Thursday, December 21, 2006

Going to get Dave!!

I'm on my way to Nairobi to pick up Dave - woohoo!!! More later. The travel agent will open now, so I must go pick up my plane ticket and then catch my bus. Thanks for praying for me. I thought this time would never come, but it's here.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Having a good attitude

Today has been an interesting day. We were meeting with groups giving vegetable seeds and teaching them how to plant them and then explaining how to cook them. We were supposed to have an agricultural officer, but he couldn’t come until tomorrow, so I did it all by myself. I was enjoying it very much until the end. All of a sudden, as we were dividing and giving the seeds, people started showing up late and other people came wanting seeds. The whole point was to introduce new vegetables that people here don’t grow but can (zucchini, watermelon, broccoli, green peppers, carrots and eggplant), so a key element was teaching and making sure that the ones who were giving seeds were able to plant them and able to get water them in the next few dry months. So it was frustrating to me that people just showed up at the end demanding seeds. We had some left, so we did give them and one of the people who was there and who already knew a lot explained how to plant them. But even one of the people who is supposed to be doing follow-up only showed up at the end. So all of that kind of put me in a bad mood.

But I realized before long that it was all about my attitude. I had to choose whether to have a good attitude or a bad one. So I decided to have a good attitude and not let little things like that frustrate me. I decided to laugh instead. So the rest of the day was okay.

I’ve been working on making badges for the vigilantes in the location (the community police who voluntarily patrol the area at night – a dangerous and thankless job). It started out as something small and then kept getting bigger and bigger. If I’d known how much work it would be, I might not have volunteered. But I think with one more hour, they’ll be done, and I know that they will be appreciated.

After dinner tonight, I went on a killing spree. There are cockroaches in every crevice of my room and it is getting to be too much. I think I smushed 7 of them. 2 of them were in notebooks that were sitting on my bed. I saw about 5 more in the bottom of my drawer, but I couldn’t get them. Here, I’m just used to them, so although they are gross, I don’t mind them too much. What I’m afraid of, though, is that I’ll end up with stowaways in my things and then we’ll get them in the house in Malawi. I definitely don’t want that. I can handle them for 2 more weeks, but I don’t really want them in Malawi. When I was in Kisumu on Saturday, I found that one had hidden himself in the socket of my outlet strip. I think it almost fried something. But I happened to see it and it happened to be in the one outlet that I wasn’t using. So I shook him out on the floor and smushed him with my shoe. Last week, I pulled out my water pump that I hadn’t used for a few weeks and I found several had lodged themselves in a small crevice in the handle. Gross.

The other things I can deal with for 2 more weeks is breakfast. I’m getting very tired of tea, white bread and margarine every morning for breakfast. I like my chai every now and then in America, but now it’s definitely getting old every day. I don’t know what I’ll eat in Malawi, but it won’t be that. I bought some cereal and long shelf life milk in Kisumu Saturday, which I ate yesterday. They forgot and put sugar in the tea and there was no way I could drink it (or drink enough of it to not be hungry in an hour). So it was a perfect excuse to get out my cereal and milk. Very happy camper. I’m really looking forward to cooking for myself in two more weeks, buying fruits and vegetables and deciding what to eat. That has definitely been one of the hardest things here – living in someone else’s house on their schedule, eating their food. My body is very sensitive to food and I can always tell when I’m not getting enough of certain things. I’ve been missing good protein, fruits and vegetables, and I can really feel it.

Anyway, enough of that. The reason I was writing today was that I could see myself falling into a negative attitude and decided to stop. I was proud of myself. Sorry to complain again about food. At least I have enough food to fill my belly, which is more than a lot of people can say.

4 more days until Dave gets here. Hurray! It still feels like a long time, but 4 days is really very short.

We got everything worked out for the tickets to Kisumu. The airport is open again, Kenya Airways has started flying again, and after a lot of craziness, we have all the tickets we need and only the tickets we need. I went to the travel agent’s in Kisumu Saturday and went ahead and bought 2 tickets on the other airline because we still didn’t know when Kenya Airways would start again and it was my last chance. I knew that the seats were filling up (for the Saturday morning before Christmas). But the airline office in Kisumu had run out of electronic ticket numbers so they had to wait for more from Nairobi on Monday. So our names were on a list, but we hadn’t actually been issued tickets, which made me a little nervous. But then yesterday, I heard on the radio that Kenya Airways was resuming flights today, I realized that God was really watching over my bumbling around. I called them again early this morning and we were able to cancel the tickets before they were issued and buy a ticket for me to fly back with Dave on Kenya Airways. That also means that we’re okay for our flight to Malawi as well. I don’t know if all of that makes sense, but suffice it to day that I’m relieved that it’s all taken care of now. I’ve been watching the whole airline/airport situation for the last few months, not knowing whether it would be resolved before Dave came. Options were limited and there was the chance that he/we would end up stuck in Nairobi. So, it’s all good.

Okay, that’s enough for now. Love you all,


Sunday, December 17, 2006

A few misc things

Yesterday on the matatu on then way to Kisumu, a Masai man got on and sat next to me. I greeted him in Masai (the one word I know from having visited Ellen and Elijah in Narok) and he was very pleased and surprised.

I was late leaving Kisumu and then had lots of delays along the way. I didn’t get home until about 8:00, a full half hour after dark. My neighbor Mukabane was waiting for me with his bodaboda, otherwise I wouldn’t have made it home. I’m not sure what I would have done. I gave him a good chunk of extra money when we got home.

Today, I went to the church I like the best and then took Ian back to the clinic to have his bandage changed and cut cleaned. Then I went to a friend’s house to visit and eat. It was really good. It’s a wonderful family and right now several of their kids are home now for Christmas. While I was there, my friend Noel came by. She was on her way home from college in Eldoret. Wycliffe had told her to stop by on her way home, but didn’t tell her that I would be there or tell me that he had told her to stop by. It was a great surprise. It was fun to see them all, plus they had fruit salad after we ate – a wonderful treat

Saturday, December 16, 2006

New posts and pictures

Today, I've posted 5 posts and pictures. As you'll see, I'm doing much better. 6 days and a few hours until Dave comes. Hurray!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Hospital Visits and Trips to the Choo

This afternoon we had an interesting adventure. I came home and the boys ran out to meet me as usual. But on the way into the house, Ian slipped and fell and dove headfirst into the doorframe. The iron doorframe. I picked him up and he had a deep gash on his forehead just over his eye. The other side of his forehead had a very big bump. So I grabbed him, called Okoyo, the one who works here, and we took him to the clinic nearby, certain that he would need stitches. I think in America, they would have stitched him, but here she decided not to. He washed it, put an antiseptic, put a powder on (I didn’t catch the name) that would help it heal together and covered it with cotton. She gave him a shot of penicillin and some liquid ibuprofin. We’re supposed to take him back again tomorrow and the next day to see how it’s healing. Ian did very well and was very brave, maybe because he was so shocked by it all. On the way home, Okoyo tied Ian on my back so I finally learned how to do that. I made sure to take a picture. After we got home, he was back to normal (and ran with the others with me to the choo – see below).

I’m not exactly sure how it started, but the boys and I have a tradition that they escort me whenever I go to the choo (the outhouse/toilet). I think it started one day when they were in need of something to do so as I was going, I told them, “Let’s run there.” So now every time they see me come out of the house or out of my room with a wad of toilet paper, they should “Kimbieni! Kimbieni!” (Let’s run! Let’s run!) and they run with me to the choo and wait outside until I’m done and then run back. They’re so cute. I kind of wish I could bring them home with me, but the reason I don’t have my own children yet is that I’m not ready to be a parent. If they had no one here to take care of them, I would take them, but they have parents and grandparents.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Pictures of my girls

This is what they were laughing at. Emmy wanted to have a picture of it to remember.

Joyce "typing"

And Emmy also "typing"

Trying on hats -stunning don't you think!?

Pictures of my family

Brian and Wales

Millie reading with Ian

Amwayi, his wife Millie, and new baby Nicole. We have 3 Millies in our family. The daughter, the in-law and the girl.

Shikuku, the one who got the picture taking going.
Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
The creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
And his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
And increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
And young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not faint.
- Isaiah 40:28-31

I feel now like I am soaring like an eagle, with new strength. I know it was God because I reached the end of all the strength I had and cried out to God to carry me through and here I am. I went to bed one day completely finished and woke up the next like a new person. Thank you to everyone who has been praying for me and thinking of me.

Everything is okay. I am not so tired. Yesterday, I had strength and energy the whole day. I didn’t go to bed until after 10:00. I wasn’t quite so springy today, but have been able to work hard all day.

I made French toast for breakfast this morning for all 10 people, plus the 3 boys. I bought cinnamon and syrup in Kisumu last week, so it was very tasty. Made it feel like a weekend morning at home.

We had a meeting with representatives from self-help groups today and we were afraid no one would come. We ended up with 10 people – hurray! Afterwards, I came back with the girls and we were typing notes. But then they started laughing at how I was sitting on the table typing and Emmy decided that she hadn’t had a chance to learn to use my camera and that she needed to learn so that she could take a picture of me that way. Then they both wanted me to take a picture of them typing on the computer. I thought a while back that I would draw a replica of the keyboard so that they could practice at home, but I never got a chance to do that. It would have been a great opportunity for them to learn while I was here.

After the girls left, Shikuku was begging me to take a picture of him outside (he’s also the one who asks me almost every day whether I’ve developed my pictures yet. He doesn’t have a good memory for a lot of things, but he remembers exactly which pictures I’ve taken of him where!) So we went out and I took a picture and discovered that that light outside was perfect for taking pictures (It’s very difficult to get good lighting for taking pictures of dark skinned people.) So I took lots of pictures – of Shikuku, Amwayi and his wife and new baby, the boys playing. I’ll try to post some of them so you can see more of my family.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Back to Normal

Today, I am back to normal. I feel like myself again. I’m enjoying the little things. I’m enjoying greeting people again instead of getting annoyed when they call me mzungu. Besides, I have most people calling me Sarah now. On the way home today, I was with a new bodaboda driver and he commented that everybody knows me. I felt proud. I had a great time with my girls today. We laughed a lot with a lot of jokes accumulated over the last 4 months. Unless you count potatoes, I haven’t eaten any vegetables in the last 4 days, except a little cabbage yesterday. Yep, back to normal! Don’t worry – I’ve been taking vitamins every day.

I have 9 more days until Dave comes. Each one seems really long, but there’s so much work to do in the next 9 days that hopefully it will pass quickly. I decided to go and meet him in Nairobi instead of waiting for him in Kisumu. That will give me the chance to do a little shopping there before he comes and it might give me the chance to see a friend of mine who will be nearby. The things I need to get give me a good excuse to go, and I knew that the 13 hours from the time he got to Nairobi to the time he got to Kisumu the next morning would be torturous. It means I’ll buy a plane ticket to fly with him from Nairobi to Kisumu, as long as the airport is open again. They’ve been closed since Thanksgiving fixing the runway. In the beginning of November, Kenya Airways refused to fly in or out of Kisumu until they fixed the runway. The airport maintained that the runway was fine. Then after a month of rain, they said that the runway had been damaged and needed to be fixed. Good way to save face. The last I heard, it was supposed to be done today, so we’ll see what I find when I go back to Kisumu on Saturday. If it’s not done by then, I’ll go ahead and buy us 2 bus tickets to come from Nairobi. We’ll see.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

On the upswing

Just a few things today:

I woke up this morning, ready to be well. I’m still tired and still a bit sick, but my mind is ready to be well, and also ready to have a good attitude. Praise the Lord. I had an appetite at breakfast, which was good. I still didn’t want tea or bread, but I had some peanuts and half an orange (way more than my share, but they generously gave it to me. 1 big orange or 2 small ones usually feed the whole family)

I am in Kenya, in Africa, and this morning on the radio I heard Feliz Navidad. Definitely cultural mix-up!

The rain has stopped. Yesterday was the 4th day without rain. It rained some last night, but not like it had been raining since the beginning of November. Here, it is not unusual to have some rain once a week or so, even in the dry season. So, we think that the rain has gone. People are already commenting on how the road is dusty and how hot it is! I think after a few weeks of hot, dry weather, I’ll be okay in Malawi for the rainy season again.

Today is Kenyan independence day. There are actually 2 independence days. One is in June and one is today. I think the one in June is the day that Kenya got independence from Britain (Madaraka Day – according to my dictionary, it means control or power.) I think the one today is the day Kenya became a republic (Jamhuri Day – literally Republic Day).

I was planning to make French Toast this morning for breakfast. I bought cinnamon and syrup at the supermarket in Kisumu, but the eggs took too long to come, so we just had a normal breakfast and I’ll make it tomorrow instead. While we sat, waiting for the eggs, Ian sat on my lp for a long time, which we both enjoyed. All the boys really like that, but they don’t usually have someone who has enough time just to let them sit.

Brian, who is almost 4, tells me every day that he wants to go to school. He’ll be starting nursery school in January and he’s definitely ready. Ian is supposed to go too. He’s not quite as ready as Brian, but he’ll be okay.

Okay, I’d better get to work now. Yesterday, I said I would, but it was too hard with the boys. I went and read and slept a little instead.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Post-Friday Update

Here’s a much-needed update to the last post I made. Saturday was a much better day than Friday. I spent the day in Kisumu by myself. In America, I don’t need much time by myself and get lonely after a short time, but here I am constantly surrounded by people, speaking another language and interacting in a different culture. Here, I definitely need some time to myself. Saturday, I got to Kisumu early (I was there by 8am – unheard of!) so I had enough time to actually sit down and eat lunch. I went to a place that Jessica had recommended and had cannelloni. It was pretty good. I also ate a very yummy salad that I probably shouldn’t have. I’m not sure if that’s what’s disturbing my stomach now or just being sick, but it sure was tasty at the time. I also had enough time to stop by the house where 3 of the kids from my family live, which I had never had a chance to do before.

By the time I got home, I was absolutely exhausted and ended up not eating much dinner and going to bed early. I felt fluish. Just about everybody in the family already had a bad cold, myself included. So I decided that I would just wake up whenever my body was ready and was still sick the next day, so I didn’t go to church and I didn’t go to the monthly meeting for a group my family’s in. Which means that I missed every meeting since I’ve been here. Every time, I was either sick or out of town. Anyway, it gave me much needed time to rest. I slept most of the morning and didn’t do much else the rest of the day. I read some and listened to 2 of my pastor’s sermons from Detroit. It was rejuvenating spiritually and emotionally. I also talked to my parents on the phone which was really good. I had been feeling a bit lonely and disconnected.

Today, I still was just exhausted, so we worked in the morning and then the girls went home after lunch and I tried to sleep a bit but my mind was too active. I played with the kids a bit and then went to talk to my sister-in-law. Right now, I just feel like curling up on the couch and watching a movie. Maybe in Malawi when we have electricity. I was looking at bootlegged movies in Kisumu on Saturday to see if there was anything good, but I didn’t see anything worth buying or watching.

So, I guess there’s not much exciting to say, just that I’m doing better than I was on Friday. I’m still ready to go home and I’m still anxiously waiting for Dave to arrive, but I’m doing okay. Dave wrote to me this week that even though he was “home,” it didn’t feel like home since I wasn’t there and that he felt like when he came to Kenya he was actually coming home because he was coming home to me. So that really helped me, one, to know that home is relative, and two, to know that if I were to live here along with my family with my own things in my own house, it could be home. I’m still not anxious to live here any time soon just now, but now is not my time to live here yet. The last time I left here, I wasn’t anxious to come back any time soon either, but here I am again.

It’s interesting to see the things that I miss. It revolves a lot around food. I miss all sorts of restaurants, most of which I haven’t been to in a long time. I also miss lots of feelings of certain things and places. I miss a lot of things in Louisville. I miss things in East Lansing too. I feel like I miss things more than people, except my husband, maybe because I’ve been in better contact with people than I was last time I was here. I will definitely be excited to be home again after being gone for 8 months. At least in 2 more weeks, Dave will be here with me.

Well, I’d better go get to work. We didn’t get so much done today, because I was sick, so since I have a little energy right now and nothing to do, I should probably get some work done. There’s a ton to do – it’s like the end of a semester – and every little bit that I do right now, I will appreciate later. It’s a little though with the kids running around, but we don’t have enough lamps right now for me to go work in my room. Anyway, love you all. Thanks for your prayers!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

A new day and a new start

I’m thankful for a new day and a new start. Mornings are always easier. This morning, it was fresh, the birds were chirping. I passed a lady wearing a kanga that said God’s grace is enough. That was a good reminder this morning. In the matatu this morning, I was also reading a book that I borrowed from the pastor’s wife that was also encouraging – reminding me to lean on God, to trust him for strength and for endurance. I know I’ve hit a wall, but it is only as you persevere through the wall that you gain new strength. I know that life isn’t always easy. I know that there are difficult times and you have to keep praising God through good and bad, persevering through good and bad. Please keep praying for me.

Dave also will be crazy busy until the day he leaves for Kenya. Please pray for him too, that he would have perseverance, that he would actually learn a lot on his current rotation (ER) and that given his schedule and mine, we’ll actually be able to talk a couple times in the next 2 weeks.

Pray too that God would prepare us to be back together again and that we would make that adjustment easily and smoothly. Thanks!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Shutting Down

(if you want to skip the griping, start after the stars)

I’ve shut myself off and I’m just waiting to leave. I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to be around people. I just want to go home. I don’t want to greet anyone. I don’t want to talk to anyone. I don’t want to eat meat. I don’t want to see anybody. I just want Dave to come and take me home. I’m tired of living here and I have no desire whatsoever to live here ever again.

That’s how I feel right now. It will pass, I know, but that’s how I feel now. It’s such a battle. Why am I here? Why can I only handle a few months? Why did God put me here in this place and with these people? What is teaching me? Why do I get so frustrated with them? What in the world was I thinking to come here by myself?

Today, I’m just frustrated. I was tired already. I woke up at 5:45 and couldn’t go back to sleep because I had to go to the bathroom and my throat hurt. So I went to the bathroom, took some medicine and read for a bit. I did go back to sleep for a bit, but I had to get up and get ready for the day.

We had a meeting today with self-help groups in one location, and even though only 3 people came, it was a good meeting. I was just tired. So the director of the NGO whose building we were using starts telling me about how I shouldn’t be frustrated because this is just how community work is. I wasn’t frustrated. I was just tired. The meeting wasn’t quite like we expected, but it was good. I was only frustrated to get a pep talk that didn’t seem very genuine or needed.

So because not very many people came, we had some food left over – beans, uncooked rice, oil, tomatoes. So I took it home. The time I was riding my bike home was from 5:15ish to 6:00, so there were very many people out and they all wanted to greet me. I just didn’t have the energy for it. I just can’t be “on” all the time, even though people feel bad that the mzungu passed without greeting them. I just can’t be that for everybody all the time. I just wanted to disappear into my room and not come out for a few days.

But, because we had leftover food and because Aggrey and Rachel were in Kisumu today and we didn’t expect them until late, I went and bought potatoes and onions to cook with the beans for dinner. We had peeled and chopped the potatoes and had put water for the rice on the fire when they came home with meat. So I just told the sister-in-law to cook whatever they wanted and left. So they’ll probably cook the meat tonight and the beans tomorrow for lunch, when I won’t be here. We would have been done by now, but now all the boys are asleep already, so they’ll go to bed hungry. I just want to refuse and go to bed without eating, but the bad attitude has to stop somewhere. So I’m just eating chocolate and griping.

Okay, I feel much better. I don’t know if I’ll actually post this or not. If I do, and you’re reading this now, I’m sorry for complaining. I know that so many people are worse off than me and have much bigger problems. I know it’s all about my attitude and at this point it’s all about what I make it, but it’s so hard. Wow, I just ate 9 Hershey kisses in less than the time it took to write this.

So, anyway, like I was saying, I feel like I’ve just kind of shut down. There are way too many people asking me for help all the time. There are way too many people that want me to visit them or their group. I just can’t decide how to choose, so I’ve just shut down and said no to everybody. I know that’s not a good way to respond and I know it doesn’t really help anyone, but I’m just too mentally and emotionally overwhelmed to do it right now. (Okay, make that 11 Hershey Kisses, but they’re all gone now, so I can’t eat any more. It sure felt good, though!) I’ve gotten tired of working so hard and tired of being so far away from my husband and home that I’ve just kind of let myself turn off and I’m just gliding towards the end. I just need some refreshing. I feel like if I can just make it 2 more weeks, Dave will be here and it will all be okay. But that’s not how I want to live. At church last Sunday, when I was so frustrated about so many things, I just released myself to God, told him that I’ve reached the end of all the strength I have and am depending on him to carry me through. And he has. But I am empty again. I am at the end of my own strength, again. Please keep praying for me, that I would have strength to finish these last 2 weeks and to finish well. I don’t want to go through the next two weeks having just shut down and coasting through. But I don’t really want to face it either.

I really will be okay. I’m sorry to complain so much. Sometimes, those are the times I feel like writing more than when things are just fine. I’m sure I’ve driven some people away from reading. Hopefully others will appreciate the honesty. I know that after leaving here again, I will look back fondly, and want to come back, but right now it’s just tough. I think I’m becoming a stronger person, more able to endure difficulties. Although now, I can’t say that I’ve endured well. Just barely. Hopefully, I can take from this that it’s all about my attitude. I feel like this is a recurring thing, though. I go through things that are mentally and emotionally difficult and I just fall apart. Things that wouldn’t faze other people. They just knock me out. Maybe I need to know myself better. I think the times that are overwhelming like this are the times that there are many stressors, some big, some small, but all together. I know that there are many stressors in my life here right now. Most of them seem small, but all together they are significant. I guess I need to face each of them and not let them have so much power over me.

- It is stressful to live in someone else’s family, eating someone else’s meals and living on someone else’s schedule. If I live here again for any more than a few weeks, I need to find another place to live, by myself or with just my own family.
- I have dealt with a very stressful situation since the day I arrived, but I can’t say anymore than that about it.
- There is stress in living in another culture, always standing out and always using another language.
- There is stress and a lot of hard work involved in doing research, especially knowing that it is a very large part of your studies and that you need to do it well.
- It is stressful to have very many people place high and unreasonable expectations on you for how you will help them.
- It is stressful to be half a world away from my husband and not be able to share day to day things with him.
- It is stressful to be sick and tired when dealing with everything else.
- It is stressful to go, go, go without resting (enough or at all).
- It is stressful to have many cultural expectations on you everywhere you go.
- It is stressful to go many hours at a time without eating anything.
- It is stressful having very little control over what and when you eat.
- It is stressful not having familiar foods from home.
- It is stressful being so far away from home.
- It is stressful to not be able to go to church and worship in my own language.
- It is stressful not to be able to talk to my family when I want to.
- It is stressful not being able to communicate with friends on a regular basis.
- Everyday life has many stresses – finding food, getting around, waiting for everything.
- It is stressful to be in very many unknown situations. I never know when things will start, what will happen next, what the visitors want, whether I’ll even be able to make it home at night because of the weather.
- It is stressful to be in situations where everyone is speaking a language you don’t understand.
- It’s stressful not to be able to go to the bathroom at night.
- It’s stressful having everybody watch you all the time, yell things at you and tell their kids to look at you every time you go by, as if you were a freak.
- It’s stressful to be in another culture where people do a lot of things that don’t make sense but you don’t feel you can say anything because it’s not your culture and you would just be rude.

I guess that’s enough to justify being overwhelmed. I’m still not very proud of how I’ve handled things at times, but at least I can see that it’s reasonably tough.

They cooked the beans and meat together. I was really frustrated by that and I behaved about like a 3 year old. They didn’t cook the potatoes because they thought they were for the kids, so when the kids fell asleep, they didn’t cook them. So the kids went to sleep hungry, again.

I just feel like this is out of control. I just can’t handle it anymore. I just want to get out of here and go home. I’d better go apologize to my family for behaving so badly and go to bed.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

World Aids Day

Yesterday was World Aids Day and we had a very nice celebration here. There were probably over 200 people by the time it was in full swing. It was a really good day. We started with a boda boda (bicycle taxi) parade, with small flags, ringing bells and shouting things like “AIDS kills.” I joined in on my own bicycle and thoroughly enjoyed ringing my bell and welcoming people to come join us for the day. We danced with the women who were there. A number of people spoke and I gave a mini-nutrition lesson (about 15 minutes). One of the local youth groups did a very nice play about AIDS, a number of students recited poems and choirs from 3 churches sang. We had girls’ and boys’ soccer and netball (something akin to basketball, although I haven’t seen enough of it to understand much). I played with the girls’ soccer team from my area, which was fun, although I’m a little sore today between that and riding my bike back and forth (it’s about 40 minutes each way). The only thing was that the nurses from the voluntary counseling and testing (VCT) center who were supposed to come didn’t come. That was really a shame because I’m sure there are people who felt, okay, let me get tested and they could have done it there before they changed their minds. Once people get home, I think it’s easier to forget and say, oh it’s not really that important, or decide that it’s too much trouble to get there.

It’s a little strange having another mzungu around and I wonder how I would do if I were working with a team of other Americans. It would probably be different if we saw each other besides just at public events and meetings, but it seems like when we see each other, we tend to get stuck together, and I end up feeling a bit isolated from everybody else. Maybe if we had more opportunity to talk at other times, it wouldn’t be a distraction. After church tomorrow, I’m going to Jessica’s to cook Mexican food. We’ll make beans, maybe tortillas, salsa and guacamole. That’s the plan at least. I’ll spend the night there and then come home Monday morning to get back to work.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Back to work

As always, it’s really hard to get back to school/work after Thanksgiving. I’m getting a little anxious about everything – finishing my work, not burning out. I’m getting tired and I’m running out of steam. In the village world, there’s never much hurry, which probably doesn’t help me have the sense of urgency that I need. I’m being asked to do so many things, and I don’t know if I have time for them all, but it’s really hard to know what to do and what to say no to. I just don’t see much time soon to rest. I know that sounds silly, since I just had a holiday, but I feel exhausted. I’ve been ready for bed every night around 9:00 lately. Maybe it’s more emotional and mental than physical. I know that when I get stressed, I get really tired. There’s a lot of stress right now, from my work, from being anxious for Dave to come and from trying to figure out how to deal with everyone’s expectations and requests. I also wonder how much is coming from not eating very well. Does eating protein but no vitamins one day and lots of vitamins but no protein the next balance out? I’m not so sure. At least I have vitamins that I can take, that one of the girls left me in Tanzania. Yesterday, I ate maize and beans all day. Today, I had greens all day. At least I’m eating something, which is more than some people can say.

Anyway, last night, I woke up at 3 am and didn’t go back to sleep until about 4:00. I thought about getting my computer out to work, but I finally went back to sleep.

I’m having a great time with the kids still. When I got home on Sunday, Rachel told them that I was here and in the house, but I had already come around the side. Wales and Brian had gone inside but Ian was still out. He saw me come around the corner and started screaming, “It’s her! It’s her!” It was so much fun. They were so excited that I was home. I gave them all big, long hugs, which they totally returned. They changed in the few days I was gone. They look older. They have new words. It’s a lot of fun. I don’t know what we’ll all do when I leave for good. I wish I could take them all home with me – the 3 boys and Millie. But I know that’s impossible and I don’t think I would really want that responsibility once I got home.

Well, my computer battery’s about to run out, so I better sign off and get ready for tomorrow.

Love you all,

Friday, November 24, 2006

Relaxing after Thanksgiving

Today has been a good day after Thanksgiving. In the morning, I went with Ellen to the center where they work for a meeting. We went back to the same house as yesterday to eat leftovers for lunch. (We didn’t take any back to Ellen and Elijah’s last night because the fridge isn’t working right now.) Yum!

We came home, made chocolate chip cookies. We have no idea how many we ate (a lot), but we just kept saying, “It’s Thanksgiving.” Then we all 3 played Phase 10 and watched a movie. It’s nice to relax and take the weekend off.

This morning, as I prayed, I asked God to give me joy in my last 5 weeks. I want the time to go quickly because then I’ll see Dave sooner, but I also want to enjoy the time I have because as soon as Dave comes, my time in Kenya and my time in the village is up. I don’t want to rush through it and then wish I could go back and savor it more. So please pray with me for joy and grace to finish well and to be present in the village, not just physically, but also mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving from Narok

Today has been a nice day. After bathing this morning, I used Ellen’s hair dryer to dry my hair. It was really nice – my hair is mostly soft and straight, although I had a bit of trouble remembering how to use it.

We cooked mashed potatoes and green bean casserole to take for dinner. In the middle of it, the electricity went out, which meant no oven. In the course of the day, the electricity came on and off 6 times, and on the seventh, it went and hasn’t come back yet.

We had dinner with several other American missionaries and it was the next best thing to being home for Thanksgiving. We had turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, homemade rolls, salad (with real green stuff!), deviled eggs (passed on those), pineapple, cranberry dressing, apple pie, pumpkin pie and a tart. Just about everything you could possible want. The only thing from there that I could have made in the village would have been mashed potatoes. It was amazing. It was amazing too that everything managed to be cooked with the power going on and off all day.

After dinner, we sang some worship songs, which was very sweet, and prayed. After pie, we watched National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation until the power went out again, probably about 2/3 of the way through it.

I talked to Dave for just a few minutes and to my mom, dad and brother for a few minutes each. Scott said that he’s sore and that when his company was given a chance to make donations to charities, he picked 2 that work specifically in Kenya and one that works in East Africa. I was very proud to hear that!

Today was a good reminder for me to stop and think about what I’m thankful for. The last few weeks/months have been busy and draining and it’s easy to be frustrated and/or ungrateful. I’m thankful for s wonderful husband and a great family. I’m thankful that I have food to eat in the village (3 times a day!) and a warm, dry place to sleep. I have friends in the community that love me very much. I’m grateful for fruit when I get it. One the way here to Narok, you pass through pineapple country and I bought 3 pineapples for 50 shillings (about 70 cents) – can you believe it!? I’ll try to buy 3 more on my way home. I’m thankful that I serve a good God, who takes care of me.

But I still don’t feel very thankful. I see it’s something to work on and pray for in the coming days.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


I wrote this four or five weeks ago. I feel funny sharing it after Sarah's thoughtful posts today, but maybe it's okay to post some humor, too. I hope you enjoy this, it made me laugh when I read it!

Last week, I was wearing my carpenter jeans, the ones Sarah more or less picked out for me last year, and they got a hole in the knee. So, the next day, I had to wear my khaki cargo pants. Later in the day, those got a huge hole in them, too, in the rear under the pocket. So, long story short, I was beginning to run out of comfortable casual pants that fit well, so I thought I better go find some new (comfortable) pants. You must know, however, that I pretty much don’t like jeans, except for those carpenter jeans, so I was looking for something similar (and, like most guys who don’t like shopping, I’m a hunter shopper, get in, find it, and get out).

I took off for the mall at about 4:30 this afternoon. I knew the mall would be busy but I thought I would be able to ignore the crowds. I had looked at the pair of jeans that I was replacing and thought, "it’s fine, all I have to do is ignore the crowds, ignore the salespeople, ignore the other jeans. I’ll just walk in to the Gap, find the style and size I need and walk out." Well, of course I’d pay first… then walk out. It turns out it wasn’t so easy as all that.

Of course, I make it to the mall and everyone and their brother has decided that it was time to go to the mall. I didn’t choose the best time to go if I wanted to ignore crowds. So, I spent ten minutes driving in circles looking for a place to park. I finally found one near Lord and Taylor. So much for ignoring the crowded parking lot. As I got out of the car I steadied myself. It’s okay, I say, you can do this. It’s just a little shopping. No big deal. I head into the mall.

Now, I could make the story great and say that I ran over three people once inside the mall, but I didn’t. Still, it was kinda hard to walk down the corridors for all the people that were there. You really did have to watch where you’re going. As I was headed to Eddie Bauer I was nearly run over by a stroller. That’s right, a stroller… no one pushing it. At least, that’s what it looked like. Turns out the person supposed to be in the stroller was behind, just ramming straight ahead, almost at a run. I lucked out though, as the little person got close, almost to my feet, he fell forward, pulled down by the three or four shopping bags he was also trying to carry as he forged ahead. I’m sure he was fine... I was fine. Mom and Dad ran to his aid, scolding and picking things up. Oh well, so much for ignoring the crowds of people in the mall. But, I’ve gotten ahead of myself.

I looked at the map online before I came to the mall, so I had a good idea of where I was going, but had to check again before I was sure of where the Gap was. I walked past the store front for "Gap Women." Good, I thought, I don’t have to worry if I’m looking on the men’s side or the women’s side of the store, I just have to look for the "Gap Men" sign. Not that it doesn’t become obvious very quickly, but still it’s a little embarrassing when you walk into a store looking for jeans for yourself, turn left and all of a sudden you’re looking at miniskirts, fluffy sweaters, and skimpy t-shirts. You suddenly try to look as if you’re shopping for your wife, pretend to lose interest quickly and move into the men’s stuff. Anyway, I didn’t have to go through that ordeal. Now, onto the quick in and out shopping.

I walk around the store once before I find the jeans… I chose the wrong way to start, but I saw a nice sweater I thought I might try, so there was a bonus. Looking at the jeans I think, figures, they don’t make the style I want anymore. I briefly consider walking right back out, but I talk myself into staying for a frustrating evening. I drove all the way here, I say to myself, I better try to find something. So I start looking for something else. Nothing is in my size. Nothing. I think there is a law against stocking clothes that are longer than they are around. Finally, I found one pair of jeans that will work, loose boot cut. I don’t wear boots often but I think I’ll give the jeans a try. Of course, the last pair of boot cut jeans I tried on during a previous shopping trip looked cut for a woman, so I’m a little skeptical. I'd been looking for a size for ten minutes by the time I found that pair so now the salesman finds me. I tell him I had hoped to find a pair just like what I already owned. He tells me they don’t make it anymore but to try the jeans on the other side of the store, they’re similar. I look for a size. They have a couple. Okay, so now I’m in business, two sizes in each of three styles. Yikes. I go to try them on (along with the sweater I saw earlier, they only have S or XL, so I try the XL).

The first pair of jeans, loose straight, they feel funny right away, even before I get them all the way up. I try both sizes, just for kicks. Nothing. Next, loose boot cut. These are better, but they still fit funny around the waist. No dice with the bigger size, either. So I try the industrial jeans, the salesman’s suggestion. These fit pretty well, both sizes fit well. The only thing is they are too short. I noticed this right away, too. I’d have to go with a 36. But, like I said earlier, they don’t stock jeans longer than they are around, so, despite trying two or three pairs, I can’t find a 34 long enough to be comfortable. (I try the XL sweater, too. The arms fit nice, but you could fit three of inside the rest of it). Now my fifteen minute, in and out trip is more like 30. Briefly I consider giving up, going back home to eat ice cream. Again, I talk myself out of it saying, I’ll try to find something at Eddie Bauer… .

So, it’s back to the store map. I look at it for five minutes. I find Eddie Bauer on the list, and American Eagle, too. I look on the map, but have to look back at the list, was EB in A and AEO in M or vice versa? I get it figured out and head towards Sears. I get halfway there and realize I don’t know where I’m going. Oh well, it’s either EB or AEO towards Sears, I’ll just look for both. I find it, it’s EB. They have men’s and women’s together, so I spend a minute or so looking dazed as I decide which side is the men’s. I figure it out and find the jeans easily this time. I start looking for a size in relaxed fit. I find one (just one) and head to the fitting room. On the way, I find the sales rack. 19.99 marked down from the 39.99 pair I’m holding in my hand. That convinces me to look for more in my size, even though I’m still not happy to be there and would rather be quick and get out. Now, I’ve got 5 pairs of jeans. One is actually a 36! I can hardly believe it. The 36 is long enough, but the waist still feels weird. So I move on to AEO.

Now, the waist on jeans is actually why I pretty much gave up jeans. It was probably eight years ago or more. In fact, besides the pair that I bought with Sarah last year, I don’t think I’ve bought a new pair since my mom bought me one about eight years ago, and I still have that one in pretty good shape. Of course, I don’t wear it, so why shouldn’t it be in good shape? But, I do have a pair of jeans! Anyway, my final reason for giving up jeans was pretty much that I began to think they are just made wrong, at least for me. In fact, sometimes I feel they are made backwards, that they’d be more comfortable if you just put the zipper in the back. Actually I tried this with the old uncomfortable pair of jeans when I got home, put them on backwards… It actually wasn’t too bad! Anyway, last year Sarah went shopping with me and I tried a pair of carpenter jeans on her suggestion. They fit me very nicely (with the zipper in front), and that’s the pair I was trying to replace.

On to AEO. Here I’m kinda getting tired, so I’m a little more frustrated when I have to look around for two or three minutes, from side to side, before I can be sure of where the men’s jeans are (v. the women’s). I find two or three fairly quickly, a couple boot cut, and head to the changing room. I quickly whip through them, not expecting to find anything. One pair almost makes the cut but I stopped myself pretty quickly from buying them. They still weren’t right, and as long as I was against wearing jeans, I couldn’t convince myself to buy an acceptable pair just to have a pair of jeans (especially for upwards of $40).

About this time I remember that Panera bread smelled really good when I walked in the door, and now it’s about 6:30. So, I decided to go ahead and eat out. I figure I owed myself something. I had just tortured myself by asking myself to go shopping (ugh). I tried on at least twenty pairs of jeans that didn’t fit, and braved the crowds and strollers to get nowhere. I didn’t feel like going home to an empty cupboard and trying to figure out what to eat (it probably would have been spaghetti). So, I had a nice, hot Panera panini sandwich and headed home.

And that’s how I went shopping for jeans and came home only with a full stomach. Now I’ll have to spend some time online to see if those Gap jeans come in a 36. I won’t get to try them on, but, at least there won’t be any crowds or salesmen. I could always wear the jeans I already have backwards, but that is probably less than stylish.


Hi everyone. I posted the two posts that I forgot last time from 11/11, one from 11/17, one from 11/19 and one from 11/21. I hope you enjoy. Also, I just want you to know I appreciate all your comments and feedback. Thanks!

What do I see? (Nov 11)

“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, what ever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” – Philippians 4:8

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth, but only what is useful for building others up, according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” – Ephesians 4: 29

These are the two verses that are on the wall in my room (in lots of colors, thanks to all the colored Sharpies that Dave’s mom sent in her box!). They are a timely reminder to me right now. Sometimes it’s easy to get frustrated when I see the state of things and thing what’s wrong with this people? Why do they do this? Why don’t they do that? In America That’s the big one that’s been getting me lately. I keep comparing things to America. I keep thinking that if we can do it like this there, what’s wrong with these people here or what’s wrong with this country that they can’t get it right here? But I know that while there are certain cultural things that are hurting people, there is so much more that is out of their control. The school system is not very good. It’s expensive and the kids never learn to think. Finding a job is very difficult – nearly impossible. AIDS is killing people left and right. People have very little land to farm on. You spend half the day looking for firewood, water, food, etc. You spend the other half waiting for things to start (not quite, but almost!).

Sometimes I just get frustrated. It’s easy when you’re in another culture just to see the bad things. Hence the Bible verses. They remind me to look for what is good. I know that people everywhere are made in God’s image, but that we live in a fallen world. We are not the people we were created to be. So in every culture, there are things that are beautiful and good, and that are reflect God’s image and goodness. But there are also things that are broken and that need to be redeemed. Sometimes I see the good. But sometimes I get frustrated and just see the brokenness. It’s especially easy to see the brokenness when I am tired and missing home and the goodness of home is the brokenness of here. At times like that, it’s easy to forget that the goodness of here is the brokenness of home. So this is my reminder to focus on what is good, to focus on what is right. The second is like it. Sometimes when I see the brokenness, it is really hard to keep my mouth shut and not go on about how America is like this or that. I know that some things I need to speak, to critique, to give suggestions and ideas so that we can learn together. But there is a very fine line between what is useful and what is harmful. Some times I can walk that line. But when I’m frustrated, I think I’m more like a drunk person walking a tightrope. So at times like that I just need to keep my mouth shut.

What do I do with the poverty around me? (Nov 11)

I am overwhelmed with the poverty of my home here. Every day people ask me for money. Several times a week, people tell me that they are hungry. Sometimes they ask me or tell me because I’m white and they think I have money. But some people are just telling me because they’re desperate. My response has just become to say no, I don’t have anything. I think because I don’t know what to do. And I feel funny just pulling out my wallet and giving them money on the street because they happen to ask me. I don’t know how to tell if people really need help or not and I, as an individual, can’t really do anything to help them. Even if I gave them money, they would still be hungry tomorrow. But at the same time, the Bible tells me to share my food with the hungry. How do I share my food with the hungry when everyone around me is hungry? How do I decide who to help and who to leave? Sometimes when people are drunk or are obviously telling me they’re hungry because I’m white and they figure, let me give it a shot, I ask them what do you want me to do? I don’t have any money. But sometimes people are telling me because they’re desperate. For some people, even if I had money, I wouldn’t give them just because they’re a random person on the street who asks me for help. I have so many friends and neighbors who don’t come begging to me, but I know their needs. If I had money I would help them first. There are others who come to me with their needs because I am their friend and they know that I love them.

There’s the friend whose sister was helping him to go a school to study to be a mechanic, but then she got sick and died suddenly, so he has a balance of 20,000 shillings ($280) and keeps being sent home for fees. Even if he finishes the exam this year, he wouldn’t be able to get his certificate because he has outstanding fees. I gave him the 2000 that I had, and he’s still being sent home every few weeks. There’s still no money at home. Then there’s the maid who works for the family I live with. I think she makes about 1500 shillings a month ($20), maybe less. She has 6 kids, the oldest of whom is in high school, not at the better one where he was accepted, just the local one that caters for poor farmers’ kids. He was sent home for school fees and doesn’t have the books he needs to do well. He wants to go to the university and be a pilot. I gave him the 2000 shillings that I had. He still has some of his balance left, he doesn’t have the books or calculator and I don’t know what he will do next year. His mom works very hard, but she’s not well educated and doesn’t have a good job. Then there’s the sister of one of the girls we (you) have supported. She is in her third year of high school. She’s still wearing the uniform from the first year. She just asked me to help with the uniform, let alone the school fees. Her family loves me very much. They gave my parents a chicken when we visited. I haven’t given her anything because I don’t have anything left. There is the neighbor boy who comes to play with me and wants to come to America with me. He is a good kid, but he lives with his grandma who is someone’s second wife and doesn’t have any money. He came to me with his torn tennis shoes. My parents bought him a pair of shoes, which is like a miracle to his family. But he still needs so much more.

I don’t know what to do. Friends like these I want to help. Everybody else wants me to help too. Everyone else wants me to find someone else in America who can support them. Everyone wants me to fid them money. At times it is just overwhelming. But at least I can say I can’t do it. Imagine how someone from the village feels when they finally get a job (after looking for 5 years minimum) that doesn’t pay very well at all, but because they have a job, everybody and their brother expects support because a relative has a job. It is their obligation. But it is an obligation that will kill them. People come to our house nearly everyday begging for salt or tea or whatever. My host mom gives them, even though she and her family are just barely surviving and are so far in debt it’s almost unbelievable, because she can’t say no. They look like they’re well off so they feel like they have to act like it, going farther and farther into debt to maintain a lifestyle they can’t afford.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Everyone says the rain is unusual, but it’s exactly the way I remember it in November 2002. It can rain any time of the day and often rains at night as well. It’s rained a lot in the last two weeks, so today, when there was quite a bit of rain, there were lakes all over the yard. Supposedly the short rains are supposed to be in August and September, but there wasn’t so much rain then. Now is when it’s really raining.

I’m going to my friend Ellen’s house for Thanksgiving tomorrow. There are several other missionaries and we’re all chipping in to buy a turkey. Ellen is supposed to make a pumpkin pie and I’m supposed to help her. It should be interesting. I’m glad I’m able to go, because I think it would be a bit lonely here for thanksgiving knowing that all my family is together at home without me. I guess this is my first time ever to be away from family for Thanksgiving. It will be my first Christmas away too, except that Dave will be here with me.

Dave had the first of two board exams yesterday. The other will be next week. He was sick last week too (he even went to the hospital) and wasn’t sure if he would make it. He has a lot going on in the next few weeks – studying for boards, finishing rotations, getting ready to leave for Africa for 2 months and getting together everything that I need him to bring for me. Please pray for him that he would manage it all without being stressed or anxious. He isn’t usually, but this is an especially busy time.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Getting unstuck

Today was a fun day. I spent the night at the pastor’s house last night, so that I could be at church to teach today. It is rainy now and it took 45 minutes to get out of the compound in the car because of the mud. We tried one way, but we got stuck. Pastor put me behind the wheel and I reversed back into the compound, got stuck again and then finally got us out – with LOTS of pulling and pushing. It was definitely an adventure. After that, I drove all the way to church (this is an accomplishment, by the way), without sliding off the road anywhere. Muddy dirt roads are like driving on ice. Anyway, it was all like an adventure. Pastor asked me to help him learn better how to reverse. I told him I would bring a matchbox car so that he could see it well. There really aren’t too many places around to practice driving, and especially so in the rainy season when there are some very muddy and impassable places.

Church was good. We had a shortened service since we were so late, and I was home by 2:00, which was really nice for a change. Hurray! I like my church here, but 4 hours is a long time. I listened to 2 sermons from my Detroit pastor, read some and played with the boys. It’s nice to have a day to rest.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Confronting AIDS

Friday was my day to confront HIV/AIDS. In the morning, a man came to talk to my host dad. After he left, my host dad told me that he was HIV positive and he came because he didn’t have enough money for transport to go for the treatment he was supposed to get. ARVs are free now, but people from here have to travel very far to get there. If you can go on a bicycle, the closest one is probably an hour away, if you’re strong. If you have to walk, it would take you several hours each way. This man is the father of one of the students I taught in 2002. I had just met his wife on Thursday at a meeting with members of women’s groups. They have 10 or 12 kids. My heart just broke and I could hardly accept what he was telling me. I just thought, no, not these ones.

Then we met with someone who works training and supporting home-based care givers. Many of the older siblings, maybe who were studying, drop out of school when their parents die to take care of the younger children. Many of the youth end up getting married to each other, not because they’re mature enough to enter into marriage, but because they find a mutual connection and they can help support each other.

In the afternoon, we were meeting with an HIV/AIDS support group. They were sharing about how they are insulted and isolated in the community and how they worry about their children. Almost all of them have children and they don’t know how they will take care of their children when they are not always strong enough to farm or to work. They worry about what will happen to their children if/when they die. They ask how they can eat the way they need to when they can hardly get enough food on the table, let alone good food. I couldn’t hold back my tears when they asked what I could do to help them and I had to tell them I don’t know. Of all the people that I’ve seen, these are some of the ones who really need help. I can help them to be self-sustaining in some ways, but there is only so much they can do. The ones we talked to, though, are the ones who are doing well. They have accepted that they are HIV positive. They are getting treatment and for the most part (it depends on the day), they are still fairly healthy. I think we were able to encourage them by being there with them and I think they could see that we love them and that we are together with them. But I cannot imagine the reality of living their loves day to day. It is overwhelming. I cannot imagine the reality of being told that you are HIV positive. I cannot imagine the guilt that some feel and how much they wish they could change the past. I cannot imagine the anger that others feel for their husbands who brought home this disease and then left them alone. There is no life insurance. There is no health insurance.

I’m not sure what to do. I’m not sure what my role is. I don’t think that my calling is to work with HIV full-time, but it will affect anything that I do here.

We prayed together with the group, asking God to bring healing to their bodies and life to their bodies and spirits. We pleaded with God to take care of their children, to meet their daily needs and to give them hope and courage to continue well.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

New posts and pictures

Hi everyone. FYI, I've posted a lot of new pictures as well as posts from November 5th (2), 11th and 13th. Enjoy!

My African Dress

This is my wonderful African dress. The necklace is cool too, but you can't see it. It was made by a local widows groups. This was supposed to be with the last set, but I accidentally delete it!

Misc. Pictures

This is what it looks like where I live. Isn't it great?

Mom giving a nutrition seminar in the community. It went very well, she did a very good job and people really learned a lot.

It didn't get turned the right way, but it takes too long to upload, so I'm not going to try again. This is Joyce (left) and Emmy (right), my research assistants. They helped translate for Mom's seminar.

Sorry for another sideways picture. This is at the source of the Nile River, where it comes from Lake Victoria. We went out on a boat and I touched both Lake Victoria and the Nile. Exciting!

More pictures

Visiting Pastor Kepher's house after church.
Back (L-R): Peter, Mom, Edward, Kepher, Dad
Middle: Charles (Kepher's brother)
Front (L-R): Joyce, Noel

Me with Noel and Pastor Kepher

With Jessica, the Peace Corps volunteer. When mom came, she had a baggie with about 10 grapes in it. I ate a few of them a savored everyone and then we took the rest to Jessica. She was just as excited as I was!!

Mukabane, my neighbor who drives a boda boda. He is the one who carried mom in the other picture (see below).

Dad showing Ian, Brian and Mukuna his camera (I think)

Pictures of my boys

Reading to the boys. Thanks mom and dad for the books. They love them and look at them every day.

My boys outside. Left to Right: Ian, Brian, Wales

The boys in their new sweaters that Vicky bought them.

Brian laughing

The boys posing in their new "smart" outfits that Vicky bought them. Vicky is my host sister and Wales' mom. But given the cultural context, she can't buy anything for Wales without also buying things for the other two.

pictures 1

This is me with my host mom and sister Vicky in Kisumu after picking up my parents.

My mom riding on a boda boda. Well, not riding, exactly, but posing for a picture. This is what I ride a LOT to get around.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Lots of good things

Well, I’m back to work now and things are going well. Just before my parents came, I heard from my advisor at MSU that, yes, my research was too big and too broad and that I needed to focus it more. I was only trying to look at everything related to development in the community! So I spent a good bit of time rethinking and replanning my research and am focusing in on self-help groups in the community. They are a good example of what local people themselves are doing as well as the potential for collaboration between the government, NGOs and local groups. I feel very good about it now and although it will be a busy 6 weeks, I think I can get it all done and have something that is good and useful in the end.

Today, I went to Butere, the district headquarters, and then came from there to Kisumu where I am spending the night. I tried out the guest house that Jessica, my Peace Corps friend suggested and it is nice. My computer is plugged in, the light is on and I can take a hot shower in the morning. Or even tonight AND in the morning if I want a full dose of it. There is a toilet AND it has a seat AND it flushes (this is a big deal).

This morning, on the boda boda on the way to catch a vehicle to Butere, I saw Mt. Elgon in the distance. It is the first time I’ve seen it since I’ve been here. Or at least it is the first time that I’ve looked in the right direction in the right place on a day that was very clear. I saw it in the distance and suspected that it was Mt. Elgon (it was in the right direction) so I asked Mukabane (my neighbor, the boda boda driver) and he said that is was Mt. Elgon. Woo hoo!

Dave is coming in 6 weeks. That is really exciting. When I think that we still have 6 weeks left until we see each other, it still seems long, but when I think that I only have 6 weeks left to finish my research, it seems very short indeed. But when I realize that we have finished 21 weeks and only have 6 left, I realize that I really can wait. But it’s almost tangible to have him hear. I can almost touch him. I can imagine how it will be to go pick him up from the airport, to hug him. I’m really excited.

My time in Kenya has been interesting. While there have been certain (very intense) difficulties, overall this is a much less agonizing experience. I feel like coming back to the same village after an okay but VERY difficult experience, has really redeemed that time and the place in my mind. I even have significant visions for the future for my involvement here. After living in Tanzania over the summer, I would definitely prefer it as a place to leave. I really liked Tanzania. But, I know that my calling is in Kenya. My vision is to bring together my community in Detroit and my community in Kenya. The places are fairly different in their context, but the underlying problems are the same. I want to build a partnership between my church in Detroit and my church in Kenya so that we can share together, learn together and support each other. I want to send missionary groups from Detroit to Kenya and from Kenya to Detroit. We’ll see what God opens up, but from the vision he’s given me so far, I’m very excited to see what happens.

I’ve definitely learned a lot. I’ve learned a lot about forgiveness. I’m becoming a stronger, more determined person. I’m getting better at following through on things. I’m learning more about what it means to be cross-cultural, maybe multi-cultural. I’m learning how to be me in a cultural relevant way. I’m learning to be firm and stand up for myself.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Mom's Post part 2

After our week in Sarah’s village in Western Kenya, we traveled with a hired driver southeast to Narok, providing an opportunity to see more variety in the Kenyan countryside. Within 4-5 hours, we drove through beautiful, lush green areas with vast tea plantations, then into a very dry & dusty semi-arid area.

In Narok, we enjoyed visiting Sarah’s friend Ellen from Louisville. She and her husband Elijah are with the organization, Africa Hope, working with street children and a variety of other projects. It was nice to visit in their home and to explore Narok and surrounding area a bit with their help. We made an interesting trip to a hot springs on Sunday afternoon, which must have been wash day for the Masai women living in the region. The area was crowded with women & children, washing clothes, bathing or just playing in the water. It was a most interesting sight. The water was so hot we could only stand in it for a minute or two. The people walk a long way to reach the springs and one woman – with her newly washed clothes in a tub on top of her head – was bold enough to ask us for a ride when we prepared to leave. She appreciated being dropped off much closer to her home! Driving though the Masai region, we saw numerous herds of cattle, goats or sheep. I was surprised to see that some were tended by children, who couldn’t have been older than 5 or 6. Children certainly do grow up quickly in Africa, with many responsibilities at an early age.

From Narok, we were picked up by our safari driver for our adventure in the Masai Mara National Reserve, a few hours away. Our 2 night safari included 4 game drives & we were fortunate to see a wide variety of animals, including thousands of wildebeests & zebras in the midst of migration. Even though we’ve been to the zoo, it sure was exciting to see giraffes, elephants, lions, cheetahs, hippos & a variety of other animals & birds roaming freely in their natural habitat!
We had opted for a camping safari, which we expected to be very rustic. Instead it turned out to feel more like a Holiday Inn. We had our own little cabin with bunk beds AND a light! Plus there were hot showers! From our perspective at the time, those were unexpected luxuries! We also had a terrific cook, who prepared a wide variety of tasty dishes – all cooked on a charcoal fire. He even “baked” a delicious spice cake, which he iced and decorated!

The company through whom we booked our safari is headquartered in Nairobi, so we continued our adventure with a 6 hour, bumpy ride back to the big city, where we were scheduled to depart the following evening. What a contrast between experiencing sunrise on the Savannah with wildebeests, giraffes, lions, etc. and sunset in Nairobi, in the midst of a 2 hour traffic jam just getting through town! On the way, though, we did get to drive through the vast Rift Valley of central Kenya.

We stayed with another of Sarah’s friends for our last 2 nights in Nairobi and enjoyed our final opportunity to spend time with Sarah. We had experienced so much together in two weeks. We felt so fortunate to have seen her in action in her rural village and watching her interact with native Kenyans all across the country. Her love for the people and desire to be of service was inspiring to us. Return trips to Kenya are definitely in her future – and perhaps in ours as well.

Sarah did a wonderful job of planning our activities and orchestrating our travel from one location to another. She has learned so much about the country and the culture and of course her fluent Swahili is a tremendous bonus. She delights in surprising people with her ability to speak the native language and not just be another tourist passing through! She will miss that when she & Dave are in Malawi and she can no longer speak the local language.

Bob and I arrived safely home last Saturday, have adjusted to the 8 hour time difference and are happily reliving our experiences as we share stories and look at our photos. Traveling to Africa truly was a most unique opportunity and has given us much food for thought as we consider how best to share our resources.

Sunday, November 05, 2006


As I’ve been here in the village, I’ve been thinking a lot about where Dave and I will end up living someday. I was already okay with the idea of living in Detroit or living in East Africa. Wherever God sent us would be fine. Now I’m pretty sure that we’ll either be in the village here or in Detroit. Really I think it will be a combination of the two. God is giving me a vision of ways to bring the two together. I had struggled for a long time with what in the world I was doing with my life. I had done so many different things and it just didn’t seem to fit together at all. In fact, one day at MSU last year, I had myself so worked up over what in the world I was doing. I had worked with kids, with gardens, in rural areas, in urban areas, in the U.S., in Africa. If I just knew where I was going, I could focus on preparing myself for one thing. I went home and told Dave about it and he said that just that day he had been thinking about all the different things I had been doing and how exciting it would be to see how God would put it all together eventually. As I got here, my focus had been in two different places – one rural, one urban; one in America, one in Africa. Then I started to see that the problems in the village and the problems in Detroit are very similar and that we cold really partner together to share ideas, pray for each other, send mission teams to each other’s areas, etc. I’m beginning to see the pieces coming together.

Anyway, as I’ve been thinking about where we would go, I’m fine with anything because I know that wherever we go, God can use us. I can see ways that he can use us more based in Detroit and traveling to Kenya a month or so a year. I can also see ways that he could use us more based in Kenya. So I see that wherever we go we can be useful. As I was praying this morning, though, I realized that I should be okay with anything just because I am trusting God, without having to justify it based on whether it makes sense to me. Instead of seeking usefulness, I should be seeking God and as I do, he will use me. Dave’s also been thinking through similar things at home. He had been thinking about general surgery, mostly because he liked it but also because he knew it would be very useful working in Africa. Now, he’s really considering orthopedics, which he hadn’t really considered because we didn’t think it would be as useful given where we wanted to go. So, the past few weeks have been a time where we’ve put our pursuit of usefulness and doing something good aside and recommitted our lives to whatever God has for us, being completely open to whichever way he leads us. It feels really good to be trusting and waiting. I can also see how God is working in us both and teaching us both, as far away as we are from each other, and giving us one mind about all these things. Please pray for us as we continue this journey. Pray that I would continue to trust God for the future and not have to plan it all myself. And pray that God would open just the right spot for Dave for his internship and residency (right now he’s applied to both general surgery and orthopedics residencies). Thanks! Love you all,

Mud, mud, mud

The last couple days have been interesting. Yesterday, I went to Kisumu first to buy the things one of our sponsored students needed so that I could take them to her at school when I went for visiting day. While in Kisumu I ran into the girl that I met on the matatu a while back and she invited me to join her for pizza for lunch. Too bad I didn’t have enough time! I went to the school and had a great visit with Brenda. Around 4:30 or 4:45, the deputy principal asked me to wait half an hour until the principal came so that I would have a chance to talk to her. He said that she would be able to take me up to the main road (about 2k away) so that I could get a vehicle. I agreed, although I wondered if it would give me problems getting home before dark. After talking to her for a few minutes, it was nearly 5:30 and it had just started pouring down rain. The driver who would take me in the school bus had disappeared and by the time he came back, it had rained quite a bit, so that the short way back to the main road would be impassable. So we went around the VERY long way (about 1 hour, instead of 15 minutes). Oh my goodness, there was so much mud and everything was flooded. There was literally a river of muddy water gushing down the side of the road. Can we say serious soil erosion? I had called Pastor Kepher to see where his matatu was. He called the driver and fortunately he was on the right side of the route to pick me up, along with a group of people from home who had gone to a funeral that day. The matatu was completely full (no standing room) and for a while I had a lady sitting on my lap. But I didn’t mind at all because at least I wouldn’t be stuck at the school overnight at a stranger’s house.

It was way too late to get home, so I slept at Pastor’s house, which is always nice. I get a chance to talk to him and his wife more than I would normally. I think though, that I should put a small emergency package in my bad with a flashlight, an extra pair of underwear, a small toothbrush and toothpaste and a few of all my medicines. This was the third time in three weeks that I ended up sleeping somewhere away from home because I couldn’t get home in time. All the way home, it was very muddy and the rear-wheel drive matatu was sliding all over the place. I’m sure if I had been driving, we wouldn’t have made it, but the driver is good and we didn’t run into anything. I told Dave that he would have enjoyed it because it would remind him of driving his pick-up truck in the snow in high school.

So today I went to church with them, but I was so tired that I had a very hard time focusing, besides the fact that I was tired and a bit grouchy. I was also very hot because I was wearing a polyester dress that Noel lent me (very 70s-ish, although everybody told me that I was very “smart” and looked just like an African lady.) So, after 2 weeks of not getting enough sleep, I got really frustrated with all the kids just looking at me. It’s really hard to focus when everyone is turned around staring at you, just as you’re trying to be normal. I had to really guard myself to not say anything because I was afraid I would just yell at them to stop looking at me if I wasn’t careful. I was telling Noel about it after church and from her reaction, I think I probably should have told them at least to pay attention instead of looking at me.

We were still at church for a long time after the service ended (which itself was 4 hours), and we only left when we did because it started raining. I drove Pastor’s matatu almost to home. If it had taken the road going home, it would almost certainly have gotten stuck, so they dropped off me and one of the elders at the junction. As I got out I realized that I didn’t have my umbrella – I think I left it in the school bus yesterday. We waited at the shops for the rain to finish and then we walked the rest of the way. On the way, we saw the priest’s car sliding all over the road and hopped out of the way on to the embankment so that we wouldn’t be hit. Just as he got to where we were standing, the car got stuck. Lots of people gathered to help push him the rest of the way up the hill and it was quite an enjoyable event. In the village, anything can be an event.

I was thinking this afternoon about how issues like this of transportation can be annoying, but they’re only annoying for me because I am not very poor. For most people, it’s just part of life and it’s not a big deal because there are so many other problems that are much more important. I can be frustrated by bad roads and not being able to get around when it rains because I have the money and the reasons to travel around and because I have enough food to eat, clothes to wear, etc. If I were worried about where my next meal was coming from or how to pay school fees for my children, I probably wouldn’t be too concerned about the inconveniences of waiting half an hour for the rain to stop and about walking in the mud. That’s definitely something that I’ve seen doing my research. Everybody has different priorities based on their own life, struggles and experiences. Some of the things that I see first are electricity and roads because they’re the things that challenge me more. Sometimes I don’t see the other issues as clearly because they don’t directly affect my everyday life. I’m not in the field farming. I’m not going to the river for water. I’m not struggling to send my kids to school. But for the average person, agriculture and education are much more important than things like roads and electricity.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Contradictions of Nairobi

There’s something about Nairobi that always bothers me when I come into town. I was thinking about it as we sat in the traffic jam coming back from the Masai Mara (It took us 2 hours from the time we entered Nairobi to get to Lucy’s house where we were staying.) A big part of what bothers me is all the contradictions. It is definitely a place of extremes. People who are very, very rich and who are very, very poor. I don’t have words for it right now. The other side is what it brings out in me. As you come into town from Western Kenya, you go through the very posh areas where the houses are gorgeous, there are big green yards, trees, etc. I find myself so attracted to those areas where it is nice, pretty and not so overwhelming. I know that I could never in good conscience live in an area like that, but it still bothers me how appealing it is. It is so easy to think that it would be nice to live a comfortable, easy life. But I know that I am not called to live a comfortable, easy, pretty life and that no matter where we live, I will never be completely comfortable.

Well, I’d better go to sleep. I’m getting very sleepy and have to wake up early tomorrow morning.

Goodbye to my parents

We dropped off my parents at the airport tonight and they should be just taking off now. It’s hard to believe that their visit is finished already. I really got used to them just being here and I’m not sure that I’m ready to go back to the village all by myself and get back to work. As we were packing up before leaving for the airport, I just wanted to go with them and go home. We had a wonderful time, and it was very refreshing to take a break and be with them, but I’m afraid it will just be harder to get back into life at home in the village. This week has been full of things from home (mostly food!) and I liked it. My friend Ellen made us pizza, French toast and cake. This morning we went to a coffee shop in Nairobi (Java House, for those who know) and I had a mocha, pancakes and a bit of my mom’s omelette. Seriously, pouring over the menu, I think I could have eaten anything on it. It was very expensive (the three of us ate a $20 breakfast), but to do it only once, it was so worth it. I was really struggling with food the two weeks before they came and so it was great to have a break, although sometimes I think a taste can be too much! We’ll see how it goes when I get home.