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.

The Lounge

“Hi everybody.”  These are the words that I say whenever I walk into our bedroom.  Our new home here at RVA is wonderful, but in order to have a guest bedroom (for all of you to come visit us!) we decided to put the office in the master bedroom.

Now our master bedroom has become The Lounge.

I understand why.  It has a bathroom, a comfortable bed that is always made, a desk with a computer, the best wifi reception in the house, and there is almost always someone else there to hang out with.

On Thursday I came home and had to quickly change before going to coach a soccer game.  When I walked into my room Little Foot was helping Ed study on the bed, F.G. was on the computer at the desk, and Buddy and his friend were just milling around in the room because that was where everybody was.  I had to go into our closet and close the door in order to change.

A few days before that I had flopped down on the bed to rest for a few minutes and before the few minutes were up Miss Bookworm and a friend were in the room on their school issued laptops working on a project for class.  They complained that the wifi reception was not good enough out at the dining room table.

Things have gotten so bad that CrazyMom and I can’t have a conversation in our room because the traffic in The Lounge is incessant.  We have taken to retreating to the guest bedroom to have needed conversations.  The kids avoid the guest bedroom like the plague since that is where all of the clean laundry gets dumped that needs to be folded.

I am not complaining, however.  There are some perks to having your kids wanting to be in the same room with you all of the time.  But then again, when I asked Ed to put her backpack that was in the living room away last night because people were coming over, she picked it up and took it back to The Lounge.  :-(

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Experiencing “Internally Displaced People”

Me and Paul
“Can you come back tomorrow?” Paul was asking me.  He was one of the elders in the Maai Mahie IDP camp that I had just spent the last couple of hours with. (Note: Real names are not used here).

“I can’t come tomorrow, but I will come again soon,” I promised, feeling a range of emotions that I am still unpacking today.

It was Outreach Day for RVA and I had naively boarded a bus with 42 other students and a few adults to travel down the mountain to visit the IDP camp.  I was no longer as na├»ve.

IDP is a term that I had heard in the States before, but it rolled off of me because I had no real understanding of it.  It stands for “Internally Displaced People.”  In December of 2007 there was a presidential election here in Kenya and the results were hotly contested.  In the aftermath of the election there was violence, some of which went down ethnic lines.  Over 1,000 people died and half a million were driven from their homes.  That is how a group of several thousand came to the valley floor below RVA.

IDP Camp is in the distance in the center of the photo.
Every day as I emerge from my second period class, I walk down a walkway to go to third period and this is what I see.  I see the lushness of the school with manicured flowers and the sculpture of a giraffe eating from a tree surrounding the view of the bleak metal roofs from the IDP camp in the valley below.   It is a powerful sight that helps me keep life in perspective and drives would be complaints from my mind.

The RVA bus pulled into the camp and parked in a large barren field.  Even before the bus doors opened, kids were streaming out of the camp towards the bus.  When we got off of the bus, James – a national who was with our group and who works at RVA with CrazyMom – came up to me and said, “See over there?  That is where we have church.”  James and a friend come down to the camp each Sunday, have a church service, and then feed about 200 children.

The Church
I looked, but could not see the church building.  “Where?” I asked.

“Over there, under that tree,” he replied.

We divided the RVA students up into three groups and my group had James, Elder Paul, and 8 other RVA students.  We walked through the camp and past the homes built by Habitat for Humanity.  At the far end of the camp, Paul pointed to where we were going.  About a quarter of a mile away across the plain was another settlement.  These were people who did not have homes, but rather they stuck sticks in the ground and the covered them with plastic and cardboard.  We got to visit several homes, spend a little time together, and pray with the people there. 

When we were done visiting, we headed back towards the main camp.  As we were walking along, I asked James about the elections that are to take place later this year in Kenya and whether or not there might be trouble again.
Looking back at the camp with "tents."

“I don’t think so,” answered James.  “The memory of the trouble from the last election is still too fresh in people’s minds.  Everybody lost and people don’t want to see that again.”

Paul was not as confident.  “It is all the same people.  The same people are running for office and they have just gone from wearing their hats forward to wearing their hats backward.”

For the sake of the people of Kenya, we are praying for a peaceful election.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

First Broken Bone in Africa

“I know I am going to regret this,” CrazyMom was saying, “but I will let you guys go play at Titchi Court anyway.”

Little did she know.

CrazyMom and I were on our way out the door for a half day of professional development and the younger kids did not want to spend the afternoon at the house. CrazyMom was concerned about how well they would be able to get along off playing on their own. It turned out that that was not going to be the problem.

The problem ended up being that Little Foot fell while on his Heelys (shoes with wheels in the heels) and hurt his wrist. When we caught up with him later in the day we thought it might just be sprained, but the next morning there seemed to be too much swelling for a sprain. CrazyMom and an RVA nurse took Little Foot down to the hospital, which is just a couple of hundred yards from the school. Fortunately, there was an orthopedic surgeon who had just arrived in Kijabe from Oregon and while he was not scheduled to start work until Monday, the nurse called him at the house where he is staying and he came over to read the x-ray. We are certainly blessed to have access to such good medical care while living here at RVA, although we all hope not to be visiting the hospital on a regular basis. :-)

 P.S. You may be wondering how much a hospital visit costs here in Kijabe. The consultations, x-ray, and casting cost 7,915KSH, which is about $94 USD. No, that is NOT our co-pay. That is the entire bill. As cheap as this may seem, it is expensive for the nationals here and most of them need help from family and friends to be able to afford medical care.