Monday, February 02, 2009

On the day I turned thirty

This is one of three new posts: When the Sun Sets, Going Buggy, and this one. Click the link to read the other posts. :)

I woke up this morning to a rooster crowing. It was about 6:30, and my alarm was just about to go off. I lay in bed for a few minutes, wondering what the day would bring – certainly a day like no other!

Once I got up, I quickly went to my suitcase and grabbed the packet that has been staring me in the face for nearly a month – a large envelope that said, “Happy Birthday, Hillary – Open February 2nd”

Inside were cards from Nana, Auntie Ruth & Uncle Jack, and a gorgeous journal type book from my parents. I opened the cards first (after swiping a large cockroach off my bed – I’m reminded of this detail as I watch another one scuttle across the floor, too slow for me to squish it with my shoe), including a really cute battery powered tea light candle from Nana – so sweet! I opened a birthday card from my friend Theresa, too, that was in a packet of cards and notes given to me by a few friends (thanks, Theresa!).

Once the cards were opened, I took out the journal and opened the cover. On the first page was a photo of my fam taken at my fundraiser in December. Aw! But it was the next page that brought the tears. On one side was a family portrait taken when I was maybe 6 or 8 months old, and a message from both my parents. As I flipped through the pages, I realized that what they had given me was a photo of family and friends and a different message from various people – parents, nana, brother, sister, etc – for every week that I am gone (Mom, don’t worry, I didn’t read the messages all at once, but I did glance at the pictures – the first one I saw of both nana and papa choked me up all over again!). I flipped through, missed my fam, and cried a little more – happy tears at how fabulously AMAZING they are for putting something like this together for me.

I went in for breakfast and some scurrying around getting ready for two planes full of 22 visitors from Canada who were coming to visit Korr and get a tour of the project (school, adult literacy classes, evangelism, water project, etc). I had a fairly relaxing morning – got the rooms ready for the pilots, did some reading, checked my email, helped make lunch – it was nice to relax a little. The plane arrived around noon with all the ladies, and after we ate, we all hopped on the back of the land rovers and headed waaaay out – about a half an hour drive out into the desert – to see one of the adult literacy classes. As we passed various gobs (villages), little kids all came out to wave at us, running naked behind the truck and greeting us in Rendille. Once we reached our destination, we all got off the trucks and suddenly there were dozens of kids who came out to see us.

Dusty and many of them naked, they were intensely curious about this big pack of mzungus who must have seemed to arrive out of nowhere. I reached out my hand to greet them, and they reached out theirs, but were too afraid to come to close. They’d approach tentatively, then give a big grin and run away. I’d take a step closer, and they’d cry out and back away. Eventually, a few brave ones ventured out to give a high five and to touch this strange mzungu’s skin. More and more ventured out, and soon we were giving high fives and playing and laughing together. Some of the only words I know in Rendille are “Wakh ala koolicho” which means “Praise God!” so I began making up a clapping game and a tune with the words, which the kids loved and would not stop singing with me (or grabbing my arms and yanking me up and down, in circles, over, back… you get the idea! And, silly me, I took one little boy and swung him around by the arms so his feet came off the ground, and suddenly I had no less than 12 kids trying to hang off me at all times. Hee hee hee!). Two Rendille ladies on the back of the Rover began a call and response song with those words, and the kids picked it up SO fast and began singing it for us. It was absolutely phenomenal to be standing there, surrounded by Acacia trees and Rendille huts, out in the desert under the hot afternoon sun, with all these kids singing a Rendille worship song for US! It really was quite overwhelming.

After playing with the kids, we went over to the literacy class and heard about the history of the project here in Korr. We were able to convince some of the ladies to let us take photos of them (they were SO shy! And also many don’t like their photos taken because they believe it steals a part of them). Their beads and head gear are so incredible beautiful – colourful, intricate, and each one different. I can only imagine how long it takes to make! I can’t wait to be able to post a few!

This visiting group of Canadians went to the house where they were staying while Lynne and I went back to Lynne’s house to make dinner. Something had fallen through, so Lynne was behind and a little flustered trying to get everything ready on time.

“Hillary,” she asked. “This is terrible! We were going to have a surprise party for you over at the other house with a cake and candles and everything… I wanted it to be a surprise, but I am SO behind and I have NO-one to help me… I have to ask you if you wouldn’t mind baking your own cake!”

I laughed. Noooo! Of course not! How sweet! Even among all the running around Lynne was doing – fresh back from three weeks of shopping in Niarobi, orders to sort, a brand new secondary school beginning, finances to sort, 22 visitors to host - STILL she had planned a surprise party for ME! So while Lynne made dinner, I happily made desert. Let me tell you – cookbooks compiled of missionary recipes are the BEST – super easy, tried and tested, using ingredients found in Kenya – where else would you see Blue Band or Kimbo in a recipe??? - and DELICIOUS!)

We got it all done, had a feast of a dinner – goat stew (aaaah, I had wondered why there was a goat tied to a tree in our yard earlier this afternoon!) – and I had 25 people sing me happy birthday! I even got gifts: shower gel, chocolate (yuuuum!), and six glasses that will be painted with camels by a Rendille artist!! By people who hardly know me, or had never even met me! I definitely felt blessed!

And now, I’m sitting in bed listening to giant bugs hit the walls (Ping! Thud. Ping! Thud.) and hyenas whooping outside. I must get to sleep – tomorrow we’re heading out just after sunrise to go out to one of the villages to see some camels be milked, take some photos (a rare permission, as taking photos of camels here is generally a very big no-no), and then I have a meeting with the headmaster to work out my teaching schedule.

I must say, my thirties have started off pretty darn well!


nachtwache said...

It does sound like you started your thirties in a very special way. A late "Happy Birthday" too.
I really enjoy reading your posts. You write so well, I can picture it in my mind.

The Mama said...

Oh, Sweetie! Thanks for the "picture" of your birthday. It was weird not to see or talk to you. Love you basquillions. Ma

Kaz said...

Happy belated! (I think I wrote on your facebook wall, but I just read this post.) I had a good chuckle at the goat. :-) Sounds like such an amazing experience. Almost cinematic!

Lots of love from over here.

Paul said...

Oh, no I forgot your birthday (my diary forgot to tell me it was groundhog day this year). Happy belated birthday wishes. Sounds like you had a really memorable day. Thanks for keeping us updated.

CaliforniaTeacherGuy said...

Your birthday has slipped by, but I send you my good wishes for a successful and wonder-filled 30th year. Happy birthday, Hillary!