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.