Yes, we moved again

It seems that our family has been following a trend in downsizing.Since leaving the United States and moving to Kenya we have lived in three houses, each a bit smaller than the previous one. Our family of seven is now living in about 1800 square feet (167 square meters), and it fits us perfectly. We moved most of our belongs to this home in the back of our passenger van. It took a few loads but we were moving only about two miles down the road. It’s the shortest distance that we have ever moved (we’ve moved across both the Pacific and the Atlantic) but I can now report that our moves across oceans were easier than this move down the road. Lots of planning goes into a move across an ocean. This move was thrown together suddenly and little planning. An opportunity arose and we took it. There came a point where I threw a basin of dirty dishes onto the back seat of our van, carried them into our new home and just plopped them down into the new sink in the new kitchen. Same dirty dishes.

The location is a little bit closer to our children’s school (that short distance easily saves us fifteen minutes in the morning). It’s also a slightly more secure property, and security means a lot in Nairobi. We moved farther away from Karura Forest and hear more cars during the day but still get vervet monkeys passing through our yard. We now live on a compound with other western neighbors. It’s been a nice change to have neighbor’s children show up to play with ours and to watch after our animals while we are away.

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
2 Corinthians 5:1

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Kenya Power & Light prunes the trees

A few nights back we had a big rainstorm. The power was out for a few hours. The next morning the power was back on and Kenya Power and Light sent out a truck to prune the trees on some nearby streets. That seems fairly typical but it’s the little things that get an ex-pat sometimes. Who taught these people how to prune trees?

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They butchered these trees. So ugly. Highly annoying.

I realize how superficial and ridiculous this is. The reason that I would even consider taking the time to post these photos and write these words is because of what happened next. The cut limbs lay on the ground under the trees for days and began to dry out. Uglier still.

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Then some local Kenyans came and picked up the drying limbs. A few different people, on a few different days, a little bit at a time. They were not a hired work crew but just some people who recognized an opportunity to pick up firewood. Firewood that they will use to cook their food and heat their small homes. Homes that, even in Nairobi, are often not much more than a tin shack. Homes that are within walking distance of mine.

I am humbled every day that I live here. The opportunity is a privledge. It is challenging, I often feel lonely. I live in a community where daily I am reminded vividly of all that I have to be thankful for. Watching people pick up their needed firewood as I drive by stabs at my heart. I can never do enough. I can never give enough. I must follow my faith and trust that God’s will and purpose are at work in this crazy, crazy, world in which we live.

 

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.    

— Romans 12:2

 

On the way back to Kenya

My family isn’t the kind to drive by the source of the Nile River and not stop for a look. So look we did. Jinga, Uganda lies on the northernmost shores of Lake Victoria. By car it’s on the one road that is a direct shot from Kampala to Nairobi. If you look it up on your computer, you will find that Kamapla is about 350 miles from Nairobi. On American interstates that might take you six hours of driving. Here, we made it in twelve hours over two days, plus we had the stop at the border.

Jinga is a small city with a population of about 71,000. There seemed to be a lot of tourists. “A lot of tourists” is relative. This isn’t Disney. I’d guess that we saw at least a dozen westerners.

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Friends had given us the phone number of a contact who could arrange a tour for us. After calling him we waited about fifteen minutes before he rode up on his motorcycle and met us along the side of the road. We followed him to the boat. The boat launched from what I can best describe as a lakeside slum. I didn’t take any pictures from the dirt road as we walked between shanties to the boat’s shore launching point. I wasn’t scared to whip out my I-Phone. I was embarrassed. I struggle daily on reconciling issues such as the cost of my phone being just under half the average Ugandans annual income (based on current exchange rates and a report from the Uganda Bureau of Statistics, 2009/2010). Oh and to help alleviate my privlidged guilt let me assure you that I just purchased my first smart phone this past summer so I could access Google Maps as I attempt to navigate the streets of Nairobi. Getting lost in Nairobi, well, it can result in a car jacking costing you more than the loss of your stolen smart phone.

 

But I digress.

 

Once we were on the water I took plenty of photos .

There were other boats similar to the one that we were on. All the boats are primarily used as transportation for the local population to cross the Lake. For those living in the rural areas around the lake this is the quickest way to reach Jinga.

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With recent rains the lake’s water levels are high.

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The bags on the shore are filled with charcoal that has been brought across the Lake and will be sold nearby. Charcoal is a big business in eastern Africa. One of the city’s mosques is in the background.

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It’s always 5:00 somewhere and somewhere there is always laundry to do. (At least at my house there is.) How is it possible for those sheets to be so white?

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Nearby is the city’s official dock. There was a lot of rust,

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and a ship in from Tanzania,

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and a boat from the Uganda Marine Police Unit,

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and a warning to stay away from a tilapia floating fish farm.

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You had to go a wee bit farther before you could begin to appreciate the natural beauty surrounding us.

On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondorous works, I will meditate. – Psalm 145:5

There is always a huge variety of birds.

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Can you see the monitor lizard?

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How about the monkey?

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A few villages and individual homes were along the shore.

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Then in the distance you could see a narrowing of the water.

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A few minutes more and you are there, the start of the Nile River.

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The sound was the best part. After crossing a flat Lake Victoria you become acutely aware of the sudden choppiness of the water. The chop comes from two contributing factors. This is where the Nile River begins its northward flow against the southward rotation of the lake and underground there is a spring that pushes up and out. A beautiful sight to behold.

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I love, love, love, the titans of capitalism that never let an opportunity pass to sell a trinket to a tourist. We didn’t shop. I was afraid the hut might float away. It’s not on land but an outcropping of rocks in the middle of the river.

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For me, for now, this was a five star day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A quick visit to Uganda

I haven’t had to worry about school holidays since my last college class. Admittedly, it’s one of the benefits of homeschooling. This is our family’s first year living with children committed to a school schedule. It seriously sucks the life out of travelling. So I have been looking forward to my sons’ first school holiday since before their classes even began. Mashujaa Day in Kenya. Roughly translated as Heroes Day, a national holiday to celebrate all those who fought for Kenya’s independence.  For us, it was a four day weekend and a chance to hit the road. Uganda, here we come.

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It’s never fun to find the road is out while improvements are being made but we’ve become used to such things.

It was the three hour wait at the Ugandan border that tried our nerves on this trip. Don’t blame Uganda for this one. The trouble came from Kenya. One of the elite immigration personnel would not stamp us out of Kenya. Seriously? At least he assured my husband, “Don’t worry. You are not going to jail.” Thanks for that. Let me assure you, whatever bribe you are hoping that we will slip you, we won’t.

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Oh, and that is my seven year old daughter who has fallen asleep on the floor while we wait on these shenanigans.

 

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I have a friend who heard this story and remarked that we must have been so scared. I appreciate the concern but honestly the most shameful part of the situation is that we have lost most of our fear in these scenarios. They don’t happen every day, most Kenyan workers are honest and hardworking but there are still enough trouble makers that these events are tiresome, inappropriate, and a complete waste of time but scary, not usually.

The next morning it was time for my hubby to head out to work. He was meeting with Bible translation workers in Entebbe, Uganda. My children and I spent the morning at the guest house playing with puppies, jumping rope, reading in hammocks, climbing trees and water towers, and just enjoying the warm and sunny weather.

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By afternoon we were ready to venture out into the capital of Kampala. I had one million Ugandan shillings in my wallet. That’s about $275.00 USD.

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We headed up. Kampala is a city of hills. We saw a sign touting a restaurant with the “best view” in Kampala and we decided to see it for ourselves.

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Sometimes, just sometimes, like when you just can’t walk another step, it’s good to have a big brother.

 

 

It was a great view. You could even see a snippet of Lake Victoria. Nice lunch too. With nothing on our agenda it was a great way to spend a few hours.

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That night it was time to visit with friends from Marietta, Georgia. They work with Sixty Feet, a Christian mission working in Jesus’ name with imprisoned children. It is always good to see friends, but when you get to share some time together in this little corner of the world, it just feels all the more special.

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That night, just as the sun set around 7, we looked up into a beautiful night sky and got quite a surprise. There were hundreds of bats flying overhead. They were clearly leaving their roost and heading out for the night. We watched them fly overhead for twenty minutes. Very cool, my photo doesn’t do the scene any justice.

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God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. – Genesis 1:5

 

Settling into Nairobi

It’s been just over two months since our family has moved into our home in Nairobi, Kenya. This was a move like no other that we have made. I packed for most of it but moved almost none of it. My husband moved most of it while I was in the U.S. with our children. It took him two separate drives with two separate lorries, some good friends doing heavy lifting, and a lot of used boxes. Then he had to drive our two dogs and one rabbit the six hours south from upcoutry to Nairobi. Bless him.

The kids and I arrived to a house full of boxes, sleeping bags loaned from a neighbor, furniture strewn about, and no appliances. Rentals in Kenya don’t come with appliances. Or lightbulbs. Not a single lightbulb in the entire house.

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Oh, and, school was starting in ten days. Yes, school. I have homeschooled all five of my children since they entered kindergarten (they each had the opportunity to attend old fashioned church preschool a few mornings a week). This year my oldest two were going into 10th grade and 7th grade. It was time for a change.

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They now attend Rosslyn Academy in Nairobi. They are doing so well and I could not be more proud of both of them. All A’s and B’s on their first quarter report cards, tennis team for the oldest, soccer team for the younger, and best of all they are enjoying themselves.

Having my sons at school this year has allowed me much more time to focus on my daughters and their educations. Serious stuff.

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Living in Nairobi has been a welcome change. We enjoyed our time and our friends in Eldoret. It was simply time to move on. God brought forth such an abundance of opportunities and it became so clear that this was where we need to be for now. There is so much more for our children here. School, friends, athletics, a library, dance classes, and even movie theaters (although we haven’t been yet).

But never fear, it’s not all typical, western style, big city living. We still have to dodge the cattle on the roads

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and we have monkeys on our roof. Not kidding.

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I’m thrilled and only a little bit scared.

Mt. Elgon, Kenya

In February we went with a group of friends to Mount Elgon National Park in Kenya. For many of the people going the big goal of the weekend was to attempt to climb to the peak of the mountain.  Having three younger children not ready for the climb gave me an easy out. My two oldest were ready for the adventure and went with trusted friends.

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On an average day, you drive about two hours high up the mountain and then walk another three to the peak. The park requires that you hire a guide. There is a marked trail but it is relatively easy to become lost.

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The views of the area are beautiful.

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The flowers are amazing.

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The group made it to the Kenyan summit and enjoyed themselves while resting a bit.

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The big adventure came during the descent. A wild fire that had been burning on the side of the mountain as the climbers went up had flared up and changed directions some. The photo below shows flames on the path where the climbers were heading.

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As in many cases of fire, the smoke became as much of a danger as the fire itself.

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Finally they realized that they would have to cross a burning field. There was some debate about the best course of action. The group huddled up for prayer and then the guide crossed over calling the others to follow him.

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The fire had come down the road that the cars had been parked on. The fire burned the grass under and around the cars. They had ashes on them but were not damaged.

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The views on the drive down had changed slightly just in the hours since the drive up.

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Local residents had been driven in and were attempting to fight the fire by beating it back with tree limbs.

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Very thankful to have our hikers back safely.

 

Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord you God is with you wherever you go.   — Joshua 1:9

Turtle Bay, Watamu, Kenya

We recently had the opportunity to travel to the Kenyan coast. We flew from Nairobi. Peeking through the clouds we saw the peak of Mount Kilamanjaro in Tansania.

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As soon as we landed we were hit with the coastal heat and humidity. You could feel the salt in the air and our excitement began to build.

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The beach was beautiful. How’s that for drift wood?

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Boogie boarding was tried as the tide came in. We were in an area called Turtle Bay. The bay has a coral reef at it’s boundary with the Indian Ocean. The waves are never too high.

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Lots of fun was had playing in the sand.

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Fun times were had pool side too.

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The most spectacular times were at low tide when the water recedes several hundred feet. During low tide a miraculous tidal basin is exposed where moray eels and dozens of varieties of fish are trapped in shallow pools of water.

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I placed my foot in the following photo to give you an idea of just how close we were to the sea creatures swimming around us. That is a moray eel sticking his head out from under the rock I am standing on. There were at least a dozen moray eels who lived under this large rock and we went to see them every morning at low tide.

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Out he comes. The moray eels averaged about two feet in length.

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There were so many colors and different fish. My photographs do no justice to the miracle of all that we saw.

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The hotel property is laden with plumeria trees. We walked around the property collecting fallen flowers.

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Then we borrowed from the Hawaiian tradition of lei making and set to work.

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We hung our results in our hotel room and almost instantly the room smelled as sweet as the corridors of the Honolulu International Airport where the lei stands are located.

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The leis were waiting for the birthday boys return from a day in Nairobi.

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One morning at low tide some of us kayaked out towards the coral reef.

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Our first stop was at a rock outcropping that from a certain angle looks a tiny bit like a sea turtle, giving the Bay its name.

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The rock was crawling with sea crabs.

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Other creatures could be found if you looked carefully.

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We found many of this type of small star fish.

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Sea urchins were fun to see and hold but not fun to step on (as I later found out.)

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The water was pristine and we had the entire sand bar to ourselves. Paradise.

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Paddling back to the beach was just as beautiful.

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Our final day we went snorkeling. We paid to (legally) enter the Watamu Marine National Park.

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Our boat had a small area of plexiglass on the bottom to try and spot fish through.

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Despite being a good swimmer, we had a reluctant snorkeler who spent most of her time on the boat with the captain.

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It took some time but we finally got her to jump in for a swim.

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Those who go down to the sea in ships. Who do business on great waters. They have seen the works of the Lord and his wonders in the deep.  

– Psalms 104: 6 – 9