Saturday, October 29, 2011

Into the Bush.

As some of you might be aware, there has been some unrest here over the past week. Kenya's military has taken action against the Somali militant group, al-Shabaab, within Somalia's borders. Al-Shabaab is responsible for a number of kidnappings of foreigners within Kenya's borders. They have threatened to retaliate for the actions of Kenya's military and last weekend the US Embassy issued a warning of an imminent terrorist attack in Nairobi. The main targets are believed to be nightclubs and malls that are frequented by foreigners. On Monday, there were two separate grenade attacks, which killed one person and injured close to thirty more.

So how have these developments affected my life? Well, on Tuesday, I stayed home from going to Eastleigh after receiving strong encouragement from people who are more experienced than I to do so. Wednesday I wasn't planning on going to Eastleigh anyway, so that worked out in a way. Instead, I went with my neighbors, Quincy and Joanne, to a remote Masai village in the Rift Valley (see pictures below). Quincy was going to do some beekeeping education with some of the locals. This trip offered my first glimpse of life outside of Nairobi, and what a different life it is indeed. After passing through the outskirts of Nairobi, we began to descend down into the valley and entered an area that I would describe as semi desert. It reminded me a lot of parts of Nevada and Arizona, with its scrub trees and bushes. The road that we traveled on wasn't exactly a road. I've been on farm lanes and ATV trails that were better. The car we were in, a Toyota Corolla station wagon, wasn't exactly built for the terrain, but somehow it got us there and back. There were only a few times when we had to get out of the car to lighten the load, so it wouldn't bottom out on the large rocks that were very prevalent in some spots. The trip took us about three hours total.

After arriving we were greeted with cups of piping hot tea and bread. I'm not really sure why they drink such a hot beverage when it is 90 degrees out, but never the less I accepted their hospitality and proceeded to burn my tongue on the tea. After more locals showed up, Quincy and a Masai man named Joel donned beekeeping suits and began to check the hives. As they worked, Quincy explained what they were doing and why. After several hours of being educated on the ins and outs of beekeeping, we were served a delicious lunch of rice and stew. We eagerly ate the meal and then loaded up the car and began our trek back to Nairobi. On the way back we took a slightly different route, which was a little better, but certainly wasn't going to be mistaken for Interstate 80. I was really hoping to see some interesting wildlife such as giraffes or lions, but came up unsuccessful.  We did however see a couple of dik-diks, which are miniature antelope about the size of a small dog. We also saw a handful of normal sized antelope. We returned home without incident and after a very long, dusty, and bumpy ride taking a nice, warm shower and laying on my soft bed felt so good.

On Thursday and Friday I returned to the center. It was good to be back after being gone a couple of days and work with the students and basketball players again. There was no softball today due to a league bye for all teams. Next week we'll be back and better than ever just like Mike and Mike.

I was challenged this week as I was reading through Matthew 25 and read the parable of the talents. It challenged me to really think about which servant I am. Am I using the talents that God has given me and multiplying them or am I keeping them to myself?

Finally I would like to wish a very big HAPPY BIRTHDAY to two of the cutest kids in the whole world, my niece and nephew Kaci and Roman. Kaci turns two tomorrow and Roman turns three.

A view of the valley as we descended into it.

As usual, pictures don't do justice to how bad the road was in some spots.

We passed quite a number of herds of cows and goats.

A view of the compound that we visited.
Me with some of the locals.

Quincy (right) and Joel explaining what is going on.

Some of the local ladies had brought out jewelery and had it on display for us.

Friday, October 21, 2011

To Market To Market

On Wednesday, I went with my friend from the center (for the purposes of this blog I will call him Steve) to visit the largest market in Kenya. In fact it is also the largest market in all of East Africa. Now when I say market, I want you to picture your local farmer's market on steroids. This market has pretty much anything you could want from clothes to spices, fruits & vegetables, used coffee cans, and much much more. I didn't even end up seeing half of it. Vendors upon vendors were packed side by side in makeshift booths trying their best to move their product. The walkways were muddy and narrow and the whole area felt like a maze that I probably would have gotten lost in if Steve wasn't with me. We went there to find some bolts for a couple of basketball rims.  We found the "bolt" guy and after fishing through his stack of random nuts and bolts, Steve found what he needed. Bolts in hand we headed towards the fish section of the market. Now, I have never been a real big fan of fish, especially the smell, so the idea of walking through an area full of raw fish didn't sound too appealing. It was quite apparent as we moved towards the fish section that we were getting close as evidenced by the unmistakeable smell of raw fish. Once again numerous vendors with their baskets of fish beside them were attempting to convince me that their fish was clearly the best. To me all of the fish looked and smelled the same so how was I to know if they were telling the truth. Steve loves fish so he picked out one for lunch that suited him. I on the other hand settled with fried nyama (meat) with some ugali and greens.

Let me take this time to share my experiences with the food here so far. The two staple Kenyan foods are ugali and chapati. Ugali looks like very thick mashed potatoes, but certainly doesn't taste like them, in fact ugali doesn't really have any taste. It is made of maize flour and water. It is very starchy and the Kenyans like it because it "sticks to the ribs" as we like to say. To eat it, you grab a hunk and roll it into a ball with your fingers and then pick up your greens or meat and eat them together. Chapati looks like a thick tortilla and tastes somewhat similar as well. They are made of wheat flour and aren't too bad. The one time that I've had chapati I mixed it with beans. I've also tried some Somali and Ethiopian foods, both of which also aren't too bad. Of the three: Kenyan, Ethiopian, and Somali, I think I prefer Ethiopian.

After finishing up our lunch we made our way through the maze of vendors to a matatu and returned to the center, thus ending my first market experience. Unfortunately I don't have any pictures, but maybe next time I go I will take some.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Living In the Here and Now.

Too many times I find myself focusing about what is to come instead of what is happening right now. This continues to ring true here in Kenya. At times I find myself focusing on what will happen in a few months or even after my time here is complete. It's not that I don't like being here or like what I'm doing here, this is certainly not the case. I am learning that focusing on what is to come instead of what is happening now is certainly not a good approach to life. We are not promised tomorrow, but I don't seem to live like that as much as I should. How would my day to day interactions with people, my walk with Christ, and my ministry here in Kenya look different if I lived focus on today instead of tomorrow? Having said all that I am very grateful for the opportunity that is before me right now to be here and experience the work God is doing in a setting that is very different than home.

I have been here two and a half weeks now and feel like I am adjusting well to my surroundings. I have a fairly regular schedule now and am beginning to have a set role at the center. I work with three or four people for about an hour each morning and help them with their English. This continues to be an area that is bringing me great joy. After I finish up my last session I have a Kswahili class with some other students. I certainly don't know much Kswahili yet, but hopefully by the time I leave I will have a basic grasp of it. The afternoon is when different groups come in to play basketball. This has been slow going as not many people show up sometimes, because of this it is hard to set up a consistent program. It seems to be picking up the last couple of days and the director keeps telling me that soon we will have a lot of people showing up.

On Wednesday I went with a couple of friends from the center to Mathare, which is the second biggest slum in all of Africa. We went there to visit a local school (check out the pictures below). I thoroughly enjoyed visiting the school and seeing the children. They certainly are not studying in good conditions as you can tell from the pictures below, but they are doing the best with what they have. After leaving the school we walked through the slum to see the type of living conditions the people there face. Every time I visit an area of extreme poverty it is overwhelming in the sense that I want to help but have no idea where to start. I'm hoping to be able to help the students at the school in some way before I leave.

On Thursday I went with my friend from the center again and this time we went to the outskirts of the city to another very poor area and visited a young pastor and his wife. We had some Sunday school materials to deliver to him which he seemed very thankful for. I really enjoyed visiting with them and was encouraged by their faith in God  their obedience to go to that area and plant a church. It was also fun explaining to the wife what snow was.

I am really enjoying my time living on the guest house grounds. I am beginning to interact more with my next door neighbors, which ha been great. There is a watch dog here named Serious that I am quite afraid of to say the least. I don't think he has figured out that I live there and am not an intruder. When he sees me he barks and growls in a tone that suggests that he is not man's best friend. Hopefully over time Serious and I will be able put our differences behind us and become best friends.

Me with the kids.

The children were very much crammed into this very small building.

They were drinking their porridge.

The toilet.

A little boy along the street.

They certainly liked getting their picture taken.

This is right outside the school's door.

Walking down into Mathare.

You can't really tell but she has her doll baby on her back.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Faces and Places of Nairobi

My backyard.

The street that the center is located on in Eastleigh.

It had rained the night before so the roads were a mess. Dirt roads and rain don't go together real well.

My h
My home!

The basketball court at the center.

Front seat of a matatu driving through crazy Nairobi traffic.

A view of Eastleigh from the third floor of the center.

A mural tribute to the greatest of all time.


A view of the center from the street.

Saturdays they have a kids club in the mornings and these are a couple of the children who came.