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Thursday, February 26, 2009

I sure hope practice makes perfect!

Hmm...I was oddly reminded tonight that I need to persevere with my Swahili if not for myself but of those I'm talking to. Tonight after dinner I joined my Kenyan family for a cup of Kahawa (coffee). I brought my Swahili book with me and was practicing my nouns. I would point to something around the room and say the Swahili word. Like I've said before, I'm pretty sure that I sound like a two year old to them. "Kisu...Knife!" "Kicombe...teacup!" "Glassi...cup!" Then I decided to practice words for the people in the room. "Mama...Momma!" "Kaka...Brother!" Instead of using the word "Baba" and pointing to the father I decided to be a little fancy and use the very respectful word for an elder, "Mzee!" Well, I spoke too soon and with too much of my American tongue. What SHOULD have sounded like "M-zay" came out as "Mz-ee"...the way we would pronounce a double "e" sound. It didn't take long to know that I had said it wrong because down went the paper the father was reading and he asked, "what did you say that I am?" I repeated myself, "Mz-ee!" All the brothers began to laugh. One finally paused his laughter long enough to tell me that I had just told his father that he was a "bad one." I was trying to give much respect to the father and ended up calling him a "bad one" in front of his whole family. I'll tell you this much, I will NEVER again forget how to pronounce that word! I'm sure glad that God had enough grace to put me with a family who laughs a lot...he knew I would need it!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Country tunes and tortillas...

Surprise, surprise (or how some of you know me to say “suuuuprise!”). Here I was today sitting in my Kenyan family home doing some of my Swahili homework and probably annoying my Kenyan “brother”, Stephen, by asking for so much help when we transitioned our Swahili conversation on a completely new tangent. We had the radio playing in the background when all of a sudden I heard familiar lyrics….” I can be your hero, baby…” At the first few words of the song I began to laugh, first that this song was even playing, and secondly at the song in general. We then started talking about our favorite types of music. Stephen informed me that his favorite was 80’s music from America. He said that the new music that comes from the US is “too much ruckus.” I agreed with him. He then asked me what my favorite type of music was. I wasn’t sure if he would know what Country music was so I almost said something like Rock or Alternative but decided to take a swing at it. I told him that Country music was by far my favorite then followed up by asking if he had heard of it or wanted to? He just shook his head and said “Country music is too slow.” I figured he didn’t really know TRUE country music but then I was surprised to hear him timidly singing one of my favorite “deep south” country songs: “Country Roads…Take me home…too the place where I belong! West Virginia, Mountain Momma. Take me home, Country roads!” I wasn’t sure if I heard him correctly until he belted out the West Virginia part…sure enough, He knew EXACTLY what country music was! I’m learning that I can have absolutely no more preconceived thoughts on the people here in Kenya. They cease to surprise me on a day-to-day basis and I love them for that! I’m starting to wonder what their preconceived thoughts on me were/are.
I often find myself sitting at the dinner table where English is RARELY spoken and trying to listen in on their rapid-paced Swahili conversations, straining my ears to see if I can pick up a familiar word or phrase. More often than not I’m left in the dark. Recently, however I’ve been entertaining myself by imagining what they COULD be talking about knowing full well that their conversations probably don’t consist of what’s in my imagination. For example, the other evening I was craving tortillas and knew the only way I would be able to have them was if I made them myself! I have never had previous experience with making tortillas from scratch but figured there was a first time for everything. They turned out OK but didn’t look like Rio Grande’s by any means (oh how I miss that tasty food!). Instead of being perfect round circles, mine were more, lets say, “hole-y!” Some were round-ish, some were half round with some dough hanging off in an odd shape, some were going for a more square look…you get the picture, they looked crazy! At dinner I placed the plate of tortillas on the table and gave m little 5 second apology about the look of the tortillas…forgetting that if you had never seen tortillas before, you wouldn’t know how silly they looked (however they do have a food called “chapatti” which is similar to tortillas). Well after that, the Swahili conversations began! I’m sure they were talking about important things but since I had no idea, I imagined that they were probably all discussing what this strange Mzungu made:

Momma: “Oh my…we need to get this girl some cooking lessons, any takers?”

Stephen: “I think she was going for Chapatis, but completely missed the whole “round” part.”

Dad: “Don’t be so harsh on her, she spent 3 hours to make these little pieces of flour-like “things.””

Sami: “Just 3 hours, I felt like she was in there FOREVER!”

Alex: “Shh…Why is she laughing? Does she understand us?”

Momma: “No way, have you heard her practice her Swahili lately, she sounds like a two year old!”

Andrew: “But hey, as long as she brings Betty Crocker over to our house, She can talk like a two year old as long as she wants.”

Ok I must say that I know that this really isn’t what goes on around the dinner table but it entertains me while I sit there in silence….but then again who knows, my Swahili isn’t that great, maybe that really IS what they discuss?!? I hope that by the time my month here is done that I will be able to surprise them and join in their conversations…how fun that will be!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Betty Crocker visits Kenya!

Hello to you all! I pray this blogpost finds you well (hmm that sounds funny but you get the picture!) I have successfully completed week 1 at my Kenyan family homestay! Whoo Hoo! If you had asked me on day 2 I would have said that I wouldn't make it...but now I'm learning to love it. There is never a moment that goes by in that house without learning something about the culture. Mostly I am learning about their culture but every once in a while I share with them about mine! On Friday evening I was asking the family what they do on Saturday. I figured we might go to Nairobi and do something fun... go to dinner or something? Not so fast...I'm not in Kansas any more! Everyone in the family had some sort of chore to do...lawn, sweeping, shopping, cooking. I had nothing! Doing "nothing" has been hard for me. I understand that I'm the guest in the house but often times I hate just sitting there while they clean and cook and do laundry. SOooo, I asked them if I can do something! The middle son said " can bake!" Ha...ok, I thought. I LOVE baking back in the states when I have measuring cups and spoons and all the ingredients I am familiar with...baking in AFRICA is quite different. I woke up early on Saturday to get a "game plan." How was I going to cook something that this family would actually like?? I boarded a matatu and went into Karen (a local town with a supermarket). There it was...on a small shelf...Betty Crocker did it again! DOUBLE FUDGE BROWNIE MIX! Yes....That would be easy! But then I realized I needed a pan and eggs. I searched everywhere for a p an and couldn't find one. I asked someone and they showed me tin foil. I stood there for a long long time trying to figure out how much tin foil I would need to make a sturdy enough pan. Nope, not gonna work! I finally found a pan by the couches and books...go figure! Then I went on my search for the eggs. Ok, back in the US where do you find eggs? Near the milk in the refrigerator! Not here...they aren't refrigerated and just on the shelf next to the eggs. I opened up one of them to check for cracks and instead of finding cracks or JUST eggs a bunch of feathers popped out! I almost threw the box over my head wondering what the heck that was but then I remembered...I'm in Africa! I grabbed another carton of eggs and decided to pray there weren't cracks and just buy it anyways.
Later that afternoon I whipped up the batter and baked the brownies (after trying to recall all the math I learned in science class to figure out how to convert degrees Fahrenheit to Celsius). The brownies turned out well...not amazing but I had baked something! :) Later that evening we shared the brownies. The family was amazed at them. They kept eating and eating. After every brownie they would say "I have to stop but I just can't!" They asked me what they were called and I said "brownies" I think they must have repeated me about 30 times. Then they started putting the brownies up to their skin and saying that the brownie was misnamed because it was more black then their own skin! They asked me how I made it and I said from a box and they just laughed. I had kept the box to show them so I brought it out. That was quite the entertainment piece for the evening as they sat there reading EVERY word on the back of the box. At one point the dad asked me "So you just add all these things and then "poof" you have a brownie?" I told him that you have to bake it first and that the flour and cocoa IS in that package, they just do the measurements for me! I think my favorite part of the whole thing was having them read the front of the box and repeating "Betty Crocker!" about a thousand times. Finally one of the said "Betty Crocker is my friend." Haha I bought some oatmeal chocolate chip cookie mix that I will try next week. This mix doesn't even need an egg...just wait till I try to explain THAT one to the family! ;)

Monday, February 16, 2009

From Swahili lessons to a cup of tea...

Ngong Town is where I have been staying for the past 3 days! I moved in with a Kenyan Family on Saturday and it has been quite the cultural experience so far! I was greeted with a Kenyan Feast! They kept telling me to eat more and more! I thought I had to since it was my first night and I didn't want to offend them on Day 1 but by the time I was finished the "momma" of the house asked me how I had room for all of that! After 3 other meals with them I've found a plan...take TINY TINY portions and then add on smaller ones if necessary. Momma also informed me that since she was in classes most of the day that I would be doing the cooking. Whether she was joking or not, I figured to play it safe and act like she was joking. I told her it would be a mistake to have me cook since I only know how to make Muzungu (westerner) food...apparently thats all I needed to say because she hasn't mentioned a word since! The next morning I woke up to momma in the kitchen preparing chai for breakfast. It was then that she handed me a large tin milk jug and a plastic basin as she informed me that my shower was broken and that is how I would bathe. I think the best part about all of that was watching her try to teach me how to properly bath with a basin. Obviously I did it wrong the first day cause my hair felt so dirty the entire day...this is something I will have to perfect! I'll keep you updated with the basin progression. ;)

On Sunday we attended an Africa Inland Church. There were tons of Mzungu (westerner) visitors there and I got to meet some fellow AIM-ers. After church my host family drove me past my language school so that I would be familiar with where my bus would drop me off. (That was quite sweet of them). They also asked their nephew to take me on the matatu (crazy Kenyan Buses) route so I would know how much to pay and where to go and get off. I think I memorized the number of matatus and stage stops better then I've memorized anything in my entire life! I've also accumulated phone numbers from MANY Kenyans...Anyone I think may be helpful in case I get lost. Haha...I think they think that I must be prone to getting lost! I was also able to phone home to my family yesterday and had a great conversation with them. I think its starting to sink in that this is my LIFE for the next year...their voices were definitely a breath of fresh air and so encouraging to talk and relate to. I miss everyone indeed!

Today I had my first day of language first day to ride a matatu alone! I know you all were praying for me because I wasn't nervous at all! Surprisingly I almost fell asleep on it! I got to language school a bit early and was able to start a book I brought "Passion and Purity" by Elizibeth Elliot. So far its been a great book and I can relate to Elizebth so well on the level of being a Female Missionary in a far off land and everything it took to get here.

After language school I stopped for a cup of tea at a cafe. As I was sitting there "doing the African thing" I thought to myself...I am actually here. I'm actually in Kenya sitting at a cafe table and sipping some Kenyan tea I was even able to converse with the waitress using some of the phrases I had learned earlier that day! I probably looked silly sitting alone and smiling so big but I couldn't help smiling knowing that God has been faithful to bring me here, to encourage me when times get tough and to even provide a cafe table and a cup of Kenyan tea to ponder all that He is, has done and will do! Praise the Lord. And thank you all for your prayers....I feel them so please don't stop! :) I pray for you all often!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Jambo, Family and Friends!

Again, sorry for the spotty postings on my blog! Once I move back to Nairobi, I will be able to post more frequent….Can’t wait!

Its hard to believe that my time at orientation is coming to a close. I thought it would drag on, but truly…it has flown! Just a few weeks ago I was arriving in Kenya with wide eyes and nervousness about the unknowns that await me. Now, being in Kenya for almost 3 weeks, I’m starting to feel like this is become “life” for me. Not “home” yet (don’t worry mom), but I’m starting to accept that this is where the Lord has me for this next year. Its amazing how the Lord has provided in both big and small ways to help prepare my anxious heart for the unknowns. When I left the States, I barely knew the names of those I would be traveling with, now, however, I’ve come to accept all these people as family. Everyone here has had to say goodbye to those they love. Everyone here has had to leave that which they called home and make a home in Africa. Its comforting to know that whichever emotions I feel and experience, others have too.

This past week has been packed with tons of information about Africa and her people. I’ve learned so much from our African guest speakers about how to build relationships with Africans in our community and how to become a learner and a belonger in these communities. I’m excited to be able to apply what I learned these past few weeks to people I will meet in Nairobi. In just a few days I will be leaving orientation and moving into a Kenyan family’s home for a month. This time will be fruitful, I’m sure, as I learn from the family about what it means to truly live in Nairobi. I’m excited to see how God will stretch me and comfort me during this time and through my experiences. Please be praying for me as I will be learning Swahili through a tutor during this month. Also, please be praying for my time with this family and that I would be open minded to learning and living a new culture.

Speaking of culture… I had quite the cultural experiences today!

#1 My friend Kim and I were in charge of shopping for our orientation’s “Celebration Supper” that will take place tomorrow evening. We didn’t know what we were getting into when we signed up for this job. Over the past three weeks, the market in Manchakos got a frequent visit from us westerners who would clear the shelves of candy bars, yogurt, and coffee. All our previous visits were quite calm-Key word here is PREVIOUS. Today was a different story. As Kim and I entered the doors of the market with our shopping list in hand we went to grab a cart and get on our way with our list. We had categorized the list by the layout of the store so that we could get everything in one quick sweep. Well, quick wouldn’t quite be the word to describe today’s visit. I knew it was going to be a rough day by the crowd in the store. We decided to go with the motto “when in Kenya, do like the Kenyan’s do.” Sooo, we weaved our cart between people, tapping them if they didn’t get out of the way and pushing our way to the shelves we needed to get to. At one point, I bent down to grab some rolls and as I was down, someone decided my head would be a great place to rest their basket while they checked out the quality of bread on the shelves above me head. Interesting, indeed! I brushed it off and figured; well I’m in Kenya so that’s just how it is. As our cart began to fill up, the stares from Kenyans grow. They probably were wondering how two “Mozungu” women were going to eat 50 hamburger buns, four bottles of Ketchup, 20 lbs of meat, three gallons of ice cream, and 10 candy bars. Trust me, by the time we left the market…..we could have eaten it all! Many other things happened in that market that made Kim and I just stare at each other in disbelief, but I think the one that trumped it all was when we were in line. We had already waited about 15 mins, when a man behind us decided he didn’t want to wait any longer. His solution: moving past me, pushing Kim aside, carrying his basket above our heads so that he could get checked out first. Logical, right? Haha I have to laugh because I think of how ridiculous this would all be if it happened in our local supermarket in America. Imagine getting something from the top shelf and having someone set their basket on your head. Imagine having a group of people walk up to your cart and just stand their looking at what you are buying. Imagine waiting patiently in line and having someone behind you push their way in front of you without the clerk correcting their behavior.

#2 Today we went on "Home Visits." During the home visit, our orientation group got split up into smaller groups where we went to a local family's house to visit with them and practice what we learned this week about interacting with Africans. My group got picked up in a car...apparently we got the royal treatment cause other groups had to walk to their houses... we would find out later that it wasn't exactly a good thing that our host family had a car! The host's name was Carol. She was a very kind woman and decided to take us on a tour of the village. it was quite interesting driving through a village in a car on roads intended for walking. At one point the bottom of the car got caught on a mound of dirt as we slowly scraped our way over it. I assumed that since the family owned a car that they lived in a wealthy area, but I soon found out that those were just assumptions. As we continued slowly down a dirt path, we neared a field and Carol pointed out her window at two cows. "These are our cows!" she said proudly. At that moment I realized that I can't just assume things anymore! The house was a quaint cement building. We were immediately greeted by the entire family. Momma, uncle, son, pastor, sister- in-law, and niece. After the introductions we were prompted to have a seat as tea would be served soon. Not only were we presented with steaming hot chai, but we got to taste an assortment of true African food: Boiled pumpkin, boiled yam, and what looked like a boiled root of some kind. Apparently I was staring at the root (mostly in the "what is that???" sort of way) and it got misinterpreted as me really wanting a lot of it, so Momma got a plate and cut and peeled me a huge piece of this purple-ish root. Its moments like these where I have to purse my lips, close my eyes and pray hard. Let me tell you, roots taste like a dry mush of nothing. I took my time downing the root in fear that swallowing it whole would make momma think that I loved it and wanted more! After two hours of sitting, chatting, and nibbling on the root my group decided that we should head back to the college for dinner. As we began to say our goodbyes, Momma told us that we can't go yet because she wanted to take us to her parents house so that we could greet them. I figured if she seemed like she was in her 60's that her parents probably lived close by....boy was I wrong. Momma ordered us a taxi and we started our little caravan towards a more rural area in the mountains. It took about 20 minutes to reach her parents house. Again they offered us chai but we knew it was getting dark and so we offered them prayer instead...they kindly accepted! It was a great learning experience and an overall fun time to be had. Again though, out of context and in the context of funny would it be if someone picked you up to come to their house and they drove their car on the side walk, expecting all others to clear the path. Or if you get to some one's house and they bring a root to the table and cut it up for you to eat. And the best yet...imagine visiting someone for the first time and they tell you that before you leave, you have to drive 20mins to visit their parents and say hello! Over the years I've grown to love and appreciate these differences!

If at any point in these stories you were able to imagine yourself in this market or the home visit with me, then...WELCOME TO AFRICA! :)

I miss you all and would love to hear from you when you get a chance! (

If you could be praying for the next stage of my ministry in these specific areas, I would be most blessed:

1) My time with my Host family

2) Quick learning of Swahili

3) Safety in Nairobi

Thank you all for taking the time to read my updates of my ministry in Africa. Its been such a rich time already, I’m excited to see what riches this next year will bring.

I think and pray for you all often. Asante” (thank you) for all your prayers too!


Sunday, February 1, 2009

My little friend Brian who walked with me to the top of the Mountain