Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Hard Decision

Life seems to be full of decisions. Lately, I have been working on wedding plans, tutoring kids after school, and hanging out with my host family. This may or may not come as a surprise, but I am doing these things from Cleveland, Ohio.

I know... I am suppose to be in Kenya. And I was, as you can tell from my posts, but plans have changed. After Josh tore his ACL and MCL at a soccer game in September, he returned home for surgery. I made the decision to pack up early and follow him in order to support him through his time in rehab. I am happy to report that it was a successful surgery and his knee is healing as expected. Josh wants to go back to playing professionally so this is an answer to prayers. Leaving Kenya was hard, but I don't regret the decision I made. My heart will forever be in two places, Africa and the states. One day, I hope to return. I think of the people I left behind everyday.

The above pictures are from a birthday trip to New York.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Little Working Hands

Yesterday, I was in Mitumba slums on a field assignment. The road to get into this area is quite rough and very dusty, leaving a thick layer of dirt on the car. I pulled up to the school site, and as always, was greeted by welcoming children dressed in uniform. We exchanged greetings and hand shakes, and then I went inside for a scheduled meeting.

Three hours had passed, and I returned to the car only to find the same children standing there. They had something to show me. So with a proudness about them, they ran over to take my hand and lead me in the direction of the car. To my bewilderment, it was “clean” from the windows down, all except for finger smudges and smears. They had wiped away the dirt as far as they could reach standing on their toes. I was so blessed by this act of kindness. These children had nothing of material possession to give, yet they found a way to offer something of value. With tears in my eyes, I gave them all a hug and drove away.

Monday, September 14, 2009

A Diamond Ring

That's right I'm engaged! Josh asked me to marry him on the 5th of September and I said "YES"! He had planned out the whole day... starting with a bouquet of flowers and ending in calls home to the fam.

Our first event of the day was to join the kids at New Life Home, an orphanage that I have grown fond of. And Josh knows how much I have been missing the classroom this year. After some quality time with the kids, we grabbed lunch from the Art Cafe (a favorite place of ours), a bottle of wine, and headed for an afternoon in the park. We then changed into our evening attire and went for a drive. I had no idea at this point what was in store, but I soon found out.

A romantic dinner for two. I was taken back by the setting. An old stone house transformed into a beautiful Italian restaurant, hidden in a very lush area of Nairobi. There were lit lanterns hanging from the trees, huge bouquets of my favorite colored flowers, pre-ordered food and drinks, soft music playing in the background, and matching pieces of fabric and more lanterns that led the way to our table. I should also add that there was a monkey in the trees, and a Masaai (tribal) man who walked by. I'm guessing Josh didn't plan that part, but I wouldn't be surprised.

After dinner, he asked me to dance with him. Two songs in, and words that I will treasure the rest of my life, Josh got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. I know without a doubt that Josh is a perfect match for me and I thank God for bringing me half way across the world to meet him.

Our final destination to the evening, an Irish Pub where I hung out with Josh the first day we met. To my surprise, a group of our mutual friends were waiting there to help us celebrate. A great day in all.

NCS Football

Nairobi City Stars is a professional football (soccer) team Josh has played for the last year. Two weeks back, during a game against the FC Leopards, Josh tore his ACL. A painful thing to watch from the stands, more or less to actually have happen to you. After coming to terms with the reality of the situation, a trip to the doc, and a couple of calls home, Josh cut his season short and returned to the states for surgery. Some time at the end of September he should undergo the operation and begin months of physical therapy.

While I'm not as crazy about Kenya when Josh isn't here, I have taken on another task to keep myself busy. The photographer for NCS has returned home to the UK, leaving an availability for someone to take his place. I gladly stepped in. One, because it got me closer to the field, and two, because I love the challenge of capturing that moment. You can look at some other photos online and stay updated with Josh's team by visiting...

Movie Moment

Unfortunately, I spend a lot of time working in the office these days with the exception of one or two field assignments per week. This particular day, I was in a slum called Kuwinda (Coo-in-da). Our organization supports a feeding program in this area, as well as individual child sponsorships.

I was sitting in the home of a pastor, on a table that appeared it would fall apart at any moment. In the process of conducting a meeting, it was almost as if time slowed down so that I could take in the depth of that moment. I was waiting for an orchestra to start playing soft music in the background, just like in a movie. But instead I heard the pastor speaking heartfelt words towards the children laughing and playing right outside the door. Which is kind of like music, right? My eyes were drawn to the rickety structure that was above my head, also the photographs which hung on the wall. I could tell this man had been through much in his life.

The cold, damp air didn’t bother me so, because I was holding tight to a hot cup of tea. We summed up our business meeting with a hand shake and left this man with our blessing. This was one of those moments that I just knew I was in the right place at the right time. I thank God for the opportunity to return to Kenya and help these students.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Back in Africa

Two days of traveling and a lengthy layover in Amsterdam means that I have arrived safely once again to the flat, dusty plains of western Kenya. After a six week visit to the states, I begin my second term here. For those of you who don't already know, I am not returning as an international teacher this year, but as a Children's Director for an organization called Christian Mission Aid. I originally became familiar with this organization through community outreach projects at West Nairobi School. My responsibilities involve more hands-on opportunities with children in the slums, which I am very excited about. This includes construction projects, feeding programs, environmental health issues, and assistance to poverty stricken schools.

This was my first time to travel through Amsterdam, so of course I had to stop and see the sites. I also made sure to visit the museum, housing the paintings of one of my favorite artists, Vincent Van Gogh. I think I am in love with Europe.

I was picked up from the airport at 6am. by this blond hair, blue eyed guy, whom I was missing very much at this point. After hanging out with Josh for the day, we headed to Westlands where my new residence is at the Germo household (see picture). This family has been here over 10 years working as missionaries to the Muslim population in Northern Africa. I met them through WNS. Dan and Nancy's middle child, Cailin, was one of my 3rd grade students. They are a fun family, always lots of laughter.

It was great to catch up with those of you whom I got to see this summer. Thanks for making time in your schedule and reminding me that I haven't lost complete touch with life at home.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Home Sweet Home

I'm back home in Cali! It has been 3 weeks on the go, catching up with family and friends, eating American food, getting use to driving on the right side of the road again, and traveling from place to place. My dad, mom, and sis met me at the airport in San Fran, where we spent some time together before heading to Oakhurst. The first week home was quite an adjustment.

Followed by a welcome home party...
thank you to everyone who came.

Oregon state is where I spent my second week at home. The reason being, while in Africa, I met an amazing guy. His name is Josh and we have been dating the last three months. Josh plays professional soccer through an organization called Ambassadors in Sports. So many wonderful things I could say about him but for now I'll leave it at that. During this week, we did the "meet the family thing". I thoroughly enjoyed our time together and the opportunity to get to know the Westermann family.