Thursday, May 23, 2013

WEEK 1ish: Falling Shower Heads of Fire, Friends, and TONS of Kid

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 cafĂ© 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!!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

My Journey

On to my journey….I am currently living in a small city just outside of Nairobi, Kenya. Before arriving I was told I would be teaching, so naturally I thought that meant just the kids and I. I have very limited teaching experience and had not received the curriculum upon arrival, so I was pleasantly surprised when I found out the Sunday before school started that I would be assistant teaching, at least at first. Hallelujah!! Nevertheless I came prepared with donated school supplies and money from my friends, church, and others who have been to Kenya (God worked in a BIG way in this area). Upon arrival I also found out I would be leading a youth bible study during Sunday school on Sharing Your Faith Without Fear and preaching in the children’s service. All things I’ve never had the opportunity to do before. God is definitely stretching me, as on mission trips I’ve always performed a more behind the scenes role, but never teaching, leading, or preaching. I preferred to leave that to the more experienced Christians. I do ask for your prayers as I go on this journey. That I will be continually filled with God, and that Satan will take a trip out the back door!

However, this trip is not where the journey began. While I was in college my parents decided to go on a 10 – 11 day medical mission trip to Kenya, Africa. I remember being excited for them, but a little bit scared. I made sure to remind them not to pack their beef jerky near their clothes, as I didn’t want them to get eaten by a lion (little did I know they were in the rainforest, so it was unlikely they would even come close to a lion haha). After coming back they told me story after story about Africa. The next year my Dad went on the trip without Mom and again came back telling tale after tale. At the time I was in college. I was in my own little world studying and having a fun time with my friends, and to be honest I really just wanted to go to the beach. I just didn’t get it. I was away from God at this time.

Then the summer after my senior year I had the opportunity to go with them and we’ll just say the rest is history…as my group puts it “I was bitten by the Kenya bug.” While in my youth group I went to Mexico and Puerto Rico on mission trips, but they didn’t affect me like Kenya. There is something very special about this country and the African continent. I have an overwhelming love for the country, the culture, and the people, and if you talk to me for about 5 minutes in person you’ll probably find this out. By the end of my first trip (which is still my favorite trip so far…you can’t beat the exhilaration of experiencing something for the first time.) I was definitely ready to go home. However, when I arrived back in the states and had time to get settled back in Birmingham, Al (taking my last college class) I couldn’t help but think I want to go back for a little bit longer. I searched online for different organizations but never could find the correct one.

I continued to go on the medical portion of the trips (the first week a group does evangelism and the second week we do a medical clinic that includes evangelism) for the next two years, but my desire to go back apart from the group was pushed down, because I was pursing a career as a publicist in country music. You see country music is another passion of mine. It took me a while to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, but when I finally decided at age 19 I had a one-track mind and absolutely nothing was going to stop me. However after working at two different PR Firms I finally agreed with God (he had been tapping on my shoulder for a while…nothing like an unrest given by God when you’re not pursuing his plan for your life huh) that entertainment pr is not what I need to be pursuing at this time. You see my job had become a stronghold in my life. I realized that it’s where I found my identity. In high school I was the goodie-two-shoes youth group girl, in college I was the sorority girl that had a lot of fun, and after college I was the publicist (albeit a God and Africa loving one). I also didn’t like the person I was becoming which was a selfish “me first person” who didn’t have time to help a friend in need, spend time with family, and who was always stressed out and feeling like I wasn’t doing anything to help the world. That my friends, is absolutely NO way to live.

So this past September I found myself twenty-six, living with my parents, with absolutely no commitments, and some savings (the plan was to save up and buy a house…funny how God changes our plans for the better). So I went on the yearly trip in October and after the last day of clinic I asked if they ever have people come back by themselves. The response was “come on we’ll take good care of you.” The result a mildly terrified Callan and later a couple of very terrified parents. So I sent an email in early November about coming back for a month. I got a response close to Thanksgiving that they wanted me to come in January and teach. I later found out they wanted me to stay for three months (I’ve never been away from home for more than a month). I have never been more excited and more terrified by an email in my entire life.

As always happens in life, and especially with anything in Africa, the plan changed. This time due to the upcoming elections and the potential for violence in Nairobi. The trip kept on getting postponed, and I found out 5 weeks before that I was clear to book my plane ticket for the first of May. I would like to say I patiently waited but that was not the case. When I originally asked about the trip money was not going to be a problem. However, I had a collision with another SUV. This resulted in my purchasing a new (used) vehicle. Money became an issue, but God has come through in this area. In addition to this and some other issues, my granddad is not in the best of health, and I was nervous he would not be there when I got back. So after some fretting and worrying and over analyzing about whether I should go or not. Here I am a bug fearing, clean (as in shower once or twice a day) clean freak, prissy southern girl a week and four days into the trip sitting in my hotel room listening to Dolly Parton sing “Jolene” over the loud speaker outside as I type this blog post as happy as can be.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Reason For My Title Pearls In Kenya

I wanted to take a moment and explain the meaning of my blog title Pearls In Kenya. I am a southern woman through and through. I love my pearls and wear them with everything. However, I left my pearls behind in Nashville, TN. I'm replacing them with pearls that I find in Kenya. Not physical pearls mind you, but pearls of wisdom (although I might pick up a pair of physical pearls here never know). These will be pearls from God and pearls I've gained from the unique and special Kenyan culture. I want readers to learn about the true Kenya and the true Africa that I've grown to love over the past four and a half years. I've been here less than two weeks, and I can already say the title of this blog rings true every single day. I invite you to stay tuned and go on this journey alongside God and I.