Monthly Archives: February 2013

Christine // Scholarships, Fortitude, and Lions

Riding in the backseat of a Land Cruiser over what seemed to be endless miles of untouched, uninhabited, and ‘this-is-how-God-intended-it-to-be’ land, I couldn’t stop wondering – “How fortunate am I that I get to experience places like this?!..How many other ex-pats have driven through this bush/over this river/through these trees/(you get the picture)?!…How in heavens does Moses (our driver at the time) have any clue where he is going!?” There were many points throughout the journey that there was not even a set of tire tracks in the dirt to serve as our guide.

The Mara. Wide open spaces.

The Mara. Wide open spaces.

Bumpy ride evidence. (I spy...)

Bumpy ride evidence. (I spy…)

Sky.

Sky.

After a couple of hours of bumping along through the outskirts of the Maasai Mara (located in Narok, Kenya, the main hotspot for Kenyan Safaris), gazing at zebras and talking with my colleagues (more like silently participating) about Kenyan politics, the car came to a stop. We were there –  a quaint little compound a midst countless miles of uninhabited land. The Maasai people, who make up the majority of the population of larger Narok, are known for their inhabitants of large pieces of property. This is a convenience considering they are pastoralists and an inconvenience in terms of access to resources. The Maasai often live so far apart that no matter where a school or water source are located, the commute is often a great distance. Because of this, as well as other important cultural reasons, many people do not have the time or finances to complete a Primary (Elementary) or Secondary (High School) education. The arid environment and wild animals are also considerable factors (side note: there are lion researchers currently living on the family compound we visited. Every morning and evening, they pile into their Land Cruiser and go lion tracking!).

Jumping out of the car, I am immediately surrounded by swarms of flies (let’s be honest, this was my third day wearing the same dusty, sweaty skirt…). I quickly noticed that most everyone was covered in flies. I awed at their patience as they casually brushed the flies out of their nose, mouth, and ears every few seconds. When you are pastoralists, particularly in certain seasons, swarms of flies are inevitable.

Quiet, but sprite, 18-year-old Christine hopped out of the car to greet her family. She had journeyed with us from Narok town, where she is studying Computer, to show us her home and assist with translations. After greeting her parents, Great-Grandmother (rumor has is that she is 120, or 80, no one knows for certain…), and younger brother, Christine ran into the tin-roof house to change into her old secondary school uniform.

Sporting the alma mater attire.

Sporting her Alma mater’s attire.

Christine and her 80-120-year-old Great-Grandma.

Christine and her 80 to 120-year-old Great-Grandma.

Unlike most girls her age, Christine is proud to be one of the few in her community to complete her education. For her first three years of secondary school “I [She] was the only girl in my class. It was difficult.” According to Christine, most girls her age are either married off young (some as young as ten-years-old ) or cannot afford to pay school fees. When finances are tight, parents tend to pay for their sons rather than daughters. Because she did not marry young, Christine found it hard to relate to many of her friends. She, and her family, were ridiculed by others for their decision to pursue education – but this has yet to weaken Christine’s strong will.Christine

From a young age, Christine’s father reminded his children that they must “work hard in school so that you [they] can be important people in the community.” Though neither he nor his wife received an education, they understood the importance of educating their children. Having produced a family of seven, both parents struggle to generate enough income to pay for school fees. Even with land, livestock, and a duka (a small items shop), school fees were still too much. Yet, according to Christine’s mother, “I was not afraid because God was there.”

Christine's beautiful mother.

Christine’s beautiful mother.

Christine's father in their duka.

Christine’s father in their duka.

The family.

The family.

Working in the duka. Coke, anyone?

Working in the duka. Coke, anyone?

Because Christine’s family had built relationships with World Concern’s Narok staff, World Concern saw their situation and reached out to help four of their children apply for and receive a scholarships. As told by her mother, “it was through God that WC came and gave us scholarships.”

Both Christine and her older sister have now completed their secondary educations (her sister is currently in University). Christine, the second born in her family, has always admired her sister, “She was number one every year since she was in school. And now she is doing law.” The girls have even been able to bring home what they’ve learned to assist their parents with their duka and livestock business finances.

Christine is now a role model for many girls in her community. When I asked if other girls look up to her, a small grin shyly spread across her face and she quietly responded, “The few girls in the area who are not married off are working hard so they can reach the level I’ve reached. “ She then played with her blonde and black braids for a moment, paused, and said, “I tell them to work hard because life is so hard.”Christine and her braidsAfter completing Computer, Christine will wait for the results from her secondary exams and then apply to university. “I want to become a dentist so that I can come back to the village and help others. One day I want to start a school to educate more girls.” Christine’s role-model future is just taking off. 

Because of your support and generosity, World Concern is working to empowering girls and boys around the world to take hold of their futures. Through One Village Transformed, World Concern is equipping families to pay for their children’s school fees.

The softly spoken stories of those such as Christine are often the most powerful. They are stories of hard work, humility, resilience, gratitude, and service to others. I’m humbled and encouraged to strive to live that story for myself.

I Don’t Speak Swahili, But I Can Laugh.

This past week was spent visiting and documenting World Concern’s projects in the larger Narok area. Myself, as well as two wonderful colleagues (Edwin and Winnie), visited around 6 villages and over 15 different project sites.

As is the case in many places, the further we traveled from the big city of Nairobi, the less-likely the chances were that English was going to be spoken. Fortunately, I was with many bi/tri-lingual friends. [side note: I’m in the process of registering for a Swahili course but, for now, my Swahili is a bit on the I-barely-speak-any side. I can get away with ‘how are you’, ‘hi’, ‘no thank you’, ‘goodbye’, ‘a lot’, ‘a little bit’, ‘I want’… basically enough to make people think that I know the language, then confuse them when I don’t.] Because of this, there were multiple projects where I had to use the process of deduction and reading hand motions (which are also different in other cultures) in order to translate what was going on. I never felt frustrated, because I didn’t expect anyone to cater to me, the one English-only speaking Muzungu (‘white person’). But I did leave more motivated to learn Swahili, the second most commonly spoken language in East Africa (most people speak English, Swahili, and their tribal language. When asked, I say I speak some Spanish… ppphhtt).

I also left the week encouraged that there is a language that can be translated universally, laughter. Personally, this is the best language out there.

(More stories to come on these laughing folk in the near future!)

Showing off the Primary School garden in Narok- supported by World Concern..

Showing off the Primary School garden in Narok- supported by World Concern.

We love banking! Sogoo, Narok.

We love banking! Financial Services Association (FSA) board members in  Sogoo, Narok.

Trying to hold it together at one of World Concern's water pumps. These folks used to walk 8+ miles a day to get their water. They have ten children.- meaning they need a lot of water.

Trying to hold it together while posing at one of World Concern’s water pumps. These folks used to walk 8+ miles a day to get their water. They have ten children – meaning, they need a lot of water.

FSA member/business owner Helen and her giggly baby.

FSA member/business owner Helen and her giggly baby (btw, despite the deceiving  appearance of the outfits, it was NOT 35 degrees this day…)

Restaurant owner and FSA member, Grace, laughing with one of her loyal customers.

Restaurant owner and FSA member, Grace, laughing with one of her loyal customers.

Edwin, Winnie, and the incredible Narok staff (left to right: John, David, Moses, and Patricia). These folks know how to have a good time.

Edwin, Winnie, and the incredible Narok staff (left to right: John, David, Moses, and Patricia). These folks know how to have a good time.

Lily- the most vivacious woman I have ever met. Lily is an active World Concern FSA member.

Lily- the most vivacious woman I have ever met. Lily is an active World Concern FSA member.

Beautiful Jane - member of the FSA bank in Naroosura, Narok.

Beautiful Jane – member of the World Concern FSA bank in Naroosura, Narok.

One of Helen's (FSA member) posho mill customers. Who doesn't love grinding corn?!

One of Helen’s (FSA member) posho mill customers. Who doesn’t love grinding corn?!

Principle and giggling students at World Concern supported school garden.

Principal and giggling students at World Concern supported school garden.

Still experiencing water pump laughter.

Still experiencing water pump laughter.

Vivacious Lily's youngest, Gilbert. Also a recipient of World Concern's FSA.

Vivacious Lily’s youngest, Gilbert. Also a recipient of World Concern’s FSA.

Dear Christine - World Concern High School Scholarship recipient. She's since graduated, but put on her old school uniform just to entertain us.

Dear Christine – World Concern High School Scholarship recipient. She’s since graduated, but put on her old school uniform just to entertain us.

This lovely woman is the principle at a boarding school for vulnerable girls.  She's laughing while standing in their World Concern supported school garden.

This lovely woman is the head teacher at a boarding school for vulnerable girls. She’s laughing while standing in their World Concern supported school garden.

More FSA bank laughter.

More FSA bank laughter. Naroosura, Narok.

Christine's beautiful and supportive mother.

Christine’s beautiful and supportive mother.

 

Kijoolu and her amazing toothy grin. Kijoolu used to walk miles during the wee hours of the morning to collect water. She now walks a short distance to one of World Concern's shallow wells.

Kijoolu and her amazing toothy grin. Kijoolu used to walk miles during the wee hours of the morning to collect water. She now walks a short distance to one of World Concern’s shallow wells. This woman is the epitome of resilient.

Christine and her Great-Grandma. Rumor has it she is 120 years old. Or 80. We'll go with 120.

Christine and her Great-Grandma. Rumor has it she is 120 years old. Or 80. We’ll go with 120.

This is how I make friends. It's working, I promise.

This is how I make friends. It’s working, I promise.

More stories on these folks to come! Hope this leaves you with a smile of your own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Equatorial Sun, a Fan, a Bed, and a Phone.

So…I have been wracking my brain trying to come up with an idea for a blog post.  Maybe there is just too much to share. Or maybe I am hesitant to overwhelm you with my emotional roller-coaster of a first week (don’t worry, I’m solid as rock – there’s just A LOT to process…especially when my current community mainly consists of me, myself, and I).  For the sake of wanting to share something with you, I invite you to read the following: an inside peek into the surface of my mind my first few days here, a brief summary of the projects I have already had the privilege of having a hand in, some fun (and not-so-fun) facts about Nairobi, and a list of songs I have heard while moving all over this beautifully chaotic city…

————————————————————————————————————-

Today I ran.

walking in the door from my first day at office, my mind is obviously racing.
recalling names.
taking note of culturally appropriate office attire, communication styles, daily routines. excited that tea is twice a day. not excited that wi-fi is a rarity (though this does not come as a surprise).
my  mind is like a resistant sponge. driving unfamiliar streets I try to soak in directions to and from the office. to and from the market. to and from the ATM  (we all know, I suck at directions).
don’t drive with the windows down.
be aware in crowded places. keep your hands on your possessions.
do not walk to work if you have to carry a laptop.
don’t take malaria in Nairobi. do take malaria in the field.
wash the vegetables with filtered water and salt.
boiled water is ok.
brush your teeth with this water.
there are 86.3 shillings to the dollar.
turn on the water heater 30 minutes before showering. turn it off when you shower.
there is a good chance you will be robbed at some point.
when will you leave for your first field visit?
……………………………
God is good.
God is faithful.
have no fear. trust. His timing.
communications from headquarters. communications from Africa staff.
this is day one.
and i am on four hours of sleep. hello jet lag.
and i am happy. and i am thrilled to be here. and i am excited. and i am learning.
yet, the sponge is full.
so I ran.
Yes, I can run in Nairobi!!!
I put on my big girl shoes. Grabbed a little cell phone. took off down the jammed (traffic) dirt roads and ran.
my breathing was heavy- I assumed from nerves caused by running in an unfamiliar place (where runners are a unique site). I later remembered I am at almost 6,000 ft elevation. phew.
Today, I ran. 
———————————————————————————————————

Day in the Life…

… at least as of this point.

Wake up to an assortment of alarms (granted that they go off- the past two mornings they have failed, and I am now going five days strong with dirty hair).
Turn on the water heater.
Stumble into the kitchen for coffee. Praise the Lord most Holy that it has moved from Nescafe to French Press. Thank you roommate Jane.
Read news. Read Bible. Pray for strength, courage, motivation.
Head to wash my sweaty dusty exhaust covered body. Pray that there is hot water (it can last anywhere from 0-20 minutes if I’m lucky),
Do the normal getting ready routine.
Breakfast- oatmeal or eggs with kale (oh yessss there is kale!! funny enough, kale is considered poor mans food here. It is what farmers eat to survive when they are low on all other crops. I eat it like it’s gold).
Gather my belongings, put on my walking shoes (often with a dress or skirt- the best combo) and head out the door.
Say good morning to the guards. They tell me, “Have a smiling day”, take off down the road, turn on Jabavu Road, then on Woodlands… finally right on 3rd Ngong Ave- joining in the herd of many other drivers, bikers, and walkers headed off for the day.
During the 30 minute walk, try to simultaneously focus on the following things: not eating it on the uneven roads, being aware of my surroundings so I don’t get lost for the umpteenth time, being aware of my belongings as I walk to work with my laptop and purse, watching out for ginormous buses, matatus, and cars (who tend drive wherever they want and come within centimeter’s of your life), holding my breath while dark black exhaust is blown into my lungs and red dirt onto my face (sidewalks are optional- but ALWAYS search for sidewalks when possible), try not to break out in a sweat before arriving at the office, where everyone looks ‘smart’ in their heels and skirts and ties. Soak in the gorgeous scenery.
Arrive at work, begin a variety of tasks (research, reading, reading, reading, meetings, report writing, training, tea, research, lunch [served on tues/thurs- i have been exploring the area for local food mwf… including fruit salad in a bag!..fresh mangoes  papayas, bananas, avocado, pineapple], meetings, tea)
Head back home. Same path. This time the sun-rays scorching my Seattle-white skin and hit me directly in my eyes. This is when I bust out my iPod to listen to podcasts, music, or Swahili lessons. This is when I often talk to many a passerby, stop at local shops, and pray lots.
Arrive home dusty and sweaty.
Afternoons/evenings are up in the air and often an adventure. There’s no such thing as just ‘going to the grocery store’…
———————————————————————————————————-
This song has brought me many moments of reflection and solitude over the past week. Cannot help but to stop everything I am doing and fall to my knees when listening.

“Pierpoint For the Beauty” l

 ———————————————————————————————————–

Moments of reflection with Martin Luther King Jr. If you have the time to listen to this sermon, you will not regret it.

 “But If Not”

————————————————————————————————————

A much-needed Moment of Thanksgiving.

THANK YOU for all of your words, prayers, emails, Skype messages, and thoughts of support. I am continually reminded that I am not in this alone, and my family is large and undeniably beautiful. Know how much you mean to me.

Now I must have a moment of thanks for a few ‘less significant’ items (but seriously, I have never felt so thankful for such things).

– a BED (had one made on the side of Ngong Road and finally picked it up a couple of days ago!)

– My fan (that I walked 25 minutes home with, craddling it like a precious child). I was so happy to have it, I drew this in my journal:

my new best friend.

my new best friend.

– A phone. This is a story of it’s own.

– Enough Vitamin D to make up for my 6 years of living in Seattle (shout-out to my Seattle people… praying for your winter months!).

——————————————————————————————————

Integral Alliance

World Concern works with a variety of local and international NGOs and aid organizations in to have more impacting projects and assist a grander scope of people. One such partnership is with Integral Alliance. During my first week at the office, I was invited to sit in on a meeting where Communications Officers from World Relief Kenya and Tearfund are working implement various mediums of communication in order to promote a peaceful election process (if you think of it, please pray for Kenya’s elections in March). Though it was more of a learning process for me (I’m playing catch-up on Kenyan politics and want to be careful about imposing any of my outside opinions), I feel honored to be a participant in such an incredible movement. As we push out the communication pieces, I will keep you posted on their outcomes!

Grant Writing

Yesterday I was invited to observe a grant proposal committee meeting. This was the first gathering regarding this specific grant- thus I was able to see how a grant proposal is organized from square one. My goodness, little did I know how much investigation, research, and writing is involved in this process.  I am hoping to be an active member in more proposal writing while I am here- they are absolutely crucial to funding World Concern’s projects.

2012, A Year in Review

For the past week, I’ve been working on a 32-slide PowerPoint that our Area Director will potentially present next week at the Headquarter Annual Meetings (Seattle, WA). The presentation is titled, “World Concern Africa, 2012 in Review” (pretty creative, right?). In order to create this report I’ve had to do extensive reading, research , and interviews. Though it’s been a bit tedious, I am so thankful for this assignment; I now know a great amount about WC’s projects all over Africa. I couldn’t have picked a better way to orient myself with our projects. Now it’s time for field visits!

————————————————————————————————————————–

Last but not least, please take time to indulge in this highlight list of songs I’ve heard while traveling in, and walking by, matatus.

"Glory to God" matatu.

“Glory to God” matatu.

Imagine the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland. Add in an occasional rave light show, BLARING upbeat music, a diversity of folks, lots of yelling (most of which I have yet to understand… working on that piece!), and sharing a one-person seat with 2+ bums. This is the adventure called, riding in a matatu.

Generally, matatus are “15” passenger public transport vans. They are everywhere. When walking on the street, you are guaranteed to see one within 3 minutes of leaving your home. There is no shortage of public transportation in Nairobi. Matatus are known for abiding by their own rules- ie drivers tend to drive on the wrong side of the road past long lines of traffic, ride up and over sidewalks, blow out gross amounts of black exhaust, and stop (slow down) just in time for you to jump out and land (hopefully) standing on the ground. Matatus may not be the most restful, safe way to travel, but they are definitely the most affordable

One of my favorite things about matatus are their names (“Jesus4Eva”; “PreachDaGospel”; “Glory2God”) and the variety of music they produce (I would be willing to bet that 90% of the music is from the 90’s and early 2000’s). Whether catching a ride or strolling past, a matatu’s music is enjoyed by all. Here’s an idea of the type of music you, too, could enjoy  if you ever pay a visit:

Celine Dion- “My Heart Will Go On”

Nelly- “Country Grammar”

Shania Twain- “You’re Still The One”

George Michael- “Careless Whisper”

Phil Collins- “True Colors”

—————————————————————————————————————————-

If you made it through the randomness of this blog, I appreciate your patience. THANK YOU for keeping me in your thoughts and prayers as I transition into this new role, a new culture, and my new life in Kenya. Missing you all sorely, but excited to continue to bring you along for the journey (and thank you Jesus for technology).