Saturday, July 23, 2011

Inception

The movie Inception is about dreams. People connect themselves or others to this machine and are able to consciously enter their own dreams or the dreams of others, even sharing dreams. In their dreams they can build their own worlds, creating skyscrapers, houses, even people that fit their own idea of a perfect reality.

In one part of the movie, the group goes into a basement to find it full of men on cots, sleeping, all connected to the same dream.

"How often do they come here?" One man asks.

"Four hours a day," replies the owner. "The dream has become their reality. Essentially, they come here to wake up from life."

Welcome to my transition to America.

Waking up today at 2 in the afternoon after going to bed at 6 am, I feel like America is my dream, a communal dream shared by many others in my life. We have created our own concept of reality, building our lives up together, sharing this dream with one another.

I feel like I'm waking up from life by coming here.

Like that poor kid on Youtube whose dad filmed him while he was still under drugs from the dentist... "Is this real life?"

I feel ya kid.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Switching Continents

This will be my last blog post from the African continent. My parents and I have spent the last few days visiting different places in Kenya like Fourteen Falls and this awesome wood carving place.
We went to a place where they do wood carvings that are sold at Masai Market and other markets around Kenya. These guys are crazy good at what they do. They even use their feet to help them carve!

This cutie was born Sunday. She is the baby of Nice View's cow, Milky Way.
Sheila (the black one) and Brutus (the brown one eating tin foil) roam the compound at night, barking if they hear something suspicious. They're watchdogs, but they are seriously the most friendly, loveable dogs I've ever met. They love to play and rub up against me when I'm out with them, probably because no one around here considers dogs pets.

And this is Kilonzo and Kioko, our night watchmen who also roam the compound at night. It took a few tries to get Kioko (on the right) to smile, but once I put on his hat we got a smile out of him.
I know the transition back to the US is going to be difficult, leaving my parents, people I have come to love, and the struggles I know many people are going through here in Kenya.

I pray for grace to come back to the US, grace to deal with the guilt and hurt I am going to feel.

See ya'll on the other side of the world...

Monday, July 18, 2011

Blessings!

Dennis, the boy you read about two blogs ago, has been sponsored! Thank you to his sponsor!

God is always looking after his kids :)

Remember, if you'd like to sponsor a child, there are several otehrs just like Dennis who need people to pray for them, love them, and help them with life's essentials.

Visit Saved By God's Grace website to see what you can do!

http://www.savedbygodsgrace.org/external/sponsorship-gallery.html

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Tuonane

We don't say "Goodbye." We say "Tuonane." "Let's see each other again."

The last night with the group we had a drum circle. My new friend Tameira taught me some drumming basics. I need some work ;)

Today I said "Tuonane" (pronounced two-uh-non-ay) to Anastacia and her family who I have come to love. I love her friendship and her family. Anastacia is going to be the house mom for the orphanage my parents are building. Right now she is taking care of her own children (three who live with her, four others who board at schools) and two orphans. She is trying to learn to budget, which can be difficult for anyone, but especially hard when you have to decide between getting rice or beans that day, not between going out for a fancy dinner or eating fast food. Her decisions put all of mine to shame.


Below is me, Isaac, Daniel, and Brian. Anastacia, me, Isaac with his stunna shades, Daniel, and Brian. From left: Jacinta (an orphan being looked after by Anastacia), Anastacia, Edward (Anastacia's son), Erustus (another orphan being looked after by Anastacia), and of course, the boys at the bottom, Daniel (son), Brian(neighbor kid), and Isaac (son). Isaac loves his Transformers stunna shades!







Little Brian is seriously the cutest kid I have ever seen. He is always over at Anastacia's house because he has friends to play with. Anastacia looks after him like he is her own son.
This is my last week. I have to say my tuonanes and get in last minute visits before heading out on Friday. I can't believe my time here is almost over. It feels like I just got here, like I just got home.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

God is Good ALL the Time

A few months ago in the US, my friend Cheryl told me she was going to Africa in the summer. “To Kenya,” she said.

“Wow! Me too!” I told her. “Who are you going with?”

“I’m going with Bush Telegram,” she replied.

“You mean…with Charlotte Barkley?” I asked, astonished.

Charlotte is a good friend of my parents, and a wonderful, world traveled missionary. I couldn’t believe that my friend in the US was going to Kenya the same time I was and was going with a friend of my parents. God does funny things like that.

Charlotte had to leave early on their day of departure, so she asked my dad if him and I would come out to Nairobi and spend the day with Cheryl and the other missionary, Daniel, and get them to their flight on time.

So I got to hang out with my friend in Kenya.We ate lunch at the Ya Ya Center, a mall that rivals any in the US, then traveled a few miles down the road to see Kibera, the biggest slum in Africa.

The contrast is almost unreal, except, we were there. It was real. Kibera is a bit over one mile by one mile long, almost one million people occupying dirty shanty houses for 100 ksh ($1.20) a month.



As we drove through the slum, Cheryl took a picture out the window. A man yelled back in Kiswahili, “Stop taking pictures or we’ll throw stones at you!” Our driver, Willy, decided it was time to get out of there.

Another half mile past Kibera and we were seeing white riders playing polo on a lush green field.

A few days ago we, the group and I, got to go to the home of one of the students at Nice View Academy, Dennis.

At the Academy there are boarders, who stay at the school, and day scholars, who go home at the end of the day. Dennis was asked if he wanted to board at the school because his grandmother is his guardian and is very old, not able to take care of him well. He said he did not want to board because he takes care of his grandma. And he does. He bathes her, helps her get dressed, and begs for food for the both of them.

When we arrived at the apartment, Grandma Rose was out begging for charcoal for the fire. We squeezed into the 6ft x 6ft living space, bringing in some stools from outside for people to sit on. While we waited, Dennis opened up a photo album and sat next to me while I looked through it. I asked him about people in the pictures.

“That’s my mom,” he said. He paused. “She died.” His eyes began filling with tears.

“That’s my dad in the hospital. He was beat by thugs. He is dead now.”

When Grandma Rose arrived, she showed us her hands and feet, deformed from Tuberculosis and probably other diseases that come from untreated illnesses. Both her and her daughter (Dennis’s mom) got TB at the same time. Her daughter died while she lived to take care of her grandkids as well as she could. She has never had enough money to get treated for TB. I looked over at Dennis, his head hung, his eyes to the ground.

“Does it hurt?” we asked.

“Very much,” she replied through our translator, Teacher Jane. “If people say I am lying about not being able to work, I show them my hands. It is plain to see. It hurts very bad. I wear this hat because my hands cannot tie my beautiful scarf around my head anymore.” This statement more than anything made me tear up.

Our friend Tameira reached over and grabbed one of Rose’s deformed hands. She prayed a beautiful prayer of healing over her, praying that God would allow Rose to wear her beautiful scarves once again.
We handed Grandma Rose the gifts of flour, cooking oil, sugar, and milk. We then realized she had nothing to cook these things with since she did not have any charcoal. We gave her a few shilling as we said goodbye, telling her that God had heard her prayers. She never stopped praising God the entire time we were there.

“I keep praying to God,” she says in Kiswahili. “Because God is good.”

This woman whose feet and hands are deformed from Tuberculosis, who is living in pain every day, who is begging for food and charcoal to feet her and her grandchildren…this is the woman who says God is good.

How dare any of us say otherwise.


Dennis is in need of sponshorship, meaning he needs someone to pay for school fees and daily essentials. If you feel led to sponsor a child, visit Saved By God's Grace website to find out how: http://www.savedbygodsgrace.org/external/sponsorship-gallery.html


You can also see more of the group's daily activities by visiting my mom's blog: http://www.savedbygodsgrace.org/external/our-blog.html

Monday, July 11, 2011

Visitors

Our group arrived yesterday and it has been nonstop for them since. One of their group members got stuck in Amsterdam due to passport issues, another arrived this morning, and it has been a crazy introduction to Kenya for them all. I am so grateful to have them here! They are such a blessing to me and my parents and to all the people they will meet while they are here. I painted their bunkhouse before they arrived :) On to the day!

Kids are kids no matter where in the world they are or what language they speak.

We arrived at Nice View at 9:30 am, quickly organizing ourselves and getting right to the day’s activity and lesson on Spiritual Gifts.

Krystylle and her group taught the kids a verse, a song, and American sign language, which they picked up quickly! We also had a game where the kids would take one step for each word of a verse to see who would make it to the finish first, but it just turned into a race, which was ok too.

We then split the kids into two groups, Kindergarted-3rd grade and 4th-8th grade. I was with the group of older students. We spoke about spiritual gifts and then asked them what they would like to be when they grew up, to get a feel for what gifts they already possess. We then split them up by those groups. I had the group of lawyers, politicians, and presidents (which was a great opportunity to remind the kids about what true politicians should be like, not the corrupt, greedy ones Kenya currently has in power). They came up with three things these professions require: responsibility, fairness, and punctuality. I was so happy they were able to come up with those all on their own. We came up with examples for each one, then they claimed their professions by yelling out, “I am a Lawyer!” (or politician or president, depending on which they wanted).

Then it was dance time! We got out the drum (an orange bucket) and let Josephat bang away while we danced. The kids dance with energy and enthusiasm, knocking their knees together and kind of dancing like a chicken… I decided to match their style. The kids started yelling out, “Competition! Competition!” And they grabbed Moses, a skinny kid with a bright white shirt, and threw him into our circle. He started dancing away and I tried to keep up! All the kids loved watching the white girl try to dance like a Kenyan. Some of the girls also taught me some new games while they played with my hair. My hair is fascinating to them because it's so different than theirs. "It's so slippery!" they'll say. Tamera, one of our group members, played the drums with Josephat.


The school day ended, but kids had to wait for the bus to return from its first trip. (There is only one bus, so it has to make two trips to get all the kids home). The girls taught me some games they play and I taught them some as well. Then two girls pulled me aside and reminded me they wanted to be musicians when they grew up. They wondered if I knew any hip-hop music. I remembered that I had brought my Ipod and my speakers, so I ran to the office and grabbed them out of my pack. Soon enough we had a hip hop circle going, Jay-Z, Beyone, Nelly, and, by request from two of the girls, Justin Bieber. That’s right, the Bieb has made it to Kenya. So we rocked out a bit to “Baby, baby, baby ooooh!” These two girls were a bit more western than the rest. They must have tvs at their homes. The one girl started crumping! I was totally impressed.

Other group members came over and we taught the kids how to do the shuffle and the Cha Cha. They thought it was great! My mom is such a goof, I love her <3
At last it was time to head home and let the kids, those who board at the school, get washed up for bed.
One of our group members did get sick from exhaustion, but I know God will bring her comfort and healing. Tomorrow we go on some home visits and then head to Tala market to buy up some Kenyan goodies!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Clemencia and Millie

This blog was hard to write, and may be hard for you to read, but it is life.

“The sharp stink of chicken droppings, the cabbage reek of vegetable rot, the dull grey stench of human effluvia blend with the smoke from charcoal fires and the haze of burning diesel to form a pungent aroma-‘Essence of Slum,’ a parfumier might call it-that clings to shoes and permeates the hair.” – It’s Our Turn To Eat by Michela Wrong (a book banned in Kenya because it exposes the government's corruption and greed).

Out of respect for the people I met and the fact that I was emotionally involved, I have not taken any photos.

This is Clemencia’s story.

I sat on the couch holding Clemencia’s frail hand, watching chickens as they walked in and out of the room. She looked at me and smiled with all the strength she could muster, making her cheeks round and her eyes sparkle. She looked so tired. Clemencia was born HIV positive 19 years ago. She has no family. A woman who could have no children of her own offered to take care of her. Clemencia began getting sick and was taken to the hospital where she was diagnosed with AIDS. She lives in Rhonda, one of Kenya’s slums.

Ben picked me up at 9:30 that morning at a cafĂ©. Ben is a friend of Johnny and Kate’s who ministers to people with AIDS in the slums, offering them medicine and trips to the doctor (when money is provided) or simply a friendly face and a nice chat (when money is not).

We started at the chemist, getting unlabeled pills for headaches from the pharmacist who put them in a brown bag, labeling them, I hope, with their intended use. Then grabbed some porridge made specifically for AIDS patients to boost their immune system. We hopped on a matatu (a bus-taxi) that took us to the entrance of the slums.

We walked through the streets of Warik, stopping to greet folks Ben knew and to shake hands with the kids who peered curiously around corners whispering, “mzungu!” They stared shyly until I waved and greeted them with a typical Kenyan greeting for children, “Sasa.” They would then come in groups responding, “Poa!” Others not so shy would shake my hand, touch my white skin, or try to pick my pockets.

When we arrived at Clemencia’s, she was sitting on the couch looking not over 12 years old, a pile of bones held together by pale black skin and a jacket. I shook her hand and when I went to pull my hand back, she would not let go. I held on to her weak hand and sat next to her, covering her hand in both of mine. I didn’t say a word while Ben and the guardian conversed. I just sat and held her hand. “How much longer can she last?” I wondered.

As we left Ben said to me, “She is very sick, but she cannot make the journey to the hospital. She is too weak to travel these roads. We have to get her better.” Last Thursday, Ben took her to a hospital in Eldoret. She is not doing well and Ben does not know how if she will last. Death is inevitable for us all, but I pray deeply for this girl that her body will start reacting to the ARVs (anti retro virals), but if she is past that stage in her sickness, I pray God will take her peacefully, without pain or suffering. She has already suffered so much in her young life. Taking her home may be the most gracious thing our gracious God can do for her. There are thousands of other Clemencia’s, people with AIDS who have no money for medication, no friends or family to help them, who die without anyone noticing or caring. Clemencia's face will be forever engrained in my mind as a face for all the faceless, nameless people, people who die in the slums everyday without love or care, who die alone. No one should have to die alone feeling unloved like so many do in the slums.

This is Millie’s story.

We had to hurry to the hospital to see Milicent before visiting hours. Milicent (affectionately called Millie) has been held in the hospital against her will because she was not able to pay the hospital bill. In Kenya, this is a typical practice. Patients who cannot pay their bill either stay in the hospital until a family member or friend can pay their debt or until they die. If you die there, your body is thrown in a mass grave. If you have family who can claim your body, they must pay the debt or else your body stays with the hospital.

Rattling was coming from around the corner. Ben leaned toward me and whispered, “That is the sound of death.” Two men pushed a metal coffin through the halls between the patients, either to deposit a body in the morgue or to pick one up from the hospital beds. There are two or three patients to a bed. If your bed partner dies, you simply lay in bed with a corpse until the body can be removed. The sound is a constant reminder to the patients: “This is your future.”

Millie is a single mother from the slums, brought to the hospital because she was so sick with AIDS. She has been detained in the hospital now for over 40 days. Going in to the hospital, she had three children. One was killed while she was held in the hospital, the other two have only been seen a few times begging on the streets. Her house was raided and all her possessions stolen.

On our arrival, Ben said it would only take 3,000 ksh to get her out. The bill was 30,000 but he had told her story and the hospital had dropped it to 3,000. I happened to have exactly 3,000 on me. “Let’s get her out of here,” I told him. We went to the pay station and gave the money to the woman behind the counter. She handed us a receipt that told us she still had a total debt still owed of some 8,900. Ben looked at the receipt with sad eyes. “They are charging her every day she is held here,” he said.

We walked back to Milicent’s bed, bed 10. We stopped in the hallway. Ben looked toward the frail 30 year old who didn’t look over 15. “Poor girl,” he said, his heart breaking, “She’s packing her things.” Indeed she was. Millie was putting her few possessions in a neon orange plastic bag, smiling, ready to be let out of this prison.

Ben called her over, past the people who had showed up for visiting hours to see the others. I cannot speak or understand Kiswahili, but I did not have to in order to know what Ben was telling her. The life suddenly drained from Millie’s eyes. Her face fell. She stood facing us, not knowing where to look, not knowing what had just happened, only knowing she was still not free to find her missing children. I felt her heart breaking all over again, feeling the death of her child, the hopelessness her children on the streets must be feeling.

We left.

On the lawn a group of women wailed in each other’s laps over the death of a loved one. Nearby, some nurses chatted and laughed, hardened to the sadness and death surrounding them.

I cannot tell you in sufficient language the affect these encounters had on me. The first time I tried describing the look on Millie’s face to my parents, I sobbed. When faced with this kind of reality, many people start questioning, “Why God, why do you allow this suffering?” I’ve heard it said that God would reply, “I was going to ask you the same thing.”

If we want to see less hurt, we must begin with ourselves. In the movie Invictus, Nelson Mandela says, “If I cannot change when circumstances demand it, how can I expect others to?” Mandela had to change in order to help his country overcome the hurts of apartheid. If we are expecting others to change, we have to be willing to do so ourselves first. I cannot point to the government, or God, or my neighbors and ask, “Why is there so much suffering?” Instead, I have to point to myself and say, “Do something about it!”

Stop complaining about the world and do something about it. As Gandhi once said, "BE the change you want to see in the world."

Friday, July 8, 2011

Johnny and Kate plus…fourteen

We spent a few days in Nakuru with my parents’ friends, Johnny and Kate Brooks, who have a very interesting ministry. They open their home to orphaned and abandoned Kenyan girls, bringing them into their family. You can check out their site here: http://purechristianity.blogs.com/pure_christianity/who-are-we-what-do-we-do.html

They currently have their own five children plus nine Kenyan girls living there. Fourteen kids in the house make for some interesting stories.

Kate, being a mother of fourteen children, is extremely creative and does all sorts of neat artsy craftsy type stuff that I just had to learn. My first lesson was how to create a makeshift hammock out of an old bed sheet and some tying rope. It held! Makena and Emma enjoyed swinging on it :)
Another new hobby of Kate’s is making her own jewelry with Polymer clay. She taught me how to make ear hangers for my gauged ears. It is time consuming, but being able to wear something that I have created is an awesome feeling, so I will definitely be doing this more often in the States.

Ignore the goofy face and just check out my nifty gauges... I am also wearing my necklace from Tati.

She has also gifted her love of crafting to her girls, like Mary in the picture, who will sit and crochet beautiful scarves, shoes, and knickknacks. As we craft, Kate is multi tasking with her baby Eowyn, beautiful grey eyed baby Eowyn who likes to walk around partially nude and pee when she feels like it, despite if it is on the floor. She tries to give all the signs for going to the bathroom, but sometimes we didn’t catch them quick enough and had to go running for a mop instead. Sometimes one of the girls, like Beatrice, or Johnny in the pictures below, would take Eowyn so mommmy Kate could have a break!
One of the many differences between Tala (where my parents live) and Nakuru is that in Nakuru it rains a lot. Every night there was a thunderstorm, draping the gardens with water, lighting up the sky with lightning.

A few of the girls and I watched the storm one night.

“The rain looks like little pieces of sunshine falling,” said Butterfly, the third biological Brooks.

For some reason this got us talking about what Heaven is like.

“I think Heaven is like a big forest with grapes and we all live wild!” says Butterfly, who doesn’t like brushing her hair or wearing shoes.

“I wish we didn’t have houses,” she continues.

“Why not?” I ask.

“Because I want to live the way God intended us to live. In the wild.”

Makes sense to me.

“You know what I think Heaven is like?” chimed in Makena, the second biological Brooks. “You know the rainbow on the backs of cds? It’s like that, only bluer. And if you wanted something, like chocolate, it would appear before you, and you’d eat it, and then the rest would become blue again. Blue everywhere!”

Every night was a good night at the Brooks.

I slept in the younger girls’ room, me and eight girls. The beds were awesome. They are triple-decker beds with a trundle underneath that creates a fourth bed. There were two of these monstrous beds in the room to handle all eight girls. I slept in Butterfly’s bed, the lowest deck, which she was so kind to offer. Below is a picture of Butterfly and Edith playing in their room. Edith is sitting on the trundle. Thursday night, a school night, Kate came in and prayed with the girls, told them no talking after the lights were out, then turned off the lights. I expected at least a bit of light chitchat, but nope. Dead silent. The next night, Friday, after the lights went out there was a mix of English and Kiswahili being whispered in the dark, girls enjoying their Friday night.

Meals are served assembly line style. A bell is rung signaling the meal is ready. Children come running from all areas of the house, wash their hands (“with soap!” Kate yells after them), and get in line. It’s really remarkable the way they have a system for everything, a system that works for everyone. In this picture, we are missing three of the girls who had already left the table. But you can get an idea of how tight they are packed in! One day we went to the Curio Market in downtown Nakuru. Now, this place happens to be a tourist trap, Kenyans toting their wares for triple the price they sell them to other Kenyan. Luckily, Kate knows Kiswahili.

The one thing I really wanted to buy was a Jembe drum, a drum I always wished I could bring to the drum circle on Venice Beach in California, a drum that in the United States is way too expensive.

At the market, two men came up with their drums. I chose one and negotiations began. He started at 6,000 ksh (about $75 USD, an amount no Kenyan would be able to pay). Now it was Kate’s turn to get in the guy’s face. I didn’t have to know the language to know that Kate was doing a “You ought to be ashamed trying to screw these people” mama voice. I could actually see the shame in this guy’s eyes, knowing he was selling me something at triple the price because I was white and didn’t know the language.

After walking away a few times, and being chased after a few times, we finally settled on 2,200 ksh (about $28 USD). I have a beautiful, legit, African Jembe drum, for less than 30 bucks. Thank goodness for Kate and her negotiating skillz!

Here you will see my new drum, earrings, and Tusker, THE beer of Kenya, all in front of my mosquito net. I haven't tried the beer yet...

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Back again

Seems I'm always on the go out here in good ol' "don't chase time, let time chase you" Kenya.

I will be updating my blog tomorrow, informing you of my time in Nakuru with the Brooks family in the city and in the slums.

Stay tuned!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Daily Doings

I have done a few new things since being here.

I have hand washed my clothes.
I have messed with a pregnant cow (at least we hope she’s pregnant…)
I sat in on a Kenyan English class. I'm the one in the back, blending into the wall.
I have used a latrine…this picture is not me using it…Dad was showing me what the walls are made of (sand-it smells like the beach in the latrine, for now anyway).
(I have also picked ticks off a cat and dog, but that is a story for another time...)

But, the best part is, I met Tati.
When my parents met Tati, he was 13 and taking care of himself. He went to school, did his homework, cooked his own meals, and put himself to bed since his mom was usually gone for the week, working for someone outside the village.

Since then, my parents have helped him out in his mother’s absence. He began writing to me a few years ago and we have kept up correspondence. Yesterday, I was able to finally meet him in person.

He is a soft spoken, God loving, justice loving 16 year old with a passion for math and a dream of becoming a college professor (or a pilot, if that’s doesn’t work out). We hung out talking at Nice View Academy. He listened to my Ipod and I let him mess with it to find something he liked. He ended up really liking Ingrid Michaelson, which I’m pretty happy about because I love her.

He told me about his school and about fighting injustice and corruption. I warmed up some chapatti at home and taught him how to play Dutch blitz.

We hung out again a few days later after his math competition. We again played Dutch Blitz, a game he has come to love, and I tried to learn a little more about him. He's not much of a talker, so that was a bit difficult. He also brought me a present. I will post pictures of that in a few days. Those pictures are on my computer.

At the moment I am on my mom's computer because I turned my computer off because the electricity went out about 7 hours ago and my battery doesn't last long. We ate dinner by candlelight (which, my mom says, was nice the first time it happened, but gets old fast, especially when the electricity goes out for weeks at a time). I cleaned the dishes, mom went to bed to try to get rid of a headache, dad got on the computer. The generator was turned on for two hours, so we enjoyed a bit of light to read and work by.

It is now 10:30 pm, Wednesday June 29th and the house is dark except for the computer screen and a single flashlight down the hall to navigate me to my room. The dogs outside will bark occasionally, scaring me nearly to death, and the mosquitoes continue to buzz around my head.

Tomorrow we head to Nakuru to visit some friends. I will be back next week. <3

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Mwafrica!

Today was a day of laughter.

I am learning that a good way to accept aspects of a culture that drives you crazy a lot of times, is to laugh about it. Instead of complaining that kids are rude and yell “White person!” at you as you walk down the street, or that even businesses can’t spell correctly, make it a joke and let it roll off your shoulders.

Thinks kids say here that can get annoying (my dad pointed out the irony that after talking about misspellings, I write "thinks" instead of "things." Sometimes you have to laugh at yourself too!):

As the truck is driving by and the kids are coming up to the window with their hands out, “How are you sweeeeet?”

Meaning, “I’m greeting you, but all I really want is for you to give me a sweet (lollipop).”

“Mzungu!” Meaning, “White person.” Like walking around in the US and instead of calling out to someone politely, they’d say, “Hey you, black guy!” Nice right?

Or another good one, “Give me something!” “Kitu kidogo!” They don’t ask. They tell.

Today we learned a retaliation to these. Instead of just saying, “Hapana,” No, when someone yells “Mzungu,” we can yell back “Mwafrika!” African! Pronounced Mwah-FREAKA!

On the way home from the farm today, some kids ran up beside the truck and started yelling, “Sweet! Sweet!” meaning they wanted a lollipop. I yelled out my open window, “Hapana!” He retaliated, “Mzungu!” Using this wonderful chance to apply my new word, I yelled back, “Mwafrika!” I’m pretty sure he didn’t know what to say or do after that.

Everyone in the truck, including my dad’s Kenyan friend Bosco, had a good laugh.

Another amazing laughable moment was at the same time we learned about Mwafrika. Mom and I were sitting in the truck laughing about that word when I looked over at the general store and where it was supposed to say, “Plumbing materials,” it read, “Plumping materials.” Mom and I burst out laughing wondering what exactly they were plumping and what materials were necessary to do so.

Sometimes you just have to laugh about these things.

Waiting

As we drive through the villages, the towns, and the cities, I watch out the window as dozens of Kenyans line the roads. They stand or sit on the side of the roads, lying in the dirt or next to grazing cattle, chatting in groups, or staring solemnly into the sky, alone. My initial thought was, “Everyone must be taking a break.”

After a while I realized this was not a break at all. This was an all day, every day sight. There is nothing for anyone to do. They are all just waiting. Kenya has a 40% unemployment rate (http://www.cia.gov/) and all people can do is sit around and see if anyone will hire them to do something, anything: wash a car, pick tomatoes in a shamba (garden), style hair, carry groceries, change a tire… When you don’t know a trade, and have nothing to eat, you will do anything you can to make money. Thus the 50% of the population living below poverty level. And I don't mean United States "poverty." I mean true poverty, can't get a meal because NOTHING, no shelter, no relatives, no job search agency is available to you.
I was reminded of Dr. Seuss in “Oh! The Places You’ll Go.”

“The Waiting Place…for people just waiting.

Waiting for a train to go or a bus to come, or a plane to go or the mail to come, or the rain to go or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow or waiting around for a Yes or No or waiting for their hair to grow. Everyone is just waiting.

Waiting for the fish to bite or waiting for wind to fly a kite or waiting around for Friday night or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake or a pot to boil, or a Better Break or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants or a wig with curls, or Another Chance. Everyone is just waiting.”

It is a terrible, terrible cycle. The government is corrupt, steals money, and doesn’t pay their workers. Therefore, people are poor. Since people are poor and cannot afford good food, hygiene, or education, they cannot become educated and learn a skill or even just live a healthy lifestyle. Because they are poor and cannot become educated or feel like they can change their society, they do not stand up to their corrupt government who is stealing all the money. The government keeps raising prices of food, education, and housing. The people still cannot afford those things and live in squalor. The rich stay rich and the poor stay poor.
There are some rays of hope, I have found.

Yesterday, my mom and I visited Nice View Academy, the school that Saved By God’s Grace helps sponsor kids through. I sat in on the English class and Social Studies class just to get a feel for their education. I was expecting poor quality, since much of Kenyan workmanship is poor quality (I have found). But I was pleasantly surprised when the English teacher taught an entire lesson, doing everything I was taught to do through ASU’s College of Teacher Education and Leadership. After class I told the teacher what a great job she did and how I was very impressed with her grasp of the subject matter. I also praised her to the principal, so I think she was happy about that.

I did notice something interesting though. Whenever the teacher asked a question with an answer directly from the text like “What was the president’s name in this story?” or “Who was speaking?” hands would raise across the room begging to be chosen to give their answer. However, whenever she would ask a “why” question like “Why did they need extra security at the Olympics?” the room grew dead silent and students sat quiet at their desks. It wasn’t that the question was difficult. It was simply because it required critical thinking, not just looking for the answer in the text.

This is something my parents and I have had many conversations about, the much needed ability of Kenyans, or rather people in poverty, to think critically. And it all goes back to that vicious cycle. The British colonized Kenya back in the day, creating stores, hospitals, and educational facilities. When Kenyans said, “We want to take over now.” The British said, “Ok. Peace.” And they left without teaching Kenyans how to run anything. The things left over from the British eventually went into ruin and Kenyans had to figure out how to do all these things on their own. They have done a good job at piecing things together as they fall apart, or simply leaving them there and getting accustomed to broken things. They’ve become accustomed to poor quality workmanship and poor living conditions because of this. They have grown so used to living day to day that when a problem is posed involving planning for the future, they have no idea how to solve it. They’ve never had to. Nothing is guaranteed to them.

Their own government can’t issue mandatory ID cards because they ran out of paper.

Yeah, that’s right. The freaking government ran out of paper.

How does this happen you ask? Well, the government doesn’t pay their paper vendor, so the paper vendor stops giving them paper. Instead of paying the vendor, the government just says, “We’ll just wait and make all these people that require these MANDATORY IDs stick it out.” Then when they’re ready to pay the vendor, the vendor again gives them paper because he can’t move on to anyone else because no one else is demanding his paper, so he sticks to the government who screws him over.

Vicious.

How can you care to better yourself, let alone your country, when your own government officials are corrupt, don’t give a crap about you, monopolize the markets, and steal their own country’s income?

There’s no point.

Therefore, you learn to do the bare minimum to get the most money, do everything with poor quality because that’s what you and everyone around you has learned to expect, trash the streets because no one cares to clean it up, and steal from each other because that’s what your society and government has taught you.

It’s easy, as an American who expects people to do their best and at the very least act with goodwill toward one another, to get frustrated with the culture.

But, like the teaching at the Academy, there are bits of hope.

Some Kenyans we know have traveled and have seen how other parts of the world work and live and the opportunities available. They see that and want better for Kenya…they just have to put it into action.

There are also beautiful aspects of community here. There is a group of women called a Merry-Go-Round who get together and put in 200 ksh each month (about $2.50USD). Each month one of the women gets to collect the money and use it for her family. Isn’t that the Gospel in action right there?

At Bosco’s daughter’s birthday, the whole family was there and all the neighbors too. We all celebrated and laughed together. Community.
Poverty can pull people together or tear them apart. To love your neighbor as yourself is a hard concept to grasp when you’re the neighbor who needs some love and no one is helping. But beautiful things can happen in the midst of poverty, lonliness, and frustration when God opens a door or a window and makes an opportunity to show a little love.