Sunday, November 28, 2010

Movies and Showers

Judie and I set off for the movies Saturday morning before 10 a.m. - The movie was at 12:30, but it looked like rain and the bus we take tends to take strange diversions that don't ultimately leave you where you paid to go, so leaving early is never a bad idea. We arrived a few blocks from our stop (jam avoiding diversion)as it started to rain. We pulled out our umbrellas and weaved our way through the slow-moving-smog-encased-traffic. The temperature had dropped from the time we got on the bus. I exchanged money (80/= to the dollar) NICE! Then I did a little email and grabbed a snack and went to see Judie's first movie EVER! We had a choice between Harry Potter and Step Up 3. Since Judie had only read one Harry Potter and I (sorry those of you who are fans) severely dislike H.P., so we saw Step Up 3 - the 2D version. It wasn't bad as movies go and I like pretty much any movie to do with dancing. Judie was in awe of the big screen and the loud surround sound.

My friend Jacqui met us in the mall parking lot after the movie. She invited us to Sammy's fiance, Gladys' bridal shower. Jacqui went to run and errand first and Judie and I had a proper lunch. Judie had chicken and chips... if she had her way, I think she would eat chicken for every meal! They don't get it at school. I had a salad... A SALAD... and it didn't make me sick, I was over the moon!!! I so miss salads, well, I pretty much miss everything that's not starch!

Jacqui returned and we went to Magiwa Estate to a woman named Grace's condo where the party would be held. Judie and I have stayed at Magiwa with my friends Wawira and Joe, so we knew the area (and the house layout) well!

The shower was a surprise! Gladys was thrilled! It was actually the first time I met Gladys. The party was lovely and educational. Especially for Judie who got an earful about relationships, sex and strange Kenyan relationship customs that I must admit were news to me too! Lots of good advice was given and snacks eaten and fun presents... Then Gladys and her twin sister Emily and Emily's boyfriend took us back to Ngong. I'm not sure when we got home but it was around 8:30 and Grace had cooked for visitors earlier in the day, so we all had to eat (again). We had a nice visit.

And you would assume the day was pretty much over, but as I climbed into bed next two Judie, she started talking... she got on a roll and then I would drift off and I'd hear... "Mom, Mom! Are you listening?"

God, I love that kid... but I wish we had the same internal clock!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday

Literally! It rained most of the night.

Did laundry this morning... it hasn't rained yet, so hopefully I will get my clothes off the line before the sky opens up again.

Am in town, Judie is getting her hair braided, oh Abla, how I wish you were here to braid it!

I spent the morning with Geofrey who was in Nairobi for a meeting and wanted to come to Ngong to meet Grace and try to once again convince me to come work with him... he makes me a bit tired with his persistence.

I have finally caught up with my email so I'm off to check on my kid... and bring her more to eat. It takes six hours or more for them to make her hair... poor thing... I don't envy African women their hair woes.

Thinking about taking Judie to the movies tomorrow... she's 21 and never been to the cinema. Me thinks it's time!!!

Rebecca - I'll email you soon! Have to run!

Shuttles, piki pikis, taxis, matatus and a school van on the way to Meru

I had planned to catch a matatu into town (Nairobi) at 9 a.m. on Tuesday morning. Veronica - one of Grace's many "children," who is my age and a "house mother" at the SOS Children's Home in Eldoret, is on leave and staying at Grace's house in Ngong - was also going to Nairobi and said would go together but first... a doctor friend of her's was coming to check an infection in her nephews eye... the doctor was late and then two other people appeared with eye problems... including the young man bringing 10 jeri cans of water... amazing! Everyone was checked out and the doctor was good enough to give us a ride to Karen where we caught a matatu to town. \

I was nearly an hour late! My friend Ken was waiting and we picked a shuttle to Meru. A matatu is different from a shuttle in that a matatu stops every two feet and a shuttle is direct! Matatus also overload the vehicle. So a vehicle that is licensed to carry 14 - may carry as many as 22 or more - with luggage!

The first part of the journey is on Thikka Road which is under construction... the journey that usually takes an hour took two. In five hours, I'd arrived in Nkubu, about a half hour before Meru, where I was to meet with Geofrey, a man I met in Chogoria that has a micro finance NGO.

He really wants me to work with him... doing public relations, marketing, etc... he also wants to partner with other organizations. I told him that I was committed to working with Grace, and that once we got her organization straightened out she might be able to partner with him.

After my meeting with Geofrey, I went back down the mountain (Meru is in the foothills of Mt. Kenya), backtracking an hour or so to Katharaka, to the home of Mercy Nyaga, the headmistress of Judie's primary school and my very good friend. I spent Tuesday and Wednesday nights with her.

I took a piki piki (motorbike taxi) 6 km to her home. Her husband died in September. We had a really good talk the first night. She is one of my closest friends in Kenya.

I got up early the next morning and the Ntumu Primary School Van took me to Embu an hour further down the mountain, to meet my friend Paul, who works with a US-based non-profit who has established an orphanage outside Embu. When I last visited him in Feb of this year the orphanage was still under construction. Now there are 18 children living there. A 71-year-old women from Massachusetts runs the orphanage. She's truly amazing. I had a wonderful time!Left there at 5p.m. and was back up the mountain to Katharaka by about 7:10 p.m. - picked another piki piki and went back to Mercy's.

On Thursday, Thanksgivig, I once again got in the school van to head up to the main road... this time with a peace corps volunteer named Clare. She was on her way to Maua to celebrate Thanksgiving with some other volunteers. I was on my way to Ruiga Girls Secondary School, to pick Judie, my daughter, up from school. Kamau, the best cab driver and my good friend, from Meru met me at the Equator (literally, my daughters school is on the equator), to give me a lift down to her school. We had to wait a ridiculously long time for her to get cleared by all her teachers as I'm going to find her a different high school closer to Ngong.

In the meantime I called her auntie and asked them to come to Meru town (from Nkabune) where they live, because it had rained the night before and the road to Nkabune is horrible after it rains. We picked a box of Judie's belongings that Ken had kept for her in Meru and then I took Auntie Jane, Jojo (grandma), Judie and Kamau and I out for lunch for $17.50 and we ATE! Roasted Goat and Chicken - yum! The place is called Zulu, if you ever need a dining recommendation in Meru.

We dropped Auntie and Jojo at the stage to Nkabune and then Kamau took us to the stage where we picked a shuttle back to Nairobi. We left Meru around 2 p.m. and arrived in Nairobi around 6:30 p.m. Then we had to take a taxi to Ngong because we had Judie's box (trunk) from school. My friend David had arranged for a taxi driver to meet us. They carried Judie's box about 10 blocks to the taxi because the stage is too congested!

When at last we arrived home around 8:15 (lots of jams on Ngong Road)... I paid the taxi driver 1400 Kenyan shillings... which was the all the money I had left in my wallet and happened to be the exact fare!

Was completely exhausted by the time we arrived in Ngong but stayed up a few more hours to call home for Thanksgiving!

I'm so thankful for my beautiful daughter, for the opportunity to be here with her and the opportunity to work with Grace. My heart is SO full!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Random thoughts

Okay, It's nearly 5 p.m. on Monday evening... I feel like hell. I have a nasty cold, runny nose and lots of sneezing. But lets back up because I don't think I've posted since last Tuesday...

Wednesday was in Ngong, Thursday at the farm - came back Friday afternoon... went to graduation at Nairobi Pentacostal Bible College on Saturday... that's the second time I've been to a graduation ceremony there. It wasn't anymore exciting this time but it was better than going to Nakuru for a wedding with Grace and company... they left at 5 am and returned about 9:45 p.m. - No thank you!

It was the wedding of the son of Mama Jeri, the woman who cooks and takes care of children at the farm. I love Mama Jeri and her family, but couldn't imagine all the sitting and riding around that would be involved. As it was I spent a lot of time in jams (traffic jams) in Nairobi. They are doing lots of road construction on some major atteries in and and around the city and it's a mess (think a stronger word here)!!!!

Basically you have to add an extra 30 to 45 minutes to wherever you want to go. Matatus (overloaded public transport) take the shoulder, head into on-coming traffic, even detour from their routes to make better time.

It hasn't rained (during rainy season) in quite a few days. I got out of a station wagon that had stopped to give us a ride out of the valley from the farm to Ngong. The front windows were open and I was a shade darker when I arrived in Ngong! I had just showered too...

I took photos of my room at the farm and the shower room... will post them next week.

Last night, Grace brought me a cup of tea and some vicks-like stuff in the middle of the night... I got up to pee a while later, (you have to go through three latched doors to get out - so you have to be proactive about going to the choo). There was a full moon so I didn't even need a flash light outside. I saw something moving on the other side of the fence about 30 feet away. It was a giraffe. I stopped and it stopped and we just stood there and looked at each other... I had been proactive about getting out of bed, but not long enough to spend more than a 30 seconds communing with this giant of the animal kingdom. He/She was gone when I came out of the choo...but what a great 30 seconds that was... if I hadn't been sick and Grace hadn't brought me tea in the middle of the night... I might have missed out... maybe there really is a reason for everything!

I'm heading to Meru tomorrow. Judie gets out of school on Thursday. I will see some friends in Nkubu and Chogoria and then head to Meru on Thursday. Gotta go home and drink some tea and try to kick this cold.

Will post from the road if I have time.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Nairobi - Tuesday - Day Four

Got up early to catch a ride out of the Rift Valley - 40 minutes of standing on the side of the road before a truck came by with room for us in back. A young Maasai man started chatting me up until mama Grace said, "You ask a lot of questions." The ride was pretty quite after that!

Arrived in Ngong just in time to see the bus David told me to take pulling out of the stage. Waited about 10 minutes for the next one. Got to Nairobi and called David. "I'm at the Hilton." I said. (where we'd agreed the night before to meet). "Didn't you get my text," he said. "I told you to get off in Hurlingham." Me, "Oops."  "I'm coming," David said.

So he arrives I climb in his safari van and we start driving. I call the man I'm supposed to drop off some stuff for at a down town barber shop, give the phone to David so he can get the directions. He hangs up and points out the window... this is the building. HA! I didn't gloat but how wild is that! We ended up, because of my not picking David's text... exactly where we needed to be to deliver the package. The spirit was moving.

Funny thing is we had to go around the building to get to the entrance... the traffic in Nairobi is so bad that I got out at the beginning of the block, because we were not moving, went half way down the block to the building, delivered the package on the first floor and was back at the van before David was at the other end of the block.

We then went to meet British, the brother of Abdirahman - a friend in St. Cloud. Abdirahman had sent me with a phone for British. You can jeri-rig american phones to work here. I brought an old one of mine too and British took it with him to get them both "fixed". He also insisted that I come to his home and have dinner with his family soon... so excited... Somali food!

After doing some shopping and making sure my debit travel money card worked and a little email, David dropped me off at Jacqui's. We had lunch at Prestige Nakumat on Ngong road. Nakumat's are like Walmarts in the states. I hung out there waiting for my friend Allan, who is this amazing young pastor. He then insisted on escorting me back to Ngong, which was fine with me because David had given me a huge bag of stuff I had let with him in February and I had to lug it back to Ngong. Had a great time with Allan.

Grace decided we should stay in Ngong because if was getting late. I cooked stew for Grace and her son Sammy, who is getting married in a couple of weeks. Then talked about business, because Sammy has connections in the media community in Kenya and we will need some assistance with getting a new website up and running. Another reason we didn't go back to the farm is that a fundie (worker) came Tuesday to put a ceiling in my room to keep any other rats wth ninja ambitions from ambushing me while I sleep!

I made banana pancakes this morning Wed. and then came to town to get to work on contacting the Kenyan NGO coordinating board, with some questions about changing the name of Grace's organization. I was also able to meet up with Lilian's son Calvin. He is Buddha's older brother. (That's a long story for those of you new to the blog - check out older posts for info on Buddha). He was in Ngong for the birthday of one of his classmates. Other than that, I've been attached to a computer at the cyber.

I can see outside from where I'm sitting and the sun is out so I'm rushing home to wash the clothes that I left in the bag at David's - they're all musty smelling.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Arrivals and relationships...

The second flight from Amsterdam to Nairobi was uneventful. But as always, I'm ridiculously tired on the second leg and can't keep my eyes open... which means I don't sleep when I get to Nairobi at night!

We landed a few minutes early and I got through customs with no problems. Found my luggage quickly and exited to the throng that is the international arrivals gate at Jomo Kenyatta Int'l Airport. No David. David is Grace's son and almost always picks me up at the airport. This time he is there but outside and the nice lady at the taxi stand let's me use her phone... his vehicle wasn't working so he has brought his girlfriend Jacqui and her car. She didn't know David was picking me up... we have been friend's since the last time I was here, so it was fun to surprise her. Jacqui is a 27 year old widow. Her husband was shot during a car jacking. I actually met him, before I knew her. I ended up staying at Jacqui's apartment Friday night and attending her nephew's first birthday party on Saturday afternoon. Then we met David and Grace and John in town and went to Kimuka. They had been at a Dowry meeting of a friend of David's who lives in the states. What did the groom have to pay for his bride you ask? One hundred goats, only!

The children were all in bed when we got to Kimuka, but all got up to say hello to me. Including Charles Omondi who I have known since he was about nine months old. I had him moved from his grandmothers home to Grace's orphanage. Charles is now 9 and his 80 year old grandmother could no longer control him... and he was doing poorly in school. Charles is thriving now. And exclaimed when I walk in, "Mom, you're here." He then gave me a big hug and did a little dance.

I read the crime novel I bought in the airport already. I have one more novel to read, "Eat, Pray, Love" and another couple nights of very little sleep before my body catches up with my mind and realizes we are in a new time zone... so will be out of reading material quickly.

I brought lots of books for the orphans so will make due reading theirs until I can find more for myself.

My feet are freezing from sitting too long so I'm heading out of this cyber cafe... peace!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Diet and Exercise

So I've been here three full days and I've run two of them. Yesterday, I didn't get up until about noon, so I ran about 2 in the afternoon and it was too hot. I probably only ran for about 12 minutes, but on a gravel road up a very long hill in the heat, it felt like enough. Today I ran a little before 7 a.m. It was overcast and I ran the same direction... I went a little further over the hill and then turned around, I past the farm and kept going trying to run for 20 minutes. I heard footsteps coming up behind me fast and sure enough some Kenya runners who train in the Rift Valley came flying past me. And then there were more coming the other way. They are so impressive! Lean and powerful and not even seeming to break a sweat. I don't try to keep up but I do quicken my pace a bit when they come past as to not look like a complete idiot.

As for food, I have already solved one problem with the food at the ophanage. I bought Royco, which is like spicy beef bullion and salt As you can imagine, cooking for 20 or so people twice a day - seven days a week is a chore and the choice of inexpensive foods is limited... so my meals thus far have consisted of starch and cabbage. One meal was rice and potatoes... I kid you not. But it least it has some taste to it thanks to the Royco! When Grace gets low on funds, spices are one of the first things to go - so as is the custom in Kenya when you go home you take food. I took salt, Royco, sugar, cooking oil and tea.

I'm basically surviving on LaraBars. If I was staying in Ngong town I could buy/cook my own food, but at the orphanage I don't want to eat too differently in front of the kids. Kimuka farm is 11 kilometers down into the rift valley from Ngong and they have no refrigeration at the farm. Makes life interesting...

I however will be out of LaraBars (the best Gluten free granola bars ever) in a couple of weeks - so I making a care package list. Packages can take a month or more to arrive so it will need to be sent soon. It will be nice to know that when I run out there will be more on the way.

Okay, that's enough about food... it's making me hungry, although today I've eaten pretty well, a one egg omelet, a banana, and a banana bread Lara Bar... and it's only 11:15. I do miss my green smoothies though! Morning just isn't the same without them... neither is my run which could use that extra shot of energy.

Intuitive head covering and a ninja rat...

This is possibly not the best place to start my blog, but it is the most immediate in my mind. I am staying at the orphanage with Grace and John and the kids. Which is great... will tell you about that later. However at 4 am this morning, 55 hours in to the 3 months I am planning to spend in Kenya, there was a big thud next to my head on the bed. There is a beam that runs above my bed and it is now also know as the Rodent Super Highway. Yes folks, that's right a ninja rat (with bad aim) did a swan dive off the beam and nearly hit me in the head. I can't see any of this because it's pitch black in my room. So I jump out of bed and grab the flashlight (no electricity yet at the farm) and there goes a three inch + tail ninja rat scampering across my along the side of my bed. I let out one scream to which John asks from the next room, "What's wrong?" "A RAT!" I yell back.Silvia, one of the orphans, comes in from her bed room to try to find it but its gone. (At least I hope it was gone.) Grace comes in and puts rat poison under my bed. She asks emphatically, "will you be able to sleep now." "Absolutely Not!" I said.

Interestingly enough, I had the night before, slept with my black shawl over my head like you might put a newspaper over your head in a rainstorm. Mostly because the pillow Grace gave me to use is more reminiscent of something a Geisha would sleep on and not the soft pillow I'm remembering fondly on my bed at home.
So the shawl became both pillow and head covering... I didn't know how necessary the head covering would become. Also had I been laying a few inches to my right facing the wall, the rat would have landed on my head.

So I probably won't get much sleep until that rat (drinks the kool aide, so to speak) but I thankful for one very important thing... It wasn't a snake! Those also make an appearance once in a while under someones bed. And I missed the lice epidemic that swept through Kimuka (where the farm is located) recently.

So God is good! And life goes on.

And to my pastor who once referred to my travels as glamorous - think again!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Half Way

Ahhh Amsterdam - It's 1 a.m. my time and 8 a.m. in Amsterdam. I am never able to sleep on the first leg of the journey. This one was no different. Sat next to a nice man from Scotland who now lives in Minnesota.
Landing was a bit freaky - strong winds caused lots of turbulance.

Watched two movies: Salt and The Joneses

Am addicted to a new video game called Shanghai! Played during the turbulance to distract myself from my bouncing stomach.

Yikes - internet time is up.... uploading NOW!