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.
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.
Today I experienced my first class at Cindis-Hope. Here they don’t teach by age but grade assessment. Since many of the children experienced spotty learning in school, that means one child might be second grade in math, first grade in English, and third grade in Swahili. Our class has about 6 at any given time.
I worked with Teacher Faith, who is also the head of the elementary division. She showed me the ropes, and is teaching both second and third grade. I won’t be surprised if sometime soon she has me start teaching second grade. The way they teach is very strange-the curriculum is meant to help children who are behind catch up, but it is structured in a way I have never seen before! You read the text straight from the teacher’s book, and then have all the children respond together or by themselves. And for them to respond you give a signal, either a snap of the fingers or a tap on the table. It was the most repetitious, boring thing I have ever seen. Sue, the person I am staying with, tells me it works exceedingly well. I have yet to be convinced.
It was a long day, and after break Teacher Faith had me grading workbooks. Apparently she fell behind over the weekend-and what a lot of workbooks there were! I had an especially hard time grading their math work-there is a shortage of paper here, so they stress using less paper to do your work. In my experience this leads to sloppy math, and easy mistakes-although I do understand where they are coming from.
After class I pulled one of the little girls aside-Sharron, and went over some of the math with her. I think she is a visual/hands on learner, and the way they are teaching math really wouldn’t work for that learning style. She was having a hard time visualizing 3D objects on the paper-like pyramids and hexagonal prisms. I’m not sure how well I explained it, since we don’t really have these objects on hand. She is a quiet girl though, and fears messing up, so I can tell the math is not helping her confidence. Hopefully she will be able to understand the concepts as we go along.
I had to wait for someone to take me home-all the dirt roads look the same. There is only one paved road ( called the tarmac road) going through town. While I was waiting I asked the children how to say some Swahili words. Next thing I knew they had taken my notebook and were writing them down for me, one after the other! I had to get them to stop at the end of the page-I don’t think I can learn more than one page a day. Sue told me she wanted to learn Swahili, but she has been here almost two years and barely knows ten words, so I challenged her to a competition-whoever learns the most words before I go home is the winner. I am hoping to encourage her to put forth a little more effort.
So today hasn’t been the most exciting day, but overall I think it was an enjoyable experience. I just hope the names start clicking soon-please children quit looking the same. Please, please, please, please.
So it took me forever, but I’m finally in Kenya! I meant to post at least once more before I came, but with finals and being sick I put it off.
This is my first day here, I spent the night at Cindi’s house (the woman who runs the girl’s school I am working at) and later today we are heading up to the school in Keragoya. I don’t have any pictures at the moment, but hopefully I can post some later on today.
Last night, Cindi and her son picked me up at the Nairobi airport. It was raining really hard, and for a moment I wondered if I got the seasons wrong and it was the rainy season! Cindi assured me it was not, but that it was just raining. My first experience on the highway was slightly scary; there are no traffic lights. Her son, Lorenzo, told me that there are only three in the downtown, and otherwise driving is kind of a “free-for-all” (which, when looked up on the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is described as an uncontrolled fight or competition that involves many people).
Instead of traffic lights, the entirety of the road (that I saw) was composed of merging lanes and roundabouts. On the way to their house we saw two busses that had ran into ditches, most likely because of the rain, and they told me they had seen three on the way to pick me up. I found the whole thing rather exciting (sorry mom). I couldn’t tell if people were honking to let others know not to hit them, or because they were cussing them out in a controlled road rage.
In any case, by the time we got to their home, it was 11 o’clock their time, 4 o’clock my time. I was pretty tired, so I ended up going to sleep pretty quickly. And now it is morning, and I am off to find me some breakfast.