Sunday, December 27, 2009

Pre-Christmas Flood

On the afternoon of December 23rd Nairobi experienced a wild storm with unusually high winds. The affects of this storm were varied. I understand billboards blew over and cars were swept away with the torrents of rain. The storm lasted only a short while, maybe an hour, but it had lasting effects for some.

I am one who is still affected. Being in a garden level apartment meant that when our grounds storm drains were clogged with debris the water backed up into my living room, dining room and 1 and a half of my bedrooms. Although the storm hit about 4 or 5 in the afternoon, the electricity was out and I did not immediately notice that my entire living room carpet was wet. I didn’t notice it creeping down the hall.

I had stopped home with an ailing student. She had been hoping for the past 24 hours to get on a plane back to her home in Canada, but had been plagued with malaria and some other sickness that was causing spiking fevers. She seemed determined to fly that night and I was hoping to be able to get her ready to go.

She discovered the floor was wet in my dim apartment. As I looked up to the patio doors I could see the glistening of a water cover. It wasn’t immediately obvious where what had happened or the extent of it, but soon I realized that if I didn’t act fast it would ruin more than it already had.

My housemate was away at a holiday party and was not interested in returning to give a hand. She made a few calls to find others to help, but was unsuccessful. I called the Dahlmans, long time friends from when I first came to Kenya. Like volunteer firemen springing into action, Bruce, Kate and their daughter, Kaari were over in a flash with towels, mops and a big fan! By the time they arrived there was 4 inches of standing water in the guest bedroom.

They scooped, swept and mopped until the whole of the water was out of the house. Once the rains slowed and the water started to recede Bruce investigated why this had happened. After that we rallied the grounds keeper (who had returned to work after two phone calls) and his friend along with one of our security guards to remove the 12 x 15 foot carpet and its matching felt under-pad.

The rug and pad remain over the laundry line fence to ‘dry’. Only problem is that it has rained every night since and I think it’s promising to continue. My living room now looks like an empty dance floor with most of the furniture from it piled in the dining room or distributed to other corners of the house.

My Canadian student got a shower and her taxi finally came after a half hour of searching for the place. I spent the last several days doing my best to count my blessings; no lives were lost, I wasn’t planning any holiday entertaining, no one’s plans were spoiled; only one Christmas gift under the tree to get damaged, I was home when it happened…

But it was still a challenge to not feel bad for a damp and now decoration-less Christmas. The bottom line is that I am really glad that Christmas isn’t about entertaining, or gifts or decorations. It’s all about Jesus coming to earth. I am so thankful for that, so thankful.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Getting Gas

There are some things that I will likely never understand about this country.

This weekend we ran out of cooking gas for our stove. I mean the gas cylinder was empty. (Think fancy gas grill for what the cylinder looks like.) It was my turn to get one. I hoisted the empty one out to my car which is heavy enough in my weakened, sick state. I drove to the very nearby Caltex station because it was a Caltex cylinder. I vaguely remembered that there was some issue last time because the connection had changed, but we managed one more old type.

There I stood with the guy trying to work out what I needed. Once the full cylinder was loaded and he was off to get me a (hand-written) receipt I noticed that the cars pulling in for petrol were driving off again. I finally listened as the petrol station attendant told the driver, “Hakuna, leo.” There is not, today. While this station had cooking gas it had no petrol for car fuel.

When the man returned with my receipt I asked about the petrol situation. He informed me they had been out for two days. “But it will come tomorrow.” Gotta love that African optimism. I actually had no reason to believe it wouldn’t be there tomorrow. But thankfully I didn’t need any that day.

Within a mile of my house I bet there are 5-7 petrol stations! I wonder if all the stations were out.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Pulling out of a Tummy Bug

You know how you tend to get sick after a big push at work, a major volunteer project or some other large event? Well, after the trip to UAE and then having Todd here from the Daystar US office, I lasted exactly one more day and then a nasty stomach bug hit me. It hit so hard I was only out of bed for very short snatches on Thursday.

This morning after consulting Dr. Bruce by text message, I hoisted myself out of bed and went out for the minimum amount of errands. I still hadn’t paid my rent and it’s nearly the middle of the month.

After dashing to two shopping malls – one to get a check made out to my landlord and the other to go to his bank to deposit it, I stopped by a convenient dispensing chemist, where I told them what antibiotic my doctor told me to get, paid and was on my way. There are some perks to living here; prescription drugs without a prescription is one of them.

I really wish I had been in a jolly, Christmas shopping kind of mode because the second mall had a little choir singing Christmas carols that wafted down to where I was queuing at the bank. (It made the long wait on my feet worth it.)

Also there was a Kenyan man dressed up like Santa Claus sitting smack in the middle of the common area. I just caught a glimpse of his dark face peering out from that gleaming white beard and I had to chuckle to myself even though I kept pace to the bank.

Some days you just wish you had a camera.

When I arrived back at my home a little over two hours later, I laid down for a rest. That was the most I had done for over 24 hours. When I got up I had so much energy (mind you, I had only taken one dose of my ten tablets) I decided to start on my Christmas baking. In a few hours time I got one batch of two different kinds done! I’m on my way.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Not Exactly What I Expected

This was my first time to really be in a non-western developed country (if I can say it like that). All signs are in both Arabic and English. Most people can speak English. And there are more expatriates than Emiratis in the UAE. A few things I was able to picture ahead of time. But some things were quite surprising.

I was served Tex-Mex food on both of the Air Arabia flights I took.
There are no potholes in the UAE.
Men like to wear cologne.
Arabs really dress like they are depicted in the movies. (I couldn’t shake the feeling I was always at a costume party.)
The malls look just like they do in America.
Sports cars are a popular choice for young men.
It’s less dusty than I thought. There are more trees than I imagined.
There is almost nothing from home that you can’t find. (That includes Diet Pepsi and Tostidos!)

I did expect this:

There are highways through the desert with virtually nothing between towns and fast, fancy SUVs whizzing by.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

My Gracious Hosts!

These dear folks have been graciously hosting me for the last week. This is Mike, Mary, Nadia and David. It's been a place a peace. And they are so upbeat all the time. It's great! It's hard to believe it's almost over.

Monday, November 30, 2009

A Little Touring

My gracious hosts took me to the Oasis - a tourist area that they hadn't been to in a while. When we appoached the first words we read on the sign were "NO ENTRY" but then we read the fine print.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Giving Thanks for Dear Friends

Although Pauline 'threatened' to take photos of the food, we all forgot about cameras until we had finished eating and were in our turkey stupors. I realized this morning again how much I love Thanksgiving because of it's non-commercial aspect. A special thanks to my Brother Dan and sister-in-law, Marcy for making my last Thanksgiving in the States such a memorable one!

Here's the whole crew that was at my house. Left to right:

Kate, Wamuyu (Pauline's cousin), Diane S, Lindsey, Justin B, Marta B, Deborah M, Danny M, David M. Down in front (L to R) is little Zadi S, Imani B, and housemate Pauline. (Matching last initials are families.)

We enjoyed good food and fellowship. Some of the friends around the table are folks I've known for 15 or 17 years!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Preparing for Thanksgiving

While the rest of my world here in Nairobi carries on with life, end of term at Daystar and nearing the end of the month, so fewer cars on the roads (til payday when folks can afford to put petrol back in the tanks) etc, etc. I have been thinking about Thanksgiving.

At first I had no plans for this day which is obviously not celebrated by the Kenyan population. But I warmed to the idea of making a turkey for some American friends and a few non-American ones. A week and a half ago I ordered a turkey from a butcher that a friend told me about. I told the woman at the counter I needed a 7 or 8 kilo turkey. (That's like 16-18 lbs of turkey.) The butcher assured me it would be there on Tuesday or Wednesday this week.

Of course, I misplaced her number so I just went over to get it this morning. The smallest one she had was 12 kilos! I didn't think it would fit in my smallish fridge or my tiny oven. Not to mention I didn't even have enough money with me to get that much turkey.

I called a friend to get the number of another butcher, sure enough that butcher had an 8.25 kilo turkey on hand. I ran straight over to get it.

This afternoon I bid goodbye to my coworker and she asked, "Won't I see you tomorrow?" I reminded her I was cooking a turkey and no she wouldn't see me. (We had a long conversation about turkeys in the morning.)

I walked outside and caught the smell of someone barbecuing meat. I though immediately of my dad roasting a turkey on the grill a few times for a few Thanksgivings. Doubtless I will think of my family members all day tomorrow as I peal potatoes and role out pie crusts.

Last Thanksgiving was the last time all my siblings were together. And the last time that will ever happen as my sister, Lee passed away in May this year. This is definitely that holiday that begs for family in me.

I'll try to post a picture of the gang I have this year at my house.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Forced Vacation

I’d love to stay and continue with my duties, but the immigration department of my ‘country away from home’ is still dragging their feet. It would be especially nice to stick around since the US Director of Daystar is arriving on Dec 2nd. (I'd like to be better prepared for the visit.) But since my visitor’s status is about to run out, I will be leaving the East African region the day after American Thanksgiving.

I’ll just be gone for a week, visiting some long-time friends in the United Arab Emirates (UAE); resting, reading, taking a little touristy break from the hubbub in Nairobi.

If you are inclined, please pray that I will come back to a Class E Work Permit ready and waiting to be stamped into my passport. Also please pray for safe travel to a part of the world I have never been to before.

I appreciate your support.

Friday, October 30, 2009

My Mechanic

If you would like to meet Mr. JLB Matekoni in the flesh, you’ll come close with Henry Kioko Ngue, my mechanic. A week and a half ago Henry changed my oil in his brother-in-law’s driveway while I visited with his brother and sister-in-law. (Henry’s wife, Alice and her sister, Mwikali are across-the-hall neighbors.) I’ve know this family for years. In fact, Alice and I were roommates when she was engaged to Henry. I was in their wedding. (It’s my claim to fame in their house. I always get introduced to other guests by being pointed-out in the wedding picture that hangs on the stair wall.)

After he finished my oil change, I asked Henry about the wet floor on the driver’s side. He inspected it and discovered the windscreen (windshield) seal was leaking! Now that it’s rainy season, it should be taken care of. Henry picked me up at 7 this morning, dropped me at work because it was raining again and went to town to have the seal replaced with a promise of being back by 11. He and the people replacing the windscreen discovered that the part that holds the windscreen in place was completely weathered away. One good jerk through a monstrous pothole and I could have had the whole thing pop out!

Henry finally arrived back at Daystar at 5:10 PM. Poor thing. It looks as if my windscreen is band-aided on to the car. I’m supposed to drive gingerly and keep away from rough roads for the next 48 hours. Yeah, right.

But Henry loves his work and if you get him talking about anything – it’ll be the workings of a car. And I am so very thankful for Henry!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Oh the things I see...

My current office overlooks busy Ngong Road. We are right near the intersection (roundabout) with Valley Road. I try not to have my windows open too much because of the traffic noise, but it gets stuffy in my office if I don’t open them some of the time.

Today when I had the window open a car alarm started going off. That’s common enough, but it wasn’t stopping so I got up for my chair to stretch and look out. And what did I see?

A small pick-up, like a little Mazda or something, with a full grown cow standing in the bed. The vehicle was pulled over to the side of the road. It sat there for a while and I missed the point where it eased out into traffic. I just sat back down thinking – how now brown cow?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

rain from heaven

It’s finally rainy season here in Kenya, at least around the Nairobi area. Even if it’s a light shower for only 10 minutes, I’m grateful. It’s watering the earth.

There are all kinds of evils that go on here. But God rains on the good and the bad. I think the little rain we got yesterday afternoon about 4:00 washed over me and gave me a sense that God’s grace is present, active. I felt momentarily overwhelmed with blessing. I wish those times happened more often. But then perhaps, I wouldn’t appreciate them as much.

Thank you for the rain, Lord.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Creamy goodness in every bite

(What advertisement does this come from?)

I have to give a little background to this entry. I got the book Julie & Julia for my birthday a few weeks ago. I just heard it’s going to be in the theaters here soon so I’m racing to finish the book before the movie gets here. It won’t last long in the theaters so I will only have a little window in which to see it.

Anyway, the book is about this gal who decides to cook all the recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child in a year. (It’s over 500 recipes.) Reading the book is pretty interesting in a sort of hum-drum sort of way. But mostly it’s inspiring me to want to cook. (Like I needed any inspiration.)

This past weekend I had noticed while at Nakumatt (the Kenyan version of Super Target - or is it Greatland Target?) there was a whole end cap of Mexican food items. Mostly Old El Paso brand. Including Green Chili Enchilada sauce! And canned green chilies! So, I had my house helper make tortillas for me today and I made, for the first time ever, Green Chili Chicken Enchiladas!

Now making those makes me think of Maggie Jones. Because while I was in Minneapolis the last time, I lived with the Joneses and those Jones girls sometimes needed a little sales pitch on the food they were served. (Something I really don’t understand, especially since their mom is one of the best cooks I know.)

I would often tell Maggie, “Come on Maggie, it’s got creamy goodness in every bite!” I remember specifically the phrase being connect with her mom’s Green Chili Chicken Enchiladas. But I think that was the day of my great success with my sales pitch. Not that I got Maggie eating any more or quicker, but that Maggie finally asked me, “Auntie Jan, does this have creamy goodness in every bite?”

Monday, October 5, 2009

Virtual Tour

Hi, I thought my readers might like a little tour of my flat. It's what I would call a 'luxury' apartment. But that's about all there is nowadays here. I wish it were different. That is all they are building seems like. This one is not quite two years old. And actually, it wasn't really finished well or completely. I have been getting some things done for the landlord, like wiring some rooms or getting a plumber to fix a tap.
Okay this is the livingroom view from the front entry area. Right behind me is the little guest half bath. (I didn't take a photo of it.) So this is to the left when you enter and the dining room it to the right. I've stepped to the next corner of the livingroom and turned around to shoot a photo of the dining room below.
This is looking back at the living room again. The curtains on the back wall open out to a little patio.These two are looking into the kitchen from its door. Yes, those are some kind of stone counter tops, marble or ganite. The second view shows a bit of the fridge door, a bit of the open pantry door and the far door is a sort of laundry room. (sorry, not photo out there either.)
Below is the still-in-process guest room. Don't let the bright colors keep you from visiting. I usually give out my room and sleep here when I have guests. The walls need help.
This one is the master bedroom (my room). I'm standing in the sort of walk-in (through) closet area.This one is standing by the bed looking over to where the last shot was taken, you can see one of the four closets there.
Now back over in that closet area looking into the bathroom. Below that is a detail shot of the black iron and green fabric shelf in there. I designed it and made the fabric parts of it.I have should take some of the outside during the day. We kind of have our own little space outside because of being on the bottom corner of the building.

Come and visit! You are most welcome, karibu!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Old Friends

In the past few weeks I have re-met two very dear friends from when I lived here in the 90’s (which is sooo long ago now.) I realized we are old friends when I got introduced as “an old friend”. (I don’t really feel I should be forty-something but I am.)

Kinuthia Mungai was an intern at the ministry I was working in back in 1994. As office mates we became fast friends with my many questions about cultural dynamics and his insightful answers. We talked business, culture and art, sharing interests in a number of areas. I always thought of Kinuthia as so young. He was just finishing university and I was already in my 30’s. Today Kinuthia is married with two children. He’s a business owner and I can rightfully call him Mzee (the term for a respected male elder.) It’s so nice to see someone you have known a long time.

Irene Bilah also appeared in my life. Irene is from Uganda. She was my house worker when I lived here before. Marta, one of my roommates from then still has her working part-time at her house. Irene has a very special place in my heart. She had lived in Kenya for many years when I met her, raising her 5 children on her own.

Although Irene managed to keep the house, dishes and clothes clean for three of us, she also gave me a ton in terms of moral and spiritual help. Whenever I was stressed or down Irene would preach me a sermon. She encouraged me like no one else could. She might say the same for me. I know for sure that she has often prayed for me. And taught me many things about the meaning of quality of live.

Irene is a grandmother now. If my friends are old, does that mean I am old too?
Irene Bilah; friend, encourager, prayer warrior, oh yeah, house help too.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Considering Another Year...

fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, "Fear not, I am the one who helps you." Isaiah 41:13

Normally, I am very contented with who I am and my place in life. I am thankful for the flexibility my singleness gives me. I am glad to be working at Daystar in Nairobi. I love this new job and it’s where I want to be. It’s the right place at the right time.

However, there are times when I wish things were different. I wish I didn’t have to be the one to always ask, “When will my desk, chair and computer arrive? Is this office permanent or temporary? Would it be possible to be with my department rather than in another building?” These are just reflections of a deeper longing to not always be autonomous or all on my own.

Its times like these that I am so glad that the Lord in on my side.

There is a certain comfort in knowing that Someone is taking my hand and holding it. It’s as if I am again a 4-year-old and I don’t have to be the one to worry about crossing the street by myself, watching for cars and trying to work out the timing.

I don’t often feel fear, but I am sometimes dismayed. God comes along to help me, of all people! If I ever think it’s the other way around I am sadly mistaken. The weight of this help humbles me and brings tears to my eyes.

What a mercy to me. I can do nothing but be grateful.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Stepped on a Nail

I have been having a little trouble with my rear left tire. It seems to get low from time to time. It doesn’t go completely flat and it doesn’t happen all that often, just like every few weeks or so, and not even regularly. (I think it’s been longer this stretch.) I’ve located a service station nearby that has a working air pump. This is where I get pressure. (Try to say that with the classic Kenyan difficulty of mixing up r's and l's.)

Recently the guys had it off to see if they could find a hole to fix, I was told, “You probably stepped on a nail.” I smiled at the way I'd been told I’d run over a nail. Often automobiles here seem to have human qualities, with arms up to the shoulder sticking out either side, now my tires step on nails.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Aptly Named

Jo, a friend in China recently wrote about her Chinese name and how she got it. Her article got me thinking about my names, here. I know of a few and there are probably many more names that I get called behind my back and I don’t even know it. There are probably more to come too.

When I lived in Kenya in the 90’s there were different times when I did or did not have a vehicle to drive. Thus I was on busses or matatus quite often. Every mode of public transportation has a conductor or tout. Because I was so often doing a very typical Kenyan thing, I was named by the touts on my route, Wajiku. One of the most typical names from a girl from one of the main tribes in Nairobi.

I quizzed my friends from that tribe about the meaning, and there isn’t one. It’s just typical, normal, everyday. But one friend in particular enjoyed playing with my last name and dubbed me, Kabole. That’s the name of a 5-shilling coin. It’d be the equivalent of calling me Nickle.

When my friends from another tribe heard about being named by touts, they made it clear that that wasn’t any way to get a Kenyan name! So they named me from their group, Mwende. To this day it’s my favorite Kenyan name, because it means Loved One.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

English in a land far away

My friend, Abraham often writes about English and how it’s dynamic and therefore we should accept the changes that have been introduced into it. In principle I agree, yet I also like a standard. I don’t speak or even write perfect English. But I try to follow the rules in an effort to be understood. Living in a country that doesn’t have English as a mother tongue makes it a little more challenging to keep the standard.

I really like knowing the local slang, called sheng which is often a mixture of English and Swahili. But I want to be understood when I speak with Americans as well. If you find my English off, please forgive me. I’m trying to be understood in two different continents.

As my friend Rose always used to say, “Don’t blame me, English came here by ship.” An odd enough statement in itself, but her pronunciation of “ship” comes out “sheep”.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Those Happy Faces at the Top are Afrizo

There has been much going on to ready the Afrizo team for their big tour of the US. It really is an exciting time. I will actually miss them when they go – but I hope to remain friends with them all after they return.

On Tuesday evening, Afrizo leader, Hellen Mtawali and 8 students board a plane to Minneapolis! I think this is the first time out of the country for all the students. It’s Hellen’s second trip to the States. Their main purpose for the trip is to raise awareness for the needs of Daystar University. They hope to raise funds for student scholarships and thank the generous donors that have been faithfully giving – even in these hard economic times.

Please follow their tour of the US; pray, attend a concert. They really are amazing musicians! To listen to a song or two check out the Daystar website. They will not disappoint!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Find of the Week

Last week I had a few idle moments to browse the sauce aisle at Nakumatt; the Kenyan equivalent of Super Target, but not as big. With the influx of business people from China in this country it’s now fairly easy to find all manner of chili oils and fish sauces. Maybe I should take up more Asian cooking...

As I was meandering along a familiar logo caught my eye. Sometimes I am aware that this might just be a knock-off. It seems that all those mayonnaise jars that have the trade name of American Garden (which I have never seen in America) have a reverse side that is all in Arabic. Needless, I stepped closer to check.

Sure enough, it was a real jar of Old El Paso Salsa! I’m not saying that is my favorite brand or anything, but this far from home, it might as well be. Since I was still in a bit of disbelief, I decided to look at the back to make sure it was actually the Old El Paso I know.

My second discovery came in reading the fine print. Did you know that Old El Paso is manufactured in Minneapolis, MN? I had to laugh. It reminded me of an old commercial that had a cowboy with a southern accent incredulously reading a salsa label, “Ne-e-ew Yo-o-ork City!?!” I consoled myself that there were plenty of Mexicans in Minnesota and it’s still a lot closer to Mexico than Kenya or the UAE.

I won’t tell you what I paid for those 16 ounces of bliss. But I did have a fresh batch of homemade tortillas at home, so I didn’t care. Good thing I brought some taco seasoning with me.

Monday, August 10, 2009

What do Adult Orphans Look Like?

Today I was part of a small panel that was asked to interview work study applicants to the University, specifically to hear about their plights as orphans in an effort to determine there need level. Probably each one could have been a riveting story of what happened in their particular circumstances. Some of them had their parents death certificates stapled to their application. Of those attached, not one that I read was by a car accident. That is something I would think claims a high percentage of lives. No, several I read were deaths caused by tuberculosis. TB is totally curable, I think. (Docs reading, correct me if I’m wrong.)

Others who lost their parents weren’t specific about what claimed the life. But it starts to become apparent. One young man first lost each of his siblings, both younger and his mother and finally his father. I tried for just a moment to imagine the feelings inside that drives such a person. I just can't imagine.

I really never thought of what an adult orphan looked like (except for me). These young people are depending on the kindness of relatives, sometimes siblings or aunts and uncles. Often besides the person losses, they carry the pressure that they are now a burden to others.

May God give the grace needed to each to carry on and become the servant leaders for which they are training.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

It's Official!

This week I was handed my Daystar ID badge! It's kind of fun feeling official.

Monday, August 3, 2009

A Few More Shots of the Jikaze Outing

Outside the offices of Nairobi Chapel, loading the buses to head down to Jikaze. Ian M. is on the top doing manual labor, very uncharacteristic of him.

Some of the children recite a poem for us about living in peace and what real peace means.

A brand new "foot ball" - a welcome and very unexpected gift.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Jikaze (Pulling Oneself Together)

Last Saturday my Plug-in group from church went on an outing in an effort to put into practice what we have been studying about social justice. We visited some IDPs (internally displaced people) that have resettled in an area in the Rift Valley called Mahi Mahu.

This area Jikaze has been referred to as an IDP camp. But actually this is a group of people who met at an IDP camp and organized themselves, pooling their limited resettlement monies to purchase land together. They now have 17.5 acres for 145 familes and are building little houses and starting small businesses.

This is most of our group. From left to right: Bella, Me, Ian Gitau, Valerie, Susan, Monica, Robert (his wife Jane was around but didn’t get in the photo), Mukami, David (behind her), Ian Melita, and Helen. Also around but not in the photo was Arthur. His wife Waki didn’t come, nor did our leader, Pastor Cathleen or her assistant, Loretta. (Monica and David are married. Monica is my prayer partner.) The kids in the photo live at Jikaze.

You must have questions about IDPs. Please ask.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

What's All that Brown in front of the Green?

I have one thing on my mind these days, people. In particular, students. Currently on my banner are the singing group Afrizo! Actually this is the team traveling to the States this fall. And they are very much in my view as we work toward getting them ready for travel.

The team will arrive in Minneapolis around August 25th. They will perform a concert that Friday in Brooklyn Park sponsored by Mshale, the African News Source in the Twin Cities. To learn more about the concert and the rest of their US tour, check our website:

I’ll keep you posted on any developments with the team.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Official Address

I have written a couple of real handwritten letters recently. I have this (probably false) hope that people might write me back. I’m not holding my breath. But don’t you think there is something fabulously exciting about getting real mail! I’m not talking about the myriads of messages in your inbox. I’m talking about good old fashioned snail mail.

If you are interested in surprising me with such, I now have an official mailing address:
Jan Korbel c/o DU
PO Box 44400
00100 Nairobi
(if you are worried your postal worker has no idea where Kenya is, you may add a last line: East Africa.)

Related post:

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Frustrating Communication

It's Sunday evening and I was thinking it'd be a great time to catch up with some folks. I tried calling a new missionary friend that had sent me a text message in the afternoon. I tried two different mobile phone lines for her. No answer.

I tried calling another friend from last year who just arrived back in the country this week. She'd sent me a message on FB asking where I was since she didn't see me at church today. But her line from last year had a recording, the number you have dialed in not in service.

Then I decided this might be a good time to catch some folks at home on Skype. I first tried a land line using my Skype credit. Their phone answering machine kept telling me that either I was speaking too softly or it was a bad connection and to press two to re-record your message.

Giving up on that I notice my brother was online. So I tried a Skype to Skype call. He answered, but it was so delayed that he couldn't hear me. We tried calling back and forth several time. But to no avail. I finally set him an email.

Modes of technology have greatly increased in the past ten years. But I an convinced that it just makes for more avenues of frustration. If you are waiting for communication from me, please be patient.

post script. this entry took a lot longer than normal to post.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Perks of Editing English

I have been at my new job for just over a couple of weeks. Early on I was introduced at Daystar’s morning chapel something like this: Here’s Jan. She’s come from Daystar US to help us out in the resource mobilization dept. If you are a needy student, come and see her. She can help you with your testimony.

You can imagine that no one, but no one heard that last sentence! Since then not a day has gone by that I am actually on campus in the resource mobilization dept that I have not had needy students asking for my help.

I have honed down how I help them by explaining that I do not decide about scholarships and all I can do is help them look over their testimony and get it worded well so it can be attached to the scholarship application.

This means that every day I am reading about the struggles of both Kenyans and internationals. (We have many students from countries that neighbor Kenya and we even have a few West Africans.) God is at work in the lives of so many young people that wouldn’t otherwise get a chance to get some higher education.

What a privilege.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Hardly a Moment...

I realized that I hardly have a moment to think lately. The fact that I am not blogging much is evidence of that. Please know that it is not because of hardship nor a lack of desire to tell you about my life here. It’s because I am so happily busy. I imagine life will regain a ‘normal’ pace as soon as Todd and Tamara leave for the US and I finish making curtains for approximately 8-10 large windows. And getting some various and sundry other household decorating items completed.

Thanks for hanging in there with me. Photos are coming.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Still Settling In

I am enjoying work at Daystar. However, I still do not have a desk, nor an office. Hopefully by the end of this week. Thanks for your prayers on that.

This is Coretta my workmate. Some days I hang with Coretta and some of the time I use an office that belongs to our new boss of the “Resource Development” department who hasn’t arrived yet. Also while it’s summer and we have a ton of visitors from all over, I am sometimes out and about with them or meeting students or alumni with Todd.
Coretta! (The view from her visitor's chair.)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Still Alive...

Sorry I haven't written more. I am well. I started my job last Thursday and so it is keeping me from blogging at the moment. I promise to get back at it soon. Besides, I lost my camera, so I can't post new photos. When I get a replacement, I will show you more of my world.

Friday, June 12, 2009

I had a flat in Africa...

Hello Readers,

Just want to let you know that I found a nice apartment in a quiet compound, near (about 1 kilometer from) Daystar. I will be moving my things from the storage up near where I was working last year on Saturday. God willing, that is. I made arrangements for a lorry to move my things over the phone and in Swahili. We'll see.

I'm so excited to get settled. Eventually I will have a nice guest room set up. Please come and visit me!

By the way, a flat never refers to a tire in Kenya. If you have a tire that has lost air for any reason, it's referred to as a puncture.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

I've Been Staying with Jane!

Here's Jane leaving for work at the bank. She's been so gracious, letting me stay with her and making me feel right at home. I am so blessed! I really have some awesome friends!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Back to Land of:

Scratchy facial tissue
Perpetual summer/perpetual road work
Shaking hands with everyone you meet
Lots of pedestrians
Unbelievable traffic jams . . .

Friday, June 5, 2009

How to find an apartment in Nairobi

Check the notice boards at shopping centers and coffee shops.
Ask people you know if they know of any open flats in their block or near them.
Drive around in the area you want to live looking for windows without curtains.
Ask the gate guards at compounds that look nice if there are any vacancies.

Good Luck.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

I'm Back in Africa!

Just thought I would let you know that I arrived save and sound in Nairobi about 24 hours ago. All the luggage I had with me arrived as well.

It's good to be "home".

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Ever feel like you are in a scene from a movie?

I have often thought that flying over the Atlantic on this all familiar flight to Amsterdam goes like a scene from the Truman Story. I know its a little stretch, but there are odd aspects of getting on a plane at 3:00 in the afternoon and 8 hours later its morning. It’s like the night got speeded up.

The same thing happens when Truman goes missing and his ‘maker’ is trying to find him. The commands everyone to take their ‘morning places’ and he turns the lights up on the world he’s created several hours early in an effort to find Truman. The sun rises quickly as it does from the plane window look east toward Europe.

I’m glad the rest of my story in completely different than Truman’s.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

My Barnabas Team Threw Me a Good Bye Party

Team Members: Rachel and Daniel with a helping hand from Darlene

Dave, Faith and Jennifer catching up

Amanda, Tina and Kathy A trying some sweet treats

Is Roy putting some food in his pocket for later? Karla, look into that. Sue M and Kathie K enjoying the evening.

I have no idea what Julie and I were doing hand motions for.

The remnant clean-up crew. L to R back row: Kathy A, Rachel, Me; front row: Brian, Steve, Daniel. (I love the big smiles!)

Goodbye from the Combined Small Groups

So, sort of a large group, you might say. This was Bible study night but instead a cook-out at a park. I love this crowd. Here are just a few pics of the evening...

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Saying Goodbye to my Teammates

This afternoon the staff at Daystar US wanted to have a little commissioning for me. Their way of going about it was to take me for lunch at Edina Grill.
It was a nice time of laughter and a sweet time of prayer. I will miss them. They are a great bunch!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Synopsis of a Life Story on a Single Page

My brother and I brought my sister’s ashes back to Minnesota. With them came her death certificate. I have never really read one before. It surprised me how much information is told about a person in a single sheet of paper.

It tells her whole name, date of birth and date of death. These are all things I would expect. But it also tells our deceased parents names and informs the reader that she was never in the armed forces and was never married. Her death certificate tells us the highest level of education she had and that she was in the art industry, additionally her profession was listed as artist. There are various other boxes filled in.

Of course we were interested to see exactly what the cause of death was:

Hyperkelemia 2/2 ARF

But there must be about ten or eleven things listed as contributing factors – all the way back to juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. So basically it has her medical history right there.

While this is a ton of information about Lee, it’s not really anywhere near the whole story.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Lee and Me at the tip of Washington

La Push in 1991. And both with a perm!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Visiting Lee's House

It seems odd being at my sister’s place and thinking that she is really gone. I was just here in February and she was over in a hospital in Seattle. I spent a night at her house and then drove her car over there. Isn’t she still there? I wonder if it will even dawn on me before I leave that I will never make another memory with my sister.

That hits me first when some close dies. I feel anger over never being able to remember anymore good times we have together. The couple of years I spent at college in Seattle gave me the opportunity to visit her very often. We would go all over, on car trips up to Hurricane Ridge or Lake Crescent. She dragged me to her support groups and even though it was a serious part of her life and I respected that we still would laugh afterwards about the whole scenario. “Were we just in a scene from a sitcom?” I know her groups helped her learn about herself but I think she appreciated a lighter perspective on it too sometimes because she realized that she was so serious most of the time.

At meals we would sit and tell stories from our very different childhoods. Her memories were so different than mine because of our 11-year age difference. But somehow we could relate well realizing our parents were the same over the years. We would laugh and laugh until Lee would say, “Don’t choke! I’m afraid you’ll choke and then what can I do?” Then we would start laughing all over again.

Maybe I was just her levity dose. In those days she didn’t watch television. I remember her begging me to come visit her when I was returning from overseas saying, “You can ease into American culture here, I don’t have a TV.” I tried to get out every year or two to visit, but that waned over the years.

I came out about a year after Mom died. I wanted to help her choose a car in 2006 when she got her inheritance from Mom’s estate. That was fun too – test driving cars and trying to give her tips on how to deal with car salesmen. I was out again in January of 2008 since I was headed overseas again. I wish she were here to visit with.

Eventually it will sink in. I will realize she is gone. But right now it just feels like she’s over in the hospital.

Monday, May 4, 2009

This is my sister Lee

From before I was born Lee had been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. Eleven years older than me, she was happy to read to me or teach me the things she knew about. She couldn’t get down on the floor and play, but she could tell me stories. I remember Lee trying to teach me French when I was very young. I’m sure it was a frustration but she kept at it.

When she was in high school Lee became confined to a wheel chair. She had several surgeries by the time she went off to college. But she was determined not to let her disabilities slow her down. By the time she finished a BA in fine arts with a minor in art history, five years later, she was also up and walking again.

Lee had spent most of her childhood so limited that she was determined to be all on her own from the time she finished college. It was the mid 70’s, she decided to go traveling with a friend in an old Cadillac with the backseat removed and fitted with a double bed mattress. She spent months in the south western United States before settling in the Pacific Northwest.

She worked for some time as the artist in residence at the Olympic Community College in Port Angeles, Washington, making huge hand-built pottery. She later switched to paper arts because it was easier on her joints. Later when I attended Bible college in Seattle area I visited her quite often and we spent many happy hours laughing about our odd family and how we survived.

She had very different values from me, but of all my siblings I felt I really knew her best, especially since I spent more adult time with her than my other siblings and vice versa. We often enjoyed doing art projects together when I visited her. And we talked about the things on our hearts. And once in a while I would talk her into a drive around the beautiful Olympic Peninsula.

Lee passed away on May 4 just after midnight. She had several complications to her many health issues following a series of small strokes in mid April. I loved my sister. She will be missed.

This photo was taken last Thanksgiving, the last time the five of us were together. Lee is on the lower left.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Sneak Preview

This weekend I did something I really don't enjoy anymore. I got my picture taken. Thankfully, a friend did it and she's fabulous! Soon everyone on my mailing list will get a nice new prayer card of Jan.

Here's a little preview of the choices:

Monday, April 27, 2009

In the Words of Cecilia

Being at Daystar is a miracle that I cannot even explain. I have never had anybody to rely on financially in my entire life, but I know God makes a way where there is no way, and I trust in Him. I am studying community development and psychology because after I graduate I want to go back to my community to work with hurting people.

I’m an orphan; my mother died when she was giving birth to me. I was brought up by my grandparents who took care of me and who struggled very much to provide for my primary education. I went to secondary school on a scholarship from the government, and in January 2008 I joined Daystar.

I got saved on April 14th 2005 after hearing a testimony about how Jesus cares for those who trust in Him. Before that I was very bitter with God and thought I was the most disadvantaged in the world, but now I know that God loves me and that he is the father to the fatherless and mother to the motherless. I desire to live for Christ and make many people know Him through me.

I plan to start a home where I can take care of orphans and the needy. God is faithful, and I believe he will help me achieve my dream.

Monday, April 20, 2009


One of the wonderful privileges of my new post at Daystar is working with our scholarship students. Already I have been reading some of the stories of our fantastic students. What a blessing!

Leo hales from Burundi, from a tribe called Batwa, they are commonly known as Pygmies. When I was a child I remember hearing stories of these very small people that lived in the wilds of deepest, darkest Africa.

As it turns out Pygmies (Batwa) are discriminated against by all the people groups that surround them. For generations they have believed their neighbors were right when they referred to them as animals. This attitude by those surrounding tribes had become a self-fulfilling prophecy for most every Batwa.

When Leo heard the good news that he was in fact included in those Christ came to die for, he was a changed man! Defying the odds against him he began telling his people the good news of Jesus Christ and helping others see they are not animals but God’s children.

Today Leo is one of our scholarship students in community development at Daystar University with a strong vision to return to his people and help them see their own dignity in Christ. He is material for leadership in the future of his people, servant leadership – the kind of quality folks Daystar turns out.
It’s an honor to serve such people.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Craft of the Season

Part of what makes me tick is to create - Here's some example of this season's craft:

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Cultivating Gratitude

Lately I've been thinking about some of the things I appreciate -

old cars that run well
real and not contrived cultural diversity
sunshine even if it’s cold outside
wiggling babies that fall asleep on your shoulder
commercial free jazz
concentrated work time (getting things accomplished)

I'm sure I could go on and on...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Where in the World is Jan?

Hello Dear Readers -

Just wanted to put it plainly - As of April 1st, I am officially with Daystar US. (That is not an April Fool's joke.) I will have about two and a half months of orientation in the US office, here in Edina. So right now, I am in the Twin Cities. (Just back from a short trip to Kenya to exit Care of Creation, pack up my house and office and meet some of my new Daystar colleagues.)

In June I will head back to Kenya, long-term to work from Nairobi for the US office. The exact flight date is not set yet, but it will be around the middle of the month. I promise to keep you posted.

In the meantime, I have a desk and phone here in the Twin Cities, at Daystar US. I can be reached at:
952-848-4208 or by email at I also still have my cell: 651-283-0484.

Saturday, March 14, 2009