Sunday, December 21, 2008

Wishing you a Merry Christmas

Despite the fact that I will not be home this year to help you celebrate this holiday season, I am wishing you all a very Merry Christmas. I pray that your time off from work or school is a restful occasion for both you and your families. For those of you who are traveling, I pray that you make it to and from your destination safely. In my desperate attempt to make December, the hot season here, feel like the holidays back home, I have been listening to Christmas songs and watching Christmas movies like crazy. It was Charlie Brown this morning that reminded me, whether I am here or there, the one true reason for Christmas does not change.

I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.
Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. Amen. Mark 2:10b - 11

Merry Christmas to all my family and friends!


Kikuyu Tribal Wedding

My first attendance at a traditional African wedding was fairly eventful. I can't say that I knew the bride and groom prior to going, but that won't surprise some of you at home. At least those of you who know how many weddings I've been to over the years. This one was altogether different though. I fit right in, don't you think?


The wedding was suppose to start at 10 am, but considering Africa time, it didn't actually begin until 12:30 pm. We had to pass the time somehow, so I began looking through a local newspaper. I came across the advertisement section and here is what I found... (click on image to the left)

I think I meet the qualifications, going to give him a call on Monday. Smile.

I traveled to the wedding with a family from our school, who actually knew the bride and groom. Being that they have lived in Africa a few years now, they were able to inform me of the process in purchasing a bride. The engagement period for a couple, about to get married, is significantly long. Basically, it lasts until the groom's family can pay the dowry. Grace, the bride pictured here, was supposedly purchased with 90 goats. How they come up with this number, I have no idea.

The morning of the wedding, it is tradition for the women in the groom's family to go and collect the bride and bring her to the church. At this point, she can no longer return to her own family. There is a lot of singing, chanting, and drum playing involved in this process. Culturally, everything on this day is meant to make the bride feel welcome into her new family. The service and reception were fairly typical to something you would see and experience in the states.




















A Kenyan meal, served at the wedding reception.


To learn more about the Kikuyu tribe check out... http://www.africaguide.com/culture/tribes/kikuyu.htm




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Feed the Children

Dagoretti is a childrens home, located on the south end of Nairobi city limits. It is an organization, funded by "Feed the Children," which exists to provide housing and schooling for low income families and abandoned children from the ages of 0 - 16 years old. For more information about this project you may visit ... http://www.feedthechildren.org/site/PageServer?pagename=abc_programs_kenya










My fourth grade class, 4 staff members, and myself were blessed with the opportunity to work with Dagoretti children this last Thursday, December 18th. We spent an afternoon creating some Chritmas art, reading books, and playing a little b-ball and soccer with those who will spend their holidays away from family.









It is my goal, serving as Community Development Coordinator at WNS, that students, such as those that came with me this last week, will open their eyes to an outward giving perspective. That they recognize what kind of a difference they can make, by giving up a few short hours and investing in the lives of those who are less fortunate. I was very proud of my students for the way they interacted with these precious kidos.

Please be praying for the Dagoretti Children's Center and our future interactions with this organization. When we return from Christmas break, I will hopefully be taking various WNS classes to visit Dagoretti 3 times a month.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

What does one eat in Africa?

Nipe orodha ya vyakula? May I please have the menu?

samosas, chapatti (tortillas), Kenya stew, all kinds of different fish, chips(fries), lots of fruits and veggies, rice, chicken or beef tacos, pizza, salsa, soup and crackers, salad, eggs and toast, ughali, sukumawiki (cooked cabbage), goat, beans, mokimo (green mashed potatoes)...









There is a wide variety of cultural places to eat out, including my favorite Chinese restaurant, Four You. The key is to choose wisely, so that you don't spend the evening over the toilet.










Cooking is a time consuming process here. Everything is made by scratch. All fruits and vegetables are washed prior to eating, in a safe chemical we buy at the chemist or drug store. We soak everything for about 2o minutes and then slice and dice. Typically groceries are purchased from a local grocery store or a duka on the side of the street. Food is also expensive.












It is recommended that every six months you de-worm yourself. The process is fairly simple. You take two tablets with some (filtered) water, and supposedly this cleans out any unwanted intruders. I can't tell you how thrilled I am to think of how many worms I DID have in me.

Turkey Day

This holiday was filled with lots of friends and fabulous food. After working a half day (because they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving here), I went home, prepared my part of the Thanksgiving meal (salad with the fixings) and headed over to the Bussell's residence. This is a family from school, but they are actually from California as well. We played a few games with everyone that was there, and then went around the room taking turns to say what we were thankful for this last year. It was hard to think of just one. Dinner was next. We all gobbled down what you might call close to a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Yes, there was turkey, which is hard to come by here. Along with stuffing, a green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, rolls, and a homemade pumpkin pie. While it was all very good, I have to admit, it didn’t come close in comparison to my mom’s cooking. Later that night at home, I got to talk with the fam. We use a Skype webcam to talk which makes our calls a bit more personal. It made my day to see their faces and catch up with what things are going on at home. I miss you guys!


The following day (Friday), we also had off from school. So, we took the opportunity to travel to a place about 45 minutes out of the city, called Paradise Lost. This was a beautiful recreational area where we went on a few hikes, ventured in some caves, swung from some overhanging vines, went for a boat ride, and had a picnic lunch.









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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Mitumba Slums



This last month, I have been working together with an organization called Christian Mission Aid, on a community outreach fundraiser. Our goal was to collect 150 food buckets, from West Nairobi families, to feed the less fortunate in Mitumba Slums (see earlier blog). Each bucket contained basic food items such as… rice, beans, flour, salt, maize meal, etc. Since local Kenyan schools are out of session for the entire month of December, this means the children are not provided the two meals a day they normally receive at school. One bucket is equipped to feed one child’s family for a week during this Christmas break.







I am happy to report, that we exceeded our goal by six. I was so excited, and so were our students to find out the final results. My faith was put to the test though, when a week prior we were only at 30 buckets. I can honestly say, at that point, my optimism had turned to disappointment. I was sure this was a project that God had placed in my hands, and I didn’t understand why there weren’t more buckets coming in. Never underestimate our heavenly father, a lesson I am learning here in Africa, over and over.







Thursday, November 20th, I took the eleventh grade class and a few staff members into Mitumba to deliver these buckets. When we arrived, after one set back of getting the bus stuck in the mud, we were welcomed by many open arms. The students had prepared a presentation for us with singing, awards, and words of appreciation. We were loved on, that is for sure. It is hard to put into words how my heart was blessed by this event. I think I could speak for us all. Later we played games with these 270 students. Who knew a tire had more than one use?







Saturday, November 15, 2008

Mombassa

I have finally set eyes on the Indian Ocean. It all started with an eight hour bus ride on a Friday night. We arrived the following morning at 6, took a matatu to our hotel, in hopes to shower and rest a bit. We arrived only to find that our reservation had been lost. So we gladly wasted time by finding a place to eat breakfast and going for a walk along the shore line, waiting for the hotel manager to come into work.



The view was spectacular. Just like the Pacific, there was fine white sand (minus the dried out seaweed), blueish-green ocean water, unique tropical plants, and the smell of fresh salty water. It wasn’t long before my shoes were off and my feet were in the soft sand. I approached the water, preparing myself for a shocking cold. To my surprise, it was a pleasant temperature.
















The manager eventually showed up and found a place for us to stay down the street. It wasn’t quite as nice as our original location, but still a site to see. Because of the last minute changes, all eight of us teachers crammed into a two bedroom place, where we fixed our own meals, played some competitive card games, and rested from the long journey the night before. Most of our time was spent around the pool, sipping on coconuts and enjoying the slow pace of our weekend.

The location even included our very own family of monkeys. These guys were an active bunch, swinging from tree to tree, only stopping for a bite to eat. I finally had to leave them alone when they started to use me as a tree.



I would have to say, there were two highlights from this trip. The first was a camel ride down the beach and the second, an exploration through the deep waters, with a snorkeling mask. I saw some fascinating creatures. I only wish I could have captured them all on camera. Sunday night we started our journey back home. Another 8 hours on the bus and no sleep. Thankfully, Monday was a holiday, so I slept the day away. It was a fabulous weekend.



Pictured: Jen, Brenton, Jonathan, Kate, Joel, Steven, Becca, Amy


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A National Holiday

Today, in light of the US presidential election and Obama's win, Kibaki (Kenya's president) has declared tomorrow a national holiday. I am left a bit confused as to why we are recognizing a US event, other than the fact that Obamas father's roots are tied to Kenya. If it means the day off, I won't argue though. It is amazing how many Kenyans are up to date on American politics, even the kids. I walked into the Kindergarten class this morning to... Obama won the prize, Obama won the prize. They sure do love this man. I have learned not to say much when I'm asked my opinion, through encountering some pretty heated debates. What will the next four years hold? We shall see.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me

Another birthday has come and gone. But this one I spent in Africa (somebody pinch me). I turned 27 on a Thursday this year. It was a pretty ordinary work day, with soccer practice after school. A few exceptions to the norm though. I had dinner out with friends, a call from home, and a chocolate cake celebration with my third grade class. It was a hard day to be so far away from home, but thankfully, a busy one. Last week, I received in the “snail mail” my birthday presents. A sweater, movies, candy, and more movies. Thanks family, who I dearly love! I now have something to do late at night. The real b-day celebration happened the following weekend. Eight of us went to Mombasa, a city located on the African coast. Another lifetime goal I can check off. I have now seen three out of the four oceans. Thank you to all of you who sent cards. I appreciated them!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Computer Down

I have some bad news. My computer has recently taken a turn for the worst. A couple of nights ago it fell off the dresser at home and now the screen is cracked. Big oops! My plan is to order a new one, but who knows when it will get here. I hope to send it with my administrator, coming at the end of November. Until then, I am using an external monitor at work, but don't have access at home or internet cafes. I apologize in advance if I am slow at writing back to emails or updating my blog. Please don't give up on me. Hopefully, it won't be long before I am up and running again.

One Day to the Next...

It is funny how things here change so drastically from one day to the next. Today we are out electricity, stuck in traffic for hours, not able to go to the bank because they decided to close early, the mechanic has said no to yet another car we are trying to buy, a parent is irate, and tomorrow will be completely the opposite. The sun will be out, a letter will come in the mail, I'll have time to finish work, go out to dinner and laugh with friends, get a strong internet signal while at work, and go home to zero sightings of cockroaches and a warm shower. Whatever kind of day it is I am learning to make the choice to be content with my surroundings. I know that I am extremely blessed to be here in Africa and have every intention to make the most of it.

So what can I update you on? It has been a little while since I’ve checked in. Still no car, but we have been looking under the hood of quite a few lately. Needless to say this has been a frustrating process. I am grateful though to Joel and Jonathan (WNS teachers), who have been picking up Julie (my roommate) and I, each and every day to go into work. Even Saturdays, which are game days for elementary soccer. Pictured: Jen (salsa partner), me, Julie

I have conquered my goal of learning to drive here and feeling comfortable behind the wheel. It is not like home, where we have set traffic laws and people obey them for the most part. In Kenya, there are limited driving laws and they are certainly not followed or enforced. It is rare to find posted speed limits or street signs. People drive on the left side of the road, or wherever is most convenient. On a two lane road you will find a variation of busses, matatus (taxis), water trucks, people sections, cars, bicycles, walkers, men pulling carts, goats, herds of cows, and school kids. At any time there might be 2-5 lanes of moving traffic. Needless to say, it is essential to have two hands on the wheel at all times. Another challenge has been getting use to driving stick again. I think I’ve got the hang of it though.

A local Chinese restaurant called "Four You", has become a frequent favorite for those of us on the WNS staff. Last Friday night, a group of us, after a high school basketball game, sat through 1 ½ hours of stop and go traffic to eat at this favorite cuisine. While immersed in our dinner conversation the electricity goes out. Not a problem, the waiter just brings over a kerosene lamp. Well… while we thought this was a great idea it quickly turned into ciaos. So let me set the scene. We are sitting at a nice outside umbrella covered table, we have a Jiko (a small camp stove) nearby to keep us warm, great food, alternative light now to see our food, but not everyone agreed that it was light enough. So, Joel volunteered to start messing with the lantern, trying to turn it up. A few minuets later the lantern was engulfed in flames, people running in every direction. When the waiter realized what was going on, he came by and threw a towel over the lantern, then carried it away. Never a dull moment with this crowd. And when will I get over these minor things, like the electricity going out?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Mt. Longonot

Mt. Longonot National Park is located an hour and a half from where I live. On Sunday, we drove through kilometers of scenic countryside to climb the park’s main attraction, which happens to be a dormant volcano. I went with four other girls, three of which were making this climb for the second time. It really wasn’t that difficult of a hike, but when you factored in the direct sunlight, elevation, and loose dirt it definitely took a toll on everyone. The outside walls of the volcano were sparse with dry brush, rock, and sand. The view was spectacular, but there wasn’t much to look at on our way up. That is, until you reached the very top. It was like we had found a hidden treasure. Standing on the rim looking down inside the crater, there was nothing but lush, green landscape. We spent quite a bit of time at the top admiring God’s creation and sharing life stories.

So, I mentioned how dusty it was. Driving into the park, we had to take a dirt road for 4 kilometers. As we continued to drive, I became aware that it was getting difficult to see. At first, I thought the engine was producing smoke, but then I quickly realized, it was dust coming up through the floorboards and open air vents. Jen, our driver, was a trooper. There were times where it was hard to see the road. We made it to our destination safe though. We got out of the car, brushed ourselves off, and continued on. Part way through our climb, Jen looks over and says “Amy, you have something in your teeth." Sure enough, what do think it was? A thick layer of dirt. Grouse I know.

And I can’t forget… Have you ever had to wait for a herd of cattle to cross the street, or maybe a stray dog? Well me too, but what about a herd of zebras. I still can’t believe this story and I was there. While these zebras were crossing the main road, I was in such an ooh and awe state that I forgot I had a camera in hand. The occasion would have made for some great pics. Oh well, maybe next time.

Soccer in Session

Intramural soccer started Thursday. Lots of preparation, but the season is finally here. Paper work, charts, sign ups, phone calls, teams, coaches, trips to the store, equipment, field prep, and wow I am exhausted. Our first practice lasted for an hour after school. Forty- six students in all, first through sixth grade. I was impressed with how many kids signed up. Soccer, or should I say “Football”, is a very popular sport here. My goal during this first practice was to teach basic drills and avoid what I call the “bee hive” during our scrimmage. All students like flock around the ball. Positions are hard to maintain for younger players, so I found out. I can honestly say we all tried our best. Good times!

Immediately following practice, it was off to the activity bus for yet another adventure. Being the adult in charge, I felt responsible to make sure, on the first day that everyone got off at the right stops. So… I hopped on the bus and we set off for home. It brought back memories of my elementary bus days, the only difference being the roads. The paved roads here are not exactly what you would call level. Kids bounced around like crazy. They actually have to wear seat belts here, this being one of the reasons. The good news we didn’t loose anyone.

Two days later we scored through our first games. In the end, I would call it a success, but I was holding my breath through the beginning. After fifteen minuets of warm-up, kids were ready to play, but I only had a little over half my players and two of my nine coaches. What to do? I grabbed parents from the sidelines, gave them a whistle, some rules, and off they went. I should have known better to factor in Kenyan time (show up later than planned). Despite our rough start, we all had a lot of fun. It was a beautiful day to be outside.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Beautiful Smiles

How do I make the most of life in Africa? If I am only here a short while, what kind of things should I be spending my time on? I have been praying, God how can you use me the most here? One answer to this question I found this Thursday. When offered this teaching position, I was also asked to head up a program called Community Development. Out of the blue, I got a phone call this week about a project in the slums. A woman by the name of Cindy, has asked our school to help out with 3 local slums. WNS will be putting together hygiene/ food buckets to take to students there, who then take them home to their families. This is one of the many ways we hope to bless them. We are also looking into hosting a fundraiser to stock their library shelves full of books. Right now they are completely empty.

One of these slums I got to visit. It is called Mitumba. There are an estimated 200 students who attend the school there, Kindergarten - 8th grade. This is comparatively a smaller slum than most. Therefore, Mitumba does not have any large sponsors like Compassion International or World Vision. We will be working with Christian Mission Aid to help where we can.

It was an overwhelming rush of emotions upon our arrival. Excitement, devastation, burdensome, contentness, joyfulness, sadness, the list goes on. I was in awe to meet these kids, to see what life was like for them. Before Jonathan (another WNS teacher) and I could get out of the car, we had kids grabbing our hands and trying to get in as close as they could. I guess it didn’t matter who we were as long as we were there to love on them. It had rained earlier that day, so wearing rubber boots was a must. Mud and sewage made the ground hard to walk on.

People in Mitumba live in 8x10 shacks made from scraps of metal. The school walls were decorated with homemade charts and the floors consisted of dirt and mud. I met the pastor who also welcomed us with open arms. This man has a gigantic heart. He walked us around to each classroom, where we were greeted with beautiful smiles and a song the students sung. I am hoping to go back and teach on Thursday afternoons.

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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Lukenya

This last weekend was our staff retreat and my first attempt to get out of the city. Everyone and their families were invited to come. We had a great time relaxing and getting to know one another. All it took was one bumpy bus ride to get there. I think I inhaled more dust than I ever have before. But it was worth it!



Lukenya, the beautiful place where we stayed, is a resort located roughly an hour outside the city of Nairobi. It is your typical vacation spot with a pool, basketball and volleyball courts, Kenyan food, conference rooms, free internet, filtered water, etc. All great things that I was thankful for! Landscaped in Acacia trees (full of thorns I learned), walks where you accumulated ticks, and water pressure of a trickling stream. I have to say, before this trip, I was really looking forward to a warm shower that I didn’t have to pay for. Well, I got that, about a gallons worth. That didn’t matter so much because the night sky made up for the not so great shower. The constellations in the southern hemisphere are quite a site. One of the other teachers and I spent over an hour trying to figure them all out. The first night we were there I went out in a jeep in search for some wild life. Here’s what I found…



zebras, wildebeests, gazelles, and some unique birds. So fun! I think this has been my most adventurous thing yet. Sorry Chris, still no hippos.