Today is my last day in Kenya and I wanted to share a little update with you all.
I can't believe how fast the time has gone and it is definitely bittersweet! I'm taking the time today to give a few gifts to people at the church, play with the kids, and tell everyone bye. I have had the pleasure of getting to know so many people and I will miss them very much. Everyone has made me feel very, very welcome and I truly have a home and a family in Ruiru. I'm going to miss everyone, but I am still excited to see my family and friends and start my new life at home!
Friday, June 28, 2013
Thursday, June 20, 2013
I know many of you have been worried about safety while I’m in Kenya. Well, I’m here to tell you not to worry, because I’m probably safer here than I am in America. Many buildings here are built like strip malls in America. The hotel we picked is in conjoined with a bank, and there is a guard outside the hotel at all times. In addition there are normally two armed guards (as in the kind in military uniform with humongous guns) outside the bank during business hours. Nobody is allowed to go to my room without me present, and I’m actually not allowed to bring anyone to my room for safety reasons. If I have guests at the hotel (which is very, very rare) they go to the receptionist desk and the person present calls my room to alert me of the visitor. I am to enjoy a cup of tea or a meal with them in the hotel café or other public place. By now the managers and many of the people working at the hotel know my patterns, and I’ve actually had several people comment if they haven’t seen me during the day or missed me at dinner. So they definitely keep an eye out.
As far as getting around I am rarely, rarely alone. On school mornings Henry (who works at the church) “picks me” and walks with me the 0.6 miles to school. In the afternoons my friend Fred or John walk with me back to the hotel or Pastor Samson brings me in his car. During the day I stay on the school/church property, which is gated. The gate is open during the day, but the property is still very safe.
Saturdays are normally the same as far as getting around. I spend a lot of time on the church property, go on an adventure, or go to Samson’s house (or all three). On Sundays one of the church members usually picks me on foot in the morning. After church, Samson’s granddaughters and I normally take a matatu from the church to his house. Sunday nights either Samson drives me back to the hotel or I take a matatu to the hotel with one of his granddaughters.
If you’re wondering what in the world is a matatu? It’s a 8 or 9 passenger van that normally turns into a 10-12 passenger van. They pick people up and drop people off along the side of the road. You can go short distances for 20 shillings. Depending on where you sit you may be moving around as people get on and off. It’s basically a crazy Kenyan version of a bus or a taxi. They are less crowded if you are going long distances. Apparently there is a noticeable difference between the short and long distance ones, but I haven’t figured out what it is.
I only go two places by myself. First is the supermarket across the divided street from my hotel. I go here regularly after depositing my big bag at the hotel. Most of the guards and receptionists have learned my patterns by now. However, some of them are new, so I always say I’m headed to the market on my way out. The second place is a little store literally just outside the church gates. The store is very tiny so you just walk up and let them know what you want, and they bring it out to you. I was with other youths the first time I went, but I’ve only been here two or three times by myself. I always let one of the teachers or pastors know before I go.
When walking I normally have people that greet me and want to shake my hand (Kenyan people are very, very friendly). A couple times a week I have someone ask me for money, especially street kids while I’m on my way to the super market. Also many times school children will be very excited to practice their English and will say “how are you” as I pass. The Kenyan people say that mzungus or white people talk through their nose and they have a high voice used to imitate the sound. I do sometimes hear people using that voice when I go by, and sometimes people will shout mzungu. I’m not naïve enough to think everyone is going to be excited about seeing a visitor, and I know some people will say negative things different Kenyan languages. However, I’ve never been approached in a negative way, except for a drunk man complaining he had to sit next to me on a matatu ride haha.
Samson, John, Pius, and Fred are very, very diligent about keeping me safe. Not only to be good hosts, or because they don’t want to have bad phone conversation with my parents, but also because if something happens to me the Kenyan government will be upset with Samson. The government would want to know why I was not accompanied if something happened on the street. The government would be suspicious of me as a foreigner if something happened behind closed doors in my hotel room.
I asked about going to another supermarket, but I’m not allowed to because it’s too far from the hotel, and I would pass several drinking places on the way there and back. I’m also not allowed to pet dogs or cats. Right after picking up a cute little kitten (belonging to a lady living at the church) I found out that the animals are not vaccinated in Kenya and they can cause great harm if they bite you.
If someone is looking to go on a long-term mission trip either by themselves or with a small group I would highly, highly suggest going through First Baptist Ruiru. (Especially if the person(s) is college age or has never stayed in a foreign country alone before.)
Thanks ~ Lulu
Thursday, June 13, 2013
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
This has been a great week, and it’s been so much fun!! Last Saturday about 20 youth came over to pastor Samson’s house to work and fellowship. The guys were outside planting flower bushes. The girls washed the porch and windows, did laundry, etc. Samson picked (picked up) me in the car about 10:00am, so I got there late. When I hopped in the car the Samson was at the market, and my friend Tony and little friend Sammy (kindergarten age) were in the car. They were very, very quiet waiting to see what I would do when I realized I wasn’t alone. They definitely took me by surprise lol. I helped Samson’s granddaughters cook food for the group. I folded some chapattis, helped a tiny bit with the rice, and helped served the food and chai. Trust me when I say cooking, cleaning, and doing laundry are much, much different than in the states. I plan to do an entire post about this topic very soon.
After all the work was finished we all gathered in the living/dining room area and had a meal and did some more fellowshipping. Then we had chai (This is tea boiled in milk, and you take it with or without sugar whichever way you prefer.) and bread while Samson gave us a message. Then some of the youth and I gave words of advice.
They asked if I had anything to say and I advised them to get to know each other well and not try to act perfect. When I left my young adult ministry at Forest Hills Baptist Church the ministry it was still in the late beginning stages. They started a young adult service several months ago, and they’ve started doing many more events since I’ve been gone. I was just starting to get to know more people and I remember us talking about being transparent. The only way to truly work as a group and truly become one is to be real with each other and get to know each other. Then we can have true fellowship and we will be much more comfortable with each other when sharing in Sunday school. It seems like the youth (high school/young adult group) here are going through some good changes and God laid it on my heart to mention shortly.
After sharing Samson spoke again as well as his wife. In addition to the meal they gave us two oranges picked from their trees. After we were finished many of the youth went outside to practice a skit to be shared in the service and several youth ladies cleaned up the kitchen. I really enjoyed this day, because it was my first time to hang out with the youth outside Sunday school. It was nice to begin to get to know some of them in a more relaxed setting. It was also my first time to really help in the kitchen.
I left after the cleaning was finished because I was very, very late for my meeting with the kids to review a memory verse. In fact only two or three were still at church, so I practiced with the other leader and those two kids. We were planning to practice again in the morning before service. However, the church was invited to visit another Baptist church in the area so we did not end up saying the verse.
I think the next day was my first time going to the English worship service. Samson was supposed to pick me in his car, but the plans definitely changed. Dorcas, one of the teachers, lives at the church because her husband works for the church. She was pregnant and went into labor earlier that morning. They took her to the hospital in Samson’s car because she wanted to go to the hospital in Nairobi. However, she ended up delivering the baby on the back middle seat before they made it. So, someone came to pick me on foot, and I did end up catching most of the English service and really enjoying it!
Then came the next surprise of the morning. I normally teach a youth bible study using the Lifeway® material "Sharing Faith Without Fear". However, once a month the entire church has bible study (Sunday school) together. I went to Samson’s office after the English service to tell him an urgent prayer request, and he ended up asking if I would teach the church bible study using my material for the youth. At first I said I didn’t think I could, but I ended up doing it nervously with A LOT of prayer!! There weren’t as many people there because many were visiting another Baptist church in the area. I’m embarrassed to say this made me feel better. I think it went ok. We have been talking about how to prepare our hearts for evangelism. I was planning to finish this topic and begin the questions listed in the study, however I thought it best for people to share their testimonies. I am always encouraged by hearing testimonies, and I thought it would encourage the youth in the room.
Up next was the children’s service, and I talked about Moses Part 2 using the Jesus Story Book Bible (If you have not bought one of these I highly suggest you do. It is a children’s bible that relates all the stories back to Jesus. It is a wonderful way to share the bible and story of Jesus in a way that children can understand.). We reviewed what we learned about Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt the last week. Then I spoke about Pharaohs’ army chasing after the Israelites and God parting the red sea allowing the Israelite to walk across on dry land but destroying the entire Egyptian army. Since I don’t speak much Swahili I speak in English and then someone translates the message. I really enjoy making it fun to learn by talking in different voices, using my hands and body to describe the story, and asking questions. The questions especially get the kids engaged, so they aren’t bored. We have at least 50 kids of all different ages in one room, so you can imagine how hard it is to keep the kids quiet (especially Kenyan kids who are very full of life and greatly enjoy movement).
After church was over I visited with the church members saying hi to the people I knew already and meeting many more people. The people at FBC are extremely friendly and welcoming. I always enjoy visiting with everyone after church!! Then Samson’s granddaughters and I caught a Matatu from the church to their house. It is a little bit too far to walk…even for Kenyans who are used to walking everywhere. We ate a small snack at the house then walked to the BTL to swim. My “swimming costume” has still not come in the mail, so I enjoyed sitting at a table under an umbrella just watching everything going on. June decided not to swim, so we had fun talking while the other two girls swam. I got in a little bit of trouble because I was taking photos, but it was quickly smoothed over. I ask June if we could walk around the BTL (while the other girls were changing back into their normal clothes) because I was curious about what it looks like outside of the pool. They have a conference center, hotel, and restaurant in addition to the pool.
Afterwards we walked back to the house and hung out for a little while. Then Samson brought some food…little did I know it was a surprise for me. His granddaughters didn’t know what it was and neither did I until I saw the rice. Samson had brought Chinese food, peanut chicken with fried rice to be exact. I didn’t even know Chinese restaurants existed in Kenya, so it was a very tasty surprise. We watched highlights from a wedding on TV while we ate. Then Samson took me back to the hotel. His granddaughters and his tiny grandson went with us. We had to be careful where we sat because of the birth in the car earlier that day…they didn’t have any plastic. I got tickled because Samson kept on saying “there is a smell…a very strong smell.”
The next morning Fred cleaned out Samson’s car, and he beat the pants off any American detail job. He did not just remove the mats…he removed the seats, console, and even the plastic kickboards and washed them all and let them dry in the African sun. The car was clean enough to eat off the floor. I was highly, highly impressed to say the least. Samson said you have to clean the car well when it’s been used as a maternity ward lol.
They have a pastoral program at one of the area public primary schools that goes up to eighth grade I believe. I was supposed to talk at the school on Tuesday, but many of the children had been sent home for school fees. Normally they just speak in certain classes, but they wanted me to speak to all the kids. So, I’ll be speaking the next Tuesday.
One of the church members is the principle of a private primary school in the area. He started it several years ago. Many of the kids are orphans and children of single parents, so they do not pay school fees. They do have some students who are able and do pay school fees so they can pay their teachers, who are volunteers, a very small amount. The school is housed partly in a permanent structure and partly in these non-permanent metal structures that are commonly seen (I will have to post photos. They build a wooden frame and hang the metal around it for walls and ceiling.).
The principle has been asking me to come and teach, so I ended up speaking at that school on Tuesday instead as well as meeting the teachers, and getting books to teach 8th grade English. I taught the next day (Wednesday) and it was bit of a challenge. I was very happy to have a book as reference for the rules behind grammar (I learned the rules so long ago that I have to remind myself of the reasoning behind the rules.). They had a world map, so I took the opportunity to give a small geography lesson after the English lesson. The kids had a lot of fun with it!
After teaching I stayed and took pictures of the school and sat in on part of a Swahili lesson. The teacher even taught me some new words!! She was very sweet and I would really like to teach at that school again (I was falling into a pattern at the school where I always teach, so it was nice to have a change and a bit of a challenge). Then I went back to my normal school at the church just in time for the morning break. I believe I read the story of Noah’s Ark to the baby class (3 year old class) and then sat in on the pre-unit (kindergarten) lesson until it was time for lunch.
After lunch everyone was sleeping except standard one (first grade class) who was copying homework, so I left early. In the past I’ve been on medical mission trips. We always work with one national (Kenyan) pharmacist and his pharmacy is about 0.6 miles from the school/church in the same area as the school I visited earlier that day. Fred and I walked to the pharmacy, and the pharmacist showed me around and introduced me to his brother. It was very interesting!! They do not use pill bottles, so they dispense medicine like capsules in the flat packaging from the manufacturer (The packaging is like much of the over-the-counter medicine in the States like Sudafed). They also dispense a lot of liquid medicine as well as giving shots. Another major difference is they carry medicine to get rid of intestinal worms, which is a common problem in Kenya.
The rest of the school week was pretty normal. I’ve gotten much more comfortable with all of the kids both while teaching and during breaks. I’ve been looking for more ways to connect with the kids outside of teaching and this past week I ate lunch/snack in the standard one classroom at one of the student’s desks instead of in the big chair behind the teacher’s desk (where I normally eat). The girls in the standard one class ate at the desks also. Some of them understand better English than others, but we always have a lot of fun. There are a few that really enjoy talking with me and vice versa. They are always interested in my hand sanitizer, wet ones, and peanut butter. If I’m eating something new they always want to know what it is. I brought an orange one-day for lunch, and it took FOREVER to peel. So I accidentally attracted a small crowd of kids from all classes while peeling it…I even tried moving around and they followed me lol. I had about twenty kids staring up at me. I hated to eat it in front of them, but in order to share I needed to have enough for all of them.
Speaking of fruit on Friday I again couldn’t help much, so I left a little bit early (around 2pm). Samson had wanted to take me to see some pineapples for a while, so he took Fred and I to see them. I will have a separate post on this adventure.
On Saturday Samson had a planning meeting for an evangelism trip about three hours away, so I tagged along with him and another pastor. I woke up about 1am Saturday morning with the beginning symptoms of the stomach yuck again. So I took my medicine preemptively. My advice to anyone feeling sick is to take the medicine before the vomiting and diarrhea start if it’s an infection due to bad water you’ve ingested. That way you just feel tired and your stomach hurts, but you don’t have the full symptoms. That’s the only reason I was able to tag along. I enjoyed listening to the meetings and picking out words that I recognized. There was also a sweet little girl at the church where we met, and I enjoyed playing with her (she would peek around the column and I would look at her funny…she seemed to enjoy it). We also visited the hotel where the evangelism team will be staying and I gave them approval from a fellow mzungu! It was cold because we were at a higher altitude, and it was the first time I wore the long sleeve button up shirt I brought (layering is better than bringing heavy clothing).
The place we visited was near Nakuru and we passed a large farm on the way. The owner was a British man who became a Kenyan citizen after the country gained independence. He grows flowers that are sent to Queen Elizabeth daily. In addition to the flowers he has other crops and a place near the farm where people driving by can stop for a snack, buy produce, buy water, toiletries, etc (like a store and restaurant combined). We stopped for tea (chai) on the way to our destination. When the man bought the property there were many wild animals living on it. Samson used to be a park ranger so he is an expert at spotting animals we saw zebra, water buffalo, Thompson gazelles (their tails are always swishing from side to side), and other gazelles and antelope.
The way people construct houses changes a bit in some areas of Kenya and in this particular place they built a lot of houses out of wood. It was a beautiful area. I saw cattle and there was a lot of coffee and tea growing.
We left Ruiru around 6:30 am and drove back in the same day. After getting up early, traveling all day, and not feeling well I was super, super tired when we got back to the church. I had been planning to print a document (the only reason I did not go directly to my hotel), but they had closed the computer office by the time I arrived. After making this discovery and helping a little bit with the kids as they practiced the memory verse for the next day (some of the other children’s teachers helped in my absence) John walked me back to the hotel (about 0.6 miles from the church). I talked on the phone with my dad for a little while and then went promptly to bed.
The next morning I was picked about 9:00am and arrived again enjoyed most of the English service. It’s especially fun because I sit with the kids. There are several older children, especially one twelve year old girl, who I spend a lot of time with on Saturdays and they are who I sat with. Samson preached on parts of the spiritual body and how we need to be active in using our gifts, making sure to note that one part is not more important than another. This is one of my favorite topics in the Bible!!!
That afternoon I stayed late at the church visiting with everyone. Ladies in the church often cook for Samson and the visitors. I happened to be in the office when they were about to bring the food, so they lovingly insisted that I eat. Even sent someone out to get me outside the office. They are wonderful cooks! We had pieces of beef with carrots and potatoes. It’s my favorite meal dish here!!
Afterwards I went back to the house with Samson’s granddaughters. I had tea on their front porch and played with some children. They only let me help by grating carrots, but I always learn a lot and have a lot of fun with them in the kitchen. June and I went to buy some fresh vegetables near the house which was an adventure because I had never been to that area before. After dinner we had vanilla ice cream which tastes much different than in America, but I really like it!! Then we sang happy birthday to Robin and she cut her cake. It’s tradition for the birthday person to cut the cake according to how many years old they are. I was able to help a tiny bit with the dishes afterwards. I always enjoy helping instead of just sitting and being “the guest” lol. Afterwards we visited and then Samson and the girls took me back to the hotel! I went to bed early and rested up for the next week!
In addition to all of this something in my head with Swahili clicked this week. I put together my first sentence. “Hapana Panda Mti” which means “don’t climb the tree” lol. I decided this past week, that if I knew the Swahili word I was going to use it instead of being shy about it! I decided it’s the only way I’m going to learn Swahili. Consequently I’ve begun learning a few new words and I can pick more words out when I hear them spoken in conversation. I’m super excited about this!!
Anyway I think that’s all. Feel free to check back, comment, and share with your friends!! ~ Lulu
Monday, June 3, 2013
Thursday, May 23, 2013
I thank you all so so so much for your prayers during travel. Apart from a tiny hiccup at the Nashville airport everything went as smooth as humanly possible. My planes were on time and I received ALL of my luggage (which is a miracle in itself). I was even able to sleep on the second flight!!
After landing and reaching my hotel I am embarrassed to admit I had that “what the heck am I doing moment,” and I definitely cried for about two hours and part of the next day and wanted to turn around and fly back home. I was exhausted, homesick, a little lonely from traveling by myself for so long, and not happy with my hotel. It had the right accommodations (shower, toilet with seat, bed, mosquito net, etc.) but it was not pleasing to the eye and it was attached to a club…that had a siren…I’m talking a rattling mosquito net at 3:45am type of club. My first Welcome To Kenya Moment the night I arrived didn’t help any. I went to adjust the showerhead heater thingy (Kenyan’s have shower heads with a built in water peculator thing that heats the water as it goes through…basically tank less water heaters) and it FELL OFF and was hanging by the heater wires and water going everywhere haha. After getting a hotel staff member to put the shower head back on the heater no longer worked for a couple of days….but cold showers are better than no showers. Right now this seems just about right and is hilarious, but it wasn’t at the time…trust me after travelling for over a day all I really wanted was a nice shower.
Anyway….I snapped out of that mode pretty quickly and jumped right into life in Africa. The first few days before school started were basically spent getting acquainted with my surroundings and learning how things work around here…still a hard task at times lol. The pastor who we’ve worked with in the past has a church and school on the same plot of land just outside of Nairobi, and this is where I would soon be spending 90% of my time. I also enjoyed catching up with nationals (Kenyans) who I’ve worked with on previous trips. Saturday the pastor and his wife invited me for dinner at their house. Every time I am invited to their house I consider it a great honor. His wife said I was welcome in their house anytime. That hotel is where I sleep, but their house is my home. This definitely helped with the homesickness.
I was able to meet with the other teachers on Sunday (school started on Tuesday) and learned that there is a first grade teacher that I would be assisting…at least at first. On Monday afternoon we got the classrooms ready for school by arranging furniture, sweeping the rooms, removing equipment being stored there, etc (There had been a one month break from school). I was very nervous about teaching the first few days, but managed to work through it. I observed the first day and then began teaching English to the standard one class (first grade). I was told I would also be working with pre-unit (kindergarten), but at that point I was mostly spending time in the standard one classroom. From the very beginning the teachers have been very welcoming and patient…which is a very good thing!! There is also a nursery class (four year olds), a baby class (three year olds), and a daycare at the school/church.
The standard one and pre-unit classrooms are in one building and the baby class, nursery class, and daycare are in another building. I have to say the baby class and nursery class are very curious about me. As one teacher said they are attracted to my skin and someone else said they can sense that a muzungu (term for white person) is near haha. They liked to hold my hand and rub my arms haha. If I went anywhere near their building I would shake one child’s hand and all the other kids would want to shake my hand. I would end up surrounded by a pack of three and four year olds. They would walk with me, and I would have to take cover in the pre-unit classroom (the teacher shooed them away when I walked in because she didn’t want that many noisy children in her classroom.). It was a little bit alarming, but very sweet! I made one friend right off the bat. She is three and has her little ears pierced. She especially likes to hold my hand and even wanted me to pick her up! It was so cute!!
In addition to teaching I found out the night I arrived that the pastor wanted me to preach in the children’s service and lead a youth Sunday school class from the book Sharing Faith Without Fear. As I said in my previous post these were a bit out of my comfort zone as I’m normally a people organizer on mission trips, but God stretching us is always a good thing. The first Sunday I just observed in the children’s Sunday school and the children’s service so I would know what to expect and how to prepare.
On Monday I changed hotels which is a much bigger deal in Kenya than it is in America. Apparently you have to talk to the manager of the hotel before leaving as a way of being polite. As you can imagine this could be a challenge because managers are all over the place. It took a few days, but finally on Monday I was able to change to the hotel across the street. (I cannot brag on the Kenyans I’m working with enough in this area for their help with the hotel change!!) It has pretty much the same basic accommodations, but the atmosphere is much more pleasing to the eye. The food at the café is a little more expensive but much better. I’ve very much enjoy the staff because they are very friendly. I have to say that Kenyan hotel staff overall is much better than most American hotels where I’ve stayed.
I had another welcome to Kenya moment on Tuesday morning (my first morning in the new hotel)…again with the shower. I was at the end of my shower and the water was nice and hot and all of a sudden the shower peculator thing shorted out and blue and white flames began shooting from it. It definitely took me by surprise not only because of the fire but because the showerhead is so close to the ceiling. I quickly turned off the water and cut the power switch to the shower (Just outside the bathroom door there is a separate power switch to just the shower head peculator thing). The fire went out, but it left a black spot on the ceiling. It was quite an eventful morning. The hotel staff was very, very nice about it though. They changed me to another room, and I received a lesson in how to use the shower properly lol.
I think that’s everything from about Week 1. Hope you enjoyed it!!