Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Daily Life: Take Two

      Okay, back to life in Africa.  So many people have asked me to write about what life is like here in Kenya that I am finally sitting down to do it.  I mentioned in my Part 1 post that this would be hard for me.  The main reason it is going to be hard is because the days vary greatly from one to another but I can give you an idea of what it is like for us. 
    We live in a one story home on the mission's compound.  It is a long ranch style home.  We have running water and electricity.  The house has 3 bedrooms and kitchen and a usual American feel.  The climate in Nairobi is unique and lovely.  I imagined Africa as ALL HOT.  Nairobi sits high on a mountain so the humidity is minimal and the weather about the same all year long.  Since we are below the equator, the seasons are flipped in relation to the Northern Hemisphere.  Right now in April, we are entering fall.  Most people refer to two seasons here, the long rainy season and the short rainy season.  We should be experiencing the long rainy season right now when rain will pour down for days and days not stopping but letting up briefly for a drizzle.  Last rainy season, I seriously thought about beginning work on an ark.  Mud gets on everything.  The dirt roads become like rivers and you can forget owning any white socks...they get exchanged for tan ones because no matter how hard you try, you can not keep them white. 
     We have had few showers lately but not the long days of rain.  The rain is essential.  It seems simple; no rain, no water.  A large dam holds the rain water and uses large turbines to generate power for most of Nairobi.  When the water levels drop, the turbines can not run.  A little over a year ago, East Africa experienced drought conditions.  The Kenya Power and Lighting posted new schedules for power in the newspaper.  If you lived in our section of town, the power was turned off Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 6 am until 6 pm.  (It did not always come back at 6pm though.)  Saturdays were sketchy.  Sometimes we would have power and sometimes not.  The first week we struggled as the sun rose the power snapped off.  The hot water heater stopped making hot water, the coffee pot, tea kettle, stove, washer, computer, tv, dvd, internet, lights, fans, and you name it, did not work.  The quiet that comes from no electricity is deafening. 
     During this time of power rationing, Kenya also rationed city water.  The water rationing greatly challenged my sanity.  From Sunday night around 8 pm until the next Sunday at 10am, we had NO running water from the city.  Turn faucet, no water.  For 10 hours out of a week, we had running water.  In our backyard giant tanks stand like towers.  Those tanks filled up during the 10 hours of running water and as much as they were able to fill up that is how much water we would have for the coming week.  Our tank,s however, were the second in line to fill up since we were on the hill.  Our neighbors at the bottom of the hill had their tanks filling up first, before the water would reach us on the line.  We got very creative with our uses for water.  I posted some pictures on facebook with the saving about 8 gallons of water every time we did laundry.  Since the water was on Sundays, we got up early, went to the early church service, got home around 10:30 and started doing laundry. It was NOT a day of rest, I assure you, but that's okay, when the power went off the next morning at 6 am, we got some rest.  We also started cooking in the fireplace with my grandmother's cast iron cookware that she gave me when Andy and I got married. (I'll try to insert some pics...I went to look for them and their on the computer that got fried by the power surge.  I'll post later.)
     I assume everyone knows this but we do not drink from the tap.  All the water we drink or brush our teeth with is boiled and filtered.  Just last week our outside helper came down with Typhoid.  I can only think of Typhoid Mary when I hear the word, Typhoid.  The sickness sounds like one that only existed a long time ago but in Africa, it is still common.  You can get sick from it by eating badly handled food or drinking contaiminated water.  So, all my vegetables are washed with clean water and those which are not peeled, are bleached then rinsed again.  We don't have an electric dishwasher so all dishes are done by hand and must be thoroughly dried before putting away because I don't use boiled or filtered water to wash my dishes.  You should see the kids when we hit American soil.  They run to the faucet and drink from it.  However, it becomes such a ritual NOT to drink from the tap that when they go to brush their teeth, the go to get a cup of water and realize Gran (my mom) doesn't have a water filter and they can just turn the faucet for water.  
     Now that we have water regularly again, it is such a relief.  The city water does go out occassionaly but most days of the week, we have water.    Electricity still randomly goes off.  You'll be in the middle of baking a cake and POP, off goes the power.  I'll blow drying my hair and POP, off goes the power.  I'll be cooking dinner for my soon to arrive guests and YEP, you guessed it, POP, off goes the power.  We have a 5 minute rule.  If the power doesn't come back in 5 minutes, it's going to be a long one!  One day the power went off and on 22 times.  That was just ridiculous!!!!  Otherwise, we just laugh it off. 
     My cooking skills have improved tremondously since arriving in Kenya.  Just like Macedonia, everything must be done from scratch.  We were really craving sausage awhile ago so I hopped online and looked up a good Jimmy Dean recipe.  Andy mixed it all together and played around with the taste and before long, we smelled sausage in the kitchen.  I miss frozen pizza, chicken nuggets, fish sticks, chinese boxes and all those fabulous things that Walmart has to offer in the frozen food section.  I did see a frozen  pizza the size of my hand in the store here in Kenya but I would have to sell my birthright in order to afford it.  Oh, there are frozen french fries by McCain's now.  I only have to sell my diamond ring to buy them but that's okay....better than my birthright.  I merely miss the conviences.  Imagine a world with no drive thrus.  That's my world. 
     But, lest I lead you astray, Kenya far exceeds my expectations as to variety.  They have a large grocery store that provides us with more than enough food!  We are blessed.  When a lady contacted me who was moving to Nairobi from Skopje (which is where I had lived before this), she asked me what could I get here in Kenya with regards to the food group.  I replied that it was a shorter list to say what we could not get because of our plentiful options.  Macedonia was a bit the opposite.  No cheddar chesse, no cream of tartar, no cinnamon, no this and that!  But in Kenya, this is not true.  I just simply miss the convience of coming in and putting a meal together in 10 minutes.  Or, I miss driving thru and ordering a bucket of fried chicken or hamburgers and bringing it home.  On the upside, living like this has also improved my organizing skills! 
     Hope this has helped you get an idea of what it's like here.  I'll try to occassionaly write a blog about daily life and what we encounter and do.  I know I could write an entire blog about the traffic, driving on the other side of the car and road.  During a holiday, when nobody was at work,  it took 25 minutes to get to the airport.  On a bad day, it took my friends 5 hours!  I'm not kidding!


Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Brewing Interest

     I love to read.  An ideal day for me would be a cup of tea, a comfy seat, a cool day and if it is raining that's even better.  I've picked up one of my favorite authors again and discovered his son published a manuscript a few years ago that his dad, Ernest Hemingway, never made into a book.  To my delight, the book is ALL about one of his trips to Kenya.  The little paperback is 320 pages long and I sped to page 250 and realized that I was close to the end so I slowed down a bit.  "True at First Light" captured my attention from the first page.  Secretly I am glad I did not discover the book in 1999 when it came out.  I could not have appreciated it.  Until you visit Africa; the landscape, the feel, the smell and the wildlife are hard to understand.  Hemingway's humor and serious nature blend to make this book come alive for me. I constantly resist the urge to sit down and finish the book.  Some might find it slow and not about much since it takes place in a safari camp near Kilimanjaro.  I would disagree.  Hemingway knew quite a bit about the culture and the people by the way he describes and interacts with the other "characters" in the book.  I highly recomend reading it.   

    So, as I dance close to the end of the book,  I have decided to go on a hunt of my own.  I have heard that there is an old British Club that Hemingway visited and wrote in while he was here in Nairobi.  I want to go and eat there.  The safari camp where he lived for a few months is also not far away.  My dream now is to drive out to the town close by and attempt to meet the grandsons of the people he worked with while he was here.  Hemingway's close friend in the book, Pop, was the first Game Warden of Kenya.  A man the mission uses as a mechanic has lived in Kenya for generations and possibly knows of this man, Pop's, family. I will have to do a lot more research but I'm looking forward to it. 

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Rendille People: A look inside a remote tribe of Kenya

     The Rendille People live in the Northern part of Kenya on the border of Ethiopia.  They are a people group who resisted Islam as it charged south many centuries ago down the eastern part of Africa.  Instead of accepting Islam, the tribe kept the traditions of their ancestors which included many Jewish traditions and customs.  For example, the Passover is a feast which is celebrated among the people.  Today, the Rendille tribe numbers around 60,000 people.  As far as the Christian world is concerned, they are an unreached people group.  The Joshua Project currently lists the Rendille as unreached.  You can go and learn more about them by visiting this website.  http://www.joshuaproject.net/people-profile.php?peo3=14543&rog3=KE 

     Our neighbor, who is an AG missionary and Vice Chancellor at the theological seminary here in Kenya, has been leading teams out to the Rendille tribe.  Last year, he took a team of people and spent several days out in the area with the tribe and went out witnessing to the people.  As a part of the follow up and attempt to get the Rendille off the unreached people list, he invited Andy and Patrick to go on the survey trip to count how many people who gave their hearts to Christ were still attending church.

   The trip, like the Pokot drive, proved to be exhausting.  The guys loaded boxes of rice, cases of water and fuel barrels on the roof rack of the land cruiser.  Before they reached the villages, 8 men were crammed into the car for the journey.  At some points during the trip, they drove for hours without seeing another car on the dirt road.  Large herds of camels surrounded by men with machine guns appeared on the road in the desert.  Camels bring in a lot of money up in the North.  A camel can go 2 weeks without water and brings in $1,000 for his owner.  When the guys passed a herd of 100 camels, they were watched by the guards intensely.  Other tribes in the area are known to raid the camel caravans and steal the animals.  

     The land where the Rendille people live is harsh.  When I saw some of the pictures, I thought  the landscape looked like  where Luke Skywalker grew up in Star Wars.  Rocks litter the landscape.  As far as rain is concerned, it has not rained for 3 years.  Have a look at a few pictures.

Those round domes are the homes of the people. 

A Rendille Man

A small village

Kids gathering

On the trip, the gas stations could be up to 8 hours apart.  This man ran out of gas so the guys stopped and allowed the guy to siphon a few liters of gas they were carrying as back up.

Look at the bead work on their necks! These ladies arrived at the church for an impromptu meeting and received rice packets donated by Convoy of Hope.

What is your drive to church like?  This is the walk to church for most people in the desert.

Do you see the rocks behind the children?  That is the landscape for miles and miles!

I had to include this photo.  While the men were visiting a pastor's home, they sat in this room.  The wall behind the men seated on the sofa is made up of pillow cases thrown away by the airlines.  You know those thin cases covering the pillows you get on the airplane?  Well, not everything goes directly to the landfill. 

The people gathered to praise the Lord.

Welcome to church in the middle of the desert.

When your shoe breaks, you have to fix it.  This man decided that the time to fix his broken shoe was in the middle of the sermon.  He found a good rock and was working hard to repair the damage. 

     I think pictures speak better than words.  However, I have one last story to tell about the people.  In one village, the people have a well as a source of water.  Villagers walk for miles to come fill their canteens, plastic jugs and such.  They leave early in the morning from their homes before it gets so hot and begin their journey.  The pastor told the group of visiting men that many people in the surrounding villages have developed throat cancer, mouth cancer and other forms of cancer lately.  Suspecting the water, which is the common factor, scientist came out and ran tests on the water.  When the results came back, it was not good news .  The levels of mercury and arsenic in the water was at dangerous levels.  The poison was naturally occurring, nobody was contaminating it.  Imagine getting up every morning and walking to  your only water source.  Every step you take closer to the well, you know it is a step that brings you closer to death.  Yet, if today you don't go get water, then you'll die faster of thirst.  Digging a new well is costly.  Digging a new well anywhere in the region won't work because all those poisons are in the ground.  It breaks my heart to think the people are in that situation.  Please pray for protection for those villagers.  Please pray God provides a solution soon. 

Friday, April 8, 2011

A Snapshot of our daily life: Part 1

This might be the hardest post to write.  While I have a daily routine of sorts, I do not think we have two days that are the same.  Sometimes I feel like we live 3 or 4 lives at the same time.
      Life #1: We have a mission life which involves meetings, gatherings, organizing guest houses, ladies Bible study, holiday functions and other events.   The Kenya field has around 17 missionary units working all throughout Kenya, and some beyond.  Every family is unique in their purpose here and their style.  Macedonia, while we were there, had a bumper crop of 3 families at the most while we were assigned there.  So, one of our "lives" involves working with our fellow missionaries. 

     Life #2:  The COMPOUND!  Nervous is the word I would use when I found out we were moving to a compound 2 1/2 years ago.  The stories about compound life flooded my mind.  (not good stories either)  So, needless to say, I was apprehensive about living in a neighborhood that was walled, gated, barb-wired and fitted with electric fencing.  What was on the outside did not scare me, it was who I was going to be locked in with that worried me.  Let me quickly put all of your imaginations to rest, compound living has not lived up to those scary stories.  The benefits have far outweighed the cons of living so close to my fellow missionary friends. I could gush on and on about these awesome people.  At any moment, I can walk across the street and ask for a cup of sugar, sit on a swing and talk about my day, ask someone where in the world I can find cream of tartar in this city, and borrow a snake catcher or a dvd.  My husband has cranked generators for my friends when their husbands were out of town, and I've had a neighbor's husband on my roof during a rain storm fixing a broken tile because my kitchen roof was leaking when Andy was in some foreign land other than Kenya. Day to Day the compound produces some form of life.  Everyone on this 5 house compound takes a turn at "The Books."  Someone has to pay the security guards that guard the gate.  There is everything from buying the guard dog food to paying the water meter man who stops by irregularly to collect the money.  The job is big but sharing the responsibility does help ease the burden. 

Life #3: The JOB!  We interact with the national church and their Royal Ranger program.  We also attend a national church each Sunday.  Andy travels around the country; training leaders, encouraging outposts, leading camps and holding seminars.  Since he is responsible for any country in Africa that either has Rangers or wants to have Rangers, he also travels outside of Kenya.  With the new curriculum, we organize getting the material printed for outposts too.  The job is immense and overwhelming but God is in charge of getting it all done so we just do what we can in the hours we have each day. 

Life #4:  Family, Friends and Supporters in the States!  I don't think I have to explain that very much.  Communication is essential for keeping up relationships. 

Life #5: AGWM.  Assemblies of God World Missions.  Two words: Financial Reports.  I only need to say that keeping up with EVERY receipt for dollars/shillings spent and reporting on it IS no easy task.  Accountability is of high importance!

I could go on but I'll stop there.  Daily life comes next but I had to give you some background on who plays a part in our lives.  Part Two shall include what a few days of our week looks like.