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.