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... http://www.nairobicitystars.com/

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.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

London

A quick stop in London to see the main attractions. My layover was 48 hours this time, so I thought why not take advantage of being in a beautiful city. I did the tourist thing and bought a day pass for the big red open top bus tour. You were allowed to get off anywhere you wanted, walk around and then pick up the next bus coming through. I saw glimpses of it all... Big Ben, Parliament, the London Bridge, Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, St. Paul's Cathedral, Westminster Abby, etc. I loved being amongst the incredible history and breathtaking architecture. Some day I hope to see more of Europe.

I was thankful not to be completely on my own while in London. I joined up with the Bussell family from WNS, for a changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace and a stroll through the park.


Monday, June 1, 2009

Schools Out for Summer

Texts books, papers, and pencils are packed and put away. Everyone said their goodbyes and now we head home to the states. On June 3rd (that's tomorrow!) I begin my journey, taking a two day stop in London. I'm anxious and excited, nervous and sad. It's been almost a year since I've seen the familiar faces of family and friends. But while I've been gone I've built new relationships that are just as hard to leave behind. I guess that is life though. We treasure things as long as God allows them to be in our lives. Woohoo... summer vacation!




video

A memory that I will always take with me. This cheer was started by our fabulous athletic director, Peter Kim, and its catchy tune eventually caught on. Pictured: 6th grade on the last day of school

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A Week at Camp

As I previously mentioned, thanks to the families at West Nairobi School and those of you at home, we sponsored 166 kids to go to camp. These slum students spent a week in paradise... three meals a day, warm beds to sleep in, a bible to study from, fun activities to take part in, and teachers who loved on them.

Myself, and a group of WNS High School students, spent 3 days at camp. We were given the responsibility of presenting bible lessons and games in hopes to interact with the campers. We also ate lunch there. To my surprise, the food was quite good. Lots of seasoned potatoes, vegetables, and soups.

I spoke with the camp director (Pastor Shadrack) at the end of the week. He proudly informed me that over 30 campers had accepted Christ. In my opinion, all of our hard work was summed up in that moment. The following are a couple of videos to show you the joyous faces I got to see throughout the week.

video video

Minor Details

Funny story... This weekend I came upon some microwavable kettle corn at Nakumatt, our local super market. A rare treat to find something like this on the shelf. Knowledgeable of the fact that I don't have a microwave at home, I still made the purchase. The plan being to worry about how to pop the corn at a later point in time. I think my excitement proceeded me.

A solution to this problem came with the restaurant next door to Nakumatt. I kindly asked the gentleman behind the bar if I could use their microwave. It appeared that he understood, so I handed him the box and went back to a conversation I was previously in. 45 seconds later I decided we should only pop two of the three bags in the box. So, I turned to the guy behind the bar one more time to relay this message. He then stopped the microwave and pulled out (to my surprise) the entire unopened box of popcorn. I didn't know whether to laugh or to feel stupid that I assumed this man would know the procedure of microwavable popcorn. I salvaged what was left from the gooey plastic and asked if I could come behind the counter to do it myself. Pole sana!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Neighbor to Kenya

Spring break I spent in Uganda visiting Kristen Fry, a friend from back home, and rafting the Nile River. GOOD TIMES!

I arrived Saturday, on an early flight, excited to explore more parts of Africa . Kristen organized our time so that I could see some of Uganda's main attractions and cities... Entebbe, Kampala (the capital), Lake Victoria, the market place, and taxi park.

Kristen currently works with African Inland Missions, providing resources for local street kids. Right up my alley. I had the opportunity to meet her co-workers at Dwelling Place and the kids they look after. We brought them 6 stalks of sugar cane and played all day.













Means of transport in Uganda's crazy traffic: take a taxi or a boda-boda. My personal preference is the second one, what we know to be a motorcycle. Inexpensive and fun!










Tuesday, I worked my way through 12 rapids down the Nile River. I cannot describe to you how breathtaking this experience was. I went with a group of teachers from school (Eric, Becca, Jonathan, and Kate) and together we paddled through the bends and curves of the Nile. Our guide, Juma, was hilarious. I promise I spent half the day laughing. The rapids ranged anywhere from a class one to class five. We were a strong group but about 55 percent of the time our boat flipped. The best thing though is that everything is on video.

Results Are In

Both community development fundraisers have come to an end. In the "donation of slightly used shoes" project we reached our goal of 150 pairs, and then exceeded it in abundance. The shoes were delivered by 10 WNS students to kids in Sinai slum on March 20th. We spent time walking through the slum, interacting with kidos, and sharing about God's love. I am proud of my students, that they had open hearts to work hands on with the less fortunate in our surrounding area.










And... thanks to several of you at home, we are sending 166 Mitumba slum children to VBS (Vacation Bible School) at the end of April. Our original goal was to receive 200 sponsorships, but what we achieved is fabulous. To send one child it was roughly 25 dollars, meaning that we raised over 4,ooo dollars all together. Once we get back from Spring break, WNS high school students will start to prepare lessons/activities to share over the week long camp. I also want to thank our partner organization, Christian Mission Aid, in helping our projects to be successful.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Tossed About

Many people have asked, "Do I feel safe in Africa?" My response to that question is definitely yes, but there has been a few instances recently where I would answer the contrary. As a whole we are instructed to use common sense in not staying out past dark, always letting someone know where you are at, and not walking alone on the streets.

Two weeks ago I attended a national soccer game, Kenya vs. Tunisia, at our local Coco Cola Stadium. This was a big game! If you don't already know this, soccer is HUGE in Africa. Over 30,000 people showed up for the event.

Just to get into the stadium was quite an ordeal. Unorganized chaos is what I would call it. We observed for a while the mob pushing through the gates and realized there was no other way to get in but to push through ourselves. So, in we went while tucking away the few possessions we brought to the game. Uncomfortably being pushed around and pick pocked we made it to the front of the mob. My friend Josh thankfully made it through but I on the other hand did not. The gates were closed and for a few minutes I was left to fend for my own. I endured the moment coming out with only a few bruises on the other end.

After making it through the first gate there was still one more to go. We joined up with other friends, and found a line to stand in as we ravaged through our remaining personal items. Despite our efforts to hide things, jewelry, josh's wallet, our tickets, money had still been taken. Then, a downpour of rain came. Our nice line that we were in ran for cover, and back to a crowded mob again. As we got closer to the door we were required to hand over tickets. In the meantime, we come across new tickets to replace the ones we lost, but others in the crowd had not. These people were chased off by armed police, almost trampling us several times. A crazy day I tell you. We did make it in to see the game, and enjoyed watching our team win the match 3-1 and the fans overwhelmingly show their enthusiasm.

Since I've been in Kenya my phone has been stolen twice. Once at school, and the other while my roommate, Julie and I, were driving down a heavily populated street in town. Taken right from my hands. Having to replace my phone and numbers was quite a hassle. I am not sad over the fact that something was taken from me though, instead my heart is burdened for the individuals who justify stealing something from someone who looks like they have more. If these individuals would have asked I would have gladly helped them, but unfortunately they did not. I recognize that there is a survival mentality here, which I don't completely understand myself because I have not been faced with it. I do believe though that there are other ways to provide for your family without stealing. I pray for these individuals and their desire to do the right thing.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Update on Protests

Despite recent protests and riots, school has run a regular schedule, with the exception of extra curricular activities. Additional police on the streets and an occasional email from the US embassy are really the only remnants from the events that took place almost two weeks ago. Life seems to be back to norm here in the city.

The following are some snapshots from the "Daily Nation" (our local newspaper). The front page shows where we drove through on our way to Dagoretti, the day of my last post. Never seems to be a dull moment here in Africa. I thank God for his protection over us.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Mungiki Protests

Last January (2008), riots broke out here in Nairobi in response to tribal differences in the presidential election. Ever since it has been fairly quiet, that is until today.

Nairobi and Central Province commuters were left stranded on their way to work this morning. The Mungiki tribe, who runs most of the matatu transport within the city, suddenly announced protest to two men being beaten and then burned alive. Police say the two men were suspected to be harassing motorists and traders passing through the town of Naivasha (roughly an hour away). As a result, riots broke out in several locations.

Meanwhile, before we were aware of the happenings, myself and the eighth grade class, traveled to Dagoretti Childrens' Home, just like any other Thursday. But today was different. On the bus ride over, we came upon the remains of a recent riot. This photo doesn't capture what I would like it to, but I didn't want to get caught taking it. Burning tires, police officials, and army trucks flooded the streets. We thankfully only had to stop once to talk with an official. Other than that, there was no difficulty passing through the town, though it looked like we had just missed out on most of the excitement.

After school, everyone left immediately, following each other home. There is a possibility of no school tomorrow, depending on what the US embassy has to say. I will keep you updated.

We had a great time with the kiddos today. My favorite moments were watching these Junior High boys fold and iron laundry, and also feed the little ones at meal time. They are all so macho until you hand over a baby, and then it is hard to pry them away when it is time to go.

















Friday, February 20, 2009

Working for Shoes

The following are two new community development projects I am working on this semester. These events include our entire school in attempts to reach out to those around us in need.

Project one: Supply 150 Sinai slum students with a pair of "gently used" shoes. Each WNS participant will be given a sketch of a Sinai student's footprint. The participant's job will be to find a pair of shoes to match that specific footprint. At the end of March, we will personally deliver what we have collected.

Project two: Sponsor 200 Mitumba slum students to attend a vacation bible school over Easter break. These kiddos will have one week with a warm bed to sleep in, three meals a day, a place to bathe, an opportunity to learn about God and participate in fun activities away from their harsh daily reality. Our high school students will be responsible to run parts of the camp, interacting with campers over the week of April 21-24. The cost is roughly 25 dollars per child.

We are working alongside "Christian Mission Aid" and "Feed the Children" to support these slums. Please pray for success in these two projects and all those involved. See article entitled "this Easter" at http://www.cmaid.org/

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Can you say... COLD!

As part of my job, I coach elementary intramural sports after school. Currently we are in the middle of swim season. We offer two classes, beginning and advanced. Each class has 20 students and 4 instructors, including myself. The kids have been showing huge improvements over the last four weeks. It has been fun to watch.

This is a picture of the pool we practice in twice a week. Its location is down the street from our school, at a place called St. Christopher's. We bus our students over. The pool itself is very nice but the water, in my opinion, is freezing. I think there are some blue lipped children walking around that would agree with me too. Kenya has beautiful weather, not what I expected before coming here. So, outside temperatures never quite get hot enough to warm the pool.









On a daily basis, I work with a team of high school coaches. Hanging out with these guys is often the highlight of my day. Being the only girl, I have had to learn to fend for my own, but I think they would tell you I have pulled my fair share of the weight. When I was offered the job of coordinating after school sports I didn't really feel qualified, but it is something I have learned to enjoy. Despite the fact that it has given me the opportunity to try something new, it has also opened the door to connect with students outside the classroom. Having the support of other coaches has made it easy to ask questions through soccer, kickball, swimming, roller hockey, and soon to come, basketball. The different coaches often attend each others games and interact outside of school. I am more than blessed to be a part of this team.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Lesson in Swahili

Swahili is written in the Roman alphabet and the letters are pronounced more or less as in English, apart from these vowel sounds and a few consonant blends.
a as in far
e between the 'e' in bed and in cafe
i as in Lima
o as in orange
u as in flute

Numbers zero through ten... sifuri , moja, mbili, tatu, nne,
tano, sita, saba, nane, tisa, kumi
yes - ndiyo
no - hapana
ok - sawa
hello - habari
good morning - habari za asubuhi
good evening - habari za jioni
goodbye - kwaheri
see you - tutaonane
thank you - asante / no thank you - la asante
How are you? -hujambo?
I'm fine - sijambo
How much is it? - ni bei gani?
sorry - samahani
please - tafadhali
nice to meet you - nimefurahi kukutana nawe
What do you do for work? - unafanya kazi gani?
I am a teacher, and you? - mimi ni mwalimu, na wewe je?
happy birthday - furaha kwa siku ya kuzaliwa
What is your name? - unitwa nani?
Hello, anyone in? - hodi

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Carnivore

More meat than I could ever eat. Carnivore is the name of a local restaurant that serves a variety of exotic meats, such as ostrich and crocodile, in the setting of a tropical forest. This is a must see place when you visit Kenya. The meal starts with a bowl of hot fried cornbread and leads into a dinner salad with brown bread and butter. Oh so good! Then comes the main entrĂ©e… nothing but meat. A scolding hot iron plate was put before us without a single thing on it. Before I could blink there was meat on a skewer coming at me from the right and from the left. If I said “yes” the waiter would take his machete and slice off a piece of whatever it happened to be. In fact, this whole process didn’t stop until we “surrendered the flag.” On our table was a white flag that was only to be put down when all twenty people at out table were full. I did my best to stay up with the best of them, but I think I surrendered way before the flag was actually taken down. To add to the grandeur of the evening, when all was said and done, NICS picked up the tab, so our meal was not an expense taken from our own pocket. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and those that I went to dinner with.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Church Life

My goal, when I first arrived here in July, was to visit a few different churches and then quickly find a community to call home. I have to admit this was a frustrating process. Basically, what it came down to, I was only able to visit places I could get transportation to and from. I'd like to say that I was patient though, in holding out for the right fit. A church home where I could be fed biblical truth, and at the same time, feel like I could give back to the congregation. After two and half months of searching, I came across a place called Mamlaka Hill. A church that is fairly traditional to something you might find in the states, but has what I like to call an "African flare" to it. The worship at Mamlaka is outstanding. Lots of energy and talented voices. Some songs are sung in English and others in Swahili (the mother language). I feel like this was an important part of choosing a church, being that it is one of the main ways, I personally, relate to God. Another aspect to be considered, in this decision, was that I needed to be challenged though the sermons. Other churches I had visited were fairly basic (at least in my opinion), or I had a difficult time understanding the pastor through his thick African accent. Either way I had been struggling to find a fit.

The community at Mamlaka Hill is open hearted. Right away I felt welcome, even though I had to stand up with a mic and introduce myself to the congregation. I proudly announced that I was a Kenyan resident, which locals love to hear. Any time I take interest in their culture, they make it well known that they approve. I have grown to love the people here and some of the ways in which they live life. While in Africa, I am determined to experience as much of the culture that I can, not live in a sheltered bubble. Some Sundays, I still struggle to find transportion, so I visit the children's orphange down the street from where I live. I am usually greeted with three or four leg hugs and one or two "please hold me". Last Sunday, I walked into the infant room only to find they were short one staff member. With 16 babies needing to be changed and fed, I was able to be of some assistance. It was nice to feel needed, plus I was blessed to be surrounded by all those precious and innocent faces.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Lions, and Tigers, and Bears, OH MY!

Okay, so I really only saw a lion out of those three, but I thought it was an appropriate title for this piece. I have just returned home from my first safari to the Masai Mara. This was a vacation like none other that I have experienced thus far. A group of us from school (Kate, Jonathan, Julie, Lynn, myself, and the Bussell family), went on three different game drives over a three day period. Hours and hours of looking for wild creatures. The Mara was absolutely beautiful, quiet, and peaceful.









Our safari guide wasn't afraid to get up close and personal with any and all of the animals we came across. Most creatures could care less, with the exception of this elephant. After charging at us a couple of times, we decided it was best to leave him alone.









I posted this picture of hippos for Chris. I've been here six months and this is my first time to see many of these things. One of my favorite sightings was these four lions, eating a giraffe. Our safari guide said this was an unusual find and that these guys were on day two of this one course meal.









Our late evenings were spent back at the hotel, taking advantage of the food buffet, sitting around the fireplace, listening to the chirping of crickets outside, and drinking hot tea. The restaurant we ate in was an open area, with the exception of a grass and bamboo covering. Our dinner table viewed the nearby river where crocodiles stirred about.









On day two of our safari, we visited a Masai village. I learned that this is the largest of the 42 tribal groups in Kenya. Our people were warmly welcomed with a traditional dance by the young warriors of this tribe. We spent the afternoon finding out the way in which they live life... how they construct their homes with branches and cow dung, how they build fires and hunt wild game, and why they drink a mix of cow blood and milk on special occasions. While I was fascinated by the their very different ways of life, I decided that I would not do well living in the bush.

A list of the things I saw in the Mara:

vervet monkey, stork, guinea foul, giraffe, topi, warthog, hartebeest, elephant, eland, lion, cheetah with cubs, crowned crane, plower, wildebeest, zebra, toad, cape buffalo, baboon/albino, impala, jackal, mongoose, hyena, turkey vulture, toni eagle, gazelle, hippo, ostrich, crocodile, goat, cow, monitor lizard, bat, secretary bird, water buck