The most important thing that we have done in the last week was leading worship and helping at a vacation bible school with 200 to 300 kids. This was a learning experience as we had to wing it very often and be prepared for anything. Fiedler was mostly on guitar, while Yockey and Jonathan switched between singing, dancing, and drumming. Yockey also got the chance to sing as a puppet named Mzungu Steve ever day! The theme was “I am blessed” to remind the kids from the slums that despite any circumstances, they are made in the image of God and have a purpose.
During our weeknights we spent a lot of time at our friend Gideon’s house. Our friend Kaylie (who has been mentioned in previous posts) left for Maryland last Thursday, so we had dinner and had a goodbye celebration at Gideon’s. On Friday we went there again for a surprise birthday party for Gideon, which turned out to not be much of a surprise. We spent the night with some cool people eating cake and playing games. Our good friend, Shem, also recorded interviews from a bunch of people about what Gideon meant to them and we watched that as a group. Gideon has been a mentor to us and has really helped us process our experience due to his unique ability to bridge the gap between a Kenyan and an American perspective while creating a comfortable home base. He will also be joining us on Safari this week, which is exciting because he is full of wisdom and insight that will be helpful with the debriefing process.
On Saturday we visited the Rafiki team at their orphanage, though Fiedler was unable to join us because he was feeling sick (though is now better). We were surprised to see children who were blessed with experiences that seemed foreign to Kenya, especially compared to some of the hardships we have witnessed in Kibera. It was a great opportunity to catch up with the Rafiki team and play with a bunch of cool kids with better English than most people we have met in Kenya.
In a mere seven days we will be on a plane headed towards Seattle. Until then we have packing, souvenir shopping, and a safari! As we have started saying goodbye to people and places, we realize that Kenya will be missed, though we are all very eager to be home again at this point. We plan on posting one more blog right before we leave, so keep posted!
Hello again everyone! We survived our trip to Mombasa! We’ll start at the beginning:
The week after Kisumu was pretty chill. We did the regular stuff, but maybe with a little less energy than usual because of our exhausting weekend. Contrary to what you might be thinking, our trip to Mombasa was actually quite rejuvenating. We left on Thursday night from Nairobi. The roads to Mombasa are extraordinarily better than the roads to Kisumu; we were actually able to sleep. We have been told that since most of the international trade that comes to Kenya travels through Mombasa to Nairobi, the roads are of a much higher quality than those from Nairobi to Kisumu. Regardless, when we arrived in Mombasa at 6:00 am Friday morning, we were a little tired.
At the bus station, Jonathan and Yockey slept for a couple hours while Fiedler found some stray wireless internet and downloaded the Google map of Mombasa as well as directions to the main attractions and the place we were staying for the night. After getting rested up and waiting for the sun to rise (partly for safety, partly to avoid mosquitoes), we ventured out from the bus station to discover what Mombasa had in store for us. Perhaps one of the most memorable encounters was when the receptionist at the desk of the station asked us where we wanted to go and our answer was an honest “We have no idea.” Her look was priceless. The first thing we did was buy some toilet paper just so we were prepared for all possible situations. We eventually wandered over to Old Mombasa, where most of the sights, attractions, and museums are. We spent a while sitting in a cool tea room at Jahazi Coffee house sipping tea and eating samosas. There we met a cool American named Chris who had many stories of his travels around the world. We explored Old Mombasa for several more hours learning about its historical connections with The Middle East, India, and the Far East. We had lunch at a Middle Eastern Restaurant where we had to wait until afternoon prayers had concluded to order. By the time we had made the trip to Diani beach (the most popular beach in the area which is about 15 miles south of the main city), we were ready to jump in the Ocean (The Indian Ocean). We met some cool British guys (playing American football), and reconnected with Chris for dinner. Saturday we spent wandering the beach, getting sun burns, and turning down countless vendors trying to sell us their shields, necklaces, shells, spears, pictures, bracelets, knives, jewelry, sunglasses, sandals, masks, artwork, and everything else imaginable. One of the most useful Swahili phrases we’ve learned is “Sina pesa” which means “I don’t have money.” For some reason, it is much more effective than a simple English “no” when trying to convince vendors that we really are not going to buy anything. Saturday night we had a great Mexican dinner with some Americans we had met and our British friends from the day before followed by a fire on the beach. Sunday we checked out and returned to the city where we explored some more and saw Cars 2 in an air conditioned movie theater (a taste of America in the heart of Mombasa). The bus ride back was once again far more bearable than Kisumu had been, and this week we’ve been recovering from our sunburns and getting back into the swing of things. Next week we will be leading worship at a VBS in the slum, and then one week of Safari before we return home! We’re so excited to see everyone again but at the same time sad that this feels like the beginning of the end of our time in Kenya. Look forward to our blog next week about VBS before we leave for Safari!
Last weekend was the biggest adventure but also the most challenging experience thus far. On Friday we were invited to enjoy a potluck with the CTM interns where we got to learn how to make Kenyan food and brought French toast as our American dish! This was a casual experience where we got to strengthen relationships with the interns. After dinner, we took a taxi to the bus station and began an 8-hour overnight journey to Kisumu (the 3rd largest city in Kenya at 355,000 people).
We were invited as guests to stay at the house of a friend’s grandmother. During our stay, we felt like a resource to be used instead of guests. Without warning, we were expected to pay for gas (for two cars when only one was needed) and buy enough food to feed the entire household, which consisted of some family but mostly hired help. Additionally, we had purchased a gift and were informed that a tip was expected. We felt like we were forced into a situation where we were manipulated out of a significant amount of money. The late grandfather had worked in the government and the family had more wealth than any we had met, even employing three Maasai guards for their compound.
Our time in Kisumu was difficult because it made obvious a strong association between white skin and money. We had trouble getting to know people because we felt that they were trying to make financial gain with the pretense of friendliness. It felt like friendship prostitution. The tension caused by perceived money made it impossible to form any real friendships, which was disappointing.
Despite all the obstacles we faced, the situation exposed us to a side of human nature that made us appreciate the genuine relationships that we have found in Nairobi. After returning, it was heartwarming to be reminded that the kids we teach simply want love rather than money. We also got to take a motorboat ride and see wild hippos in Lake Victoria (the source of the Nile and the largest tropical lake in the world). Dan Yockey also had the opportunity to ride an African spinny thing with a cute German girl. Score!
Sunday night we departed Kisumu at 10 pm. Imagine trying to sleep while riding a bucking bull and you will have an accurate picture of our bus ride back. We tried gripping the armrests to prevent flying a foot in the air with little success. Jonathan broke his seat as it was slammed against his back. Ouch. The roads were that bad…
Look forward to our report from Mombasa (Eastern Kenya) next weekend!
In the last 10 days we have transitioned from the beginning phases of our adventure to a more comfortable level of familiarity with our regular schedule. Even though some routine has been established, every day is a different experience which poses new challenges and excitements.
As we approach our halfway point, it’s hard to believe how quickly the days have been flying by. We feel like we’ve been here for months, and most Kenyans assume we have been. As we catch matatus to town, hop over sewage in the slums, and dodge in and out of traffic in Nairobi, we like to think survival here is really an enjoyable experience. Since we landed, we have become much more familiar with our surroundings and environment, but we are still reminded every day of how much we have to learn. Also, we are beginning to see development in our various service opportunities.
Our Bible study with the Cross Change interns has been a great way to spend time in the Word learning about God and exchanging idea with our Kenyan peers. Our main contact/mentor Gideon Ochieng, the CTM director, frequently joins us to offer insightful wisdom that we really take to heart. So far we have read Judges and begun a comparative study of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes (reading these books simultaneously will blow your mind)! If you would like to read our reflections on Judges and read more about CTM, please visit the CTM blog at ________. The business projects are coming along, proposals are being drafted, and soon enough Cross Change will have functional business ventures to manage.
Another main service opportunity has been teaching children at Tumaini School. We are still trying to figure out exactly how the school system works, but in the chaos have really enjoyed spending time with the kids to teach, learn, and play. Jonathan has learned that he is inept at teaching second graders, but Yockey loves the dynamic challenge and finds himself connecting on their level. Fiedler has found that it can be difficult to teach how to tell time when most kids rarely see analog clocks and is also trying to figure out how to teach kids about the districts of Kenya when he is clueless on the topic. Yockey decided to have an impromptu teaching about mammals and how they are characterized by eyes and a mouth, which everyone knows, right? Interestingly, during the Social Studies lesson, we learned that more kids knew the name of the President of the US (Obama) than the President of Kenya (Kibaki). This goes to show how popular our commander in chief is over here.
Last week Dan Fiedler and Dan Yockey started taking Swahili lessons for two hours every weekday in downtown Nairobi. However, as of now, Yockey has decided that it would be more rewarding to craft souvenir mud balls out of Kenya dirt, so he has discontinued his language study. Thursday, there was a substitute teacher who is easily the most attractive Kenyan we have encountered since arriving here. With any luck, our regular teacher will become too busy with his other work and the sub will be the permanent replacement.
We usually eat dinner around 8:00 at our host house, and then spend the evening passing our time writing emails, watching Mexican soap operas, playing cards, and watching movies. Another favorite pass time has been turning all the lights off and attempting to hunt down all the mosquitoes in the room with a flash light and smashing them on the walls without tripping over the furniture. We got some strange looks from our host mom, but it was a great team building exercise.
Since we enjoyed the monkey park so much during our first visit, last weekend was defined by revisiting it twice with American friends. On Friday we met up with the Rafiki Dep Team at Village Market (Tourist/European/American hub) to do some souvenir bartering and then introduced them to the monkeys. After many pictures, screams, and laughs, we parted ways, only to meet up with two other American friends from the Seattle area on Saturday to visit the park again. Also, we discovered that the Nairobi Hilton is a good place visit if we want clean bathrooms with toilet paper and hand soap.
As we said is the beginning, out time here is flying by. On Saturday, we will reach the half way point of 28 days since leaving Seattle. It is hard to believe that we have experienced so much in only a month, while at the same time hard to believe that an entire month has already gone by. We’re doing our best to appreciate every minute we have in Africa because we know that it will be over sooner than we want. As always, thank you for your continued thoughts and prayers, and we hope that our blog has provided you with an accurate glimpse into our experiences in Kenya. Until next time…
While the first week was mainly exploration/introduction/orientation, our second week was establishing the routine we will be following. Here’s a quick outline of our general week.
9-11: Cross Change Bible Study – working with interns our age and led by a large Zimbabwean (in terms of muscles) named K, who is rather intimidating but awesome!
12-4: Tumaini (Hope in Swahili) – A school with over 150 kids where we played intense games/teacher break/PE/exercise at recess.
9-1: Cross Change – begin with devotionals and then help the interns with project development. They are an arm of CTM that is assisting recently-graduated students transitioning into the working world. One project is working on creating a sustainable recycling system, while the other is attempting to lower food costs for the poor through direct transportation methods.
2-5: CTM Graduate program – We are working with grad students on preparation for classes.
Repeat of Monday
6:30-9: Jamhuri Bible Study – With Gideon (the CTM director) and friends.
9-1: Tumaini – Another branch of the Tumaini School, with an attached medical center. There we worked with pastor Esau and made home visits to meet and pray with church members. We also worked with teachers to assist in English lessons.
1-5: Paper project – We are working with Celtre to discover an economic way to create recycled paper to sell and use in art projects. Youtube has been our friend on this project.
8-1: Art class in Mathare (another slum) – We lead two classes with young children doing memory verses, singing, art, and strange videos in the background.
We are visiting a different church every week in Nairobi.
So there you have it, the layout; now for the good stuff. Now we are basically Kenyans, except for the skin color, and the way of thinking, and the idea of time, and the access to money, etc, etc, etc. We used to take a long and expensive (~$3) matatu (bus) ride to get to CTM. Now we take a 30 minute walk through the slums with a slight risk of stepping in crap (literally). One time we got stopped by thugs wanting to provide “security” as we walked through the slums (for small compensation of course…). Luckily our friend Jeff who was with us explained that we didn’t need their “assistance” and basically didn’t have any money with us, so they let us be.
On our free day, we joined Kaylie and Shem at City Park, where the monkeys are more numerous/unafraid than the squirrels that plague Seattle (especially when jackfruit/peanuts enter the equation). They had opposable thumbs!!! They would jump our shoulders and heads to get peanuts, though Yockey blended in with his monkey beanie. Like cats, they didn’t like getting their tails touched and would slap our hands away with their opposable thumbs (not the cats)!!! Apparently they don’t like it when you refuse to give them the peanut hiding in your fist and bit Jonathan hard enough to draw blood. Though he may probably die from rabies, it would be the first ever case of rabies from a Vervet Monkey (we could make history!).
The kids are like monkeys and hang from our arms until our backs break, run away from our blinding skin, and run their fingers through our leg hair in awe. At Tumaini last week, Yockey ended up racing Fiedler with flip-flops and ended up biffing it. Hardcore. On the red, rough African dirt. No part of his body remained unscathed. It was epic. But he rolled out of the fall and finished the race. In last place. It was really cool to see the kids immediately apologize and help in dusting him off.
On Saturday, we temporarily separated (that’s right, we were married!) while Jonathan and Yockey traveled to Mathare to teach the art class alone to their surprise. Dan visited the International Christian Fellowship Gathering at Nairobi Pentecostal Church. Later in the afternoon, Jonathan and Yockey joined Fiedler and his friend Clive at a real Kenyan wedding! There was some sweet dancing, music, large circling eagles (Yockey’s fav) and the cake was a letdown. It was sweet.
On Sunday we got to meet some American friends from Chicago/Indianapolis and joined them from a few meals, church, and an epic Kenyan premier league soccer game (which our team Gor Mahia won 1-0). So that brings us to today, sorry for the length, but we actually left out many stories which you will have to ask us about in person. We appreciate your continued prayers, thoughts, and interests in keeping up with this blog. Tune in next week for another update from Kenya CTM.
We left Seattle on June 26th, and arrived two days later in Nairobi, Kenya. There we were met by Gideon and Shem, two Kenyans who have become good friends. We spent the first week exploring the city and being introduced to the slums. There are numerous ministries in the area, including: Center for Transforming Mission in Kibera (our main connection), the Inspiration Center in Mathari, Goldmines in Kibera, and Tumaine in Kibera. A large amount of time has been spent with Kaylie, who is a 24-year old American from Maryland, and Shem, who is a Luo Kenyan who grew up in Kibera. The three of us are living in the same bedroom and have a host family. This family includes Alfred and Carol Mwalo, who are probably in their 30s, a 15 month old baby named Gweth, who is the sunshine of our day, and Janet, who is the 25 year old live-in nanny/housekeeper/cook/Swahili teacher/friend.
Since Kenya was a British colony, they drive on the not right side of the road. Lanes are unheard of, and safety is questionable at best. Dan Yockey was seconds from getting his kneecaps blown out by an oncoming car just earlier today! They didn’t even bother slowing down or honking. This is a common experience and makes travel that much more exciting! Our main mode of transportation has been the matatu, which is a run-down van that might seat 7 in the United States and commonly has at least 16 people. These drivers are aggressive to the point of crossing the median to the wrong side of the highway as a shortcut and charge the equivalent of 25 to 75 cents per passenger depending on the color of their skin.
So far no one has gotten sick from any of the food, though Yockey has been more risky with what he has eaten. Common foods are Ugali (cornmesh), Chapati (delicious fried flat bread), Sukuma Wiki (spinach – Yockey’s fav), Dengu (Green Grub – Jon’s fav), rice, and real Chai Tea. Some stranger foods have been cow intestines, entire fish, and Changa (which is the slum moonshine that makes you blind and then die (potentially)). Tap water is not safe to drink for us, so we have to boil everything and very often simply purchase bottled water. Our choice of soda is limited to Fanta, Sprite, Coke, Bitter Lemon, and a deliciously strong ginger ale called Stoney. The food has all been delicious and also very cheap when purchased in the slums. So much for losing weight in Kenya…
Kenya is a very Christian nation and has churches everywhere. In the slums, it is said that there are more churches than toilets. We plan to visit many churches, but have only had the opportunity to see one. Nairobi Chapel was a more wealthy church in a large circus tent that had a sermon on adoption as a solution to the problem of the high population of orphans. They were very welcoming and it was a marvelous experience.
Kenya has been much more than we expected, as the slums were larger and the people more friendly than we could have imagined. All the people we meet are very interested in relationships and have loved hearing about life in the United States. Kenyan culture respects and emulates American culture in many ways and the people absolutely love Obama, who seems to be the brother of everyone we meet. The children have been a blast and will instantly start singing “How are you?” in repetition upon seeing white people. Rather than bore you with the deets, we’ll leave it at that for the time being.