Habari yako, rafiki! (How are you, friends!)
That’s right, watch out I’m dangerous. I know just enough Swahili to get me into trouble now. My Kikuyu is even worse, I only know about three things in that tribal language. Kikuyu are the largest tribe in Kenya. The current Kenyan President, His Excellency Kibaki, is Kikuyu and my host family, Rose and Moses Mbugua, are Kikuyu. I have sat through church in both Swahili and Kikuyu and don’t really have a clue with either one, but praise God for His Holy Spirit that allows all tribes and tongues to worship the same, one and true God together. Amen? Amen!
Figure 1-3: Within the first twenty-four hours Alida and I walked to the nearest Java House where I had my new favorite beverage, a Malindi Chai Latte.
I made it to Nairobi, Kenya, with no major problems. I switched airlines at the London/Heathrow airport and had to go through customs to get my luggage and get to the new airline. That was a hassle, but I survived and arrived with all of my luggage, praise the Lord. I also now have an England stamp on my passport. London is really tight on security and luggage allotments, just be forewarned.
Alida met me at the airport with the taxi driver and it was so good to hear her voice. God is good. He knows what we need and provides. I needed a familiar face and there was Alida, broken hand and all. I was dropped off at my guest house where I stayed for the weekend. I made it to my room about 10:30 pm or so and just stood there crying, “I’m here. I’m here. I’m here. I’m really, finally here.” It was overwhelming to finally have made it to my destination. My orientation had all been valuable but it was long and it was so good to be in Kenya.
These are my host parents. I moved into their home the following Monday and stayed for a week. I’ve been living there off and on since my arrival depending on my work schedule. May I introduce Rose and Moses Mbugua. They are Kikuyu and live in a village outside of Nairobi on a farm, unlike those back home. They are business people and have three grown children. I have met their oldest daughter, Joyce, and her daughter who only speaks Swahili and calls me her friend. Below are photos of our house and things from the farm or nearby. Rose raises about 100 chickens as layers. They also have four cattle, with one that is producing milk and they have a small herd of sheep. Moses also decided to plant about 300 birds of paradise because he thinks that they are beautiful and they sell well. The below flower is one that is just in the front yard.
Figure 2: This is a fruit growing in the front yard and is called a tree tomato. I don't know if we have these in the States or not. I hadn't had one. It has a tangy-bitter taste and the seeds, which are what you eat, look like tomato seeds.
Figure 3: These are coffee beans from a nearby farm. They are picked when they are red and then shelled. They are then dried and shelled again. The bean that's inside is what is roasted and ground for coffee.
I’ve only been with my family for two Sundays. The first Sunday we went to both the English and Kikuyu services. It’s not uncommon for visitors to stand and introduce themselves, so Moses taught me to greet the congregation in Kikuyu and they all applauded and giggled. It was fun. The two highlights of attending the church there (it’s ACK – Anglican Church of Kenya, a large denomination here similar to Episcopal) were the dear retired teacher that translated during the Kikuyu service and a member of the youth (youth here is differently defined). The following Saturday I was in downtown Nairobi and just sitting down at a coffeeshop to wait for Alida. A young woman stopped to shake my hand and I had no idea why. When she started talking she told me she was from church. I recognized her at that point and it was such a blessing to me! I thanked her for stopping to greet me and that I really appreciated it. I was about to burst with the excitement of it all. I hadn’t been in the country for three weeks yet and had already run into someone I “knew” in downtown. Thank you, Jesus!
The other Sunday, Moses and I went to a different church for a special fundraiser that they call a harambe. The top photo is of me in a tea field because we were in the Limuru area which is known for its tea. I hope to take more time in that area someday and really take a tour – some of you know my tea addiction. This may not be a good idea, but I’m going anyway!
Figure 4: This is Moses holding a hand of dried rice that is ready to be hulled. Part of the area that we traveled through has marvelous rice and we pulled over to look and purchase. It really is good. That is the rice drying on a tarp below Moses's hand.
Figure 5: On our way back we stopped at the Del Monte shop near the hectares and hectares of Del Monte pineapples. We bought pure juice and fresh pineapples. This is Mary and I with the best pineapple I've ever eaten.
I moved with my family on Monday and on Tuesday took a road trip to Embu for a partner meeting that my host father is a part of. It was he and Mary, a neighbor and friend who is a pastor in the ACK. The meeting, praise God, was in English, but I am not always good with this new accent so I didn’t understand everything.
The next week Moses dropped me off at a different guest house where I would stay for two weeks and take Swahili lessons. Alida and I shared a room for a week before she left for Eldoret, northwest of Nairobi, where she is working at a hospital with community health. The next photos are all from our adventures while living near downtown Nairobi.
Figure 6: Nearby was the “safest street in Nairobi” right in front of the Israeli Embassy. We snuck some photos from down the street.
Figure 7: It's almost election time here in Kenya and this is a rally for the incumbent, Kibaki. The banner reads “Vijana kwa Kibaki” or Youth for Kibaki. However, I discovered the “youth” means anyone 40 or so and younger. Hooray! I'm a youth!?
Figure 8: This was a big day. We went to the Village Market which was not what we expected but an upscale mall full of ex-patriots. The best part of the day was that I bought my first Dr. Pepper since the day I left Kansas in July. IT WAS TASTEY!
Figure 9: This is where I took my language lessons. Ruth was the mwalimu (teacher) and Sister Svetha was the other student in my class. We had our lessons each morning in the hut behind Sister. Right near downtown, we had class in a hut.
This is from an email that I sent to a friend while I was in language school. It really says where I’ve been and sometime still am now. “I'm getting used to being here slowly but surely. It's so different when you're in another country and/or culture longer than a few weeks. I still occasionally am amazed that I am here particularly when I'm sitting in my room and then breakfast which is fairly western. Then I walk outside into my language class which even though we are a stone's throw from downtown Nairobi, is in a hut. Sitting there with my classmate, a Catholic Sister from India, learning Swahili from a Kenyan I realize, ‘Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore.’”
Figure 10: Family is important here and families get together on average once a month as an entire extended family. This is the home of one of Moses' brothers. The women were making that much tea because there were so many people there.
Figure 11: It may be a rural area but there are apartments going up everywhere. Nairobi is expensive and so people live outside of town and commute. Sound familiar?
There is much more to say and not enough room to share it all with you. I encourage you to check out my blog at http://www.rubyslipperlady.wordpress.com/. There are links to more photos and a lot of other great information like shopping, language and resources. I try to keep it pretty updated.
I have my own office now and have started decorating with pictures and postcards from home, my books and some Kenyan treasures, and of course, a map of Kansas (thanks to the Lazy T!). I’m getting settled in even more next week when I move into my own apartment. I don’t have any furniture really yet, but that will come. Someone is loaning me a mattress until I can find a bed. I’m hoping that Moses will help me buy some great furniture and then that we’ll be able to find a way to carry it to the fourth floor. The apt. is close enough to walk to the office and I’m close to a couple of grocery stores, at least three shopping areas, several restaurants and a couple of churches. Since I will not have a vehicle here those are great things. We’re guessing it will take 30 minutes to walk to work. Guess I need to start getting up earlier.
Earlier this month we had an HIV/AIDS Learning Tour here from North America. There were six participants and we all learned so much. I will be much more involved in the future but since this was three weeks after my arrival, I really was learning right alongside the participants. It was tremendous. We traveled, visited, ate, learned, and shopped with villagers where CRWRC is working in amazing ways. God is alive and well here. There is poverty, there is disease, but there is a mighty, mighty God that we all serve and He is above all of that and the hope that we saw will not be easily forgotten by any of us who were there.
I am blessed to be here and am reminded of each of you often and that you make it possible for me to be here. I have heard from many of you that you pray for me often and I thank you and I thank God for those prayers often. I know that they have pulled me through on more than one occasion. I want you to know that I thank God for you and pray for each of you often as well. I miss you. I really do and I value every personal email and letter and postcard that I receive from you. They are saved in a special mailbox in my email or posted in my office.
My US supervisor, Ruth, was here from Grand Rapids this past month and I have validated that the current plan is for me to be in the States in June 2008. Beyond that there are not details but I plan to be in Minnesota and all over Kansas and I look forward to hearing about you. However, there’s no need to wait that long, drop me a line now and let me know what’s going on in your life. Share with me the everyday and the amazing. I want to hear all about how God is working in your life just as I am sharing how he is working in mine.
I cannot thank you enough for all of your support and I will leave you with my mailing address here in Nairobi, my blog and email addresses and photos of the HIV/AIDS Learning Tour.
May each of you be blessed. Godspeed,
PO Box 66490, Westlands
00800, Nairobi, Kenya
Figure 12: These girls are in sewing class to become tailors. It is a two-year program. The 'trousers' hanging are sewn on paper because it's cheaper than material.
Figure 13: Stephan, me and Nema sit in the clinic waiting room while one of the tour participants has an HIV/AIDS test done. Stephan is a program consultant and Nema is the HIV/AIDS Coord. for East and South Africa in the CRWRC.
Figure 14: This is an HIV/AIDS test. The person's blood is on the end and it takes only 15 minutes for the results. One of things that this community asked us to share was that you need to know your status. Don't be afraid to be tested.
Figure 15: This how we often wash our hands prior to eating. Someone pours the water and you often don't have soap. You sometimes get a napkin to dry your hands.
Figure 16: We didn't speak the same language but the children loved to have their photo taken and then see it on the screen of my digital camera. When we arrived they were working on their alphabets by writing them in mud. That's way more fun than paper!
Figure 17: In each village we met the mamas (grannies) who were raising their grandchildren and other children in the community whose parents had died of AIDS. Here they are singing a song for us and then showing us baskets and purses they make to sell.
Figure 18: What would a good Dutch CRC trip be without a picture of a little Dutch girl in front of a windmill? This is a CRWRC board member who is indeed Dutch from NW Iowa. We all shared Wilhelmina's in the van.
Figure 19: We met several people who were HIV + or who were caring for those who were. These people have hope and joy and in turn gave us that hope as well. Knowing someone's status is a personal decision to tell. I cannot offer that information to you.
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