Friday, August 25, 2006

Things to pray for

1) I know many of you have been praying for safety while I'm here, but I ask that you would continue to pray extra hard for safety. There have been several bad accidents in the last week and I know that traveling is especially dangerous here. I know that God is in control of all things and that he can protect me divinely. This morning, we had a very good matatu driver. But, I also know that if something happens to me, it's not by accident. I've surrendered my life into His hands, and am trusting him to keep me safe and to take my worries. So please pray with me, first for peace and second for safety especially in travels.

2) Pray for Dave and me as we're apart. We're than 1/3 of the way through our time away from each other, but we still have almost 4 months to go. Pray that God would continue to comfort and strengthen us, especially Dave as he's home by himself.

3) Praise God for good renewed relationships in the village and pray for me as I share with people and teach at the church. Pray that God would give me words and wisdom that I might be an encouragement to the people around me.

4) Praise God for healing my friend Wycliffe (who was in the hospital and could have died). He experienced healing by the Spirit as he was prayed over. Praise God also for healing Ian from being sick as we prayed over him.

5) Pray for diligence, follow-through, motivation and wisdom as I proceed with my research. Please pray that it will be useful to the community and a blessing to everyone involved. Pray for wisdom as I make decisions so that I do no harm unknowingly.

Thank you for your faithfulness. I know that your prayers make a difference because I see it every day.

More braids

Here is a picture of my braids from the front. This one too is darker than the original, even after adjusting the monitor. We'll see if you can see them...


Here is the new borehole at my house and the guy who works for myfamily. He usually takes care of the cows. We fill the yellow jugs (jerricans) then pour water from them when needed.

Before next week, I'll try to take a picture of my house and the area so you can see where I live.

My boys

Here are the little boys who live at my house. From left to right, they are Brian, Ian and Walls (that's how it sounds, at least). They are a lot of fun. They laugh a lot and they like to be tickled, but they've also discovered that they can tickle me too ("tiki tiki")!

The center of the world

Here is the equator. I've always wanted to stop, so traveling with Lucy (instead of public transport), we did!

Things I find interesting, amusing and/or ironic

(This is a list I compiled over the last week)

1. Coming out of Kisumu there are hills with very large boulders that have been exposed over time. A lot of times, there are houses around the boulders, which were obviously built around them, but it always looks to me like huge boulders just dropped in somebody’s front yard.

2. Matatus (public minibuses) have now been regulated in Kenya. They have seatbelts, regulated routes and are not supposed to carry more than 14 passengers. So, on the way to Kisumu, we have 15 people. One hops out before getting to the police checkpoint and then catches up and gets back in once we pass through. On the rural routes a full matatu is still 17, which is a tight squeeze, although it’s a significant reduction from 27. People also drape the seatbelts over their laps as we pass through the checkpoint to look like they're wearing them.

3. My ears are finely attuned to hearing “mzungu.” Today, I was the main attraction in the road by our house. I joked with my host dad that we should open a stand, “Greet the mzungu” and charge everyone a shilling. I think they would actually come.

4. Soda is made from real sugar – none of that corn syrup junk. Here people eat corn (maize) instead of turning it into yucky sweeteners because they are subsidized to grow too much.

5. There are so many stars, especially now when there’s no moon visible. We’re just near the equator, but we’re still north of it, so I’m not sure if I’m seeing northern stars or southern stars. The only one I recognize is the southern cross, but I haven’t looked for any northern ones, forgetting that I am actually north of the equator (barely).

6. I feel like I’m finally getting summer, now that it’s almost over at home. The weather in Arusha in June and July was a bit chilly, but here now it’s hot and sunny. I’m glad for it, but I wish I could wear shorts.

7. Anything and everything can be a toy in the village: a wadded up plastic bag that we throw like a ball, the same bag open that we hit like a balloon, an empty plastic bottle, rocks, dirt, whatever.

Braids a la Nairobi

Here is a picture of my braids. I don't know if you can see it well, because it looks much darker here than the original picture. Maybe it's just this computer. I've enjoyed not having to worry about my hair for the last 2 weeks, but I think my scalp is ready for a good wash. I've tried between the rows, but it just doesn't do it. The braids are also starting to come out, so I might go ahead and take them down this weekend.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Reorientation and Research Preparation

This week, I’ve been getting reoriented to life around here. I forgot how long it takes to do things, but normally it shouldn’t take as long as the first time. Today we went to Khumsalaba (it means cross, and is located at the junction of two roads) to take my computer for charging. I was very nervous when Aggrey told me that we would take it there and leave it while we went to the market, but once we arrived, I saw it was totally fine. There’s a lady who comes from our area and who was one of Aggrey’s students who has a shop in Khumsalaba. Most shops like that in places where there is electricity charge cell phones, so it wasn’t a big deal to charge my computer too – a lot easier than I anticipated. Hurray! I set it all up charging and then we went on to the market at Yala - where Tuesday is market day - to buy vegetables, fruit and a couple used dresses for me to wear around the house. I think it was quite the spectacle to see the mzungu digging through the pile of clothes discussing the options in Swahili. I had 5 or 6 ladies helping me find good ones in the pile. One of the dresses had a pocket on the back (it would have been a normal chest pocket on the front) and we couldn’t decide what it was for. I suggested that maybe it was there so that when you carry children on your back, they can put their things in the pocket! Anyway, we were gone about 7 hours, but we did a lot more than I would normally do if I were just taking my computer to charge. Normally it might be 5 – an hour to get there and back on a boda boda and 4 to charge my two batteries – but I would hopefully be able to take some work with me to do. It would be easier if there were a way to charge the batteries without them needing to be in the computer, an external charger, but I don’t think there is.

I’m definitely enjoying myself here so far. I’ve been so happy reuniting with old friends and renewing relationships. I’m enjoying greeting everybody again, although this time half in Luhya (the local language) and half in Swahili. I’m definitely thankful to know Swahili this time around. Although most people use Luhya for their everyday business and conversations, almost everybody knows Swahili. The environment is nice. The rural area is very peaceful. So far all my relationships have been good, especially with my host family. I feel very much at home. All of this is a big relief because the week that I was in Nairobi, I was very nervous about it all. So far it seems that I was getting worked up over nothing, but I will also remember that I will have harder days too. I don’t mind not having electricity. If I live here on my own, I think I would prefer to have it, but I’m doing fine for now. I also haven’t minded wearing skirts and dresses all the time. The bucket baths are fine too. Actually they’re great. I have warm water and a lot more of it since having a bore hole with easier water access right at home. My hair is still braided, so I don’t have to wash it much. I don’t mind the hole in the ground. The only thing that’s a bit difficult is food. If you’re not around for lunch, and there’s not a place to buy a meal, you either go without or you eat bread and maybe soda. I think my caloric intake the last 2 days has been about 80% carbs. Lots of bread and things like bread. Also lots of sugar in the tea, although not always. At least it is not refined white sugar. (Sarah's note while posting: my host mom has started leaving the sugar out and letting people add their own, mostly for me! She's really sweet.)

Speaking of food, when I was here before, I cooked spaghetti for my host family, among other things, and once roasted marshmallows for them. Every day, my host brother Mukuna has been talking about spaghetti and marshmallows and how much he enjoyed them. I told him I would definitely make spaghetti again and that I would look for marshmallows. I’m really looking forward to being with Dave in Malawi in a place where I can cook all the time, which also means being able to go to the market and buy lots of fresh produce! As I see things in the market and in the fields, I keep thinking of the things I could cook, either in Malawi with Dave or for my host family here. I think I will try spaghetti and maybe another vegetable dish in the next couple weeks.

I’ve been discussing my research a lot with my host dad and the logistics of it all are becoming clearer. I think he will be very helpful in forcing me to think through and plan out all the details. I still need to find a research assistant and to decide for sure how big an area to include (which also influences the research assistant because I need someone from nearby, but outside the research area). The division, about the size of a county, is divided into locations, each comprising a number of villages. At first I was planning to focus on one location, which includes both the village where I live and the village where I was teaching before, but realized after I arrived that I really needed a bigger area to see the variety of development activities around. The next location north of us includes a slightly bigger town with electricity and a hospital and I think I would see different things there. I think I will also include a third area that is more rural like my area, but different in other ways. The tradeoff will be between depth and breadth. If I look at all three locations, I won’t be able to talk to as many people in each one as if I looked at only one or two locations, but if I only did one or two, I don’t think I would have enough of the big picture developed for the extra depth to make sense. (Sarah's note again - I think it
will actually be the smaller area and I'll try next time to post a short description of what the research actually is.)

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Community Connections

Today we went to a funeral. At first, I wasn’t planning to go, because I know how tiring it can be to sit for hours hearing a language that you don’t understand, but in the end I decided to go and I’m glad that I did. It was the mother of a cousin’s wife, so it was good for me to be there with the rest of the family. It took us about 3 hours to get there. The first hour or so of the funeral wasn’t bad. The second hour was a little tiring. At a typical funeral, there are probably 30+ people who all get up, introduce themselves and say something – parents, siblings, children, in-laws, cousins, sisters, brothers, neighbors, etc. Each group gets a turn and it goes on forever. Although I shouldn’t have been, I was a bit surprised when they called me up to say something. I greeted everyone in Luhya and Swahili, explained that I was an in-law to the family and said that I was very sorry (pole sana). I’m not sure how I feel about being the token mzungu who makes the host seem more important, The day I arrived in the village, I was invited to a wedding of someone I didn’t know, for the same reason. At the funeral today, I didn’t even know the lady amd I’d never met her daughter, but still, they asked me to get up and speak. After about 2 hours, someone came to get me and the rest of our family. At first I didn’t know what was going on, but I just do what people tell me and usually it turns out okay J. They took us back to the house where we had something to drink and some lunch. It always seems a little odd to get up in the middle of the funeral to go eat, but from what I heard today, it sounded like maybe they feed people in shifts as food is ready and dishes are clean. After an hour or so, they were just starting to fill in the grave, having finally placed the casket there. Our family left, I think because it was such a long trip home.

When we got back to the road (there were 11 of us going home), we found an empty matatu that agreed to take us almost all of the way home. This definitely saved time and a bit of money over taking 3 separate matatus plus a boda boda. So, the driver and the tout tried to find 3 more people who were coming the same direction to fill the empty seats, but when they couldn’t find anyone, they put the private route sign in the window and decorated the matatu with branches to show that it was a funeral matatu. That way, when we went through the police checkpoint, they wouldn’t get in trouble for not running the regular route (that was my impression at least). Well, when we stopped at the police checkpoint, they told the officer that they were taking s to a funeral. She pulled off the branches and told them just to put the private sign instead of decorating the matatu like a Christmas tree. Everyone got quite a laugh out of that as we drove away.

On our way home from where we got off the matatu, I saw several people that I knew, including one of my students. I was glad to hear that he’s in high school because he was a very bright student, but he comes from a very large, poor family. Several people told me that I have really done well to come back again, which definitely makes me feel good about the decision to come do my research here in the village. One of the reasons I decided to come was to be a consistent presence in the community and not just a here once gone forever person. It also makes participating in community activities easier, because I’m already connected in a social network. Being connected in the community is very important to my research, but I think that if I were just brand new, I would have a hard time balancing getting work done and being a person here in the community. Because I have some established social networks, I have built-in expectations for what I will do. This helps me get out and about, although I need to be careful not to be so involved in life that I don’t get my work done!

Anyway, all that to say that I feel really good right now about being here. I feel like I have sufficient strength and contentment for the journey. The joy of reuniting with family and friends is even sweeter that I anticipated.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Reunions and Renewal

Tonight I feel:
- joyful
- content
- happy
- excited

This afternoon I got to see my host brother and sister (Slade – pronounced sled - and Vickie). They are living in Kisumu along with another brother, but I knew we wouldn’t get a chance to see them today. So, we walked out of a shop and there they happened to be! I was so excited to see them. They ended up spending the rest of the afternoon with us.

Today as we were leaving Kisumu, I was feeling very afraid of being in an accident in a matatu and being killed. As we went along, I knew that there was nothing I could do, so I just prayed and asked God to take away my fears. I realized that if it was my time to go, that was okay. I sat in the matatu and prayed for a lot of different people and as I did, I was totally refreshed and renewed. I enjoyed seeing everything we passed.

We were very blessed traveling home today. We were delayed a long time in Kisumu and were waiting for a vehicle at 5:30 to go home. When one came, the conductor was turning away most people who weren’t going all the way to Kakamega (we were only going halfway), but for some reason, he let us on (maybe my skin, maybe not). When we got off, we waited for the next vehicle and when it came, it was the one belonging to a friend of ours who is a pastor at the church I want to go to while I’m here. He got on partway to go home and they ended up taking us all the way home (it was very dark). My host dad (Aggrey) had already arranged with a bodaboda (bicycle taxi) driver to wait for us take us home, so we called him and told him to go ahead and we paid him the normal fare once he got home. It was very nice to see Pastor Kepher and I look forward to being at church with him and his wife. If I can’t be at home at my church in Detroit, at least I can be at this church here.

When we got home, the other brother who lives in Kisumu (Mukuna) was there. He has come home for a few days because I’m here. We stood outside and watched the stars and talked and reminded each other of things that happened when I was here before and funny things we used to say. We talked about what he’s doing now and the challenges he’s faced, as well as God’s goodness. I felt so happy and content to be here as we were talking, and I felt really good about the decision to come back - to show my commitment to the community and to have an extended opportunity to renew relationships instead of just a quick visit. So many people remember me (actually more than I remember myself) and they all seem excited that I’ve come back again. I think there will be some good opportunities for research, and while I’m at it, good opportunities for relationships. God is good.

Henna hands

These are all our hands and 1 foot that were painted with Henna, a traditional Zanzibari thing, although it's usually done for weddings. We certainly enjoyed getting off the street and sitting with a group of women chatting and painting. They're usually excluded from public life in that very Muslim area, so we enjoyed the opportunity to see them inside. My hands are on the left.

View from the hotel in Zanzibar

My Swahili Teachers

left to right: Deo Ngonyani (my first teacher at MSU and the coordinator of this course), Kisanji, me in my new African dress, Yusta and Elda. They were all fabulous!

My host family at our farewell party

left to right: mom (Umi), me, Monie, and my grandma

Me with Monie, my host sister in Tanzania

Update from Kisumu

Well, I’m in Kisumu checking email after quite a while. The M.O. for now will probably to write posts at home on my computer and then post a few at a time when I make it to town. You can see from the posts I put up today that my time in Kenya so far has been a bit of an emotional roller coaster. Please pray for consistent emotions. I’m doing fine now, but I’m sure that other difficult days will come.

I’m still waiting for official approval from the appropriate people at MSU to actually start my research. In the meantime, I’m getting settled in the village and will start meeting with local officials to re-introduce myself and explain my research. I’ll also work on finding a research assistant. So another thing to pray for would be quick approval so that I can actually get started. There were some delays with the initial application and so far it’s taking a little longer than I expected to hear back from the review board.

I’m also working on posting some pictures, but the connection is not so fast. We’ll see how far I get before I have to leave today.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

I'm in the village (Wednesday, August 16, 2006)

Well, today has been a much better day. I think this last week could be characterized as having lots of ups and downs. Aggrey (my host dad) met me in Luanda, where I was staying to show us the way back to the village, because we were coming from a different direction than I was used to coming. We came in Lucy and Sammy’s car and so they were able to see where I live here. My host dad got soda’s for them and send them home with a chicken and some cowpeas for planting. The idea was to cook chicken for them (it’s a special guest food), but they needed to get back (and my host mom, Rachel wasn’t home yet) so they sent them home with a chicken instead!

As I arrived in the village, I was pleasantly surprised by a number of changes. The road leading to the village had been smoothed out and is now quite drivable, although the road leading to it is still in the same state of waiting to be paved that it was 4 years ago. There is now a public borehole (well) in the village that apparently was put in after the current government was elected at the end of 2002. At the family compound, there is also a borehole, which makes water much easier. There are also lots of new cows and two of the boys are building there houses. Inside the house, there is some new furniture and the walls are a different color (yellow instead of blue). There are three little boys, one of whom is the child of the oldest son in the family. But, the best part was seeing all of my family. Well, not all of them. A lot of them are living and/or working in other places, but I saw my host dad Aggrey, three brothers and my host mom, Rachel, all with very excited reunions. Everything at home seems very familiar and I’m smelling lots of familiar things – kerosene lamps, fresh air, and certain plants. As nervous as I felt about coming, it certainly feels good to be here. I talked to my host dad some about what I want to do with my research and I’m getting excited about it again. As we were out walking a bit I saw a number of people who remembered me, a few of whom I remembered, but I did remember who lives in a lot of the houses nearby. I even pulled out a few Luhya words. I told people though, that I have forgotten my Luhya words, but that I can speak Swahili now. If I can remember a few Luhya greetings in the next couple days, I’ll be all set. Well, that’s all for now. Dinner’s almost ready.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

I’ve finished up in Nairobi and now am almost to the village. I’m a bit nervous about it. On Monday we left Nairobi and went as far as Nakuru (about halfway to Kisumu). The road’s not bad, so it took about 3 hours. We stopped there at Lucy’s sister-in-law’s house, where we had lunch and the kids played with the frisbee I brought. In the evening I went to some friends’ house (the same ones that I saw on our safari in Tanzania) for dinner. It was really nice to see them and to talk together. They were able to help me think through some things and I ended up just spending the night there because it was getting late. So we ended up talking together until almost midnight and were able to pray together which was so sweet and very encouraging. I haven’t done that for a while and it reminded me how important it will be to make sure I have someone I can talk freely to and pray with. We had ice cream after dinner (which I had just been thinking sounded really good) and I took a warm shower before going to bed (which felt so nice!) This morning they dropped me back off and we left to travel the rest of the way to Western Kenya.

I was reminded as we were driving what a beautiful place Kenya is. Coming out of Nairobi, we saw stunning vistas of the Great Rift Valley. As we left Nakuru, we climbed out of the Rift Valley and passed through many hilly areas. We even saw a couple bicycles hanging on to the back of lorries (trucks) getting a ride. A bit dangerous, but demonstrating typical African ingenuity. As we got closer to Kisumu, we definitely left the cool weather of the highlands behind. I’d forgotten how warm it can be there.

Tonight we’re saying at Lucy’s husbands family home in Luanda and my host Dad from Emalindi will meet us here tomorrow to take me back to the village (which is very close). On the way to Luanda, we crossed the equator and since we were traveling in our own car instead of a bus, I asked if we could stop and take a picture. I crossed the equator lots of times on my way back and forth between the village and Kisumu when I lived in Kenya before, but had never had a chance to take a picture before today.

As I’m getting closer to the village, I’m getting more nervous and wondering if I actually made the right decision to come back for my research. There are some ways that it will be good. I won’t be totally starting over from scratch with relationships and knowing my way around, and I will be able to follow up with and help the two girls we’ve been sponsoring for high school. But I’m not really sure if I want to be there, and especially for a long time, and I don’t know exactly why I feel this way. I think part of is it that I’m remembering how difficult it was when I was there before and I’m afraid that it will be that hard again. I’m a little less excited about living without electricity and water this time around. I’m also missing home a lot – being in a place that is my own and being with my own family. I don’t know if it’s something about being in the village that evokes that, if it’s being not so busy and being the only American, or if it’s just that stage in being away for a long time (2 months out of 8). It’s probably a bit of each, although I don’t know if it makes a difference where it’s coming from. It’s probably more important to figure out how to make the most of my time here and to do my research well. That’s another thing that makes me nervous. I’m afraid that my research won’t be well enough organized and that I won’t actually have anything good to show for it at the end. I haven’t done much with my research plans since I left the U.S., so partly it feels disorganized because I’m removed from it now. I’m hoping that as I get back into it, I’ll be able to see that I do have something that makes sense.

With all this anxiety that is hanging over me, I have to remember what we were discussing at church before I left - that God did not give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, love and a sound mind. So please pray for me that God would take away this spirit of discouragement and fear and replace it with confidence and joy in his strength and provision. Before I left for Kenya before, I was really under a lot of attack and I am definitely feeling that again. I was so excited to be in Tanzania and was hoping that the same excitement would carry over to my research in Kenya, but it hasn’t. Part of me wonders if perhaps Kenya isn’t the place for me, but I also know that I’m bringing baggage with me here that I need to sort out, deal with and hopefully leave behind. At the same time, I know that wherever Dave and I end up (Tanzania, Kenya or Detroit), we’ll be living in a cross-cultural situation and there will be certain difficult times. I also know that it will be very different to have my own home and to be with my husband. If nothing else, I’m starting to learn more about what I need to be able to live and work without burning out.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Braiding Hair/Visiting Kibera/Do ARVs help spread AIDS?

This morning, Lucy and I both braided (plaited) our hair. All morning. We started at 7:00am and finished about 1:30 pm. It was a bit expensive and took a long time, but it’s fun and I hope it will make my hair easy to manage for a while – not having to wash as much or worry about fixing it. It still looks a little funny to me on my own head, but I don’t see myself that much so I don’t think it really matters. It also feels a little funny – it pulls a little and it’s a little heavy (with the extensions in), but they said I would get used to it. I asked the lady who did it whether I would look like an African or still just a mzungu and she told me (to my disappointment) that I would still just be a mzungu. I did get a lot of compliments on it in town.

This afternoon we went to Kibera to visit two of the students that Courtney’s organization sponsors for high school (Education for the Future Foundation), partly because we needed to visit the students and partly because it gave me the opportunity to visit Kibera. Kibera is the largest slum in Africa and from what I’d heard, I was expected row after row of shacks with garbage everywhere and sewage running and lots of very poor people. What I found was quite different. There are so many very nice, hard working people. The kids were all out playing and having fun (after coming home from school). There are churches, health clinics and lots of shops. It wasn’t at all like I expected. I know that it’s still not an easy place to live, but it was not as bad as I thought it would be. I talked to the mothers of the two students for a while and they told me that it’s easier to earn money living there in town than in the rural area. In the rural area, they can grow food to eat, but it’s very difficult to get cash for school fees and other expenses. The moms make maandazi and chapatis to sell at office buildings in the city centre. They wake up very early in the morning and work so hard. We took pictures with the students and their families, but I didn’t feel comfortable taking pictures outside – like it would be exploitative.

It’s hard to know what to think about it. I feel like I should be overwhelmed and heartbroken after having visited the largest slum in Africa, but I just found people, living life there, just like any other place. I enjoyed my time with the families very much. Their houses are small and there is a lot of garbage around, but, it’s not that much different than other places. A lot of people have electricity and good water. I think if I were to spend more time there and see more of the day to day challenges, it would be different, but my impression today was pretty positive. If anybody has any thoughts on this, I’d be happy to hear them.

The other noteworthy item of the day was the news report we heard from a health conference that took place in Nairobi yesterday. One idea presented was that the use of anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) actually contributed to the spread of HIV because people look well and so they go on spreading the disease. I’m not sure if the presenter was suggesting that the use of ARVs be discontinued or reduced or not, but I was quite shocked. I’ve also heard that people are more willing to be tested if they know that treatment (i.e. ARVs) is available and that this reduces the spread because people know whether they are positive or negative and can change their behavior accordingly. To me it seems like an issue of understanding and behavior instead of a problem with giving treatment. If people are on ARVs, they obviously know that they are HIV positive. So it seems like they should be the ones, with counseling and education, who can keep from spreading the virus. There is definitely the idea that people who look healthy can’t be HIV positive, but that seems like an issue of education and communication rather than a reason to stop giving treatment to people so that they look sick and other people avoid them. I know there’s a degree to which people want to continue with their old life once they’re being treated for HIV, especially if they are healthy and don’t want other people to know, but I also think that they have the responsibility to do what they can to keep from passing it on to someone else. I know that Kenya is not like America. I know that this could be an issue especially for wives of unfaithful husbands who never know that their husbands are infected and end up with HIV themselves, but still, I just can’t accept that giving ARVs is contributing to the spread of HIV. Well, these are all first impression thoughts and I would love to hear what other people think. Is there anything I’m not seeing or not understanding? Do you have an opinion on this? What should be done to help stop the spread of HIV and who’s responsibility is it? Please share so that we can learn together.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Traffic Jams and Homemade Cookies

I’ve been in Nairobi since Saturday and I’ve had a bit of a chance to get used to it. I was always a bit afraid of Nairobi because it’s such a big city, I didn’t know my way around and it’s not necessarily the safest city. But, after being around town a bit, it’s really not bad and I’m getting used to it. It’s a bit different than the last time I was here and also quite different from Dar es Salaam. There are so many people everywhere and very many vehicles. There are always traffic jams. The matatus (minibuses) have been regulated and now they all have a yellow strip down the side, they list the route number and destination and there are only 14 people in each vehicle. Wow! They even have seatbelts, which I appreciate, although I don’t think any one else uses them. The plan, though, is to phase out the matatus and replace them with 28 seat small buses by 2008. This is designed to ease congestion, but I cannot image Kenya without matatus.

Before we left today, we heard that Mombasa Road was jammed (which is our route), and when we went to the place to get our matatu, there were many people waiting, but no vehicles. So when one came, we pushed and managed to get 2 spots. Well, Lucy did and I had to push in too if I wanted to stay with her. I felt a little bad because other people had been waiting longer, but that’s what you have to do if you want a ride. If we hadn’t, I don’t know how long we would have been waiting.

Tonight we made chocolate chip cookies, which was a lot of fun. The boys (Arnold and Ted, Lucy’s kids) had a blast pouring and stirring. The cookies came out pretty well for using real cups and spoons to measure, although I think we put a little too much sugar – they are quite sweet. Lucy had been wanting to learn to bake some new things, and chocolate chip cookies are the one thing I know how to make without needing a recipe.

We’re heading to Western Kenya on Monday, and will be able to stop and see friends in Nakuru on the way. It’s been fun here with Lucy and her family in Nairobi but I think it will be nice to be in a place where I will stay for a while and be able to unpack and settle down. Still, I’m a little nervous about being on my own and needing to plan everything by myself. On the other hand, when people have asked me in the past few months what God has been teaching me, I have definitely said that I am becoming a stronger person. Hopefully this will be another opportunity to learn, grow, meet challenges and overcome them. Please pray that I would be strong and courageous and that I would be able to stand up to anxiety and fear. I know that my research is decently planned and that when I get back into the middle of thinking about it and doing it, it will be a lot of fun and that it will come out okay. One day at a time. One step at a time.

I’m starting to feel a little lonely, which doesn’t necessarily make sense because I’m around people all the time. Still, I think I’m getting to the point where I’ve been away from my husband long enough that it’s getting a little old, but not long enough that I’ll see him anytime soon. We’ve both been really busy, and we’ve been able to talk on the phone almost once a week, so it hasn’t been too bad, but I still would rather be with him. Please pray for continued strength and perseverance for us both. Please pray also that we would be wise in how we communicate so that we will come back together in the end having shared all these experiences and without feeling a lot of distance between us.

Well, I’d better get to bed. A lady is coming early tomorrow morning to braid Lucy’s hair and mine (we bought hair extensions for it today). We’ll see how it comes out. Maybe I’ll even post a picture.

Love you all. Have a great day. Especially all the Halter gang at the Halter Happening this weekend.

Hi again from Nairobi

Hi everone. I'm in Nairobi and I just have a minute. I'm anxious to get started on my research, because the longer I wait, the more I can be nervous about it. I think I'll get to western Kenya on Wednesday. Tonight, we're going to braid hair and make chocolate chip cookies (yum!)

Please pray for patience for me and for wisdom as I get to Western Kenya and sort through some issues surrounding the girls we sponsor there, especially that I can resolve everything without any harm to my relationships with people. Please pray too for safe travel Monday and Tuesday. Thanks.

I have a new phone number: 011 254 733 958 840 (we're 7 hours ahead of Eastern Time), and an address for my h0st Dad, which I think I can use too:

Sarah Halter
c/o AggreyLimera
P.O. Box 12 - 50306
Khumsalaba via Luanda

Mail still takes 10-14 days and costs $.84 from the U.S.

Have a great day!

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Hi from Kenya

Right now I’m in Nairobi, staying with my friend Lucy (she was a friend of a friend, but now she’s just my friend). I came on a bus with 14 students from the Development Studies course at TCDC (the center where I’ve been studying), which was fun. They helped take care of me and made sure I was dropped off at the right place. It’s a little strange to realize that I am in Kenya now and not Tanzania anymore. I really liked Tanzania and I’m not sure that I’m ready to be in Kenya yet. It will be interesting, though, to see some of the differences between Kenya and Tanzania having been in both recently. Up to now, I’ve been comparing my current experience in Tz with my experience in Kenya 4 years ago.

The rest of the afternoon, Lucy and I have just been talking and cooking. We’ve been talking all afternoon in pretty much all Swahili and I understood just about everything. It’s been nice to talk about faith (we’re both Christians) and to try to explain what I think about certain things in Swahili. It’s also been fun to talk about our friend Courtney (who, by the way, deserves major props – she arranged for me to stay with Lucy here in Nairobi and she also bought phone cards for and emailed the numbers to Dave and my parents so that they could call me here). I talked about her a lot on Tanzania and it’s nice to meet someone else who knows her.

We’ll be in Nairobi for a few days and then we’ll travel to western Kenya together (Lucy’s family is from that area), stopping in Nakuru on the way. I will be able to see my friends who live there (the same ones I saw unexpectedly at Ngorongoro Crater) and hopefully my Swahili teacher’s sister.

Well, it’s time for me to go to bed. I was struggling to stay awake all afternoon, so Lucy fed me early and sent me to bed. It’s 8:15 right now and I’m looking forward to a good, LONG night’s sleep.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Highlights from Zanzibar

Well, we’ve had a very busy week and a half finishing papers, taking exams and giving presentations. We finished the last thing tonight, so now I have a little time to get ready to leave and catch up on things that I haven’t had time to do - like finish writing about Zanzibar! If it were anything else, I would just leave it, but Zanzibar definitely warrants special back posts, especially after requests for translation of the last post.

Let’s see – on Thursday (the day I wrote about in Swahili), we visited a spice farm, which is a very touristy thing to do, but it was still fun because we got lots of Swahili names for spices. It was also fun to smell and taste the spices and be able to guess what they were. We came back to Stone Town in time for lunch and had the afternoon free to explore (or work on writing our reports, which no one did – who want to write about it when you can experience it?) Carley and I went off to a place I had been to before that had good samosas (triangle pastries filled with spiced meat or vegetables). We knew that this little place was close to the market, so we planned to pick up samosas, chapatis and some fruit from the market. We ended up buying 3 samosas, a big bottle of water, 2 roasted sweet potatoes, 2 chapatis, an orange and a bunch of small sweet bananas all for about $2 (remember that we each had about $25 to spend on lunch and dinner for the day) and we couldn’t finish it all because we were full! Hurray for street food!

After lunch, as we were walking through the clothes market, we ran into a group of guys playing checkers who invited us to join them. We didn’t have anything else to do, so we agreed. We weren’t totally sure that we knew how/what they were playing, so we let them teach us in Swahili how to play. The first game I played one of the guys and beat him pretty badly – I tried not to, but it just happened. Each time I made a good move, they all said things like, “Oh, she’s got it” in Swahili. The second game, Carley and I played each other and then she played another of the guys. When we started, there were about 5 people watching, but by the time we finished, we had attracted quite a crowd. I think it would have been exciting enough to watch wazungu playing “drafti” let alone girls. It was really fun.

After drafti, we wandered around the market and asked sellers about different fruits that we hadn’t seen (and got free samples!) and about different kinds of beans, rice and other grains. It was fun just to wander around talking to people. That was definitely the theme of my trip – talking to random people on the street everywhere I went. Lots of fun and good language practice too!

Thursday night we went to Forodhani Gardens for dinner where people set up food stalls with fresh grilled fish, meat, bananas, chapatis, chips (fries), etc. It’s quite a happening place to be and the food is good, but cheap. We were on our way back to the hotel, we got stopped by some sellers asking us to look at their cloths. Anyway, before we knew it, all three of were talking to 3 different people and were just trying to get home. I had already talked to LOTS of people all day long and could tell that I was too tired to be patient anymore. I knew that I just needed to go home and go to bed, So, it was perfect timing for the guy I was talking to suggest that I hook up with him, since my husband was far away and it didn’t matter what I did there. I was so mad. I told him that I wasn’t that kind of person and left. I wouldn’t have been so shocked if someone had just come up to me and asked me to hook up with them, but it was the fact that I’d been talking to this guy for a few minutes and I thought it was just a normal conversation. Anyway, I was so tired and out of patience that after walking away with the other girls, I just burst into tears. Later, I could kind of laugh, and just be angry, but at the time, it was very upsetting.

Well, I just meant to write a few highlights of the rest of our trip, but I think I’ve written enough so far that I should go ahead and post this. It’s not an exact translation of the Swahili I posted, but I wrote about the same things. There weren’t quite so many exciting things the other days, so the next post won’t be as long as this. I’m still working on posting pictures. It takes forever to post them here, so I’ll just put them on the picture page instead, which is coming soon – I promise!