Sunday, March 31, 2013
I was sitting here wallowing, thinking about family, church, food, chocolate, lamb cake, Easter eggs, all the things that I associate with Easter, wishing I could teleport home for the weekend, when I realized that no matter where I am, one thing remains constant: the real reason for Easter and why I celebrate it.
Jesus died on the cross and rose again, offering a brand new start for all who believe in Him and I am whining over Reese's peanut butter eggs? What is wrong with that picture?
I woke up this morning with a horrible attitude, not wanting to go to church because I knew it was not going to be the same. I thought to myself, "It's not 'my church'." Jessica! What is wrong with you? You are a part of THE church! The body of Christ is "your church" wherever you are!
Then, when I was actually at church, there were a handful of children from Mulandi Primary school where Hannah, a student, taught. The entire sermon, I heard one of the girls whispering behind me to Dara about Hannah. She was asking her where Hannah went and when she was coming back? My heart was so warm hearing them talk so fondly of Hannah.
Right after the service a few of the girls named Mary, Wendy, and Judy came up to me, alongside some younger girls, and asked me if I was going to stay forever and why Hannah isn't coming back? I tried my best to explain. They did not seem satisfied with my responses.
Then out of nowhere, they started singing and signing "Our God is an Awesome God." Hannah had taught them how to sign this song in ASL during her time at Mulandi. We then went over the alphabet and how to sign your name and say hello. I was loving it! They asked if I would come and teach their class. They actually fought over which grade I should teach because they all wanted a teacher like Hannah.
Hannah truly made a difference for her students during her short time with them. They will never forget her, the things she taught them, and stories she told them. I want to make an impact like that one day. An impact that might not seem so monumental on the grand scheme of things, but that is monumental on an individual scale. Hannah may not have solved all of Kenya's education system problems, or provided an entire community with clean water for life, but she surely made a difference in the lives of her students. People like Hannah, who use gifts like teaching to share God's love, are truly an inspiration to me. It was like God was reminding me of why I am here and what He wants me to do with my life. Thank you, Lord, for that reminder.
Another thing that "hit me" at that service was when the Pastor asked us to turn to our neighbor and share what is special to us about Easter. I immediately thought of traditions and that without Christ rising, Christianity would not exist. While I was sharing these things with the person next to me, I heard the little girl behind me telling Dara how cool it is that the Easter story never changes, but it is still the coolest story ever, every year! What a simple, child-like answer that rings of such truth! How awesome is the Easter story you ask?
Read Matthew 28:1-10
Christ is Risen, He is Risen Indeed!
Some of my sisters in Christ ready for an Easter service at Lukenya Community Church!
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Elephants, Ostriches, & Other Happenings.
Two weekends ago we visited an elephant orphanage. It was such a cool experience to see so many baby elephants in one place! I have only ever seen elephants in the zoo. Most of the baby elephants were orphaned from poaching and many were found abandoned in deep wells that they fell into.
Seeing the baby elephants!
After going to the elephant orphanage, we went to Jeff's favorite Ethiopian restaurant. The food was amazing! It reminded me of the Indian cuisine that I ate on Devon Ave. in Chicago this past semester. The spices were delicious and I definitely ate way too much. The food consisted of a sourdough bread called injera, topped with different meats and dips. After our meal we had popcorn and the strongest coffee I have ever tasted...even with 5 scoops of sugar. We also had gum arabic burning on the table for a great smell and ambiance. It was quite the amazing dining experience.
Ethiopian food, YUM!
To continue our wonderful day, we visited Nairobi's National Museum. Jeff has a project he is working on there and we were able to see part of it in progress. We saw an exhibit of every bird in East Africa, an art exhibit filled with psychedelic black light art, Turkana Boy as well as many more skulls, pictures of Rendille Dancers at a festival, and many African mammals. My favorite part was walking through the history of Kenya. We learn a lot about the Mau Mau (a rebel, resistance group) and how Kenya gained its independence.
Entrance to the museum.
To end our day, we went to a mall and got frozen yogurt. I had a scoop of tiramisu flavored yogurt on top of a waffle cone. It was TDF. To die for.
Mall in Nairobi.
This past weekend we woke up in time to get our mandazi and sausage link at the dining hall for breakfast, loaded a bus, and took off for a hotel that doubles as an ostrich farm and restaurant. Talk about a themed hotel...There were ostriches everywhere! The lampshades were ostrich eggs, the chairs and menus were ostrich leather, there were paintings of ostriches, and ostrich skins on the walls. When you walk outside, there is a pool, playground, and outside eating area where we spent the majority of our day feasting on amazing ostrich steak (a delicacy), ostrich burgers, and other dishes such as salads, potatoes, cream of vegetable soup, and rice. Ostrich meat is some of the best meat I have ever had. It is the perfect combination between beef and chicken. It looks like a steak with no fat and is very tender. It melts in your mouth. In between amazing meals, we played on the swing set and RODE AN OSTRICH! It was such a funny experience. I volunteered to go first and was a bit doubtful of these creatures’ abilities. He was very easy to ride though...which might have had a little to do with the fact that two Kenyan men ran alongside me on the ostrich making sure I did not fall. We ran around the pen once and then everyone else got their turn. By the time everyone in our group rode him, the ostrich was a little tired and ornery. He made a pretty funny hissing noise. We are grateful for his services and I'm sure he is thankful that we keep him in service and off someone's plate.
Just your typical college weekends in Africa--seeing cool animals, exhibits, and eating amazing food!
Sunday, March 24, 2013
“Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work." -Mother Teresa
The sisters at Mother Teresa's home live these words out every hour of every day.
Mother Teresa's is a home and safe haven for disabled women. The age-range of the women who live there is rather vast. I would say the youngest could be around 10 and the oldest around 40-50. I am not exactly sure. The majority of the girls that live there have physical disabilities, often combined with mental challenges and some have multiple handicaps. I know for a fact that most of the girls have Cerebral Palsy. I also know that a few have autism, Down syndrome, are blind, and/or deaf.
When you first walk into the home, you are greeted with warm handshakes and smiles from the sisters. Then you put away your belongings and put on a green apron. The red ones are for sisters only. Work time. First, you tidy up the bedrooms while the girls get their teeth brushed. Many against their will. I get the impression they do this routine every single morning. In order to clean the bedrooms, you move around all the crib-like beds so that the sisters can dump buckets of disinfectant-diluted water on the floors which you will mop around with bundles of sticks. These bundles work better than any other mop or broom I have ever used and I am sure they are much cheaper as well. Then the sisters soak up the water with giant rags as they repeat The Lord's Prayer, Hail Mary's, and other Catholic prayers in a beautiful and quiet chant-like way. As they are soaking up the water and wringing it into buckets, you make the beds with colorful uniform sheets. Then push the beds back, let down the curtains and to top it off, spray each bed with the scent of a lavender air freshener.
Next you will do another task like hanging up freshly cleaned laundry or chopping up massive amounts of green beans for dinner. One thing I love about this is that along with the sisters and other possible volunteers, a few of the girls who are not as physically disabled help out. I love that these girls are expected to help out around at the home, doing chores, and how happy they get when you tell them they are good workers. They really are. One girl named Sara can whip up a freshly made bed in half the time that I can and twice as well done. Plus, it seems to me that she would rather continue with her work than strike up a conversation with me. She is quite dedicated...or maybe I'm just weird. :)
Lunchtime! This is by far the best part of the day, and sadly the last thing before you are politely asked to leave at noon. Noon is when "everyone awake is either in school or at prayer." Volunteers are welcomed to come back at 3:30 after prayers are done, but the bus schedule doesn't allow us to go back in the afternoon. Now, back to the food. The sisters make a good lunch for these girls. They get a heaping plate of mixed veggies, some ugali, and a few hunks of fried fish. For dessert they get hot chocolate.
Many of the girls are able to feed themselves or help feed their friends, but a majority must be fed by volunteers or the sisters. The first time I went, the girl I was feeding preferred sleeping. She was just not having it. In order to get her to take her food, I would have to tap her face to wake her up, quick squeeze her mouth open and shovel some food in. We weren't the best of friends that day, but the next time I was there she was quite chipper and took her food like a champ. I also was able to feed Lucy. Lucy is a gem. She has CP and is blind. She is verbal but does not say much and repeats herself a lot. Also, she mostly speaks Swahili. She called me Mom and Dada a lot which was kind of hard to handle, but I enjoyed the little conversation we had. She LOVES hot chocolate. She would open her mouth and say "AHHH" then take her drink and say "MMMM." It was too funny and she knew it too. I would giggle at her and she would crack up right back at me.
There is also a girl named Immaculate. She is a hoot. She has quite the chomper on her. She likes to play this silly game with the volunteers. She will hit the seat next to her and make you sit down, then she will go to bite your arm or push you away. What a joker! She thinks it is too funny. Don't tell her, but it actually is. I'm not sure if she likes me or not, but I really like her, so hopefully the feeling is mutual.
There is another girl who loves the radio and sings and dances along to the beat. It warms my heart to see her love for music. Pauline has the most beautiful smile I have ever seen and whenever I tell her she gets so shy and rolls away in her chair blushing. A girl named Lucy speaks fluent English so we had a pretty lengthy conversation about America, Obama, and being Mzungu. She told me that she wants me to stay in Kenya forever. I told her not to give me any ideas. I also told her that when I first got to Kenya that my hair was darker but that mzungu hair changes color from the sun. I did not think anyone else in the room was listening but everyone surrounding us busted out in shrill squeals of joy and laughter at the fact that my hair changes color. It's really the little things like that that make my day at Mother Teresa's.
This is Ann. She got up out of her, leaned on my waist and walked me around to her favorite spot outside to sit.
This girl’s smile is contagious. She loves to shake my hand and greet me, as do many of the other girls.
On the car ride home last Friday, I asked my friend Aubrie what she thought about everything we saw and experienced while at the home. She told me many things but one thing that really struck me was that she said that being at Mother Teresa's really reminded her of our dependency on God. In the same way that these girls depend on the sisters for everything they need, that is how we are with God. Everything we have comes from him. We rely on him for everything. He cares for us, loves us, supports us. He is our rock. The sisters at Mother Teresa's are the hands and feet of Jesus to these girls.
Mother Teresa's is truly an amazing place. The sisters are some of the most dedicated and loving women I have ever met and the girls are so well taken care of. I wish I could spend a whole week at the home getting to know everyone but as of now I will continue my weekly visits. This place gives me such joy, inspiration, and hope after every visit. I cannot say enough how wonderful it is. May God bless them and their amazing ministry.
Monday, March 18, 2013
Jambo Bwana (Zanzibar)
Instead of sitting on campus all week during recess for the Kenya elections, we decided to create our own spring break and head to the island of Zanzibar off the coast of Tanzania.
Even though it was a challenge, bartering at the many small shops lining the narrow streets of Stone Town was a highlight of this trip. Another thing to note is that Zanzibar is over 90% Muslim. It was easy to pick up on this through the architecture, the dress of the people, and the call to prayer that we heard throughout the city daily.
Inside the Tembo Hotel
Stone Town was absolutely wonderful. When we weren't eating delicious food, lounging in our beautiful rooms, swimming in the pool or the beaches of the warm salty Indian Ocean, or bartering for cool souvenirs, we were...oh wait, that is all we did! Living the life!!! My favorite place to eat was on the boardwalk right by our hotel (Tembo hotel, the former U.S. embassy). It was a park looking area by day and a lively music, people, food filled market-like outdoor restaurant by night.
There were about 50 vendors with basically any kind of meat, seafood, dessert, drink, bread, or pizza you could imagine. On this trip alone, I tried shark, octopus (tentacles and all), calamari (not even fried), shwarma (my new favorite Mediterranean food which is basically a chicken gyro with garlic mayo sauce and chili-tomato sauce- the perfect combo of sweet and salty), and many different fish (even with the scales on)! There were tons of coconut bread, kabobs, and nutella/banana/coconut pizzas being consumed by our group. I have also had many different flavors of Fanta since being in Africa. I have had the basic orange, grape, and strawberry in the States, but here there is pineapple, mango, green apple, passion, and my favorite, black currant.
One of the food-vendor’s spreads.
Another highlight of Stone town was taking a wooden boat over to Prison Island to see the 100+ year-old tortoises, and to go snorkeling! We saw many starfish, sea urchins, coral, Nemo fish, Dory fish, angel fish, a puffer fish, and tons of other native fish including a huge school of tiny little fish. We also went swimming at night when the algae glows in the dark when it is touched. Basically you glow blue in the ocean at night, it is so neat!
Snorkeling in the Indian Ocean!
In Stone Town we also:
Beautiful stained glass in the church.
Former Slave Market/ Anglican Church
Fresh food in the market.
Typical set up of earrings outside a shop.
I love the rainy season!
Local boy puddle hopping.
My henna tattoo that was given to me by a deaf woman. We tried to talk in sign language but her dialect was different than ASL.
Such a cutie! She makes me miss the little girl I watch in the summer!
After our two-day excursion in Stone Town, we ventured an entire hour to the other side of the island for what I would explain as beach/resort/camping experience. Our huts, which were complete with sand filled floors, beds, mosquito nets, and fans, were so fun! 7 of us girls piled into that 'dorm-like' room for the rest of the week. The rest of the camp site was filled with other huts, a communal bathroom, a reading loft, volleyball court, and bar where we ate breakfast and dinner every night!
The food at New Teddy's Place was AMAZING! Every morning we were given the option of having sweet or salty breakfast. I had the sweet one day which consisted of 2 pancakes filled with chocolate and fresh fruit. Another breakfast of choice was the salty breakfast which consisted of an omelet filled with peppers, a chapatti, and fresh fruit. YUM! My favorite dinner was lemon garlic butter fish with veggies and chips. It was the best fish I have ever had. We also ate some delicious lunches at local restaurants.
We spent many hours walking the beaches with friends picking up amazing shells (that I would pay money for in Florida) and having great conversations. Every morning after breakfast we usually spent the rainy part of the morning (it's rainy season now) in the reading loft or hammocks reading books recommended by Jeff, African history books, romance novels, religious/inspirational books, the Bible, or journaling. What a relaxing vacation-type activity to start each day with.
Almost every morning, with the exception of one, I got up at around 6:00 am to watch the sunrise with my friends. I had never seen the sunrise before and I set my sunrise standards pretty high right off the bat. God's glory was proclaimed through the beauty I saw on those mornings! Not to even mention the amazing sunsets we've seen on this trip as well. The African sun has got to be different than the one in America. Almost every day, without fail, there is an amazing view to be seen in the sky.
On Friday night, Teddy's place held a BBQ where we had a large variety of food. The meats included chicken, fish (an entire fish grilled on the BBQ), and octopus. The flavors of the meat were almost overwhelming they were so good. I could not stop eating! Later that night we went to a dance party on the beach where locals and other tourists of many different nationalities danced the night away. We even danced with Masai warriors decked up in their traditional outfits. It was an “out of this world” experience.
The next day we packed up and went back to Stone Town for one last meal and shopping extravaganza. Then we boarded our plane and took off back home. Home. Kenya feels like home now. What a strange feeling. We first felt it after Rendille, but this confirmed it. Kenya is the most familiar thing to us for now.
Monday, March 11, 2013
Weeks in Review
I am going to buzz through some highlights of the past few weeks and things that have been on my mind.
Riding in style on the Daystar bus!
Going to Town
On our first free weekend as a group, we were challenged by Jeff to hang out with Kenyans (or other African students that we have met) and to do something fun! Sounded like a good plan to me. A small group of us decided to go to Nairobi with our good friends Noni and Ruth. Noni is Kenyan but lives in Tanzania because her parents are missionaries there. Ruth is Malawian. For our trek to town, we all boarded the campus bus and that took us to Nairobi. While there, we shopped at a store called Zanzibar which was good because their gifts were well priced, and it gave us a reference point for when we headed over to the Masai Market (where you have to barter).
Then we got pizza at the Pizza Inn. It was the first 'American' meal we had all eaten since being here and we definitely splurged. I ate a pizza that was half BBQ sauce, bacon, and pineapple, and the other half was Tikka chicken, green pepper, and onion with some Indian spiced sauce. It was out of this world! We walked around and visited a salon where Noni and Ruth got their ears pierced, and we also made a pit stop to Java House (an American coffee shop that is the Kenyan equivalent to Starbucks).
Our final stop before heading back home was the Masai Market. The market is very crowded, and it was very hot out but it was so much fun! People are constantly calling "Sista, sista, I have a deal for you!" and grabbing at your hands trying to show you their crafts, gifts, and handiwork. It is quite the overwhelming and beautiful experience. I got 3 soapstone figures for free because men would ask me where I was from, I would answer Chicago, and then they would give me a free gift because I am from Obama's home. A few of us girls also received a few marriage proposals as well. Overall, it was a successful day and I am really grateful for our friendships with Noni and Ruth. They are truly gems.
In Kenya, a majority of people are not very punctual or efficient with their time management skills. I can show up for class 10 minutes late and the lecturer and most of the class will not arrive for another 20 minutes give or take (usually give haha). If you are walking around campus and run into a friend, they will stop and hold a lengthy conversation with you whether or not either of you have plans you need to attend to. If we need to be on the road for something by 5:00 p.m., that usually means anywhere from 5:30-6:00 p.m. If you plan on getting back to campus by 7:00 p.m., try 9:00 p.m.
Time is never a given factor and that is OK. I have come to appreciate not feeling rushed and also the feeling of worth when people stop you to talk and really value relationships over schedules. Of course, as an American who loves efficiency and predictability, I get frustrated at times. However, it is going to be really hard to adjust back to the American way of time keeping.
New Life Children's Home
This orphanage is for babies and very young children. I think that the oldest is a little over 2 or 3 years old and I am not even sure of that. The children are precious. We are able to visit this home whenever we can. I have only been their once so far but I am planning on going to it most Tuesdays with Jake since we don't have classes on that day. It was such a cool experience. The facility is quite beautiful and the children are very well taken care of. It seems like they are constantly being held by staff and volunteers. They are not shy children and have an over abundance of love. Many of them have nasty coughs but they are all taken to doctors regularly. It was such a strange experience to be holding children and being so happy and just enjoying loving them and then having an overwhelming feeling of sadness because you know they do not have parents and many of them could be HIV positive.
While I was there one child was being adopted. That was cool to see. I overheard someone saying that the adoption process takes 3 hours. I was shocked and am going to find out more information about that on Tuesday. It seems unreal to me. Anyway, I was able to hold 2 babies named Anneke and Joseph. They were so cute! Anneke was quite the sassy little baby with an attitude. Joseph was very chill and loved playing with my glasses and being held above my head. "Super Baby!!" I cannot wait to go back and learn more and love on more children.
Joseph & I
He is the cutest!
The toy market is the largest thrift shop I have ever been to. The whole market is outside, and you barter for the price you want. I got 2 shirts for about $1and RayBan sunglasses for about $2, a new bathing suit for $4 and had a blast! All my second-hand lovin’ friends would have been in their element here. I cannot wait to go back there either. There is also a food market in the same area and one interesting thing that happened was that as we walked by, a little girl (whose father owned one of the booths) ran up and hugged all of our legs. Originally we would have just thought "awe, how cute is this little girl?" but after being in Kenya for some time now, we could all easily see through her big eyes and smile. Her father had trained her to hug foreigners in order to guilt trip them into buying his food.
About a 15-minute walk off campus is a resort/pool/motocross/paintball place called Lukenya. Two of the boys from our Daystar group did a promotional video for them in exchange for our group being able to use their pool all weekend, get one free meal, paintball, and ride All-Terrain-Vehicles (ATV). It was such a fun weekend! ATV-ing in the African wilderness was an out of this world experience. Jake drove the ATV and I was the passenger. We drove right past many zebra, giraffes, and some cool birds and other wildlife. I could have ridden on that four-wheeler all day.
Our whole group attended a Peace Dinner. Sing Africa, Afrizo (Daystar's singing group that tours the U.S. every year), a speaker, drama club, and a great meal were all a part of the night. A few of my favorite parts of this night were getting to meet more people from Daystar, seeing the moon rise over the rocks surrounding Athi River, and hearing everyone sing the Kenyan National Anthem. It was very cool to hear about peace, especially with the upcoming elections. Praise God the elections were mostly peaceful.
Campus is surrounded with amazing rocks for climbing and exploring. One Sunday a small group of us walked off campus and found a cool place to climb that wasn't too difficult and has an awesome view of Athi River. The rock looked like it was made of granite. It was very neat and I will never get used to the views I have seen since being here. The Saturday before we left for Zanzibar, we went on a rock climbing trip off campus. We were told it could be a hike anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours. It took us a little over 3 hours. We were not prepared to say the least. Once we hiked to our destination on the rocks, the group went rock climbing. I thought about giving it a go but hiking up the rocks was about enough of a rock climbing experience that I needed for that day. I watched and took pictures. It was awesome! The view was incredible and the hike was definitely worth it.
We made it! Finally!
On the path to the rocks. It gets steeper and filled with wildlife the farther you go.
Showering with a monkey
One morning I woke up and went to take my daily cold shower and as I was bent over rinsing my hair in the faucet, a monkey decided to climb halfway through the slotted window. When I stood up, I made quite the gasping noise when I realized I had a visitor. After the initial shock, it really wasn't that big of a deal to me. It is a funny feeling when seeing a monkey in your shower seems somewhat normal to you.
After our night class one week, we went off-campus for a chicken and chip dinner. It was delicious. However, later that night four of us got seriously ill. I was the only one who made the trek to Doctor's Plaza, but the other three ended up at the school clinic with some antibiotics as well. Paige took very great care of me and Jeff and his wife Asaaska met us at the hospital, took care of me, and let me crash at their place for the night. They were awesome surrogate parents, and I am so grateful for their help and making me feel so much better. It wasn't fun at all, but it was a good experience, and I am thankful for the good care I was provided with and that we are all healthy again.