Saturday, June 28, 2008

oh, Saturday.

First of all, happy birthday, Rica! Enjoy your strawberry shortcake.

Second of all, happy wedding day, Miara. Wish I could be there.

Third, I FOUND OREOS AT THE STORE TODAY. Double-stuf chocolate oreos, to be exact. It's not my fault: I had to go to the American Grocery Store for to buy White Person Face Wash, because my face is...imploding? Exploding? Whatever: it's not pretty. (Don't tell my Grandma; she'd be quick to tell you that the reason my face is breaking out is BECAUSE of the oreos, but I don't believe her.) The fact remains: I'm really happy about these cookies. And the face wash.

But I digress. A story for the birthday girl, per her request:

Once upon a time, I called a woman who was in possession of a beautiful stretch of land just below the Ngong Hills, south of Nairobi. Actually, we talked a few times. I told her I would like to meet with her once we had made some progress in our registration process, so that I would something to show her, and then we could talk about the logistics of buying her land.

Several phone conversations later, in fact, approximately 36 hours before I was due to leave Nairobi, when my bags were packed, my gifts purchased, my goodbyes goodbyed, my return promised, my registration underway, my lawyer paid, my welcome-home party planned, etc, etc, I recieved a phone call.

Apparently, and I really have no idea why I was not informed sooner, and I'm told it would be impolite to ask, apparently the land is no longer for sale, because she and her husband have used it as collateral to take out a very, very, very large loan (too large for our money to be of any use, she said).

So, back to square one. And here's the thing: deep down, I knew this land was more than I could afford. The dollar's dropped, the price of land has increased, and this location is, well, hard to beat. I guess I was hoping the owner could somehow be persuaded to drop the price, like, drastically. But there's nothing I can do now, save look for new land.

I'm amazed and blessed, as usual, by the way the women in Susan's church will bend over backward (where did that phrase come from? I've been wondering) to help me. Susan and I have recieved phone calls daily, with news about a new plot that is for sale, an owner they know, etc, etc. It's encouraging. I'm optimistic.

Now, the decisions: less land, in a more expensive location? more land, in a remote area? hold out for electricity and water, or pay to hook it up ourselves? two smaller plots, one for the school and one for the home? a remote area, which surprisingly has electricity, or a very (expensive, and) populated area- up a hill, with no electricity or water, but neighbours that we know and love? hills, plains, mountains, valleys, trees, bushes and grass: these are the things that cling to my heels as I crawl into bed each night.

I honestly have no idea what to do, and I'm very blessed by the people who have been quick to remind me that God is in control. It's a good thing, too, cuz if anyone else were in control, I'd up and leave.

I just wish God would, like, send me an email, or text, or something... (Lori! how many times have we had this conversation).

ps: after twenty minutes of waiting for pictures to upload, I'm giving up. But really, they all look the same: slightly hilly plots of land covered in dry grass and acacia trees.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


My friend Daina, who was the headmistress at the nursery school where I taught in Mbita, says I am her 'sudden traveler'. She claims I only gave her 24 hours notice when I went to visit Uganda 4 years ago. (This may be true, I can't be sure, how can I be bothered with remembering such mundane details?) She also remembers that I come and go from Kenya and within Mbita itself with little warning. (She doesn't exactly have an email address.)

This conversation reminded me that last year, I bought a ticket to New York about 36 hours before actually leaving. When I said 'I think I'll go to New York tomorrow', people thought I was joking.

What can I say? I like spontaneity. (I like it in concept, that is; the actual word is proving to be rather difficult to spell.)

My point is this: I am not actually leaving today. I have decided to extend my trip for three more weeks. The main reason is that we are unable to buy the land I originally intended to buy, and I am going to spend the next three weeks searching for a new location. The added bonus is that we should be through with our registration process by then, and I will be able to view our certificate with my very own eyes.

The downside is that I will miss the following: Book club (sigh), Matt and Ciara's wedding, and my very own welcome-home party (Sorry, Ange). I will also have to figure out how to pay my bills through July and get rent money to my roommate (Sorry, Ginny!). But other than that, things should work out okay, and I am of course looking forward to spending more time here in Nairobi.

Oh, the other thing I'm worried about is that this is cutting into my auction-preparation time. By the time I get home there will only be about 2 and a half months till the auction! (OCTOBER 4TH OCTOBER 4TH OCTOBER 4TH) Oh yeah. And July and August are the only actual months I enjoy living in Oregon. Too bad I'm spending my summer there, enjoying winter here. Oh well, right?

The delicious irony here is that my bags are already packed. I have never, NEVER, in my six trips to Kenya and back, various other missions trips, study abroad in Europe, and four years of venturing to San Diego and back, EVER, have I packed more than, say, 12 hours in advance. As I got more and more accustomed to traveling, I confess this time was often cut down to, and I am not exaggerating, about 2 hours before actually leaving for the airport.

And this time, I packed on Monday. MONDAY. I wasn't even supposed to leave until today, WEDNESDAY. Do you see what I'm getting at here? "Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today", my foot. I'm changing it to "Always put things off until tomorrow, because you will just have to unpack anyway".

Please pray that the next three weeks are fruitful. Ideally, we will find land we want (and can) buy, meet with the owner, get the land title paper deed thing to my lawyer, obtain proof of registration as a trust, and...dare I hope? Pay a down payment on the land.

But this is all a bit optimistic, given our steady history of setbacks and obstacles. So we will see what God has in store for me.

Miss you all!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

a photo essay of kim, by ashby, age 27

a photo essay of susan's living room, by kim, age three

ps, please don't tell my dad that i let a 3 year old use his camera. thanks.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

new beginnings cereals shop.

(that's probably my favourite name of any store here so far).

I guess it's been a while since I've given a real live update on my work here, so here goes...

I have a new lawyer, a good one, named Frank. He is working to register us as a trust, which is a much faster and easier process than a non profit. We have trustees: three of my Kenyan friends (including Susan), my dad and myself.

I am meeting with Esther, the owner of the land we seek to buy, on Friday. We need the title papers from her to show our lawyer, so he can confirm that the land is really truly buyable.

I have met with the cost consultant (who is advising us on everything from well-digging to construction working to road-paving). He is the one who recommended a construction manager, who is going to supervise our building plans (Angie) to make sure they're Kenyan-proof.

This is a bit of the chicken-and-egg scenario, because the cost consultant wants to visit the land site, which he can't really do until we convince Esther that we really are buying the land, and we can't really convince her we're buying the land until we finish registration, and that's just a waiting game, but while we wait, our lawyer AND the cost consultant want the title papers, and Esther doesn't really want to give those up until we're serious about buying, and we can't convince her we're buying until we're registered...okay so it's not so much chicken-and-egg as it is the old classic 'I don't want to have to wait until we're registered to get working on all this other stuff' routine.

You know. The usual.

Anywho. What else? I've bought some awesome things for the auction. And I'm not quite sure how I'm going to fit everything into my suitcase. And...yeah, that's about it. I don't know what else to tell you guys.

Please pray that things fall into place! We can of course continue to work on everything once I'm back in the States (we'll have to, obviously) but I worry that things will move more slowly than they already are, once I'm gone. Out of sight, out of mind, as it were...

Peace, people. And for those who are keeping track, I'll be home next Thursday, around noonish.

Monday, June 16, 2008

for heaven's sake. one more picture. for reals this time...

It was scary- to get on and off, the camel drops to their knees, and I do mean DROPS. You feel like you're falling, like an insane roller coaster, with no safety belt, and the roller coaster is growling at you...

and finally, a shout-out to my baby!

These are (this is?) my friend Nephat's curtains!
Miss you, Blue!

what's up-date

Busy day, and I'm exhausted, but I just wanted to post a few pictures...

side note: i'm tryin REAL hard to get the captions to match up to the pictures, but the internets are being difficult. i'll leave it up to you to discern which picture is of Kamugu, which is of an ostrich, which is of a tree, and so on. i trust you're up to the task.

This is Mbita (the village I taught in) at night, and during the day time. Pretty, no?

An ostrich.

This is my friend Kim. I was carrying him in the sarong, like a real Kenyan, but he climbed out (while I was standing. It was sort of traumatic. He climbed around to my front. Rather like a monkey, that one.

Kamugu. He's a nut.

My FAVOURITE animal in the world!

And a close-up of a giraffe- this might be my favourite picture ever. (I think this looks like a self-portrait, like the giraffe was holding the camera!)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

happy daddy day

I just wanted to take a minute to wish a very happy father's day to any fathers who might be reading this, especially MINE! (I love you daddy).

I hope you all have a wonderful day and feel blessed by your families!

And yes, I did ride a camel yesterday. It was awesome.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

two more

pictures, some good

You guys, I'm annoyed. This computer is annoying, this internet connection is annoying, and I'm not very familiar with my camera OR with blogger, ANYWAY, the point is, here are a few pictures.

my beloved Susan.
her ridiculous nephew Kimani...
a rainbow.
a tree.
and...the view from my (Susan's) house. This is one of my favourite pictures.

That's it for now. Miss you all!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

ironically, the first hot shower i've had in weeks was here in the village.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

alright alright alright

Prison was kinda anticlimactic, you guys. But, since I've gotten a couple requests, I'll describe it:

...okay, I can't. Seriously. To describe it I'd have to start from scratch. Because, it's Kenyan. It was just a Kenyan experience.

Apparently the Langata Women's Prison is one of the most 'respected' in Kenya, known for treating the women well and helping rehabilitate them. The women from Susan's church were basically giving a chapel service, as well as providing tissue, soap and clean underwear to each woman there. (My question is, if they treat their women so well, why don't they provide them with tissue and soap?)

So, I wrote this:

we sit shoulder to shoulder
we pray
i'm offered a translator
and it starts:

the pastor thanks God
for his grace and mercy
as the girls sit
six to a bench
in white robes,
and plastic shoes

we are here to teach these girls
about The Lord, i'm told

i disagree.

the young mother
who nurses her baby
in the front row:
this is grace

and the girl
who gives up her chair
and stands in the back:
this is mercy

who will teach us, i wonder?
we are too busy giving
to recieve.

Monday, June 2, 2008

things i know to be true:

~Nairobi has changed and yet is still the same. still crowded, noisy, pushy and dirty. but the street kids are gone, the police are ever-present, the traffic is worse, the litter is better, and the fruit vendors aren't allowed to sell at the bus station anymore.

~I'm told that the average 'day laborer' (entry level jobs, or people who make minimum wage) make 250/= a day. that's just over $4.

~ a loaf of bread costs 38/=, or about .65 cents. a bus ticket in Nairobi costs about 75 cents. and a gallon of gas is $5.79.

~in other words, inflation is on the move, and the minimum wage is not a living wage.

~Madaraka Day really doesn't mean much except that school is out.

~since coming here I have finished the following books: Dreams from my Father, The Catcher in the Rye, The Long Loneliness, and Three Cups of Tea. I liked them all.

~I have to do laundry and I don't want to.

~I am going with Susan and some of her friends from church to visit (and probably preach at and sing to) the prisoners in Nairobi Langata Prison on Wednesday. this should be interesting.

~my friend Roy (a Kenyan here in Nairobi) is getting married on the 21st. this, too, should be interesting.

~Nairobi's latest trend in music, a horrid mix of disco, r&b and rap love songs, makes me want to stick forks in my eyes. rusty ones. I'm just saying.

~I really miss goldfish crackers and skittles.

~and Ella.

~a friend of mine just put me in a really bad mood. I sort of feel like screaming, even.