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.