Thursday, October 22, 2009

As in, for FREE?

Let me tell you, using a Kenyan cell phone as totally RUINED me for the cell phone shenanigans that go on here in my country. I'm sorry, access fee? Three year contracts? Minute counting? Ridiculous charges? BAH HUMBUG TO ALL OF YOU!

I definitely long for the days of "Buy phone (cheap). Buy SIM card (less than $2). Buy top up card (as much or as little as you want). Phone. For cheap. Run out of credit? Go buy another card. You can buy them anywhere, even Korr, where the nearest network is a three to four hour walk and a huff up a mountain away. Needless to say, I had a little bit of rage at the Canadian wireless business when I got home. (AND? Did you know that, at least with one company, when you answer your phone, it starts charging you from when it started RINGING, not when you actually said hello? GAH!)

However, ease of cell phone use wasn't the only thing I learned when I was in Kenya. I also learned about bargaining and bartering. Oh, yes. Bartering. Not just for Kenyan curio markets, people.

When I got home, I wanted to look into maximizing the value of my cell plan, so I called up Company Friendly, my current provider's competition, to scope out the deals I could get on plans. The guy was really helpful, and told me all the options and all the features I could get on a new mobile plan. Pretty comparable, though it looks like a slightly better deal than the one I had with my current provider, Company Red, who I've been with for over six years now.

I decided to scope out my other options with Red, as I had just gotten whatever to get my cell up and running again when I got home from Kenya, and hadn't yet done a lot of research. I asked about plans and options, and got some dud in customer service who didn't offer any extra info like the Friendly dude did, and for that alone, I was willing to abandon ship, so I called up Friendly again, but this time with a little bit of ammo.

"Soooo, I'm thinking of switching to you guys from Red, but I'm just wondering what kind of incentive you can give me to do that..."

Well, click, click, click, and off I was transferred to the special, "Come on over to OUR side" department, and was lured in with all kinds of extra features and a waaaay better deal that I was getting with Red. Sweet! So I signed up, and my phone arrived about a week later. But, just before I called to activate my new Friendly phone, I remembered a very important bargaining rule: always go back to the Other Guy and tell them what Competition Guy is offering you. Maybe Other Guy can sweeten the deal."

So I called Red.

"Hi! So, I'm a six year customer with you guys, and I'm about to switch to Friendly. I've got the new phone here, and was just about to call and activate it when I thought I'd better call you and see what you're prepared to do to keep me as a Red customer."

A lot, apparently.

They asked what Friendly was offering me - which was a really good deal - and then completely blew it out. of. the. water. They were throwing features and freebies at me faster than I could keep track of them. I made a list (three times I had to ask them to slow down so I could write it down), then told them I'd think about it and get back to them.

Just for kicks, I called Friendly back to see if they could better it.

"Uhhh... wow. We can't even TOUCH that," they told me. Ok, fair enough. I had a 30 day satisfaction clause in my contract, so I had them send me a return mailer and I sent back my phone, called Red, and signed up for a three year contract, which includes the following:

* 250 minutes per month (was 200, but as he was running through my features at the very end was like, "250 minutes, right?" Ummmm... yeeeessss.)
* Evenings and weekends starting at 6pm, not at 9, included
* Free incoming calls
* Caller ID, voice mail, and 2500 texts
* 100 minutes of long distance a month
* FREE Blackberry Flip phone, without a data plan (apparently nearly impossible to get)
* 65% off the data plan fee, should I want one (I don't)

... all for under Not Very Much Money At All... ten dollars LESS, in fact, than when all I had was 150 minutes, caller ID, and evenings at 6pm.

So with all this, now, I'm thinking seriously of canceling my home phone, so I called Red again (gotta always go through the Retention department now) to ask about upping my plan minutes a little bit a month, just in case.

"So, what's the next Retention plan up from mine if I wanted to increase my monthly minutes? I'm thinking of canceling my home phone and want to e sure I don't go over my minutes."

Her answer?

"Well, I could give you 100 bonus minutes a month for the duration of your contract."

"Um, bonus minutes, as in for FREE?"

"Yep. One hundred minutes a month for the next three years. So you'd have 350 minutes instead of 250 for the same price."

"Uh, wow."

"Well, you HAVE been with us for a really long time, so that's why we can offer you that bonus."

I thought that's why I got all that OTHER bonus stuff, but OK!

"Well, uh, sure! Sign me up!"

So, seriously folks. Finished your contract with your current cell company? Call them and tell them you're about to jump ship, and watch 'em scramble! I think I might call them back next month and see what else they'd like to throw in for me!


Monday, October 12, 2009

Watch it Weekends - The regulars

Welllll... it's a long weekend. Does that mean I'm allowed two "Watch It Weekend" posts? Oh wait, my blog, so YES!

I LOVE these kiddos. Khoboso is about three and a half or four, Kulmise (the older girl) is in class two (maybe six? seven?) and Liyoogo, the kookiest, craziest little boy, is about the same age as Kulmi. Good gracious, I love these children.

All three of them live nearby. Khoboso lives just "across the street" and her mom Nabiro works at our house sometimes. Khoboso is the one who was so named because she had finally cooled the burning in her mother's heart for a child of her own. And OH, this little girl is feisty! Every day when I walked to school, I'd be greeted by Khoboso, sca-REAMING at the top of her lungs from 100 meters or more to get my attention - "Hee-la-ree Haf-a-rey-ya! HEE-LA-REE HAF-A-REY-YA!" She's use both my given and and my Rendille name just to make SURE I heard. I'm pretty sure all of KORR could hear! She's sit on my lap sometimes at church, run up to me arms wide when she'd see me coming, and we'd play together often when she was over at our house, which was often. It was for her that I learned the phrases, "goob iro" (go home) and "Madono... Mele... Chirri torro ati igu'da, malinka makilegirdamo." (I don't like that... No.... If you hit me again, I won't play with you anymore today.) Yep, she had a bit of attitude, too! If I played with another kid for too long and didn't give her attention, she'd pout and look at me with betrayal on her face and sometimes give me a smack or two. Ah, but I LOVED to play with her. Colouring, reading stories, and all kinds of wild play! What a cutie! This is her telling me NOT to take away the speaker! See? SASS!

Kulmise was like Khoboso's big sister. She was often at Nabiro's helping to take care of Khobo. Girls are taught to be shy in that culture (Khobo is definitely not within that norm! hehehe!), so she would often cover her face with her arm and peek a grin at me. She knew a tiny bit of English, and helped me learn a bit of Rendille, too! She'd like to poke her head around the corner of my room,too, to say hello and to play a while. Oh, and of course, to get a sweet! Kulmise was often the one to drag Khobo back home after she had dug her heels in and refused to go! (I loved playing with her, don't get me wrong, but if Khobo had her way we'd be playing 24/7!) Here Kulmi is trying on my GIANT rimirimo. See what I mean about the shy? :)

And then there's Liyoogo. He's the kiddo who wasn't breathing when he was born and his parents tried everything, to no avail. Then finally they prayed to this God these missionaries were speaking of, and he started to breathe. His name means "Hands lifted up to God." Liyoogo. Is. Crazy. I love him! He's such a little clown and entertainer. He's the son of Boya, one of our night guards, so he was often around, too. He's in class two as well, like Kulmi. This kid cracks. me. up. I'd often show Boya, his dad, the pictures and videos of his son hamming it up and he'd watch with a big grin on his face and just say, "MADAAKKINO!" (which translates into "wow" or "oh my goodness" or, most likely in this case, something like, "good grief!") *GRIN* I could have posted the pic of him with his eyelids turned inside out - one of his favourite tricks - but I figured I'd spare you! Click here if you're dying to see!

So ANYWAY, the videos. These three loved to come visit me (and I loved to have them!). I didn't have much, but they loved to colour. One afternoon they were hanging out in my room and I decided to crank some tunes and have a party. It started with some groovin' on the bed...

... and then turned to a full-on dance party! What more do you need than music, some sunglasses, and three kooky kids? :) Oops, four! Somo, a traditional boy and a friend of Kulmi and Liyoogo, heard the music and came in to see what it was all about. He was pretty camera shy but still managed to bust a move!

Yep, just another day in Korr! :) (um, except that makes it sound like I'm still IN Korr! Confused with all the back and forth? Vancouver! Kenya! Vancouver! Kenya! Yep, welcome to my brain!)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Watch it Weekends - Singing! All! The! Time!

Ok, so one really big thing I regret is not taking longer video clips. Ten seconds is NOT. ENOUGH. Thirty seconds is better. Guess I'll just have to go back to do it again.

Every Sunday after lunch, the trucks go out to the goobs, filled to the brim and more with people from the church, for evangelism. Everybody climbs off the truck and walks through the village, inviting people to come and hear the Word of God. They sing, give a lesson, and talk together for anywhere from one to two hours or so. If there are sick people in the village, they'll visit them, pray for them, and take word back to Nick and Lynne or hte dispensary if any "dawa" (medicine) is needed. I joined the group one Sunday afternoon. I've already written about it, but here are a few videos.

I love them, because it pretty much shows that the Rendille sing constantly. I don't think there was ever a time when I was in the truck with a Rendille and somebody wasn't singing. Here are just snippets of that Sunday afternoon.

Traditional Rendille mamas sing in as they hop a ride back to their goob.

Judy often runs the kids program. They're singing the song they've been learning for the rest of us.

On the way home in the clattery green land cruiser. We're still singing! :)

A view from the top. Oh, how I miss driving trough the desert on the back of a land cruiser!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

That's ONE way to get 'em to remember me!

Yesterday, our class went on a field trip. We've been talking about the community - learning about different people in the community and how they help with things we need or want, how communities change, roles and responsibilities of different people in the community - so I booked a field trip to the bank.

As we walked there, we were on the lookout for community helpers all around us. "Oop! I see a community helper! Who is it?"


"Hey! I see a way our community is changing! What do you see?"

They're building a new building over there! That house is for sale! They're fixing that road! That store used to be a different one!

They were SO excited, it was really cute! Positively RIPE with learning opportunities, let me tell you!

Once we got to the bank, there were all kinds of other cool things to see and learn. The kids got a tour, learned a little about money and how a bank works, got to see the vault and the crazy thick doors and bolts and alarm systems. They LOVED watching the automatic money counter, and we even got to sneak a peek at the back of the ATMs. Raj, the security guard must have known we were coming, too (or maybe he just has this stuff all the time?), cause he had a magic jumping mouse and some paper to make a magic bird! He totally had my kids entranced while they were waiting for the tour. SO cute!

As we were walking home, balloons and snacks in hand (they gave us goodie bags! So fabulous!), I was thinking about how totally tickled I was that the trip was so full of great learning and fun. Man, teachable moments every step of the way!

And then it happened.

We were all standing at the corner waiting for the lights to change so we could cross the street. The kids were all watching me for the signal to cross. And then I felt a great big ol' raindrop on my head.

Oh no! It's going to start raining and we're not back to school yet thought I.

Um, wait a minute, this rain is kind of heavy. I put my hand up to my temple where I felt the drop. And sticky. And then I looked up to see four pigeons sitting on the wire directly above me.

Oh, yes. I had just been crapped on.

In my hair, on my face, on my neck and all down the front of my new sweater landed this goopy gift.

"Oh, MAN!" I said to my class. "I just got POOPED ON!"

Well, I'm pretty sure there's absolutely nothing more fantastically HILARIOUS to a grade 2 or 3 boy (or girl for that matter) than POOP, espeically when it lands directly on your teacher's FACE. Poor E could hardly walk, he was laughing so hard. Thankfully my support worker had a kleenex on her, so I wiped off the goo from at least my face for the walk home, but there it was, still in my hair and all over my shirt.

Of course, I couldn't help but laugh either (they say it's good luck?!), and enjoy the poop jokes all the way back to school. We started a game of running underneath the trees lining the sidewalk. You know, just in case!

So how do you rescue a really "crappy" field trip? Have the kids add the event to their Writer's Topic Pocket, of course! The next time we do our writing book, they'll have a great topic to talk about! I might even work in a lesson on descriptive writing tomorrow and see how they do with poopy adjectives!

My only regret? That I didn't think to take a photo! *GRIN*

(Thank GOODNESS for my support worker, who got the kids lined up and supervised them in the lunch room for me while I went and stuck my head under the tap and half-laundered my sweater in the staff bathroom!)

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

And so I sit on the computer...

Here's pretty much how my internal dialogue is going right now:

I'm really tired. I should go to bed. Ack, but I have so much stuff to do. So I should do my stuff. But I'm too tired to do my stuff. So I should go to bed. But what about all that stuff I have to do? I should do it. But I'm too tired. I really should go to bed. But then all that stuff I have to do will just turn into more stuff I have to do tomorrow. So I should do my stuff. Ugh, but I'm so TIRED.....

And so, my friends, I give you this, the result of neither going to bed nor doing my stuff.

If you already saw this on my facebook or elsewhere, I don't really care. You should watch it again. And shake, shake your booty.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Watch it Weekends - Around Home

Here are a few videos I took of home in Korr... first a tour of my house (don't mind the nerdy Ikea excitement). Ah, home sweet home!

Nick and Lynne love their pets - by the time I left we had two cats and essentially four dogs (two didn't technically belong to us, but were always around and ate at our house), plus one who decided our house was a good place to hang out. This video was taken shortly after I arrived... Tigger, the big pup and Stompy (meaning Stumpy, note he has not tail) were HIALRIOUS to watch. Stompy is such a little bruiser and all Tigger wanted to do was play. There were times Tigger got Stompy's entire head in his mouth, and Stompy would grown and bark and throw a fit, and you'd think he was really ticked off with it all, but he'd run right back in and provoke Tigger for more. Who needs TV when you've got these two to watch and laugh at all day long??? (oh, and 'member the puppy who puked on my lap on the drive up to Korr? That was Tigger!)

And yes, I talked about all kinds of crazy bugs in my house. One in particular was really cool... I'd hear this CLICK! CLICK! CLICK! really loud and always wodnered what it was. Then one day I saw it - it's this crazy beetle that, when flipped over onto it's back, does some kinda crazy flick with it's super-hard body and flips himself back over again. I was poking at this guy for a good half hour, making him do all kinds of tricks. Nick told me later that week as we were talking about these crazy bugs that this dude's got a pretty potent stinger. Huh. Guess I should have thought about that when I went poking at strange African bugs, hey? Thankfully no stings for me!

Finding words

I got an email today from a fabulous missionary couple I got to spend some great time with in Nairobi asking if I had changed my blog address... they had been visiting my blog and hoping to find news from me on how I was settling in and what has been going on in my life since I got back from Kenya, and had not been finding anything! It's true... I've been pretty quiet in these parts these days. It's funny, every time I go to write, it's like I have nothing to say. Or rather, I have so MUCH to say that I don't know how to say it. How do I sum up an experience like this (espeically when there are still so many stories to be told!). Needless to say, it's been a little hard to find words these days.

In some senses, it's kind of hard to be motivated to write after such an experience. It seems like one minute I'm writing about warriors attempting to raid the town and being chased off, shoeless, into the night, and the next minute... what? Gee, I got a really good deal on toothpaste today at Safeway... Woo hoo!

Of course, there's been lots of life happening since I got home. A little TOO much, perhaps. So many fun things to write about! September is always a crazy month for teachers, but this one has just seemed to be EXTRA insane. Here are some highlights, in no particular order...

* The first Sunday back at church was FABULOUS. I got so! many! hugs! I was also wearing a scarf and carrying a bag I got in Kenya, and had a lady walk up to me and excitedly ask me if I had been to Kenya, because she recognized my things as being from there. It was so wonderful to find a Kenyan at my church! I even correctly guessed what tribe she was from based on where she lived! Yes!

* The first time I walked into a grocery store, I just kind of wandered and stared... so bright! All the colours! All the FOOD... and every single person had more than enough to buy whatever they wanted. I thought of the Rendille and the drought and how little people are living on, and definitely caught a glimpse of the injustice of our world.

* I spent the week before Labour Day in my class (which houses more books from my personal classroom library than Tirrim Primary has for the entire school - including textbooks!) getting ready for the school year. Or rather, I spent Tuesday to Friday in my room working. Monday was quite literally spent just wandering around my classroom and staring at stuff. Um, hello, SO not ready to wrap my brain around being back in the classroom!

* I went camping in mid-September with two of my best girlfriends Trudy and Becca down in Washington state. For this backpacker, car camping was a chance to revel in the gloriousness of inefficiency. We packed in Rubbermaid bins and brought everything but the kitchen sink. We roasted sausages and marshmallows on the fire, went for a wee morning hike, sat by the ocean all afternoon, and generally enjoyed each other's company. Of course, it would have been a much better weekend if I hadn't woken up in the tent totally sick Saturday morning. Thank goodness for drugs! It ended up still being a fabulous weekend! (And thanks, girls, for having patience with my wobbly body... and for the lift over the fence... hee hee hee...)

* Spent nearly a week home from work sick, coughing and hacking and wondering how in the world I managed to miss malaria, cholera, yellow fever, hepatitis, dengue, bilharzia, etc etc etc, yet stepped back into Canada and promptly got sick (um, don't get me wrong, I'd rather have a super nasty cold/cough in Canada than any of those other things in Kenya!). By the time I got back to school at the end of the second week, substitutes had had my class for longer than I had!

* Friends and I caught a few fabulous end-of summer activities with friends... a great little community festival called Deep Cove Daze (and buying the exact same statue for my dad I forgot to buy in Kenya from a lady who had a booth with stuff direct from the Masai Market in Nairobi!) and a few trips to the Fair at the PNE - Superdogs, Doc Walker, Chris Isaac and his sparkly pink suit, mini donuts, and the RCMP musical ride.

* I've been totally LOVING my class! I'm still teaching a grade 2 and 3 split, back in the same school I left, and I LOVE my kids! I have a whopping eleven kids in my class. I can't BELIEVE it. It's a regular class, not a special program, nothing. It's an inner city school, though, and the enrollment keeps dropping and dropping. Not sure what the future holds, but for now, my class is THE BEST! Oh and also? I have a nearly full time support worker in my room who is AWESOME. Oh yes, it's going to be a FABULOUS year!

* It is my personal goal this year to be the field trip QUEEN. With only eleven kids, it won't cost very much, and there are SO many fabulous trips that go along with the cirriculum! I don't know what has gotten into me, but I'm all organized and stuff this year and have booked most of my field trips already! We're heading to the bank and the firehall this month to support "communities;" to Science World to build all kinds of wacky structures, play in the galleries, and atch an Omnimax movie; to Hatzik Rock, a First Nations longhouse; to the Planetarium to explore outer space and do a workshop in the solar system; to the Museum of Vancouver to look back on Vancouver 100 years ago and do a FABULOUS program based on a book we're reading in class; to the Greater Vancouver Zoo (like a game park!) to see giraffes and grizzlies and gators, OH MY; to VanDusen gardens in the spring to view the gardens and do a Pond Peering workshop... I tried to arrange a workshop at the Lynn Valley Ecology center, too, but they do'nt book for the spring until February. Hmmm... perhaps I'm a little bit TOO on the ball? *GRIN* I have a hunch there will be some cool opportunities around the Olympics and Paralympics in February, too, and in March or so, I think we should do some kind of ice skating or bowling field trips, too! Hmmmm..... maybe we could go SNOWSHOEING! Sweet! Gotta look into that! The ideas are limitless!!!!! And the best part? I've totally been able to fanangle a deal at a few of these places because of our inner-city school status. I'm SO excited these kids are getting some cool opportunities! And the best part? The community arm of the local high school has a 14 passenger van available for field trips, and my support worker has her class 4, so she can drive it! Ba-BAM! LOVE IT! Now if only I could work on getting those Tirrim kids some opportunities, too.....

Ah, Tirrim. Korr. The Rendille. As busy as I am, and as much as I'm fully back into teaching, the people I've met in Kenya are never far from my mind. As I open my box of new Scholastic books, I think of the library at Tirrim. So sparse, yet so loved. How can I get more books to these kids?

As I'm standing at the photocopier, copying next week's spelling packets, I think of my ziplock baggie of little chalk bits and my one textbook I carried into my English class, and of Andrew, one of my students at Tirrim who so deseperately wants to improve his spelling and his writing, but just doesn't know how. I'm hunting around for a work book that would be suitable to send to him.

As I flick on the windshield wipers to clear the rain, I think of the dust storms in Korr, and the dead animals that dot the desert. More and more, animals ary dying, weakend by lack of food and water. I think of the people who are suffering and pray so hard for the rain to move their way.

As I sit in church and sing, reading the songs off the powerpoint and singing songs I understand, listening to a sermon that doesn't have to be translated, I think of church in Korr. The choirs, the mamas, the beads, the warm wind blowing through the open walls, the songs, the greetings, listening intently to pick up the few words and phrases I can understand, wondering if the sermon will be translated today, worshipping in a spoken language I don't understand, but in a heart language we all share.

Everything I do here reminds me of there. I'm seeing the world through different eyes I'm feeling more. Good gracious, I cry at SO many things now. I feel like I have a much deeper insight into myself and into the world around me. No, I'm not claiming mass amounts of wisdom, but sometimes it just seems like I can see things more clearly than I did before.

Of course, there's also some big questions. How, now, will I live in light of all this? How will I spend my time, my resources? Where is this path going to lead me? Will I stay in Canada? In Vancouver? Will I end up back in Kenya one day? Elsewhere? What is the next step God has in making me the person I'm meant to be? And how do I live TODAY, in this day God's given me, to honour Him and who He's made me to be?

Yep, just a few minor things to ponder as life hurtles by at breakneck speeds.