Saturday, December 31, 2011

I’m a Finisher, Even if on African Time

This year is not going out with a bang nor is the New Year coming in with one. I have a few resolutions, though. The first of which is to finish last year’s read through the Bible plan. It was an inspired decision. If my friend Molly with a small bunch of small children could do it, so could I! In January of this year she posted about getting more into her Bible. The reading plan for Shirkers and Slackers sounded oddly encouraging. I was more than half way through the year before I figured out it wasn’t a read through the Bible in a year plan. But I had made some adjustments so I could get through it in a year.

Then moving back from Africa happened. Actually I managed to keep up with it until Afrizo happened. Lots of things came to a halt while I toured the US with them. I did read my Bible during those three months, but sticking to the plan proved too challenging. I’m now quite a bit behind, but since it isn’t designed to finish in a year anyway, there’s grace. I am determined!

Other resolutions: exercising more, learning to quilt, getting a job, and figuring out what to do with my life from here.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Up in the Attic

Yesterday I had a moment where I was in a state of extreme dislike of my current circumstances for one reason and one reason only. I could not put my hands on my overseas cell phone. (I had offered to loan it to a friend for a trip they were going on to England and Scotland.) I was pretty sure it was in the attic of my house. I had seen it among my things when I got back from traveling with Afrizo this fall and I don’t need it in the US so I was pretty sure I had stashed it there and not with me.

But I searched my increasingly disarrayed attic in vain. I decided it must be at home. So I went back to my small well organized room and searched every possible drawer, basket, box and bin. Nope. I dashed off to meet an acquaintance for coffee as planned, so upset with myself for not being able to find it. I fixed that I would pop back in at the attic for one last look before going over to pick up the traveling family to take them to the airport.

Eureka! I found it in a few moments. One box, unmarked and therefore earlier overlooked was where it was. I was glad to get it in time, but it wasn’t going to them charged up. Never mind. They were grateful and said they’d charge it in the airport on the way.

The experience speaks to my constant state of flux and how disdainful it is to me. I haven’t lived in my house for over 4 years. I used to have the attic so organized that I could picture the whereabouts of anything I needed. But it’s been stirred a bit recently due to a leaky roof and some items arriving there while I was away.

So today I spent about 3 hours putting it all to rights. It’s straightened, things are tucked back away and I created a little elbow room by filling a trunk or box that were emptied. I again have a picture in my mind of where items I might need are. I feel so much better now. Let’s see if that amount of organization has a lasting effect on my general state of flux.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas from me...

Every year, growing up, my mom would create a piece of artwork for our family Christmas card. She inspires me even though she’s been gone for six Christmases now. This is my attempt at a rendering of an early 17th Century Ethiopian icon of Mary and Jesus. I hope that your season’s celebrations are filled with the awe of the coming of the Savior and all that he brings to the redemption and meaning of our lives.

As you know I spent the last three months on Afrizo tour. It went well and the team returned safely to Kenya. We all agreed it was a successful trip and we grew from the experience. The tour raised about $250,000 for scholarships for Daystar University. My work with Daystar US is nearly finished, though I’m still receiving support through Daystar.

During this time of transition I am now seeking God for what He has next for me. There are several possibilities before me – I could go back to school, back to a different African country, or go elsewhere in the world. Recently I enquired about joining a short term team to Ethiopia this spring. This will be a good step toward investigating something tangible. All these options sound intriguing and are of interest, but I really need to see God’s clear hand in directing me for the next step, so I would appreciate your prayers for the future.

I’m still reachable by phone at 612-462-2077 (text or voice), my email remains the same; and my snail mail goes to my house 2514 12th Ave. S., Mpls, MN 55404 even though I’m not staying there at the moment. (Let me know if you’re mailing something urgent.)

I’d love to see folks over the next few months, so please contact me so we can get together if you are in the Twin Cities.

May you see evidence of Immanuel (God with us) this season, Jan

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Driving the US

One thing I thought a lot about near the end of the trip around the US was how different Americas are depending on their region. It shows up in all different ways. And I’m sure I’m not an expert in this. I would have had to spend more concentrated energy on Specific observations if I were to make a more accurate analysis of the whole topic.

One area that leaps to mind if how people drive and car culture in general. In Minnesota we are somewhat polite – at least in certain ways. We are pretty mindful of cars merging and will slow down main highway traffic trying to let someone in. It’s not like that on the east coast or just about anywhere else. We did a concert in Pontiac, Michigan. Just the name tells you cars are important there. I think someone told us that a lot of people are car owners, like more cars per capita than other places in the US. I should check that out.

We did learn about making left turns there. Most roads of any size require you to go straight through the intersection you want to go left at and then do a U-turn so you can make a right at the intersection. Crazy, huh? It’s called a Michigan left and it’s considered safer than a normal left turn.

New Yorkers, of course are often carless. At least those in Manhattan. Most of the team stayed in the City proper and therefore with families that don’t own vehicles. I stayed in Queens with a friend I hadn’t seen in years so we had a place to part the van and trailer. Not sure what we would have done without here.

Now don’t get me going about LA. The 4 or 5 or 6 lane freeways weren’t as overwhelming as we thought they’d be, maybe because we were so used to all the freeway driving. But also because we didn’t tackle them during rush hour.

I recently watched the movie LA Story, Steve Martin visits a neighbor two doors down and has to drive there. That kind of driving culture might be true, but I can’t say I saw it firsthand. I did stay 4 streets over from where the group met and I walked it several times. I noted the only others on foot were walking their dogs.

I will think up more, but this entry got long so I’ll stop there.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Well Maybe…Not So Much

I thought I was adjusting to life back in Minnesota so well. Then it snowed! While I still think I’m not complaining too much, I was not prepared! Yesterday I finally dug out my winter coat and snow boots from the attic of my house (that I’m not living in).

Honestly though, I forgot about super dry skin that makes you cold. I forgot how serious static hair is in winter. And I really haven’t figured out shoes yet. I did put away all my open-toed shoes, but I still haven’t worked out the best options for what to wear now.

Living out of a suitcase for an extended period of time makes it easier to make do with a small variety of clothing. When I got my sweaters out of the attic I realized that I have way more sweaters than I should or anyone person should have. I think I counted 4 red ones and I hardly ever wear red! (At least one has to go.)

I still need to work on the car being ready for winter. I need to find my jumper cable kit, top up the wiper fluid and get a scraper/brush. Come to think of it – I was using an old broom for a snow brush last time I had a car in winter.

All of this winter shock makes me think that maybe deep down I am a bit Kenyan. Of course I miss my Kenyan friends. There are aspects of Kenyan culture that seem to be inside me. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss the climate! National Geographic once called it “the ultimate climate in the world.” But for now I’m doing my best to adjust and enjoy.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

It's All Perspective

I think I spent a good deal of this journey on autopilot when it came to cross cultural dealings. I feel I can trust my autopilot because I have lived cross culturally so much. But there are times that I realized in a profound and fresh way that even when we think we are all speaking the same language and seeing the same things our cultural worldview is like a pair of glasses that are tinted with our perspective. It just changes the way things look.

In the first half of this trip I remember having ‘ah ha’ moments when I realized that a team member had a very different perspective of the same thing we just experienced together. Maybe it’s safe to say that after a few of those it was normal or easy for me to remember and operate from the realization that we are always coming from different angles.

However I also remember being surprised a few times during our debriefing on the last day about what our dear Kenyans thought of Americans in general. Actions one names as pride, I would call openness. And if you look at it, it’s understandable from a Kenyan perspective how that action would be considered pride if a Kenyan had done it.

One lesson learned is that even 3 months of touring dozens of families doesn’t necessarily yield a correct assumption. I like to think I’m a good life long learner. And I was always discovering new things about Kenyan culture, but one thing this tells me is that perhaps even after several samples and long observations, I may have come to wrong conclusions about what happens in Kenyan culture.

For all my questioning I still think I have come up with some new insights into American culture. I hope to explore those in the coming entries. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I'm from Minnesota

Yesterday I got to thinking that even though I haven’t experienced a winter for the last couple of years and I don’t really have a winter coat per se, I seem to be taking this cold weather in stride. Today it dawned on me I like that I’m from Minnesota.

I’ve seen what Northerners are like and specifically those who live in the northeastern part of the US. I’ve had conversations with Tennesseans and Texans. I have a feel for those from the Southwest and Californians too. But there is something about where you are actually from that makes you who you are and gives you an innate understanding of your environment.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Kenya too. There is so much about there that warms my heart. And in some ways I feel more at home in Nairobi. But this place is in my fiber. I know how to drive on the highways, I know the proper etiquette for shopping, I love the evening dusk sky looking west from downtown. This place is home. (At least for now.)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Afrizo Tour in Retrospective

I think I have just done the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I was the tour manager for the Afrizo singing group from Daystar. They arrived on Aug 30 and left of Nov 22. The relationships are worth it. I was working for Daystar University scholarship funding so when I think about the many students who used to come to my office for assistance it’s worth it.

That said, I don’t think I could ever do it again. It was the longest extended time that I was so saturated with a task I literally could not think about the future. It was just one day at a time or maybe two ahead. I am facing a huge transition now but I had absolutely no time to process it.

I also had a hard time processing what was happening as we went along. I wish that I could have been writing in the van, but the little reading I did in the van sometimes made me a bit nauseated and gave me some eye strain. So it’s a good thing I didn’t try. I would however like to try to do a series of posts related to the trip for the sake of remembering and noting some of what I learned from this venture.

I am so thankful to have traveled the entire US in a three month span. With the Afrizo team I stopped or passed through 25 States. The team hit another 3 States without me, as I was back in the office for two different weeks during the time the team was here. I think there is about a dozen of the continental States I haven’t set foot in, mostly in the South and New England. Someday I may have to round that out, but for now, I’m happy to stay put for a bit, even if it means enduring a Minnesota winter.

Please check back as I hope to fill you in on more of my cultural tour guide travels.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

It’s already September!

The weather I love is here. I’m just not sure how I will survive a Minnesota winter. But warm days and cool nights! I’m lovin’ that!

At the end of August 8 ‘friends’ arrived in Minneapolis. To be more precise, 8 people from Daystar University, one teacher and 7 students – the touring singing group, Afrizo! They are here for three months of scholarship fundraising concerts across the entire United States. And I’m going with them! The students come from all over Kenya and one from the Congo (DRC). The director, Hellen has been here a number of times and was even a part of last October’s Lausanne Congress in South Africa as she joined the worship team there.

Every single day is filled with all kinds of new things for this team. While my coworker in the office, Hannah set up everything it’s still a load of logistics on me to get these guys all over. Thankfully we also have a very helpful driver, Sven for the entire trip also. My responsibilities lie in a number of areas.

For the week and a half they’ve been here I’ve managed a few days when I could get into the office to try to get my head around the next step. Though I started off feeling only a millimeter ahead of them, I’m still not a lot more ready. I wish I had the time to think through all the pieces of debriefing every day and cultural exchanges. Not to mention being ready with a Bible study each week and encouragements for the team members.

Sunday evening we start our first road trip. Its 13 days to Oregon and back. I will actually switch off with another staff member and get the last half of that trip off, back in MN without the team. Maybe that is when I will mentally catch up. But then on October 3rd we start the big loop: Chicago, Detroit area, Pennsylvania, NY, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Arizona, and finally Los Angeles. They fly home from there two days before Thanksgiving.

All this is to say. I hope to blog about this grand trip seeing most of America through the eyes of dear Kenyans. But I won’t make any big promises. I will just have to see how it goes. I will however update Facebook often. And if you want to follow what the team is doing you can “like” the Afrizo! public figure page on Facebook. The one with the exclamation point is our traveling team.

Thanks for your many prayers to see me through this incredible season.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Gentle Reader (as Jane Austen would say)-

Just wanted to let you know that I'm very much alive. I have been so busy that writing seems to be the last thing on my list, I hate to say. But I would like to be in communication with you more. So I hope things will change.

However, the Afrizo team from Daystar university arrived yesterday and I am now even more aware that my schedule is not my own. On the other hand, the team will likely give me lots of fodder for blogging.

I haven't forgotten about my promise to blog about the North Shore. But it may have to wait a season at this point. We shall see.

Thank you for faithfully checking my blog even when I've been silent so long.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Addicted to Fresh Juice and Kefir Smoothies

I realize it’s been a while since I wrote here. For a while I was feeling like I don’t really have much to say. Now I’m busy and hardly have time to write. I hope to do more writing in the near future, especially of my recent trip to the North Shore.

About a week ago I borrowed a juicer from a friend and now I’m hooked. I start with three to four carrots; add an orange, an apple and a lemon. It’s unbelievably sweet and highly addictive, I’ve found.

If I want to get more filled up, say for breakfast, I throw a couple of frozen strawberries into the blender, add a banana, some of this fabulous carrot-fruit juice and some home-brewed kefir and voila! I may not go back to ice cream!

Lovin’ this new habit.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Culture Crisscross

I'm a little stirred up in the routine department so I haven’t been writing regularly. Among other things I have been introduced to a show called Drop Dead Diva. Long story short - a skinny blond model dies in a car crash and through a mix-up at the Pearly Gates she goes back to earth as a plus-sized lawyer. She has the brains (and body) of the lawyer but the memory of the model.

The premise is very creative. It got me thinking through a different switch up. I was telling my sister-in-law that I think it’d be interesting to do a swap of bodies/personalities from two different cultures; a kind of a cultural Freaky Friday if you will.

Here’s what I mean: Take my Kenyan girlfriend Jane who’s an internal auditor at a bank in Nairobi. Imagine we are going on vacation together somewhere and lightning strikes the plane. Somehow Jane and Jan switch bodies and now Jane (in Jan’s body) is back in the US having never lived there before (though she does know quite a bit about the culture) and Jan is inside Jane’s body and has to work in the corporate world of Nairobi. Yikes!

I think it’d be a new twist on the kind of humor I find most entertaining; cross cultural mix-ups. If I were writing this show you’d be able to hear the thoughts in Jane’s voice while she maneuvers through this crazy American landscape. As I told this idea to my sister-in-law she said, “Because that’s how you feel, right?” She couldn’t have hit it more squarely on the nose. And that’s why I believe I could write it well.

Of course I would need some help to make it funny because sometimes being a Kenyan in an American’s body is just plain old lonely. Even when we switched back, we’d never be the same again. We would have learned how it looks from the other’s viewpoint.

Even now the internal monologue seems to just keep running, a constant flow of what seems strange to me on the inside, while I continue to weave my way through the circumstances that face me every day, trying to act the way I should based on how people perceive me. I wonder if I will ever get over it. If I’m really honest, I don’t want to get over it. But I do want to understand and fit in and go back to having good deep friendships here, too. I don’t want to always be an outsider.

I guess I need to give it more time.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

44 Cents of Fun

One of the challenges of coming back ‘home’ is that everyone’s lives are already filled with tons of busyness and it’s hard to fit into it all. So, I’ve had to put on a sort of creative thinking cap to come up with ways to weave my life back into that of some of the people I know love me, but just aren’t used to me being around.

I’m volunteered to help a bit with a huge fundraiser garage sale. I have poured myself into fixing and cleaning the missionary apartment (not really social). I’ve just showed up at offices or small groups. Most of the time these methods of finding fellowship have been successful.

This week I was talking with a girlfriend that is on the other side of town. I’ve seen her and her brood a couple of times and we talk often, but I don’t get to really spend time with her, at least not yet. Last week I told her about the recipe I was trying for this bake sale. I’d eaten it before but this was my first attempt to make the recipe. As I described it to her over the phone she thought it sounded yummy and asked me to send her the recipe sometime.

Part of being in transition means I have a little trouble with short term memory. I did however manage to remember her request, I typed up the recipe in order to send it to her. But I then realized that she doesn’t get on the computer very often with her busy life and I even wondered if when she did she had a printer nearby.

I printed it out and mailed it. As in snail mail! Does anyone even do that anymore? I know we all seem to collect mail from the box, but what’s out there? Usually ads or bills. Who ever get something really fun in the mail?

I hope this will cheer her the way a handwritten note from a friend who moved to Ohio while I was gone cheered me this week. All that for 44 cents! And if you do it right you might even get to lick an envelope.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

When in Doubt; Bake

I’ve stalled out on processing this major live change, so to bide my time I have been baking a bit. I tried a recipe yesterday that I have sampled once, probably over 3 years ago. Since I still remembered it I thought I’d give it shot. Here it is. It’s super yummy.

Back to reality later.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Very Berry Coffee Cake

Sorry about the silence. There is too much going on under the surface to be able to find the energy to pull it up and write about it. But for the most part it's enough to keep me from writing at all.
I did just post a recipe on the other blog I'm a contributor to. Please check out this easy coffee cake recipe for summer!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Reverse Culture Shock

The main problem I have with the title is that it doesn’t really seem “shocking”. It’s actually very subtle. But it’s there, and I’m trying so hard to catch the nuances of it to share here.

For example: we’ve had a couple of kind of cold days here in Minnesota (super hot ones too since I’ve been back) but when you order a soda, servers still put ice in them! I could be sitting there shivering and I still get a drink with ice.

Sometimes I wonder why there is so much water in the toilet bowl, it’s totally unnecessary. Why do people drive during the day with their headlights on? I am still in wonder that I can get my vegetables weighed at the cashier and I don’t have to find someone in that produce department to weigh them (which I can never find anyway).

Christian culture is a little unfamiliar too: Prayer meetings are a little awkward because no one says “Amen” at the end of each person’s prayers. Not only are people not dancing in church but they aren’t even moving – even a little. Aren’t they happy to be singing praises to the Lord?

One thing that always does kind of shock me is the ride from the airport: I am asking myself, Where is everyone? If Hiawatha Ave was in Nairobi there would be people walking on the sides of the road, and probably down the middle too. Not only that but if you were stopped at an intersection there would be people trying to sell you fruit, sunglasses, car freshener, newspapers, bootlegged DVDs and so much more.

I keep thinking to myself, I’m different, can’t you people see? I’m really African and you should be explaining things to me here. There are moments in Kenya when I did actually forget that I wasn’t Kenyan, so it’s only natural that I will feel different here now. I’m sure I’ll soon get over it, but I don’t always want to.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The "New" Car

By the grace of God I found a reliable (I hope) used car that is “affordable”. I am the new owner of a 2001 Camry 5 Speed. It’s very much like the last car I had here, but a little newer and less rust.

I feel blessed to have found and been able to pull everything together to purchase it today. I did have a little help from my friends: One who did all the research for me on what kind of car to buy (because he’d already done the looking for a similar one for himself). Another who went to look at a couple of them with me, and ended up taking to out to get mine today. And still another who shuttled me to the bank this morning to get the money.

If you prayed I am especially grateful to you for that unseen help and directing me to just the right car. It’s a real blessing to be truly mobile.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Pillow Overkill

Today I made a couple throw pillows for the guest apartment I'm staying in. It's an unnecessary addition to the master bedroom here but it gave me a creative outlet. I couldn't have done it without the help of my friend Debra and her boys.
It was pretty fun to make them since it's pretty quick project and therefore fairly instant gratification.
Of course this evening I was finally putting it all together and found a couple more pillows that were to go on the bed. Now it's a little much.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Guy Magnet

I've been home about a week and I've had the privledge of driving a borrowed car from friends of friends. It's turned out to be a guy magnet!

Too bad I'm not keeping it longer. But God has provided a more practical car while I look for a good used car to purchase. It's been fun.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Back to the Land of:

Fast and free internet
Pre-measured butter
Huge refrigerators
Free mall parking
Corn-fed beef
No house help

It’s always an adjustment, even when I know what’s coming it seems all so strange to walk around humongous “box” stores and look at all the different items available or drive along wondering why there aren’t throngs of humanity walking along the roadsides. I keep telling myself I will get used to this all again. (Some things are better not getting used to.) So far I’m enjoying the aspects of urban Minneapolis life that I was missing in urban Nairobi. (Plus I seem to again be sleeping fairly well at night!)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Back West

Hello Friends,
This is a quick post to let you know I made it back to the Twin Cities yesterday evening about 6:00 pm. All my luggage arrived safely. I'm staying in the missionary apartment next to my church and the land line here is: 612-333-3098. I think I have figured out the answering machine, so feel free!
I would really love to see folks and catch up. And at the moment I have quite a bit of free time. I left my cell phone number in the last post but here it is again: 612-462-2077.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Globe Shift

In Kenya often when you say you are "moving" you use the word "shift". I'm shifting to the other side of the globe. This is my last entry from this side of the world. I wish I wasn't going, but I have seen how gracious God has been in this "sudden" shift.
When I arrive I will be staying in the Missionary Apt at Bethlehem which probably has a landline. I will soon find out. But I will also have my old cell phone back. That number is: 612-462-2077. I'll be looking for fun things to do over Memorial Day Weekend as I try to stay awake during the days to beat jet lag.
I'm looking very forward to seeing many of you very soon! Tutaonana

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Dearly Departed

I just wrote about missing my mom on Mother’s Day. Perhaps it would have been more noticeable in the US. I mention it because today would have been her 85th birthday if she were still here. Earlier this month marked the second anniversary of my sister’s death. I had such a busy time in that first week of May that it was the end of the day before it occurred to me.

My dad was another great influence on my life. But in many ways I am far more used to him being gone. Last November marked 10 years of his passing. I spent several teen years being at odds with him – especially over his alcohol abuse/addiction but I was able to forgive him while he was still alive – realizing that he was doing all he knew, coping the only way he’d been taught. And that I had no control over his choices or that God chose to put me in his family. He left this world for the next when we were on very good terms. There is a very certain peace in that, even when I am not sure I will ever see him again.

I miss each of my dearly departed family members – but each in different ways. Thinking about them causes me to realize my own mortality and how everything seems to be so fleeting in this life. What legacy did they leave behind? What will I leave behind?

No concrete answers today. Just the honoring of my family members that influenced me over the years. These are the things I think about when I’m shifting from one side of the globe to the other.

Monday, May 16, 2011

To Kijabe and Back

Today I took a delightful trip down memory lane. I can assure you that there has been some significant economic development down my memory lane. The morning views along the way of the Great Rift Valley were spectacular!

I went to visit the dentist today. There are plenty of good dentists within a 5 kilometer radius of where I live in Nairobi, plenty! But 15 years ago the dentist at Kijabe finished straightening my teeth. He had been trained by an orthodontist that had just been out for 2 years. That dear orthodontist had his eye on my mouth full of crooked teeth from the day he met me.

After a year of trying he finally talked me into getting it done. Dr. Warren Rich was the learner and I was the practicee, one of, anyway. It was a more than passable job. Warren knew I still had an over bite, but considering where he’d started, it would do. The reason I had to be talked into it was because I didn’t think I could afford it, even at the low Kijabe Hospital rates. So you can bet that I took really good care of the retainers I was given at the end of all that.

They have lasted me 15 years! Tonight I will sleep with new ones! Dr. Rich doesn’t practice there as of just a few weeks ago, but he was around today and that was a special treat. He got to see his early work, advise the technician on how best to handle my type of retainer and tell me some of his dreams for future ministry.

In addition to several other tasks and appointments around Kijabe today, I ran into Harriet. She is the house help of a dear friend and became a friend to me when I met her back in the middle 90’s. Seeing Harriet was like looking into the pleasant Kenyan past for me. She’s a very traditional lady who has lived in the lives of a few Americans to the point of really being like family.

The dental office has its own building now, the ‘dukas’ where you can get a few grocery items have really grown, all of RVA is gated and guarded… but seeing Harriet feels like time has stood still. There are some things here that I will miss and I can’t even describe why.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Whatever You Do

Starting to think afresh about purpose and calling. Since I wasn’t expecting this change in path at this juncture I feel like the sky is kind of the limit. Still there are specific things that pique my interest. And sometimes I feel like my interests are at direct odds with one another.

I stumbled on to a couple of blogs written by industrious homemakers and it’s so tempting to long for the lifestyle that I think they have. (Not that I really have that option.) Still I would love to create a handmade chenille baby blanket for a special baby or bead for hours on end or play in a friend’s studio…

I’d love to open a coffee shop with just the right furniture, music and tasty treats – the perfect atmosphere. Or start a little handmade invitation shop somewhere.

But I know that if I wasn’t involved in Kingdom work somehow I would soon feel bored and shallow and eternally useless because it all burns in the end anyway, right?

There are three verses that come to mind. They are “whatever you do” verses.

1Co 10:31 - So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
Col 3:17 - And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Col 3:23 - Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,

Monday, May 9, 2011

Kenyan Fast Food

I admit I have a weakness for ‘chips.’ Most likely they aren’t the kind that leapt to your mind. It’s the British word for French Fries. I don’t like Burger King fries that much. And I have to be really hard pressed to eat at a Mc Donald’s in the States. Neither of those chains are in Kenya. But chips here although a bit greasy are made fresh with real potatoes.

So as I was out running errands and deciding what to do about lunch I opted for chicken and bahjias* at Mc Fry’s. The always use fresh oil – so even if it’s not all that healthy, I figured, I’m not going to enjoy this kind of fast food much longer.

*Bahjias are a kind of fried potato snack made with Indian spices. Sometimes they are coated with garam flour that has the spices mixed into it. Usually they also have some dania thrown in – dania is what Americans call cilantro. (I think it’s funny that neither word is English.) Anyway, Mc Fry’s has just the spices and dania so they are a little better for me than the coated ones.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

There are just some things that are challenging...

I wish I was an easygoing person. My mom was. In fact, she was the antithesis of the stereotypical worrying, doting mom. That’s not to say she didn’t care about her five children or spoil us from time to time. But she just didn’t have a big agenda for her kids and she was gifted with a pleasant attitude and encouragement that she bestowed on everyone.

I suppose when your mom has been gone for over five years you might think that all the bad memories are faded and one can only remember the happy, fond things that happened. But my mom really was all that wonderful. I could fault her for things, and I can still remember those things. But she really was an extraordinary mom in nearly every sense.She could come and find that article of clothing in my closet that I had been trying to find for a half an hour; she’d pull it right out in a minute. She was a good cook (even though she didn’t really enjoy cooking all that much.) She had her own sense of style. She was incredibly talented and artistic! For example, if I wanted a new hairstyle as a teen she could draw it with my face so we could decide if it would look good on me or not.
I was a happy child until I got to my moody teen years. Then I turned into a dark person. That changed when I met Jesus at age 16, but until then I credit my survival through those years to my mother. Without her I truly believe I wouldn’t have made it. So in a way, God used her to buoy me along until I heard the Gospel message in a clear manner.

For her I am most grateful to God. I still love my mom and miss her ever so much. I don’t know that I will ever have such an incredible deep love relationship with another human being the way I did with my mom. But I will continue to look to God who is the ultimate lover of my soul and who knows my depths more than my mom ever did.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Lightening the Load

One of the main tasks these days is sorting and getting rid of so much stuff. It is therapeutic in some ways, but it’s also telling how I can accumulate in such a short time. (I didn’t go buy all this stuff, some of it was given to me others left.) As I was preparing for the big sale I went through the utility drawer in the kitchen and pulled out all the flashlights that I had but wasn’t using to add to the sale items.

Among them was a hand crank light that I had been given. The small instructions warned that it should be cranked every few months to keep it current and it should be cranked for at least a minute every time. I had been cranking it for a bit before I stopped to read the directions. Then I timed cranking it for a minute. It still had no flicker of light. Into the garbage it went.

A vague thought crossed my mind as I tossed it, the street men that pick through our garbage will wonder what this is. A few days later I was rounding the corner in my residential area, a corner where the street men sort of hang out and I saw a guy sitting there cranking away with a beam of light coming through his hands.

The scene only registered in my head after I passed. I smiled. I was free of something I deemed garbage and this man found it and had the patience to get it working again. Now he had a battery free flash light of his own. It made me happy.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Lonely Part of Life

The times that are the most challenging for me to be alone are in times of transition. These are the times of thinking about life and needing practical help with things and constant self-talk to get me through the given situation. Sorting is a great example of that. I pick through papers I have kept for at least three years and some I might have even carried out here (so I’ve had longer.) I tell myself over and over again that it’s all going to burn in the end anyway. And those kids I know and love will draw me another picture.

These are the times I long for a partner, or even just a good friend to work by my side and say that encouraging word to get me on to the next step. But that is not what God had ordained for me. And even though it doesn’t feel right somehow I know God isn’t wrong. Maybe I just needed to learn that self talk - how to encourage myself. But evidentially I never actually learn it because I’m in the same mode in transition again.

In fact, I have found myself longing for a much more permanent life than one like I’ve had here. And while living with a transient or living permanent mindset are neither intrinsically good or bad, perhaps God is telling me something in what I long for. It’s hard. I want to make sure that I don’t have to live without a status or move often. I want to settle. But at the same time, if I hadn’t become so settled here, the breakdown or my life on this side wouldn’t be nearly as hard and unsettling.

If I do find myself in a permanent situation next, would I then become indifferent to God’s work to call me to live simply and trust him for the future? There are no easy answers. But I am walking through this – one day at a time.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Fuel Shortages in Nairobi

I hadn’t noticed that there were petrol (gas) shortages this week until Wednesday evening when some of my small group members mentioned it after our meeting. Guess I have been in my hermit hole trying to sort and pack so much so that I haven’t even been keeping up with the local news. It’s still not quite clear what happened. I suspect the problems in Libya don’t help but it appears that the Kenyan government is blaming oil marketers for either not being ready for our holiday last weekend (Monday was Labor Day in Kenya) or suppliers are creating a problem to enable price hikes.

I debated trying to eek by on my just over quarter tank of petrol but slowly realized nothing recovers quickly in this country. So I felt inclined to join the queues today. I carried my Bible and a good attitude and managed to get in and out of the third station (first two were out of fuel) in just under an hour. In addition to getting my daily Bible reading in, I had some amiable chats with the workers and other customers that were queuing.

Another memory created. I am going to miss this place.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Last weekend I took part in a huge sale…

God is so good to me. I came home for my Easter trip and hit the sorting and pricing work pretty hard. I still had to get out of the house once and a while and my roommate moved out last week too. But otherwise I had my nose to the grindstone. What can I fit in the car that isn’t yet sold or still in use?

Saturday morning I was up early. A young man from my small group came over and helped load up both our vehicles. Off we went. I had asked a couple friends to pray for the weather, we’ve been having a lot of rain… it was overcast, but turned into a sunny day.

We joined the ranks in the parking lot at West Nairobi School and set up my wares next to many other sellers. In what seemed like no time at all there were throngs of buyers begging for discounts on this or that.

My standard line was that I’m not bargaining yet, try me in the last hour or so if it’s still here I may reduce the price. It’s a good thing I had Ian helping me – if someone was pushing too hard I’d send him or her over to Ian – he could be firm without getting irritated.

Although I got a little sunburned, I’d call it a very successful day. I actually cleared about $780. I still can hardly believe it. Maybe it just goes to show the cost of living is higher here, even at a huge rummage sale.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Between Tears and Laughter All Day

I realized at some point today that I keep switching between being on the verge of tears and laughing out loud. This back and forth pretty much depicts how I feel in general about leaving.

It’s a holiday here, Kenyan Labor Day. So it’s actually pretty quiet out there. I zipped down to the office at Daystar to get a few things done. It’s the best time since no one is around.

I decided to stop at Yaya Mall on the way home – I just needed one or two items from the store. As I walked in the entrance I heard in a little Kenyan accent, “Hi Auntie Jan!” I looked up to see two “nephews” who were killing time by walking up to the mall and back from home. The greeting came from my friend Marta’s 13 year old adopted son who is absolutely delightful. As I walked away I thought about how I would miss such a greeting when I’m back in the US.

As I was choking back the tears, a few paces later and I saw the former Vice Chancellor from Daystar. We hadn’t seen each other in months as he now works at a different university. We exchanged warm greetings and I let him know I was leaving soon. I told him to greet his wife for me in case I don’t see her before I go. (She still teaches at Daystar.) I walked away nearly laughing at God’s kindness for a “chance” meeting of Prof Nguru when I had not even wished or expected it, yet such a welcomed meeting.

When in the mall I spotted a striking woman with very unique hair. I would bet she was Ethiopian, based on her features, but her hair was something between an elaborate Ethiopian style and dreadlocks. She was beautiful! When she caught me looking at her, I smiled at her and she gave me a genuine smile back. I thought about how people in America will often tell you off for looking at them and would probably never smile. I thought I will miss this. Another small sadness.

I dashed through the shop and headed out the door when someone else called my name. A friend I needed to pick something up from. It was such perfect timing. Another happy blessing.

So it goes for this nostalgic gal. I will spend the rest of my days here going back and forth between happy and sad, pleasure and distain. Then I will get a plane and travel for 24 hours with no sleep and I will be even more emotional upon arrival.

Constantly Thinking of Things to Blog

Sorry for the silence. I know my faithful 8 readers want more to look at. :)
I just haven't had a ton of time to actually sit down and write them out. If someone comes up with some kind of voice software that I can record in the car and then just load it and it'd be typed up on the computer, I'd be blogging all the time.
Maybe there is such a thing.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Other Night at Java

Java House is a small chain of local coffee house type restaurants that have a full menu. It’s one of my favorite places to hang out. I’ve been to nearly all the locations around Nairobi and I have my favorites.

The other night a friend and I went to the one at Junction Shopping Mall for a quick dinner. This one isn’t a location I get to very often. Perhaps I’m experiencing an unusual amount of enjoyment observing my surroundings here in Nairobi, but it was a particularly good night for people watching at Java Junction.

It was about 8:30 when we arrived. The place wasn’t completely full – but it was busy none-the-less. We were sitting near one end of the place not far from the door. I wished I had a small camera that wouldn’t have been perceptible to passersby since all of the images I will attempt to describe are far better in a visual than I could put in words.
One man walked by with a bright red outfit on. The edges were trimmed in red plaid and it was beaded and had little round metal dangles hanging all over it. What it said was: Masai, but not a real Masai, more of a performer in a singing or dance group costume. (What was he doing out in public like that, without being the entertainment?)

A few minutes later a small group of ladies dressed in tight and shiny clothing and very high heels walked in. One woman was wearing bright red woven coasters on her ears. (I mean they were earrings, but the same thing without an earring wire on it is sold in the market in sets of 6 as coasters.)

She had in tow a little boy – not older than 3; very cute little bewildered guy and definitely a ‘point five’ as they are called here, meaning one parent is white and the other Kenyan. When he turned we could see this little lad was sporting a mullet hair style, and a nice full one at that. Oh my.

There were other interesting folks about; I guess more variety than I’m normally used to since the guy with the big pokey afro was interesting too. But most of the others I’ve already mentioned stood out more than the usual crowd.

Out in the parking lot as we were leaving (9:45 or 10) there were several men working on building some kind of covered platform. I tried to get my brain around what it was they were making. It was too far from the restaurant to be an extension of it with outdoor seating. My friend and I discussed it; eventually we decided it might be a cart return. We have never seen one here and it struck us as extraordinarily funny. We first giggled; they burst out laughing as we dashed to the car.

I just can’t imagine it being used.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

It's Palm Sunday in Nairobi

Many of the matatus (Nissan vans used for public transportation) were sporting palm branches on the front of the vehicle. I found this a nice way to remember the day.

And it almost didn't cross my mind that the reason there is a palm branch on the grill might be because they hit someone carrying the branch that was putting it on the road to make way for Jesus coming through. The matatus are always trying to get ahead.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Christmas in April

Here is a look at my belated Christmas package. It was mailed on 15 Dec 2010 by airmail small package. I'm so thankful it did get here. Fun, fun!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

I Wish I Were a “P”

What I wouldn’t give right now to be a “P” on the Myers Briggs Personality Inventory. If you don’t know what I’m talking about it’s ok. It the last quadrant on the personality indicator that runs on a scale from “Judging” to “Perceiving.” I’m pretty high on the Judging side. It just means that I am a decisive person who likes to plan things out and know what’s ahead.

Having lived in Kenya for some time and having mellowed with age a bit, I can be pretty spontaneous. People who know me well know that I may show up at your house unannounced or call at the last minute to go out and do something. But it’s mostly a learned behavior and my preference is for a plan and sticking with it.

If I were a Perceiver I would be more comfortable with not having a plan at all. I would be a person who really enjoys the process of arriving at decisions, someone who’d relish the path to the next thing. Instead I sit here just wishing I could skip the next several weeks and simply be done on this side.

But as someone commented recently, it’s all for my sanctification. So somehow I am going to keep working on enjoying the moment and living where I am, instead of wishing for the future to be here already.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Transition is Hard

Transition is probably challenging for most people because it’s the rare person who really embraces change. Normally I’m a gal who knows her mind and I like my lifestyle and the freedoms it affords me. But throw some change my way, some big change and I’m not myself suddenly. Small decisions become mountains to navigate with no clear path. I hate being alone in the process and wish I knew the future.

While there are things that drive me crazy about this place, there are so many things I absolutely love about Kenya. Now I think of the smallest random action, like the silly smile of the gate guard and I’m nearly reduced to tears of sentimentality.

Honestly though, we never know the future, we only think we do, because of our own plans. And we have no guarantees in this life, no control over what happens to us. I think of the passage in James 4:13-14 –

"Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit'-- yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes."

Deep down, I’m not really worried about what I will do in the future. There will be something God has for me and eventually I will know what it is. It’s just the in between part that is such a challenge, so lonely.

I’m working at embracing change and walking through this season of transition while enjoying every minute left here.

Saturday, April 2, 2011


This morning I watched this 5-minute video explaining the gospel. With all the influence of the West these days in Kenya and especially the influence of African American culture here I wish there was an easy way to show this clear announcement to all. I have a lot of trouble with Vimeo type videos here in Kenya. And they are hard to replay. After some trying I managed to get this one load in a way I could watch it though. The results brought tears to my eyes because of how well done the video is and the message is all truth. Here’s the link I found it on: Propaganda and the Gospel

Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Reality on the Ground

After a few days of denial and just not sure how to proceed, the reality of closing down life in one place to exit started to kick in – that was Monday.

My main daily tasks are any one to five of the following 6 things:

  • Inventory and pricing of items to sell.

  • Networking for ministry opportunities in East Africa (or farther afield).

  • Packing and sorting - making tons of decisions on what to keep, sell or pitch. (Some of this is urgent as I learned of folks going to Minneapolis that could take a couple bags. They left last night.)

  • Finishing up some work related tasks, like figuring out how and then shipping three 6-8 feet carved giraffes to Arizona for an auction.

  • Planning a quick trip out of the country over Easter to buy a little more time to pack up & say good-by.

  • Booking appointments like car repair and dental visits.

I have found myself rather scatter-brained this week in an almost frightening way. Distracted might be a good description of what’s happening. No matter what word you use it’s not safe for driving in Nairobi traffic nor is it really productive for getting all these different things done. Never mind that as soon as word is out, people are asking you what you have for sale and trying to bargain with you for it.

I can’t forget to mention that networking and this trip out of the country can be related. So I’m trying to kill two birds with one stone. That might not really happen, but I’m trying.

I am normally a very decisive person, but put me in this kind of situation and suddenly it’s much more challenging to “pick one,” especially if there isn’t an obvious choice bubbling to the top.

If you are inclined to pray, I’d sure appreciate it; for safety, for clear mind, for sleep at night. (I lost at leave half a night last night.) There is absolutely no way I can control this exit process, even though I would like to and it may sometimes seem attainable. I need the peace that passes all understanding to navigate this season. And this is without even thinking about the season that starts when I arrive in the States.


Saturday, March 26, 2011

Plans Change, God Doesn’t

A chapter is closing for me.

My missionary Class E work permit was finally denied at the immigration office. The other type of permit that Daystar could apply for is super cost prohibitive. That means that my time in Kenya (for now) has come to an end.

I don’t have any idea what God has in store next. But I can tell you that I will be coming home in May or early June and staying there for the foreseeable future, working in the Daystar US office in Edina. If you are inclined to pray about my future – please do.

The sky seems to be the limit right now. I have strong interests in staying in this part of the world so before I leave I will be doing as much networking and checking into future ministry options as I possibly can. But I’m open to seeing where God might have me elsewhere.

More details as they come to light. Thanks for your support.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Easily Amused

You’ve probably heard enough about ‘fashion’ from me here, but it’s a constant that never ceases to amuse me.

The rains have started (take a moment to thank God for that with me) and we’ve exchanged the ever present dust for pervasive mud. (Of these two I cannot tell which is a better problem to have, they both have advantages and disadvantages.)

Yesterday morning I went to pick up a friend in a housing estate that has all dirt roads and now some pond-size puddles. I wished for my camera as I made the first turn off the main road. The first stretch of road – about two blocks long has dukas (small shops that sell various items, like vegetables or convenience store items) on either side of it. As I made my way finding the shallowest puddles I saw a man step away from a duka smoking, it was wearing flip flops and shorts and a jacket – it was a chilly morning. I smirked as the sight.

Almost no one wears shorts in this country (well, tourists do) and certainly not in this “cold” weather! But the sight made me think of what some Minnesotans might look like when the weather starts to get into the 40s after a long winter, but it wouldn’t have been surrounded by dukas and huge mud puddles.

I guess you had to be there.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Randomly Missing My Mom

Sometimes it bothers me a little bit that I get so sentimental about missing my mom, but then I realize it's because she was the one person in this life I was ever closest to. (Not sure that's good English.)

I'm relaxing at home this evening and listening to Van Morrison. He has a hauntingly beautiful song that I really like. But today it brought pouring tears because I realize that I do sometimes feel like a motherless child - so far from home.

Sometimes I feel like a motherless child
Sometimes I feel like a motherless child
Sometimes I feel like a motherless child
Long way from my home

Sometimes I wish, I could fly
Like a bird up in the sky
Oh, sometimes I wish, I could fly
Fly like a bird up in the sky

Sometimes I wish, I could fly
Like a bird up in the sky
Little closer to home

Motherless children have a hard time
Motherless children have a, such a hard time
Motherless children have such a really hard time
A long way from home

Sometimes I feel like freedom is near
Sometimes I feel like freedom is here
Sometimes I feel like freedom is so near
But we're so far from home

Sometimes I feel like a motherless child
[Incomprehensible] sometimes I feel like, motherless child
Sometimes I feel like a motherless child
Long way from home

Sometimes I feel [Incomprehensible]
Sometimes I feel [Incomprehensible]
Sometimes I feel [Incomprehensible]
But we're so far from home

The sound of the music captures the feel so well. Give it a listen if you are able.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

“It’s good to make them cry”

I’ve been so quiet.

It’s not as if my brain doesn’t still power through topics to share here while I’m driving. I just can’t possibly write and drive at the same time.

I have been working diligently on our student semester reports. We have about 50 students on our regular scholarship through Daystar US and another I-don’t-know-how-many on “private” scholarship through our US office. I try to gather the students at one time and have them write out their answers to 5 or 6 questions about how the last semester has gone. But in some cases, especially for foreign (from other African countries) students it’s a bit like pulling teeth. It’s challenging and frustrating and sometimes very telling and rewarding – all at once.

There is a meeting scheduled tomorrow at which I hope to talk to them about taking better responsibility for their scholarship. Some ownership and some gratitude for what they are being handed. Frank, my office mate tells me, “It’s good to make them cry once in a while.” I think what he’s saying is that it’s good they know how serious things are. And I hope to help them see that it’s time to grow up a bit.

I don’t want to make anyone cry. It’s not the point. But I do want to do my part in helping our students mature in the servant-leader men and women God is calling them to be.

Here’s to hoping the next round of semester reports are a little easier to go through. And I hope they show up for tomorrow’s meeting!

Friday, February 18, 2011

The "How-Are-You?" Chorus

Imagine if you will an adorable Kenyan child between the ages of 5 and say 9. When they are roving around in a group and they see a mzungu (white person) they will muster the courage to greet me with, "How are you?" But this is a special How-are-you. It has a certain sing-songy lilt to it and is often repeated over and over until you respond. They hit a particularly high note on the “you.” The result is a child-voice chorus of little people following you around chanting "How are you, how are you?"

Well, some cleaver mzungu made that into a ring tone for you mobile phone! I haven't downloaded it yet, but if you want to get the idea - here's the link. I might have to use this! And if you've ever experienced this you might have to too.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


I think about fashion often here. It’s so very different than fashion in the US. But even there it can be odd at times. I’m sure some fashions have changed and I will be surprised and perhaps repulsed whenever I return to find them.

Of course with all the western media available here in Kenya some fashion carries over. Some of that is unfortunate. But probably the most unfortunate part is the mix. Regardless, my drive home one day last week gave me a couple of glimpses of styles that produces very wide grins on my face.

The first I passed was a man in a sort of Outback style safari hat, only it was a print material with animals and other designs on it. The man’s expression was quite serious, but I found him hard to take seriously.

Kenyans generally love bright colors. Some folks say certain tribes are more drawn to bright colors than others. This attraction to ‘bright’ brings me compliments whenever I wear a hot pink blouse to work. Men are not deterred by colors that we might think are gender split. With all this there seems to be a nation-wide love of the color orange lately. There is even a political party and a mobile phone company called Orange. (They are not related to one another.)

Not surprising then to see orange dress shirts on men, but add a lime green tie and wow!

Sunday, February 6, 2011


It’s interesting to think of how acculturated I have become and how much I’m not “African”.

Frank, my Congolese officemate, was lamenting about the slow internet at work the last week. I told him, “Welcome to Kenya, Bwana.” To which he replied, “I’m an American.” This statement was generated from his many years of living in the US. I think I retorted with something like, “And I’m a Kenyan.”

An American friend of mine that lives with a Kenyan family and does a lot more with lower income folks on an everyday basis wrote this blog entry that I could really resonate with.

See what I mean? My list might be a little different but it gives you the idea.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Some Things are Just Too Cute

If you have ever seen the movie Zoolander with Ben Stiller you will appreciate this very cute photo of some friends’ 6-month-old twins, boy and girl.

I laugh out loud every time I look at this photo. But the comment stream sort of make the humor ever better.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

If It Really is “Never Too Late”

Friday last week I was advised this is not the time for me to enroll in Daystar. It’s complicated to explain but it sort of boils down to the fact that my life and position here at Daystar is not quite settled yet.

Needless to say it was a false start for returning to school. But I truly believe it wasn’t without its reasons. I now have a fairly good understanding of how demanding 11 credits can be. It helps me understand scheduling and workload since I need to continue with all my work duties as well. In many ways this gives me a better feel for how to manage in the future. After nearly two weeks of classes I was beginning to wonder if I could hold up under all the demands of this schedule.

My Intro to Philosophy teacher was very sorry to see me go since he was already enjoying my contribution to classes. Since he is a friend I was able to explain why I had to drop the class. He said he looks forward to teaching me next time. I look forward to that as well. He’s truly one of the best teachers here. I will be trying to catch up with students I was starting to befriend just to let them know what happened to me.

So, if it’s really “never too late” to start classes, it will all keep until August semester when I can give it a shot again provided everything is worked out. I told one of the Afrizo gals from the last team that I have to wait until August and she thought that seemed like a long time. But I know it will be here before I know it. In the meantime, if you are inclined to pray for the outcome of my visa status and missionary benefits, I’d greatly appreciate it.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Saturday's Craft Results

Inspired by a 'free' Saturday, I pulled out all the valentine paper crafting items I could muster here in Kenya.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The New Year Resolved

Well, I missed what sounds like my most interesting class on Friday due to some silly case of food poisoning. The class: Art and Culture. I hope the teacher is understanding of the very incapacitated state I was in.

Due to this state I also missed church today. And for one reason or another it’s been challenging to get there. Since lying on the couch was about all I could do, I listened to a sermon I had on my iPod by John Piper. I’m sure I’ve listened to it before. But his words are so full of Bible that they never grow old of being repeated.

He was urging a bunch of young people at Passion 2000 (I think) to not waste their lives, but live for something beyond themselves. Oh how I needed to hear that myself! Even though I am a missionary, I have a tendency towards a small view of things. I am sure that I do some things that are big to our students every day. I don’t focus on that, instead I get lost in the things that aren’t going right.

There is something about the way in which JP preaches that helps me see God again, focus on the Cross, and see the insignificance of me in the whole scheme of things. I think this is the break I needed for the New Year, the new beginning. The takes the ‘edginess’ off. It gives the point of reference or goal to move forward in.

I may have missed doing it right on New Year’s Day, but I am starting to feel much better about the direction I’m going this year. It has to be all about God.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

New in Class

Today I attended my first class as a real student for the first time in…a long time. If I was in a freshman class in the US I would stick out. I dress different than teens and my gray hair gives me away in any culture. But add to the average differences that I’m white, very white and I stick out! There’s no getting around that awkward conspicuous feeling. I honestly normally never feel like I stick out, at least very rarely.

The room is a buzz with excited first-years. They know one another from the full week of orientation down at the Athi River campus that took place last week while I was in my office on the Valley Road (town) campus. When I arrived the classroom already had well over a dozen chattering students and more were filing in. By 7 minutes after the hour our lecturer arrived. Things came to a haul as far as the verbal excitement. He carried on for an hour and a half before mentioning a break. But in the end he just kept going for a little over 2 hours straight.

I came in feeling so out of place. But the class is about communication and culture. Quite suddenly sticking out seemed it might be an asset, at least to the lecturer. We shall see - at least I survived.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

What I love about my E-Group

E-group is the name my church in Nairobi uses for small groups. It comes from the Greek word ekklesia and that means something related to church or sent out from the church or something profound like that.

I’m the only non Kenyan in my group which is part of why I love it so much. Technically, I love the people in my e-group more than the group itself, but our group dynamics are pretty good. There are roughly 12 of us and of course with busy urban lives there are always some people missing. I would like it if people made it a bigger priority, but I try to keep in mind how cultures are different and so it’s slightly easier to excuse frequent absences especially of those who don’t have a car to get to and from this evening group.

We break for about a month over the holidays because in Kenya everyone takes time off. Most people travel somewhere, if not to their grandparents in a rural area then to a hotel at the coast so their kids can play in the water. (I’m talking about urban middle class Kenyans.) So tonight, our first night back, I hosted a ‘social’ night.

I dashed home after work to pull together some typical Kenyan snacks. We had peanuts, popcorn, matoke (cooking banana) chips, carrot sticks, British style sausages and I whipped up some scones. Most of them love my coffee which is especially gratifying since Kenyans usually prefer tea.

We ended up sitting around the table full of snacks and chatted about everything from what the local expectation is when relatives come in from upcountry to who plays Cricket or Squash. I’m always enlightened. I could spend every meeting listening to these guys explain Kenyan culture to me. I love hearing stories of Arthur’s high school days, how Ian will raise his son if and when he ever has one and how Monica is raising hers and all the other ladies’ opinions based on how they have raised theirs.

Four of our members are lawyers; in fact they are two couples. So we often get some insight into a political situation or some other aspect regarding the law. This was very helpful last year as we came up to the referendum signing.

Tonight we tried to help Arthur with how to get his 15 year-old son to not wear baggy clothes. (It really irritates Arthur.) We also touched on Nairobi driving habits and how to get your way when driving. Arthur thought that if you opened up the head of a matatu (public minivan transport) driver it would be a pile of worms crawling and wriggling all over themselves because that they way they drive. We all got a good laugh out of that.

I wish you could come visit my e-group. They are simply the best.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Undiagnosed Edginess

I seem to be a little on edge lately so I was thinking as I sat in traffic on the I seem to be a little on edge lately so I was thinking as I sat in traffic on the way home tonight that maybe I have a case of undiagnosed culture stress. I have no real idea if that is actually a problem, but it sounds plausible. I started thinking about what might actually cause culture stress. It seemed to me that it might be losses of certain freedoms, or not knowing all the perimeters or ‘rules’ to life here.

Odd thing is that I know a lot about Kenyan culture and Nairobi culture in particular. So I probably know more of the perimeters than some, and certainly more than when I first came. So why should it catch up with me now?

Also I got to thinking about a friend who has been living and working in a ‘closed’ country for about 17 or so years. I once visited her. There are lots of western freedoms she has had to give up. She doesn’t need to dress like the nationals in her adoptive country but she does dress covering from wrists to ankles everyday – even when it’s hot, really hot. I wonder if she ever feels this kind of culture stress. If that’s what it is.

Anyway, I didn’t come to any real conclusions about my current situation. I shouldn’t feel edgy, but I don’t know what is causing it. The days are only going to get more challenging as I try to figure out how to balance work and school.

C’est la vie.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

2011 Already?

The New Year has slipped in virtually unnoticed. I did entertain on New Year’s Day for a celebration, more of an excuse to have people over for a potluck. I left the invitation open for folks to bring others. It ended up being the most international event I’ve had in a long time.

I hosted Americans and Kenyans, Ethiopians, a Canadian, French, Irish and even a South African. Oddly there were only about 21 or so people there, so I think that’s a pretty good mix. It was mostly a time of visiting with others. But one Ethiopian gal that is a struggling refugee came with everything to make traditional Ethiopian coffee, it was a real treat!

I hope to post some photos eventually.

The date of this post indicates I’m a little behind on things...

Friday, January 7, 2011

Never Too Late?

Today I chatted with one of my favorite lecturers at Daystar, a kindly, elder (and not very cool) Bible teacher. When I made some reference to me being an 'old lady' he told me a story.

When I was a pastor in Massachusetts I was invited to a birthday celebration of a lady turning 99. I asked her about her life and her story. She told me that when she was 72 she and her younger sister (age 58) bought a piece of land and build a house. She had lived there ever since. I celebrated her 100th and 101st birthdays with her too. She told me you are never too old to start living.

So, nearly 30 years after graduating from high school and almost 20 years since the last time I was in a formal education situation, today I was admitted as a student to Daystar University for a communications degree in Public Relations. The Rev Daniel Mutungi who told me the story said I should be studying International Relations. Although there is no degree in International Public Relations, perhaps there will be by the time I finish. Which might be quite a while since I will continue in my role at Daystar as the Communications Coordinator for Daystar US fulltime as I have been, only taking one or two classes per semester.

I was handed my admission letter today. On Monday I will get a student number. Next week sometime I will register for classes. The week of the 17th they start. Between now and then I will be doing some research to see what classes were in my AA degree that would be the same as ones in this program. So we'll see what happens from here. I sure would appreciate your prayers for a number of items related:

Most of my credits from Lutheran Bible Institute will transfer and I won't have to retake classes I have already taken.
This 48-year-old gray matter would be able to comprehend what I'm taught.
I would be able to be disciplined in all areas of life so school work doesn't get overwhelming.

Thanks for your continued support in every way.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Rain Forest - Day 4

Our hostess, Julia escorts us on an early morning ‘sounds’ walk. We are off by 6:15 or so and Julia is feeding us information about the features of the forest. It isn’t long before she says, “That’s the call of the Great Blue Turaco!” This is a large metallic blue bird that this area is known for. Julia gestures to a nearby tree just off the road. She instructs, “Watch, one will call another will answer, then one of them will move to another tree.”A moment later we see our big bird, full wing span and distinctive crest make its short trek to a nearby tree. It’s still too dim to make out the color but we know it’s our bird by the call and crest.
As we turn into a path off the main road, Julia points out a tiny toad stool. A few more steps and our soft conversation disturb some Colobus monkeys overheard and then begin jumping from tree top to tree top.
I turn to go back as the others go on. This time alone is the time I can really hear the forest. Birds I can’t name crisscross the road. I stop to take a photo of a flower and listen to a bird whistle that sounds like a person starting to whistle a tune. I freeze. I want to hear it again but I can’t even bring myself to try to imitate it. I don’t want to chase it away. I wait. It whistles again, less confident itself. I press on.

Behind me is such a deep and loud croaking sound that I imagine a frog the size of a Volkswagen Beetle. But I remember Julia saying that the Blue Monkeys make that croaking. I turn to see if they are following me. I can’t see anything there, thankfully. This type is the more aggressive ones and I had a couple of up close encounters with them during our stay. They must have helped coin the British saying, “cheeky monkey” since they are fairly bold about coming in the house, etc.
In the afternoon I try to finish a water color painting I’ve started on an earlier day of a very large tree in the garden of Rondo. My friends think it’s pretty good but my mother wouldn’t be impressed. Not that she’d discourage me from continuing to practice and probably give me a few pointers – mostly on lighting.
It’s a wonderful place and so restful but it will be good to get back home too. We travel back by bus the following morning and it takes us all day to get home. We get to see the landscape of Kenya on the way. We agree the tea fields are probably the most beautiful carpet of green the countryside wears. Some places we pass are all tea fields as far as the eye can see.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Day 3 - Christmas Day!

The four of us, Julia, Jane, Laurel and me had a wonderful breakfast together and opened gifts. Late morning found us on a long walk. We started out down the ‘dirt’ road out the main gate. After a few hundred yards its forest on both sides of the road. Jane spies a chipmunk looking rodent crossing the main road. The flora is beautiful along the main road.

We turn off the road on what looks like an old logging road. A sign marks the road, “Yana River” points us down the lane. Along this way we see and hear the forest insects, birds and other animals – and evidence of locals. There are piles of cut wood, small trees along the side of the road. It’s being gathered for pick-up later. I feel anguish about the forest being cut but at the same time I know the locals need fire wood for cooking. It’s hard to be very upset over that. Still there are many good reasons for the forest not to be cut down.

After walking for more than an hour we reach a tributary of the river and my two companions decide to explore a smaller side trail. I opt to stay by the stream and rest a bit. Sitting quiet I am privileged to watch a multitude of various butterflies; small white or little lemon yellow ones, black and orange ones, large turquoise and black ones, huge yellow and black ones. My friends return and we hike back by another route through the forest. This two hour hike tells me I’m not very fit.

Every afternoon it seems to rain. Maybe that’s why they call it a rain forest. It’s the perfect opportunity to play a board game. Julia says the word and a staff member comes to build us a fire in one of the sitting rooms. We play a game of Clue while having our afternoon tea. Before we break, Laurel reads us some of the things she’s written over the years about Christmas. Laurel has worked with refugees in a lot of places around the world. Most of her prose is centered on the fact that Jesus and his family were also refugees.
It’s good to remember the challenges along with the bliss of having our Savior arrive. Our “God with us” understands the tough things humanity goes there.