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Monday, June 18, 2012

A Day in the Life...


I’ve been meaning to write a post so that you could catch a glimpse of what a normal day here at Mariann looks like. 

After waking up, I went for a morning run down the road and back.  On the way, I can usually catch the Sang’alo Primary students on their way to school.  One little boy started to run with me and ran all the way to his school.  Of course, I get lots of surprised looks, friendly “chamgeis,” and giggles from the little ones.  It’s such a great way to start the day!  While I was doing Pilates in our living room, I looked out the door to see one of our resident cows staring at me.  It was even shocked to see the crazy mzungu!

My first class of the day was Class 3 PE.  What a rambunctious group—I just love them!  The boys have this game that they play with the “plates” (i.e. Frisbees) and the “mpiret” (a squish ball).  They swat it around in the air and have a great time!  Of course, the girls want nothing to do with this, so I try to find something to keep them occupied.  Today, it was playing with my hair and staring in wonder at the whiteness of my skin.  They would say, “OH!  It’s soooo white.”  At one point, even some of the boys were drawn over to look at my white scalp and claw hair clip (circa 1988). 

We took uji (porridge) with the teachers and chatted with them for a bit.  In Class 5 Math, we practiced multiplying kilograms and grams.  I worry about boring them to death, but they never stop smiling sweetly and shouting answers.  J  Back in Class 3 CRE (Christian Religious Education), we talked about praying to God and how Daniel faithfully prayed even though he faced the lions’ den.  And God saved him!  After lunch (ugali, sukuma wiki, and kitheri) with the teachers, we had Creative Arts with the students, who wove bracelets out of craft lace (which seems to be a favorite craft around here).  In Class 4 CRE, we talked about “Sharing Work at School” and “Sharing Work in the Traditional African Community.”  If you’re wondering, yes, I felt very inadequate and awkward teaching the latter.  But it was great, and my heart smiled when they remembered their memory verse a week later: “Carry each other’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”  Galatians 6:2

After classes, we were surprised by our fellow teacher, Susan, who had made us chips (French fries).  What a sweet servant heart!  After a nice talk with her, we settled in for a nice reading session while the rain poured outside.  We made banana pancakes for dinner and headed up to the teachers’ lounge.  We played some nice rounds of “Moonshine” (our usual card game) and went to visit the younger students’ class during evening preps.  Ash and I taught them “Blessed Be Your Name.”  When those sweet little voices sang it back to us, I know that God and Jesus were smiling!  We met with all of the students at 9 PM to close the day with singing and prayer.  Of course, they sang “Our God is a Handsome God”—and how can you top that?  But our day wasn’t over.  We went to the girls’ dorm where we danced traditional Luhya dances (involving a lot of swaying, jumping, and other gyrations that white girls are not quite used to…especially Church of Christ white girls).  We transitioned into “Little Sally Walker,” then crazy chaos.  After getting them sufficiently wound up, we called it a night.

What a beautifully blessed day!  God continues to give us so much, even as our days here wind down.  I cannot believe that we only have 30 days left until we are back in the States, but I trust that God will bless us beyond what we can fathom.  Please pray that I will stay focused, intentional, and energetic in the days to come!  Love you all!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Music Festival continued...


    This past Thursday we headed to Kapsabet with the children for the second round of the Music Festival.  This particular day we were very lucky because we took a matatu (van) and a small car—meaning no children got sick J.  This was a completely different ride than the previous Music Festival.  Upon arrival to Kapsabet our students started practicing.  There were many schools at this event and many of the students had never seen a mzungu before (and guess what…Mariann School has three J).  The staring was immediate, and it didn’t take long for our personal bubbles to be invaded.  No questions asked they just began to touch our skin and play with our hair J. 
    Eventually we were saved for a bit because our students were called to perform ‘Paponyo’.  They did an excellent job.  It sounded and looked great! We unfortunately missed Beryl recite ‘Cry of an Outcast’ because it was at the same time as ‘Paponyo’.  Susan, however, told us that she did a great job—she recited the poem perfectly. 
    We then had awhile before the students performed again, so we tried to rest.  We sat down on some rocks and were soon surrounded by many pupils from other schools.  We talked to them for a little while, but what they really wanted was our picture haha.  One of the students had a digital camera so we took some photos with them.  Finally another girl asked for a picture, but she didn’t have a camera.  I decided to be nice and take a picture with her…the thing was we had to go to a picture station (like at Sears or Walmart).  They actually had a few men with picture stations set up at the Music Festival (you could get a picture for 40 shillings…not a bad deal).  Anyways that was a mistake because once I stepped onto that set every child wanted a picture with me.  I’m probably in at least 25 random children’s photos.  Honestly we’re thinking of starting a business here.  “Come on Over, Get Your Snap with a Mzungu Today! Only 40 bob!”  Oh well, at least I will always be remembered by people I don’t know in Kenya J.  Finally Katy and Abbie rescued me!  Our excuse for no more photos was we were hungry and needed to eat.  We truly did go get food—samosas, dough balls, mandazi!
     After our snack we went to hang out with our pupils.  Problem is they don’t really want to hang out with us at these events because so many other people crowd us L.  We were able to get some of them to stay with us though—I promise it wasn’t bribery.  Finally our students from class 6 performed ‘Mdudu’.  They are naturally born performers—it was so good!
     Our last performance of the day was ‘Tekis’ a Nandi poem.  Once again the pupils did a great job! (I know in my last post I said only ‘Paponyo’ and ‘Mdudu’ made it to this second round and this is true, but our teachers were some how able to get ‘Cry of an Outcast’ and ‘Tekis’ in as well haha)
     Finally we got our results! Unfortunately none of the performances placed high enough to move on, but the children had a wonderful time which is what really matters.  ‘Cry of an Outcast’ and ‘Mdudu’ both placed 5th in their categories, and ‘Tekis’ placed 6th in its category.  There was a little mix up with ‘Paponyo’—it was disqualified because it was in the wrong category L.  Regardless of the results our children poured their hearts into these performances and enjoyed themselves!  We are so proud of what they accomplished, and we of course thought they should have moved onto Nationals!       

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Music Festival!


Yesterday the kids participated in a Music Festival in Mosoriot!  We began our hike to Tachasis around 8am to catch the pick-up truck that was taking 36 students and 6 teachers (including us) to the Music Festival.  Now we were wondering how everyone would fit, but we of course believed that these Africans would make it work.  The girls climbed in the bed of the pick-up first and sat on benches (most of them had smaller girls sitting on their laps).  The boys then climbed in and stood in all the empty spaces (no worries, there were bars for them to hold on to J).  Once the children were packed in they worked on getting the teachers in.  Katy climbed into the front seat first, and then Susan sat on her lap.  Next Abbie crawled in next to Katy and I sat on Abbie’s lap.  Four people in the front seat! The two male teachers stood on the back bumper of the pick-up.  Be impressed including the driver we fit 43 people onto this pick-up!  About 5 to 10 minutes down the road they realized the pick-up could not handle the weight of all these people J.  So we stopped and got a lorry instead.  This time we sat all the kids in the trailer part of the lorry (it’s like a large u-haul truck).  Abbie, Katy, Susan, and I sat back there with the students while the male teachers sat in the front with the driver.  We had plenty of space, but we didn’t anticipate the amount of swaying we would feel on this ride.  These roads aren’t paved so they create quite an amusement park ride sensation.  About half way through the trip you could see some of the kids did not look well.  It was only a matter of time before there were kids throwing up all over the truck L.  We finally made it to Mosoriot…thank goodness, and all the teachers managed to hold onto their breakfast J. 
Although the kids were a little shaken from the ride they were excited to perform, and we were excited to watch!  The first performance they had was called “Paponyo,” which included 35 of the students.  This was a tribal chant Pokot children did while they praised God.  The kids did a great job!  We were very proud of them!  The next performance was supposed to be Berryl (a class 6 girl), so we went to the performances for the individuals.  We were told she would perform in an hour.  We watched pupil after pupil recite “Mama’s Baby” (we saw it over fifty times) and still it didn’t look like Berryl was anywhere close to performing.  We honestly could recite “Mama’s Baby” for all of you, but we wouldn’t do that to you J.  Finally it was nearing 3pm and she hadn’t performed yet so we decided to go get food.  We got samosas, fried dough balls, and mandazi—so good. 
After we had gotten something to eat we went and sat with the children.  Katy and Abbie took power naps, while I sat staring at the children from another school stare at Katy and Abbie take naps J.  Finally we got the word that Berryl was going to perform—Yay!  She recited the poem “Cry of an Outcast” written by Mr. Shamwama one of our fellow teachers.  Berryl did such an excellent job.  She was spot on with her recitation and her costume! 
Next we ran over to see the class 6 boys and girls recite “Mdudu”.  It is about the spread of HIV/AIDS and was also written by our very own Mr. Shamwama.  Again they did such a great job! They were all together and very animated and loud!  The students were so excited after this performance!  And best of all the audience and judges really enjoyed it!
Finally several of the girls performed a “Nandi Poem.”  This was the last performance for the Mariann students for the day! Again they did excellent! They were loud and all together!
Now for the results! “Paponyo” and “Mdudu” placed second in each of there categories.  Drum roll please…the students will be performing these items in Kapsabet at provincials next week!  The other performances that didn’t make it to provincials were still very excellent, and if we had been judges they would also be at provincials (we are completely unbiased J).
We took the same lorry back to Tachasis, and God answered Abbie’s pray by no one getting sick on the ride home!  We made it back to Mariann around 9pm, and everyone headed to bed!  It was a very exciting and tiring day for everyone!

Friday, June 1, 2012

In the jungle, the mighty jungle...


Today, the entire country of Kenya celebrated its 49th Madaraka Day, when it first received the right to internal governance.  Since the kids had a holiday, we decided to go to the nearby forest.  We had a beautiful hike down and up hills, through corn fields, over rivers, and through fields of cow manure until we reached the forest (aka jungle).  Along the way, the children kept asking us if we were tired.  Ha!  I think we wazungu women are considered weak little girls around here (and we are, compared to the Nandi women).  When we arrived in the forest, we caught glimpses of monkeys swinging through the treetops.  I think I enjoyed seeing our students’ reactions more than the actual monkeys.  It really felt like we were in “Tarzan” or “The Lion King” (when Simba meets up with Timon and Pumbaa).  We even started singing “Hakuna Matata,” which the kids know from watching that movie during entertainment.  J
We had such a wonderful morning with the kids and were all so tuckered out when we arrived back at Mariann.  After some rest and a nice little afternoon rain, we walked with one of our students, Faith, to her home.  Her lovely mother, Sally, also happens to be one of the nursery school teachers at Mariann.  We had taken a walk by her house on the previous night and stopped in to say “chamegei.”  She invited us to stay for tea, which turned into a full meal AND an invitation back for supper the next night.  We watched her prepare a mountain of chapatti, which she fully expected us to eat before we left (we actually got pretty close to finishing it).  The whole time we were there, we were entertained by Mercy Chemu, who is the craziest, cutest little girl you will ever meet!  She loves to beat up her older sister, who just calmly and sweetly takes it.  Chemu will chatter in Kinandi the whole time; and when we ask for a translation, it’s usually something like: “I am going to beat the chickens” or “I am going to kick you” (to her sister, never to us).  But you see that big Chemu smile, and your heart just melts.  She loves for us to come to her home and was especially excited last week when she got to come to our house for tortillas and guacamole (or chapatti and avocadoes, as she calls it).  God has blessed us with such a beautiful community!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Back to School


As much as I loved traveling, seeing other missionaries, and meeting new friends, I am so glad we are back at Mariann.  I feel more grounded being here with our students and our friends in the community—they have become our African family.  Towards the end of April, I started to get an unexpected and strong wave of homesickness.  I really struggled to be in the present and not let my mind wander to thoughts of when we would return home.  I let doubts creep in (i.e. are we really making an impact here, am I really utilizing our limited time here), which led to discouragement.  But just as God has provided for us immeasurably, He lifted me up in multiple ways.
            First, seeing the smiling faces of our kids was a wonderful welcome.  But soon after we arrived back at Mariann, we had such an encouraging visit from Monte Cox, David Hatfield, and Phil Hoggard—three elders from Downtown Church of Christ in Searcy, Arkansas.  Their presence and kind words were so edifying.  We also gained a new teammate, Abbie, who is so Spirit-filled and Spirit-led.  The three of us have had so many great conversations about God in the past few weeks.  God knew what I was feeling and provided just what I needed when I needed it.  Mom sent me a calendar where she wrote encouraging verses on random days.  Strangely enough, the verse for May 10 was from I Corinthians 10:13: “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.  And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”  That was the same day that Abbie arrived.  J
            At the same time, though, God has been working on me.  I love it when He gives you a wake-up call at a time when you don’t even realize you are asleep.  Even being in as wonderful a place as Sang’alo, Kenya, Satan will still attack you.  In fact, I think it may be easier for him to catch you off guard because you think you are safe.  I wish I could expound more on some things that God has shown me lately, but I will focus on two:
First, God has given me this sense of urgency to proclaim His Gospel to everyone I meet.  It sounds simple and obvious enough, but I know that I have been too relaxed for a long time.  While reading the Prophets, one sees the terrible nature of sin and the urgency of God’s call to repentance and salvation.  As our time winds down here, I feel an increased pressure to spend every moment wisely and intentionally.  But why should life in general be any different?  My days on this earth are numbered, and this world needs Jesus. 
Second, God has given us His Holy Spirit to live in us.  This also seems like a pretty basic Christian concept; but when you dwell on this simple fact, it will blow your mind!  Part of the reason I was getting discouraged was because I was relying on me rather than the Spirit of God.  As Kyle Idleman, the author of Not a Fan puts it: why would you choose to walk when you can ride?  We choose to struggle on our own rather than get out of way so that God can work in us.  Idleman also points out that we always say, “How cool would it be to be [insert person from Bible here] because he/she [talked to God, saw God, etc.]?”  The truth of the matter is that we have God living IN us.  When we get to heaven, these revered witnesses will be asking us, “What was it like to have the Holy Spirit living and working in you?”  Pretty crazy thought. 

As our friend Arap Chumba would say, “It’s like that.”  I hope I didn’t ramble and made some ounce of sense.  There are so many thoughts running through my head so I have difficulty writing them out. 
            

Only in Africa...


So I know it’s been awhile since I last posted…so get ready for two new posts!  So much has happened in the past three weeks, but I will try to hit the highlights. 

Of course, we love spending time with the kids here at Mariann; but we have also loved getting to know the teachers.  They are a hoot!  We’ve started a staff movie night every Friday.  Which movies have we watched so far?  “The Sandlot” and “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.” J  Our friend, Susan (aka “black mzungu” or “black American”—the kids’ nickname), was especially captivated by the movies.  At the point in “The Sandlot” where Benny hits the ball so hard toward the camera, Susan jumped because she thought that the ball would come out of the screen!  We find that we have to explain some things—the game of baseball, the Fourth of July, why animals are talking, etc.—but I think it only adds to the experience! 

Mr. Silas is quite the character; I hope that all of you will meet him one day.  The other night, I went up to the teachers’ lounge to socialize.  Mr. Silas asked me, “Katy, do you sleep under a mosquito net?”  I answered, “Yeah, even though we don’t really need one here.”  And he said, “Oh, no.  You’ve got some mosquito bites here (motioning towards the side of his face).”  I realized that he was talking about my zits and said, “Unfortunately, those are not mosquito bites.”  Ha!  Thankfully, Africa has conditioned me not to get embarrassed and take these hilarious instances in stride. 
Just the other night, there was a snake in Standard 8’s classroom.  *Side note: Monte Cox (aka Arap Sang), who was a missionary here for over a decade, said that he only saw a snake once in all of his journeys through the bush.*  A student from Class 8, Laban, calmly came to the door of the teachers’ lounge, knocked, asked if he could enter, and informed us that there was a snake.  Quite a different reaction than an American—I would have run in there and screamed!  We all rushed to see the small green snake, which was quickly stomped by Mr. Silas.  This is how the conversation went down afterwards:
            Us: What kind of snake is that?  Is it a black mamba? (half-jokingly)
            Silas: I think it is a type of black mamba.
            Us: What?!?!  Will it hurt us?
            Silas:  It is not harmful, but somewhat dangerous.
            Us:  What?!  It is not harmful, but dangerous.  Isn’t that the same thing?
            (Five minutes later)
            Silas: It is not dangerous.

So, we have only been here five months, and we have seen what may or may not be a dangerous snake.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Celebrity Status


    Yesterday morning we headed to the Tuigoin Church of Christ for a cluster service.  We took a car with two other women from the Sang’alo Church because it was an hour car ride away.  This was probably our first true cluster meeting.  We arrived around 11:20, which was earlier than most people.  The service started around 11:50 (I think they started it because the Americans were here haha) although many people were still not there.  Throughout the service more and more people came in, and you could see by the expression on their faces that they did not expect to have wzungus at church J.  Finally a bunch of children sat in front of us, but I highly doubt they heard any of the service because they were staring at us the whole time.  I mean, we are used to being stared at, but most people in Sang’alo are used to us so it isn’t as severe.  I had forgotten what it is really like to be stared at until yesterday haha.  The greatest part of the staring is that you can stare right back at them and it doesn’t phase them at all, they just keep staring.  I should clarify that most of these children have never met a mzungu in their lifetime, so we were quite the spectacle. 
    After service we ate lunch and talked with the teens for a while.  They were all very nice and asked us to sing a song with them, so of course we did.  They were the most youth we had seen at a Church of Christ since being here.  It was actually really encouraging to see all of them praising God.  They of course couldn’t help but ask about the U.S. and differences between it and Kenya.  One of the funniest questions we got was “what would happen to your skin if you didn’t bathe?”  Evidently they wanted to know if our skin changes color if we don’t shower…and maybe it eventually would if we left all the dirt on it haha, but we told them we would just smell really bad if we didn’t bathe haha J.
    Eventually the little ones started crowding in again—the teens got away fast (maybe they knew what was about to happen).  The kids started playing with our hair and then touching our skin, especially our faces so we’ll all probably break out from it J.  They were very intrigued by our skin and the fact that we have hair on our arms…what a phenomenon!  They were interested in our piercings, bracelets, and watches—anything and everything!  We were like the main attraction at a zoo. 
    The best part about the whole day was when we left the Tuigoin Church of Christ.  The kids went crazy…like little teeny bopper girls after Justin Bieber.  Katy and Abbie made it into the car before I did, and some of the kids instantly started trying to crawl in the car.  The kids outside with me kept shaking my hand over and over again.  I had a few more hands to my face…they had to get one last feel in haha.  Eventually our driver told the kids to back up so I could climb into the car.  Finally the doors were shut and we drove away.  Never in my life have I felt more like a celebrity.  I totally expect this to occur when I get back to the U.S. J.