I tried to journal often while I was in Kenya and I thought I would share a few things:
8/5/09--the day we left
Stressed all morning to the point of literal sickness...About an hour into the flight with Isabelle happily watching a video I realized something, I had 8 hours virtually to myself. With her occupied I was free to read magazines, watch the in flight movies, solve sudoku, read a book or simply sit and stare off into space...And I can take this with me into Kenya. No matter what happens I have nothing better to do than experience it.
In Amsterdam on the way there:
As Isabelle played in the play area she immediate began opening doors. She made a quick friend who she informed of our African destination. Turns out the new friend was on her way home to the US after a trip to Africa. This got the mom and John talking. The first of many conversations Isabelle is sure to start.
It is good to know people in high places. It is good to know God in the Highest place.
We arrived in Kenya and got into line for visas. Isabelle was tired so John put her into the carrier and she almost immediately fell asleep. A sleeping child gets you into a shorter line. But the arrival of the Archbishop gets you into an even shorter line. As the workers processed our paperwork the Arch bishop chatted them up. The visas cost half what we had expected and they never questioned them. We collected all our luggage which included 13 boxes of computers and watched the arch bishop chat up the customs officials for a while. When he was done we walked through without having to show any luggage or pay the tax on the computers we were bringing. Although I have never gone through customs before I can't imagine a smoother experience. Thank you Lord.
8/7/09 Kibera Slum:
I had been looking forward to the slums. I know that sounds strange but I have seen pictures on TV many times and wanted to understand the poverty better. My first impression as we drove in was that it looks just like the pictures. However, the addition of the sounds and smell (although not as bad as imagined) made the experience so much more real. As we walked toward the church we were to visit many children ran out to look at us, wave an say, "Hi, How are you?" They also wanted to shake our hands. As I grabbed the little hands I thought about how dirty they probably were but then I realized I could wash my hands later but they would still be there. As we walked down one bank I could see a huge pile of trash at the end. I realized we were walking toward it and my cleanly self thought about my sandaled feet and not wanting to get trash on them. There turned out to be a narrow path of dirt around the corner, while the dirt probably wasn't much cleaner somehow I felt better about it.
Isabelle fell asleep while we were visiting the church and I carried her sleeping out of the slum. Many women commented on my sleeping "baby". A few asked to hold her, I just smiled and kept walking.
Today we visited 2 different churches. Isabelle(and I) was overwhelmed by a mass of children wanting to see her but when they left she wanted to follow them.
The services were interesting but also a little confusing as we didn't understand alot. In the afternoon we went back to meet the children we will be doing programs with this week. It was a fun experience singing and playing games with the kids.
What I am most struck by today was the faith of the people. I feel like I am learning so much more than I am teaching. I guess I will just trust God to use us as He needs us during this trip.
Some general observations from the first couple days:
--Stars! So many and so beautiful.
--Cold at night but warm in day yet they are often dressed as if it is winter.
--One boy tonight was wearing a pair of pants that are actually part of a skeleton costume, black with white bones on them.
--They love to greet each other and shake hands with everyone.
--The ministers are very well informed about the troubles of the Anglican church and with Kenya as a whole. They are very aware that their job goes beyond simply preaching the gospel, they are transforming lives.
--Everyone knows who Obama is and asks us about him.
--I feel like I am at the cabin or camp.
--Very few bugs
--Everyone is so polite.
I feel almost overwhelmed to try to record all my thoughts each night. There is so much to take in and I would love to remember and be able to share every detail when I return. Yet today I realized I can't share everything and I simply need to take it in and enjoy each moment. I am off the hook to bring all of Kenya home and can simply share my eperiences and passion for the people.
Today we presented the computers to the school. We had an opportunity to meet and interact with the students. I am continually struck by the intelligence and desire for knowledge the people here have. They all desire to improve themselves and Kenya.
After lunch we went to visit the big rock. I conquered my fear of heights and made it to the top. The view was wonderful. We relaxed and enjoyed the view. I am struck by the ability Kenyans have to enjoy the moment. While we might go up, take pictures, breathe a breath and leave; they sit and really experience it. I hope we can take some of this more relaxed attitude home.
Today I had some opportunity to sit with my thoughts. It would have been nice if I had profound thoughts on the meaning of life from my new world view but instead they were simply thoughts about my life...sometimes it is nice to get away from your life to gain a better perspective on how to prioritize it.
Although I got to relax a little it was still another full day. The men set off to work laying bricks while we watched a dvd of Jesus' life with the women. After lunch the children's program. Frankly as we rehearsed last night I was feeling slightly embarrassed by what our plan was for the kids. But I should always remember that God is the one planning the trip not Melanie. The kids loved our puppet show and the bracelets, craft and balls to play with. The teachers, who have never used teaching aids, were inspired by how excited and engaged the kids wee, and the youth, who never usually have anything to do, were excited to be able to help the kids with the crafts and play volleyball with our young people. All around we were impacting them without even appreciated how much.
Today Isabelle felt like a burden.
In the morning she stayed back to play with Benzi and Alicka while we toured a farm but then she met up with us to visit an egg laying place and the market where she had to be carried everywhere. After lunch we did some home visits. She attracts so many kids when we go out that we had an entourage going to the homes and it was hard to connect with the people. Then in the evening was a small crusade which she fell asleep at the moment I arrived and therefore I could only sit and watch. And finally she was getting a much needed bath while the rest of the team was meeting for the days wrap up talk. Still much was done for God's glory and tomorrow is another day.
8/15/09 back in Nairobi
Made it back to Nairobi tonight. Exhausted, slightly nauseous from the long bumpy ride and emotionally spent from the week. Now back in civilization, staying in a room that feels like a luxury suite (although it would be sub par for the US), I feel overwhelmed by what I experienced. I have left and will return in another week to a life of plenty. I will be laying by a pool relaxing during the last days of summer knowing that all my needs will be met, that I can easily care for my family and the people of my community will not be begging at my door anytime soon. How do I reconcile that? How do the Nzimbi's live with it at their door each morning? How do Sam and Mwende reconcile their life in America with the lives they grew up in? What does all this mean for me, for our family, for our future? Lord, where are you leading us in all of this? What is our response?
Thank you Lord that you are there in the midst of all that poverty. That you are working, the people are coming to know you, lives are being transformed. I pray you continue to work in Kitui and all of Kenya.
We visited 2 churches in the morning. First was the cathedral near the guest house, All Saints Cathedral. We only stayed for part of the service. It was a large church with hundreds of people, it had a large church feel and the service felt comfortable and familiar. The building was beautiful and Isabelle thought she was in a castle. The second service was at St. Francis in the Karen area (named for Karen Blixon from the movie Out of Africa). It was a smaller church like ours and felt very comfortable. Both churches had plasma tv's hanging up front with the words to the music on them.
After the services we headed to the mall for lunch. It was a very nice mall...we then headed to the open air market. It was more than a little overwhelming...As soon as I started looking a man attached himself to me. He was a broker. I was able to just choose things and then at the end negotiate. After choosing several things I went to get one of our Kenyan friends to negotiate for me. I am sure the man was devastated to learn he wouldn't be dealing with a naive American "mzungu". It was so fun to stand there watching Masya go back and forth with this man on each item. Eventually Mwende and her brother got in on it as well. As I waited I was eye balling what I thought I would pay in US dollars for the whole thing and felt $35 would be good. That is almost exactly where I ended up. Jake added a $10 shield and we were off.
Nairobi is an interesting city. It is dirty, crowded and full of poverty and wealth. You can see so much progress, wealthier Kenyans, more diversity of race. progress. The western world has come to one spot in Kenya and the rest of the country is trying to catch up.
Made it to the safari. It feels like a dream. I can't believe we are here in this beautiful resort with these amazing animals sitting right outside our room It is hard to drag ourselves away for bed. We head out in search of the lion, cheetah and possibly rhino bright and early in the morning 6:30am!
Yesterday was the beginning of the vacation portion of our trip. After so much giving the first week it was an adjustment to switch into tourist mode and simply receive the blessings of Mwende's family as they took us around Nairobi. We went to an overlook to see the Rift Valley. Amazing, breath taking. No words. Once there I began experiencing the trip in a new way. Relaxing. Afterward we had lunch at a place called Briarhurst. American food really lifted our spirits. So did briarhurst. It is an old brittish farm/country club that had been owned by one person in colonial times. Beautiful architecture. Today it is a christian nature center. They are working to re-introduce native plants into Kenya, encourage more sustainable farming. It was interesting to learn that the drought isn't just about lack of rain but that because of deforestation the drought occured. It is so exciting to see a christian organization taking the lead in environmental isses in Kenya.
That night we met up with the Nzimbi family for dinner at a chineese restaurant. Turned out to be her parents 35th anniversary (they had forgotten) and the kids surprised them with a cake and a nice anniversary song and kind words. It was so special to be part of it.
at the chinees restaurant
The Nzimbi family, our wonderful hostsHis Grace(Ben) and Alice cutting their anniversary cake.
Isabelle has been so great on the trip. Even on the 6 hour ride to the safari she barely complained. And she was the first to spot an animal, the giraffee. She said she saw it but the rest of us didn't believe her until about a mile later we saw 3 more. We were on the "highway" miles from the park but she thought our safari had already begun.
8/19/09--Kilaguni Serena Sarfari Lodge
The whole thing continues to be a dream. I'm trying to memorize every detail but fear it will all fade from my memory as soon as we leave. As I sit here by the pool I can see an amazing pink flower bush, thatched roof buldings, trees I have never seen before, people from many different European cities, and so muce. Not to even mention the animals we came to see.
John and Isabelle laying on our bed. You can see in the reflection the view from our room.
I have never been on a vacation where I felt so removed from my real life that I couldn't even engage in thoughts of it. How do you return to real life after this? I am thankful I don't have a very busy schedule when we return so I can slowly re-enter American culture and way of life.
8/20/09 Isabelle's favorite things (she listed things she wanted me to write down)
1. seing the giraffe
2. the elephant she loves
3. the baby elephant
4. seeing the hippos
5. the alligator
6. the fish
7. and the...wilder beasts
8. the water buffalos
9. the 3 water buffalo heads
10. the zebras and the dead ones
12. wart hogs
14. line of elephants
Back in Nairobi:
It was a harrowing and adventre filled trip back.
We did a little more safari in another park where it was open plain. You could see so many different animals all around. Then we visited a Masai village. Toursit trap doesn't begin to describe it. Disappointing especially at $20/person. After that we headed to another resort for lunch. They wanted $25/person for their buffet lunch and none of us wanted to pay it. Had we realized we wouldn't have another opportunity for 7 more hours we might have reconsidered. We began heading toward Nairobi and just when we were cruising along, just a mile or so from the main road to Nairobi, the truck broke down. John said it sounded like it threw a rod in the engine. Although it could have been a very scary thing to be stranded in the middle of Kenya with our luggage in the heat of the day and no other cars in sight, plus our driver walking around trying to find a cell signal, yet I felt calm. There was no fear only peace and a sense of adventure. Our driver did get through to the other truck which dropped off the other half of our team and came to get us. Our driver found an empty bus and hired the guy to drive us the rest of the way back to Nairobi. While it was comfortable the driver had a jerky driving style. Combine that with bumpy roads, no lunch and you have me slightly delerious by the time we arrived back at the ACK guest house. Yet here we are safe and sound protected by God, resting comfortably in his loving care.
I can't believe we are back. I have been awake since 1am. I started crying then. There are so many reasons. It is over, the let down, the processing. Where do I put this information? Not only does my brain not have a file for this experience and information, I don't even know what catagory it goes in. Maybe I need an entirely new file cainet for this trip, with many files and many catagories. I will be sorting through for months. I am also crying because I am afraid. I am afraid I will go back to my same life, that our family will pick up the same habits and routines and the trip will be meaningles. What if we experience all that and we don't change? Yet, how are we supposed to change?
I didn't want to leave Kenya yet I don't want to go back. I hope that changes. I loved the people we met. I loved the caring, the relaxed schedule, the beauty and he ugly of Kenya. Yet it was hard. I was constantly off balance for 2 weeks unsure what was next.
Oh that is so much and just a smatering of what I could say about the trip. Another post of random stuff later.