Friday, February 29, 2008

Kenyan History in the Making

The President of Kenya Mwai Kibaki and the opposition leader Raila Odinga signed an agreement yesterday to create a new position of Prime Minister for Odinga to hold. The article I read today talks about how relieved Kenyans are:

"With the agreement signed, Kenyans finally got the breakthrough they had been praying for in the two months since violence broke out after the disputed presidential elections."

Thank you for all your prayers concerning Kenya. I don’t think it’s all over yet. There is still much to be sorted out. But we are on our way. If you want to read more check out the Daily Nation article I read.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Campus Green

Last evening after supper I took the remaining 15 minutes of daylight (this part of Africa gets dark fast once the sun sets, with no time called dusk) to snap a few photos of the incredible variety of leaves found around the campus. I am told that when the Lutheran missionaries got this piece of land they planted trees constantly. Many did not survive. But today this campus has huge shade trees to help protect people and buildings from the harsh sun. I posted the leaf photos on my photo site to the right. I purposely left my hand in some shots so you could get a feel for how gigantic some of them are.

You'll notice I have done a little rearranging as well. And added a clock with the local time there at the top of the right side, so you can think about that I'm doing when you look at it.

I'm missing you all at home.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

African Trees and African Faces

For me Africa is a feast of the senses. I could go on and on about the smells or the sounds – and I probably will sometime. But for me today was a feast for the eyes. Morogoro is very warm, not as humid as the coast, but still humid. Despite the weather, it’s a beautiful area! Surrounded by the fourth largest mountains in Tanzania, it makes the backdrop of the landscape something to behold. I think I have posted a couple of pictures on the photo site at the right. I will try to post more.

Today I had two different experiences that allowed me the indulgence of feasting my eyes. I took a short walk around the area – just outside of the Lutheran Junior Seminary grounds. I marveled at the seemingly endless of variety of trees. I think my favorite is the Baobab tree. This tree looks like it’s been around for thousands of years. The trunk is so fat that it looks as if it’s a big as a hut – like someone could be living inside of it. (Perhaps Keebler elves live there.) In Kenya I rarely saw leaves on these trees. They only get them once a year. Thus the tree often looks dead. And locals say it looks as if God planted it upside down because the branches look more like gnarly tree roots. But the ones in this area are full of leaves; maybe this is the one time of year they are like that.

There are so many other very interesting types of trees, there are ones that have leaves as big as serving platters. There is one outside my room that’s leaves look a little like delicate fingers that bob up and down in the breeze as if playing the keys of a piano. There are trees that flower yellow and trees that flower red-orange, trees that look as if all the bark has been stripped from them and the trunk looks whitish, yet they are tall and flourishing. Acacia or ‘thorn’ trees are also a classic African tree. There aren’t many of those in this area; I see them all over in Kenya. There are probably many in Tanzania, just not around here.

The other activity for today was an impromptu trip to town. I took my first daladala ride today. A daladala is a minivan (like a Nissan) outfitted with four rows of seats, actually five, with one facing back and the others facing forward. The second to the back seat has a portion that flips up to let those in the very back in or out. That part becomes a seat while the vehicle is moving. I bet we had about 25-27 people in the daladala I came back in. I’m not exaggerating! (Maybe 5 of those were kids, but that wasn’t counting at least 2 or 3 babies.)

Riding on the daladala gives me a captive showing of the splendor of God’s creativity in African faces. There are a variety of shapes and styles. Some have perfect creamy milk chocolate looking skin; some have round faces, long necks or high foreheads. My mom and I used to discuss the shape of nostrils among our family members. (I know that sounds odd, I sure no one else I know has ever had such a discussion with their mother or anyone else for that matter.) My mother was the great observer of all things. I like to think that I got at least some of that from her. I imagine she and I would have had plenty of noses to discuss today, some flat, some turned up, some with a bump on the bridge, others wide or petite. Eyes are just as intriguing, some wide and bright, others almond-shaped slits, some sleepy from the heat.

I analyze each face and drink in the differences. I wish I could study them longer. I want to be able to recreate them with paper and pencil. I didn’t have my camera along, but even if I did it wouldn’t be polite to be snapping their photos. Next time I go to town I will have a fresh pallet of faces to look at and marvel. God made such amazing works of art in each face. We pass by them every day, hardly noticing. God sees, he creates far more detail than I will ever capture in my notice or my writings. I love this feast of the eyes.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

few more Pictures...

Morogoro is a beautiful place. I ventured into town for the first time today while most of my readers (in North America) were sleeping. I met a couple that Craig and Tracy know that have lived here for 26 years! Vivian was nice enough to take me and a new friend, another Minnesotan, Alana (from language school) to lunch at "Ricky's Cafe" in town. It all seemed fun and new - but I didn't get a chance to explore too much on my own. Next week I think I will try to do a little more shopping in the market.

Here are a few photos from the day.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Ndoto Njema - Sweet Dreams

Sleep never comes easily in a new place. I could feel the frame of the bed underneath me last night. The air is hot and because I am on the ground level I need to close the curtains, which makes for challenging air circulation. The school is close enough to the main road to hear the traffic all night. In addition to traffic noise there is a bird that makes a loud high-pitched noise, only at night. It’s similar to those whistles kids can get at a sporting event or parade. I still have a lingering cough from the cold I carried to Africa with me. But to top off the whole ‘difficult sleeping arrangement’ tonight’s dinner conversation included what snakes are found in this area and who has seen or heard snakes recently. There’s a topic not to dwell on too long.

What will make me sleep tonight? First, a head full of Kiswahili (as it’s called here). I had a tutor today for about 5 hours. Tomorrow will be the same. My tutor wished me dreams of Kiswahili. This should be enough to make anyone fatigued. But I had the blessing of talking with one of the workers here and switched the mattress for a thicker firmer one. They are all just pieces of foam, so swapping for the one in the unoccupied room next to mine wasn’t a big production. Finally I hope to get a shower in before bed, even if it means another one in the morning. It gets dark around 6:45. Africa gets dark fast, no long dusk. The grounds of the school have a thick covering of trees. So it seems darker even earlier. But that just means I can head to bed earlier without feeling guilty or missing anything. My day starts at 6:30 am here, breakfast at 7:00, devotions at 7:45, class at 8:00.

Lala Salaama!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A Short Bus Ride

The bus arrived at the terminal about a half hour late, which in African time is not late. I made sure my little piece of luggage was in the cargo part of the bus before I got on and took my seat. The luggage claim tag was a piece of masking tape with my seat number “11” and “Moro” written on it. After about a half hour of riding I decided that I would make my way to the driver and tell him in my broken Swahili I wanted to be let out at the Lutheran Junior Seminary before town. I asked if that was okay. The driver seemed to know that place and the conductor was in on the conversation, so I consoled myself they wouldn’t forget me, they are professionals after all. (And the way they drive, you have to trust they know what they are doing and what the bus can do. It’s scary to watch no matter how accustomed to the way traffic is here.)

After about 2 and a half hours when I could see hills in the distance I leaned forward and started to watch for the school. After what seemed like ages of anticipation I saw us fly by the sign ELCT Lutheran Junior Seminary. “Wewe, bwana!” I called. The conductor and the driver did not hear me, but the passenger in front of me asked if I wanted their attention. “Ndiyo,” I nodded. So the man in front of me hissed loudly. The conductor turned around and as soon as he saw me he realized his mistake. He told the driver, but by then we were about 2 kilometers or more beyond the school. The conductor made his way back to me to tell me I could get a bus from town back to the school.

I was dismayed. How was I going to find a bus going back? And toting my rolling carry-on through the dusty roadsides. I was further frustrated when we turned off the main road. How would I find my way back? Pay attention, I told myself, good thing I wrote down those school contact numbers this morning. We can to a stop at the special Scandinavia Bus Stop. To my surprise there was another bus there waiting. I know only one bus left at the time we did. The conductor explained that this bus was going the other direction and would drop me at the school. “He won’t forget,” I asked. The conductor apologized and said it would be fine, they wouldn’t forget. Although the driver didn’t look happy with me. I went to buy something to eat, since I hadn’t had lunch. When I got on the bus, my carry-on was right up front ready to get off with me.

There is a moment of loneliness when you are dropped on a road side in Africa and you have never been there before. As the bus pulled away I said to myself, I hope they are expecting me. They were.

Here I am Janet. If I tell them Jan it becomes Jane. So even though I prefer Jan, here it’s Janet. I have already met several of the students, some here for just a few more days. Others for the next three months.

My room is small and simple. But one amazing thing: I’m close enough to the Common Room, which houses the internet café to use my wireless from my room. Talk about handy! I didn’t even think I would have any access.

God is taking care of me. An older German man, Harold introduced himself at afternoon tea and told me he would give me all the news of the place, he’s been here a week and a half. I am exhausted. I hope I sleep well tonight.

Post Script: I have tried to post photos on this blog at several African locations - it's just not happening. However, I have just sent a few more photos to the Drop Shots site listed as Jan's photos on the right. Enjoy.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Warm and Thick

“Pretend you are in a spa,” I used to tell my coworkers the summer I worked in a paper warehouse that wasn’t air-conditioned. We dressed to sweat every day. The difference in Dar es Salaam is there is a wonderful breeze blowing through the flat (house). I’ve just arrived from Nairobi and will only spend a night here before traveling to Morogoro in the morning.

For all the effort to get my new phone capable of connecting me to the world via internet, it isn’t happening. Thus my ability to post from language school may be very limit. I’m sorry. If I make any further progress with it from Morogoro, you’ll be the first to know.

I might have bored you with a thousand esoteric quips. Or not. I never seem to be bored with Lowell’s blog entries, especially the ones about culture. A dozen topics pop to mind on the way to the airport, for example, Kenyan billboards or Jane’s take on the current political situation (finally a Kenyan perspective). Half a dozen more spring up that I wouldn’t want to write about in a public realm, like all the odd things that happen to your body when you travel.

Alas, I just don’t know how much I will be able to actually be able to share with you. I am definitely on an adventure. Portions of my future are unknown. I will have many ‘discoveries’. I will try to write them even if I don’t get to post them. I can always use them later when I’m out of things to say.

Monday, February 18, 2008

I love my new ring tone

I have a cell phone that you can call from anywhere in the world. If you call me it’s free for me! Of course it’s the latest Nokia model about the size of a credit card with a camera and fm radio, so I haven’t really figured out how to use it. But feel free* to call. All the instructions were printed in English and Swahili!

From the US you have to dial international access code, then the country code, and finally the area code and phone number. It will be more expensive for you to call a cell phone than a landline, but I may never have a landline here. We’ll see.

To call dial: 011-254-738-42-4026. * Please remember the time difference to here. We are 9 hours ahead of Minnesota in winter, 8 hours in summer. You can always check the time difference on

My Town

I had a friend once who used to refer to whatever town I was living in as your town. I was at school then as Seattle was my town. But from back when I lived here before I would have to say Nairobi is my town. Once I described it as a “dirty smelly city I love”. I am certain there are very few people that share my appreciation for Nairobi. Most missionaries don’t like it. It’s just a place to get errands done. Kenyans only live here for work; somewhere else is considered home, somewhere up-country. It is dusty, full of exhaust, crammed with people.

I came from Brackenhurst (which is the edge of the countryside) yesterday afternoon. Tracy brought me down and helped me buy a cell phone (I’ll post the number separately). I’m staying with an old friend, Jane (Jaynie) Kilonzo. She lives in the area I lived in when I was here before. So today I’ll be running around my old haunts doing a little shopping, etc.

I wanted to be able to show you what it looks like here. There are many contrasts in this land. I took a few photos of Craig and Tracy’s house and their extraordinary garden (yard). I took some of Jaynie’s place. I will try to get them up on the Drop Shots website, link at the right here.

I’m sending this from a coffee shop internet café in the neighborhood. Something we didn’t have when I lived here before. Some things are always changing. Tomorrow I head off the Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. When I arrive in the airport, I’ll take a taxi to the AIM flat (apartment) and stay the night. From there I will go to Morogoro for language school at ELTC Language School about 3 hours straight west of Dar.

I have no idea what kind of internet availability there is in the town of Morogoro. So I cannot guarantee you’ll hear from me very soon. If you are inclined to pray, I still have a persistent cough, although I am sleeping better now. I will need travel mercies for getting to the school. There will be many unknowns ahead. Those who know me well know I do better with more information and less unknowns. Thanks for carrying me along in your prayers and I will do my best to keep you updated.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Out to Africa

I’m in Africa. I arrived yesterday evening at about 10:30 and didn’t get to bed until around midnight. And of course I am nine hours ahead of Minnesota. That is called GMT+3 (Greenwich Mean Time). In summer I am only 8 hours ahead.

I’m here! I love it. The potholes in the road and the singing cicadas. I was so exhausted but could only sleep for about 6 hours. The morning was filled with the sounds so familiar to the Kenya I know: the gardeners and guards greeting in their low muffled voices, song birds answering each other. I couldn’t fall asleep again. So I helped myself to a bowl of African brand flakes, somehow heartier that my Post Raisin Brand. I found a little “finger” banana, the sweet, short ones to slice on the top.

When I laid down for a nap at 10:30 I didn't wake up again until 3:30. I guess I'm caught up again now. I still have a congested chest and cough. I hope to somehow get over before I leave for Tanzania on Tuesday.

Thank you to all who have prayed me here and for your continuing prayers. They are such a blessing. I still think that is hasn't all hit me that I am here, but I remember thinking last night -
I'm here! I made it!

PS - I changed the time on the blog to reflect this time zone. It changed all my past posts as well.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

24 Hours of Travel

Dear Friends -

Thank you so much for all your prayers carrying me along these days. Please continue. I hope to post a good story for yesterday about God's great grace to me in a small way (maybe I can post while waiting in an airport.)

For today: Please pray for rest on the plane. I only got about 1 hour of sleep last night due to my nagging cough. I don't generally sleep on planes, but I just might be tired enough and sitting up might cause less coughing. I don't relish an air trip in this condition. But I am trusting in more of that undeserved amazing grace.

Please also pray for all my luggage to arrive with me in Nairobi. I am checking two extra bags for a total of 4 bags. One for the Sorleys. I'm toting a very full carry-on bag (against my personal rules for international travel - "travel light"). I have a lot to keep track of.

I have about 4 hours in the Amsterdam airport before going on to Nairobi. Both legs of the trip are about 8 hours long. I arrive in Kenya about 8:30 pm on Friday, but keep in mind that is 9 hours ahead of Central Standard Time.

I will try to post again this weekend from Kenya. But I don't know what kind of Internet connections I will have.

Thanks to all of you for all your encouragements and prayers.

I love to 'hear' your comments. You can post here anonymously, but please sign them.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Today's Good News

Well, amidst feeling lousy from this cold, I got an very encouraging email this morning. Turns out the little 'cottage' I looked at two years ago when I was last in Kenya is going to be available for rent again in April! The view from the verandah is pretty much that banner photo on my blog. It's nestled in the tea fields near Brackenhurst. I'll post more photos when I finally settle there after language school in May. The rent is an amazing price. Praise God for His provision!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

And a little discouraged...

I only have a few days left until Thursday when I leave the country. Unfortunately, I have been plagued with a bad cold most of this week. My hairdresser (everyone knows they have the best advice) and a doctor friend both recommended lots of rest. Only trouble, I have a lot left to do! I know it's my own fault for dilly-dallying earlier. But at this point I would really appreciate your prayers for good rest and getting completely over this cold before I get on the plane. I feel best in the evenings, but that is when I should be getting to bed early because I can never seem to sleep in very well.
Thank you.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Tons of Encouragements - - -

Dear Friends,
Many came to my open house last night and left me with notes of encouragement. Some brought them along, others wrote notes there. (My cleaver Barnabas Support Team thought of prompting folks to write and providing tools to do so.) I was given a number of scripture verses to hold on to, and lots of other kind and loving words. All this blessed my socks off, as an old friend used to say.

However, I think the best advice came from an eleven year old friend:

Dear Aunty Jan. When you are in Kenya you might feel like you got to Please evryone but remeber that even if it might make other peopol mad God is the most importint one to Please. I love you. Christina Mew.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Farewell Open House

Come and say good-bye.

Thursday Feb 7th from 6:30 - 9:00 at Bethlehem's downtown campus. I hope to have a slide show running of Care of Creation photos. There will be a little snacky food there.

I look forward to a "final" farewell.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

The Violence is Only Hurting Themselves

You might not realize it (since I have to hunt for the news every morning), but Kenya has been in a national crisis for just over a month now. Disputed election results sent Kenyan countrymen at each other in deadly clashes. It was completely unexpected. It's a complicated situation. But probably the hardest part is that it continues and therefore makes Kenya a difficult place to live, not just for westerners, but for Kenyans. (Something like 250,000 are internally displaced.)

The impact on the economy will be devastating. Already many in the tourist industry have been laid-off. People have lost home and personal belongings, but many have also lost businesses, buses have been burnt. Goods are not getting through: both to the average shopper and supplies to industry are not getting to needed areas.

As Kenyans make threats on their neighbors of differing tribes, they are forgetting one thing. They are all dependant on each other for the economy to boom as it had been. If those of ODM, Raila Odinga's party are lashing out against others because they feel they are impoverished while other's gain wealth, they have just set their poverty in stone by smashing the entire nation's economy to pieces. This action certainly will not benefit them in the long run. Likewise, leadership that does not put a decisive stop to this violence brings down everything that has been built up over the past 5 years. An article in Kenyan newspaper The Nation today starts to look at the economic effects. But I heard someone say that in reality, tourism won't return to it's normal level for probably 3 years once things have settled down.

The article says that agriculture and horiculture will/are being greatly affected. Care of Creation has thousands of tree seedlings that may not get into the ground this time. We are a picture of only a fraction of the country's agriculture. This is a very challenging time for the people of Kenya. My hope is to stand with them through this.

Please keep praying for the land and people of Kenya.

if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my
face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will
forgive their sin and heal their land.

2 Chronicles 7:14