Week 3 – Kenya

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Our first outing to the countryside surrounding Nairobi was a delightful break from the sights and sounds and smells of the slums.  Ever since the movie ‘Out of Africa’ came out in the early ‘80’s, we have dreamed of Karen Blixen’s beloved Ngong Hills of Africa, never imagining that we would actually see them one day.  However, as we drove past herds of camels and even a dead hyena in the middle of the road, we spotted the hills in the distance.

Drought, famine, and hunger have driven people by the millions into Nairobi in search of a better life.  Unfortunately, corruption in the government has prevented the development of an adequate infrastructure to support this migration.  The miles and miles of slum neighborhoods in the city bear testament to this sad fact.

The small villages dotting the countryside are poverty stricken, but the air is cleaner and the congestion not nearly as bad.  This is the little town of Kiserian, not far from where our new friend, Natalie, lives and works, right at the foot of the Ngong Hills.


Re-entering Nairobi through the affluent section known as Karen, we were thankful to spot Nairobi’s answer to Starbucks, the Nairobi Java House.  Oh, how we enjoyed our first glass of iced tea since leaving Texas!  It wasn’t sweet tea, but was served with a little pitcher of simple syrup, so we were able to make it as sweet as we wanted.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

This was our second Sunday to worship with the students at the school for deaf and hearing children.  Last week, there were 102 students; this week, there are 119.  The new arrivals came from Western Kenya.  Some of them are 17 years old, in the 7th grade.  Because of the struggles of life, they have not been able to attend school on a regular basis.  What courage, when offered the opportunity, to return to school with the determination to catch up.  These children are so grateful for the chance they have been given to get an education and improve their lives.

We were moved to tears as they introduced themselves.  “My name is Elizabeth.  I am born again, and I praise God for giving me this chance to go to school.”  “My name is Stephen.  I am a Christian.  I love the Lord, and I am happy to be here.”

What a privilege it is to have the opportunity to tell them how they have blessed our lives, and how God sent us half way around the world to bless them, to share His love, and to bring an awareness of their situation to our friends and loved ones at home.

Monday, July 16, 2012

This is Patricia (Patty), one of the family’s younger sisters.  She came from a small rural village near Kakamega in Western Kenya to help in the house while John and I are here.  She left three small children at home (ages 4, 3, and 18 months), and has suffered a great deal of homesickness.  John and I wanted to put her on a bus and send her home to her family, assuring everyone that we could take care of ourselves and were more than willing to cook, clean, and do our own laundry.  That was not acceptable.  Nixon felt that she would learn a great deal through her exposure to us, but this broke my heart, as a mother.

We suggested that Patty be given a break during our stay, that we would pay for her bus ticket home and back to Nairobi after she had the chance to spend some time with her husband and children.  Once she wrapped her mind around that, she was fine.  In fact, she is constantly telling us that she wants to go home to Texas with us!  Even though she is 30 years old, there is a child-like quality about her that is so endearing.  When you hug her, she ducks her head and tucks it under your chin like a little child.  So precious!  She reminds me of Dobie in the Harry Potter movies.

We hadn’t been here too long when Patty disappeared for the afternoon.  We were informed that she was in bed with a toothache.  That night, she couldn’t even eat.  John gave her some super-powerful ibuprofen that he had brought along and it helped, but the following days convinced me that she was in desperate need of a dentist.  At first, she was resistant to the idea, as she is terrified of injections.  I convinced her that her tooth would not get well on its own and that an infection like that could kill her.  Finally, she agreed to go, and we took off in search of a dental office.  Ha!  We drove from one ‘hospital’ to the next.  (There is no such thing as yellow pages here, nor is there help to be found through Google.)  We finally found a ‘medical facility’ with a dentist.  He took one look in her mouth and said that the only thing that could be done was to pull the tooth.  Seeing that she was scared, he simply wrote her several prescriptions, which we filled on site, and we left.  John didn’t blame her one bit!  He said he wouldn’t have wanted to have a tooth pulled there either.

I told her this was probably the best course of action, to take the antibiotics that he had prescribed in order to calm the infection down, then to go to the dentist back home and have it pulled.  It was then that I learned this tooth had been bothering her for about 3 or 4 years.  She had needed to have 5 teeth pulled, but after 3, she never went back.  She assured me she would have it taken care of while she was home.

While we were out, John stopped to go in the bank, so Patty and I took the opportunity to walk around the nearby shops.  There is a very small supermarket there (they pronounce it spa-market).  Her eyes were the size of half dollars, as this was the first time in her entire life she had been in a grocery store.  At home, her mom goes to the market and just brings Patty what she needs.

That did it!  When John came back to the car, I told everyone to head to Tusky’s.  She was in hog heaven – wandered around, just staring.  It was the cutest thing ever.  We were just there for a few minutes, but I promised I would bring her back.  Oh, how she loved having her picture taken there!

Amazingly, Patty’s homesickness evaporated at this point.  She had planned to go home the next day, but decided to stay until we could get back to Tusky’s with her.  It didn’t happen the next day, as we had a meeting planned with Natalie, so she stayed two more days.  When we finally returned to shop, we loaded her up with all sorts of goodies to take home with her.  (John has met his match in the ‘Cookie Monster’ department.  She would come and sit down wherever we were and say, “Papa John!  Biscuit!”  Then she would just duck her head and giggle out loud.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Today was my first opportunity to begin meeting with each of the classes, sharing the animal picture book I made for them before we came.  I’ve made a couple of these for our grandchildren, but in this one, I added African animals and their Swahili names in addition to the English names.  Until now, except for a poster with just a few animals pictured on it, the children have only seen what the teachers are able to draw on the blackboard. The children were amazed at what they saw.  I taught them how to say the names in English, and they taught me how to say them in Swahili.

Later, I just spent some time one-on-one with the kiddos.  They are so sweet and loving; they swarm around John to the point he can hardly keep his balance, and they all want a hug or a high-five.

This is Diana.  Isn’t she absolutely beautiful!!!  She is almost four years old, and is as sweet as her face.

Her mom is a teacher at another school quite some distance away, so she drops Diana at our school very early, sometimes by 5:45 a.m., and returns for her between 6:00 and 6:30 p.m. The Director’s wife is up every morning by 4:45 to be ready for the early arrivals.  The other teachers are here by 6:45 and often stay well past 6:00.  Additionally, they come in on Saturday to help the children who are slow learners.  All of this for $48 – $60 per month!

We are committed to raising the funds to increase the salaries of these talented and loving teachers.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

This morning was a special treat!  Paul and Ali took a break from their over-seeing of the construction next door and came in for coffee and toast.  They are very close to winding up their work and we will be sad not to see them every day.  Paul is a civil engineer, working for a company here in Nairobi.  Ali will go to northern Kenya to visit his family and perhaps look for a job in Somalia.

Friday, July 20, 2012

We made a divine connection with Natalie Finstad in the months before we came to Kenya.  She has lived here for a couple of years and she had been home to visit in the States in the weeks before our trip.  We emailed several times and then “just happened” to be on the same flight from London to Nairobi, taking the opportunity to get acquainted face-to-face and share our stories and our visions.

Today, we were privileged to visit one of the training sessions that her organization, Be the Change Kenya, puts on for local community members involved in helping under-privileged and orphaned children.  It was a great session, teaching the basics of strategic planning.  I was thrilled for our school’s directors to make this connection with Natalie and her awesome staff.

Right now, they are headquartered just outside of Nairobi, in Rongai.  However, their plan is to expand into Nairobi proper within the next couple of years.  Perhaps, one day, our little school can benefit from the excellent programs that Natalie, Ken Chomba, and the rest of their staff have put together.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Today was the day that changed the direction of our entire trip.  We came to Kenya with certain preconceived notions about what we wanted to accomplish, and I know that the Director and his wife had their own list of ideas.  God, however, seems to have something else in mind, something far greater than any of us had imagined.  It all started with a walk to visit each of the teachers in their homes.  You’ll have to wait until the next installment to hear the details, although I know that most of you have read at least a little about it on Facebook.

Time seems to be slipping away, and every minute is packed with activity, to the point that I rarely have time to sit down and write.  However, this story is one that must be written.  We’ve now been here for four and a half weeks and, as you can see, I’m just getting the narrative of Week 3 out.  I’ll try to catch up in the next day or so and fill you in on the amazing events that have taken place since July 21.  Until then, Kwaheri!  (That’s Swahili for ‘Bye for now.’)

Love y’all!  (That’s Texan for ‘I love you all to pieces!)

Mary Catherine

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