Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Unto Us a Child is Born

Early this morning I got a call from Matt Jones, the husband of the family I am staying with. They had gone to the hospital about 5:AM and by 6:30 they had a bouncing baby girl, Anastasia Rose.Living with a woman who was very pregnant during the Advent made thinking of the birth of Christ more realistic this season. It will be a joy to get to know Annie Rose a bit. I'm sure that living with a newborn won't be the same as it would have been living with the newborn Jesus.

However, I am glad to have Christ living in my heart all the time.

Monday, December 22, 2008

They Shall Call Him Immanuel, God with Us

May the God who came to be one of us, with us, be near to you this season.

God's richest blessings to you and yours, Jan

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Walk Down My Own Memory Lane - Part 9

This is the other 'glamor shot' of my mom. It's my favorite one. She was 21 on this photo. That would have been 1947. I remember that I used to have a wallet size copy of this in a little frame on my desk when I was 21. Most of my memories are just remembering looking at these photos when I was younger.

I think this will conclude my little walk - at least for now. Thanks for joining me.

(I'll have to start posting in the present.)

A Walk Down My Own Memory Lane - Part 8

My mom as a baby. She was born in May of 1926.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A Walk Down My Own Memory Lane - Part 7

This photo was probably taken around the same time as the snowball photo. It's not a setting I recognize. But maybe one of my siblings can say where it was taken. Still, Mom is looking a little more lady-like.

Friday, December 12, 2008

A Walk Down My Own Memory Lane - Part 6

One of the most fascinating things we found when searching Mom's things was a whole stack of "love letters" my mom wrote while engaged to my dad from a cross country trip to her sister's wedding in LA.

It sounded like she was traveling with her mom, younger sister and brother. My mom wrote a note daily to dad as they took the train to Cody, Wyoming. There they were picked up by her father and traveled by car the rest of the way.

In one of the letters Mom said she was enclosing photos. But those weren't with the letters when me found them (sixty years later). However, I think this photo may have been take in Cody on that trip.

I wish I could scan and post all the letters. Mom wrote on scrap paper and diner menus. Several of the envelopes were decorated with my mom's sketches. She was not too mushy in her words - but you can tell she was in love.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Walk Down My Own Memory Lane - Part 5

Okay, granted - most of these photos are not really from my memory. But I have really enjoyed thinking about what life was like in the yester-year photos from my parents memorabilia. Here are a couple from when my shy mom was a little girl.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A Walk Down My Own Memory Lane - Part 4

My parents were dancers. You might know that in the past ten years I have taken up swing dancing and have enjoyed it very much. This photo was some kind of couples outing shortly after my parents were married - probably in the winter of 1949-50. There were some other portrait shots with two other couples taken around the fireplace of my parents home. And some snapshots of several couples at a large table together, presumably in a dance hall somewhere. They included my dad's two siblings and their spouses.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

A Walk Down My Own Memory Lane - Part 3

I think my mom was the original "Glamor Shots" girl. Before she was married she worked in the dark room of a portrait studio in Hopkins. While I was growing up whenever this job was mentioned someone what always make some crack about Mom working in a dark room with Mr. Daniels and "seeing what developed."

My mom had several shots of this type. I am a bit biased but I think she was quite a beauty in her day. (This was is not the best of the series.)

Saturday, December 6, 2008

A Walk Down My Own Memory Lane - Part 2

When I imagine the life of my parents as young people, it's dreamy - like a movie. My father was the son of a brick layer. It was the trade he was trained in. But as he dated my mom, her father thought it would be better for my dad to have an office job. So he hired him to work for his electrical contracting company.

My dad spent his entire career as the purchasing agent for Industrial Electric Co. He retired in the early 90's after 30-some years of service in the same little office on Portland and Eighth downtown.

I imagine this photo was taken early on in that job to show off the the blue collar relatives his prestigious desk job.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Walk Down My Own Memory Lane

Dan, Lee and I have spent days sorting old photos and memorabilia from when my mom passed away about 3 and a half years ago. We have found many a wondrous thing. And some we wished we hadn't unearthed.

Since I just posted a current photo of my siblings, I thought you might like to see what we looked like 30 years back. This photo includes my parents in the back row. Lots of seventies fashion going on here!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

My Siblings and Me

This is just after Thanksgiving dinner. I'm standing between the oldest, Dan on the left and the youngest, Mike on the right. My sister, Lee from out west is in the magenta and my sister Marty is in that lavendar. They are both older than me.

Monday, November 24, 2008

My Sister from out West is Coming

I have one sibling that lives away from the Twin Cities; my sister, Lee. She is coming this week for a visit for the first time since my mom passed away. Lee is an artist and shows her work on her blog and at her Etsy website.

We love to get each other laughing about family memories. She’ll make my Thanksgiving this year.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Memory Lane is Cedar Av

The other day I drove past an advertisement on a bus stop for Canadian Club Whiskey. As I slowed at the corner the large photo caught my eye, several men wearing polyester leisure suits in the 70’s. The light turned green as I glanced again. I stepped on the gas, but I couldn’t help wondering as I drove by if one of those guys was my cousin. After all I think my uncle worked for CC. So the associate seemed logical.

I went back for another look today and alas. Not my cousin, but I think the guy on the far left was a friend of my uncle. He looks familiar. (Sorry the photo isn’t that great. The ad is on Cedar and Franklin if you want to see for yourself.)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Eighth Anniversary

I didn’t realize it until I looked at the date this morning. My dad passed away eight years ago today. It was the year the election had been so close and the trouble with Florida’s ballots meant that we still didn’t know who our next president would be.

Of my parents, I am most like my dad. He was adventuresome, outgoing, and loved to cook. He enjoyed the outdoors and had an appreciation for art. He was a decisive first-born servant who retired a little early just so he could start volunteering more.

If he were still alive he would have turned 82 last Friday.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Craft Boutique

This time of year my mom and I used to go into a creative/productive mode. I still get the urge without mom around to inspire me. Or maybe I should say that is some way she still does inspire me.

I am preparing for the Bethlehem Craft Boutique this coming Friday November 21, and Saturday November 22 at the North Campus.

Your purchase will help support a missionary (in this case) and you may find some cool gifts there.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

It's Only the Beginning of Obama’s influence in Kenya

Obama’s win has already caused a stir in Kenya. Kenya’s president, Kibaki declared a national holiday in Kenya. My colleague there reported the Americans he knew worked that day, but all Kenyans were off.

Evidentially the effect is reaching even into a baby boom of little Obamas.

Only the beginning...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Comparing – Road Trips

I am down in Madison for a short visit to the Care of Creation Headquarters here. It’s about a 4 and a half hour drive to “Mad City”. I left early in the morning to make the best use of the days. On the way I noted several differences between this kind of trip and a similar journey in Kenya. Here are my observations:

US: smooth roads, light traffic.
KE: potholes, vehicles at all kinds of speeds from trucks at 20 miles an hour to Mercedes at 90 miles an hour

US: no fear of passing on a hill on a divided highway.
KE: expecting whatever might come up!

US: slow rising sun in my eyes for what seemed like ages
KE: quick sun up or sundown

US: gas at $2.29 a gallon
KE: gas at $5.90 a gallon

US: concrete wayside rests
KE: colorful scenic overlooks with plenty of dusty trinkets to purchase

US: not one human being to be seen from the freeway
KE: people everywhere along the road, and sometimes darting across

US: trees (indigenous forests) and jet streams
KE: bare land and the occasional buzzard

US: road repair signs for miles ahead, orange cones and lighted arrows
KE: rocks in the road without warning, possibly some green leafy branches in the road as a warning of something ahead

Sunday, October 26, 2008

At the End of 'Missions Focus' for this Year

If you have been visiting my blog now seeing anything new. Please forgive me. It's not that I haven't had anything to say, it's just been a bit busy with all many things happening the past couple of weeks.

Today was the final day of my church's annual "Missions Focus" event. I attend a church that does a great job training, sending and supporting missionaries all year 'round. But every year we spend a week and a half highlighting some of the many things folks are involved in.

One item mentioned in passing during the sermon was a reference to this morning's blog entry at Desiring God. It's very short and has been a blessing to me as I spend time in the US doing some additional support raising for the coming year. Please take a look.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Comparing - Cost of Living

Lately I have been spending a lot of thought time comparing life in Kenya to life in Minnesota. When I arrived I told my brother on the way Hiawatha, "If this were Nairobi, there would be throngs of people walking on both sides of the highway and up and down the median. Plus they would be darting across the road." I think I could actually do several entries on traffic comparisons. Maybe I will.

Here is a few Kenyan prices of daily items:

milk - $4.20 per gallon
boneless chicken breasts - $6.50 per pound
gas - $6.00 per gallon

ground beef - $1.33 per pound

Maybe I will be sticking to beef and beans when I get back.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Featured in Time

Our biggest news yet!

My boss and friend, the founder of Care of Creation is featured in the international and online versions of Time Magazine as a Hero of the Environment! Although not a perfect representation, I think it very fair considering all things considered.

We are very happy for the exposure.

Down To It

I arrived in the US just over a week ago. I am over jet lag (I think). I have had a good cheeseburger. I’ve attended the social event of the year. Now I am looking for folks that would like to hear more about Care of Creation and what we are doing in Kenya to help those already marginalized by difficult circumstances to see and utilize what God has given them in the way of land resources.

Please pray with me that I can raise up the needed support.

Additionally, those back in Kenya are working on an arrangement for my missionary visa when I return. Please call me if you would like to hear more!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Karla Said Yes!

My long-time friend Karla got married for the first time this weekend at age 51. (I don't think she would mind you knowing her age because we are all amazed at this turn of events - her included.) Roy knew as soon as he met her that he wanted to marry her, and that God had been quite specific about taking care of her for the rest of her life. But it took Karla an entire year to warm up to the idea and hear God on the subject. I left the country while she was still keeping him at arm's length. You can imagine that I was pretty shocked when I got her email telling me that she was engaged. Since I had no warning that things had shifted.

It was a beautiful wedding. Karla was stunning. Now she's married! I still can't believe it. But I am so happy for her and always amazed that anything can happen at any time.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

(651) 283-0484

That's my new number while I'm Stateside. It's a Virgin Mobile number. I tried to get a 612 area code, but it didn't work out that way. Oh well.

Please give me a call!

Email remains the same. Looking forward to seeing or talking to you soon.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Over the Pond

Most of my readers know that I am planning a trip to the US soon, very soon. I thought I would post a few details in case folks have missed the info.

I leave Kenya this coming Sunday evening at around 10:00 PM local time. I arrive in Minneapolis at about 1:00 PM on Monday, September 29th Minneapolis time. I will be staying with Matt and Johanna Jones. My temporary mailing address is 2605 18th Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55406. I will be available by email or Skype immediately upon arrival. Phone service may take some time.

Many have asked how long I will be in the US. I don’t know exactly. I can say for sure that it will be a minimum of 2 months. However, one of my main reasons for returning is to do some support raising for the coming year, as we have experienced a substantial living cost increases here in Kenya. I plan to be around until I am fully supported for the coming year.

If you would like to support me or have me share at your Bible Study, Sunday School Class or other venue, please let me know. I would be very happy to share our vision for Kenya.

I hope to see many of you in the coming weeks. If you are inclined to pray, please pray for all the last minute details to be tied up and safety as I prepare to leave; while I am in the US, for the immigration status to get sorted out and for good visits with all there.

See many of you soon!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Because today is my birthday

Yesterday evening at 5:15 I got a call from the man who cares for the grounds and house at the compound where I live about 10 minutes away.

“Hello Jan? This is Wycliffe. Are you on the way, coming?”
“No, but I’m about to leave.”
“Please hurry. I have misplaced my keys and I can hear some water running inside the house. Please hurry back now.”

I packed up my computer and headed for home. When I arrived the front door was unlocked. I didn’t hear any water running. My first thought was relief. I had been praying for mercy on the way home. I thought, he found the key, he’s taken care of everything. Then I noticed balloons floating about and taped to the wall.

“Hello…hello?” I stepped a few more paces in –

“SURPRISE!” There were Tracy, Julia and Lindsey, friends that live at Brackenhurst. They had decorated, brought pizza, pop, brownies and videos. (Jessica joined us later.)

But before I could celebrate I had to talk to Wycliffe. I made my way over to his house and called “Hodi” (The equivalent of “knock, knock”) When Wycliffe poked his head out of his door he looked sheepish, without even a hint of a smirk. He said to me as he looked down, “I have never teased anyone before in my life. I’m sorry.”

“No, no,” I told him, half smiling. “It’s okay. I had a good surprise.”

“I hope you didn’t knock anyone on the way rushing.”

“No, no,” I assured. The poor man is really worried. “I’m just glad there is no shida (problem) with the water. I’m fine. It’s all fine.”

“I’m sorry.” Wycliffe repeated earnestly. He felt guilty for being a part of the ploy to get me home. It says something about his honesty. I still smirk thinking about it.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A Day in the Life:

It’s been an incredibly busy couple of weeks. Here is what just one of our days this week looked like:

Get up at 5:30 AM
Get to work an hour early at 7:00
Drive to Nairobi with Craig and Francis
8:00 Set up for a small one-day workshop & wait for participants to show up.
10:30 Run and make photo copies for them
11:15 Run the copies back
11:30 Back out and over to Mayfield Guest house to check on some books I left with them
11:45 Head to the Industrial Area to look for the printing company I used to use & drive around for a while before I decide I can’t find them
1:00 PM Stop in town to pick up something I left to be fixed at a tailor, it’s not right still!
1:30 Fight lunch traffic to Westlands to exchange money at the Forex Bureau
2:00 Get there, then grab lunch at Java House
3:00 Get back to workshop, get a call from Henry who fixed my car needing payment. (Good thing I went to the Forex). Make a couple more calls to figure out how to leave it with his sister-in-law
3:30 Dash to see Rose (the sister-in-law) and leave money with her. See her ministry and talk about tree seedlings. She wants a thousand if they are good for the dry area she has a small farm
4:30 Back to the workshop again
5:00 Pack up
5:30 Head back to Limuru.
6:30 Arrive at Brackenhurst (our offices) unload, check email and get going home
8:00 Arrive home and fix something for dinner, turn on the hot water heater
10:00 Tidy up, hit the shower10:45 Crawl into bed to get up again and do something completely different, but just as exhausting.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Immigration Appeal Denied

You may remember I was working on trying to get a Class E Missionary Work Permit for my work here. My appeal was denied. Now Care of Creation Kenya is looking into other ways we might be able to secure a missionary work permit so I can work without paying a fortune to do it. (The permit I was granted is 50 times more expensive than a Class E.) I would appreciate your prayers for this.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Asking Questions

Ignorance is okay as long as it compels you to learn.

The other day I was with a coworker when we passed a downed tree and I noticed the center of the trunk was dark. I could have said nothing and gone on thinking the tree was Ebony, the only tree I know of that is has a dark center. I asked anyway. It’s a Black Wattle, bad for the environment in Kenya (because they are from Australia) and good for firewood.

It’s always a good idea to ask questions. I learn so much about things when it’s explained to me.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Cooking with Gas

On Friday night I got home around 6:45 and began my evening scramble. I hoped to get a ton done because I was planning to go into town on Saturday and spend the night at a friend’s. I had a list of things to accomplish in town and wanted to get a jump on my chores for the weekend.

But there was no gas in my gas bottle for my stove. I dragged my spare out, hooked it up, still no gas. Finally I called Craig – what am I doing wrong??? I found that the gas bottle fitting was different and thus I couldn’t connect it to my stove even though it seemed like it was connected.

Now what? I have a toaster and an electric kettle for boiling water. Ah – ha, there was an old electric wok in the pantry. Ever try to make rice in a wok. All I wanted to do was that and heat up some left-over peanut stew. Cold cereal and a trip to town to remedy the problem.

The most ironic part, my friend’s gas bottle was out too. Thankfully she has a partial electric stove, so I was able to cook and even make pizzas at her place.

Friday, September 5, 2008

English in East Africa

I have been drafting letters to offer our church friends to use since we have been asking several folks to write on my behalf in the appeal for a missionary work permit. I have been trying to sound like a Kenyan when writing.

Brother Kanori came all the way from Ndeiya (half way down into the Rift Valley) this morning to take a look at the letter I had drafted and allow us to make any changes on the computer before printing it on his church’s letterhead and taking back for a signature and official church stamp. (We'll pick it up next week.)

I made some adjustments when I realized that the letter was going to be signed by two people. But I let it go when the first sentence was in singular and the second was in plural. After the first printing on letterhead Brother Kanori found it had an ‘agreement’ mistake in the sentence that started plural. This started a lively discussion between Brother Kanori and Francis over the correct English.

I just sat back and smiled, and made whatever changes they decided on. I don’t claim to have fabulous grammar. Nothing like my friend Abraham and his family, but I am a native speaker so I was fairly sure that ‘we’ cannot endorse ‘my’ opinion.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

African Watoto (children) are the Cutest in the World

In my humble opinion.

That is not to say that I don’t think the children I actually know and love aren’t cute. Knowing munchkins can make them more adorable than ones you just see. Orison Piper is one such example in the web world. Nathan and Aaron Sorley still come up with the funniest things to tell me.

But I think that African children are the most adorable in the world. If I could add to this photo the sing-songy “how are you, how are you” chorus of school age children it might endear you more. Every morning on the drive to work I see the brightly dressed miniature watoto along the road.

They start my day with a smile.

Monday, September 1, 2008

The physical world in Kenya seems to be more animate

This place it definitely more organic in nature. It’s common to see tiny little pick-up trucks overloaded with green Napier grass. The load is so wide and so high you might wonder how a big bush could be moving so swiftly down the road. With the vehicle and even its form hidden it appears the way parade floats seem to move without seeing what propels them.

But beyond the organic is a sense that inanimate things seem animate. I recently saw a wooden cabinet walking down the road. Behind the cupboard that seemed to be walking all on its own, was a woman carrying a dining chair. Of course, the cabinet was also being carried. But it was so much bigger than the woman under that all I could see was her legs. She walked with it strapped to her back and hunched over.

Probably the most ‘normal’ inanimate/animate object seen in Kenya is motor vehicles with arms. Especially matatus (public transportation in the form of a 14-seat van), the driver often has his arm out the window all the way to the shoulder. He will wave you by or flap downwards to signal that you should slow down or he is slowing down. Oddly enough sometimes the passenger’s side has an arm out too, creating the effect that the vehicle really has grown arms. More often though a head will be sticking out the other side where the sliding door has opened and the tout is calling for riders. Smaller vehicles do utilize the passenger for such signals. And there are some security guard vehicles that have printed on the back, “no hand signals” so you aren’t expecting what everyone comes to expect here.

Friday, August 29, 2008

I wonder...

The other morning I went out the back door by my kitchen and walked a few steps to grab a bit of fresh rosemary to throw in my scrambled eggs. I thought to myself how much I like rosemary and was glad to have a bush growing outside my door. Then I wondered if I would ever grow tired of it. Fresh rosemary in pasta, fresh rosemary on baked chicken…it seems I can find all kinds of uses for it. I hope it never seems old, I love it so.

Another time I wish you could smell my blog. (The bush is taller than me.)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

green carpet

About 10 minutes walk from the top gates at Brackenhurst you are in the midst of tea. Lately I have been wishing for a 'scratch and sniff' component for blogs. The growing green tea has an odor that is a cross between tobacco and dirty socks. Not the most inviting smell, but the sight is lovely and so very green.

Friday, August 22, 2008

some things just strike me as funny...

This sign was taped to the cement steps near a newly painted handrail.
There still is some charm to this place.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The 50/50 Rule

Way back when – the first time I came to Kenya I met a single gal who lived and worked in Nairobi for about two years. She gave me a bit of wisdom about this place that I have often depended on; the 50/50 rule. It is a way to deal with disappointment due to the way things go in this society.

It’s fairly simple whatever you plan to do, expect to get about 50% of it done. If you get half the things on your list accomplished, great! You should feel you really got something done. Of course, there are those fluky days when you get everything done, or almost everything – then you celebrate. You had a bonus day! If it’s less than 50%, well, it’s an average, so you shouldn’t worry and you should remember the bonus days.

Tracy and I went to town today in their Land Cruiser. Our list was simple: 1.) Go to immigration to find the man who can give us better information as so how to best appeal the type of work permit we are requesting for me. 2.) Stop at Toyota Kenya for fuel pump seals for my Rav 4 (they are leaking) 3.) Pay the difference on my auto insurance premium at Lion of Kenya Ins. 4.) Pick up Tracy’s boys along with the other kids in the carpool from Rosslyn Academy.

1.) The man we needed to talk with at immigration was in a meeting. But we got his correct name (with spelling) and the correct phone number to reach the offices there. 2.) Toyota Kenya needed one more set of number off the car (under the hood, which was up parked at the office) to order the part which will take 6 weeks to get to Kenya. 3.) I paid the insurance and have the receipt to prove it. 4.) We got the kids.

So half the list done and a little extra info for next time - to boot.

Friday, August 15, 2008

a trip to immigration

Finally leave for town about 10:AM after tweaking no less than 5 documents regarding our organization, my job description and the scope of our work.

Find parking

Walk a few blocks to Nyayo House (the terra cotta colored sky scraper in the front of most shots of downtown Nairobi). For expediency of moving people through the gazillions of floors in this building the elevator only stops on select floors. (At least I think that’s why.)

Take the elevator to the 6th Floor walk down a flight to Mr Kinanjui’s office on 5th Floor. (Tracy had got his contact from someone as a good person to see regarding our permit challenges.)

Explain and enquire as to what to do in our situation. Mr K gives us a few ideas of options to pursue, but are told we should really ask the man who is the chairman of the committee that decides these things. And since this is the day the committee meets, he’s not available today. “Come back tomorrow.” (James, the man from the Baptist Mission who deals with their immigration issues meets us in this office. – Thank God for cell phones.)

We also ask about extending my visitor’s visa to pursue this appeal. Mr K sends us to 7th Floor to see someone who can help us. We talk to the two flights.

The classy young woman writes on a post-it note and sends up down to the main level to window number 4 to get what we need.

James grabs a form from window #6 and window #4. One is for visa extension and one is for an alien’s card. As we look at the forms we realize I need 2 passport photos.

We leave Nyayo House and trek up the street to find an instant passport photo place. (I wasn’t exactly photo ready – but at least I had some lipstick along I could put on. And never mind I have an assortment of passport photos at home, if I had only known.)

Ten minutes later we are back to Nyayo House filling out the forms and handing them in at window #6 with photos, passport and some cash. James gets a little friendly hassle from the woman at the counter because one of the forms should be handed in at another window. But she will take it down there.
Wait. (Tracy meets a Somali man that lives in the Twin Cities.)

After a short while one form is ready for something. We are to go and get my fingers prints taken. I trail along behind James to sit on some benches outside an office where I will get printed. I observe a poster outside the open office door saying all government employees must be at work during office hours. A few more minutes go by. “What are we waiting for now, James?” “For the woman from this office to return.” I laugh and point out the poster.

But I cut the woman some slack when she arrives on crutches limping from something like a birth deformity or polio.

There she inks a pallet and roles all ten fingers through the ink, prints my thumbs twice and every other finger once each in a designated box on a form. She is happily chatting away with her friends the whole while. She breaks her conversation to direct me to the cotton wade behind here to clean my fingers. I step back outside her office to find solvent in a water bottle to help me clean my fingers.

Back out to the windows to wait for the extension and stamp in my passport.

During the whole process we are wondering if we will finish all this before the building closes for lunch.

“Janet!” James swiftly reaches the window (#7) to grab my passport for me. There is a stamp inside bearing the dates 15.11.08, and the stub from my alien’s form securing that I have temporary resident’s privileges.

I am ever so pleased to be out before 1:PM. And even more pleased not to have to leave just now. But there is plenty of work ahead.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

No Last Minute Dash to Dubai

I don’t need to leave the country! I was granted a 3 month extension on my current visitor’s visa due to my work permit being in-process! I also applied for an alien’s registration card. I will have to give the blow-by-blow on that process in another entry.

We also met with a man in immigration to help us understand the process of appealing the Class A (very expensive) work permit and get it changed to a Class E (missionary permit) - more on that tomorrow too.

Thank you so much for praying. Please continue, this will likely take some weeks to accomplish.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Work Permit Blues

My current visitor’s visa is about to expire on Saturday. I have permission for a Class A permit, normally issued to folks working with NGOs (non-governmental organizations, we usually call them non-profits). But we had applied for a missionary Class E permit due to the nature of our work and that fact that we raise support like missionaries do. The disparity in the cost of the two work permits is phenomenal, literally thousands of dollars difference for a two year work permit!

By tomorrow at this time I will have a little bit better idea of how challenging the days ahead will be. When Care of Creation was registered here in Kenya as an NGO we were told it was possible to get a Class E permit. So it is with that hope we will head down to immigration tomorrow to try to plead our case. I will attempt to get a third extension on my visitor’s visa, if it’s not granted I will be have seven days to leave the country. I can then return as a way to renew the visa. However, depending on the circumstances, I may want to remain out of the country until my Class E is granted.

If you are inclined to pray, we could use a few miracles tomorrow. We will probably reach immigration about 9:30 AM, which is 8 hours ahead of CST. I will keep you posted as to what happens. Thanks for your prayers.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

I also love the Sunshine!

This week the weather finally turned sunny, which is the way Africa is supposed to be, right? It’s done wonders for my attitude not to be hunched over a hot water bottle in what feels like a cave.

Along with praising God for the grace of sunshine, I had to sing a chorus of John Denver’s Sunshine on My Shoulders. I know it’s corny, but the sad part is that I didn’t have to stop with the chorus, the words just came to me and I could keep singing. (I think it was my favorite song when I was 12.)

What can I say, “sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy…”

Friday, August 8, 2008

“I just love Nairobi,”

I said just after arriving back from town this afternoon. “I have never heard anyone say that!” responded the gal working in the offices next to mine.

“I know,” I confirmed, “it’s dirty and smelly and full of traffic and pollution. I don’t love that stuff, but there are people and energy! Everything is close by, you can get things done. I love it.”

What I didn’t tell her is I have history and more importantly friends there. The people of Nairobi are so wonderful. I even felt this way when I lived there before.

I am keenly aware that it’s extraordinarily unusual to love Nairobi.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Charm is Harder to Find

One of the great things about being here has always been the reward of being innovative. If you can’t find what you need solve a problem or would like to decorate, you invent it in your head, sketch it on paper and find a fundi (an ‘expert’ at his profession) to create it. There are plenty of carpenters, iron smiths and tailors in this country. In my decade of absence from my beloved country it seems that everything has been invented, thought of, created, and now is overpriced at the upscale shopping malls dotting the ‘suburbs’ of my fair city.

It used to be that one had to know a bit of British English to make yourself understood, or find a local similar item to describe what you are talking about. I had become accustom to referring to a movie as a film and describing guacamole as kachumbari. Now thanks to exported western television, we Americans have no secrets.

Speaking of guacamole, eating in Nairobi is altogether different as well. Back in the day finding a nice restaurant for a special occasion was possible, but they were few and far between. If you were careful, you could find one that was even reasonable. Now it seems that there are tons of nice options; Ethiopian, Middle Eastern, Italian, Chinese… and even a local chain called Java House that would make any Westerner feel like they weren’t in Africa. It’s next to impossible to find those little hole-in-the-wall places with risky but delicious food and decent prices. I’m still looking though.

I count it an advantage that the matatus (public transportation: 14-seater Nissan vans) in Limuru area still play the twang-y Kikuyu music instead of hip hop with raunchy lyrics like the matatus in town tend to play. Imagine sort of a country guitar twang (like early Johnny Cash) under the high-pitched nasal foreign language lyrics. Hmm, I know it doesn’t sound great, but its part of the charm.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Maua (Flowers) Primary School - I Got an Education

Earlier this week Craig took a few of the Care of Creation staff down to Naivasha to visit a farmer that we are working with doing test plots of Farming God’s Way. We had also been given the names and contacts of two primary schools that seemed active in green activity and keen to do more.

First some background: Naivasha is nestled at the bottom of the Great Rift Valley. The town is situated next to Lake Naivasha. The lake has several nice camping areas, country clubs or other tourist type hot spots, including the long-famous Elsamere Foundation. (Anyone remember Born Free? Joy Adamson?) The geology of the area is very different from where I live now and even what I think of as East African soil, which is a deep red. There is a dormant volcano down that way, Mt Longonot* so the earth in the area is sort of a dusty ash, very porous, almost sandy kind of soil.

In addition to the rustic tourist attractions, there is industry that feeds off this lake. Mainly huge commercial greenhouse producing flowers for export to Europe. Francis was probably the most well informed of our group but for the benefit of us all he decided to ask a number of questions about the parents of the children attending Maua Primary.

In the process I learned that some times during the year the flower factory workers start their shifts at 7:AM and work until midnight or even as late as 3:AM. This is during rush seasons like Valentines and Christmas. There are 26 pay scales in the company our “teacher” is working for. The largest percentage of employees work in the bottom five levels of the scale. This particular company pays the equivalent of $67 per month for starting level. A person can make up to $132 per month at level five. Some areas in the company have bonuses. For example the packers are above those first five. They get paid a base amount but can earn 14 cents for every 100 stems they pack over their quota.

Maua Primary has over 700 students. That is down from the nearly 1000 they had before the tribal clashes early this year. The government provides a whapping twelve teachers for those 700 (or 1000) students. The flower company pays salaries for another twelve. The company also provides unlimited water to the school and subsidizes a school lunch program. These improvements are only recent.

I haven’t yet mentioned the chemical pesticide waste that gets slogged back into Lake Naivasha. Again, it’s not as bad as it used to be. But still we drove over some culverts with green slurry slowing moving down towards the lake. At least workers are given special protective clothing now that is left at the factory; no more children inhaling it off daddy’s clothes when he gets home. And some factories post no entry signs for X hours on green houses they spray with the pesticides.

As Francis asked and our new friend enlightened us, I began to think of all the bunches of flowers I bought when I lived in Nairobi in the 90’s. I’m quite certain the working standards are much better now than they were then. I could buy a bunch of 20 roses for $3-$6 back then. Since they were so cheap, I did it often. As I listened and learned, I felt increasing horror over what was being done to Lake Naivasha, and the people who live there and work in the flower farms. Yes, they are making a living, but at what price?

At this point I could not bring myself to ever pay for a bunch of flowers again. I feel certain the US is too far away to be contributing to this particular exploitation. These are the roses of England and the tulips of Holland. But I bet there are the same kinds of things happening in South or Central America for the Valentines flowers or poinsettia plants we all enjoy in the US. And it’s also so sad and maddening to think of such a beautiful, happy thing as flowers being such a horrible bane to someone’s existence. So far my solution is – grow your own. Which is easy for me to say from the land of perpetual summer.

*I have climbed to the rim of Longonot and walked part way around the rim at the top looking into the dormant mouth. If you looked closely you could see small points in the crater that steamed a bit. The inside vegetation was mostly a low scrubby brush, whereas the climb up had been a dusty, sandy hike. This adventure took place in my former life here in Kenya.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

How Cold Is It?

It’s been so cold here that the Christmas cactus on my front verandah bloomed last week. Nothing like Christmas in July – south of the equator.
We actually saw a little sunshine yesterday and today.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

It Must Be Strange Animal Week

If I lived in the Middle East, North Africa or even a high tourist area in Kenya - like at the coast, I might expect to see a these unusual animals. But the past couple of days our weather here had been just like winter in Seattle. (But without central heating.) This highland area is never desert-like so I would never expect to see a desert beast here.

But there I am this morning rolling long the country road amidst the tea and coffee farms through the fog and rain and I come around the bend to see a camel packed down with saddle bags and blankets and two or three guys walking along with it - one with a Masai blanket over his head. I blink and ask myself, "What was that?" Then I round the next curve and see another on the other side of the road with a couple more guys. I giggle to myself, "Only in Kenya, expect the unexpected."

Monday, July 21, 2008

What's the plural of Mongoose?

This weekend I saw two of these little critters right out the back door on the patio.

I sure hope mongooses are not the Kenyan equivalent of squirrels. :]

Friday, July 18, 2008

Here it is -

I feel like I have a whole new lease on life. I will be at church this Sunday!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Come on in...

I finally have a few photos of my house. I updated the photo blog which you can get to here or by clicking on it in the side menu. My house isn't quite finished in terms of decorating, but it's definitely to the point of having visitors! Karibu.

Also find photos of the Rasmusons visit.

Let me know about your photo sites. It's hard to receive photos by email since I don't have a super fast connection, but it's easy to view other sites.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

It doesn't look like a car...

This is a Log Book. I think we would call it a Title. It represents the Rav 4 I found on Saturday. It's paid for and I will pick it up on Friday!

I couldn't be more pleased to finally have wheels

It's old but it's been really well taken care of. The Norwegian Embassy woman selling it seemed to really enjoy it, but she's heading home.

When I get the car I hope to post a photo so you can see what my new blue baby looks like.

Thanks for praying me through the search. If you are still inclined to pray, safety needed all the time here (even while I wait to pick up my vehicle).

Friday, July 11, 2008

Ramping up on work

I think this week I passed the critical mass point at work. Sure, I have had some work and a list of things to keep me somewhat busy, but suddenly I now have deadlines! Things need to get done. Some of them will require ‘research’ so I can adequately do the end task.

“Jan, we need to market the tree nursery so we can create enough income to continue to pay the staff for the remainder of the year. Here are a few companies we have thought of that might be interested…”

Whoa, I think about that for a minute. I’m given a small list. Now I start clicking through what it would take for me to be able to ‘sell’ our ministry:

Learn the trees available
When are they planted?
How many can we have available for planting seasons?
What schools are waiting for a planting to be funded?
Can we find donors and recipients for water harvesting projects?
Create tangible pieces with this information to leave with the prospects
What catches the eye of such companies – in this culture?
On and on.

Then I am presented with another task and asked how soon can this be done? I start to wonder which is a higher priority. This one will take a little research too. I really am busy. How do I find time to find a car and finish getting my house functional? In time it will all get done.

Francis said to me again today with a slight sarcasm in his voice, “Welcome to Kenya, Jan.”

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Pain Relief in Africa

Last Sunday evening I realized a strained my lower back. As best I can figure it was maneuvering a gas bottle for my stove from vehicle to house. Things like this happen from time to time. My best remedy is a good dose of ibuprofen and a good night’s sleep. But the pain persisted for two days with no sign of relief. Finally when complaining yet again to Tracy, she offered some of her ibuprofen. I didn’t have any of the local stuff I bought at a pharmacy for an outrageous $14.35. Tracy hauled her mega bottle for America, a big Target generic bottle. A couple of those babies and I was feeling better within a half hour.

Hmm. I had heard of fake drugs. I met a missionary pharmacist in Tanzania who warmed me about this. I guess I should have known when it touted 400 mg in a tablet and they were bright pink. Learning African lessons the hard way.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

So were Todd and Tamara!

Todd and Tamara Rasmuson along with Hannah Goldhor visited as part of their trip to Kenya for Daystar University business. All from my home church in Minneapolis. Todd is the Daystar US director, Hannah is his assistant.

I have known the Rasmusons for years. They were fellow missionaries, serving in Tanzania when I was in Kenya before. Last fall they hosted me during my prep time before leaving for East Africa.

Here are the friends enjoying a little tour of the Care of Creation indigenous tree nursery.

Great to have you folks! We love visitors!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Ben Norquist was here

He is a fairly unassuming guy. So it wasn’t monumental. But it’s so nice to have an interested person visit and eat it all up. This morning we took a drive to the edge of the Great Rift Valley. Craig and Ben were looking at the denuded landscape. After that quick stop we visited a school that is doing the Farming God’s Way conservation farming method. We found Ben weeding in the maize plot. Way to pitch in!

Anyone else for a visit?

Monday, June 30, 2008

Everything Takes Longer

The other day I wanted to hook-up the Epson printer I brought with me from the US. After looking it over carefully, I realized that it might not be 110v/220v switchable. Most electronics are both these days. I waited for an opportunity to get online to check the capacities on the Epson website. Sure enough, it’s only 110v.

I inquired to both Craig and Tracy for options. Tracy reminded me that you can take your 110v appliances in and have them converted to 220v. But that shortens the live of the machine. Craig suggested a small converter for only about 3000 shilling ($50) at an electronics store in Village Market (the nearest shopping mall on this side of Nairobi – about a half hour’s drive). Hmmph. Okay, no printer for a while.

While in Nairobi this past week I looked for an electronics place in a different mall I was in. I found a small transformer for the same price Craig has quoted. Before I left the store I checked with the salesman, “There is nothing more I need for this to work? Just plug it in?” He assured me it was all set to go. Back in the ‘old days’ appliances were sold with the plug detached and you had to wire it on yourself, England was the same way.

I set out to hook the whole thing up and actually print something today. I pulled the transformer out and began reading the directions.* They didn’t make sense to me. This doesn’t surprise me. I read them a couple times, even out load to see if it would click in my head. Nope. Since this converter would take 220v to 110V or vice versa I thought it fairly important to get it right, since doing it wrong could result in a blown printer.

So they I asked another native English speaker from the neighboring office to look at them. He wasn’t sure either. He thought it was maybe one way but he wasn’t sure. Then I took it over to Francis, at the main CCK office across campus. He was thinking it was the same as the other person. But again admitted the directions were confusing.

Francis had a great idea. The maintenance guys (fundis) at Bracken have voltage testers. Francis called and asked to them bring one down to check it. The fundi came down without the tester. He said in an authoritative way how to set the transformer without even looking at the directions. Tongue in cheek, I asked him if he would replace my printer if he was wrong. He had me follow him up to his workshop to show me he was right.

We plugged it in and found it didn’t work at all. Oh, the fuse is blown. I asked him how he knew it was the fuse. He showed me the wire that was fried in the middle of this tiny glass tube. I hoped that he would have and offer a new fuse for it. Instead he showed me the spool of wire in his tool box and proceeded to pry the little medal cap off the tube to replace the wire!

After a few minutes he had it working. But the test proved that everyone, including the fundi had been wrong in their interpretation of the directions. I was so glad we had tested the converter!

So plugging in the printer took several days, a trip to town, advice from several people, a visit to the Bracken workshop, and refurbished fuse. Now I have a working printer!

In Swahili we say it’s kawaida, it’s normal or usual.

*I am starting a collection of directions that come with things here in East Africa. They are often odd, funny, confusing or unnecessary. Maybe I’ll post some of the better ones sometime.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Change in the Seasons

I promised myself I would not complain about the cool temps here in Limuru, especially at Brackenhurst which is at 7200 feet above sea level. But quite honestly I am feeling a little mixed up about the weather.

My past memory of Nairobi is what I would term ‘perpetual summer’. It was very pleasant 365 days of the year. Sure there were rainy seasons, but it seems like the sun was out for some of the day even during the rains.

I left the US in the dead of one of the snowiest winters on record. Our US director in Madison said they had more snow by Christmas than they usually have all season. And they had tons more right into the spring. I went from snowy, cold real Minnesota winter to hot, humid Morogoro, Tanzania. It was definitely summer south of the equator in the lowlands of TZ. I learned that I can handle super hot (probably 100-110 degrees with heavy humidity) for about 3 weeks. After that it’s very challenging or maybe discouraging is a better word.

From there I came to the Kenya highlands, and by now it’s getting towards winter south of the equator. Since that center line of the globe runs right through my favored country, I never gave it much thought to actually being south of it. But here in my office it’s definitely felt.

With no central heating, 40-45 degrees at night means that it never really gets too much above 60 in the house. Thankfully I did bring a scarf and hat. I wear them almost every night to bed. The mornings are densely foggy and drizzling. Sometime the sun comes out and it’s actually nice to stand outside and get a little warmed. But for the most part it’s cold and overcast. It’s not exactly my idea of Africa, nor most people’s.

If given a choice between here and Morogoro (which did cool a little when its rainy season started) I will always choose here. When it’s cold, you can bundle up. Building a fire is an option; most houses have a nice fireplace, mine is no exception. And in reality, Nairobi still has beautiful days all the time. I just need to get down there.

Just for the record - I am not complaining. I’m just seasonally challenged at the moment.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Wow. We seem to have no end to the visitors at Care of Creation Kenya (CCK). I am encouraged how interested folk are and wanting to get involved in some way.

Yesterday we had an American couple passing through Kenya ‘run’ up to see our work here in Limuru. They were so happy to see what we are doing even though the state of the environment in Kenya is sad. I think they went away hopeful of what their church back home could do.

Today a woman from Nairobi Baptist (a huge church, among many in Nairobi) visited to talk with us about how to get going with spreading the vision to Nairobi pastors and on to their congregations.

She already had a plan for it all but wanted more input. She came to the right place. It’s great to see Kenyans motivated. In the process I heard Francis’ (Craig’s colleague) testimony of how he got involved in the whole area of creation care. He was here even before Craig, asking those at Brackenhurst how he could get them involved in restoring and beautifying the place with indigenous trees.

I am so blessed and privileged to work here. More visitors are expected in July.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Getting into work – finally

Today I spend the morning in my office and the afternoon with a couple of guests from the US connected with a ministry in Nairobi. It was mainly a walking tour of the tree nursery and the Farming God’s Way plot.

Craig’s wealth of knowledge always astounds me. It is good to hear it all again. I have heard Craig several times, but I can never retain all the biblical references, and the vast knowledge of what the trees are good for and how different exotic species arrived here. As many times as I hear the increased crop yields for this special kind of farming, I still can hardly believe it. Craig has been using Farming God’s way for 19 months. He’s currently got his fifth crop in the ground, now they are getting something like 6 times (or more) what the average Kenyan gets! Just think of all the farmers in Kenya were increasing their yields by 5 or 6 times! The food prices might actually go back down!

More on Care of Creation Kenya as I get into the groove.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

1 month, 4 months, 9 months

I have been in transition a long time. It’s hard to believe I have been in Kenya for a month already. It’s been 4 months since I left the States. And it’s been 9 months of pure transition – moving from place to place, staying with friends, etc.

God is so faithful through it all. I am glad to be finally moving into my house next week and being in the office of Care of Creation fulltime. Wow!

Thanks for supporting me in whatever way you have through this rather long journey. It’s not over yet. It’s never really over. Also this coming week I will submit a bid on a vehicle. God willing, I will be more mobile then.

I hope to continue to keep you up to date on the journey.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Working on my house, but the gardens are great...

Speaking of my “new” house; I have been over there trying to get it ready to move in. It needed cleaning, paint and a few other things. Here’s a little look around the gardens. I will let you in when I get things together.

Monday, June 9, 2008

When the Lights Go Out

Living in Kenya means living with power cuts. It’s part of life here. I used to say that if one has water, phone and electricity all on one day it’s a good day. Nowadays hardly anyone has land line phones.

I had a restful Sunday afternoon yesterday and after a late nap and zipping down to my office to check email I decided to make dinner. That’s when the power went. My little cabin at Brackenhurst (still not moved to my rental house) has a gas stove. So I cooked and ate by candle light.

My house will have both electricity and a little solar energy. So if I have a lamp to move around the house I will always have light to cook by.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Quote of the day - 5 June

Aaron (almost 5 years old) –"Mom, what are we having for dinner?"

Tracy - "I'm making stir fry."

Aaron - “Aunt Jan knows how to make stir fry. Mom, can you come and jump [on the trampoline] with us while Jan makes dinner?”

I guess I have been hanging around the Sorleys house a little too much.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

24 Hours of Firsts

Every day is different and new. But a couple significant things have happened in the past 24 hours.

First I now have an office! Yes, it’s a little too big for me. But it’s right next to Tracy’s home school room. And Care of Creation Kenya hopes to add a couple more staff soon, God willing and we have the budget. I moved a few things into it on Tuesday in the late afternoon. I will get something up on the wall eventually.

Also I took a trip down memory lane. Tracy and I were in town and doing a little work for my residence permit when we discovered that the Africa Inland Church (AIC/AIM) hadn’t ever officially canceled my work permit with them, however, it was long expired. While in the AIC office to get a letter for immigration, I got to look through my file there. I had never seen it. There was a passport photo of me from June 1993! Lovely. Salome, the office worker remembers me from way back then and typed up a very nice letter for me. In a way this was a “last” I watched as Salome scrolled “closed” over the file. I bit my lip and made a joke so I wouldn’t tear up.

While at the AIC office Tracy got suddenly sick! So I had to drive her to the Aga Khan Hospital Emergency through rush hour traffic. This was my first time to drive in Kenya since returning. The traffic is heavier, but the principles are still the same. The hardest part was remembering to shift with my left hand.

Tracy noted it was a first for them having someone else drive their Land Cruiser.

What’s next?

Monday, June 2, 2008

Patience Anyone?

If you think you may want to work toward being more patient, Kenya is the place for you!

An ample estimate of today’s activity time (mind you, just one activity) was 3 to 3 ½ hours. It took about 6 ½. I spent the night at a friend’s house in town. I had planned to go out for a nice breakfast this morning and then get a taxi to a hotel near the airport where I was to meet a driver, two helpers and a lorry (truck) for getting all the furniture that two friends and I purchased at the auction last week. Since today is Madaraka Day (the day Kenyans gained independent rule from the Brits) there was absolutely no traffic in town, making it the perfect day to get an errand like this done.

While still at the breakfast place I got a call from the driver, “We have a puncta! We will be an hour late. See you at 12.” Puncta is Swahili for flat tire. (I’m not kidding.) That’s fine I thought, at least he caught me before I left. Now I can have the cup of coffee I was wanting.

I left to get a taxi with 40 minutes to make a 20 minute journey. I was so glad to have a little extra time to drop a card to another friend on the way. I made it to the hotel 10 minutes early. But I called just before leaving to double check we were still on for noon. Yep.

Now in Kenya 10 minutes “late” is not at all late. If someone is 30 minutes behind, well that really isn’t late either. It’s really kind of on-time. But on-time can be stretched beyond that too. I figured that since I had two confirmations for noon from someone who works with wazungu I could give him until 10 past before I called. When I did call and ask where they were I got, “by Nyayo Stadium, we are on the way.” Okay I thought, that can’t be more than 10 minutes, probably less.

It took him another half hour to get to me. There was supposedly a traffic jam there by the Stadium. I knew that wasn’t so, but I didn’t argue, it gets you nowhere. Off we toddled to the hard-to-find warehouse of this auction, only a few minutes more down the road.

At the desk of Jennifer we handed over the bankers check for 104,100 KSH. I was informed that I was 400 shillings short. So I asked to go over the items one by one. Thankfully it was an item near the top. But she showed me the paper trail, it was not her mistake. Jennifer assured me she has been doing this a long time and she never makes mistakes.

Once she typed up the invoice and took the extra 400 shillings in cash, our paper went on the bottom of the stack. There are only three auction workers available to check people out. I would have to wait. “How long do you think,” I asked. “Maybe an hour,” was her reply.

I decided to go around and find all the items ahead so there would be no need to search for them when it came time to check us out. But it would have been too conspicuous to actually move everything into a pile. Finally we were the third ones from the top. That’s when all three workers went to lunch! Oh well, if they are all at lunch then at least when they all finish we will be up.

When I noticed they were all up with invoices in hand I looked down at Jennifer’s clipboard. The same invoice was on the top, and the second remained. There was ours third down still. What?! The three workers had stopped for a break in the middle of their three orders!

Believe it or not I really didn’t expect anything different. I only wanted to get back to Brackenhurst before dark. Once loaded it took just over an hour for the old lorry to climb up towards Limuru. We stopped first at my new place. Then another ministry house near the main gate of Bracken. And finally at Sorleys house.

The only thing that really got to me is that when we off-loaded my bookshelf it was damaged from rubbing on the washing machine next to it all the way. If I had known I would have wrapped my sweater around it.

But as my grandma used to say, “It’s only money.” In Kenya they say, Haraka, haraka, haina baraka. Which means something like; in hurrying there is no blessing.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Is buying used furniture at an auction being green or being materialistic? Or both?

I spent Wednesday this week checking out what was going on sale this week at the US Embassy/USAID auction. I went back with some new friends on Thursday to direct them to the very hard to find place down by the airport. But most of the items I was interested in were going up for sale on Friday. So, bless her heart, Tracy took me back on Friday. I managed to get a couch, two occasional chairs, a bookshelf, a “gentleman’s cabinet” and a rug. As if living in limbo and moving to another country weren’t stressful enough, try going to an auction!

I did survive, but I can’t help wondering if I would have been better off without any of this stuff. Well, I just put it out there. I really can’t think about it too much more or I will get overwhelmed again.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

It's the Altitude!

Last weekend I did a little research on high altitude baking since I was trying muffins and banana bread. Tracy had been having some problems with her bread maker. I was able to do a couple of adjustments and turned out some great muffins and quick bread. Hopefully I left Trace with some good tips for her bread.

There are other interesting things about cooking at high altitude like water boils at a lower temperature. That has implications for killing water-born germs, and general cooking. I have learned it’s harder to get beans to cook through without a pressure cooker. (Thankfully I brought mine out.)

What I find interesting (and convenient) is that I have started to blame just about anything that doesn’t actually work right or well on the altitude. What? The toilet isn’t flushing properly, it must be the altitude. Feeling a little klutzy? It’s the thin air. Bad hair day, you guessed it; living at 7200 feet above sea level will do that to you.

Heck it must be true, my ears really do pop every time we drive down to Nairobi. I am still out of breath walking across campus here. (Though Craig assures me I will acclimate.) If you don’t really have jet-lag, altitude is the next best alternative.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

indigenous trees

I've been running around seeing several projects that Care of Creation has initiated. I have been reminded over and over again about the importance of planting indigenous trees. If God saw fit to plant certain species here than we should follow that example. The gum trees from Australia grow fast but they soak up available water tables. This picture shows some varieties that are native to Kenya.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Cold, Tired & Happy

I arrived at Brackenhurst yesterday evening, late. I have made a radical change in temps and I am glad that I won’t be in the heat and humidity of Morogoro. However, I will miss many dear friends I’ve made there, both nationals and expatriates.

Tigoni town, where Brackenhurst is located is about 7200 feet above sea level; therefore the weather is much cooler than what most think of as African. The days get warm and sunny, but the nights and mornings are visible-breath weather.

I’m sure the coming days will be filled with orientation, vehicle purchasing and settling in. I will try to keep you posted on the happenings.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Most of The Students and Teachers

We attempted to take a group photo the other day. We have plans for giving a photo to each teacher. There are two new families from Switzerland and some folks that have already left. But you get the idea. I will miss them all and others not in this photo.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

A Medium Sized Carrier Bag Full of Garbage

About half way through my time in Morogoro I realized that I wasn’t really producing much garbage. So I thought I would challenge myself to see how little I could really make. I still have about a week to go but this is basically it for the three months.

I do have a couple unfair advantages in the fight against waste. One, I haven’t been cooking for myself. If you cook for yourself regularly, I would guess your kitchen garbage fills up the fastest. Another advantage is that I have been using a public/community bathroom, so I guess that means I have produced a little more that is not collected here in the bag from my room. Finally, there is generally less packaging on everything here in East Africa, an easy way to limit waste.

As far as my personal consumer waste – this is it. I feel fairly good about that. I probably won’t do as well living in a whole house, cooking for myself. But at least I have set a benchmark for myself.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Further Ramblings on what is manly – at least in East Africa

Few things inspired the macho awe like the thought of a Maasai warrior. The Maasai man, aged 19-37 can run for miles if needed, lives happily outdoors for days at a time, kills any kind of animal that seems a threat from snake to lion using a handmade bow and arrow, knife and club. But this picture of masculinity also sports a fancy hair style, beaded jewelry and as my Maasai teacher described, “Skirti, kama mimi?” [A skirt like mine] Maasai men wear a one or two-piece lightweight clothe wrap, it’s even tucked up a little at the waist.

So the next time you ask yourself what is okay for your male persona, just consider it’s all culture and there is probably somewhere in the world that it is totally fine to wear that thing. Whatever it is an even if you might think it feminine.

As soon as I get a good photo of this picture of manliness I will post it.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

So inspired...

I made myself a couple of handbags out of local kitenge fabric and one of the male teachers got so interested that he asked me to make him one. I gave it to him two days ago and it has been the talk of the teachers. Today one of the other teachers had to borrow it and wear it all day. I noticed that while he was talking with a secondary student for about 20 minutes this afternoon, he too had to try it on.

Abraham Piper confessed that he likes bags too on his blog. So I thought I would let him and others know that it’s very macho here, even in this fancy fabric.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

No more apologies

In my home culture if I say, “I’m sorry” for things that hassle another or for some trouble you are involved with it sounds like I am taking responsibility for the mishap and I’m actually dysfunctional for apologizing.

In this culture it’s very different. One says the equivalent of “I’m sorry” which is “Pole” all the time. It’s just polite. When someone trips or stumbles as they are walking along in from of you, it’s nice to say, pole to them. If a friend explains they lost something; pole. If you come across someone with a lot of work to do you say, pole na kazi. It’s only polite.

I quickly acclimate to this and find that I am saying sorry all the time for things, even in English. I begin to think of it as being polite in any culture. And actually it is a little like saying, “I feel for you.” It’s not really an apology per se.

In Kenyan Swahili it’s fairly normal to use pole for both meanings, I feel for you and more of an excuse me or pardon me or I’m sorry (for bumping into you, etc.) Here in Tanzania, I have learned there is a better word for when you make the mistake as opposed to someone else making it. Samahani. I am fairly certain Kenyans know this word, it’s just easier to say pole for everything.

I was recently admonished by a friend not to apologize anymore when I ask for help with something or cause more work. But I think it’s more like a way to sympathize with the amount of work than say I am sorry for giving it to you. If I was really sorry I don't think I would ask. So I’m not really regretful when I say I am sorry. And don’t feel obligated to forgive me if I haven’t actually apologized.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Calming and contenting

In my vast experience here on earth, I have found that I function so much better when I have a creative outlet. It’s almost as if being creative is what I was made for, everything else seems peripheral sometimes. Because of this I have often sought jobs that require creativity so that I feel fulfilled. In times when I have had other sorts of jobs I have spent significant time on creative hobbies or projects. It’s not almost impossible to resist but incredibly satisfying when a friend asks, “Can you help me pick the pattern of tile for my kitchen?” Or “would you mind helping me redecorate my bathroom?” It almost makes me ecstatic to help another by solving aesthetic issues in a functional way.

In times when I have not had access to creative tools, I have felt depleted and have even started to decline in basic life functions. So you would think I would have learned by now not to travel anywhere without some tools of the trade. -- Not even to language school for a few months. Initially I didn’t think I would find any way to fulfill my drives for creativity, I forgot to even carry a drawing pad and pencil. Art supplies are often challenging to come by in Africa. If you do find them they are poor quality and high priced. And usually only found in a big city. Fortunately I have been able to find some outlets for this basic ‘need’ here in Morogoro.

I did manage to do a nice drawing of a baobab tree and make a few cards out of it. Admittedly half the ‘fun’ was trying to find cardstock and a place that prints it in town. I also made a friend, Elizabeth, to sew with. We had a great time doing some projects together before her machine blew in a thunderstorm. More recently I borrowed another missionary’s machine to make a couple of handbags made from kitenge – African material.

Quite honestly, being enabled to create like this has allowed me to flourish more than I otherwise would have. I don’t want to use the word survive, I certainly would have survived without being creative, but I would have been far more depleted.

Looking back over the past few months I can see that doing some creative things has helped me face some of the challenges like loneliness and isolation during this time of transition.