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


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.


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 ( 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.


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.

Monday, June 20, 2011


Sunday we headed over to Horec, Hope for Orphans Rescue Center. Funny story: My dad had a friend in high school named Jeff, his chemistry lab partner when he was 16 years old. He hasn’t seen this guy in 30 years. Through facebook he finds out that Jeff is involved with an orphanage named Horec, the same orphanage that is less than a mile down the road from the orphanage my parents are building. Small world, right?

We spent the day with the kids, handing out sweets (lollipops), singing, and talking.

Thanks to my mom for taking beautiful pictures.

Masai Village

The next day we got into the van at 7am for an all day drive. The most incredible animal sight was the hippo and crocodile. We got out of the van and were guided down the river bank by an armed guard who pointed out crocodiles waiting for a kill and hippos pulling themselves out of the water for an afternoon siesta on the beach.

But the most amazing part of the whole Safari, for me, was a visit to a Masai Village. The Masai tribe is the most known tribe of Kenya, the ones you see on the Discovery channel with the bright clothes, jumping. They have learned that tourism is here to stay, so they may as well make money on the deal. For 1,000 ksh (1,000 shilling = 12 USD US Dollars) you will have a guide through their village, into their homes, and who will answer all your questions about their culture.

Young Masai men greeted us with a traditional dance, taking turns jumping, trying to outdo one another.

They make deep throaty noises that my dad and I previously thought were Didgeridoo (that Australian instrument you hear in Outback commercials). But it’s not. It’s their voices. When I get back to the States I will put up several videos of the Masai and all our other outings. This internet connection is weak and won’t let me upload videos.

Our guide took us to a group of women making jewelry. My mom and I squatted down near the women to get a better look. A woman making a necklace turns to my mother, hands her the necklace and thread, and shows her how to make it. Some Masai woman is wearing a necklace my mom helped make.

I looked around at the children sitting with us. “This is Africa,” I thought as I watched flies cover their faces, poking around the corners of their eyes. The children smiled and laughed through the flies, not even seeming to notice their presence. All except the little baby in the grandma’s arms who was crying his head off, his eyes so thoroughly covered with insects he couldn’t even open them. The flies are consistent because they own so many animals that live right with them by their houses.

I took pictures of the kids, then watched them smile and giggle as I showed them the pictures from my camera.

We entered one of their houses, rounded a corner, and could no longer see. Mom and dad both had on their prescription sunglasses, so they were totally blind. A Masai man hidden in the corner grabbed my mom’s arm and guided her to the bench below her. We all sat down opposite a fire, behind it a kitchen. To the right of the kitchen, a storage area. To the left, the parent’s bed. To the right of us on the benches, the kids’ room. The whole house was as big as my hotel room.

We asked some questions that our guide happily answered. The Masai are polygamist, move every nine years, eat mostly meat and few veggies, now have a primary school, and own a lot of animals.

The ears: Have you noticed, if you’ve seen the Masai, that some of their ears have those big holes in them, like someone took out their gauges? There is a reason for this. Since formal education has never been part of the Masai culture, it is a very new things for them. To meet this change, the Chief of each village decides who will be formally educated and who will remain cultural. Those who go to school keep their natural ears. Those who remain cultural get their ears “cut.”

One Masai flipped his open hole over his ear. He said this was so it did not get caught when he was hunting.

Another interesting fact about the Masai: After a male is circumcised, signifying adulthood, he must go out into the wilderness for 3-5 months and learn to survive. In his first year of manhood he must also kill a lion. The park rangers are trying to persuade the Masai to stop this ritual because of the dwindling lion population, but the Masai don’t seem ready to give up an age old tradition just yet.

They took us into the market area where each clan has their own little shop (most of their income is now from tourists). We were immediately swarmed by women offering jewelry and knickknacks. A man stopped me at a table and began putting bracelets on my arm, telling me to buy one.
I didn’t really want one since I know we are going to Masai Market in a few weeks, but since I was there I felt guilty (that’s their trick!).

“Gape?” I asked. How much?
“500,” he said. Remember, this is all in shilling. 80 shilling = 1 USD
“Hapana,” I said. No. “100.”
“For you, 400,” he replied.
I looked at him sternly so he would know I was serious. “200,” I said again.
“Ok, 250.”

The deal was made. 250 shilling = about 3 dollars. I’ll get my bargaining skills sharpened by the time we go to market.

Dad then tried to trade me to the Masai. The guide offered ten cows, but dad thought I was worth at least 15. Lucky for me the guide did not agree. So I got back in the van and we headed back to the hotel.

Since it had rained the night before, we had to drive through wet cotton soil, soil in which you sink, slip, and slide. Moses gunned the engine and shifted into high gear. Mud clods spun from the wheels into the window and we jumped out of the rut. Moses turns to us with a smile and says, “Four wheel drive!” Every time we hit a pot hole we thought our van was going to die.
Finally, on the drive home, it did. The clutch stopped working and we stopped on the side of the road. As we waited for another Safari van to help, a Masai woman wandered over to see what was going on and tried to sell me the necklace off her neck. Moses then started in second gear and drove us slowly, without shifting, to Narok, a nearby village where it took the mechanic 15 minutes to install a new clutch spring.

We then headed back to the hotel through the jittery, pot holed roads. Once there we met Babu Lonnie, a friend of Johnny and Kate Brookes, friends of my parents. You can visit their blog here to see what they do in Kenya to help orphaned/abandoned girls:

The Big Five

*Disclaimer: some of these pictures are mine and some are my moms. We share :)

In the morning, we were picked up by our Safari guide, Moses. We began weaving through Nairobi bumper car traffic. Things smoothed out a bit as we drove on a road created and maintained by the Chinese. We passed an old church made by Italian prisoners of war. We rounded a corner, and there before us, a green Grand Canyon, a deep ongoing chasm, The Great Rift Valley.

I became small and insignificant looking at that valley that stretched forever before me.

Then the good roads disappeared.

For three hours we dodged potholes, weaved around muddy banks, and drove off-road to avoid the terrible pavement, our teeth chattering and heads pounding the whole way.

Getting out of the van at the hotel was like coming out of a concert: I couldn’t hear all that well and I had some slight back pain going on.

A beautiful lady at our beautiful hotel (that's my mom!):

We put our stuff down, ate lunch, then got back into the van for our first game drive. We saw three of the big five that day, as well as some others: elephants, buffalo, and lions, all within a few feet of the van.

We also drove along the border of Kenya and Tanzania. The rock is the border.

That's Tanzania in the background. I know, doesn't look much different than Kenya...

That night we got to see a hyena feeding. Two men carried a big bucket of bones out to the yard, the hyenas pacing silently through the trees. The bones were dumped at 10:00pm. By 10:02pm, the bones were gone and the hyenas laughed loudly in the forest, enjoying their feast.

That night it rained. Thunder and lightning rolled across the savanna.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

It’s only been a week?

I arrived Thursday, June 9th. Friday we spent at the farm; Saturday we went to a birthday party; Sunday mom and I played cards and made food; Monday we left for safari; Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday were spent on Masai Mara, Friday was spent in Nairobi’s malls, Saturday we went grocery shopping and came back home, Sunday we spent the day at Horec, a children’s home (orphanage) with a friend of my dad’s that he hasn’t seen since high school 30 years ago.

Today (Monday) I will stay home and make a blog, read my bible, and watch a movie with my mom. I will be posting this last week in blog increments since there is so much information. Today's blog is just about heading to Nairobi. The following blogs will be about the Safari and after.

I think it was on Tuesday I told my parents, “I can’t believe I’ve been here for a week and a half already!” They looked at me oddly and said, “You’ve only been here five days… You got here last week.” We had been doing so much since my arrival I figured I couldn’t have just gotten there the week before. And then I realized how awesome that was because I’ve got more time here than I thought!

Packing with Patches

Let me start with the drive to Nairobi…

Tala traffic jam

I knew we were getting closer to Nairobi as the smell of diesel became more prominent, the cattle jams became less frequent, and the two lane streets swelled with cars to become three. Our driver, Willy, dodged pedestrians and cars like a pro, weaving his way through outrageous traffic. There are no streetlights: cars shove themselves where they want while pedestrians shove themselves between cars.

We arrived at Hampton House, a missionary hotel, but our room wasn’t ready so we headed to Sarit Center, an American type mall in the heart of Kenya. Once in that mall I could have sworn I was back in the States. The food was American, the service was American, the prices were American. The 3D movie (Kung Fu Panda 2) was American. How can this exist in the same area where I just saw street vendors and dirty alleyways, and right around the corner from one of the biggest slums in Africa?

3D movie

We headed back to the hotel for the night.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

On Safari

I will be taking a small hiatus from my blog while I am on safari this week.

We are leaving in a few hours to head to Nairobi to stay the night. We will get picked up tomorrow morning at 7am, drive 6 hours to Masai Mara, then head to our first afternoon safari.

Wednesday we will be on safari all day. Thursday we will do an early morning safari to see the big cats in action, then head back to Nairobi to stay the night.

I will be back to my computer on Friday-ish.

I will have lots of pictures and stories!

Enjoy your week!

Coletta's Birthday Party

We pulled up to the party in dad’s truck, Pastor Joseck, Isaac, and Daniel in the back, energized from the rocky roads surrounded by pricker bushes that made a terrible scratching sound against the truck as we drove by.

We were greeted by the whole party singing us into the backyard where there was a makeshift tarp covering 30 some plastic chairs which kept moving over as the sun moved eastward.

We were given the seats of honor at the front, facing the rest of the guests, including the birthday girl. I’m told this is customary for white visitors. Kenyans are honored to have white people in their homes, so they make them feel special (or a bit weird as was my case) by letting everyone stare at them the whole party. I guess I didn’t really mind so much since I knew this was something that made Bosco and his family feel special since they got to show off their mzungu (white) friends.

Bosco’s brother got the program started by announcing prayer. God was invited into the procession.

Mom and I then cut the cake she brought. I realized then that I love this culture—dessert before lunch! Little Coletta, with the help of her uncles, went around with a piece of cake and a fork and gave a forkful to each of her family members starting with the children, then immediate family, then Mama Bosco, and Mwaitu (respectful name for the elderly).

During the whole program, the family members showed deep respect for the elderly, saying that this party was a celebration of life, young Coletta’s life and the aged life of Mwaitu, the matriarch, the tree from which the branches have grown.

We then ate a delicious buffet lunch of potatoes, beef, chicken, rice, tomatoes, and chapatti. Then it was time for the best part for Coletta: the gifts! Coletta came up front, standing behind a bowl into which she would delicately place each present after receiving it. Her dad presented her with a book, then her mom gave her a sweater, then Mama Bosco and Mwaitu, then the honored guests (us) gave her gifts (some toys and a stuffed animal), then everyone else.

We took lots and lots of pictures. Even though they would never see these pictures again, everyone wanted me to take their picture. Maybe this was their way of being remembered. If I have pictures of them, I will have reminders of their lives. How could I forget these beautiful people? Then came a surprise for Anastacia, my mom, and me. Mama Bosco came up and bestowed upon the three of us a kiondo (traditional Kenyan basket with a rope that is used to carry things on your back). Mama Bosco kept saying things in Kikamba (a tribal language) and then everyone would laugh. I swear she was saying, “Look at these white people who don’t understand a word I am saying!”

Everyone then sang and prayed over Bosco’s family and the party came to a close. “But we are not kicking you out,” said Bosco’s brothers. “Stay and greet with us!” So we stayed and greeted. I taught Isaac how to use my camera.

And I held baby Manuel. Then we headed off for home with kiondos, pictures, and beautiful memories of beautiful people.