Monday, December 31, 2012

A Church Service and, Sadly, a Funeral

Two of the national workers here at RVA are heavily involved with helping to establish a church at a nearby IDP camp - a camp for people who fled for their lives in the violence that followed the December 2007 election here in Kenya.

These two guys – John and John – are remarkable and not only help with the church, but they also feed close to 200 children from the camp each Sunday.  What a privilege it was for me and a couple of others from RVA to go along with them to the IDP church one Sunday a little while back.

Church is held under a tree on the edge of a field.  When we arrived, people were emerging from the camp carrying benches and chairs.  A few others cleared the area of manure and even swept the ground with brooms made with dried grass.

As they were setting up, the children gathered together and stood in a tight group for Sunday school.  A man led a short lesson about Adam and Eve as someone else showed pictures from a picture book – the one Sunday school resource that the camp owns.

The church service started with singing and dancing and then different groups of children and adults would go to the front to sing a song.

Then the rain started.  As the rain picked up, people scrunched in tighter under the tree for some shelter.  It was a nice soft rain with no wind, which I thought added to the service.  This service was also the kickoff of a fundraising drive to erect a church building and the rain reminded everyone of why it is sometimes nice to meet inside.  (By the way, if you want to contribute to their church building, let me know and I am sure we can find a way for you to do so.)

Toward the end of the service, the rain tapered off.  As I was standing there, I happened to notice the shoes of the boy standing next to me.  Most all of the kids had shoes, but many of them were not in good shape.

After the service, the children were organized in order to feed them. Usually, hard-boiled eggs are brought and each child gets one, but today John and John tried something new and brought a large pot of beans and rice.  The children were lined up youngest to oldest to receive their portion, but the food ran out when there were about 20 of the oldest kids left.  They took the news well.  There is a strong desire to care for the youngest children, so the older kids would rather go without than for one of the younger kids to not have a meal.

The next day I was sitting in our brief daily staff meeting at RVA when I heard sad news – a young girl from the IDP camp who was at the church service died that afternoon when she was run over by a truck.  I can’t imagine the pain of a family who had to flee for their lives a few years ago to now lose their daughter tragically.  Life can be harsh, particularly here in Africa.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Water Conservation . . . is Relative

Back in America I practiced water conservation.  With nine of us living in the house, adding 1.0GPM faucet aerators to the sinks reaped immediate and large benefits.

Now that we have come to Africa, our water conservation has gone to the next level.  For example, when doing laundry we don’t just flush the water from the washing machine down the drain.  We pipe the water from the wash cycle into a barrel outside so it can be used to water plants in the yard.  The water from the rinse cycle we collect into buckets and then pour back into the washing machine when we start the next load’s wash cycle.

There are other practices here at RVA to help reduce water usage – such as the bathroom rule of “If its yellow, let it mellow; if its brown, flush it down.”  But all of these efforts pale in comparison to the water conservation of the nationals around us who have to walk a mile or two into the forest to collect water and then carry it back to their homes.  I will probably never fully grasp how much water I consume in a day because I will probably never have to carry water to my home, but living in a land where water is a precious limited resource has made me more mindful of the water that I use.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

One World Run

One World Run is an international 5K running event where runners run in their own location the world over to help benefit orphans from the AIDs epidemic.  Someone here helped to organize the event at RVA and there were over 160 runners that finished the event plus a lot of people who did the 5K fun walk.  Five of our kids ran the event and CrazyMom and the other two walked.  Running a 5K on the sloping side of a mountain at 7200 feet is no easy task and it was great to see how well the kids did.  Buddy finished 14th overall in the race and Ed finished 3rd in her age group.  Here are some fun shots from the event.
FG ready to run!

Ed, Miss Bookworm, and a friend.

Anna with her big sisters.

Where's Waldo?  I don't know, but if you look closely you can find Miss Bookworm, Ed, and FG all in the pack somewhere.

Little Foot walking with CrazyMom.  No, I did not intentionally cut off her head.  :-)

These N guys made it a N+1 legged race.

Buddy looking to overtake the guys in front of him.

Buddy crossing the finishing line.  14th out of over 160 runners!

FG coming to the finish line.

KD finishing strong.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Coffee Staining

We all know coffee stains pretty badly, so when you acquire an off white slightly stained rug for your house – and have some free child labor – rather than reaching for the bleach, grab a hot pot of strong coffee.  Buddy and his friend stained a rug we got at a garage sale using coffee and it turned out great.

Pinewood Derby

One of the annual events here at Rift Valley Academy is the Pinewood Derby.  Imagine trying to host an event with hundreds of cars made by students when the parents are not around.  It is amazing to me that the woodshop teacher – along with an army of helpers – can pull this off.  Four of our children made cars and K.D.’s car ended up being very fast.  (I wish I could take some credit for this, but he built the entire thing at the woodshop without me.)  K.D. won the speed award for his age group and he came in with the fourth fastest time out of all of the cars that raced that day.  Very impressive!
K.D. celebrating the first time his car went down the track and he won.

K.D. receiving his award from the Master Craftsman himself.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

CrazyMom's Birthday

CrazyMom had a birthday last month (her 29th or something like that).  It had a distinctly Kenyan flair since her gifts from the family were all local products.  For example, I gave her a gourd with a nativity scene in it.  We also took CrayzMom out for dinner . . . at the school cafeteria.  While the “cafo” did not have people walking around playing music with violins, they did have a bunch of my students singing happy birthday to her.  What more could one ask for on their birthday?  I should also note that once the students finished singing, one of them asked me if they could get extra credit for helping to make CrazyMom’s birthday special. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

1st Term Sports Roundup

There are many wonderful things about teaching here at Rift Valley Academy.  One of them is being able to have all of our kids play sports.  Back in the US, this was not possible because we could only manage about three sports teams a season.  There was just too much driving to different practice fields, different game locations, and all at different times.  Here at RVA every kid can play because he/she can walk to practice, walk to the home games, and ride the team bus to away games.  What a blessing.

This first term was girls’ basketball, which our girls had not played before but wanted to play to help them get into shape at 7,000 ft before soccer second term.  The girls survived the cuts at the beginning of the season and Miss Bookworm even got pulled up to varsity half way through the season due to a player getting injured on that team.  Varsity won their league and junior varsity made it to the final game, but came in runner up.

Miss Bookworm with the inside shot.
Ed bringing the ball up court playing point guard.
Ed driving the lane.
FG made the Junior High "A" team as a 7th grader and is making a baseline pass around a MUCH TALLER 8th grader.
Buddy made the Junior High "A" team as well as a 7th grader.
Little Foot taking a goal kick.
Little Foot making a move in the open field.
KD and Anna also got to play soccer, but I don't have any photos of them.  It was hard to get to the elementary school to watch them play when I was coaching JH soccer.  It was a great sports season and now the kids are anticipating playing sports in term two.

Making Do

“Ouch!” Little Foot exclaimed.  “Mom’s laptop just shocked me.”

Not believing him, I reached over and touched it myself.  Sure enough, the metal casing was hot.  I had recently hooked up a UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) that is basically a big battery that keeps the computers on when the power flickers on and off.  I had noticed that there was no grounding pin when I installed it, but I did not have one, and I don’t have a car, and if I had a car I would not know where to drive to get one.  So I installed it without grounding the system and figured everything would be fine.

Obviously it wasn’t.

So I made do with the materials at hand – a paper clip.  When I went to “install” the paper clip, I unplugged the UPS from the wall because 220v still scares me.  As I was working the paper clip into place – and trying to simultaneously answer the phone – I yelped as 220v passed through my fingers.  It turns out that even if a UPS is not plugged in it can deliver 220v because it is, after all, a big battery designed to do just that.

By the way, the paper clip is working out great.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

“Those of Us Who Do Not Have”

I was sitting in a community church service here in Kijabe, Kenya, when they took up an offering.  Upon completion, a man motioned for a woman on the worship team to offer up a prayer.  During her prayer she said something that touched me deeply.

“. . . for those of us who do not have, I pray that the next time you bless us you will remind us to give . . .”

I have been to many church services in my life, but nearly all of them have been in communities where the people were among the “haves” and not the “have nots.”  I had not heard such a prayer before nor have I experienced having nothing to give on a Sunday morning.  But now intermingled in our midst are “those who do not have” and I am just beginning to learn about what life is like for them.  May God grant me the eyes to see the needs around me and the wisdom to know how to share.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Flowers in our Yard

I really don't know anything about flowers, but the yard we have been entrusted with here at RVA has a lot plants that are blooming.  Here are some photos that I took today.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Big Knife Thursday

“What? No knives today?” I asked one of my classes this afternoon. A chuckle swept the room as multiple kids reached into their bags, pockets, and belt holders and pulled out the knives they had on them.

If you have been reading my FaceBook wall you already know that Thursdays at Rift Valley Academy is the day that the kids bring their knives to school.  The first Thursday I was at RVA a student walked in with a Panga.  While I did not yet know about Big Knife Thursday, I had seen enough already to suspect bringing an 18” knife to school was not a problem – as long as the student was in dress code.

A Kenyan Panga

Now I thought that this was just a high school thing, but today in my 7th grade class I noticed a knife on a boy’s belt.  When I asked him about it, he grinned, stood up, and then pulled up his shirt a little to reveal that he had 6 knives on him.

And don’t think that it is just the guys.  As you can see below the girls are also ready to defend themselves against an attack by any baboons that might stray onto campus.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

CrazyMom’s Cooking

CrazyMom with her curds and whey
Little Miss Muffet
Sat on a tuffet,
Eating her curds and whey;
Along came a spider,
Who sat down beside her,
And frightened Miss Muffet away.

Mother Goose told me this rhyme as a child, but it was not until just the other day that I learned what curds and whey were.  CrazyMom is planning on making some lasagna later this week, so yesterday she made curds – better known as cottage cheese.  Who knew that you just had to heat milk to 190 degrees, pour in some vinegar and voila, the milk separates into curds and whey.

I heard that the whey had the non-curding proteins and was good to use in soup and the like, so Buddy and I drank a little whey.  All of you savvy cooks out there are chuckling because you already know that it tastes like nasty vinegar water.

Cottage cheese is not the only new thing that I have seen CrazyMom whipping up in the kitchen.  She has made sour cream, turned pork into sausage, made syrup for our pancakes, and made a chocolate sauce that I call “magic sauce” because it magically turns slightly sour milk into chocolate milk that the kids love.

Of course, there is the standard stuff that you would expect as well.  This includes any bread product we eat from loaves of bread all the way down to croutons as well as pancake mix, salad dressings, salsa, spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce, and many other things that would be far easier to simply pick up at your local American grocery store.

I admit that I feared losing weight when we moved here to Africa, which is a bit scary for me given my height to weight ratio, but I have not lost a pound due to the wonderful cooking of CrazyMom.  

Power and Showers

In my first few days here at RVA I was standing in the shower on a chilly morning relishing in the luxury of a hot shower.  One of my new friends in Africa is the instant hot water heater showerhead in our shower.

All of a sudden it goes dark in the bathroom and I thought, “Oh, the power went out.”  My immediate next thought was, “OH, THE POWER WENT OUT!!!”  as I came to a deeper understanding of how “instant hot water” means instant on . . . and instant off.

I jumped out of the shower and fumbled around in the dark to get the cold water to stop.  Now a shivering soapy mess, I stood there for a few seconds wondering what to do next.

The home of Mr. Generator
Then I heard it.  The distant rumble of my new best friend – a ginormous diesel generator that automatically starts its engine about 30 seconds after the power goes out.  Once it fires up, it takes about a minute for it to go live and restore power to campus.

So after another minute of shivering, the lights came back on and I was able to have a hot shower after all.  How wonderful it is to live in a place with good friends.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Building of a Skewer

“CrazyD, we need skewers to cook the hotdogs with tonight,” CrazyMom was telling me.  We were having a cookout with the neighbors that evening and cookouts are evidently just not the same if you have to boil the hotdogs in a pot.

Well, there aren’t any Home Depots here in Kijabe, Kenya, so I did the next best thing.

“Buddy!” I yelled.  When Buddy arrived on the scene I said, “Buddy, we need skewers to cook the hotdogs with tonight.”

We all bring different skills to our family and mine is delegation.

Buddy went off and came back in a little bit with three fine green sticks neatly stripped of their bark.  He then got three old forks from CrazyMom and flattened them with a hammer, split the ends of the sticks with a panga (think machete), and shoved the handle of the forks into the sticks.

In order to secure the forks into the sticks we needed some wire, which we did not have.  Buddy scrounged around and found a piece of wire screen behind the shed and whipped out his Leatherman to pull off individual wires from the screen.

I helped to drill holes through the stick and fork so he could put the wire through to secure the forks.

Here is one of the first class skewers. 

They worked great, as you can see.