Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


balancing groceries on my head like a good Luo.


Jon and his bffs, Gesh and Kinyanjui


Chad and his entourage in the slums

Saturday, May 22, 2010

loooooooong day

it's difficult to describe just how exhausting Kenya can be: first of all, the equatorial sun; then, the amount of walking; then there is the public transportation, the fishbowl phenomenon (we are shouted at/greeted/noticed wherever we go) and the culture shock. today was a long day, any way you look at it; we're all exhausted and ready for a lazy Sunday.

walking through the slums can be downright overwhelming. you feel pity. helplessness. physical, mental, spiritual exhaustion.

shopping at Maasai Market is almost as exhausting (for me). I hate saying 'no' to anyone and I am apparently incapable of tuning people out: every time someone asks me if I want to buy one of their crafts/gifts, I feel personally responsible to talk to them and view their merchandise. I'm learning, but it's still a lot.

we were all out in the sun for far, far too long today and are each nursing a sunburn (even though we put on sunscreen!) on top of that, Jon has laryngitis (did you know that was even a real disease?), Chad has a sinus infection, and I have a headache (I didn't have any coffee or tea this morning).

but we're good. we're thankful that we have enough money to buy groceries for those in the slums. thankful we could partake in a greasy, spicy lunch between tasks. thankful that we can afford to buy gifts and souvenirs for our loved ones and very, very grateful that we have safe, secure, cozy homes to rest in tonight.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Ashby and Nicole

we took Nicole and her brother to the giraffe center- we are sure it was their first time to see giraffe, let alone pet and feed them!


Susan and our caretaker, Bernard, standing outside his 'kitchen' (with his garden in the background!)

me, in my element

a glimpse

Chad, myself, Daisy and Jon at the giraffe park!

over the river and through the woods, to VisiGraceland we go...

yesterday, Jon, Chad, Susan, Baba Njoroge and I went to visit our land! I was very, VERY excited to show Jon and Chad our property, and they were duly impressed. it is so exciting every time I set foot on our property and realise that it's OURS (yours!) and that our dream is coming to fruition. God has been very, very good to us.

we interviewed Susan, our caretaker Bernard, and I also gave the video camera a tour of the land. I am looking forward to watching the video when it's all put together- Jon and Chad have gotten some great footage.

they (Jon and Chad) have been incredible. they've been thrown headfirst into a completely foreign culture with a very steep learning curve (13 days is not very long for a trip like this) and they've been very gracious about everything.

I can't believe I've only been here a few weeks- I feel like I'm settled in for good.

Saturday we are visiting some slums (the slums 'our' kids live in) and then going souvenir shopping! woohoo!

more later-


oh PS...still making SLOW SLOW SLOW headway on the building permits...please keep it in your prayers!

Sunday, May 16, 2010


Jon and Chad arrived a few days ago. yesterday I took them to my favourite place on earth- the giraffe center. you can feed the giraffe, take pictures with them, and learn about the endangered... (species? family? genus?) of giraffe- the Rothschild.

today we went to church, ate lunch and went to my friend Tony's birthday party. it is amazing how only two or three small errands can consume an entire day.

this week we'll begin shooting for the Visible Grace video. we'll be interviewing our board and some of my friends, we'll go to the VG property and take a tour and my friend Christine will be taking us into the slums of Ngong to meet some of her friends.

it's been a wonderful few days. I'm learning a lot about how to prep for American visitors, and what to expect when they're here.

tomorrow Susan is going to the ministry of lands to dole out various payments and taxes to apply toward our building permits. keep that in your prayers!

(and...the picture is taking TOO LONG to upload. pictures later!)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

general update

So, I'm here and everything. In Kenya, I mean. I've been trying to blog more, but a) the power keeps going out and b) the internet has been really slow and c) I can't think of anything interesting to say.

My friends Jon and Chad arrive in Kenya this evening. They will spend the next 13 days shooting video of just about everything, so that they can make a promotional video for Visible Grace. I'm pretty excited about it; they are donating their time and this video should be really valuable to our fundraising. I'm also excited to spend time showing them around Nairobi. (Side note, they have only raised about half the funds for their plane tickets to get here. If you're interested in donating even a small amount, email me, mail us a check or donate on Facebook. Thank you!)

I wrote on Twitter a few days ago that Susan and I were on our way to pay an application fee for building permits. The situation is actually (surprisingly) a lot more complicated than that. You can either rest easy in the knowledge that we're working on it, or you can read the full thing on my blog. Here we go:

Monday (US time), Nathan wired us the money to pay NEMA (National Environment Management Authority) sundry fees for, ah, I don't remember what all they are for, but they are legit, official costs, NOT bribes. Susan and I went to town (when I say 'town' I mean downtown Nairobi) on Wednesday to visit the bank and get paperwork. We realised two things: one, our treasurer, Peris, had gone out of town for a family funeral, and two, our bank here is charging us fees twice for every transaction we make. No thank you.

We collected information from a couple other banks so that we can discuss switching banks at our next board meeting. Then we headed home. We talked to the Mr Muigiri (heretofore referred to as Nema Guy) about meeting him to go to the ministry of lands and paying the fees. And we called Peris.

Susan is meeting Peris tomorrow to sign the paperworks and get almost $2000 in cash from the bank. On Monday, she will meet Nema Guy in Ngong and he will drive her (in his car! woohoo!) to the ministry of lands office (about an hour south of our land) to pay the various fees. What I do during these times depends on how my jet lagged videographers are feeling.

ALLEGEDLY, after paying these fees, NEMA will give us an official report declaring our property fit to be built upon. We can file this report with the ministry of lands and then supposedly we will have our building permits in thirty days.

I'm torn quite equally between hoping hoping hoping that this actually happens (because I'll be around, see?) and knowing it's going to take so much more time, money, patience and heartache than this.

So. We'll see. Today, I'm in my fave coffee shop (coffee AND WIRELESS INTERNET. The power keeps going out just to make sure I remember where I am), blogging, paying a couple bills online, researching for my health and nutrition seminar, which is coming up in June. (More on that later.) (Ha, I find it funny that Simon and Garfunkel's 'America' came on my ipod just as I wrote that.) This weekend, I'll be dragging Jon and Chad around, trying to acclimate them to this time zone and to this crazy, crazy culture. Next week, we'll be visiting, oh, a million places, taking video of anything and everything. This, and the waiting, constitutes my life for the next few days.

Oh, the waiting. and waiting. and waiting.

Keep VG in your prayers!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mary Poppins

I always keep a lot of stuff in my purse- babysitting supplies, VG stuff, knitting or a book (in case I have 'free time'), inhalor, eyedrops, contact case, source of protein (I'm apparently really high maintenance, physically).

When I'm in Kenya my purse certainly doesn't get any lighter, but it gets more specific: hand sanitizer. tissue paper. sunscreen, camera. Really, I'm ready for anything. I get a lot of crap for my purse, both here and in the US. But I like to be prepared.

So yesterday when I stopped by a friend's house to meet her new baby (and play with her two year old) and she informed me that I would not actually be going home but would in fact be spending the night with her, I mentally ran through the things I had with me:

toothbrush (always)
contact case
allergy medicine

and realised I was ready to go. I didn't need a single thing. Finally, my bag of tricks was to be put to good use.

Which was really good news, because their two year old is extremely awesome.

Friday, May 7, 2010

the morning report

When people ask me what Kenya looks like, I refer them to the Lion King.

In particular, the ten acres of land owned by Visible Grace look like they were lifted directly from the (cartoon) set. Wide, flat expanses of tough, dry grass. Acacia trees marking the horizon. Broad strokes of white clouds across an enormous blue sky. Singing hippopotamuses.

Um...yeah, so the point is, 'the morning report' is (catchy, sticky) song from the Lion King. Also, I decided to try and articulate what a typical morning in Kenya is like.


This morning I woke up at 5. 5 AM. It was disgusting. (Side note: I've been practicing trying to guess the time based on the quality of light that comes in the windows. I have a clock, but I feel like an internal clock is a good skill to hone. So far I've been within the hour, which is no small task when you wake up after traveling for 28 hours and you're not even sure what day it is.)

5am in Kenya is much louder than it ought to be. For one thing, the birds are awake. Very awake. For another, the first run of buses is barreling down the main road, honking their horns to make sure we are all aware that There Is A Bus Here.

We are aware. Very aware.

When I lived in Mbita (the village on Lake Victoria where I taught kindergarten in 2003 and 2004), I had a ridiculous sleeping schedule. I was violently allergic to one single flower that grew there, for one thing. For another, we slept with the windows open (it was HOT) so the hippos, monkeys, birds et alia woke me up whenever they damn well pleased. (Like: 3am.)

In Mbita I'd usually crawl out of bed and read, or hop online (the line was faster then?) or lie in bed and think about how many hours I had left before I had to head to school. Somehow I stayed in one piece even on 4, 5 or 6 hours of sleep (and teaching, in case you were wondering, expends a LOT of energy!) Generally, once I was up, I was up. So: I kept weird hours in the village.

But in Nairobi I usually sleep pretty well. Sure, there's the usual bout of jet lag (two years ago, I would pass out at like 6pm every night for the first week. and then of course be wide awake at, you know, 11pm). But once I've acclimated I actually sleep better than I do in Portland. Which is lovely.

But this morning I couldn't sleep. I was UP. Like more awake then I thought was physically possible for such an inappropriate time of day.

Susan recently moved into a one-bedroom flat to save money. This puts a damper on my usual schedule of reading in bed and...well that's just about the only hindrance I can think of. Point is- this morning once I knew I was Officially Up (as in, not falling back asleep anytime soon) I grabbed my phone, my Bible, my book and a shawl, crawled over Sound Asleep Susan, shuffled into my slippers and tiptoed out of the room.

Morning: it smells different here. I can't put my finger on it. Almost-rain in the air. Charcoal fires. Then the deafening silence that comes with country life- birds, cows, goats.

First, like a good African, I made tea. Bring water to boil. Bring milk to boil. Add tea leaves. Stir. Susan has a gas stove, which is nice. (I've often said life in Africa is similar to going camping. The water and cooking sources in particular. Also, the pervasiveness of mud when it rains.)

I settle onto the couch with my book and a cup of tea but then I decide to check on our laundry, which we hung outside yesterday to dry, and see how it's doing.

How it's doing is getting rained on. Not any heavy rain that will go anywhere but a light, dusting mist that I never knew was possible here. Just enough- just barely enough- to keep our clothes damp.

I lean over the guard rail on our balcony, squinting into the dawn-ish light, staring at the road in front of me and trying to see Kenya the way I would if this was my first trip here:

tarmacked road
dust-coloured tarps covering aluminum kiosks
stalks of maize
muddy side roads
tin roofs
laundry, everywhere (a clothesline extending from every building)

Soon, the road will be full of children walking to school (mismatched uniforms indicate public school; buses indicate private), people heading to work, trucks carrying who-knows-what, and bus conductors yelling at EVERYONE.

But for now it's relatively people-free. Only the birds and myself are awake.