Saturday, July 28, 2012

Lack of art is a sin!

I speak gospel truth when I say life without art is a sin. My mother’s side of the family paint and draw and write. My father’s side of the family are crafters and tinkerers. Creative juice runs through my veins.

White/plain walls are evil incarnate! Unfortunately, I cannot carry my art collection with me to Kenya…and my current financial situation vastly limits my ability to acquire any local art…so I’ve had to resort to what I call graffiti art. It’s cheap; all it requires is large sheets of paper, markers, stencils, double sided tape, and a bit of creativity. Omondi has embraced this new art form will gusto. Judie has so much as lifted a marker, but I hope as our walls fill she will want to leave her mark too.

Here’s what we’ve done so far:

Any art ideas for what we should do next would be greatly appreciated!

Esau, Judie's friend from school is a budding young artist. The painting of the Maasai warriors is one of his pieces. If you're interested in getting an original of your own I can arrange it.

Thanks for patronizing the arts!

It’s only been 10 years!

I have been looking for a good Swahili tutor forever! And then when I’d finally given up one was sitting right in front of me at a Bible Study. See, God does answer prayers…

I had been attending PCEA Enchorro Emuny Presbyterian Church in Ngong. I have never felt particularly at home there and because of happenstance the past month I’ve spent every Sunday at Karen Vineyard Church (KVC) which is held in the auditorium of a high school in Karen, which is about 15 minutes from Ngong. It’s a two-matatu commute but it’s well worth the 50-shilling fare each way. I’ve met loads of new people both expats and Kenyans and I started attending a bi-weekly women’s Bible Study. It’s been an amazing experience. The first time I attended I met Mildred who is a professional Swahili tutor and had been to KVC only a few times but had come to the Bible Study for the first time that day. Our meeting can only be a God thing.

Mildred and I meet every Friday from 2-3:30 – not the best time of day for me…my brain takes a siesta in the afternoons. By 3pm I’m fighting the yawns. But I’m actually learning and realizing that I already have a ridiculously large Swahili vocabulary and as soon as I figure out how to string together a sentence I’m gonna be rattling off Swahili like a native-born Kenyan. Kabisa!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Friday Adventure

When I got in the car Joe said, I don’t know where we’re going or how long it will take to get there. And so started a fine Friday adventure.

We picked up a man named Githambi at a gas station of Mombasa Road and headed toward Machakos, a city about an hour from Nairobi. We were going to see a woodcarving group. Githambi knew the group, but neither Joe nor I knew what to expect. Joe is starting a jewelry and wood carving export business and we were going to see a couple of the groups he was hoping to contract with.

We drove for nearly two hours and ended up in the village of Wamunyu. We drove into a back alley and parked the car and followed Githambi into a small corridor that opened up into a larger corridor that had rooms on either side all of which was piled high with wood carvings. We were in a finishing shop.

The owner, a large woman named Anna, graciously welcomed us. I set to work photographing her inventory and Joe wrote down prices and asked questions about the business. Anna’s husband died and she took over his business. She employs local women to do the finishing who need help to support their families. They are trained and then paid per item finished. There is barely room to turn around in the corridor so many of the women have rented small rooms in the market to do their work since their homes are often far from the town center. The sheer number of carvings in the space was overwhelming. Then in was on to see where the carvings are made just down the road.

While the finishing workshop is well hidden, the carving workshop is a tourist attraction.

The Wamunyu Handicraft Co-op. Society, we discovered is the birthplace of woodcarving in Kenya. Mutisya Munge went to Tanzania and learned the art of woodcarving and then came back to his ancestral home in Machakos and started his own workshop in 1918.

Initially he had worked in a tree house because he didn’t want anyone to see what he was doing and steal his ideas. Later when he could no longer keep his work a secret, Munge began to train other craftsmen. He also started a tree nursery to have a ready supply for his craft. The tree nursery and the workshop still exist today.

A showroom where you can buy carvings and other crafts is also located on the property.

Can't remember the last time I did anything touristy in Kenya. So I jumped at the chance to be photographed with this enormous giraffe.

After dropping off Githambi near where we had picked him earlier in the day, Joe and I stopped for nyama choma (roasted meat) and ugali. It was a fitting end to our Friday adventure.

Children and Change

I’m so glad kids go through stages and that they progress through them fairly rapidly. This way the really sucky times when they are very rebellious or do really annoying things don’t last forever. My kids nearly drove me crazy with their jealous bickering when they were home in April, but in June when they were home for half term from boarding school (the norm, rather than the exception in Kenya) they didn’t fight once.

Granted it was only 5 days, but it was HUGE to me. They even made chapati together. Chapati is a form of flat bread that Judie and I have both made with other people but have never tried to make on our own. We made brown chapati because both my kids have problems with acid. Judie did most of the mixing but Omondi got into rolling out the dough and cooking the chapati. I photographed the event as evidence that they can work well together. Just in case they decide to repeat said earlier phase. They also did laundry together twice! Amazing!

Orphaned children often exhibit behaviors such as lack of trust, hoarding and turning inward. I attempt to live in the moment with them because sometimes their growth is so subtle one might miss it. But with every new day I get to see them blossom and learn to trust me a little bit more. I don’t know where our journey will take us but I pray every day to be the best mother I can be and give them the security and love they deserve - the love that every child deserves.

I see so many children here who have no one to care for them and my heart breaks every time. Children should not have to suffer, live on the street, lose their parents to war and disease...I often wonder when the world will realize that by not reaching out to these children we are thwarting the future of this planet. If children are the future it is incumbent on us the “adults” to care for them. Each one, Help one! Or two or three. Don’t turn a blind eye. Reach out your hand and let a child know they are not alone.

Get involved with kids anyway you can. Whether in your own neighborhood through a Boys and Girls Club, through your church or a community center, through an aid organization who helps kids overseas, or any number of non-profit organizations who sponsor the education of children in developing countries. There are so many ways to help children.

Wezesha By Grace has 10 children who are not sponsored. Two of them want to go to college. For about $3,500 a year you can send a Kenyan young person through a diploma college course. That includes all of their expenses as well as their school fees for a 12-month course. This course will position them to get an entry-level position in their chosen field.

You could alter the course of history by giving a child the opportunity to be educated. It's just that simple!

Home is relative and cumulative

Home is where you lay your head or where your heart is. Some times those are one and the same and sometimes sadly they are very far from the same thing. And sometimes it just takes time to adjust to your surroundings to feel sufficiently at home somewhere.

I now feel truly at home in Ilkiloret and it’s not just because my bowel can now move freely on a more regular basis. It’s because when you are finally truly accepted somewhere and your outsider status melts away…things begin to happen that you hoped and prayed for but were continually frustrated by their lack of appearance.

Since Janet and I lectured the learners about attendance and taking class seriously for a six-month period. We have had increased attendance from the more advanced students (those who just last week were able to say their first sentence) and the beginners (those who are still learning the alphabet) and more new learners come every week. I don’t know what changed exactly. But for some reason there is a renewed interest in learning.

Rebecca and Eunice are attending regularly in my advanced class. They are doing great!

Sofia is in my beginning class. Her daughter Abby is about 14 months old and VERY busy!

Janet teaching the beginners. At last count on Thursday I had 14 learners and 7 babies. Talk about a loud class!

A picture is worth a thousand words. Even though they are adults I find that drawing pictures is a good way to remember the vocabulary of the lesson.

While I’m excited about the increase in learners, it is also a challenge to keep them engaged with so few resources available. We have no electricity so that prevents us from doing anything with computers or letter/word sound programs. I mostly rely on worksheets and flashcards that I make myself, books that are available locally and games like hangman (which has been quite a hit). I want to try bingo but that requires a lot of work for a few minutes of play so I have to figure out how to make multi-purpose cards.

We often refer to young children as sponges because their brains can absorb information so quickly. I’m trying to figure out how to describe the brain of an adult…maybe like that of a dried out wet-wipe. It can absorb, but it does not retain the information as well.

I think that describes me pretty well - a dried out wet wipe. I was of course one of those fancy aromatherapy wet wipes in my day… but I guess that part is relative…and the dried up part is cumulative.

Home is after all a place where you are accepted just the way you are: relative and cumulative.

Home is also not home until you’ve hung your curtain walls!