Saturday, June 17, 2017

Rain Rain Go Away

Wet, cold, and rainy. What is it with the weather? As we entered May, the rainy season here in Kenya began. Often, the rain will pound Rift Valley Academy all evening, all night, and all morning before taking a break for the middle of the day. Puddles grow in the road and we light fires nightly to keep away the damp.
Looking down the road through the fog

Despite the cold, the rain is a blessing to the people of Kenya. Kenya has recently suffered from severe drought. Crops have failed and food prices have risen dramatically. Butter has become almost entirely unavailable because the cows do not have enough food to produce the excess of milk needed for butter’s production. Kenyans throughout Northern Kenya suffer from lack of water. Where children who lined the roads previously crying “sweets, sweets,” they now shake their empty water bottles and cry “maji, maji” (water, water). We continue to ask for prayer for the people here who still lack water.

Although the rains have come, the food prices will not all drop immediately. Corn prices especially will remain high as it takes nearly a year before it can be harvested. This is a continual concern for KKC (visit KKC’s Facebook Page) as they provide corn and beans for lunch to 16,000 kids daily. Grain suppliers have traveled all the way to Ethiopia in search of grain to provide the program.  Please pray that sufficient funding will be given in order to pay for the meals at the new high prices.

Even with my thankfulness for the rain I find myself at times wanting to sing “Rain, rain, go away, come again some other day.” It is my prayer that I would continue to be grateful for the rain even when it may interfere with my plans or schedule, as I know that though I may have three meals a day, thousands of others wonder when the next meal will come.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

One of Those Days

The valley on a different ride.
It was one of those days that I had missed while away at college in the States. A scintillating blue sky allowed the sun to catch the red and brown hues of the dirt from which the stately forms of the acacia trees rose to make an altogether picturesque scene.

My family and I were enjoying this day – my first day home – by taking our pikis, or dirt bikes, for a spin in the sand pits. While the sand pits lack sand, they have an abundance of well-packed dirt that is easily shaped into a series of jumps and ledges, providing an excellent place to challenge our technical skills on the bikes.

We had spent an hour or more seeing who could get the most air under their tires when we decided to call it quits. Ed and Buddy had decided to take one last spin when Ed disappeared over a small ledge.

Crazy D and I were considering this situation, trying to decide whether it was reason for concern. We heard a piki motor still running, but try as I might I could make out only one roar when there should have been two.

After a few seconds, Buddy appeared and rode toward us, shouting that Ed had gone down hard. Crazy D and I took off, heading for the ledge from which Ed had disappeared. I spotted her first and ran over to see the piki lying on its side in front of a tree, with Ed a few feet away. I saw no blood, so decided to right the piki to keep the gas from spilling out while asking Ed if she was OK.

The shakiness in her voice when she replied, “yes,” that she was OK, indicated to me that she was not. Crazy D appeared on the scene and determined that Ed was OK, except that her arm hurt. Our attention then turned to the unfortunate tree that had served as an unwanted brake to the piki. The trunk was stripped of its bark.

As we made our way back to the car, it became more and more evident that Ed’s arm may be broken. After many hours in the Kijabe Hospital, it was concluded that it was not broken, but that she had ruptured a tendon in her wrist and would need a hard cast for four weeks.

Additionally, the front tire of the piki is so badly bent that it takes a lot of force to get it to turn a full revolution through the forks.

So much for that perfect day.

The good news is that Ed will likely be able to play for the first game of the soccer season next term. As for the piki, we are fortunate to be having some family come out from the States who can bring us a new wheel.

It was just one of those days.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Sunday Mornings in the Valley

Editor’s Note:  Megan is off to college now, but I found this piece of her writing on my laptop about an orphanage that houses over sixty kids who were orphaned in the 2007-2008 election violence here in Kenya.  Most Sundays during the school year a group of students from RVA make the half hour trip down to the orphanage. Here is a glimpse of the visits through Megan’s eyes.

The Land Rover jolts and shudders to a stop inside the battered blue orphanage gates as children swarm the car, calling to us in Swahili. Swiftly we unload, the girls jumping awkwardly down in their long skirts. Within seconds small hands are reaching for mine, vying for the coveted spot. We walk as a group into the classroom where I and two other girls will give a Sunday School lesson to the youngest kids. The small six-year olds run around obtaining chairs for us, and organizing the beat-up, wobbly desks and themselves. Soon they are attentive, and we start with a few songs. They absolutely love “Father Abraham”, so we make sure to end with that one. After the singing we give a sort lesson in Swahili, trying to tie in a conclusion that they will understand.

Next come the coloring pages. The bright white sheets of paper stand in stark contrast to the brown everything around them. Soon the paper will lose its stunning gleam and adapt to its surroundings, but for now the kids reach for it excitedly. Intermingled with the coloring time is some general TLC; we let the kids play with our hair, read their few, shabby books to them, chase them around the room, and just in general enjoy ourselves. At the end of the hour is treat time, and the kids enthusiastically stuff candy – wrappers and all – into their mouths to ensure that every last bit of sweetness is savored. Eventually it is time to leave, and we make our way slowly back to the Land Rover. As we drive away we watch the kids waving, and hear their small voices shouting “Kwaheri!” They know that they will see us again soon. 

Additional Note:  Now that Megan is gone, Emily is taking her place working with the same group of children this year.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Lasts and Firsts

We have had a final week together as a family between graduation and Megan leaving for college.  It has been a week full of lasts – or at least lasts for a while. 

Here are a few of the “lasts” from the week.

The last Kijabe hike:  If you are going to go on a last Kijabe hike, you might as well make it an epic one.  Four of us along with four other friends headed out the back gate of RVA to climb up a gorge to Upper Falls.  It was a great hike there with a path most of the way.  There was water in the falls despite the shortage of rain recently and all had a good time.  Then . . . someone had the bright idea that it would be more fun to try to climb out of the gorge by “bush whacking” our way to the top rather than taking the boring path back down.  What followed were a few hours of scaling rocks without ropes and fighting through dense brush filled with thorns, ants, and stinging nettle.  We finally made it to the top and then hiked to the nearest road.  We were about 7 miles from RVA and exhausted, so we called Sheri and had her come pick us up.  It was good to finally make it home safely after the dicey rock scaling that happened along the way. 

Last family get-a-way:  We spent two days at a home not far from here in an area where there is hardly anything to do.  It is a great place to simply hang out and be together away from the concerns of the world.  There is a river nearby to swim in, but you have to throw in rocks first and wait awhile to make sure there are no hippos around.

Last indoor night:  Indoor soccer is a favorite pastime here on campus.  Thursday nights are reserved for “adults” – Megan officially qualifies now that she has graduated, although she did get to play often over the past two years if there weren’t too many adults out for soccer that particular night.

Last lunch at Mama Chikus:  Our local restaurant has fed our family many times over the last two years.  You can get a great plate of Kenyan style food for less than the cost of a Big Mac.  We got to eat lunch there today as her final meal here in Kijabe.

Last piki piki ride:  Megan has just recently taken up motorcycle riding as she is always eager to learn something new and we got to go on our last ride together today.

But these lasts are giving way to many new and exciting firsts.  We are thrilled for Megan as she heads off to college to start this next phase of her life.  We love you Megan and we are proud of you.

Megan’s Graduation

First day of school
“I can’t believe I am old enough to have a child in school,” I distinctly recall thinking 14 years ago when Megan went off to PK for the first time.  As we all know, experientially, time is amorphous with events like this seeming so long ago and yet like it was yesterday.  I also recall dropping her off in the pre-kindergarten class and seeing a girl in the class reading a book and wondering if Megan, who could not read at the time, would be able to make it academically.  I soon realized my concerns were silly newbie parent concerns.

Now 14 years later Megan walks a stage symbolizing the last in a chapter of her life and the commencement of something new.  She is ready to head off to the other side of the pond to go to Calvin College in Michigan.  And she is ready indeed.  She is strong academically, physically, and spiritually and ready to take on whatever life brings her way.  We are proud of her and will dearly miss her leadership as eldest child in our home.

You can see more photos of graduation in this album on Facebook.

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.