Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Hello friends!

I thought I would update you on the Adventure Kenya 2006. Dayn (my brother) and I got back from the coast on Wednesday, Dec. 20th. We had a day in Nairobi to gather ourselves, find enough sleeping bags for everyone, and then we headed out for our safari on Friday, Dec. 22nd. Dayn and I joined up with one of my roommates, Jen, 4 of her family members who are visiting, and another teacher named Esther. We met our driver at a shopping center near our house, and after “settling the bill” we began our journey to the Maasai Mara.

We loaded up in a 10-seater safari van, fully-equipped with rear wheel drive. It was practically a full day’s journey just to get to the Mara. As soon as we got on the dirt road to go to the park, we knew we were in for an adventure. It had been raining for several days prior to our arrival, and the road that was bad to begin with was nearly impossible to drive on. But our driver was amazing. There were countless places where I thought we would need a helicopter to rescue us (and I was pretty sure those weren’t very accessible in Kenya), but somehow, with a lot of jostling of the vehicle, we would get through. It was a amazing. There was one part of the road that had actually been washed away, and we had to drive through the river. We had a great caravan going on. There were about 8 of these safari vans driving the “road” and we would all get through one tough spot, wait for the others to get through, and the move on to the next. When we would stop and wait, all the little Maasai children would come up to us and say, “sweet?” or “pen?” or “picture book?” or “watch?” I’m assuming these are all things that other people have given them in the past. I tried to explain that sweets were bad for them and that they wouldn’t have such nice teeth if they ate them, but for some reason they didn’t understand what I was saying to them. Go figure.

As soon as we got to the park, we went for our first game drive. It was a beautiful landscape with rolling green hills and abundant wildlife. We saw the usual gazelles, antelope, impala, and zebras. And as we proceeded further into the park, we saw our first lion from a distance. It reminded me of a song... Anyway, it was quite thrilling to see it attacking something in the bushes. We didn’t have much time in the park before dark, so after watching the lion for a while, we went back to our campsite. We stayed in canvas tents that had tin roofs over the top. The camp is run by a group of Maasai people, and they cooked delicious food for us. We met a bunch of other young travelers, and it was fun to hear how everyone ended up in Kenya, and how we all ended up camping together. That night there was a thunder storm, and it rained all night.

In the morning, it was still raining. We had to delay our departure time because with the roads that wet, we weren’t going to go much of anywhere. After waiting for an hour or so, the rain let up and we began our drive into the park. We saw many of the same animals we had seen the previous day. On top of those animals, we saw a large herd of elephants. They were so close that we could see all the wrinkles on their thick skin, and I didn’t have to zoom in with the video camera. It was an awesome sight to behold at least 10 of them altogether - some old, some young. Later on we saw the awkwardly beautiful giraffes. They are by far my favorite animals to watch because they are so unique-looking.

After eating lunch, we spotted a male lion fairly close to the road. We drove up close to him, and he got up and moved. So our driver turned the van around and drove up next to him again. The lion got up and moved again, and we proceeded this way for a good 15 minutes. I took video of a lot of it, and there were times where the lion could easily have jumped up and knocked the camera right out of my hands. It was quite a thrilling experience and rivaled my giraffe-chasing adventure. What a beautiful creature!

We spent the entire day in the park, seeing animal after animal. After my two summers of guiding tours in Alaska, I had grown accustomed to seeing a few bears, a moose, some caribou, and considering that a pretty good day. But the wildlife here was just abundant. I could hardly believe it. In Denali, sometimes we just had bad days in the park where we saw practically nothing. I don’t think you could have a bad day in the Mara. We didn’t see leopards, cheetahs, or hippos, but we saw almost everything else. I’m hoping to be able to post some pictures later on, but because I am now working with a computer from the stone age, Dayn and I are having some technical difficulties getting his pictures on here. But we will find a way. For now you just get to imagine all these things I am trying to describe.

Day 3 of our safari (Christmas Eve), we took a short drive into the park and then packed up camp. We left the camp around 10:30 A.M. and got stuck within the first 5 minutes of our drive. We tried pushing, but we were too deep in the mud to get ourselves out. Our driver called someone to come pull us out, and after about 40 minutes we were back on the road again. We got stuck a few other times, which meant we would get out, push, get back in, and then keep going. We went about 24 miles in 2 ½ hours. Eventually we came to a place where about 10 vans were waiting in line to pass through mud that came up to our knees. Some of our fellow campers had left at 8:00 that morning. Our van had left at 10:30, and we caught up with them at this place. Dayn and I helped push our van. We were knee deep in mud, surrounded by other Kenyans and Maasai people, rocking this van, pushing it, rocking it some more. And then its wheels finally started to roll. What a team effort it was! Dayn and I were filthy, and we still had quite a distance ahead of us. Hooray for Charles, our amazing driver.

We finally made it back to Nairobi at 7 P.M. Dayn and I headed back to my house, and I slept like a rock on our first Christmas Eve in Kenya.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Hello Everyone!

I apologize for not updating my blog for so long. These last few weeks have been a whirlwind. I'm sure a lot of you are wondering about the robbery. We now have more bars on our windows and a huge metal wall in our backyard. I'm glad for the safety they provide, and I try my best not to feel like a prisoner. People have been so generous with opening up their homes to us and offering us comfort foods and other nice things like that. We are still so thankful that no one was hurt, and of course, Alison and I miss our things. The Lord always provides, though, and my dear friend Katy Rogers offered to give me my old computer that she had been borrowing. Since my brother Dayn was coming to visit, she gave it to him. It is old and heavy, but it is a computer, and I am thankful for it.

Dayn arrived last Friday, and Kenya Airways did not have his bags. Unfortunately, we were leaving for the coast on Sunday (the 17th), and that wasn't enough time to get his bags. So we got a couple shirts and pairs of shorts at the market, and he made do with what he had. We went to Tiwi Beach for 4 days, which is just south of Mombasa. It was my first time at the Indian Ocean, and it was beautiful. It's nice to be in water that doesn't require a certain degree of numbness before it can be enjoyed. We learned to wind surf one day, and we were able to go to a national wildlife preserve another day. I saw my first wild elephants! That was quite exciting. We got back from the coast yesterday (Wednesday) and today we are relaxing, doing laundry, and e-mailing. Tomorrow we go on safari for three days, and hopefully I will be able to post some pictures after that. Oh, and we did get Dayn's bags yesterday. Hooray!

I want to thank all of you for your prayers and support in everything that has been happening here. I don't have time to write to everyone individually, but please know what a blessing it is to hear from all of you and to see the answers to all your prayers. I am so grateful for them. I wish you all a merry Christmas!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Hello to you all once again!

It has been a great week here in Kenya, except for the incessant rain. The drainage system on the roads is virtually non-existent, so with these heavy rains, the roads are terrible. One of my roommates and I have been house-sitting for a family that is visiting the U.S. for a few months. They have a nice house, but with these heavy rains, the road to their house is like a series of little lakes. One day I was pretty sure I was going to have to get out of the car in my skirt and push. Luckily, we were able to get out of that muddy situation unscathed.

On Thursday my class and I went on a field trip to the New Life Home. It is a home for babies who have been abandoned. We went there to play with the toddlers and hold the babies. It was such a good time! These wee ones are so precious and beautiful. One of the girls in my class said, “How could someone abandon something so cute?” She is so right. It’s hard to imagine leaving such an adorable little bundle of life. The kids were so cute, and I have a hard time deciding who was cuter, the little babies or the 6th graders playing with them. All the kids in my class had so much fun and were really sad when it was time leave. It warmed my heart watching them play with these little ones. I can already see what wonderful moms and dads they are going to be one day. It almost makes me cry! What a sappy teacher I am. But I am just so proud of them.

We have only two more weeks until Christmas break, and that means less than two weeks until my brother, Dayn, comes to visit. We are planning on going to Mombasa, which is on the coast, for a few days. I was finally able to find a place for us to stay. After our visit to the beach, we will go on safari to the Maasai Mara. I can’t wait to see all the animals and have a real African adventure! We might do a little traveling after that, but the big plan on New Year’s is to climb Mt. Kenya. We will be going up with another teacher from my school and also her fiancĂ©, Kungu. He is a Kenyan and has climbed the mountain a few times before. I am so excited about all these plans! And even if I weren’t doing anything exciting, I am so glad my brother will be here with me. He is one of my dearest friends in the whole world. With that, I think I will bid you a fond farewell. May you enjoy whatever form of precipitation that this season brings you. I am trying my best not to dream of a white Christmas. Toodles!

Friday, November 24, 2006

Greetings to you all!

Today you will actually be getting 2 (yes, two) updates from me. I wrote one last week and never had the chance to publish it, and now I am about due for another. My apologies for being so long in the writing. This morning I woke up early and walked to a café that happens to have wireless internet. I did this in hopes that I would be able to chat with my family on their Friday night, my Saturday morning. So far the internet has not been turned on. And here I sit, sipping my coffee, alone in a booth, waiting. Waiting. At least I have my computer and can type while I wait.

Happy post-Thanksgiving to all of you! I had a nice one despite the fact that the only break we got was a half-day on Thursday. I’m thankful we had that, but I’ve never gone to school on Thanksgiving, much less the Friday after Thanksgiving. There’s a first time for everything, I suppose. Some of the other single white female teachers and I went over to a family’s house (the Ernisse’s) for dinner. They are missionaries with SIL (Wycliffe), and they have a daughter at the school. They are wonderful people, and we had a really nice time. Dave Ernisse has become like a father to our roommates and I. He helped us buy our car and hook up gas to our stove. Today he’s going to clean our leaky faucet.

Well, now it is a little later, and I have been talking to my family online for over an hour. My hands are shaking from my 2 cups of coffee. Yesterday was crazy hair day at school. I was tired of teaching, so in the afternoon we watched a rather boring science video. I took a picture of my class. There were about 6 kids absent, so this picture has almost everyone. I told them to do something silly, like pick their friends’ nose, and this was the result. Oh I love 6th grade.

I think the rainy season may be almost over. On Thanksgiving, it was pouring down and the streets were flooded everywhere. I was soaking wet after walking from my classroom to the middle school side where I teach pre-algebra. The good news is both today and yesterday, it has been reasonably dry. And as I sit here writing, I realize I don’t really have much else to say. Enjoy your Thanksgiving weekend!

I wrote this on Nov. 18th! Sorry I'm a little late in publishing it! These pictures were taken at our school bazaar about 3 weeks ago. The picture on the top left is of Naomi, Rachel, me and Adrian. Then girl in the red in the next picture is Priscilla. Then the picture of the bottom is Heather, me, and Shel Arendsen. Notice his Kokrine Hills Bible Camp hat! He has some connections with my family, and he wore his hat just for me. I was so excited!

Hello Everyone!

Sorry that it has been a couple weeks since I’ve written, but there is a very good reason for it. Actually, the only reason is that I’ve been busy and haven’t had the energy to sit down and write. Lately my time has been consumed with the usual planning, grading, teaching, and all that. I also have a few students who are in serious need of remedial help, not to mention my 5 ESL students. God is so faithful in providing, though, because I now have an aide in my classroom as well as someone to take these students out of the classroom to work on reading and math. It’s such a relief. With 27 students in my class, I was unable to give them the attention they needed. I am so thrilled that they are receiving the one-on-one help that they need.

We are still heavy into the rainy season in Kenya. It usually pours down rain at night and in the morning, and we have been fortunate to have it clear up for a few hours around lunch time and later into the afternoon. It’s like God is saying that He loves us so much, He doesn’t want us to have to suffer through indoor recess. I really appreciate that. As much as I love my students, I love for them to have recess outside where they can run, scream, bounce balls, argue, and all those other things pre-pubescent pre-teens need to do. The rain makes for interesting running conditions. I usually have to slide around in the mud. In fact, one of my little neighbors saw me after I went running one day, and in his thick East African accent says, “Why are your legs all dirty?” I explained it to him and then asked if it looked funny. He thought for a good 30 seconds and then grinned and said yes. Driving is also an adventure in this season. The heavy rains dig the pot holes even deeper, so we can’t help but have a bumpy ride to school.

Every Friday night there is a youth group of sorts called King’s Kids for the 6-8th graders at West Nairobi School. The meeting place rotates between different missionary family’s houses. This month it has been at a house just down the road from me. Last week I was asked if I would be willing to play guitar for their singing/worship time. I was delighted, and I had such a good time that they asked me to do it this week as well. We sing for about half an hour, have a Bible discussion time, and then play and eat. Most of the kids are either in my 6th grade class or in my 7th and 8th grade pre-algebra class. It is so much fun to spend time with them outside of school. Sometimes I get so busy with the school side of things that I forget about the ministry side, the relationships. This is the perfect opportunity, and I feel like the Lord just placed it in my lap. In February my roommates and I are going to have them meet at our house. It will be an adventure. Just imagine between 20 and 30 middle schoolers in one room together. It’s chaos and an absolute blast. They are such wonderful kids! I absolutely love it.

Second quarter is just flying by! We only have 4 weeks left before Christmas break. I am definitely feeling the need for a break as my patience with certain students is not what it used to be. You can be praying that God would grant me the patience and tenacity to love these little darlings who have the potential to drive me insane. I don’t want my general fatigue to affect the way I treat them. At the same time, there are times when they take things too far and need me to be hard on them. Pray that I would be discerning rather than moody. Continue to pray for the students who don’t know the Lord and even for the ones who do. Many of my students know all the answers to the Sunday school-type questions, but I don’t know if the love of Christ has truly pierced their hearts yet. Of course, I know it has not fully pierced mine either! Prayer in that area would be appreciated. Thank you for reading this very lllloooonnnnngggg update. I hope all is well with you and yours.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Well it’s been another quiet week here in Nairobi… Actually that’s a lie. It’s been another crazy one! This week my class was in charge on chapel. That means we had to plan out skits, make props, practice, and all that other stuff that goes into a performance. We decided to do a rock n roll theme. We had a band called Jesus and the Disciples. They would lip sync to songs and then other kids performed skits of modern interpretation of Bible stories. One example was Jesus washing his disciples’ cars instead of their feet. Of course, he washed their cars so they could go to the disco party. We did a modern version of the parable of the lost coin. The band followed up with Abba’s “Money Money Money. It was pretty funny. After our first dress rehearsal on Wednesday, I was pretty nervous about the whole thing. We practiced a lot on Thursday, and when it came time for chapel on Friday, everything went smoothly. These kids are so amazing, and they were hilarious too. I am so proud of them. I included a few pictures, though you can tell we have very poor lighting in that room. Aren’t they cute? I love my job. Everything else is going well here. This evening I was invited to a barbecue at a missionary family’s house. They are hosting some people from a church in Alaska, so I’m wondering if I will know any of them. We will probably at least know some of the same people. I hope you have a great week!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

the pictures from left to right are 1. a babboon, 2. the trout tree restaurant 3. my roommates and i at the lusoi farm, 4. some monkeys, 5. the lusoi farm house where we stayed, 6. kayla (my roommate) and i at the equator, and 7. a cute little boy (or maybe girl) we saw on the drive down from mt. kenya.

Well it’s been quite an exhausting week and weekend, but it’s all been quite good. I finished up parent-teacher conferences last week. I met with over 30 parents, which sounded quite daunting at first, but it ended up being an energizing time. Everyone was so encouraging and supportive of what is happening in the classroom. All of the new students in my class have adjusted quickly, and none of them want to go back to their old school. I have a couple boys who struggled a lot last year and are really beginning to excel this year. It’s nice to know that the Lord is blessing my efforts. I certainly feel inadequate for this job at times, but He is helping all these kids along as He helps me. Thank you so much for your prayers.

This past weekend a group of us teachers went up-country to the Lusoi Farm. Our friend Kungu’s aunt runs a sort a bed and breakfast at a house that used a British-colonist house. It was about a 3-hour drive to get to the farm, and there were several large rooms for us to stay in. We had such a good time! On Friday we explored around the farm. I went running in some of the fields nearby. I greeted the locals with “sasa”, which means “what’s up”, but unfortunately I don’t know much Swahili beyond that. One man took my little greeting to mean that I was a fluent speaker, so when he started talking to me in Swahili, I smiled, nodded, and ran past. Maybe I should just stick to English. Or better yet, I should learn some more Swahili. In all my spare time…

On Saturday we went to the equator. It sounded so exciting, but it was actually quite anti-climactic. There was a sign. We took pictures underneath the sign. We took some more pictures underneath the sign. Then we got hassled to buy a bunch of souvenirs that I can get for cheaper at the market near my house. But even when I say I have no money, they say, “Come look at what I have. Looking is free.” They never believe me when I say I have no money. After the equator, we went to the base of Mt. Kenya. I thought our poor little car wasn’t going to make it up that horrible road. It was a beautiful drive, of course, but we scraped bottom more times than I care to count. The drive back was awesome because the sun came out, and there were little kids everywhere chasing our car, smiling at us, waving at us shouting, “How are you! How are you!” in their cute little Kenyan accents. It was so beautiful. I felt like I was in Kenya! Nairobi kind of wears on you after a while.

On Sunday we went to church…for 3 hours. Then we went to the Trout Tree Restaurant. At this restaurant, they serve trout. In a tree. Hence the name. It’s probably the coolest dining experience I’ve ever had. We sat in a tree, we ate good food, and we watched the monkeys. It was quite nice. The drive back was fine until we got a flat tire. It was bound to happen. We had been over so many rough spots in our car, but the neat part is that we didn’t get the flat tire in the middle of nowhere. We got it about 10 minutes from our house, right by a gas station. We pulled into the gas station, and one of the attendants put on our little spare donut for us. We also had friends in a car in front of us who helped out. I felt like God really protected us.

That about wraps up my exciting weekend. Thanks for reading this incredibly long update. I hope you enjoyed it, and I hope you enjoyed the pictures too. Good bye!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Hello everyone! I am having issues with my internet connection, so this will be short. Last weekend some friends and I went to a town called Naivasha to hang out. The scenic picture is of the Rift Valley, and the girls in the tree are me, Kayla, Jen, and Alison. We had a really fun time, and I will post more pictures later. Things are going well at school. Report cards are due on Monday, and conferences are next week as well. You can pray that those would go well. I am a little nervous about them. Also, if you want to see pictures from my birthday party, you can go to my roommate Kayla's blog. www. Her blog is way better than mine, so I hope you don't grow dissatisfied with mine. I hope you have a great week! Thanks for your prayers, e-mails, and support.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Hello everyone!

The picture on the left is of one of my roommates, Jen and I. We were kind of twins that day. The picture on the right is Kayla, Heather, Megan, and I at Rift Valley Academy.

I hope you all had a good week. While you are beginning your Sunday, I am finishing mine. I went to church with some friends this morning. I have learned not to have high expectations of church, and I have not been disappointed since. Church in Nairobi is a lot different than church in America. The sermons are mostly life skills sermons, teaching people that they need to eat well, exercise, take care of finances. It's been interesting, but it is always good to gather with a large group of believers. That is never disappointing. Today I'll do a little shopping at the Maasai market, the place where they sell all the cool Kenyan goods. They like to yell, "Sistah, sistah, come see what I have. For you, I give my best price." And it's never a very good price, but I've gotten good at talking them down. Once guy last week told me he would grade papers for me. He says, "When will you bring the papers? When?" They're probably expecting some sort of pay. I will grade my own papers, thank you very much.

My week at school went quite well. We finished up our first unit in reading, so I had them do projects on the stories we read. It was fun to see how creative they can be and how much talent I have sitting in my classroom. I have a few pictures from that that I will have to post at another time. I have one group of girls who went well above and beyond what I had asked for. The managed to have a Colgate commercial in the little talk show they created.

Yesterday I played frisbee with a few friends. It was the first time I've thrown around a disc since being here. It felt really good! Apparently I don't know my own strength because I ended up hitting my friend in the nose with the frisbee. It bled quite profusely for a while, and I felt terrible. I don't think I've ever done that to anyone. Luckily, when he wears his glasses the scab isn't that noticeable. And he's tall, so not everyone will see that nice scratch I placed there. He likes to pretend he got the injury in a bar fight.

Well, I must be going now. Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful week!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Hello everyone!

I hope you all had a good week. Mine was tiring and long, but it was quite good. I'm getting to the point in my classroom where I can start doing more creative things, more projects, and I can set my standards higher now. That's nice. We have had 6 weeks of school now. There are times when I get overwhelmed with all the extra work I have to do since our school is in the accreditation process. I also have 5 ESL kids in my class, and it's hard to know what to do with them at times. I hit a low point on Thursday when everything felt like too much for me to handle, but that was the time the Lord shifted my perspective. I have a girl in my class who is not a Christian and whose mother is not either. Her grandmother was just diagnosed with cancer, which has been really hard for her family. When I heard this news, I realized that there is a very good reason she is at our school this year. My classroom of 6th graders can use this time to be an encouragment to that family and show them the love of Christ. I went in and told my principal what was going on, and he is encouraging our class to take a field trip to visit this student's grandmother, write her letters, and do everything we can to encourage her. So now I am realizing that my purpose here is much bigger than simply helping my students succeed academically. Be praying for this family, that they may come to Christ. I don't have time to write anymore, but I wanted to let you know about that. We have had no water in our house for the past couple days, which is a bit of a challenge. But luckily we were able to shower at a friend's house today. That will get us through for another 3 days... Love you all. Have a great week!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Hello everyone!

I just wrote a wonderful update on my week, and then the internet went down and it was all lost. So I will sum-up. Things are going well in my classroom. Probably the highlight of the week was making crystal structures out of toothpicks and popcorn. I originally wanted to use marshmallows, and when I asked the man at the store of they had them, he said, "Yes." So naturally I asked where I could find them, and the man said, "We don't have any right now." I laughed. The experiment was a little more difficult with popcorn, but everyone enjoyed being able to eat their structures at the end.

Yesterday my friend, Heather, took some of us out to Rift Valley Academy to visit for the day. This is the huge missionary kid boarding school that is about a 45 minute drive out of Nairobi. It was beautiful, and we had a really good time. We took our new car too! It is a Nissan Sunny, which is like a Sentra but with the steering wheel on the other side. It drives great, and we paid cash for it. 580,000 shillings, split 4 ways. That's about all the news I have for now. Hope you all enjoy your week!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

I thought I would send along some pictures of the people in my life here in Kenya. As you can see, my students are the most beautiful in the world and at varying stages of development. Caleb is a whole head taller than Mark! The two girls with contrasting colors of hair are Priscilla (blond) and Stella (black-haired). Christine, Harriet, Naomi, and Muthoni are in the other one. The chap with the funny hat is my principal, Trevor Maxwell. And the lady wearing two sets of glasses would be Margo, our school librarian. She is the most wonderful lady, and she comes from Australia. I wish you could all hear her laugh. It's such a lovely sound.

I got this picture from one of my roommates last night. I thought you might like some actual footage of us chasing the giraffe. I am the one in the light yellow on the left. The one with the long neck and brown spots is the giraffe. The other picture is of Jen, Alison, me, and Kayla (3 of my roommates) hiding in the grass.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Here are some pictures from West Nairobi School's retreat to Lukenya. The picture on top is at the top of the hill where we had lunch. Jen and Heather are in the back, and Kaylan and Alison are in the front. Jen, Kayla, and Alison are 3 of my 4 housemates. If you look in the background of the second picture, you can see the giraffes we were chasing. That is Kayla with me in the picture. The next picture is of some more of us teachers on the hill, and the picture on the bottom is of Kayla and me in a cashew tree.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

The first entry

Hello friends!

I tried this about a month ago and was unsuccessful in my attempt. Now I'm going to try again. Since it's my first entry, I decided to post the picture of the ostrich egg one of my students gave me. I must thank the Kim family for the generous gift and omelets to feed the five thousand. Love you all!