Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Adventures Around Nairobi

Today is our last day in Nairobi as tomorrow at around 5 am we leave for our flight to Tanzania (yeah- should be fun:). We are then heading to a home stay with a local family for 2 weeks (we are not sure if we will have Internet at all- FYI). We are officially finished with our language class called Language Acquisition Made Practical so in one week I am pleased to announce my fluency in Kiswahili- yeah right! Although we do know about 10 helpful phrases now this week mostly focused on how best we can learn language in the context of relationships and living in a new place. We learned a ton of useful exercises to do later with language helpers and ways to note progress, establish accountability, battle the inevitable slumps, etc. It was actually better than expected and Annikah did awesome as she was in class with us each day. She was a bit distracting but it was a blessing that both our fearless leader Mary and the other gals going on to teach at HOPAC in Dar were so gracious (thanks ladies!). Another main goal of this week was to get us out and about and over our fear of making mistakes. I think this is one advantage I have over Jason is that I am quite used to sounding crazy, silly, or dumb and so I am eager and more willing to practice with just about everyone I meet. Jason really wants his phrases to be near perfect before trying them out. We were discussing our differences in learning styles last night on a walk home from the store (to buy some milk for Miss A). I think he will be way better at remembering more phrases and words and I will be better at getting out there to practice with people. We shall see.

We had numerous adventures around Nairobi over the last week. Even though the crime rate is higher here than Machakos I actually felt more at home here. Perhaps it is because I am indeed a city girl after living and loving Chicago life for the past 7 years. Added precautions were needed but we managed to get around a ton and see most of the city.

We went to Ya-Ya Center at the recommendation of some friends from training and we were shocked at how modern it is. Basically it was a mall you would see anywhere in the States, it even had an escalator that Annikah was excited to ride. Most of the shops were too pricey for us but before leaving we also had to stop in and grab an iced mocha at Java House. Java House is a super famous (especially among the M'zungu crowd) for being similar to a coffee house in the U.S and having Western style food (more later).
Annikah likes Java House too!

Ya-Ya Center

On Sunday (our day off) after church at Nairobi Baptist (a very Western style mega church here that just happened to be a 2 minute walk from our guest house, very interesting) we went to another mall-ish place called the Junction. This place was very high end (read here we could not afford ANYTHING) so we mostly just looked around and talked with locals. We did treat ourselves to our long awaited anniversary meal out (thank JimRho for the treat). We had lunch at another Java House (mostly because I just had to have an educated opinion on the place so many people had recommended to us). My veggie burger was indeed yummy! Jason enjoyed a beef burrito and Anni gave 2 enthusiastic thumbs up for her chicken and fries. After trying the fries and ketchup (real Heinz:) she started yelling "asante(thank you)!" to every server that walked by. They loved it and would tickle her about every time they passed our table, in general people are very touchy-feely here with kids.After lunch we hopped a Citi Hoppa (bus) and headed back to Ya-Ya Center to see the Maasai Market. It was an open air air market set up in the parking lot with tons of craftsmen selling bowls, kangas, carvings, jewelry, and a ton of other African artifacts. We used the opportunity to practice our Kiswahili and bargain for a few things for our house. I talked with a woman named Ruth who happened to be from Machakos and after I told her I had been there for 3 weeks she was so happy to talk to me about her home. I brought a carved sugar bowl from her and she was very kind to let me fumble through all my phrases while she responded and corrected me. As we were leaving she held my hand and thanked me and gave Annikah a smaller bowl and spoon set that Anni had been playing with as a gift. It was so sweet of her and for me it was a reminder that learning this language; however tedious and difficult it may be at times, is not only important but it is necessary for me to connect and build relationships here. We also bargained for a handmade doll for Anni's b-day coming up and a few other small things (we already think we are overweight for luggage on the plane- yikes!).

More crowded van rides with Anni's friends
We also were able to meet up with the family from training and the infamous Tuk-Tuk ride a few times as they are living and working here in Nairobi. They invited us over for!!! We got to see their home, eat, and chat as the 3 kiddos tore the joint up.

Their boys are so fun and full of energy and Annikah tried to hang, even trying to climb the bars on their windows (she did not make it far, must be the bottom heaviness- sorry kid you get that from me). It was just such a blessing to in a home, to relax and just hang out. Christy and Darnell are amazing people and we are so grateful our paths crossed. We hope they will come out and visit us soon! The boys shared their toys and Anni even got to play dress up.
The next night Darnell and Jason met up with some other people from our training that are still around for a movie back at Junction.

I; being the generous, kind, and fabulous wife that I am suggested that Jason go while I stayed home with Annikah. I knew he really wanted to see the new Batman movie: Dark Night (because much of it was filmed in Chicago) and that this would be his last chance for a while. Annikah and I enjoyed a fun afternoon of girl time and wondering around in the Nakumat (AKA Kenyan Walmart) and playing outside before having dinner at the guest house. I put her to bed a bit late and then read and waited for Jason to return. He got home later than I expected but had an interesting story to tell of the night at the movie- read his account here.

We also joined Christy, Darnell, and the boys on Sunday afternoon for playtime at a downtown park. It was packed with kids and families and the little Mzungu kids got quite the attention. The raisins I had brought as a snack were quickly devoured by Anni, Esa, Jonas, and the small fan club of kids that surrounded our kiddos. Darnell and Jason played Frisbee and were immediately hounded by about 20 interested onlookers. We often feel like zoo animals here, like everything we do is bizarre, foreign, and somehow interesting. With the men folk occupied Christy and I decided to get the kids some ice cream from a push cart vendor that was in the park. I went over and paid 50 Ksh (about 90 cents) for a small ice cream. Later I found out that I was indeed bamboozled (thanks Meghan) as locals only pay 10 Ksh for the same ice cream. Now, I know you bargain for stuff at the market but who knew even the price of ice cream is debatable!! I should have known better as we have to argue every time we get on public transport as they always want to charge us double. Annikah did not mind the high cost of the icy, sugary treat and gobbled it up quickly making a mess. That is what kids and ice cream is all about!

This morning we were taken over to some offices to meet some of the folks that will help us while we are here in Eastern Africa (visas, money transfers, flights, etc). They hosted us for a tea time and were totally welcoming and very kind. Annikah mostly LOVED the dog named Samson that ran around the compound and the receptionist that gave her candy. We had some awesome adventures around Nairobi, we dig this city!
Chai time

Monday, July 28, 2008


Apropos describes the above Matatu we saw careening through the streets of Nairobi. Many of the cars are named here and as I mentioned earlier many of the names seem completely random but this epithet seemed just right. It had; in fact, been a few scuffs as evident from the many nicks, scratches and the bashed in front end. Makes me feel so safe!

As an aside I love using words like apropos and epithet, makes me feel smarter than I am, like a more perspicacious version of myself. I could have a colossal colloquy on the many expressions I long to use in mundane convo's to demonstrate my superlative erudition. I realize most of this post is superfluous and nonsensical but humor me I have no trash TV to watch and I finished the only 2 books I have with me.
I dare you to use flabbergasted at least once tomorrow...just for back!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

the attitude of a learner

Everyday during language learning we spend the afternoon at a local market called Toy Market that has no toys at all (we are learning that names in English very often DO NOT correlate with what the store actually has, ie. we heard about a place called the Leather Shop that is supposed to have outdoor toys for kids, now there are plenty of leather shops in Boy's Town, Chicago and although I have not been in them I am quite sure they do not carry kid's toys).
I digress; Toy Market is a open air market packed with used clothes’ and shoes, fresh fruit and veggies, fish, and an assortment of bootleg merchandise (35 Disney movies for 200 shillings or around 3 dollars!). Our language helpers walk with us as we fumble through our phrases with the merchants and other shoppers. I actually have 2 language helpers, both named Mercy because there was one extra helper based on our number of learners. So either I am the slow student or the gifted one depending on how you chose to look at it (me, I know it is because I am so advanced in Kiswhili- NOT!). Mercy and Mercy are so great and encouraging as it is really hard to learn a language. Jason's language helper is a really nice guy named Oscar.

Mercy, me, & Mercy :)
Kate with our language helpers

We record their voices on our digital recorders so we can practice listening and speaking again and again. This is especially important as we are not allowed to write down anything yet. We will start recording words and phrases once we get to Tanzania and have more permanent language helpers.
At the market the people are so gracious and respond with smiles when we speak Kiswahili (however flawed). In learning language the key word for me is vulnerability. It is a challenge to view this as a strength coming from a culture where it is valued to know a lot, be prepared, and attain skills before stepping into a situation. I am praying I have the attitude of a learner and embrace my weakness as a strength. I also need a sense of humor becuase I sound dumb.....a lot.

Paul said "But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."
2 Corinthians 12:9-10
Each day our goal is to build relationships and speak our phrases with at least 15-20 people. Concentrating so hard on phrases is exhausting but is also so rewarding because the overwhelming majority of people are willing to talk with us and are excited that we are learning to speak their language. The added bonus of having our practice at the market is that I got to do some shopping and bargain a bit (I LOVE bargaining for a good price)! Since we were not prepared for the cold weather here in Kenya I wanted to get a pair of pants (I can wear pants in Nairobi-yeah!). I actually found a pair of jeans that was not only long enough but actually fits well (how is it that I can never find these in Chicago but I can in a used clothes’ market in Kenya!). It was a hilarious experience as 3 different guys are hurling jeans at me for consideration. Some of them obviously way to small….how do you say “big bootay Kiswahili?” It took about 20 minutes of bargaining to negotiate the price but in the end I got a pretty good deal (thanks for the fun money Mom!) and a pretty sweet pair of jeans. I also got a couple more long skirts to wear in Tanzania and a sweatshirt for Jason. Here is to many more days of language learning ahead.

Friday, July 25, 2008

a lesson in not complaining

After some bickering, general bad attitudes, and pathetic complaining between Jason and I I was convicted that I needed to stop my part in the negativity. I think because things are so different and almost always out of my comfort zone it is easy for my first reaction to find fault or compare, to grumble. I know I need to stop complaining or even saying anything negative because it weighs on me and my relationships and blocks my ability to appreciate what is all around me.

This verse speaks to me again "Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life—in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing." Philippians 2:14-16.

It is vital as I can too easily get down because things are not going "my way" but as I have already discovered "my way" is not best and if I hold onto my need to have a plan, stick to a schedule, get things accomplished I will become frustrated and miss out on what God is teaching me about relationships, especially here in Africa. In complaining, even about small things I forget to celebrate all God is doing and how He has miraculously provided. I miss out on breathing in new experiences and being grateful in each moment. I wonder how many of us miss out on blessings because of perspective? I sometimes think God must get so sick of me struggling with the same things everyday but then I am encouraged that His mercy is not man's concept and I do not need to earn His love or favor by acting "right." He desires for me to grow but accepts me as I am. "It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy." Romans 9:16

God is teaching me in creative ways.

Jason, Anni, and I set out for a walk to the market. It was about a 40 minute walk and at the start we decided to start anew and we vowed "no more complaining or negative words about anything today" (no judgements, we start small). About 30 seconds after we spoke these words a Matatu (the local bus) driving crazy fast propelled past us spraying us with muddy water. Our feet and legs, and freshly washed clothes were drenched in mud and filthy water. Our God has a sense of humor. It was as if He was just checking to see if we were serious about the whole not complaining thing. We had to laugh as we continued on our jaunt; muddy and grimy and blessed.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

some culture & fun!

Annikah before church on Sunday
Our last couple nights in Machakos the students on campus invited our group to share in their cultural night. It was like a variety show and the students did a fabulous job. We watched various skits knowing that they were funny but not quite getting why, it was like being on the outside of an inside joke as their were language and cultural barriers to understanding everything but I was amazed at how much we could share even though our cultures were so different. Some of us also did acts based on our culture (there were Europeans, Australians, Americans, and Canadians. I was part of singing a praise song in English which shall not appear in the following video :). Annikah also got her groove on to some of the music before the official program started.
It was hilarious to the students that in one skit a daughter of a Kenyan moved to Michigan (they pronounced it "Meeshgin") and was freezing cold there. We all had a great laugh at that! Some of the actors were amazing, this one guy playing an elder actually came on stage at one point with a live chicken: I love Africa! It was also incredible to see how many cultures were present at this small college. There were at least 10 languages represented and one person speaking each language recited by memory a Bible verse in their own mother tongue, it was an amazing testimony to the unity that this group of students has in Jesus, especially considering the recent tribal violence and clashes that Kenya has experienced. There was a ton of singing, dancing, skits, and it was an incredible night that we were blessed to be a part of.
One of our last nights our training group had a celebration dinner and a fun night. We cooked some fabulous yummy food (I was in charge of the guacamole for 52 people: I was chopping for a LONG time). We had pumpkin soup, salad, guacamole, barbecued chicken and goat, and mac-n-cheese (a real treat as cheese is quite expensive). It took all day to prepare everything with little cooking utensils or equipment but it was sooo worth it! After we shared a fabulous meal (coordinated by Rock Star recipient Juli who will be teaching in Dar Es Salam (the capital of Tanzania)) we had a variety show that was entirely hilarious and full of inside jokes of common experiences that we had shared over the last 3 weeks. I was in a skit entitled Super Miss with 5 other girls which received a raving review from all (I have the entire skit on video but it it too long to upload here). It was awesome to blow off some steam and just laugh after such an intense training schedule. We now all are off to our separate areas of service but it was incredibly encouraging to meet some many people from all over that will now be scattered all over Africa. We got many emails and blog addresses and hope to keep up with everyone (and maybe visit a few).

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Carcasses, fries, & chocolate

*I have just posted a ton of blog entries written over the last 3 weeks......We FINALLY have fast internet now that we are in Nairobi
One day during training we were challenged to go into town and accomplish several tasks, a sort of scavenger hunt. Instead of a race to get all the answers we were encouraged to build relationships and gather information about families, history of the area, and people. I had to fight my natural tendency to want to speed through it and “win.” Fortunately for me (and unfortunately for my group) Annikah was a nightmare most of the time preventing any hurrying on our part. She was ok at first but after a few minutes of walking through town she was begging for food. The only respite from her fussiness came when a local butcher began smiling at her through the window where there were disgusting dead animals hanging in the window (the smell was also lovely as there was no refrigeration). He loved making Anni smile and it was hilarious to see this grown man wielding a knife and hiding behind carcasses playing peek-a-boo with Annikah: Totally creepy but very sweet. After our run in with Sweeney Todd we acquiesced to Anni’s request and went to lunch. She was not happy at the selection at the restaurant and cried the whole time. She asked for “fries” so we decided to break from our group to take her to the local fast food place we knew had fries (or chips as they are called). It took us about 15 minutes to find the place and then once inside we promised Anni the fries soon to stop her wailing. We sat down and when the waiter came we ordered chips only to find out they have no fries because they have NO POWER! A frustrating situation just became even more chaotic and we decided to make a quick exit before total meltdown in T-minus 1 minute due to the lack of fried potatoes. Poor Annikah, of course, did not understand why she could not have any food and explaining to a toddler in mid meltdown is useless. Our best option at that point was to make a quick stop at the grocery store to get some other options, yogurt, bananas, avocadoes, and some candy bars: all 3 of us needed chocolate at that point! The happy ending came when we found another restaurant that served fries and Annikah was elated to gobble down the greasy goodness. That was enough of an adventure for us and we grabbed a Tuk-Tuk ride back.

expanding or exploding

We had our first day off since July 1st and spent the morning hiking with some other families up the hills near the campus we are staying. We got good and dirty (we are quickly getting used to be covered in dust every day) and the kids got to climb on some big rocks and see tons of cows, goats, and chickens along the way so they were stoked. Later in the day we walked to town center with another family and their two boys. They are living in Nairobi serving some refugees that have relocated there. Anni totally digs their 2 boys Esa and Jonas (4 and 2) so we thought it would be a blast to hit the town with them. After getting some groceries we went to T Tot, a place famous for their beef samosas. They were excellent, even to me a non-meat lover. Maybe we were also thankful for some flavor and spice after the rather bland carbs we have been eating for the past 2 weeks. Our snacks were perfectly paired with cold cokes in beat up glass bottles. Somehow cokes always taste better after a long hike and served in glass bottles. We met up with a local friend from campus named David and he helped us navigate a “short cut”. It is so helpful to have local friends as they can speak the language and help us avoid “Mzunga price” (white price). He was great and we treated him to some dinner and tea before he had to catch a Matatu to Nairobi. We decided neither us or our kiddos would survive the 30 minute (or double with kids) walk home after walking all the way there and around town so we wanted to take a Tuk-Tuk home. A Tuk- Tuk is an auto rickshaw of very questionable stability and even more sketchy safety. I can honestly say I have not laughed that hard is a long time. Just trying to negotiate the price was an adventure, as soon as we hit the stand where the Tuk-Tuks pick you up we were swarmed. White skin equates money and the local drivers were fighting over us, this makes you feel so uncomfortable but it is part of the legacy of colonialism, imperialism, and tourism that we will deal with everyday we are here. You could tell this took David by surprise as he is used to being treated like everyone else. It was so overwhelming as people, cars, Tuk-Tuks, and bikes zoomed by us. I kept thinking what in the world was Anni’s little brain thinking as she takes all this in? She seemed to be watching the scene with wide eyes clinging tightly to me as she took it in. A few weeks ago she was strolling down a Chicago street in her Zooper stroller on our way to Starbucks and now she is in my arms waiting at a crowded and chaotic Tuk-Tuk stand in Kenya. I thought that by bringing Annikah to live in Africa we would be expanding her world view but at that moment it occurred to me her world view is being exploded. Almost everything she knew has changed and yet she is thriving and smiling and growing. She knows that we are with her and she is safe that she is here to learn. Kids just do that, they learn, they cannot help it and Annikah has shown us that her spirit is eager to know more about this place and these people. I can learn a lot from her. Once we agreed on a price (150 shillings= about $2.20) we all piled into a Tuk-Tuk; 4 adults and 3 kids into the tiny cab. Jason had to share the seat up front with the driver. Our driver took off so fast that he hit another Tuk-Tuk as we drove off. The rest of the ride was equally insane as we bumped along (see video). Anni, Esa, and Jonas loved the ride and were laughing the whole time as we headed back to campus. Anni got some air of a few of the bigger bumps and although she was smiling and laughing she also had a vice grip on my arms that were tightly around her. The situation was hilarious and strange and scary all at once but we arrived safely about 10 minutes later. The kids clapped and said “Asante” to the driver and we exited our first Tuk-Tuk ride.

Another mind expanding or exploding adventure……On Sunday we have ministry time to attend various ministries around the area. I was right at home when we decided to attend a children’s ministry in the area. We are quickly learning that being invited somewhere often means that you will be treated as a highly honored guest and often be asked to lead the service. At the children’s ministry we were in a group with a family from Texas heading to Kijabe and a woman from Germany who has been reaching out to street kids in Kenya for the past few years. We decided to act out a parable and sing a few songs with the kids (thank you FEC & Kidstreet!).
The kids were so warm and welcoming and seemed to have a blast laughing at us and our silly motions. Anni joined in with the motions as well. After attending the ministry time we met David (not the David from above but my laundry buddy). and we walked “a short distance” to Mumbuni Boys Secondary School for a service. We are also quickly learning that a short distance can be 3 blocks or 3 miles. This walk was about a mile and most of that seemed up hill. I am quickly gaining humility about my strength as caring Annikah on my back everywhere is tough and tiring. Culturally, the women carry the children and usually walk behind the men along the road and I must say I am not a fan of thisJ, alas I have a lot to work on concerning cultural sensitivity. We arrived at the high school that is home to over 1,000 boys. We could see tons of young men carrying chairs on their heads into a large meeting room where there was already loud music and singing blaring. David asked us to wait while he prepared a place for us. He came back and led us into the front row of a huge room filled with boys from the school. The choir was leading the boys in dancing and singing. Immediately, my context for church in my head was not just expanding it was exploding. It was amazingly loud, with whistling, yelling, singing, and stomping. I was worried that Annikah would be scarred but again she just clung to me and observed the scene for about 15 minutes until she decided that she totally dug this church. She did not have to be quiet at all and she could dance and clap. She was not worried about offending or doing the “right” thing she just let herself fit right in (as much as a little Mzunga girl can fit in with a ton of African boys). I think kids have a pretty honest reaction to cultural changes, they wear their emotions instead of trying to hide them as I often do, afraid I will do the wrong thing or offend. I pray that I can be more like Annikah, not so afraid to make mistakes that I do not engage the culture. Of course I will make (and have already made) tons of mistakes but as a Kenyan pastor encouraged us I hope to make “fresh mistakes.” The initial dancing and singing lasted about 45 minutes followed by announcements and then our friend David called us all up (we did not have any warning of course) and asked us to share a bit about ourselves. Luckily the service was mostly in English (all the kids here learn English is primary school as it is the official language) and then some was in Kswahili (the national language). The principal of the school came and personally welcomed us and thanked us for coming. It was encouraging to see high school boys be so excited about singing and participating is a worship service. But as we learned later from David who has been volunteering there for more than a year there is a huge hidden drug problem and many of the boys are struggling with many issues. It further reminded me that things are often not what they seem of the surface, culture has many layers and outsiders cannot get even a glimpse by just visiting. It is easier to just stereotype or oversimplify a culture or group than to live with, learn from, be vulnerable, and engage people. David was invited to share the story of his life and read scripture from Mark 4:35-41 about Jesus calming the storm. He shared many difficulties in his life when he felt that God had abandoned him; his mother died and he was sent to live in an orphanage, his sister died at 29, he was accepted to school but could not pay his school fees. I just cannot imagine the loss and sufferings of others as my life has been relatively isolated from devastation of this kind. Loss is such a part of life yet many times I try to flee from it. His story reminded me of a quote by C.S. Lewis “pain is God’s megaphone to wake up a sleeping world.” David revealed how he had doubted but God had a plan for all of it and how God showed him that He can calm any storm. Although he experienced so much loss he could see God’s sovereignty clearly and it encouraged my heart. He is now 2 weeks away from graduating college. He spoke strongly and with conviction and challenged the boys as a mentor should. I sat and listened and thought about the profound impact his story can have on others and how awesome and big and powerful and without borders our God is.
There was more singing and prayers and some other announcements and then the service ended: it was a workout! Annikah was a rockstar throughout the 2 ½ hour service (especially sitting in the front row) and of course it helped that I fed her snacks from my bag at any sight of fussiness. Her concept of church is forever changed as is her concept of humanity is forever altered after just a few weeks in Africa. So is mine. The human experience is so similar yet completely different at the same time. No longer can we operate in a space of only what we see and know to be reality, the world is bigger than our conception and I am eager to explode.

a learning curve

Do you ever feel like you do not even know how much you do not know? That sums up my experience these past few weeks. Every day we have been in various sessions geared toward helping us understand African culture, community development issues, AIDS and healthcare issues unique to Africa, safety and security, communication styles, and many more that I cannot even recall at this late hour. We are so diverse as a group. Some people have never been to Africa before and some of the group has lived for 20 + years in the jungle.

Duncan, a Kenyan pastor & teacher
During one of our training sessions on health and security there was discussions about how to bleach veggies, how to filter water, how to get bugs out of your clothes after washing them before they embed in your skin I realized just how much I do not know and how NOT hard core I am! By now I have got the bleaching veggies thing down and with the help of our travel filters we have been OK with the water situation so far but everything is just so overwhelming. It is like learning everything I take for granted in the States over, eating veggies after a quick douse in water, drinking from the tap, speaking and being understood. I also spent over two hours washing our clothes by hand out side. With my forearms burning from the scrubbing I had a revelation about how much physical work there is to do here that I just have never had to think about at home. A student who is graduating in a few weeks was also washing his clothes outside and after he laughed at my fumbling around trying to figure out how to get these huge plastic basins filled with water and balanced high enough to wash he had pity on the poor ignorant Mzungu and helped me (you balance the tubs on these wooden sticks and then fill them). His name is David and we chatted for about 2 hours while we scrubbed, rinsed, rang out, and hung up.

We talked about Kenya and America, about politics (he had lots of questions about Barack Obama as many Kenyans do), about the church in Africa and America, about our families, about our educational systems, and language. He was so kind in sharing his clothespins and this bar of “magical soap” as I call it because it gets out the red mud stains that cover our clothes. Although I definitely miss the just out of the dryer fluffiness I think I did alright for my first attempt.
Another realization that I am in for a huge learning curve came during our health session. If I was not already overwhelmed by the discussion on malaria prevention and treatment the facilitator casually mentioned the need for us all to carry a black rock. I had NO IDEA what this black rock was but apparently it is used for treating deadly snake bites when getting to a doctor is not possible. We started asking where we could get one and were told that a tribe in a small village makes them and we can buy them. One woman named Helga said “it is easy to make your own” and then she described that you go to the butcher, get a cow bone, saw it into small pieces, boil it in milk, somehow get this black ash to appear thru cooking for a specified time……yeah, she lost me at “saw the cow bone.” Helga is a hard core lady- I love her! She and her husband lived in the middle of the jungle in Irian Jaya for over 20 years. All of her kids were born there and she has about 10 near death stories that are insane. I asked her about what is was like giving birth there and she told me that for her second child she went into early labor and had to walk 7 km through the jungle carrying her 18 month old to find help. She and her kids also survived a shot out while living in a house made of cardboard. Again, I am reminded how NOT brave I am! I thought the bumpy ride to Swedish Covenant Hospital while in labor was rough.
After the black rock debacle (we were able to buy one and it is CRAZY- when you put it on your tongue it sticks and sucks out fluid, too weird!) This lead into a discussion of using “the zapper” which is just as it sounds, a dodgey electrical shocker that you apply to the snake bite wound. I really have no idea why but I guess applying electrical shock kills the poison and the instructions we were given is to shock the person (or yourself) until the pain of the shock is worse than the pain of snake bite; yikes!!
So, all this to say I am not even aware of how much I do not know at this point but one day at a time I am learning things I never thought I would want or need to know. Trusting in God is not an option for me right now, I have to trust and rest in His care as I learn more about how to just live here. Despite being completely out of my comfort zone or knowledge background I was encouraged through the Word “The Lord is faithful to all His promises and loving toward all He has made” -Psalm 145:13 &
“Jesus replied, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.” –Luke 18:27 Amen!

7 years

On July 7th it was our anniversary. 7 years since we were surrounded by our family and friends to say “I do.” I cannot believe it has been 7 years. Who would think we would have a little girl and be living in Africa? We did not get much a chance to celebrate the occasion as we were in training all day and completely exhausted at night. We hope to go out for a meal in Nairobi during the week of our language course (thanks for the gift to go out JimRho). Although we do not have much time to reflect and be together as a couple during the busy training and language study I feel very close to Jason. In our lives in Chicago many days our lives felt so separate, our spheres so defined, but here; for better or worse, we are in this together. We have different strengths that the other needs. We have weaknesses and God is teaching us not to try to be so self reliant. I am keenly aware that we are experiencing these changes is different ways.
We are also learning how to find ourselves in the midst of so much change. I have found an awesome release in running everyday with a few other women, one who was serving in Sudan for the last year and one who grew up in U.A.E. an is now heading to teach at a school in Kenya, and a an awesome Mom of four who will be serving at a hospital in Kenya. Although we have to be a bit more covered than the clothes I am used to running in we run about 3-4 miles most days and just talk and laugh. It is therapeutic for me. We vary our routes, sometime on the hills (yikes!) and sometimes along the dirt road into town. No matter where we run the sight of Wzungu women running attracts many kids to run alongside of us and scream “how are you?” We even had one woman follow us for probably ¼ of a mile in heels! Running white girls: we are definitely a novelty. Another thing that has helped us is getting into town and buying some hot sauce and curry powder to remedy the bland food situation. Also, can I just say that avocados are ONLY 5 shillings here (about 7 cents) so we have been making a ton of impromptu guacamole (no tortilla chips though). I also love the chai time that we have at least twice a day if not more. The Kenyan tea mixed with milk is fabulous!

We felt less homesick after being invited over to a Kenyan professor and his family’s home for dinner. Jack and Anna and their 2 kids Grace and Emmanuel were so gracious to welcome us into their home. We met Jack in the computer room one night and while he was working on a paper and we were attempting to check email and he insisted that we come over to meet his family. We were not sure what to expect but knew to bring a gift (we got a pineapple from the duka). Annikah while pretty fussy (new teeth) was much happier when she could play with some rafikis. During our time there many neighborhood kids were running in and out of the house and climbing on the furniture (at least my kid is not the only one out of control). Anna served us chapattis, stew, rice, cabbage, and oranges. It was a fabulous break from the African cafeteria food we have enjoyed for the last 3 weeks. While we shared the meal we discussed many things and asked a ton of questions. It also amazes me that everyone in Jack’s family speaks at least two if not three languages, makes me sad that so many of us in the U.S. miss out by only learning English. His wife Anna and I discussed teaching as she teaches in a local school (over 50 kids in one class, I thought 39 was bad in CPS!). Jack showed us his dissertation on his tribe; the Lou people, and how they understand Biblical principles. He received his graduate degree in South Africa and it extremely well read. He hopes to take some time off from teaching soon to do some writing on the Africa church from his perspective. After dinner they asked us if we “take chai?” and it was so yummy. We all prayed together and as we left they insisted that we take some fresh oranges and the remaining chapattis. Their generosity and kindness was much appreciated as we are so far from home.

other adventures in training

Annikah and her rafikis
we find things to amuse jumping on a mattress left outside
Anni learned a ton about AFrica in class everyday
Christy & me (she is from Canada and an awesome mama (of 2 boys)

Everyday we had chai time at least twice a day...yummy!

Annikah is very persuasive when it comes to us buying her suckers from the Duka

Mmmmm....ugali! EVERYDAY!

our nets over our beds

Anni loves bananas!

Annikah's bathtub and her friend Tracy

The way we roll.....

Annikah fell asleep in the van on the crazy bumpy ride to Machakos

cold cokes in bottles.....oh yeah!!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

We are here

Here is a couple indicators that we are in Africa.

The pic above is evidence of being in East Africa. For those that are not familiar, Stoney Tangawizi is a local "Ginger Ale" beverage. We actually aren't big fans, but he Engstrom clan will get a kick out of it thanks to their visit to the Coke museum in Atlanta. Although we are now in Nairobi not Tanzania we figured since we have been telling Annikah for the past year that we are moving to Tanzania we would not confuse the situation be introducing Kenya to the mix. We will be here a week for a language course. We left this AM after packing and cleaning and after a 2 hour bumpy ride we are here! As soon as the cars arrived chalked full of us and all our stuff everyone got online asap. It is a miracle to have Internet that is relatively fast :)