Monday, October 12, 2009

Thoughts

I'm sitting in "my" gazebo by my old house. The birds are singing, and the river is flowing steadily. The sky is aflame in the most beautiful sunset, which is reflecting perfectly in the river.

It's been good to be back. Good and strange, too. This morning, as I walked to a meeting, it felt like I had never left. I was wearing a skirt and my leather sandals, carrying a cup of chai with me, listening to the staff singing during the staff meeting. It really felt like I had never left.

It's been almost a year since I left the village. The kids were very excited to see me, as I was to see them! It's been equally good to catch up with friends on staff. There have been many, many changes in this village in the past year, and I've been catching up on how everyone's doing...

Today, after several meetings, I went to check how the dental team was doing. They were cleaning the kids' teeth. Katonye (Dennis), one of my favorite little ones in Kipkaren, slid onto my lap. He has a raspy voice, and every so often, he'd just look at me, say my name, and give his raspy chuckle.

I've missed the kids. I'm touched to see that they have really missed me, too.

As for our team: They're doing amazingly well. We've laughed lots, and worked lots. My role with them is mostly liaison. And encourager. They're a great bunch, though. They think BIG, which I love. Nothing's too overwhelming to them.

Right now, I need to head to the library to have dinner. Am planning to do debriefing with the team at the gazebo closer to the river tonight, to the light of just a lantern...

I'm glad I'm here for this moment in time.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Village Life

Got the team up at 4:00 on Friday. Get their luggage out, ready to be taken by road. Except the drivers didn't show up till 5:45, by which time the team was already at the airport.

Got the packing going, then jumped in the car to rush to the airport, simply on a feeling that something's not right there. Got to the airport to discover their tickets weren't paid for. Ugh! No fun. Got that squared away and got them on the flight.

Back to the guesthouse, picked up the last few items to take up north. We were taking along about 200 lbs of veges, seeing that my friends get anything fresh flown in. Nothing but thorn trees grow where they live.

Hopped on our little Cessna 206 (I think--it's a small 6-seater) and were ready to take off when we were told the airspace had been closed due to military exercises. Got off about an hour later, flying over the Ngong Hills, then row upon row of mountains covered in coffee and tea plantations. Then things start getting drier, and you enter desert area. Flew over craters, then lava fields, over manyattas (groups of huts out in the desert), saw some herds of camels and dozens of dust devils blowing around the desert. Landed in hot Korr.

My friends welcomed us, gave us an overview of things going on in the north, and then we were to head out to see where they'd like to build a hospital.

Except, two men showed up with a medical emergency. A young woman in their manyatta had been in labor for about 36 hours. They were fearing for her life. We RUSHED across desert roads, only to arrive to the news that the baby had been stillborn, and the mother is recovering.

I played with the kids a little while my friends were talking through things with the families. Then we were off to see the area.

My doctor friend committed to getting the first steps done to building a hospital: drilling for water. If there's water in that area, they'll do the next steps of starting building.

Life up north is HARD. We saw several dead camels in the desert, the drought is so severe! I'm told people have lost more than half of all their livestock. They have no food. UNWFP drops off food twice a month, enough for 5 days. So they have food for 10 days a month. Nothing grows. Nothing but thorn trees.

We chased ostriches on our way home (the ostriches outran the car), stopped by a group of ladies under a tree having literacy class, and headed into the compound to the sight of a beautiful sunset.

Had dinner with our pilots (they were waiting for us till the next day) as well as 2 teachers who are helping at the first-ever high school for Rendilles, built by my friends, the Swanepoels.

Walked home under a solid sky of stars. No light pollution. No pollution at all. No clouds. Just stars as far as you can see.

Fell asleep knowing to a desert breeze cooling down the room.

Up early to a beautiful sunrise. After breakfast, headed to a Rendille culture day. My friends encourage the Rendille to maintain all that is beautiful in their culture, so all their schools get together to sing songs and enact customs.

After 4.5 hours in the sun (and more than 300 pictures of everyone in their traditional clothing), we headed back home to freshen up for our flight, passing up on the meal of camel and rice.

Flew over rows and rows of mountains, finally approached the Great Rift Valley, and was welcomed by the team. Then off to Ilula, where I had lived for half my time in Kenya.

It was GOOD to see the kids in Ilula. Boy! Have they grown! My hand hurt at the end of the night from shaking so many hands so tightly. (Also from hanging on for dear life with one hand and a baby in the other hand on the back of the truck in Korr, after culture day.)

Visited with the kids; showed them photos of Taiwan and heard stories. Got out of team meetings too late to go and tuck them in... Bummed about that, but that's life.

Up early for chai and team meeting, then off to the Rono family to visit. More chai. More news. They are thrilled to hear that Esther is doing well in Iowa.

When I got out from their house, kids were waiting to show me how Flannel is doing. She's fine. :) And to show me how they've grown.

Then to church. But that goes on for very, very long, so I slipped out to write this since I know I won't have a chance soon again! There are already several people asking if they can "talk to me" after church. It will all be requests for money. It's one of the toughest things in Kenya, and my least favorite part of being here.

Sat with the Sifuna kids for a while in church. They beamed when they saw me. As did I. They're looking healthy. No jiggers. And they're clean from head to toe!

After lunch, we're heading to Kipkaren. Looking forward to seeing my friends there, too.

The next three days, I'll be helping at meetings regarding clinic stuff, and doing some photo shoots the staff had asked me to do. And assisting the team to do what they've come to do: provide healthcare.

Some of them are doing eye care, some are doing dental care, two are doing general care, some are working on water projects.

It'll be a busy 4 days ahead. Not sure when I can write again. Will try to post at least one update.

All is well. I'm glad to be here. I'm glad I get to connect friends with friends for projects. And I'm glad I get to go home to Taiwan on Saturday again.

Friday, October 09, 2009

dust devils in the desert

this is a funny keyboard, and i'm on solar power and someone's satellite, so just briefly:

* flew in a teeny tiny cessna for about 90 minutes to get to a very remote part of kenya, where I had visited friends prior to leaving kenya last year
* saw dozens of dust devils in the desert as we approached the 'town' of Korr, also herds of camels
* had a very productive meeting, then went out to look at the site for a possible clinic, but first had to stop for a medical emergency - a young mom had been in labor for almost 36 hours in one of the local manyattas and they were fearing she's dying. by the time we got there, the baby had already passed away, and the mom was resting
* didn't go in to see the family, but had a blast playing with the kids outside. most were naked or half-naked; the teens and grownups all in traditional garb. will load photos later
* tomorrow they are having a cultural day at the school. 400 kids plus their parents will be doing traditional rendille and samburu dances.
* i'm tired, wind-burned, but happy
* due to the extreme drought, most families here only have relief food, which is enough for 10 days. the rest of the month they have nothing to eat
* tonight, i'm once again especially grateful for food, running water, electricity, a roof over my head, friends around me, opportunities to study and enjoy life, medical services, LIFE itself, and for God, who is close to the Rendille even through their difficulties

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

"Miss Booysen's going to Africa!"

I get to go back to Kenya for a few days. When I was in Iowa this summer, friends of mine asked if I'd lead their team on a return medical mission. I was thrilled to do it, thinking time is not a problem--I work part time. Right?

Not any more!

When the school asked me if I'd take on a full-time pre-K teaching position, I explained that I already had a commitment in October. They were gracious enough to understand. It turns out that though I'll be gone for 10 days, I only miss 4 school days. That's a God thing, really. It "just so happened" that this trip, planned months ago, is falling over two 3-day school weeks.

My little ones are excited for me to go to Africa. When one of the moms asked her daughter what I'll be doing there, she said, kind of in a moms-just-don't-get-it manner, "To see giraffes and zebras and lions, of course!"

So I explained to the kids today that I'm going to "help sick people." How else do I explain that I'm a part of a medical team but have no medical expertise. I'm going as a liaison, helping to facilitate meetings for some future projects (planning to build a clinic in the remote north of Kenya) as well as for ways in which the team's involvement so far can be maximized. (In other words, how can the clinic they funded in Kipkaren be self-sustainable?)

Until this morning, it really hadn't sunk in that I'm going.

I've been pre-occupied with getting things ready for parent-teacher conferences starting the day I walk back into class. And with finishing a Church History class. (Yeah! I'm another step closer to being Dr. Booysen!) And with working on the coursework for two other classes as well, one of which is the start of my dissertation.

Back to Africa, though.

So it really only hit me this morning that I'm going back to Kenya tonight...

Some things I am really looking forward to:
* Seeing my Kenyan friends, especially the kids in Ilula
* Catching up with my friends in Kipkaren, and meeting Allison and David's baby boy
* Telling the kids about life in Taiwan
* Spending time with God by the river in the mornings
* Watching the African sunrise and sunset
* Journeying with the team, helping them unpack what they're learning
* Spending the last two days in the Maasai Mara with the team
* Buying little gifts for my kids here, so they know I was thinking of them

Things I'm not looking forward to?
* Being confronted with overwhelming needs, and trying to discern where to help and where not to help

Each and every one of my little rugrats gave me the biggest hug this afternoon. "Be careful of tigers, Miss Booysen," my quietest boy said. It doesn't matter how many times I've told them that there are not tigers or bears in Africa.

I'll be careful.

But not so careful that I don't have fun. And not so careful that I don't discover unexpected surprises in unexpected places. By that, I don't mean a snake in the bathroom. 'Cause that might happen, you know? It's just the way it is when you're right by a river.

But the river brings good surprises, too.

I know it does. When I was praying about leaving Kenya last year, God kept impressing on my heart that I need to step out in faith, that as I cross the river before me, he will make my feet sturdy, and that he'll build the bridge as I walk.

He has done so indeed.

What a GOOD GOD we serve!

I'll try to post updates from Kenya, of course.