Friday, September 28, 2007
Here's the deal. My cell phone mysteriously disappeared the other day. Long story. I know where I last used it. And when I checked again, it was no longer with me.
Later that day, I stopped by a phone shop.
"Can you please stop my Safaricom account?"
The lady behind the counter looked at me as if I just asked her if she'd like to sign up for a colon check. Then she made me write down all kinds of personal information on a small scrap of paper. "Come back in 3 hours," she said apathetically.
After seeing a movie, I went back. It was about 4 hours later. Seeing me, she had a look on her face as if to say, "Oh. You again. I forgot about you."
"Any news?" I asked hopefully.
"We couldn't get through yet."
"Through to whom?"
"So by now, all the credit on my phone may have been used up."
"Is there anything I can do to stop my account?"
"You have to wait."
"Wait for . . . "
"We tried calling. There was no answer."
"What else can we do?"
"You can go there tomorrow, to a Safaricom center. And stand in line. And then they can stop it for you."
"But tomorrow I have guests all day."
"So can you keep calling?"
I took her name and number, but have not yet been able to reach her to find out if she's succeeded in getting through to Safaricom.
In the meantime, I got my other phone back, an older phone someone has been borrowing, and just happened to have in Nairobi with them. But without the charger. So by last night, the power in that phone ran out. So I stopped by another phone shop today.
"Do you have a charger for this type of Motorola?"
The clerk gave me one of those looks again, as if I'm asking her to run a marathon after having a baby. She got up and mozied over to the counter with the chargers.
"Can you please check again? Lots of the phones in this counter have the same connection."
She came back with one that would fit.
"How much is it?"
"I don't know."
"Can you look it up?"
"No. Our computer is hanging."
"Can I just buy it?"
"No. I don't know how much it is."
"When will your computer be fixed?"
"Come back in 2 hours."
So here I am. Getting some work done for which I need a high-speed Internet connection. And waiting for the time to pass so I can buy a new charger. And then, when my guests are done shopping in the Maasai market, go to a real Safaricom shop, stand in line, and hopefully get a new sim card so I can retain my old phone number.
There's no hurry in Africa. Got to remember that... Some days, though, I miss fast service. Fast food. An expression of "I love that you've come to MY store. Now, how can I help you?"
But I also have to remember that the laid-back-ness of life here can be good, too. Like when I took my guests to the animal orphanage yesterday and asked if we could pet the cheetahs, because I know they let people do that. "No, sorry," the clerk said. "They are big now. They can just JUMP up and eat you."
Which I knew isn't exactly true. Nevertheless, they're cats, so I said, "OK. That's fine. But we're not going to go in then."
"It's just a zoo. My friends have seen a zoo. I wanted them to touch the cheetahs. So no problem."
"No. You come. I arrange."
So we paid the entrance fee and got to pet the cheetahs, the cats resting their big heads on my knees and purring gently. The one even licked my hand!
As she lay there licking my hand, I smiled. How ironic. Truly, this cat COULD simply decide she liked me enough to just take a huge bite. And my hand would be gone. But here we were, stroking them, scratching their chins. No waivers of indemnity signed. We simply were there, loving the moment.
And I thought, perhaps I wasn't supposed to have my phone with me then. Maybe it would've rung and it would've upset my cat friend.
So now, I need to find a Safaricom customer service office, go stand in line, and hope for the best. Who knows, I might actually have my old number back by tonight, when the next team arrives and may need to urgently contact me...
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Juli, Allison and I went to see Hannah again today.
I asked if I can take photos. She was happy to let me photograph her as she visited with Juli, Allison and her other daughters. "Other" daughters, because she calls us her daughters, too. Even though she has 7 of her own.
Hannah's health has deteriorated since I had last seen her 5 days ago. Her speech is getting more slurred. The tumor seems to be showing up below her left eye, too. She is obviously having a lot of pain.
Yet she continues to rejoice in Jesus. She broke out in worship songs a few times again during our visit. When I gave her a box of soy milk to try, hoping that it would be easier for her body to digest, she held it with both hands, lifted it up, and said a prayer of thanksgiving to God for his provision.
We left when it was clear that Hannah needed to rest. But as we paused outside in the garden and visited with the family, we heard her voice from her room, "Thank you. Thank you very much..." and saw her skinny hand waiving at us. Nancy explained how they appreciate the visits. We do, too. It's a joy to go and spend some time with her and her family, pray together, worship God together...
I'll be going back early next week to take photos of their entire family. I look forward to doing that.
In the meantime, please join me in praying for a miracle for Hannah!
(Click on the photo to see more pictures from today's visit.)
Sunday, September 23, 2007
Erin, a visiting ELI staff member from our US office, was in the car with me heading from Ilula to town when we got delayed. We had a carload full of people we had picked up along the way. The usual thing here, you know. But they were heading to church (as were we, actually) when the road was deceiving. Much of the rest of the road was already dried out by the sun. But this patch was in the shade, so . . . yeah, well, we got delayed.
The passengers all hopped out and continued on their journey to church. There was nothing they could do, anyway. As I looked to see what I could do, a quick crowd gathered. Some men offered to help push, but I had called guys from Ilula to come, so I told them so. Another man thought we should get a tractor to pull me out. Others just stood and stared. One asked if I had tried engaging 4WD. Ummm, no. (Of course I had. The car was, in fact, in Differential Lock Low. Not that I know what exactly that means. But it's supposed to be used "in likelihood of traction being lost." Today was a good time to try out DifLock. It didn't work. Not at first.)
So while everyone watched and the boys giggled at me starting to pick up rocks, I did just that. I started placing some rocks in front of the wheel. And behind it. Just so it had something to grip onto. Erin grabbed some more rocks. The boys stopped giggling, realizing we wazungu women were serious. They brought a few more. All in all, we must've just thrown about 10 rocks in front of the wheel and one behind it. Then I simply pulled forward and "Voila!" it went. Erin had to catch up down the road, when I got to solid ground.
Then we had to get the mud washed out from under the car. So we missed church today. Or, at least, we missed worshiping with others. Life here is church, many a day.
The rest of the day didn't hold nearly as challenging events as getting unstuck. No other rocks had to be hauled around, at least.
We met colleagues for lunch. Went to see their house in town. I had about 6 cups of chai in the process. Got sunburned and rained on in the same lunch hour. And after we picked up another colleague from the airport, we headed home while the rain was still coming down in a steady drizzle. Got home just before dark.
As I got home and visited with God about some challenges of the day, I wondered how often I get deceived by how simple something looks, only to get stuck. And Jesus reminded me that He is my rock. With him, I can get out of any mess.
I may still get out dirty on the other side, a reminder of my choices, but I'll get out. And then I can be cleaned up.
And so right now, it's time to go take a shower and get rid of the mud that's still holding on to my legs as evidence of this morning's delay. And then Jesus and I can continue our chat about life's lessons...
Got into the shower just to discover there is NO water coming out of the faucets tonight... TIA. TIA.
Friday, September 21, 2007
I promised the kids in Ilula I'm coming there tomorrow to show them a long overdue movie. And to celebrate August and September birthdays. And October, while we're at it, since I'll be busy in October with teams on this side...
Anyway. I should go to sleep so I can get well and go celebrate birthdays with the kids tomorrow. Cause it's the right thing to do.
"I want to go for a drive," I told the interns this afternoon. "But not on our bumpy road. I want to drive to the lake. Watch the sun set. Buy pizza on the way home. Curl up on a couch. Fall asleep."
Not quite reality, I know.
It was a nice thought, nevertheless.
Other things I'm missing tonight, in no specific order:
* dinner dates with friends
* having close friends close by
* ice cream
* smooth roads (smooth enough to actually drink coffee without spilling)
* warm towels from the tumble dryer
* choices in places to go, things to do, friends to hang out with, movies to see
* long chats on the phone
* seeing the trees change colors
* the crisp feeling of the fall air
* early morning walks on smooth roads
* have I mentioned friends yet?
* going to book stores, sitting on the floor, and traveling through the pages of the books
* Beth Moore Bible studies
* Chinese food
* going to the symphony
* the smell of freshly-mowed grass
* getting mail from the mailbox right at the door
* coffee shops with good coffee and comfy seats and great ambiance where I can sit and work or even visit with friends
* drive-through banks
* online banking, online movie tickets, online shopping
* dependable electricity and water supplies
* toilets that flush well
* showers with great water pressure
* soaking in a hot tub
* take-out pizza
* Christian radio
As I write some of these things, I know that I know that I know that if I were in the US, I might miss:
* the bumpy roads in my Land Rover, and the balancing act of not getting my coffee spilled before I reach the main road, despite the fact that it's in a well-sealed travel mug
* sun-baked towels and clothing
* fewer choices
* the smell of the African soil after a rain storm
* the sound of crickets, frogs and the river
* the sunrise over the Kipkaren hills
* the sound of children shouting "Halloooooo!" as I drive by
* worshiping with someone in their meager hut and knowing God is there
* roadside fruit stands
* the trick of getting my instant hot shower working just right
* learning from my Kenyan neighbors what true faith looks like
* visiting with the kids in Ilula
* seeing things like God transforming a family down the road
And so I'll seek to be fully present in the moment. Enjoy what I have here and now.
Tonight, I miss some things from home.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Today, I actually got to turn on my fan, it was that hot. Nice. Summer's here, at last.
And today, we hadn't had a power outage yet. Unlike the past few days, when we've had no power for much of the evening. It's nice, sometimes, to be forced to turn off the computer, turn on the kerosene lamp, and read.
The power outages don't help, though, when you rely on evenings to get your work done due to interruptions during the day. So my work seems way behind. Again. And again, I'm trying to work frantically to clean out my inboxes. I'm down from 60-some messages to 20-some. And I've checked off a bunch of items on my list of things to do. Many more remain.
If you'd like to read something worthwhile about someone else's adventures in Kenya, check this out. It makes my single flat tire earlier this week seem like a picnic.
Back to work, I know!
As I rubbed her feet, it was just skin and bones. As is the rest of her body, really. Her knees stand out like huge balls compared the the bony leg on either side. Yet, the most amazing joy filled the room.
She's hardly older than I am, this mother of four. "My mother used to be a very hard worker," her second-born, Nancy, told me as we walked to my car later. "She really struggled to put us through school. But my sister and I had just completed Form 4 (12th grade) when things got bad..."
Nancy's eyes welled up with tears. "Some days, I don't know if I can make it. I have asked God many times, why could I finish Form 4 and now I am stuck at home? He could heal my mother, and then I could continue with my life."
Nancy and her sister takes such good care of their mother. Nowhere on her body is there any sign of skin breakdown. Her hair is combed. Her sheets are clean. She is clean.
"Look!" Hannah had told me soon after I got seated at the foot of her bed. "It's so clean!" She reached her bony hand out and I admired it. It's not like they knew we were coming. We simply showed up at their house this morning in order to drop off some more meds. And good body moisturizer.
And chicken livers. Hannah had told us on Sunday that she's been craving chicken livers. A lot. As we handed her the bag with some papayas and the frozen chicken livers, she held it up in the air, thanking God sincerely for his provision.
At times, it's hard to make out what she says.
At first, it was hard to look at her.
But in the two visits I've paid to her home, Hannah has found a place in my heart. Today, she wanted to sing worship songs. "She really has a song in her heart," Nancy explained. Hannah started singing her favorite Luya chorus, and her daughter joined in. The other children and their father came to stand in the small doorway, next to the roosting chicken. They joined the singing.
Juli shared some thoughts from John 14 and 15 as everyone listened. We prayed Psalm 23 together in multiple languages, with Hannah sticking her bony arm into the air saying her only English phrase over and over. "Thank you. Thank you very much."
"God is so good, my daughters," she told us in Kiswahili. "He has done a good thing..."
I had to fight back the tears, amazed at this woman's faith.
When you look at her, you won't think she has anything to praise God for. But as Juli started another chorus and our colleague Phoebe continued leading song after song, the room was filled with the most amazing, spontaneous worship.
"I have not felt God's presence so strongly in a long time," Phoebe commented later.
It is true. God dwells in that room. He is the one who carries Hannah, the one who encourages her husband and the children. If one thing - no, two things - are evident, is that they love God, and that they love Hannah.
With this family, I honestly am believing that God will heal Hannah! Even though the odds are stacked against her.
Hannah has a huge tumor in her face. It showed up three years ago, and at this stage, it is inoperable. The tumor has destroyed much of the bone on the left side of her face. Her left eye, in fact, sort of sits on the side of her head. Her nose is deformed because of the tumor, so it's hard for her to breathe. It's also hard to swallow since the tumor is pushing into her mouth cavity. Some of her teeth have fallen out.
But today, Hannah was eating. Slowly. But she was eating. The meds we had taken on Sunday was helping. Yet she seemed more concerned about what we might be eating. "Are you having chai, my daughter?" she asked me. "Good!"
And she was singing. Hard as it was for her to sing, she sang. "It has been a while since I've sung," she said. "But God has put a song back in my heart."
Later, her husband poked his head back in the door. "I have a verse for you girls. You can read it at home. I believe it is for you. Go and read Hosea 2:19-20."
As we left, the family asked that we please come back. We will. Perhaps to encourage Hannah and Nancy. Perhaps to be encouraged by this family's faith.
What a gift it is to see God work in the lives of people like Hannah, and the Sifunas, and the countless others around me. What a gift to walk this journey with God. My God. My husband.
Monday, September 17, 2007
Other than the fact that I have this head cold, a bunch of crazy things happened today.
A snake was killed in my house, to begin with. I didn't get to see it. My sister Sanet found it while I was at staff devotions and had a Kenyan kill it. It was a house snake, it turns out, but nevertheless, a scary sight to see lying curled up under some shoes...
Next, a colony of red ants invaded Sanet and my shoes. OK, I'm exhaggerating, but having around 10 big ants bite you is not funny. Not first thing in the morning. Not ever, actually. At least I found mine shortly after putting on the shoes. Sanet's started attacking only after we were in the car and they were halfway up her pant legs! She got rid of them before I started driving.
Sanet, my colleague Juli and I were going to Ilula today for 3 reasons: We had been invited to a colleague's home for lunch, and I had to take photos of new staff. Plus Juli wanted to go and say good-bye to the visiting team from her church. #2 and 3 could've happened tomorrow, when I have to go to town in any case to take Sanet to the airport. But lunch had to be today. It had been arranged yesterday morning, and though I tried several times to call the colleague to make sure it's OK we're coming, his phone wasn't on, so I just had to trust he'd remember.
By the time we pulled off the main road onto the soil road to Ilula, it was evident that the road was much worse than it's been since I've been in Kenya. But I have a good car, so I wasn't concerned. We just slowly drove through the worst parts till we finally pulled into Ilula.
The worst parts:
This is the worst stretch. Though it looks like it's "only mud", several cars have gotten stuck in this patch in the past week, so there are deep potholes hidden by the mud. Which, in turn, has caused more cars to bottom out and get stuck...
The next worst patch. I found that the safest thing literally is to drive with my tires all the way against the mud wall on the right.
OK, so we made it to Ilula. But it turns out the colleague forgot about lunch. But it also turns out that the team decided to leave a day early due to the road conditions. They didn't want to risk having to drive on that road in the morning since it's been raining most nights.
So I interviewed the new staff and took their picture. I packed a few more things to bring to my house in Kipkaren (like my hair drier). We visited and then had to leave just as the team joined the kids for a lunch celebration for the 3rd anniversary of Ilula Children's Home. We couldn't stay due to having to be back at Kipkaren by 4 for a women's Bible study.
And so we pulled out, back into the mud. By the time we got onto the main road, it felt like something was wrong. It was, indeed. My left, rear tire had been punctured by one of the rocks that had been placed to fill the muddy potholes.
Out we jumped, Sanet, Juli and I, and exercised the most amazing teamwork in changing a tire! I pulled out my super-size car jack, and Juli - bless her heart! - started jacking up the vehicle. Sanet in the meantime hauled rocks over to place in front of the front wheels. And I got dirty by starting to unscrew the nuts.
Keep in mind that we had just passed through mud that was literally as deep as the wheel nuts, so it made for one very messy job unscrewing it all.
Now, this is Kenya. In Kipkaren or Ilula, people would stop in a heartbeat and offer to help. But we were close to town, so no-one seemed to care. In fact, I think we were quite the spectacle! A group quickly gathered to watch the three wazungu ladies change a Land Rover tire.
Just like that, the tire was off and the spare tire was in place. Well, actually, getting the spare nicely in place took great effort. Land Rover tires are HEAVY! Nevertheless, we did it. As I lowered the vehicle and Sanet was tightening the nuts one last time, two men stepped up. One asked if he could help. I do believe he had been watching us and thought by helping at the last moment, he'd make a very easy tip. We politely declined. The other gentleman simply wanted to know if we could give him a ride to town. I politely declined, quite amazed that he would watch us struggle, but then ask for a ride. After all, we were very close to town, on the main road, where it would take all of 2 minutes for the next taxi to pass, and it would cost him a mere 20/= (25cUS) to get to town.
But the craziness of the day was not yet over. Since we all had different errands to run (I had to get the bad tire fixed while Sanet had to buy groceries for me and Juli had to do a few other things) we agreed that I'd simply call the others once I'm ready to pick them up. And depending on how long the tire takes to get fixed would determine where they'd be in terms of their errands.
I first dropped off Juli, then Sanet. It's then when I noticed that Juli had left her phone in the car. I figured she'd figure out how to call me, so I proceeded to the garage and watched a very capable elderly gentleman find the two cuts in my tire and fix them at a cost of just 200/= ($3)! Not long afterwards, I was heading back to town, happy to know that everything's once again fine.
While waiting for Sanet, I got chatting with Kanmau, a street boy. I encouraged him to go and stay at the shelter for street boys, but he wanted nothing to do with that, basically because they aren't allowed to sniff glue while staying there. I took him to the bakery, bought him some bread and something to drink, found Sanet, and we headed to the part of town where Juli had since left a voice mail that she'd meet us. As if planned perfectly, we pulled up just as she came walking with some of the goods she had to purchase for friends back at Kipkaren.
One last stop: Raiply. We're getting some cabinets made for the office, and I needed to buy plywood. They didn't have any at the hardware store when I went earlier in the week, so I was heading directly to the supplier. I quickly learned that it's quite the process getting wood there! In fact, to buy three pieces of plywood took me maybe 30 minutes and I had to stop at no fewer than SEVEN "stations" before I was cleared to take the wood home.
That's when our very last almost-catastrophe of the day unfolded. As the guys were placing the planks on my Land Rover's roof rack and started to tie them down with ropes, a wind came up and blew one plank off the top of the car. All I could do was stand there and watch it fly like a magic carpet, heading straight at a woman! Fortunately, she saw it coming and DUCKED just in time as the plank barely touched the top of her head! The wood landed nicely behind her while the woman kept walking, totally amazed at what had just happened. The guys, in the meantime, were cracking up, while I apologized profusely to the still-walking woman. Seriously, she could've been hurt BADLY had she not ducked!
The rest of our drive was uneventful, though it felt like the security guards at the gate was never going to let us go. They were telling us how the one guy lost all his earthly possessions in the recent floods, and how one of us should come and be the guest of honor at his harambe (fundraiser). We politely declined and were finally on our way home.
Unfortunately, I wasn't back in time for the women's Bible study at 4. I'll plan to join the ladies next week instead. It should be good.
But for now, I still have photos to put on CD for my sister and a few last tasks to do before I can call it the day. We have to leave for the airport no later than 6 am tomorrow. I only have 2 meetings in town, and should be able to be home at a decent hour, and get caught up on lots and lots and lots of work that have been put on the back burner while I was hosting my sister.
It's been good to have family around for a bit. Poor Sanet got to experience the wild side of life in Kenya, though! In fact, just this morning, she asked me if I've often had a flat tire, to which I could say, "Thankfully, only once." But now it's, "Only twice, so far."
I'm glad my dad taught us to know how to change a tire. We're not in the world of AAA. And while I don't have a husband, I'd best know how to change a tire.
It takes a good jack. Some basic mechanical knowledge. And good teamwork.
Saturday, September 15, 2007
Today, I drove to a nearby village to take photos at a graduation of 22 traditional birth attendants (midwives). The drive to the village was easy. But while we were in the little church, the heavens seemed to break open and buckets of rain fell. Our director tried without success to speak louder than the sound of the rain on the iron-sheet roof. Alas! So he handed out the ladies' certificates and their new little TBA kits, and everyone started singing again. Outside, in the rain, groups of ladies danced in circles as their friends and families brought gifts and hugs.
After a while of visiting with everyone, we left to have lunch at a nearby house as the rain continued. By the time we left, the road was a slippery mess. Which really is nothing new. But when you're driving on a narrow road with deep trenches on either side, it can be pretty scary. In fact, after I passed through the two worst spots, I was shaking! Just a little, though.
Allison (McCright) made up a song to the tune of "Down on the Corner" by Creedance Clearwater and entertained the entire car with it. "Adele drives a Rover, down in a ditch. Adele drives a Rover, deeper into it. Down in the water, up in a tree. Adele drives a Rover, and it scares me."
But I didn't. I didn't end up in a ditch. The car that followed us did. They got out with the help of others. Yikes.
That's life here.
Even a simple excursion can be an exciting safari! :)
I'll write a longer update later this weekend. Right now, I'm ready to sleep!
Sunday, September 09, 2007
Sanet landed in Nairobi about an hour before I got in from Rwanda, so it worked out great to meet her at the airport! We spent the next day in Nairobi so I could show her around, and drove to Eldoret all of Saturday, even driving through a hale storm...
Since Saturday, I've been trying to catch up on projects, write up things from Congo, stand in for the Kipkaren computer teacher, visit with the team people, and host my sister. So things have been only slightly crazy. But it's been good.
Tomorrow, I'm taking Sanet and the McCright interns to Ilula for a 2-day visit, after which we'll come back to Kipkaren. I might take Sanet to Kakamega forest this weekend if the rains don't continue as they have been. In fact, just for fun, I'll post this picture which I took of my colleague Juli this afternoon for a project she's working on. You can see how ominous the sky looks! We had hardly gotten home when it started to POUR!
I look forward to seeing all the kids tomorrow, including the Sifuna kids down the road. :)
Monday, September 03, 2007
The Congolese have a unique rhythm which they call Rumba. There was a drummer (hand drum) and a guitar player who picked the most fascinating rhythms. And all through church there were hand percussion instruments. Sometimes, the guitar would be playing and all through the congregation, young and old would sit and play along on their own shaker, made of a USA AID oil drum. I took some pictures, but really, it doesn't do it justice. And when they sang, everyone harmonized.
No electric keyboards.
No English songs.
Just Swahili songs with Congolese rhythms.
After the service, people came forward for prayer. We were sitting in the front row, so as a child was waiting to be prayed for, I reached out and prayed for him. And when I opened my eyes, possibly all 20 or so kids who were in church waited for me to pray for them. As I lay my hands on their course hair, I could but smile and thank God for the privilege of praying for these little ones. Witchcraft is still prominent around here. As is the threat of war. North of here, in North Kivu (we're in South Kivu), war has once again been declared, and we're told that thousands of troops have been moved to the area. No-one here seems bothered. It's just a way of life.
They've gotten used to soldiers in their streets and UN helicopters overhead. In fact, during a meeting at school this morning, things were momentarily interrupted as a UN helicopter took off nearby. No-one seemed to notice except for the fact that they had to sing louder for a moment.
But as I was once again interviewing some of the children, the scars of war were more prominent. More stories surfaced of parents and families being killed by soldiers, of young ones staying with people who are using them as household slaves. "I have to work for my food," one girl explained to me today. "My parents are dead. I live with my uncle. I get up at 4:30 to start my chores..."
When I asked her about her favorite game or passtime, she answered without hesitation, "To worship God. To study His Word."
An escape from reality? Perhaps it's more of an escape to reality, into the presence of the God who cares about her, about her suffering.
How does one comfort a young girl like that? By laying your hands on her shoulders and praying that in the midst of life, she'll see Jesus, that He'll get her through this, that she'll hold on to Him as He holds on to her. And by giving her a safe hug, praying that she'll sense God's touch through my caring.
I wish I could do more, though.