I want to thank everyone who has supported me so far. I want to thank my family and friends and church family who helped me by donating for this trip, and who prayed for me while I was gone. I didn’t post near the end of my trip because it became so busy. I am back at home now; I arrived just a few days ago.
Some people have asked me if the experience was life changing, and the only way I can answer is no…and yes.
You see, I knew going to Kenya was something God wanted me to do. I knew I needed to go, that it was the first step in whatever he had planned for my life. So I went. I loved the people there, and the beautiful terrain. I didn’t experience a deep attachment to Kenya itself, however. Nor did I have a huge revelation and realize I was doing the wrong thing, and maybe I was called to the mission field, or anything like that.
So in that way, I didn’t experience a life changing event. Because, well, I was doing what God told me to do. I knew going into it that I was supposed to be there. And I already knew-have known for years-that I am called to do something involving traveling. So nothing major was revealed to me in that regard.
However, I still felt I learned a great deal through my trip. I discovered once again I have a passion for teaching in a creative fun way, and although the curriculum taught the children, I felt it lacked the spark of imagination that should be there. What is good teaching? I haven’t discovered it yet. I’m still working out what I think is the right way to do it, and I plan to work in various school settings before I make up my mind. I want to work in a Montessori school next, I think. It’s the exact opposite of the school I experienced in Kenya, and I’m curious to see its upsides and downsides.
I learned about the effects of having nothing, how it takes away your understanding of value. Without understanding value, you can’t take care of what you have been given and ultimately you lose it. I realized that value is something that has to be taught. It’s not something a child is born with.
I learned how to study the Word for messages. I’d never taught a message before, and suddenly I had four. I realized that when you are not just taking, but also giving what God has given you, he is able to give you even more. I realized that without an outreach in place, a Christian can only stagnate as the very Word rots within you. I realized that Christians are not meant to just take, but to give as well, and no matter their calling every Christian has that duty placed upon them to teach others around them the truth of God through action and word.
I also learned I might have a gift for languages. Ha! Isn’t that nice? I’m hoping to learn Kiswahili this summer.
And I was reminded to make God my focus. To make goals with his glory in mind and not my own. So I have some goals this summer-I want to learn guitar and piano, Kiswahili, Sign Language, the arts, things like that. But my ultimate goal is to use those things for God and not for myself.
So did I have some life changing experience?
I would say no, no I didn’t. Rather, I would say this trip was a step in the right direction. The direction God has been guiding me towards all along. So for now, I’ll just take it one step at a time.
Matatu’s are Kenyan busses. They are the public transportation, and they get very full. By very full I mean Very. Full.
The average matatu fits 12-14 passangers. The average matatu squeezes in 18 to 20 (although Sue tells me she’s been in one with 24).
Saturday morning, Ms. Sue and I woke up bright and early at 7 am. I was not very happy because a certain mosquito had kept me up most of the night. We had dropped the visitors off at the airport around 10 pm the day before, and now it was time for us to return to Kerugoya. We walked down to the main road-well, we walked until we spotted a motorbike, which drove us down to the main road. Then we waited for a matatu to come by and hopped in. The matatu we got played loud music, and had a lively, somehow adventurous feel to it.
The music was pounding, the bus was moving quickly, and the driver had the unfortunate habit of starting to drive off before everyone had gotten in. There was a tag team of sorts. The driver-and then the guy who took the money, who sat next to the door. When we got to a corner where people were waiting, he would hop out and yell, “Room for 2!” or “Room for 1!” Then the people would jump in-or not- and he would run along side the matatu, grab the door, and jump in as it sped away.
I found the whole thing rather entertaining.
One time a customer wasn’t fast enough. It was a youngish man, whom I decided must have been fairly wealthy but is now in the down and out. He paid the guy who took money before he got on the bus, and then as the bus started moving he wasn’t quite fast enough to hop on. I watched him slow, pulling his cap low in embarrassment as we passed him. The guy who took the money pulled a bill from his fingers and let it flap in the wind a moment before letting it go, and sailing back down the road to the young man.
He kept the money between his fingers-he would fold it in half the long way, then loop it around his finger, and each finger had several bills so that it almost looked like he had brass knuckles made out of money. When he wanted the driver to stop, he would take the coins (for some people paid with coins) and rap it on the top of the car, making a long clanging noise.
I had a seat next to the window, and then there was a space for the people to get to the back of the van, and then two seats across from me. When the back had filled up, they gave us a board to set between my seat and the next, so that another person could sit between us.
When we reached the central bus station Ms. Sue and I grabbed another bus heading towards Kerugoya. He didn’t play loud music, and there weren’t 20 people squeezed in. It was all right though; I was afraid the loud music was going to give me a headache. But.
I still liked the first one better.
So I’m behind on posting…but what else is new? Last Wednesday, Sue and I left for the safari. We took a matatu (bus) to Nairobi, grabbed a motorbike, and road up to Cindi Mendoza’s house. Then on Thursday we, along with the other visitors, took a five hour drive to the outside of Nairobi where the safari was held.
It wasn’t what I expected.
I was afraid we would be in tents, and would be driving out into the savannah. In reality, we stayed in a reaaally and I mean really nice hotel called Oltukai Lodge, had delicious American food, and then would drive around on the matatu looking for wild animals. The land was so flat, there really wasn’t anywhere for them to hide. I found the whole thing very strange. I’m so used to animals hiding in forests, but here they just grazed on the plains, and watched us drive by. It was almost like a zoo….only without fences and a whole lot more land.
The nice cabins we stayed in. There were two rooms per house, each with a room, and a shower. The beds had mosquito nets attached at the ceiling that you could pull around both beds, and they even had lamps. You don’t even know how much I miss lamps…
I wish I had had the foresight to take a picture of some of the food. Breakfast alone was amazing. Pancakes, and chocolate or white chocolate topping, fruit, rolls, cereal, sausage, omelettes…not only was it the most fancy place I’ve been to in Kenya, it is one of the best hotels I’ve been to period. You had to keep your windows locked when you left though, to keep the monkeys out of your room. And they hired a Maasai warrior to keep the monkeys away. He would use his slingshot if any got too close while you ate.
There were a ton of wild animals. Zebras, Elephants, Giraffes, Hyenas, Monkeys, Hippos, and we even spotted one Cheetah although I didn’t get a good shot of it. The landscape was beautiful as well. We all had a great time, and I’m sure we all gained some weight as well. But when you’ve been deprived of American food for so long…how could you not?
Sorry it’s been so long since I posted! I’ve been super busy these past few days and haven’t had the time. Everything is going well here, and tomorrow I am heading off to a safari.
The visitors left yesterday so the children were very sad. We did a lot of things with the visitors while they were here. They brought basketballs with them, and taught the kids some basketball down at the neighbourhood court nearby (about a twenty minute walk). I went with them, of course.
Some of the locals were there; a public school was holding a track meeting. The younger kids as well as me and Loren, one of the visitors, were sitting on the court watching the older kids play a half court game. Next thing I knew, we were surrounded by curious locals, who wanted to know if we spoke Swahili, and where we were from. A few people pulled my hair; because our hair is different they get curious. In any case, I ended up standing up. It was a little unnerving how they were all surrounding me. It suddenly occurred to me what it must feel like for a celebrity; plenty of well meaning people, no place to hide. It worked out though, their teacher came and got them, and the locals went back to the track field. Actually, one of our boys ended up racing them later, it was quite fun to watch.
After Cindi’s Hope Academy had practiced basketball, we took them to some nearby Kerugoya private schools to play some basketball games. At the boy’s high school a mixture of the Americans and the Africans played for us, mainly because we have quite a few little boys but not a lot of older boys. I wanted to show all the students that came out to watch. They were taking exams but they took a short break to see who was winning. The school has about 800 students-for four grades.
It’s hard to buy good sports shoes here, so we gave the basketball team shoes that people had donated in the US. Cindi also brought along Bibles for each of the basketball members.
The next day we went to the girl’s school for the girls to play against. Since Cindi’s Hope hasn’t exactly had balls to practice with, they were pretty bad. They ended up having the girls play against the school’s B-team, and the boys play against the A-team. The boys won-barely. The girls were huge! Most of them outweighed the guys, and their coach kept telling them to be more aggressive. It was also funny to see how different they were from the Boy’s school. The boys in the Boy’s school were very shy and polite-but kind of stand offish. The girls though, they went to town! They especially loved one of our guys, Jonah. After the game all of them wanted a picture with him. It got to the point the girls from Cindi’s Hope were getting jealous! It was a completely different feel from the boys school, and the girls were hugging the boys right and left. I found the whole thing absolutely hilarious. (And yet somehow I didn’t end up with any pictures)
The day after that was Monday, and it was the last day the visitors were in Kerugoya. They left Tuesday morning to go to the school in downtown Nairobi, and we’re meeting up with them tomorrow for the safari. For the last night we had a Thanks Giving. Cindi wanted to thank God for having provided for the children, and having her family there, and etc. They brought up a pig from the farm (the one Cindi bought for a future school building) and we ate that for dinner, along with rice, French fries, coleslaw, and chapaiti (similar to a tortilla). If you haven’t noticed, they eat a lot of carbs here.
We went to the hotel the visitors are staying at for the meal. There is a little play area we waited in-the kids loved it. There isn’t any play equipment at the current school so it was a real treat for them. I prayed there wouldn’t be any serious injuries because-well, stuffing 50 kids in a 30 X 30 playing field is asking for trouble. Besides a few scraped knees it went fine.
The Thanks Giving was great, only I got a very tiny portion of meat. Somehow I ended up with two pieces of fat, and a piece of meat the size of two thumbs. Then the classes performed memory verses and songs, and then it was announced that the visitors were leaving the next day. Quite a few children started crying. I was surprised; I figured by now they would be used to visitors coming and going. Grace told me it was normal for the children to cry when visitors left. I thought about it some and then realized I never did cry about such things as a child. I was the one who cried when my mother came to pick me up! So yeah, I guess I’m a little strange…
Oh! And I didn’t mention this, but it didn’t rain the entire time the group was here. Cindi told everyone to pray it would stop raining so they could play basketball, and the morning after they left it started drizzling again…
And now I am off to bed, because it is almost midnight and I have to get up at 6 am. I have never been a morning person and I don’t think I ever will be…I need to move to a Latino country maybe…or become an author and keep my own time…
The visitors arrived today, Cindi’s sister and children, Cindi’s brother, and then another couple along with their three children. Also Cindi brought her oldest son, Lorenzo, and her youngest son, Diego along. Needless to say that is a lot of extra people.
The kids are off school the next few days to play with the visitors. They were supposed to go play basketball, but it was raining quite a bit this morning, so we ended up playing games and doing crafts at the school, kind of like a VBS.
One of the games we played, everyone sits in a circle, and then every kid gets a fruit (Mango, Apple, Orange). For example, if mango is called, all the “mangos” jump up and have to find another chair. You can also call “fruit basket.” then all the fruits jump up and find another chair. The younger kids didn’t like it much, but the older kids played it for close to an hour.
I had a video I wanted to post, but it looks like you have to do it via youtube, and my internet is really good enough for uploading videos so…maybe next time.
Today I helped Teacher Faith in her classroom again. Classes are going well, in fact I would say they went better today than they did yesterday. One of the children in our class was in trouble yesterday, and so Teacher Faith was in a bad mood, and the children were on egg shells. Today it went much better.
I still don’t like how they teach math, but I began to understand why they teach English the way they do. Because many of the children come not knowing English, they use stories to teach them, and then ask them lots and lots of questions. The questions are made with only one answer, so that the teacher can tell if the child is understanding the nuances of the question. It was still boring, but I could see why the children are doing well with it.
There are visitors coming Thursday, so apparently they are not planning to do the normal school schedule while they are here. I’m not really sure what they are planning to do…a Bible School type thing? Crafts and games? All I know is it will be like school is out for the children until the following Tuesday.
Today we officially got some new children. They had come on Friday, but the District Officer hadn’t brought all the paper work so they had to take the children back to him Monday. It was decided that the District Officer didn’t feel like keeping up with them over the weekend, so he sent the to the school, knowing that he needed the paper work! Sue and the social worker, Esther, went to get the children, and apparently the District Officer was not happy. He told them, “They were very noisy!”
Sue looked over to see them quietly sitting on the bench and said, “They look to be quiet.”
And he said, “Well they were noisy earlier, and we had to tell them to be quiet!” (which Sue candidly remarked to me that ‘Of course, they are children. What did he expect?’)
In any case, we got the three children today, two girls and a boy, or else it’s one girl and two boys. It’s hard to tell sometimes, especially since they don’t have uniforms. The girl, who is maybe eight or so, I spotted her chewing on a pencil-mind you it was after lunch, and losing your pencil is the equivalent of getting grounded here. So I walked over and had her give me the rest of it. I watched her a little while later, and realized that she wasn’t just chewing the pencil-she was eating it! Sue told me that many of these children are from the street, but I was still rather shocked-I mean, she had just had lunch. Apparently though, especially for the younger ones, they can have a hard time feeling full because of what they experienced on the streets. In any case, she didn’t get in trouble today, they tend to be a little more lenient when you first come, but I am sure within a week or two if she keeps doing things like that, it will cause an uproar.