Friday, July 22, 2011

Tutaonana Kenya!

Welp folks, I believe this will be my final Kenya update. My team has about one week left in this crazy fantastic place before we fly on home. We have started saying goodbye to some of our friends here and it is beyond weird to me to think it is already time to leave them. 
-Last Sunday was incredible. The church in Kijabe held an event called Cultural Sunday. Six different tribes were represented and they all performed songs and dances representative of their community and culture, while completely decked out in their tribal clothing. Awesome? Yes. After all of the performances and speakers and sharing, we were able to go around to each represented tribe and they shared some of their traditional food. Not only is the culture of Kenya itself so beautiful and different from anything I have ever before witnessed, but the variety and distinctness of each tribe and people group within the Kenyan culture is incredible. 
-This Tuesday a couple of us from my team spent time in the kitchen at the hospital in Kijabe. We were able to build friendships with the cooks there as we helped them prepare meals, as well as went along with them to the various wards serving tea and meals to the patients. It was really neat seeing that side of the hospital and getting to interact with the patients simply through serving them lunch or pouring them a mug of tea. I will also note that I received a marriage proposal from a man with a broken leg while we were collecting dishes one day...flattering, but the communication barrier would make things a tad bit difficult, I believe. We were all also given pretend Kikuyu names by our kitchen friends. I am now answering to Sarah Shiko. 
-That day before we left the hospital, our new friend Justina insisted we stay so that she could serve us milk and bread. Sounded harmless. We were given cups of hot, boiled, whole milk from an enormous vat with foam and other questionable collected films on top. One very serious thing we have learned here is that you must, must, must eat or drink whatever is served to you. It is beyond rude and insulting to decline or even not finish  what is served. The four of us downed that milk-ish substance like champs, trying so very hard not to smell or taste as much as possible in the process. I very soon regretted that decision to be polite and thankful for that thick, warm nastiness when I proceeded to be sick to my stomach for the next twenty four hours. I am forever indebted to Pepto Bismol tablets and Cipro. 
-Yesterday was our last day hiking to Kijabe town. We had been going to see a family ever week: Sarah was the mother, Uticus her mentally handicapped 13 year old son, and Sarah's 82 year old mother in law who was bedridden from meningitis. We had visited with this family for weeks now and just Monday found out that Sarah's mother had passed away. Yesterday, when we were in town, we joined in with not only her family, but entire town and community, as they made preparations for her burial. The guys were busy joining in with the men as they dug the grave and constructed the coffin, while the ladies joined with the women preparing the oodles of food for after the funeral. Similar to the funeral we experienced in Rare, the people we were surrounded by were so joyful. They were celebrating the life this woman lived, and they were doing it as a community. 
-Something I am realizing each day as we get closer and closer to leaving is how much my team means to me. When you spend every hour of every day with 15 incredible people, it is dang hard to imagine saying goodbye to them. We have all grown so close, experienced so much together, and learned so much from one another that it hurts my heart to realize that they will not be right by my side whenever I want them after we all return home. Lifelong friends have been made on this crazy and wonderful Kenyan adventure, that is for sure. I am so thankful. 
-So on the 31st (Happy Birthday Mommy!) we will all make our way back home. It is difficult for me to even begin processing what these last two months consisted of. It was such a ridiculous mixture of joy, learning, new experiences, awkward tan lines, questionable squatty potties, crazy amounts of love, laughter, eye-opening experiences, new friendships and stories, and overall thankfulness. I am so grateful for having the opportunity to be here, to learn from and to share life with these people. I have seen a new passion for life, for love, for God, in the hearts of these people and it is something unforgettable. I will carry these experiences and these people & their stories with me for the rest of my life. It is an incredible place, Kenya. It has opened my mind, eyes, and heart in new ways...and I so desperately hope that it continues to  wow me even as I sadly leave it. 

Here I come, America...see you soon!
Much love,

Friday, July 15, 2011

Loopty Doopty

Time has literally been flying by here...I look at my calendar and realize that we only have a little more than 2 weeks in Kenya, and I cannot even believe it. Lots has happened in our time in Kijabe since coming back from the Masaai village. We are spending our time at the Kijabe Hospital, a local school, a nearby town, and the IDP camp. A little overview of them all:

-Hospital: I had the blessing of spending two days with two of the most incredible people I have ever met. Their names are Wilson and Veronica, a wonderful couple who was involved in a car accident with their family. Wilson was preparing for surgery when I was spending time with him and they were both there waiting for their 6 year old son, Daniel, to have surgery on his lungs, which were affected by the crash. I have never been in an accident and have no idea what it is like to see both yourself and your family injured and shaken as a result, but this family was so full of hope and was confusing in the greatest of ways. The amount of time we spent talking about each of our lives, passions, interests, etc. was such a blessing. They shared so much of their faith with me and I was encouraged in so many ways. I look at my time with them and just smile at the friendships we made. If anyone is trying to come to Kenya,Wilson and Veronica have (multiple times) offered up their home to friends :)
-School: One of my team members, Mariah, and I have been helping out with a 5th grade class at a nearby primary school. There are 7 students, 2 boys and 5 girls, and they are incredible! First of all, they are incredibly smart. We get to help them with their schoolwork, play with them outside, sing with them, la la la it is so wonderful. I love it there.
(Everything that I am trying to explain is a pathetic excuse for what I am actually experiencing, just so everyone is aware. I am sitting here thinking about how much I love all of these people and places and just cannot even begin to explain their impact on me, the stories we've shared, etc through a blog...but I sure will try. And then I can just tell more in person! Woot!)
-Kijabe town: This is a nearby town that we go to every Thursday. I love this most because it is about an hour hike to get there and it is absolutely gorgeous! Random little tidbit: my leaders were hiking it the other day and were definitely chased...yes, a family of baboons. Brett kicked one in the face out of self defense. In short, the wildlife is thriving.
-IDP camp: This is the same camp that we did our week-long medical mission. We spent time here going to different homes (some houses, some tents) and just listened to what the families had to share with us. If I haven't explained this before, the people here in Kenya are some of the most welcoming people I can imagine. If I saw a bunch of weird white people walk up to my door trying to talk, I would be skeptical...but these people treat us like family. We had the chance to speak with families and hear their stories about how they came to be in the camp. Their being there is as a result of the political elections that took place a couple years ago. A quick explanation: there are many tribes in Kenya and along with them comes a lot of conflict. The man that is currently the president is part of the Kukuyu (spelling?) tribe and many other tribes were upset at his being elected, and in turn began persecuting the Kukuyu people. There were families that we spoke with that had their homes burned to the ground, family members killed, jobs abandoned, all possessions lost. They are in these camps trying to rebuild their lives. Having lost everything, they are starting from nothing. It is so hard for me to understand being persecuted for who you were born to be...based on such things as tribe, race, gender, class, etc. I hear these stories and it just hurts. How do we shift the mindset to recognizing the differences between all of us, but seeing them as beautiful?

There is a lot here that is hard to see, hard to hear about. I see the pain and the confusion and it strikes me so deep. It is their lives and the way they live and what they've had to deal with...but it is their hope and their joy that continues to floor me. We have so much to learn from these people! I have so much to learn from these people! I have realized that it is so easy to pretend that poverty and oppression don't exist because we (I) am not directly affected by it. But at the same time, so many of us have so much power to enact change in so many ways. We can step out of our selfish bubble and recognize the potential we have to make things different...and in the same breath, the potential that these people have to change our hearts. We have to constantly be looking at service to one another as both giving and can't be a superiority thing. I may have been born into a society where money and material possessions and access to healthcare and education, etc are right at my fingertips...and in those ways I can try to provide for people who are without in those areas. But in the same sense, the people who may not have shoes and a high school education can teach me more about the worth of life than I could have ever imagined. Sheesh...I don't even know. This place, this experience, these world is being rocked.

Until next time...

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Masaai Madness

well hey there! we have returned from the masaai tribe and wowza it was a wonderful so many ways.
-we saw so many animals on our way there/during our time there. giraffes, zebras, warthogs, antelope, and even the top of a hippo's head that was poking out of the water at lake naivasha! there was also a day that i saw a monkey climb down from a tree and actually steal a banana from a fruit made my day to see that!
-i have never seen so many flies in my entire life...i also didn't realize how quickly they can make you go insane. one afternoon some of us just couldn't take it any longer and we all huddled under my mosquito net (megg, a zillion and one thanks to you for that thing) just to have a couple minutes without flies constantly landing on us. it was a good life decision.
-we got to, yet again, experience the wonders of killing & cooking another sheep friend with some of the local people. this little trooper's name was stanley.
-these people had the biggest hearts for worship that i have ever seen! it was the epitome of african singing & dancing and it was glorious! ever evening (for a good couple hours) people from all around would come to our campsite, gather around the fire, and sing swahili praise songs and listen to stories. every song was so energetic and so full of joy & excitement!
-i went to a kenyan funeral one afternoon, which was incredibly interesting. a lady that we met invited some of my team to attend and it was unlike anything i had experienced before. the entire community was there and it was literally a celebration of this woman's life...lots of singing, energetic preaching, happy faces, etc. we were also given the biggest plates of food that i have ever seen...and very much so expected to eat it all. it was a great afternoon & it was also the first of many days of rain for their community, which is something to be celebrated in & of itself. african storms are incredible! i am a fan!
-i held a little lamb!
-a big source of laughter for our team came from the pastor who was with us the whole week...he was a big fan of songs (as earlier described) but also had a thing for the most random songs in english. one morning during worship he asked us to do a couple rounds of row, row, row your boat and then proceeded to change the words to row, row jesus' name all around the world...and then we sang it practically every day. it cracked us all up every time!
-one day we met a woman named grace and i will remember her for the rest of my life. she invited us into her hut and then shared so much of her life with us. she has 7 young children and she raises them all by herself. in the masaai culture it is acceptable for the men to have multiple wives & her husband married another woman. she told us that he doesn't help support his children and only comes around to use her to bear more children. in all that she was telling us, it was evident that so much of what she experiences everyday practically shouts to her that she is worthless. it absolutely broke my heart. but then she began telling us that she is so full of hope in knowing god...she told us that it is in her pursuit of faith that she finds joy & worth & peace. it is astounding to me the faith that these people hold...their trust and joy is something so incredible and also so hard for me to wrap my mind around. grace was incredible. these people are INCREDIBLE. and they are teaching me so much.
-we just got back to kijabe yesterday afternoon, which was the 4th of july. our team searched high & low to find ingredients to make an american meal to share with pastor simon & mama margaret, our contacts. we ended up finding the stuff to make hamburgers, mac & cheese, and fries. all homemade, all delicious. it was a blast!
-one last thing before i wrap this thing up...our team has shown both interest & skill in rapping while in kenya, periodically throwing out rhymes, etc. well, one night in our tent, my friend emily and i made up a kenya rap for the rest of our team. laura robinson, this one is dedicated to you.

OKAY! this is mad em and mckay-bay-bay
spittin those rhymes from kijabe

we in kenya, yo
we don't got no hygiene
we just lovin on some people
we don't need to be clean

struttin down the street with our greasy hair
mzungus in the house, all the little kids stare

hi! how are you?!
they shout from their does (doors)
cuz erryday we be in the same clothes

wake up in our tents in the middle of the night
runnin to the squatty with our little flashlights

(pause for dramatic effect)

there are no rules
all you gotta do is drop dem stools

what you need is some TP or some baby wipes
then go on witchya bad self and drain them pipes

lookin at the view and drinking some tea
doing feedback with my team & my ugali

shoutout to lucas & our homeboy stanley
may they rest in peace, but you sure were tasty

now listen up, every boy & girl
we gonna row, row jesus' name all around the world (reference found above)


well there you go. so much love from kenya!
-sarah :)

Friday, June 24, 2011

De-worming galore!

Greetings! This past week has been wonderful. Our team worked alongside a medical missions team from Texas. We stayed at the church in Kijabe and took a mutatu (bus) into one of the nearby IDP camps every morning. Throughout the week we were able to see over 1000 was incredible! I primarily helped out in the pharmacy tent filling prescriptions and giving instructions on how they should take their medicine. None of us have studied medicine, so it was kind of funny acting like we held any authority in what we were doing. But now we are all pretty much qualified medical big deal. I witnessed a woman pulling out her own tooth one day...that was insane.

My favorite day was when some of us went to a nearby school with one of the doctors and helped give out worm medication. It was so great because I ended up talking with this big group of girls who knew a great deal of English so the communication barrier was practically non-existent. They kept talking about my skin and hair, asking me about home and what it is like there, telling me jokes, etc. One girl told me she was going to marry my Jack, there is a very nice girl named Emily who is eager to come to America some day to meet you. I got a picture of her too, so no worries. 

OH! To all you Wesley day at the IDP camp I heard someone shout my name & it was Henry Prevette! It was the craziest thing running into an IDP Kenya!

I absolutely love my team and am having so much fun experiencing this with all of them. There are days when I feel so overwhelmed with the burdens these people in Kenya experience and it is easy to become frustrated in not knowing how to lift them. But at the same time, the joy that comes from them is something that I cannot wrap my mind around. I am learning so much from their lives and am so extremely grateful for that. 

It is crazy to think that it is almost July...I'm so eager for what the rest of the summer will bring. Starting Monday we will be in "the bush" spending our week with a Maasai tribe and I am so pumped for what we will experience there! 

Kwaheri! (goodbye)

So much love from Kenya,

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Radical Rare (Rah-ray)

(Disclaimer: I haven't any idea how to spell in Swahili...however, I will be using the few words I've learned, regardless) Habariako! What a wonderful week it was in Rare. So much happened & it seemed like our time spent there was so much longer than 7 days. I'm going to try to sum up the parts of our time there that really stuck out to me:

1. Two words: squatty potty. These precious locations have become quite dear to all of our hearts. It consists of a hut and a very, very deep hole. All I'm saying is that I'm thankful my stomach only got upset once while we were isn't prime location for emergencies. The most entertaining part of the squatty was the conversations and celebrations about all of the girls' aiming when we had to is quite difficult at first. But now we're all pretty much professionals. Woot woot!
2. The food we've been eating is SO GOOD! There is a Kenyan staple called Oogali and it is pretty great. Along with that or rice we've been served lots of vegetables and fruits (yay!). I tried passion fruit for the first time and am a big fan. Lots of mango, pineapple, cabbage, carrots, tomatoes, very delicious breakfast pastry-type things, and Zesta, which is a type of jam. Red plum is my favorite. We also have hot tea at both breakfast and dinner, which I have come to adore.
3. We walk everywhere & I love it. Hiking in Kenya is something beautiful.
4. We spent time between two villages: Turkana and Maasai. I didn't realize how much of a communication barrier we would experience. Swahili is an extremely beautiful language & hopefully my vocabulary can expand beyond the few basics I've picked up. We had translators come along with us and were able to communicate to all of the people we encountered. My favorite was a man named John. When we came up to his hut, he was busy sharpening and shaping arrows that he had made himself. He told us so many stories about how he uses them to protect his sheep & goats from leopards, hyenas, and lions! Ahh it was so cool! He had such a joy about him and he was so happy to spend time with us and ask about our lives and tell about his. We made many close friends this week and experienced so much kindness and appreciation.
5. The children are out of this world. I'm pretty sure they think we're aliens, but it's awesome. They literally fight to hold your hand, laugh when you try to speak Swahili, find so much interest in arm hair, try to wipe the lightness off of your skin, and have the most beautiful smiles I've ever seen. We spent so much time playing with them, singing with them, etc at the schools and just throughout the villages. A running joke was that they are the "HI HOW ARE YOU FINE!" kids. They run it all together really fast whenever they see us and it's so great. I love them.
6. Something incredible about this week was the rain. Everyone we spent time with made their living through farming and raising goats & sheeps. They all told us how hard the droughts are on their families and being able to provide for them. After the first day of hearing all of this, it rained every day after that. A thankfulness was just radiating through the community and it was incredible to be able to celebrate with them and share in that.
7. I saw so many monkeys!
8. African stars are mind-blowingly beautiful.
9. Our last day in Rare, the boys went out and bought a sheep from a local family and we shared dinner with a couple families from the community. Now, I've never seen an animal from living to was definitely an experience for our team. Our translators, Samuel & Peter, are experts in preparing animals so we all looked on with interest...and a bit of disgust at they did their thing. When we were taking out all of the internal organs, Samuel took the lungs, put them to his mouth, and over & over again blew them up. We were all so shocked, laughing and was crazy. But overall, the experience with the sheep (we named it Lucas) was so cool. We were able to help support a family through purchasing it, we played a part in preparing it, and we were able to share the meal with so many others. Oh, Lucas...

These next couple days we will be traveling to an IDP camp with a medical team from the Kijabe hospital and helping them in any way we can. I'm really excited for that! And then on Thursday we leave again for a week with a different Maasai tribe.

I'm thinking so much about everyone from home...I miss & love all of you. Happy Father's Day (tomorrow) to you, Daddy & Chad! Wish I was there to tell you in person, but here is a hug from Kenya :)

Until next time,

Thursday, June 9, 2011

we're here!

greetings from kijabe! after about two days of travel, we finally stepped foot into beautiful kenya late last night. even though we have been here for less than a day, i am in awe of the beauty of this place and these people. we took a walking tour of kijabe today and saw the town. we walked through a school at one point and there were so many young children out playing. i can't even explain the pure joy in their eyes when they see us. one young boy ran up to me and when i held out my arms to hug him, he jumped into them to have me hold him. he kept grabbing my face and pulling to to his own, smiling so big. he only spoke swahili but it is so cool because two of the girls on our team speak swahili. she asked him what his name was and his name was kevin for all of you back in boone :) for the three minutes i spent with kevin, my heart was filled. if that experience is any clue into the love and joy that will be experienced for the rest of this summer, it is sure going to be a good one. tomorrow we leave to spend a week in the valley with a tribe and i am so excited...we really are just jumping right into this! hopefully i can update soon, but until then i hope all is well back home. lots of love from me to you! oh, ps...i saw zebras today! they were just out there chilling by the side of the road! i love this place.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Share & Tell!

I've been finding out a lot of exciting details for my trip lately & decided that all of these things would make for a wonderful VERY FIRST REAL BLOG UPDATE. Hooty hoo! Some basics: I'm going to be in Kenya (more specifically, Kijabe) for two months this summer. I'm traveling with a team of 12 others and from the interaction and communication we've had via Internet, they all seem amazingly sick-diculous. I absolutely cannot wait to meet & adventure with all of these wonderful people.

I've already gotten all of my cheerful vaccinations (no yellow fever here!) and am counting down the days to start taking the pills for Malaria. I hear they'll come along with some pretty intense dreaming...I do love dreams!

The trip will start out in Chattanooga, TN on June 3 for a couple days of training camp. From there we'll drive to Atlanta and start our flying adventures! I just got our flight information this evening and can say with confidence that this is going to be a doozy. A wonderful and exciting doozy. WHAT UP JET LAG? Here it is:

Depart: Atlanta-June 7 - 5:30 PM
Arrive: Amsterdam (THE FREAKING NETHERLANDS!)-June 8 - 8:15 AM
Depart: Amsterdam-June 8 - 11:15 AM
Arrive: Nairobi (KENYA KENYA KENYA!)-June 8 - 8:15 PM

Depart: Nairobi-August 1 - 8:10 AM
Arrive: Amsterdam-August 1 - 3:55 PM
Depart: Amsterdam-August 1 - 4:55 PM
Arrive: Atlanta-August 1 - 8:20 PM

When we reach Kijabe we will be staying on the property of our contact, Pastor Simon. We are camping all throughout our trip & it is a whole lot of exciting mixed in with a little bit of "oh boy!".

At the moment I know only broad details about the work we will be doing in Kijabe, which involves work with Pastor Simon's local church, a local hospital, a local orphanage, and a nearby tribe (the Maasai tribe). Specifics aren't a concern at the moment...this entire experience is going to be so new and exciting and unfamiliar & all of it will just come how it comes. I'm peeing my pants in excitement at the thought of all that will be learned from the people we will be with all summer. My mind is going to be blown and I just can't even wait.

I'll be using this here blog to share my experiences throughout the summer & I'm excited to have it as a way to connect with everyone from home. This whole adventure is a huge, wonderful mixture of being scared/intimidated and exploding with excitement. Thank you so much to everyone who has been through this whole process to support me in every way imaginable. What a great thing it is to be reminded of how many wonderful people in your life love and support you. I'm so thankful for that.

16 days...wallah wallah!

Monday, March 7, 2011