Tuesday, January 31, 2006

January Update

Today, I watched as gardeners, electricians and construction workers all dropped what they were doing to help with the installation of the new satellite. Everyone had an opinion as to what should be done for the platform, to the point that the actual technicians from Nairobi (whom we had hired to do the work), sat back and waited for the others to do what they deemed necessary. I guess that's part of living in a collective society.

As I am typing, the installation has been interrupted again due to a very welcome burst of rain. Both north and south of us, the country is very dry-dry to the point of famine. I just read an article in one of the local papers about the effects of the drought around the country. People and animals are starving. But here, in our corner of Kenya, things are better. It's dry, but from what I gather, not much drier than what it usually is at this time of year.

So, in the midst of the satellite installation, I moved today. Again. It's my third move since I've come to Kenya. At first, I moved into a guest hut. Then I moved to Don and Amy Rogers' hut. But they'll be back this weekend, so today I moved back to the original hut. It's right next to my own house-a corner of Kenya to which I have laid claim.

Being closer to my place, I've been able to drop in every so often to look at the progress. In the past two days, the ceiling has been installed. The network wiring was also put in yesterday (so that four offices on our base will all have Internet access). More electric wiring is being done, and by late this afternoon, the electricians might actually install the lights. And two guys are putting in tiles in my bathroom. It's looking more and more like a real house! I am not rushing the builders to finish. I'd rather have them take their time and do things well. They talk about starting to paint tomorrow, and it seems like I should be able to move again-my last move for a while, I believe-by Valentine's Day.

As you may know, I was in Ethiopia most of January. I taught a class for Azusa Pacific University's distance learning program, Operation Impact. “Academic Writing Skills,” the class I taught, isn't part of the core classes of Master's degree in Organizational Leadership, but is very much needed. Many of the 100+ students have a very hard time expressing themselves in English, and it was my job to teach them how to write better academic papers. Their assignments will keep me busy with grading during the evenings in May and June.

The majority of my students were Muslim, while a large percentage were Orthodox Christians. I was able to have meaningful conversations with students across board. Some even asked if they could send me prayer requests as things come up. I am happy to minister to them in this way-especially to the women, since theirs is still a strongly male-dominated society.

Though this detour to Ethiopia certainly was God-ordained, I was delighted to return to Kenya. (To understand better, read my blog entries from Ethiopia!)

My focus in Kenya-as elsewhere-will always be to share God with those around me in whatever ways He directs. I am delighted to work with the children at our orphanage, but am even more excited about ministering to the women at our centers.

I have been praying about ways to specifically get involved with discipleship. The staff have regular prayer meetings, but I have discovered that there is no Bible study, and that this truly is something that they would like to do. I am in the process of discussing possibilities with the key people and hope to start a women's Bible study soon. I would appreciate your prayers, specifically regarding topics as well as sensitivity regarding leading. My goal is to train up the Kenyans to lead studies rather than be the one who is leading.

I have just been informed that one of the key components to getting the satellite system up and running, is faulty. The company will send a new part overnight. I need to head to town to drop the technicians off and will send this newsletter at that time. Hopefully, by tomorrow evening, when some of you may have responded, I will be able to access the Internet from home. And once I have Internet access at home, I will be able to create a blog for the orphanage and post daily bits of news on their page.

But for now, I'll make the journey to town in order to get this news to you. Just imagine, this message will not only have traveled halfway around the world to get to you. To get from my house to yours, its journey would've first taken it over bumpy roads, past farms, past kids waving along the way, some of them barebottomed, many running alongside the car. Once the dirt road connects with the paved road, this message will have had to dodge donkeys and matatus (minibus taxis) and then finally squeezed into a parking spots amidst street vendors.

I trust that the message finds you well, and that life continues to be full of joy amidst challenges. Please remember to let me know how I can pray for you.


Sunday, January 29, 2006


Little farmers
Originally uploaded by Boyznberry.
Last night, I got at least 100 hugs. After having dinner at the Teimuges’ house, I rushed over to greet the children. The first boys’ room I walked in, the boys asked immediately, “Will you stay and read us a story?” I’ll have to go back to do that some evening this week since it was close to bedtime and I still had 7 other dorms to greet.

Kipkurui (Calvin) literally dived into my arms. “Adele!” he said. “You back! Welcome.” Even some of the shyest ones gave me tight hugs and told me they missed me. They have NO idea how much I had missed them!

One of the girls’ rooms had rehearsed some songs which they promptly lined up and sang to me. “Please come back so we can tell you stories,” they asked when I left.

I headed over to the West wing, where the first girls’ dorm had packed “Welcome,” and “God loves you” in beads on their desk. They told me that they had watched the sky in the afternoon and had seen my airplane fly over just after 5. This particular family’s kids speak the most English of all, and I shared with them about a friend who is in the hospital, asking if they will pray for her. The girls came to ask me this morning how the friend is because they prayed earnestly and believe God will heal her. I believe so, too.

I headed to their brothers’ room where the boys had gone and picked flowers for me. They asked many questions, and when I shared about the friend (who also happens to be a sponsor to one of the boys in that particular family), they were concerned and promised to pray, too. I was in the next room when one of the boys came to call me. The boy whose sponsor is sick was crying… I went back to his room and held him tight while he cried. It hit me how very important these children’s sponsors are to them. To him, it felt like he was yet again loosing a parent… As he and I cried together, the other kids gathered and prayed for his sponsor, that God will heal her totally.

I look forward to bringing them good news as God brings healing in the friend’s life.

Only this morning did I have time to go and look at my house. It’s not as far along as I had thought it would be, but I’m actually relieved. This way, I’m here while the finishing touches are being done. The cement is still drying, so the walls have not yet been painted. We don’t want to rush this since the cement has to be TOTALLY dry before you paint. I’m starting to envision the house with plants and my stuff. Not that I have any furniture yet… I’ll have to start looking for furniture this week. I will upload photos as things come along.

I am told that the satellite dish will be installed on Tuesday. That means that this is hopefully the last time I’m typing from an Internet café in town! Though my house won’t be ready, the Internet connection will be, and I’ll set things up so I can connect from home.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Karibu Kenya!

That's "Welcome to Kenya." I am back "home," or, at least, almost home. I am in downtown Nairobi, killing time before heading to the airport for my flight to Eldoret. This morning, I walked a hotel close to the hostel where I stayed to get a cab. Originally, I thought I'd try to get a driver to bring me downtown and take me to the airport after a few hours. The guy wanted to charge me KS4,500. I reminded him that I wasn't a tourist, that I live in Kenya and know how much things cost, so I just had him take me to the city, which is KS300. He tried his best to convince me that I needed to hire him since I have luggage, but fortunately I had left my bigger, heavier suitcase at the domestic airport yesterday when I tried to get an earlier flight home, and only have overnight luggage with me. I left the lugagge at a downtown hotel while doing all I needed to do this morning.

One thing I wanted to get while in Nairobi was a transformer for my printer. We use 220V in Kenya, and my printer needs just 110V. The first shop I went didn't have any step-down transformers. I went to a big hardware store next door, and they suggested I go to "Electric City." Since I had no idea where that was, they offered to send Mr. Sunday with me. They also suggested that it would be safer since I had my backpack on me.

Mr. Sunday's name doesn't suit him well. It makes him sound like he's a laid-back guy. He should be Mr. Lightning or something! He walked like something was after him, cutting through traffic and occasionally looking over his shoulder to make sure I'm keeping up. We got to Electric City just to be told they didn't have transformers; we should go to their other store which is around the corner from where we started. By the time we reached the next store and I got what I needed, Mr. Sunday had a big smile on his face. He said, "You got good exercise today." I was red in the face from the walk. But I was glad that Mr. Sunday had walked with me. He actually seemed surprised that I tipped him when we got back to his workplace. I think he was thankful for the opportunity to slip out of the store.

Next, I needed someplace to eat and relax. I was really hungry by then, only having had a donut (called a bombolino) and coffee for breakfast yesterday in Addis, a bite of dry chicken for lunch on the airplane, and nothing for dinner.

After I had cooled down and eaten, I decided to walk around some book stores in the city center for a while, come to an Internet cafe, and next, head to the airport.

Laban, the orphanage director, will pick me up at the Eldoret airport this evening. Then I get to see the kids and my house! I'm having dinner at the Teimuges' house tonight. They're the directors of the ministry. I'm glad I won't have to cook since I don't have much in the house right now. On Monday, I'll go to town to buy groceries and upload photos to Flickr of my house and of the kids in their school uniforms.

I think if anything, being in Ethiopia so soon after settling in Kenya truly made me thankful for how things are in this country. It also gave me time to think and pray through some specifics in planning for ministry focus this year. I'll share more about that at another time.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

No crazy stories this week

Originally uploaded by Boyznberry.
I’m glad that I have no crazy stories to share from this past week. I have been able to stay out of trouble, probably because I was mostly in Debre Zeit, teaching.

What an honor to sit down with each and every one of my 32 students today and help them see the good in the pieces they had to write at the start of the week as well as to identify areas which they need to improve.

There was one day this week that I wasn’t feeling too well—eating strange food tends to catch up at some stage, plus, I believe, the “excitement” of all that I had encountered during my short time in Ethiopia caused my body to say, “Stop!” My colleague, Dr. Willie Addai taught all of Wednesday, allowing me to I take a day off to recuperate. Though Thursday was a national holiday, we had class, and so I taught the entire day.

“National holiday?” you may wonder. “Didn’t you just have a national holiday last week? We did indeed, and I’m eager to see what holiday may pop up next week as I’ve been led to believe that Ethiopia has several holidays each month. In fact, yesterday’s holiday actually started on Thursday and ended today.

While the Muslim Ethiopians celebrated The Day of the Ram last week, it was their Orthodox Christian countrymen’s chance to celebrate Epiphany this week. This religious holiday marks the end of Christmas, and is celebrated 12 days after Ethiopian Christmas (hence “The Twelve Days of Christmas”).

I was not able to take photos of any of the celebrations this week, or of the crowds, but I am told that while I was teaching on Thursday, as many as 70,000 Ethiopians gathered in our town in a procession to walk with the Ark of the Covenant (or a replica of it, at least). Many of them even spent the night in the field on Wednesday as the procession started that day. Some of the streets in town were blocked off so that the people could celebrate.

After class today, I only saw remnants of the celebrations as Orthodox Christians were walking along the main highways heading home, all dressed in white. It’s really a beautiful sight!

I may have mentioned before that all four lecturers who have been teaching at Debre Zeit have been staying at a resort halfway between our city (or town, rather) and Addis Ababa. There’s really nothing at this resort other than the rooms, a few restaurants, and a pool. You just hear the constant roar of traffic as we’re right off the highway that connects Addis to the south of the country.

Heading home today, I noticed a farm behind our hotel and decided to take a photo of the haystacks. I probably did attempt the one daring deed that could’ve potentially gotten me into trouble: I scaled the guards’ lookout tower in order to take this photo. (Our resort is surrounded by fencing and bushes, making it impossible to take a photo otherwise of the surroundings.) I didn’t get into trouble. Phew!

So, tomorrow (or today, by the time I get to upload this onto the Web) we are being taken to Addis for lunch, after which we’ll have some time at the Internet café. One of our professors (Dr. James Kantiok) has already returned to the US. Another (Christine Wood) is leaving on Sunday to teach in another district, which leaves just two of us to finish out the week.

Has this been a good experience? Despite the challenging encounters I have had in the city, I have been blessed to be a part of a program that is truly affecting the country on the whole. (Right now, more than 300 Ethiopian leaders are enrolled in Operation Impact!) But on a more personal level, it really has been a joy connecting with the students on a personal level. From the highest government levels to leaders of NGOs, Christians, Orthodox Christians and Muslim alike, the students have been a joy to work with.

But it’s not over yet. Next week, I’ll start the final week of teaching. And on Saturday, I’ll fly back to Kenya—hopefully, if the Ethiopian Airlines flight doesn’t get canceled.

This week, will you please pray:
* for the 65 students from the past two weeks, that our discussions will remain with them and that God will allow the seeds to grow
* for meaningful interaction with the remaining 30
* for my flight next Saturday NOT to be canceled
* for a safe journey back to Nairobi, and a safe flight onwards to Eldoret
* for the children and staff in Kenya—I truly miss them, especially the kids!

Blessed that you’re on this journey with me,


Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Ethiopian food

Ethiopian food
Originally uploaded by Boyznberry.
On Saturday night, we were taken to a traditional Ethiopian restaurant. Most of the Ethiopian dishes are beef (including tripe), goat, lamb and some chicken. I typically try and avoid eating much meat, especially if you consider what the butcheries look like in this part of the world, but sometimes you have no choice.

I have not been as sick as some of my colleagues have been (perhaps because my body is more accustomed to some of the micro organisms you inevitably ingest living in a rural culture), but the past two days I've not been feeling my very best.

Last night, one group of students (whom I had last week) invited all four APU professors to a thank-you dinner. It was a very grand affair, especially since the Minister of Transportation and Communication, the assistant governer of Oromia region and the Secretary of State are all members of the class.

The students then progressed to lavish us with gifts: Typical Oromia garb (click on the photo to be taken to my other photos, including one of me in my new Oromia outfit...), roasted barley (the favorite snack around here), and coffee beans.

Oromia is aparently where coffee originated, and they gave us beans that had not yet been roasted. We're supposed to roast them ourselves. Talk about fresh coffee!

This weekend, I had wanted to go to Lalibella (a famous site in Ethiopia--churches are carved into rock) but couldn't get a ticket. I'll stay close to the city instead, and try to keep out of trouble!

Please keep praying for safety and for relationships with my students.

Sunday, January 15, 2006


My hair's been getting out of hand, but I have no idea where I can get a haircut. Kristin's told me about a good place in Nairobi (a 6-hour drive from where I live), but I'll only be passing through Nairobi in 2 weeks' time, and there won't be time to get a haircut then.

So my APU colleague/friend, Yuriko, who is in Addis for a few days, offered to cut my hair. She often cut others' hair, so I figured it couldn't be too big a risk... But we had to find scissors. That has been quite a feat! The hotel where they're staying (and where I'm visiting Yuriko, Mary and Sue for the weekend) don't have scissors. The front desk sent me to concierge, who sent me to the manager's office, who said "Sorry, we never use scissors." I finally found a pair at the Internet cafe, and she's letting me borrow them for the evening. I'll upload a picture of the process when I can get my computer hooked up to the Internet again. Actually, as I'm sitting here, my hair is HALF done. We had first borrowed a pair from another shop, but after half of my hair was cut, we called it quits since the scissors were blunt.

Yip. Imagine me with the left side of my hair long, the right side short. I don't think the Ethiopians are thinking it's particularly strange, since many of the tourists here are rather unique. They probably see more weird things than people with odd haircuts. (After I had written this update, I did manage to find another pair of scissors and Yuriko was able to finish the job. One would never think my hair was cut by anyone but a pro!)

This is it for now. I will be leaving for Debre Zeit (where my classes are held) early in the morning and will most likely not be able to connect to the Internet for the rest of the week. I might try to come to the city on Thursday since it's a national holiday, but it's not certain yet.

It's been an ABSOLUTE blessing to see some friends and to laugh at the silliest things. We have really had an amazing time, not only being goofy, but also being able to observe this culture and pray for this nation.

It is exciting to know that we are here on a program that is impacting the leaders of this nation. More than 300 government officials and other leaders are currently enrolled in APU's Master's Degree that we're offering here.

I keep thinking of random facts I want to share with you:
  1. Ethiopia has no ATMs. This is challenging since I'm no longer used to carrying cash when I travel! (Praise God I brought my US check book with me in order to reimburse my friends for some things they brought for me. I could thus give them a check and get some cash!)
  2. Ethiopia has only one university (though it has campuses in a few cities): The University of Addis Ababa. And this university has only one female professor.
  3. Of the 300-some students in our program, there are fewer than 10 in the entire program. We're encouraging more to enroll.
  4. Arranged marriages and marriage by abduction still happens in this country. Girls as young as 6 or 7 years old can be abducted, after which the abductors send a message to the family to make wedding arrangements. It hurts to imagine that!
Please pray with me and for me this week, will you?
  • Praise God for one week's classes that went smoothly, and for the interaction with students, many of whom are Muslim.
  • Praise God for safety amidst the many bizarre experiences I've had in Addis.
  • Praise God for time with friends!
  • Pray for the ability to truly connect with my students this week.
  • Pray for safety in travels.
  • Pray for the nation of Ethiopia...

Until I'm able to connect again,



Today, I had a fight with a gun-wielding soldier

Street kids
Originally uploaded by Boyznberry.
Today, (1/14) I had a fight with an Ethiopian soldier. Literally. Hand-to-hand combat! He tried to grab my camera from me, and I fought him off. I refused to let him take my camera! Here’s what happened…

Sue, Mary and I decided to explore Addis. We left our hotel with lots of energy and decided to simply walk around. Due to my experience the other day (see my previous blog entry), I knew where the Menelik II Orthodox Church was, so we headed in that direction.

One encounters many, many beggars on the streets here, as well as children who either just beg or sell gum, tissues or post cards to make a living. Rather than give children money, we bought bread rolls which we carried with us and handed out as we saw fit. Soon after leaving the hotel grounds, we saw a young boy with the most beautiful smile. His name was Abraham, and he really didn’t want bread or anything from us. He was simply walking, looking for a good spot to set up his business—shining shoes. He’s 11.

We really didn’t know the exact way to the Hilton Hotel (which in turn is close to the church we were planning on visiting), so Abraham was showing us the way. As we were walking, more children joined us. They were talking more with Sue and Mary (even singing Christian songs) while Abraham and I were talking about football—the most common topic for small talk once Africans find out I’m from South Africa, the land of Bafana Bafana.

Aaaaanyway, Abraham suddenly said, “Could I shine your sandals for you? They will look more beautiful than ever!” I figured, No problem, I would have paid the kid in any case for showing us the way, and my sandals were dusty from the walk by then. “Sure!” I said. He promptly sat down and took out polish and brushes from the wooden box he had been carrying with him.

Of course, being me, I had to take a photo of my new friend Abraham cleaning my shoes.

No problem, right?

BIG problem, actually!

It just so happened that we had stopped right next to a high wall, which in turn just happens to be the wall surrounding the National Palace, where the Prime Minister lives. And, despite the fact that there were ABSOLUTELY NO SIGNS that photography is prohibited, it’s here where the soldier came up to me and literally grabbed my camera from me.

And I fought back.

When he realized that this “chick” was not going to give up her camera, he said, “Wait here!” and left. The kids had scattered the moment he approached us, except for Abraham, who was still shining my sandals. This kid was determined to make a few Birr doing what he does well!

The soldier came back with another soldier who could speak a little English. “Give me camera!” he demanded. I said no, I’d show him. I continued to show the man the photo I had taken, and then showed him that I am deleting that specific photo. But they’re not used to digital cameras, so they still wanted to take my camera to rip out the film! I refused to let them touch my camera! “I’ll show you,” I explained.

Poor Mary and Sue were standing there praying! And while this bizarre episode is unfolding, I was thinking a number of thoughts.

1. God, please help us!
2. I’m not letting them take my camera, no matter what! I’d sooner have them arrest me than have them take my camera from me.
3. I’m glad I’m not alone, that Sue and Mary are with me.
4. I’m actually glad Mary and Sue get to experience this bizarre event!
5. I’m not letting them take my camera…
6. God, please help us!

When the guards were satisfied that the photos on my camera did not include any of the wall, they finally let us go.

My heart was pounding! Those of you who know me well know that when I get excited/tense, I start shaking, so you can imagine how I was shaking!

The rest of the day, we walked around and I was really careful where I took photos. In fact, I took VERY few pictures at all, fearing that a soldier might jump out from somewhere and try to grab my camera.

What a day.

I did manage to buy some beautiful Ethiopian musical instruments! I bought a karar, a guitar of sorts used by the Gambela people. I also bought a mashinko, an Ethiopian violin. And I bought a pizza-size coffee table used by the Jima people. I’m happy with what I can take home to my hut in Kenya. (Click on the photo on my blog to see photos of these instruments.)

That’s it. We’re being taken out by Badeg, our Ethiopian host tonight. I’d better get ready for that!
It is now 10 p.m., and we just got back from our Ethiopian dinner. Ethiopians do not used utensils to eat. Instead, they used only bread (called injera) to pick up everything on their plates. The choices were spicy chicken stew, not-so-spicy chicken stew, tripe, spicy chunks of beef, not-so-spicy chunks of beef, and a gamut of other meat dishes (including chicken liver and other beef dishes prepared in various ways). Oh, and eggs, boiled in the chicken stew. And some salads, for the Westerners, since salad really isn’t an Ethiopian dish.

A waiter comes to your table to wash your hands, and after you’ve had your hands washed, you’re not supposed to touch your hair. That’s a big no-no. (Though I doubt it will result in fighting off a soldier.)

And during this whole time, a band was playing African drums, karars and mashinkos. There were also singers and dancers, depicting bits and pieces from different Ethiopian tribes. I really didn’t enjoy the dancing, but it was one of those cultural events you simply have to experience.

Ethiopia has 80-some different tribes, so the dances varied from styles similar to that of other African people groups to some that were unlike anything I’ve ever seen. The most bizarre one was a dance where the girls spin their heads round and round and round until you wonder if their spinal cords are still in tact. Seriously! I didn’t enjoy watching the dances, plus smoking is allowed anywhere and everywhere in this country, and the smoke probably was getting to me, too.

Perhaps I would’ve enjoyed this cultural event more had it not been that I had walked no less than 10 miles today and been accosted by a soldier.

Tomorrow, we are going to an Amharic church service.

I miss my home church (New Covenant Bible Church)!

Saturday, January 14, 2006

News from Ethiopia

I don't want to bore you with the details of teaching a class on Academic Writing Skills. It's just been a really long week where I ended up teaching for 10 hours straight one day! Plus it has been hard in that I’m just not used to classroom teaching any more. Add to that the fact that only one of my two text books was sent (and it arrived late on Thursday), so I’ve been having to improvise a LOT. That’s hard with a technical class such as this one.This coming week, we'll have 8-hour days, so I'll be teaching in the afternoons for 4 hours every day.

I'll be exploring Addis Ababa with friends (APU colleagues) today. Mary Grams, Sue Clark and Yuriko Glessner form APU had to come and administer English tests. They also happen to bring me some treats.

It was SUCH a treat seeing friends! I came to Addis with them last night, an hour's drive from where my classes are. We were all so tired--our testing only ended at 8pm!--but after dinner we visited till way late. This morning, they're sleeping in a bit while I'm catching up on e-mail etc. We had hoped to go to Lalibella this weekend, but it didn't work out. I’ll just plan to go next weekend. There are two girls here who had just graduated from APU—Chelsea and Lara—and they said they’d want to go, too. They’re in Ethiopia for 8 months for short-term missions. They’re having a bit of an adjustment challenge since they’re not being asked to do what they were told they would be doing here. But that’s a whole other matter!

Where am I?
So, I've finally figured out the name of the town where I teach. It's Debre Zeit—pronounced “daubre zjet”--about an hour directly south of Addis. I'll be taking more photos this coming week so you can get a picture of where we are. For the time being, I'll try to draw word pictures.

Horses and Donkeys
In Ethiopia, there are far more horse buggies than there are in Kenya. (There you see more donkey cars.) Here, you'd see large trucks, old Russian-made taxis and horse buggies on the road all at the same time.

It's a beautifully simple picture to see one of the horse buggies driving towards you with an Ethiopian family on the back, the woman's head covered with a scarf.

Pictures donkeys walking on the side of the roads with hay piled high on their backs... (Mary is convinced that she wants to bring a donkey home as a pet.)

People everywhere
As in most places in Africa, you don't drive along the highways without there being a plethora of pedestrians. It seems like school started again yesterday, so add to the men and women walking to/from work (or market, or where?) to kids in their school uniforms.

Speaking of school, my students explained that in rural parts of Ethiopia, there are as many as 100 students per class! Can you imagine that?? Illiteracy is still VERY high in this country, too.

We have had access to "Western" food (or as close a resemblence of it as the local chef can make) at our hotel. But we've also had a chance to enjoy Ethiopian food. In typical Ethiopian restuarants, you do not used utencils to eat. Instead, you get bread called injera, which you use to pick up the rest of the food. Injera is a lot like crepes, but the dough is sour and coffee-colored. Not that there's coffee in it, though. ;) Ethiopians do love their coffee, and their coffee ceremonies are similar to Chinese tea ceremonies, with people sitting around a little table in a corner and being served little glasses of coffee. (Yip, glasses, not cups.)

Ethiopian dinner tables are woven from reeds and are about 4 feet off the ground. They're round (put your arms together in a circle--they're about that size) and there's a clay "plate" upon which all the food is served. The chairs are small, too. Yes, yes, I'll take photos so you get a better idea.

Mary just showed up. We're going to have breakfast now. I'll write tonight and upload photos.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

How bizarre

“Stop!” a soldier with an AK-47 shouted at me. I froze right there, on the steps leading up to the National Palace.

“What you want?” he asked.

“I wanted to walk around the gardens of the National Palace. The guard at the Hilton…”

“You want Hilton?!”

“No, the guard at the Hilton told me I could come and walk around the gardens,” I tried to explain while ignoring the fact that he's lifting his AK-47 as to flex his muscles, I thought. I wasn't afraid, just taken aback a little. After all, after enquiring as to what there is to see in this area, I really was told that I could walk around the National Palace (where Ethiopia's last emperor, Haile Selassie, lived before the Communist siege in 1974).

“Go away!” he said.

Needless to say, I turned around and headed to my second destination, the oldest Orthodox Christian Church in Addis. This church, which hosts the bodies of Emperor Menelik II* and some of his family members.

That was yet another experience. I made the mistake of clarifying directions, and an Ethiopian man came running up and said, “You go to church? I am going there too. I walk with you.” I made it clear that I wanted to walk alone since I knew I didn't have much Birr (Ethiopian money) on me, and he'd demand payment for his services. “No no no! I go there. No problem!”

We walked up the hill, around the National Palace, and then proceeded to this really old church. My guide refused to leave my side until I told him, “Really! I want to be alone.”

“OK, but you give me something!” he said. Fortunately I had an orange in my bag, so I just reached for the fruit and said, “There. Good-bye.” Yikes!

I walked around inside the church and joined a German father and son's tour group, learning about the good Menelik II and his descendants did for Ethiopia. Exiting the musty basement mausoleum, I was promptly joined by a teenage guide who wanted to point out every gold-painted painting of Mary. “Look, Maria!” he'd say, putting his arm around my shoulders.

“Yes,” I'd nod, politely and discretely taking pictures of the old leather drums and of the pries sitting in a corner praying. And I'd move away at least a step or two. Next picture, next advance. “Look!” he'd say, thinking I might not notice his arm this time having more of a grip around my shoulders. BIG step away.

“Thank you,” I said, gave him 1Birr and he left the church with a smile on his face. I, on the other hand, had the chills. It was just bizarre! I don't mind traveling alone (though I don't prefer doing so). I don't mind asking for help. I don't mind tipping people who do help when I ask them. But I don't like it when people won't take “no” for an answer!

Yikes again. I was happy to leave the grounds. I stopped by a few of the Coptic Christian stores along the way, looking at the relics they had for sale. I spoke to a very friendly Ethiopian lady who explained to me that the 5-ft tall walking sticks they sell (and which I saw in the church) are used to lean on while you pray.

I took several beautiful photos, but plugged my camera into my computer as the computer was still starting up. In the process, all the photos were erased from the camera.

What an utterly bizarre afternoon…

Though I had lost the photos from this afternoon, pictures that will stay in my mind are
* the gentle smile of the Coptic priest as I asked if I may take pictures of him and then showed him his pictures on my camera
* the devotion of worshipers who came and bowed low before entering the church to pray
* the determined look on my guides' faces that they would show me around and that I will pay them for their services
* the “Stop! Go away!” of the soldier whose government has changed, yet the ways of the military still have some Communist remnants

Am I glad I came to the city and walked around. You bet I am. I will be back, but next time I explore downtown Addis, I'll probably invite someone to walk with me. It's so much more fun to share these bizarre moments with someone else! (And it'll probably be easier getting rid of touchy teenagers, too!)

The sun is setting on the city and it's time for me to head southward.

*Menelik II became emperor in 1889, reunified the Ethiopian Empire by gaining control of many of the small kingdoms. In 1896, Menelik defeated an Italian army that had occupied part of Ethiopia. This victory earned him much respect and helped increase his power in Ethiopia.


Originally uploaded by Boyznberry.
I'm in Ethiopia and am spending the day in Addis Ababa since it's a Muslim holiday and we thus cannot teach today. Click on this photo to see some photos of my trip into town today.

Destination: Ethiopia

I'm in Ethiopia, and was told that we'd be in a city called Nazareth. The classes were moved, however, and people tell me we're now in Omhuru (?) district. Our OI classes are held at the National Defence Training Center, so we're supposedly very, very safe. I don't feel unsafe, though.

First Impressions
My first impressions of Ethiopia was not too positive. When I arrived at the airport on Sunday to leave for Addis, I was simply told, “The flight was canceled. Come back later.” Just that. When I asked the clerk to at least give me my ticket (I had purchased my ticket online and had to pick up a paper ticket at the airport), I was told that my reservation had been canceled and the evening flight was full. “Just come back later,” the clerk kept telling me. He was not going to do anything to help solve the issue.

Six hours later, I returned to the airport. I was issued a ticket (a long and drawn-out story in and of itself) and was finally able to head through emigration. In the course of events, I had made some friends, and we ended up playing cards at the coffee shop, waiting to board our plane.

Welcome to Ethiopia!
Getting to Addis, my opinion of the country changed quite a bit. The Ethiopians, it turns out, are incredibly friendly and laid-back people.

I was met at the airport by the OI site coordinator (Dr. Badeg Bakele) and his assistant, Ephram. There were also two girls from APU with them. They're here for a couple of months helping at Badeg's church. (I hope I'll be able to travel to Lalibella with these girls during one of the two weekends I'm in the country.)

So, yesterday I started teaching "Academic Writing Skills." The students have one class in the morning (this week, my group has "The Leader as an Agent of Change") and then I get them in the afternoon. You can only imagine the joy of trying to keep 35 adults engaged in the wonderfully interesting field of academic writing in an afternoon session that lasts 5 hours!

We do have a coffee break at 3:30, though, and during that break yesterday, I had a marchiato. It was not, however, like its namesake sold by Starbucks. Nevertheless, it was probably the best cup of coffee I've had in East Africa!

Referring to it as a cup of coffee isn't entirely correct, though. You get served a really small glass (perhaps a small juice glass) of steamed milk with a shot of espresso.

Meet the Students
While enjoying the marchiato, I visited with one of my students and snacked on the favorite Ethiopian snack: roasted barley. In a very gentle, Ethiopian manner--Ethiopians are very soft spoken--he asked me about my experience with Ethiopan Airlines… After answering his questions, I turned the conversation back to him, asking questions about his work etc. Turns out that he is Ethiopia's Minister of Transport and Communications!

Another of my students is one of the supreme court judges of this country. I deliberately didn't want to ask about their positions because I knew that there were some pretty important students in class, and I simply wanted everyone to be on the same foot. But visiting with them individually, you learn about what they do and who they are.

It is a challenge trying to remember the students' names. Except for the two Mohammeds in class, everyone's names are very Arabic sounding (as is their language, Amharic.) Names include ones like Getachew, Tekaligne and Abdurezelak. Try and say that one fast!

My class this week has 35 students. Only three of them are women. One of these women, I believe, will turn out to be Ethiopia's Minister of Health. She is passionate about reforming health care in her country.

I teach for five hours every afternoon (from 2-7), and an APU colleague who is from (and lives in) Ghana, Dr. Willie Adai, teaches in the morning. Today, however, we have the day off since it's a Muslim holiday.

Muslim Holiday
About 40% of my class, I am told, are Muslim. But very few of them are very devout. Today, though, is one of the three major holidays on the Muslim calendar. (The other two are Ramadan and the day they celebrate the birth of the prophet Mohammed.) Today's celebration revolves around Abraham going up Mt. Ararat and sacrificing not Isaac, but Ishmael. In English, the day is called "Day of the Ram," and on our way into the city we encountered thousands of Muslims going to prayer or coming back after praying. We also saw spots where people could buy rams, though one of my colleagues (who did his PhD in Islamic Studies) told me that the Muslims were supposed to have had the lamb yesterday already, as that is the day Abraham would have found the ram.

What was interesting was to listen to my two African colleagues (one from Ghana, one from Nigeria) talk about why they thought Islam was growing so fast in Africa. (They are both strong Christians, by the way.) They explained that many of their Muslim neighbors were incredibly hospitible and generous, and that whenever anyone in their community had a crisis, it was always the Muslims who rallied around the family first. They thought that the Christian church reaches out much less to people in need.

The majority of the country are Christians, and a great majority of the Christians (not sure what percentage) are Orthodox Christians. When you drive along the roads, you'd see people stopping to cross themselves (like Catholics would) and bowing when they as much as see a Coptic Church-even ones that are still in the process of being constructed.

Christmas in Ethiopia
The Ethiopians use a different calendar, so right now, it is the year 1998 and it's still December, I think. Christmas, it turns out, is on December 30th (Ethiopian calendar), which is our January 7th, the day after I landed in this country. In a week or so, they'll be celebrating the official "end of Christmas," or the epiphany. It's supposed to be another major holiday.

Back to Class
So, back to what I'm doing here... I am teaching a 20-hour class (with much more time spent on on-line written assignments) three times over the next three weeks. The class focuses on academic writing skills, such as how to write a proper research paper. Not the most exciting class to be teaching, but I'm supposed to know how to teach it since my official background is in teaching English as a second language, and I've taught similar classes at APU to ESL students.

May it suffice to say, though, that I am delighted that teaching academic writing skills is not what I do year round... I'm not passionate about it, and for me, I simply have to enjoy my job! I cannot see the sense in doing a job just for the sake of working.

And that's what I love about my job in Kenya, and why I'm really looking forward to going back.

Speaking of Kenya
While in Ethiopia, I've been able to watch BBC at night and see news about the severe drought in Kenya. BBC reports than the official death toll is 40, though they believe this is grossly understated since they knew of 30 people--many of which are children--reported to have died in just ONE village. The most severe drought is in the east north of the county, with a severe shortage of maize, though we have a maize surplus in the west, where I live. Please pray for rain!

I'm going to explore Addis for a while before I'm being picked up to head back to Omhuru. I will not be able to connect again anytime soon. I will upload news whenever it's possible to do so.

Now I just need to figure out how many Birr (Ethiopian currency) I have to pay for my time here...

Please pray for the remaining time with my students
* for them to understand the contents of my class,
* for me to be able to know how to adjust to their needs
* for God to work through me and the other APU faculty to touch the lives of our Muslim students, especially
* for us to also be an encouragement to our Christian students

From a hot Addis,

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Progress on the house

Until yesterday, one could stand in my house and look at the African sky. I sometimes had to smile at myself as I was wishing I could somehow keep it that way, that I'd be able to lay in bed looking at the stars. But then I realized that it rains for months, and that with the rains, mosquitos come. Like it or not, my house needed a roof. The roof is now up, and next, they'll start with the rest of the finishing touches.

For those who have contributed to the building of this home, whether financially or in prayer, I wish you could be here to see the progress. Perhaps you'll just have to come and visit sometime, eh? Posted by Picasa

Trouble in the City

I'm en route to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I have to spend the evening in Nairobi due to my flight to Addis being early tomorrow morning. Upon arriving in Nairobi this morning, the taxi driver informed me of a problem they've been having in downtown Nairobi this week:

Due to the severe droughts across the country, the Maasai people have been bringing their cows to downtown Nairobi in order for them to graze. Apparently, they even knocked on the president's door to ask if their cows can graze on his lawn seeing that he has such a big yard. Their request was turned down. The Maasai have since taken their cows to the suburbs, and people are complaining that the cows are ruining the gardens.

Related to this incident, the Kenyans (or the people of Nairobi, at least), are now complaining that their meteorologists are ill qualified since they had recently predicted that the first rainfall of the year will be in March, yet Nairobi recently had two days of rain.

Somehow, I'm thankful that I live in the boonies. I've found cows and goats in my (or rather, the Rogers') yard on a number of occasions. I figure they keep the grass short--and fertilized.

Speaking of the yard: I had mentioned a few days ago that some of the boys had proudly shown me their garden when I returned from home. They've been planting every single seed they can lay their hands on, and you can find them by the fence where they've done their planting almost every afternoon. Some of the younger ones still have to learn that it doesn't help to dig up the seeds to check on their progress, but then again, they'll discover that for themselves.

Hillary and his friends have been admiring the Rogers' roses and have asked me how they, too, can plant roses. Can one grow a new rose bush from cutting off a branch of an existing rose bush? Anyone?

I know I'll miss the kids a lot these three weeks that I'll be in Ethiopia. I went to greet them before leaving for the airport this morning, but as we drove off, all the children came running out and waved again. "We'll pray for you, Adele," Vincent assured me. "We'll miss you, Adele," Vitalin said with a serious look on her little face.

Kipkurui (little Calvin) came running up to me and did what he always does: He looked me in the eyes and spoke Swahili. But he doesn't just speak. The words shoot from his mouth without him taking a moment to breathe! He'd look at you and at the end of the monologue his eyes would get really big, like he's waiting for me to say "Yes!" But I don't know what he's saying. His dorm mom later told me that he came to her asking if I'll be back... Often times, after he's come to talk to me like this and realized that I still cannot understand him, he'd smile, pop his thumb into his mouth, spin around and walk off. His only four, and his English is limited to "How are you? Fine! Welcome!" and, when he's playing and wants me to acknowledge what he's doing, he'll shout, "Adele! See me!"

A year ago, when he first came to the orphanage and was a petite three years old, it took the staff months to convince him that he did not have to get up and collect water before he'd be fed breakfast. See, while living with his aunt in the slums, he and his siblings were required to fill up a water container for their aunt's brewing business before she'd give them their morning tea.

I look at little Calvin and at bigger children like Hillary and Vitalin, and I thank God that they're in a place where they're surrounded by loving parents who are teaching them who they are in Christ. And I have hope for Kenya, because although thousands of children are left orphaned by AIDS, many of them are being taken care of by people who are training them up in the ways of the LORD.

What an honor to play a small part in this work God is doing.

Friday, January 06, 2006

If Weather.com is accurate...

I'll be basking in the hot Ethiopian sun for the next three weeks. The temperature in Addis this past month was generally in the mid to heigh seventies (low to mid twenties Celsius.) I'm glad we'll be indoors all day, every day.

The class I'll be teaching is a 5-day intensive on Academic Writing. I'll repeat the course three times to three different groups of Ethiopian government officials.

What I'm looking forward to the MOST during this time is seeing three colleagues from APU. Sue Clark, Mary Grams and Yuriko Glessner will be coming to Addis to administer an English test. I am thoroughly looking forward to visiting with people who know me and whom I know...

OK, back to my preparations.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

"Eating news"

"Eating news"
Originally uploaded by Boyznberry.
Today, I drove from 6:30 a.m. till almost 6 p.m., visiting five villages and taking photos of 12 students who are part of our student sponsorship program. (I.e. people in the US pay their school fees.)

This photo was taken in the very first home we visited, where, ironically, the girl we went to take a photo of, wasn't home.

It truly is an honor to be allowed into people's homes like this. This family was still sitting in their kitchen/dining room having their morning chai (tea).

I love how you can see the light coming into the window.

The grandmom is sitting next to the stove. Above here head is firewood, cut up and stacked ready for use.

The fire is in the middle, with the morning tea on the fire. To the left and right of the fire, they have little compartments where they keep chicks warm. It was so cozy, visiting with the little peeps of about 20 chicks coming from by the fire!

I don't like that I cannot speak Swahili yet and communicate with the Kenyans, but I'm learning. Slowly but surely.

Click on the photo to see more photos of the journey.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Warm showers, Mango chicken and Finding lights

I was told yesterday at the Internet cafe that the owners think I'm funny, because I'm the only person who ever sits here and smile at my computer screen. I can't help smiling when I get news from friends, or sometimes, when I write down some of the silly things that have happened to me.

Warm Shower
Like this weekend... While in South Africa, my sister Sanet gave me a solar camping shower so I can graduate from cold showers or bucket baths to taking warm showers. I was very excited to try it out, and filled the black bag to the brim. I put it in the sun for the suggested 3 hours and was very happy to feel that the water was indeed warm.

Then I had to go and hang up the bag inside the shower so I could actually use it...

The bag can take about 25 liters of water. That's 25 kilograms! (Or 55 pounds!)

Looking around in the shower, I noticed that the Rogers family had driven two strong nails into a roof beam. I figured it HAD to be for a bag of warm water. But how do short me hang a 55-pound bag of water high above my head??

I tried to simply lift it as high as I could. Didn't work. Keep in mind that this is a BAG of water, so it jiggles. Just when I thought "ah! Got it!" the bag would jiggle out of place.

I brought a chair into the shower, and very carefully got on top of the chair with the jiggling bag of warm water. As I lifted it with oomph, the simple little cap that you pop open to get water INTO the bag popped off and I promptly was showered in warm water!

I am so glad I have a good sense of humor. I decided that if anyone had been watching me, they'd be certain I'm crazy. I just laughed at the whole thing and then hung the bag on the tap, which meant that I basically had to kneel to take a shower. But the water was warm, at least!

Mango chicken
Last night was another opportunity to just smile at myself. I had spent the entire day in town working and hadn't had a thing to eat since breakfast. By the time I got home, I decided to make myself a nice meal. I had put some frozen chicken breasts in the fridge to thaw earlier this weekend. I had a can of coconut milk I had found in the local (Indian-owned) grocery store, and some fresh mangos.

I cooked the best mango/coconut chicken I've had in ages! Added some egg noodles and ended up with an amazing plate of food. I just smiled as I ate, thinking once again that my Kenyan colleagues will wonder what goes on in my mind if they were watching me!

Buying lights
Today, though, my colleagues didn't have to wonder at all what was going on in my mind. Our electrician, Raymond, came to town with me so that I could pick out my own light fixtures for my house. He had wanted to put in fluorescent lights, which is totally not my style.

We visited a number of hardware stores in town, and I had a whopping choice of about 3 ceiling lights or 3 wall fittings. I don't want wall lights. Didn't want anything gaudy, and 2 of the 3 choices were gaudy. (Go to your local Home Depot, look at the choices you have, and appreciate it!) I found something I'm happy with, though: Sunken lights, very, very simple. I'll have 2 in the main room (one above the kitchen, one by the living area), one in my room, one in my closet. Have to get a covered light for my mini-mini-bathroom.

Raymond kept trying to convince me that the fluorescent lights would be good, but I made it clear that it was not what I wanted.

It's a bit scary to think of what may be installed while I'm gone for the next three weeks... So we also went to pick out my bathroom tiles (had a few more choices) and my shower fixture. With the shower, I had a choice between two showers which looked exactly the same. One, I was told, was guaranteed to leak within the first year. The other one was guaranteed for 5 years. No sense in buying a shower that is guaranteed to leak, eh? So I chose the other one.

Now, I need to head back to our office to make arrangements for a photo shoot I need to go on tomorrow. Some community children (in various communities) have sponsors for their schooling through our ministry. I was asked to go and take photos of the children tomorrow. Pray that we're able to get to all the kids in one day! It's a matter of driving long roads, and then, in many cases, walking far to the people's homes to find the child. And then one has to hope the child is there... An adventure in and of itself, I'd say. I'll be sure to take enough drinking water with me.

Take care, and please keep in touch.


Monday, January 02, 2006

It's a new year

I woke up this morning to kids' voices outside. Went to check and the Rotich boys (Roghers, Hillary, Vincent & co) were out by the rabbits. (The Rogers family whose house I'm staying in have a small rabbit farm.) The boys had come to feed the rabbits. It was neat to have the visitors on the grounds and we visited a bit. The kids ALWAYS walk up to come and shake my hand or hug me. In the mornings, they always ask, "Did you sleep well?" If I say yes, which I always do, they respond with, "I also slept well."

The orphanage is divided into two wings with two families each. Yesterday evening, I went to lead devotions for the West Wing. (I'll teach at the East Wing devotions this evening.) One of the parents usually lead devotions, but they enjoy the odd evening off.

I taught on John 15:1-12, about abiding in Christ. I took a branch of a passion fruit plant with me as an illustration. When I pulled the branch from my bag saying that we should be able to harvest some passion fruit from this branch this year, the kids' hands went up. "No, you cannot do that," said one of the boys. "You have to plant the branch first." We talked about Jesus being the vine and we the branches, and only being able to bear fruit if we abide in Christ. We also talked about the different fruit God wants us to bear.

It is such an honor talking with these children. The Kenyan staff do an amazing job of discipling and teaching the little ones. They have such passion to see these children grow up as strong workers in God's kingdom!

After devotions, the children have dinner and then prepare to head to bed. I had promised the girls that I would come and read them a bedtime story, and when I came into the one room, the girls were all sitting around their table, ready for their story.

They had so many questions after we finished the story, including questions about my family. They wanted to know everyone's names and when we prayed afterwards, some of them prayed for my family by name!

I chatted with the girls about how they can bless each other. They said things like they could help each other. One girl (Frida) even said, "We can respect each other."

The girls wanted to know how they can pray for me. I explained that I'll be traveling next week to go to Ethiopia to teach. "We will pray for your safety," Vitalin said, and when she later prayed, the little 12-year-old prayed for "all the pilots who are flying right now. Help them to fly safely." I love listening to them pray. Most of them pray in Swahili, though. They are determined to teach me Swahili. (And I'm determined to learn from them!)

The highlight of the evening, though, was listening to little Faith pray. Faith is a very small 5-year-old with a smile that will melt any heart. She prayed and prayed and prayed for every family at the orphanage by name, then for past visitors and former interns. She also prayed for all the children's sponsors, that God will bless them a LOT for sponsoring the children!

I spoke to her mom (Dorcas) about her prayer this morning, and Dorcas explained that Faith will sometimes pray for half an hour as the bigger girls fall asleep...

What's lying ahead this week:

Monday: I'm spending today in town, getting work done on my computer. Tonight, I'll be leading devotions and reading to the girls in East Wing.

Tuesday: I have to come to town with Raymond (our electrician) to buy lights for my house, go to the post office, hand in papers at our office so they can wire the money to the satellite guys in Nairobi. A trip to town can often take most of the day since I'm dependent on others for transport. I have, however, "passed the test" in order to drive by myself. David, one of the parents who is also a mechanic, allowed me to drive Brian's vehicle to town on Saturday and declared that I'm fit to drive. I could not help but smile. Driving in Kenya is a breeze compared to driving in Taiwan and Mozambique! That evening, I should probably go and read a bed-time story to the West wing boys.

Wednesday: I'll be driving around all day (to Kipkaren and other places) with one of our staff members who is in charge of the child sponsorship program. Other than the orphan sponsorship, we also have a program through which people can pay for regular children's school fees, and Anne needs to take me to take photos of all these children before school starts.

Thursday: Prepare for Ethiopia! (I'm leaving for Ethiopia this weekend to teach in a Master's Degree program.) That evening I should go and read a story to the East Wing boys.

Friday and Saturday: Finish up writing and photo projects; spend time with the kids.

Sunday: Fly to Nairobi, then to Addis Ababa.

I'll be gone for 3 weeks. I do believe the hotel where we'll be staying (The Addis Ababa Golf Course Hotel) will have Internet access, so we'll be able to communicate.

If not, I'll be back at Eldoret on the afternoon of January 28th and should be able to post and update soon after than. Hopefully we'll have satellite Internet access by then! If not by then, by February 1st at least!

Once I'm back, I'll be moving into my house! Whoa! Things are progressing really fast in the building of my house, and it's a bit nerve wrecking to be leaving at a time when the workers will start with finishing touches! I'll definitely be asking them to wait with certain tasks until I am back.

Hope to keep in touch from Ethiopia.