of Jesus. And children are doing well - eleven students this year have not only passed their primary school completion exams, but have been sponsored for secondary education, including full room and board. The school has recently been upgraded, and they are nearing construction of a two-story building – rare in a slum area like this – that will house a dining hall on the first floor and a medical clinic on the top floor. Every child who is admitted to the school is checked and treated for malaria, worms, and various other diseases and wounds. There is education for the families on how to treat water and avoid disease and HIV counseling available for those who want it.

Just in the last few weeks, there has been an orphanage dedicated and opened, where, as Pastor Shadrach put it, “God will be a father to the fatherless.” Beds have been donated and workers are finishing off the construction. No longer will orphaned children sleep in the garbage and filth-ridden alleyways, but they will have beds, showers, toilets, and a drawer of their own in which to store their things. One amazing story that has come out of this orphanage project is that, while digging in preparation for a septic tank, they found a natural spring, and there is water! Oh, there is water, abundant and far cleaner than the water the city promises to pipe in but never does! They now have a well and plenty of water.

As is that wasn’t enough, there are a number of income-generating projects that have been started in this developing community. A group of men have been trained and have a growing business making briquettes for stoves, and there is a ladies group who weaves purses out of a local plant. They have just gotten an order for 200 bags, and are overjoyed that this business is taking off. The next project that will begin as soon as there is space to do it is a mattress and pillow-making business. People have been allowed now to open bank accounts so that, if their hut burns, their money is safe. They see that there can be, that there IS, a way out.

In talking with Pastor Shadrach and seeing each of these projects today, I was absolutely awestruck at the hope that Jesus brings to such a place. Shadrach is an amazing man of faith, which comes from seeing the amazing changes in Mitumba. Children are bringing the hope of Christ to their families, and the little Mitumba church is growing. First the children, then the women, and now even the men are beginning to come and are holding Bible studies. With the biggest smile and shining eyes, Shadrach declared over and over, “Jesus is here!”

And indeed He is. While they may not be out of Mitumba, their minds are coming out of Mitumba – they are for the first time seeing another way that life can be. There is hope growing in that place. People are excited to see that the life they never even dreamed of is slowly coming true.

While there is much to be done – so many needs still to be met, so many challenges, not enough money, not enough people – there is much to stand in awe of. Pastor Shadrach said this of Mitumba:

We are developing life! We are letting Jesus transform the lives of these people, and in turn they are transforming the community. Jesus’ light is shining bright in this very place!
Please, pray for the people of Mitumba. Pray for the businesses that are developing, for the school, for the church that is growing . And please pray for Pastor Shadrach and his wife Violet, who are working so hard. Even despite having all his donated medical equipment stolen recently, he remains faithful: “Still I have no complaint. I know that when God is moving, the enemy will do whatever he can to stop it. Losing my things is an encouragement that God will do ever greater things here in this place.”

And surely He will. We know that he who begins a good work will carry it through to completion. I can’t wait to see - one day - what God will complete in Mitumba!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Two Days In

Wow, this is a long one, people! I have consistent access to the net here in Nairobi, and a fair bit of free time in between orientation activities, so lots of time to write some stories. I figure by the time my time and internet access are limited, you’ll have run out of patience for humungo posts, but for now I’ll catch ya while you’re fresh and enthusiastic! Muah hahaha! (oops, did I write that out loud? ;) ) Feel free to read in chunks! I won’t be offended!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Only two days here, and I already feel like it’s been a weeks worth of experiences! On my first full day, I was picked up by the Kenyan short term co-ordinator, Murray, and was taken to the office for the first part of my orientation. The drive there – what an experience! I now know that here in Nairobi, the lines on the road are only suggestions - if someone or something is in your way, you drive around them, regardless of whether it’s into oncoming traffic or not. Eek! :) And people! There are people all over the road – no crosswalks or pedestrian lights for sure! I’ve been told that pedestrians do not have the right of way here, so basically you run out into traffic with your hand out and hope that they stop for you. Ha! (ok, it’s not THAT extreme…. Well, ok, yes it is).

Upon arrival at the office, I met Janet, the short term assistant, and the rest of the AIM Eastern Division staff. Part way through the morning we all met for tea, birthday cake, prayer, and worship in a little covered courtyard off the office. What a great tradition, tea time! I’m very much enjoying learning how things work here, meeting people both in the office and at Mayfield guest house, and picking up little bits of language and culture as I go along.

Adventures on Public Transport

After lunch on my first day in Nairobi was when the real adventures began – Janet arrived back at Mayfield to take me on a matatu tour. Matatus are a form of public transportation here in Kenya – kind of a cross between a bus and a taxi – but not at ALL like a bus or a taxi!!! Janet showed me how they work, a few different routes to take to get to different places. She was also there to tell me that the conductor who was continually asking me to be his girlfriend in his tribal language and who was jamming 18 or 19 people into a 14 passenger van was indeed NOT normal of matatus in general. I have no idea what the conductor was saying, but Janet understood him, and all she would say was, “He’s being very naughty!” Telling him “Hapana” (no) caused him to back off a little, but not much!

We took the matatu to a used clothing market in Nairobi (more on that later!) and on the way back, took a bus so I could see who the bus system works, too. Again, we were in for adventure! The busses and matatus do have set routes, but, like the lines on the road, I’m learning that they, too, are flexible. There was traffic, so the bus just turned down a side road to avoid it and changed his route. We decided to go with it, but this new route led us to an intersection where a matatu and a car had had a little fender bender and it blocked the intersection. There were dozens of people all crowded around the crash, and the bus driver just laid on his horn over and over and over… till I suppose he got bored of that and decided – the BUS – to hop the curb, drive over the sidewalk, and carry on its way. Ok, then! “At least now when you take public transport, it will all seem smooth!” Janet told me! Even she, a Kenyan, was surprised at our adventure! :)

To Market, to Market

Our destination was Toi (Toy?) Market, a used clothing market in Nairobi. Make no mistake. This is no shopping mall. Little “shops” were set up with branches and wire and each merchant had their wares displayed all over the walls and on little tables along the crowded walkway. I wish I could have taken some pictures to give you an idea, but for one, you don’t really carry anything you’re not willing to lose around town, and it’s not really acceptable to take photos of markets and things – they are people’s businesses, and it could be seen as offensive. Shucks!

Anyway, I needed to buy a few long skirts, and I was up for a little bargaining. Through the crowded and dusty shops, we went to booth after booth looking for and trying on skirts (by standing on the dirt floor and pulling them up over my pants!). I can’t say my bargaining was stellar, but I did get the merchants down from about 800 shillings ($12) to 550 ($8.25) for each skirt. I don’t think they were going to go lower, so I’m happy with that! I definitely had fun with the market, though. “How much for this?” I’d ask. When told the price, I’d let out a “Whooo! Too much!” which was inevitably followed by, “The price is not feexed, seestah. You tell me how much you want to pay.” Ah, why can’t we bargain back in Canada? Walk into The Bay… “Whooooo! Too much! I’ll give you a third of that!” Anyone want to try for me? Tell me how it goes! Hehehe!

On Saturday I met up with a team from Australia to go to the Masai market – basically a tourist market with all kinds of cultural souvenir-type things. It was HUGE, and a little overwhelming, but fun, too, to see all the stuff and experience the market! “Karibu, seestah. Welcome! Come and see my things. I made them myself. [Funny, cause your stuff is exactly like about 6 other merchants here. Hmm…] I give you a special price…” Some shop owners were friendly, some were pushy (“You’re just browsing? Ok, well, will you ocme back? Ok, when? You promise to buy from me?” AK!), and one chased one of the team members halfway across the market to try to convince him to buy his painting. I think my favourite, though, was the woman with a baby strapped to her back who came up to us outside the market while we were waiting for the rest of the team to come out. “Give me one hundred dollars!” Um, no? She systematically went to each one of us: “Give me one hundred dollars. Give me one hundred dollars. Give me one hundred dollars…” Oh, ok, let me open my wallet for you!

I actually had kind of a creepy experience in the market that day, though. We are always being so vigilant about our money, keeping it separated in different places, only taking out small bills, keeping our bags in the front and our hands on our bags… Well in the market I took out a notebook to write down the name of a young man I met who is from Korr (one of the Aussie team members recognized him from their time there), and as I was putting it back in my bag, one of the shopkeepers caught my attention. “Excuse me, your money…” and pointed to the ground. Sure enough, there was a little pile of three or four bills. I was horrified at how careless I had been (it was only about $4 worth, but still!), so crouched down, realized that I needed to keep my purse in front of me (could this be a ploy to grab my bag while I was distracted picking up the bills?), grabbed the bills, and shoved them into my purse. As I thanked the merchant, it occurred to me that I was pretty sure I had put all my bills in zippered pockets in my purse, and my notebook was in the main, unzippered part, so how on earth did those bills fall out??? As I was walking away, I wondered if maybe it was some kind of setup and someone was going to come after me for robbery or something. Gak! I just got out of there quickly, and after nothing happened, decided that it was just a dude being nice to some silly mzungu (white person) who was throwing money on the ground. Suspicion should have its limits, I suppose!

Kiswahili lessons

After the morning at the Masai Market, I headed back to Mayfield for lunch and my first Kiswahili lesson with Bwana Ezekiel. It was two hours long, and all we covered were greetings, but as we sat in a corner of the garden, I began learning and practicing some greetings and learning more about how important these are in African culture. I’ll pass on a few of them a little later (cause really, I don’t expect that many of you are still reading this anyway by now! Ha!), but it was such a lovely afternoon – breezy and cool, picking up some language in a one-on-one lesson in the shade of a large tree. All we needed was a cool glass of lemonade to complete the highly civilized picture!

Where I’m headed from here…

It looks like I will be here in Nairobi for a little longer than I thought, as the Swanepoels (the missionaries I’ll be staying with in Korr) have to make a trip for supplies and wanted to push my arrival date back. I’ll be here in Mayfield till Tuesday or Wednesday, then will possibly be heading to a homestay right near one of the slums here in Nairobi (not Kibera, I forget what it’s called just now) for about a week, visiting and helping out in a kind of informal school there. I think where it stands now is that I’ll be headed up to Korr on the 20th of January. I’m happy to experience some more of Nairobi and to see some of the ministries here, but I’m also getting really eager to get up to Korr and begin learning the Rendille language and culture and getting settled in there. God’s got it all in control, and I’m happy to roll with whatever comes my way!

Thank you to those of you who are commenting and emailing! I really do love hearing from you, and will do my best to reply to emails as soon as I can!

Kwaheri marafiki yangu! / Goodbye, my friends!

Friday, January 09, 2009

Snapshots from a journey to Africa

*click* The day before I left, I went for coffee with a friend before church and bawled my way through the service. Emotions (and lack of sleep) were partly to blame, but I really love my church, and this would be the last time I was there for a very long time. Not to mention that everything – EVERYTHING – about the service seemed relevant to where I was at and what I was about to do. I love how God knows jus what we need when we need it…

*click* After church, I did some last minute errands with two very good friends, and then out for lunch. Suddenly it was time to say goodbye to Trudy, one of my very best friends. Standing in the slush in front of a burrito place on Broadway wasn’t exactly how I pictured saying goodbye, but there we were. Lots of hugs, lots of tears, lots of things left unsaid, but nevertheless understood between two good friends…

*click* Back at my house Sunday afternoon saw a whole lot of mad packing (though my bags for Africa were more or less done) and cleaning up. A friend came to help me clean, and did a whole lot of my dirty work for me. What a blessing it was to have some help and some good company in those last few crazy hours…

*click* My entire family arrived to pick me up and take me to the airport at 4:30am. My bags were packed, but that was all that was ready. I was flying around in a panic and had only slept about 3 hours - the night before! I was cleaning out my car, taking out the garbage, and looking at the piles of “what the heck do I do with this stuff” stuff that I still had to pack. It SO wasn’t going to get done. So while we waited for my iPod to finish loading, my sis finished off my dishes, my brother tried to stay awake while he and my dad loaded my suitcases, and my mom helped with little jobs, too. It was about a half hour of panic and flustered running around and craziness, and a house I had to leave to my wonderful, helpful, understanding, and terribly gracious parents to finish packing and cleaning. But finally, all five of us and my massively heavy suitcases were in the truck and on the way to the airport…

*click* Saying goodbye at the airport was hard. My whole fam was there, which was awesome, given the insane hour. We got my crazy overweight bags checked in (they didn’t even weight them! Wahoo!) and headed to the security line. As soon as we hit the winding ribboned-off part of the line, it was time to say goodbye. Hugs and tears and more hugs, and my fam moved off to the side as I entered the lineup. Of course, it winds back and forth, so I went forth… but then back again towards my waiting family. More hugs over the ribbon, more goodbyes, and forth I went again… and then back. More hugs, less tears, and forth once more. And, yes, you guessed it, back. Some waves, laughs (cause really, this was getting kind of silly!) and one more hug for the mama. Forth I went again, and then through the frosted doors. I poked my head out one more time to wave goodbye, but they had already turned to walk away. Through the people, I caught a glimpse of my mom putting her arm around my sister as they walked away, and it was all I could do to hold back the tears…

*click* Airports. Meal service. In-flight movies (appropriate ones – NOT ones to scare the pants off me on the way to Africa!). Hours and hours of half-sleep. Sore knees and creaky joints. Sunrise. Flying over the Alps and the Sahara Desert. Nearly two hours getting through the line to buy a Visa in Nairobi. Noise and fast pace, and crowds and lines, changing watches and new sights and smells and sounds. Finally, late Thursday night (technically early Friday morning) I had collected my bags and met the driver from Mayfield Guest House, along with five others who were on my flight. The night air in my face through the open window, the new smells, the experience of a Nairobi highway, and then, at Mayfield, quiet. I was grateful for my bed, and as I drew the mosquito net down around my bed, I quickly fell asleep.

My African adventure had begun…

Arrival

Greetings from Nairobi! I’m here! I’m actually here!!! I’m exhausted and dying for a shower, but I’m here! All my flights were great – to Toronto, to London, to Nairobi… no lost bags, no customs hassles, no problems getting a visitor’s Visa (other than a reeeeeallllly long line in the Nairobi airport), nothing!

I’ve got lots to write from the last five days (wow – five days? Is that all?), but for now know that I’m safe and sound here at Mayfield, a guest house run by AIM in Nairobi, sitting in bed under my mosquito net and enjoying the quiet night punctuated only by the odd call of a bird here and there.

Tomorrow brings a full day – the first of my 5-6 days of orientation here in Nairobi before I head up to Korr, which includes some Swahili lessons and a matatu (taxi) tour through Nairobi with Janet, the short term assistant. Looks like I’m diving in head first! WAHOO!

Holy smokes! I’M REALLY IN AFRICA!!!

__________________________
If you’d like to pray for me, here are some ideas…
* For a smooth and timely acquisition of a work visa
* For all things transitional – adaptation to life, safety, remembering not to drink the water, learning curves, etc

Sunday, January 04, 2009

One Day!

I'm in such denial, it's unbelievable. I. am. moving. to. Africa. TOMORROW. This time tomorrow I will be waiting to board my plane to Toronto for orientation, then hopping on a flight to Nairobi Wednesday evening.

I've been meaning to blog - wanting to just sit and try to work through all the thoughts, emotions, hopes, fears that are swirling around in my head an in my heart, but the task just seems far too monumental to capture. Nor do I have time! My house is still a shambles -though it's getting much, much better, in large part to four AWESOME people who came to help me move boxes, pack up, clean, organize, and install new windshield wipers on my car (oh there was a scary, scary escapade the other night involving 12:30am, a big long bridge, slushy, windy, snowy weather, and Hillary's driver's side windshield wiper flying off into traffic, let me tell you!) - I have a freezer full of food I'm not sure what to do with, a million little things to take care of still, and I. Leave. Tomorrow. Morning!!!!

I guess suffice it to say that I'm becoming a bit of an emotional wreck. Lots to do, I've been going full speed ahead, on hyper speed, times about 14 for the last moth straight, I get little mini panicky escapades when I think about how close my departure is, and I keep having to say goodbye to all kinds of wonderful people who I won't see for a very, very long time.

I so wanted to sit and drink in the experience of leaving, but it's such a whirlwind. I'll have to try maybe on the plane (if of course I'm not completely zonked out the whole entire time!).

Suffice it to say, as crazy as life is right now, it's about to get a whole lot crazier!!!

I might be able to post while I'm in Toronto, but chances are (apart from a New Year's post it's taken me 6 days so far to write), the next time you hear from me, it will be from Africa!

Kwa herini!