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.