Friday, December 31, 2010

The day that was...

Written Dec. 26, 2010 - posted Dec. 31, still 2010.

Am listening to Latin music on my itunes, cooking mashed potatoes and glazed carrots, to go with the roasted chicken my daughter bought this afternoon at the Halal restaurant. We eat at this particular establishment quite often. (They have the best roasted chicken in all of Ngong.) When Judie went in today to buy chicken for dinner, they asked her where her mother was… meaning me. You know you’re part of the community, when you become Mama somebody. I’ve been called Mama Judie before but only in the village where everyone knew us… being a city Mama is something else entirely!

Yesterday, Judie and I attend PCEA (Presbyterian Church of East Africa) Enchorro Emunny Church, Ngong Parish. We didn’t know exactly when it started, so we went for a 9 a.m. English service, only to find out that it began at 8:30, luckily the English service ends at 10:30 so we still had another hour and half to worship. And, wisely, they don’t greet the visitors until about half way through the service when everyone finally arrives. We were recognized as visitor – obviously – I was the only white person in the congregation. A very nice usher woman came over and pinned white hankies on our shirts that had the church insignia on them. We didn’t have to introduce ourselves (typically Presbyterian – we don’t want to embarrass the visitor – although the big white hankie on your chest – well… I was feeling a bit… silly.) Anyway, Judie and I now deducing ways in which we can be visitors repeatedly, to collect 5 hankies so we don’t have to buy the ones required for boarding school. Not sure how the nuns at her Catholic School will take to her Presbyterian hankies…

I am a keen observer of the church pew - mostly because my boney backside is very particular. I was pleasantly surprised to see the inch and half thick velvet covered pad on each bench at PCEA EEC Ngong Parish. The pew pad is a Presbyterians way of saying we like to be comfortable when we worship. That said, there is a universal problem with Kenyan church pews. They are very short. They come to about the top part of your thigh when seated. And I have to say, even with the cushion (and I’ve been to churches where no such cushion exists), I was fighting to find a comfortable position. A very short pew does make you sit up very straight, but what’s the point if you can’t concentrate because you feel like a pretzel. I should not be complaining, a few years ago I attended a Catholic Easter service that was 4 hours long and we were seated on backless benches! That one required numerous “bathroom breaks.”

Interestingly, not one person spoke to us when we left… not sure about Kenyan church culture, but plan to be annoyingly present at PCEA EEC Ngong Parish, so they’re just going to have to get used to this mzungu. And maybe someday soon they’ll talk to me, and very soon after that, they will be calling me, “our white sister!”

FYI – the sermon was quite good.

After church we rushed home to change clothes and head to South C. That’s a neighborhood off Mombasa Road in Nairobi that is mostly populated by Muslims, and my friend Glenda and her family. She is the Auntie to Buddha, my Kenyan nephew for the past ten years since his birth (in the USA). Buddha (his real name is Ibrana), grew up on Maine Prairie Farm also known as the Hasslen Homestead. At the ripe old age of 5 years old, his mama sent him back to Kenya to live with his Dad and siblings. Which broke my parents hearts (mostly because I have not done my job and supplied them with any tangible grandchildren). Judie is here for at least the next three years and is grown – too far away for them to spoil her too much.

However, in an attempt to get myself off the hook and supply my best friend Abla with a much needed extended family, I have given them a “Buddha II” in the form of Abla’s recently born son, Nathan Kossi. They love him to death and there is no chance of Abla shipping him off anywhere… so I think I’m outta the woods for the time being.

Okay – back to South C and the Buddha Man. Buddha and his uncle Daniel came out of the development to meet us. Buddha is growing so much, but he’s still got that mischievous streak and his uncle (Glenda’s husband) who is the dictionary definition of stoic, says he’s hyperactive. But he’s still the all time greatest kid around. Still loves to read and is always number 1 or 2 in his class. I had forgotten my camera so we don’t have any photo updates!!! I’m ever so sorry. My mom is going to strangle me!

Sorry this was posted so late... I was enjoying writing in the comfort of my living room... however then you have to come to the internet cafe to send and it's been a week of VERY quick internet visits.

Am making a vow right now to get better about posting photos. Not promising it will happen right away, but I will start actively taking photos specifically to post - how's that?

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Christmas Request

Wezesha By Grace (formally known as Adopt A Village in Africa/Kenya) has the following children who are in need of sponsorship:

Hannah Semarian & Grace Nenkoisa are primary aged Maasai girls who are both hearing impaired. They both attend Tania Special School for children with disabilities. Their school fees and upkeep come to $600 per year each.
Caption: Hannah is on the left and Grace is on the right.

Hannah Semarian is going into Class 3 (3rd grade). She was born into a large family, and they didn’t know what to do with a deaf girl, so they left her at home. Maasai don’t believe in educating children with disabilities.

Grace Nenkoisa
is going into Pre-unit (Kindergarten). Her father wanted Wezesha By Grace (WBG) to take her brother to Form 1 (9th grade) and take another brother to hospital. He wanted to leave Grace at home because she was deaf and he thought educating her was a waste of money. WBG believes in educating the girl child and asked to educate Grace.

Raymond Karioki Waweru , 18, was orphaned at the age of 13. His parents went to work one day and never returned. He heard the bus they took to work had an accident but he doesn’t know any more than that. The landlord soon evicted him and not knowing any relatives he was forced to live on the street. He went to the office of children’s services and was placed in various homes and schools until he ended up with Grace at Kimuga Farm. Despite all the pain in his life, Raymond is a joyful and kind person and an excellent student. He is attending Machakos Boys Secondary School and will enter Form 2 (10th grade) in January. Raymond found out a few days before Christmas that the NGO who was supporting him does not sponsor children who are 18 years and older. Raymond will need $1,200 per year for the next 3 years to complete secondary school.

Peter and Sylvia are siblings. Their older siblings Ann and James have completed high school and Ann has completed a college diploma in Social Work. James just completed high school and would like to go to college. A church in the USA had been supporting the orphaned siblings for the past six years. That sponsorship has ended and Peter and Sylvia still need to complete their education. They both live at Kimuga Farm.

Peter Njoroge is going into Form 4 (12th grade) at Ilngaroje Secondary School, a boarding school in the Rift Valley. His school fees and upkeep come to $1300 per year. Peter is looking forward to his last year of high school. He performs well at school and is a very gentle and hardworking young man.

Sylvia Mwihaki Mugure is going into Form 1 (9th grade). She will receive the results for her Class 8 exam next week. She is a very good student and we are expecting her to get called to a nationally ranked school, which will be very expensive. We are anticipating that it will cost $2,500 for her education fees and upkeep per year for the next 4 years. Sylvia is an amazing young woman. She is an avid reader. I brought books to start a library at Kimuga Farm and Sylvia has read almost all the books I brought. She is especially interested in books about African Americans. She read “Roots” in 3 days. It would be heart breaking for her not to be able to continue her education.

When they found out their education was no longer being sponsored they did not get bitter or angry. The four siblings got together with Grace and her prayer partners and prayed a prayer of thanksgiving for the church that had sponsored them for the past six years and then they prayed that where a door had been closed, God would open a window.

Hannah, Grace, Raymond, Peter and Sylvia are exceptional young people, who don’t have the luxury of parents to support them. They truly believe that the Lord will fulfill their dreams through someone whose heart is touched by their story. This Christmas give the gift of a bright future. Give the gift of education, so the world can benefit from these talented and brave children of God.

The Day Before Christmas

Spent an hour or so sitting in the sun in the backyard reading "Eat, Pray, Love" with lemon juice in my hair. I got brave last week and went to Karen to get a haircut. A guy named Freddie cut/shaved my hair. So I told him to shave the back a bit - but I think he didn't hear the "a bit" part, because I'm basically without hair on the back of my head. Anyway, lemon juice turns the white hair yellow, the part that should be "brown-er" will have to wait until I can go to Diamond Plaza in Nairobi... that's where all the good Indian stores are - then I will buy henna and will have smart, albeit very short hair.

I was a bit put off by the first section of EPL where Liz is in Italy. Was a bit too yuppie to hold my interest, but this yogi stuff in Indian is fascinating. Would like to get to the point where I can just "be" with God.

It's Christmas eve and I'm at the cyber. Judie is home writing Christmas cards. We have to do a little shopping this afternoon. So we have some treats for tomorrow at the farm. Most of the children have gone to visit a relative. Grace's biological children (at least two or three of the five) will come to the farm as well as the three orphans that didn't leave and Judie and I. Not sure what we will do, but am sure we will have fun. I will definitely post a Christmas photo.

Judie and I will hopefully go see Buddha on Sunday.

I sent out a Christmas request this morning. We have five children whose sponsorship has been discontinued and school starts in less than two weeks. So I may post it here too.

Judie and I are having a wonderful time together... it seems that she is growing out of her teenage angst somewhat. Although I still see flashes of it. We talk very openly about boys and sex and the future. She is a solid person. Her world has a lot of black and white and not a lot of gray. She is incredibly compassionate. One of the youth that lost their sponsorship is an 18 year old named Raymond. Raymond and Judie are both going into 10th grade. Raymond is really stressed out about not having school fees and Judie keeps telling me, "Mom, we have to pray for Raymond, what's going to happen to him, he's so stressed." And I tell her we'll pray and God will take care of Raymond, because if there was anybody who deserved a break it is Raymond. He's been on his own since he was 13. And you would think that would give him rough edges, maybe a weariness that he wears like a coat. But Raymond is nothing like that. He is tender and kind and honest and hardworking. He reminds of a lost puppy who only wants to be loved and cared for.

Okay, so I'm going to post the request letter next. You have to understand how badly these children want an education and how hard they will work to succeed. I almost think we have things to easy in the "west," we take things like education and food and shelter for granted... we take our parents for granted. We have so much and we don't appreciate it enough... Stepping off soapbox...

Here's hoping your holidays and safe and happy! May God Bless and keep you all!

Peace & Blessings,

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Climbing small mountains

It's hard to say why I enjoy myself so much in Kenya. Where I live there is no running water and rolling blackouts. Getting anywhere requires extra - ordinary measures. After avoiding piki piki's (motorcycle taxis) for the first month and a half I was here (in deference to Grace's fear of them), I have now embraced them fully as the cheapest and most direct way to get anywhere. Even to Ilkiloret, a 33 km trip over very rough roads. Not a particularly brilliant move on my part! I was wrapped in a blanket of dust when I returned. That and I had a nice little case of the runs while there. I was attempting to negotiate with a Maasai business man, who was attempting to screw us over in the most subtle of ways. An hour and a half of negotiations left my stomach in knots and then there was the ride home. That was the second job for Monday.

I woke at 5 a.m. that morning to prepare tea for Omondi's uncle who came and got him from Western Kenya for a visit with his grandmother. He arrived promptly at 6 a.m. after taking the night bus from Kisumu.

On Tuesday morning after attempting to find sand and ballast for the building project and getting a ridiculously high quote, Anika decided we would halt the project until she could come next week. So I went home and picked Judie and we went to Karen to retrieve my computer. I have been trying to get a modem to work with it without success. Bluetooth through my cell phone does work so may just have to stick with that.

Yikes - have to be some where in ten minutes... have to tell you about my new haircut though!

Friday, December 17, 2010

My apologies...

Just to say I've been busy seems like a cop out, but seriously people... I've been busy! The first week of December I had Judie and Charles Omondi (orphan from Nyaoga, who now lives with Grace), in Ngong at Grace's "city" house. First of all, Ngong is more like an anthill or a bee hive than a city, and second of all saying city house makes it sound grand and it is very humble. Judie and I were both sick the first week of December but still managed a good bit of activity.

We went to Judie's cousin's graduation from nursing school (with 20,000 other people) yes you read that right... we never even saw her cousin and we were lucky that we eventually ran into her relatives from Meru. We left there early to go meet my friend British (Abdirahman Muhummed's brother), who took us to his apartment in Eastleigh to have dinner with his family. We had a lovely time and then British took us "shopping" in Eastleigh, which is a predominately muslim part of the city. I asked Omondi if he thought we were still in Nairobi and he looked at me like I was crazy. "No mom," he said. "This isn't Nairobi." It's supposed to be the best shopping in all of East Africa. I wish I could have a spy camera, so I could show you just how amazing Eastleigh is...I think I could spend a week there just people watching and not get bored! There is so much to look at - there is this kaleidoscope of

Saturday Dec. 4, was Sammy Kinga'tua's wedding. Sammy is my Kenyan brother. He and his new wife Gladys live in our compound now. It was a wonderful day and I have about 300 photos to prove it. Will try to remember to post some soon. I was invited to the after party in Karen at a night club. When I returned home at 2 a.m. all the Kingatua family members were gathered in the living room having a meeting. One of the family members was sick and had refused to go to the hospital for more than a year. More on that in a bit.

On Sunday I went to church with Grace, her daughter Elizabeth was invited to preach at Grace's church. She is a nurse by profession, but is also an amazing evangelist and gospel singer. Church was good but after the first two hours on a very hard bench I started to get tired!

On Monday the 6th, Anika, the program director for Give Us Wings, an organization that partners with Grace, came to meet with Grace about a building project GUW wants to do for the Maasai women in the Rift Valley. She was here for two days.

On Tuesday afternoon, I took Grace's sick relative (who had been persuaded in the course of the family meeting to seek medical treatment) to the doctor. I took her to another appointment on Wednesday morning and then took Judie to Karen to have some fun. I had taken Charles back to the farm on Monday.

On Monday I also went to Waso with Anika and Grace. It's a Maasai town about 65 kilometers from Ngong in the Rift Valley. I have never seen so much garbage scattered around on the ground. Plastic bags blanketed the ground for miles in every direction. I'd like to strangle the person responsible for the invention of the plastic bag... I think it may be the beginning of the end for human life as we know it on this planet... (ahem... getting off soapbox).

On Thursday we had a board meeting for Grace's non-profit which is called Adopt A Village In Africa. We are in the process of changing the name to Wezesha By Grace, which means Empower By Grace (grace of God and Grace Kinga'tua)... you really can't go wrong with that combination.

Contracted a bit of food poisoning at the board meeting I think... anyway on Friday night I attended a gathering of InterNations (a website for expats) in Westlands, Nairobi. Had a lovely time, but still had headache and upset tummy from food poisoning.

Spent weekend at the farm dealing with some issues of some of the older orphaned children. On Monday, I met the fundie's (mason and foreman) in town and we purchased supplies for the building project and piled them all in a lorry and hauled them down to the construction site... it was kind of fun. Except for the part where the lorry kept almost overheating... it's not easy to find water in the Rift Valley! I will go down again and pay some of the day laborers and supervise a bit.

I've been at the farm today Thursday. Some visitors came to spend time with the kids. We had a lot of fun. Came home to the Ngong house by myself. So had to fix dinner for myself. I'm getting quite good at omelets! Tomorrow I will go to my friend Dennis's wedding... December is wedding season in Kenya.

Okay... that is a brief update... again I apologize for giving y'all the slip for three weeks... I will try not to let it happen again.

I haven't put much in about the work I've been doing in between all these activities... but it is complicated and not nearly as much fun to explain... so maybe will just keep you in the dark a bit longer...

Sorry about the snow! hehehehehehehe!