Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Knocking and Entering

A different group of my students who showed up to study for APs.
Knock, Knock

CrazyMom and I were sitting in our main living area around the evening fire with a guest from the US when there was a knock at the door.  We exchanged a glance guessing with our eyes on who it might be and then the door opened and four of CrazyMom’s students walked in. 

Yes, that is correct.  Four students walked in our house without anybody answering the door.  “Knocking and entering” is the culture here in Africa.  In the West, such actions would be nearly unthinkable and would be grouped with such criminal acts as breaking and entering.

When our guest was preparing to leave Kenya, I asked her about what stood out about her visit to Kenya and one of the first things out of her mouth was mentioning the students who walked into our home for extra help.  While it was surprising to her, she also found it endearing.

I find it endearing as well.  But more than that I find it an excellent motivator to not lounge around in my PJs.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Kenya Kids Can and My Family

“Does anybody want to go along?” I usually ask my family as I get ready to head out the door to go visit some schools that Kenya Kida Can works with.  Almost always 1 or 2 of my kids will hop in the car to go with me.

In many of these schools visitors are rare.   When there are visitors, they usually come to meet with the head teacher and they do not spend time with the students.  While I do make it a point to connect with the students whenever I am in a school, there is always an extra level of excitement when I show up if my kids get out of the car.

For schools in our area, the children might not have ever interacted with American children before and it really is an exciting opportunity for a cross-cultural connection.  And these connections are a real treat for both my kids and the students.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

And Our Youngest is Ten

How clearly I remember when our oldest, Megan, was going off to kindergarten.  I could not believe that I was old enough to have a child going to school.  Now our 7th and youngest child has turned 10.  The next time I blink, Sheri and I will be empty nesters . . .

Monday, April 7, 2014

Championships and Concussions

The second term at Rift Valley Academy is a significant one for our girls since it is the women's soccer season.  Megan (Miss Bookworm) was a captain and played sweeper while Emily (Ed) played center mid.  Injuries seem common in our house, but the girls were able to stay healthy enough to play most of the time.  Emily did suffer a significant concussion during their win in the championship game, however, that knocked her out of school for the next week.  She has fully recovered now and as Pa Ingalls says, “All’s well that ends well.”

Although Grace (F.G.) is only in 8th grade, she was allowed to play up and be on the JV team, which was a great fit for her.  She played well and her team also won the championship game in their league.

For boys the team sport this last term was basketball and Nathan (Buddy) blossomed as a player.  His extra personal workouts really paid off in his development as a player.

Sports are not the main thrust at the school or in our home, but we appreciate how they add significantly to the development of our children.  That being said, we are glad that our older girls are taking the last term off from sports so there will not be as much stress on our schedules.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Mosquito Wars


My light comes on at 3am in the morning.  I blink hard as my eyes adjust to the light and I reach for my glasses.  Operation Slap-n-Kill has failed and now Operation Hunt-n-Swat has begun.

Wearily I put on my glasses and pick up the fly swatter that I keep by my bed.  Staying still, I watch and listen trying to locate my enemy and find the perfect time to strike.

Operation Hunt-n-Swat is always the last resort in the war with mosquitoes.  Even when you are victorious and eliminate your enemy, you still lose because it takes a long time to fall back to sleep after standing on the bed with the lights on swatting at mosquitoes . . . and dealing with internal anger issues from the fact that Crazy Mom is fast asleep while the war is being waged.

That is why the first line of warfare is Slap-n-Kill.  The tactic here is that when you wake up with buzzing in your ears, you slowly ease both hands out from under the covers and place them a foot on either side of your face.

Then you wait.

The instant the buzzing stops you assume the mosquito has landed on your face and you simultaneously slap both sides of your face with your hands.  If the buzzing does not resume, you have won.  If it does, you lie in wait again.  The beauty here is you never have to open your eyes.

But after a few hard swats your ears start ringing and you can’t hear the buzzing anymore and that is when the lights come on and you resort to Operation Hunt-n-Swat.

But . . . every time I go to Nairobi I am on the lookout for an electric fly swatter.  The bazooka in bug wars, these puppies allow for mid-air frying of flying pests and the zap brings such a warm rush of satisfaction that sweet sleep soon follows.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Family Matatu

A real matatu.  They can have as many as 20 passengers.
Just when we thought that the car couldn’t possibly hold any more with its current load of eleven people, accessories, and 200 pounds of groceries on the roof rack of our 10-passenger, 2-decade old Toyota LandCruiser, CrazyMom and CrazyD decided to make a pit stop. To buy a pot. A collective groan emerged from the back as we began to imagine where exactly they were going to put that pot.

Normally, the back of a car would be the logical place to put a pot. After all, the back tends to be more spacious, open, and dirty. Expendable. Today, however, we had spent all day in Nairobi doing some Christmas shopping and there were currently four sweaty, cramped, and slightly irritable children squashed onto the sideways benches. Hence the groan.

A half-hearted attempt was made to suggest that the pot would sit on CrazyMom’s lap. Anyone could see that that particular solution wasn’t going to work. Not with an hour and a half of pitted road ahead of us. The joke over, the base was placed under Ed and K.D.’s already intertangled legs, while F.G. put her legs into the intruding piece of clay and got the pleasure of my feet in her lap. Anything is endurable for a time, right?

An hour later, we reached the stretch of road just before our turnoff that contains a beautiful view of the Great Rift Valley, and naturally, a collection of shops to snag prospective tourists. I could not believe that I felt the car slowing down. Now was NOT the time to be tourists. Unfortunately, our car was, indeed, stopping. We knew what came next.

All exiting the vehicle were immediately whisked into the nearby shops. Running commentary was heard from us remaining chilluns as we watched our driver and associates disappear into a tiny shack, wondering how they even fit in there. We had decided not to get out of the car because we figured it would take too long to get back in. Various sightings of the adults were seen from time to time, but it was not until a half hour later that everyone was safely back in the car. With, of course, more purchases.

Soon enough, despite our griping, we were sitting safely in our own driveway, extracting ourselves from the benches we thought we’d become permanently molded into. Stretching our stiff and sore limbs, we were glad to be home. So, transportation was more comfortable in the States. But this? This is what makes us fit in. Our very own Big Crazy Family matatu.
Packed into our own matatu.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Peeing in Private

“How about we just run over to those bushes to go to the bathroom?” one of our kids said to the other kids. We were sitting under a lone tree on safari in the Maasai Mara. Our drivers had picked out this tree to eat lunch under precisely because it was a lone tree and you could see any wildlife that might be approaching.
Our glorious lunch site on the Maasai Mara.
The kids decided against it, which only led to a bit more desperate of a situation as we packed up lunch. The drivers drove us over to the bushes to scout out a good place for a potty stop. As the driver found a spot and stopped the car my dad said, “What is that in the bushes?”
It was a lion. We decided to pick a different set of bushes to go to the bathroom in.
The lion in the bushes where we stopped to go to the bathroom.
One of the perks of living in Kijabe is that we are only about 4 hours from one of the greatest wildlife parks in the world. And to top it off, we get to enter the park at the resident rate (about $15) verses the rate that non-residents are charged ($80). This December we were able to visit the park with two sets of grandparents, which was a real treat. Here are a few photo highlights:

A zebra that wondered through our camp one night.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Gift of Stitches

Buddy and the butcher knife.
“Buddy cut himself!” the kids were yelling as they streamed into the house. Buddy appeared in the doorway looking a little pale.  He seems to injure himself often and it is usually not a big deal, so seeing his skin color was a first indicator that this was a larger-than-normal cut.

On the way out of Nairobi earlier that day we had pulled over to the side of the road and purchased a 6-foot long piece of sugar cane for 50 shillings – about 60 cents.  Often the guys selling the cane will cut it up for you into bite-size pieces, but this seller’s English was as bad as our Swahili, so instead he cut the cane into four long pieces.

The job of slicing and dicing the cane fell to Buddy when we got home.  He promptly sharpened the kitchen butcher knife and then set up shop in the yard.  The other kids gathered around to eat the pieces as fast as he could cut them.

An awkward knot in the cane led to a sliced thumb on Buddy.  CrazyMom and I suspected that it would need stitches, but heading off to the hospital when there is a doctor’s strike going on is not something to do lightly.  Instead, we called the home of an RVA nurse even though he was on vacation.  Tipped off by his wife that he was down on the field running, CrazyMom took Buddy down to the field to try to find him.  His generosity of spirit got the best of him and he agreed to stitch Buddy up as soon as he finished his run.

We are thankful to work with so many great people here at RVA that are always willing to jump in and help with whatever needs to be done – even if it is sewing up a finger when you are on vacation.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Smiling, Not Crying

“So, dad,” I was saying on a crackly international call with an annoying delay, “What plans do you have for next fall?”

I was feeling my father (Grandpa D) out before asking him the big question – would he and Grandma D consider moving to Africa for four months. The RVA finance office was going to be short-staffed and since grandpa and grandma had extensive experience in that area - as well as 7 grandchildren living on campus - it seemed like a good fit for them.

But there were so many reasons to say no.  The amount of effort that it takes to get out the door, finding people to tend to things while gone, setting aside obligations at church, the expense, and, of course, leaving behind all the luxuries of first world living.

Yet, they said yes.

Grandpa saying goodbye to us in 2012.
A year and a half earlier it was a tearful parting when our family left for Africa.  Grandpa and Grandma D had driven us to the airport in Chicago towing a U-Haul with our 50 pieces of luggage.  We were moving away.  Far away.  And while we did not know all that the future held, it seemed pretty clear that one thing was for sure – we would be seeing a whole lot less of each other.

Living in Africa has meant seeing less of family and friends and there has been pain in that.  But it has also led to the coming of Grandpa and Grandma D to live with us at RVA and that was an unexpected treat.  Somehow this move to Africa resulted in us getting to see more, not less, of at least one set of grandparents.

Us saying goodbye to grandma and grandpa on Sunday.
But now the bumping into them on campus, walking out to a game and finding them on the sidelines, hanging out Friday nights and eating Sunday lunches together has all come to a close.  Having not lived in the same state together since I left for college, these last few months have been a new and wonderful experience.  Now that the time together has drawn to a close, it seems best to take the advice of Dr. Seuss:

“Don’t cry because it is over, smile because it happened.”
Grandma and Grandpa on safari with us.

In the Masai Mara.

Babysitting while CrazyMom and I were in town.

Grandpa helping Anna build her pinewood derby car.

Thanksgiving dinner!

Grandma leading the Junior High Choir.