Apparently blogger decided I was done with the previous post and decided to shut me off. I have way more to say than that! Also note that some pictures may be terribly saddening and painful to see. Once I get home I will post the link to the full album of pictures with descriptions. These were just a few from each day that I had on my phone. Also note that I can be seen wearing a jacket in some pictures. That is because it can be quite cold here in the evenings and mornings without the sun!
Mzungu- what they call us white people. This is a phrase the children yell out all the time as we drive past them! They are so excited to see us and often smile ear to ear, wave both hands, chase after us, and even call out how are you! Something I didn't know was that English is actually their national language. Anyway, the cheer and joy that is expressed in the word mzungu is extremely heart-warming and makes me smile! I absolutely loved it!
Now, I'll get to some of what I've done while being here. We arrived in Maua late Saturday evening, had dinner, and went to bed. We all had our own hotel rooms so I was able to use the second bed for my suitcase and spread out a bit. Sunday morning, 7/27, was church day! We walked to the church and attended the kids Sunday school class to sing with them and meet them. We each introduced ourselves in front of them. After that we went to the Swahili/English mixed service. Worship was awesome and again, they asked us to the front to introduce ourselves and share what we do. After the service, which was probably about 2 hours, we were invited upstairs to join the women's fellowship for tea and snacks. Their tea is about half tea and half milk and always hot. We walked back to the hotel, ate a sack lunch, shopped, and sorted through team luggage. Most evenings we had a team meeting before going to dinner. Dinner tasted very good every evening!
Monday, first official day of work. Rise and shine for me was 6am most mornings. That gave me enough time to get myself and my backpack ready for the day and be at breakfast at 6:30. Every morning I had passion fruit juice and hot chocolate to drink. For food, I often had eggs, bacon, toast, and fresh fruit. Their pineapples and bananas were delicious! After breakfast each morning, we'd walk up to the hospital for 7:30 chapel time. Again, we introduced ourselves in front. Chapel consisted of a song, scripture reading, short message, and prayer. After chapel, we went on a tour of the hospital. Wow. We have so much in the states and are so unappreciative. They have so very little and are joyful for what they have! They literally will be 3 to a hospital bed with little to no privacy at times and don't expect anything more! Of course, at home most of them probably sleep 6-8 to a bed. They wear scrubs so that they are easily recognized as patients and cannot sneak out of the gate without paying. Of course, many cannot pay and are eventually released without payment. The hospital will not turn away anyone with life threatening ailments or conditions based on their ability to pay. Touring this hospital was an experience I believe all should experience, especially for a quick lesson in appreciating what you have. After the tour, we walked up to Suejimo's (Sue and Jim) house for tea time. They had lots of fresh pineapple, bananas, avocado, papaya, and bread each day to go with tea, coffee, or soda. Very yummy. If you stayed on hospital grounds, you got to join them daily for this! Wakati wakazi, time for work! I was assigned to go out to begin work on the aids orphan home. I hammered a lot of nails and sawed a few boards (all by handsaw, no electricity) once Charles (the Kenyan builder pro) got it all squared up for us with a string and weight (no level). We were very productive and finished three walls of a duplex with 10x12 rooms. 4:30ish we returned home for showers, shopping, team meeting and devo, and dinner at 7. It was a very full day with lots of activities and overwhelming feelings of gratitude for all that we Americans take for granted. I slept very well that evening.
Tuesday- rise and shine, breakfast, and chapel like before. After that, I was assigned to see the Zoe program, which is an amazing project for orphans. A few of us were presented with the program and how it is run and all the details. After that it was time for 10:00 tea time, which was the same as the day before. After tea time we walked back down to the Zoe office where we loaded up to go out and visit some of the people that are part of Zoe. I should say that transportation around Maua was always a type of truck with a closed in bed that had bench seats along both sides (talk about a bumpy ride)! The Zoe project helps empower orphans to care for themselves and their siblings by setting up a community among them, giving them money for startup, and is a 3 year program. The people we visited are actually orphans who are head of the household over the their younger siblings and running their own successful businesses. The specific ones I met ranged in age from 17-20. Our first stop was at Christopher's farm. He cares for about 3-4 siblings and has even accepted another male orphan to live with him and work with him. It was a very nice farm and you could tell they all worked hard to keep it up and make it productive. Next was Diana's salon. She is 18 and walks produce a long distance in the morning to sell at the market and comes back to open her salon and do hair. She had 3 girls there training from her who were younger, but also a part of Zoe and heads of households. Across the street we visited 19 year old Mary and her salon. Because she works late hours and has two younger siblings to care for, she actually lives in her salon too. She also had 3 girls training under her. Augustine was next. He runs a small restaurant and knows exactly how much food to cook each day to serve without wasting any! We visited Moses, 17, and Joshua, 18, at their carpentry shop. They are actually in a 3-way partnership with another Zoe project orphan and are heads of households. Very, very impressive program! We came back for lunch around 1 and then went to visit the burn unit with Sue. There I met Pamela and her baby girl, Angel, who was severely burned at around 1 month old when a lantern fell and caught her and the house on fire. She is so severely burned that there is no reason she should even be alive. She lost her nose, half an arm, one ear, folded the other ear, no lips, and has severe scarring all over. She has a part of her scalp that is completely gone and exposing her skull. At first she even had her eyes sewn shut, but now appears to be tracking things with her eyes! By God's grace she has survived thus far and will soon be heading to Galveston, TX to the hospital for reconstructive surgeries. She has been aporoved on both sides now and just awaits her and her mother's passports. Please pray for baby Angel! I also visited the other mothers and their burned babies. Broke my heart to see them in so much pain! After visiting there, we walked to a sewing shop which is actually run by many Zoe successful, graduated ladies. I ordered a skirt and can't wait to wear it! On our way down there we met Roxanne. She is a medical student from Galveston who had just arrived for a month's stay and medical rotations. She was very happy to see some fellow Texans and we invited her to join us multiple times. We all walked back up to She's and chatted for a bit while waiting for our ride back home. Of course, as always, upon arrival at home, we visited the shops again. I enjoyed chatting with the shop keepers. After cleaning up, we rode back up to Suejimo's for a traditional Kenyan dinner. It was delicious! Loved every bite and the fellowship we all shared that evening. Eventually we said our good nights and headed back home to practice for VBS the next day. Lots of laughter was had as we learned our roles in the storytelling, songs and motions, and crafts. I finally got them to feel somewhat more comfortable it and we were able to go crawl in bed.
Wednesday. Oh my goodness, another full day! Every day had so many things in it! Typical morning except Dave led the chapel time for both the 7:30 and 8 service so we all attended both. We finished Dave's talk on joy off with a big "I love you and there's not a darn thing you can do about it" to the Kenyan doctors, nurses, and medical students. They loved that and their smiles went from ear to ear! After our ride arrived, I headed up to the aids orphan home with 4 others to continue working on that until noonish. We only had until Thursday to finish it for the house dedication. We had to get back to the hospital by 1 for a Kenyan lunch provided by the nurses and eaten with the administrative staff. It was another wonderful time of fellowship. Right after the lunch four of us hopped in a vehicle with Stanley to go visit his hometown where they have started a preschool for orphans, ages 3-6. They have a program set up where the orphaned grandparents and orphaned children rebuild a family unit, start being productive to earn a living, and care for one another. The grandparents met us with song and dance and it didn't take long before I was invites/pulled into the circle to dance with them! Such a beautiful experience! The children greeted us with songs and they were soon dismissed from class and free to come see us. It wasn't long before one slipped bis little hand in mine and walked with me. Then they all wanted to hold my hand! Then I held one for a picture and more wanted held. Then the boy took my hand again and walked me to the truck to leave. He didn't want to let go of my hand and looked so sad when I left. I wanted to take him home with me! But then it was a mad race down terribly bumpy roads back to hospital where VBS had already started without us and I was supposed to be running in it! Good thing I trained them the night before! They had already done the Bible story and gone over words and motions to the songs. I had showed up just in time to lead the singing and motions and had a blast doing it! The little ones just smiled at me and danced with me and copied my motions! It was great fun! Crafts for 200 kids with a team of 16 and a few Kenyans proved to be a little chaotic but they really enjoyed their Jonah and the Whale cup craft! (I did discard a few headless Jonahs, Katy!) We played some frisbee, jumproping, and soccer with them, cleaned up, and went back home for cleanup and dinner. Team devo and meeting was after dinner and then we all pretty much crashed!
Thursday. Now I remember why I try to blog more regularly... It takes so long to type a week's worth of events on my phone, in the van, on our way back to Nairobi! Thursday was a wow kind of day. We actually slept in just a bit longer to arrive at the 8am chapel service. After chapel, some went off to paint the aids orphan home and some of us came back to the hotel to prep VBS supplies for the next one near Nairobi. Now the wow starts. We went up for the aids orphan home dedication service! Before I share about that, let me say that the whole community actually chooses the orphaned family unit they want the house built for. So in this, there is no jealousy in the receiving of it, only joy! We were met with loud songs of joy and dancing like you have never seen before! They celebrate the home built for these women and children! We heard a wonderful message from Jim about hearing the voice of God in the wind, the rain, the hammering of nails, the sawing of wood, the laughter and chatter of the workers, and in our hearts as they are filled with joy from both giving and receiving! The family said words of appreciation, othe children sang songs and recited poems, and we all circled the house with our hands on it and prayed over it! There was lots of picture taking and as usual, I was being paged because the group was trying to load up to leave and I was surrounded by children taking and showing them pictures not having a clue that they had walked away! (The team is often hunting for me because I am usually surrounded by children.) Then I came up to the vehicles and was quickly drawn I to the group of singing and dancing grandmothers and enjoyed dancing with them and making the kids laugh with my very obvious white person hips! They just don't move like they wanted them to! And they all wanted to play with my hair. And of course, I almost got left again. They were calling for me to load up as the vehicle started up! Very fun and moving experience! Once we got back home, it was cleanup time, team devo/meeting, and dinner.
Friday. Finally, almost caught up. Today is Saturday. So. Yesterday. Normal morning routine followed by going out on a Bush Clinic. Wow. We started by handing out deworming pills to the children at school. Then the lines started forming and remained extremely long until we cut it off at 3. I assisted in weighing people which actually gave me a lot of opportunities to hold babies as we weighed the mother's! I held some precious babies, some screamers who were scared of the white skin, and even a 3 week old baby! After weighing, they saw the doctors, and then moved to the medicine line. We breaked for lunch for about 30 minutes and the people just continued to wait in line without eating while we ate. I just had to have my back to them, look down at my food and eat, and not look at them. I was the first one back to my weighing station so we could start getting them through the line again! Even still, we turned lots of people away and even ran out of medicine before distributing to all of those who had seen the doctors and waited through the medicine line. Very heartbreaking to turn them away. And of course, at the end, someone had to come get me because I was surrounded by children telling them each how much they weighed and laughing with them as they took turns stepping on the scale! We got back home and had a nice break to cleanup, pack, make last minute bargains, and rest before heading to dinner with many of the people we worked with this week. I think 32 people were at our dinner and I truly enjoyed the fellowship of the meal, singing, and communion with them all! And yet again, another lady wanted to feel my hair. Great evening filled with lots of laughter! We said our farewells and went off to bed.
Finally today, Saturday! As I said earlier, I am in the van writing this blog on my phone. We have about an hour more until we reach Nairobi. We left at 9:30am after final farewells to the hotel staff, Sue and Jim, and Roxy. It is now just after 3 and we've stopped twice for restroom and shopping time. The first stop was at the equator line where we took pictures and some shopped. Most are out of shillings already and we have a week left here! Things are not cheap here like they are in Vietnam. They ask a pretty high price for a lot of things! You have to have the art of bargaining down though. I have a very hard time with that though, so unless I really, really want it, I choose not to buy. Saves me money in the end, right?! Tonight we stay at the Chak hotel where hopefully I will have access to WiFi so I can post this blog! I am alive and I am loving Kenya! One week left. Church tomorrow, VBS Monday in the slums of Kwangware, Masai Mare for a two day safari, back to Chak hotel, and then to airport to fly home on Friday. I will be back on Saturday.
Blessings to you all and remember to be grateful for all that you have been blessed with! Life is not as bad as you may think it is.