Our 2nd Fall Festival

What do you do with a group of children who are creative, highly energetic, have giving hearts full of God’s love, and are missing some of their home traditions?

You give them lots of newspaper, several cans of spray paint, a ton of balloons, and full creative license.

Then you get yourself a fall festival.

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You have “Go Fish”,

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ping-pong ball toss,

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pop-the-balloon-with a spear throw,

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bean bag toss,

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and the opportunity to teach Kenyan children how to bob for apples.

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Then when you see the cast on the move, you know that it must be time for the Bible house tour. Paul’s life and travels were the theme of the story.

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We had the stoning of Stephen.

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Paul’s baptism (after his blinding by an angel),

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a view of Paul’s jail cell,

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and a rather unusual boat ride doomed to crash,

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the crash special effects team was lying in wait with water and sound effects.

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Just a few more photos of some of our guests.

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Thank you to our neighbors who let us love on them in such a fun way. Thank you to those who helped with all the details. Thank you to my children and their friends who inspire me everyday.

While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night shall not cease.   – Genesis 8:22

The Masai Mara Marathon 2014 – It ain’t the Peachtree Road Race

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Let me begin by declaring that I am no athlete and I am certainly no runner. However, if I had ever held any secret aspirations to become one, those aspirations are now in the past. Being exposed up close and personal to Kenyan runners for over the last year has confirmed my suspicions that there are some things that I was simply not born to do.

Much to my amusement, my husband and sons are still happily willing to test their running skills with Kenyans. They are under no illusions of beating a Kenyan but they have that American panache that let’s them joyfully run far, far, behind the Kenyans with a certain savoir faire. That brought us to the Masai Mara Marathon 2014.

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As much of what happens in Kenya, it appeared to my western eyes as little more than partially organized choas. When the race didn’t begin on time I wasn’t surprised. Only a few minutes later there was an explanation to the delay. That is highly unusual. An explanation? Why there had been a lion discovered on the route and one of the wildlife helicopters had been dispatched to help chase it away.

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You see this is a race run on the Masai Mara plains and among the bush of Kenya. There are lions and wildebeest and leopards and zebras and warthogs and giraffes, oh my. Typically the armed game wardens in the area are spread out widely over thousands of acres. For the race many of them are brought in to patrol the route. This is a race where you really don’t want to be last.

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So after the elite marathon runners followed the pace car and began their run, the 10K and 5K runners began to line up.

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My boys weren’t too hard to spot.

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Yes, slow people are stepped upon.

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My girls and I waited in cushioned chairs under a tent.

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Masai ladies sang and danced while we waited for the runners to return.

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The Masai men are known for a standing high jump that they incorporate into their traditional tribal dances. Hence a jumping competition was set up.

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A spear throwing contest was also held as we waited.

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A water bottle station was arranged for the returning runners.

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The game wardens kept watch.

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People waited.

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We watched the helicopters land and take off. You were welcome to stand as close as you cared to. No take off safety zone on these plains.

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We found where the trash had been burned the night before.

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My boys made it back from their 5K safely in time to see the Marathon pace car return.

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In the distance the leaders began their return. Even the giraffes came out to watch.

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The sports stars in this part of the world are the runners. Hands down super stars.

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There he is, Ezra Sang, being interviewed.

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We came, we saw, we learned.

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We departed.

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A little Kenyan Ferdinand was even there to see us off.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run so that you may obtain it. – 1 Corinthians 9:24

Practicing walking

 

As I write this post, I am listening to the sound of heavy rain outside. I love that sound. I grew up in the south eastern United States. I love a good thunderstorm, especially when it’s time to go to bed. In Kenya, it is a little different. The sound still soothes my soul, that is until I think of the roads tomorrow.

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I’m no expert on the Kenyan weather system. We live just north of the equator and the weather is quite nice year round. We do have a rainy season but we are not in it just now. I think that we are in something the locals call “the short rains”. That seems to mean a few dry days followed by some afternoon/evening/night rains. I don’t mind it. It keeps the dust down.

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Now, let me make myself clear. I am no runner. I am no athlete. I have baby pounds still to loose and my baby is six years old. I do however like to go for a walk. It helps me to clear my head. I talk to God while I am out in his creation.

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After a good rain in these parts, walking becomes more challenging. I can be faced with mud that sticks to me in places that haven’t touched mud. It splatters upward. These photos were taken THREE HOURS after I came home from my walk and had worked up the nerve to venture back out.

So as I walked my Type A self along a well measured 5K route the other morning, I was met, as I neared my return home, with a lovely sight. Henry. I have almost never seen the man without a smile upon his face.

Henry works as a gardener. He is my gardener. (Oh, have I failed to mention in previous posts that I have a gardener? Shame on me. But that is for another time.)

As I struggled up a 35 degree ish incline on my way home (as fate would have it, I live at the top of the hill…easy to leave when you are rested and ready to go…the devil to come back a half hour {or more} later) with (I kid you not) at least an inch of mud stuck to the bottom of my uber trendy American purchased walking shoes, I see Henry, with the ever present smile upon his face. Damn.

He hasn’t got uber trendy American purchased walking shoes on. Quite frankly I didn’t notice what was on his feet at the time. He is usually barefoot but I really, really, really, think that he had some sort of foot covering on his feet that morning. Any who, here he was, smiling at me. I, (yes, even sarcastic me) could not help but to smile back. Then he said it. The greeting. With a  wonderful smile upon his face. “Ah, you are practicing walking.” Damn.

It was the most acurate and profound description of what I am living that I could have imagined. I am practicing walking. You know how babies learn to walk? They just work up the nerve and do it? That’s me. Every day.

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Mud or a cow paddy?

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Mud or sheep pellets?

If you don’t know the difference between mud, cow paddies, sheep pellets, and various other brown colored mushy stuff, let me assure you that your sense of smell will be of great assistance. Just work up the nerve and get out there and see it and smell it.

I don’t blog more often because I am exhausted. I love living here but it takes a lot out of me. I am a thinker. Thinking takes a lot of energy. I have made the time to blog this because I truly appreciate your time.  Thank you for reading this. Nothing profound to report. I am going to bed now. (Well after I edit, proofread, check the thesaurus for alternate word choices, and look at the preview that WordPress offers.) (Did I mention my Type A self?)

 

 

 

 

 

Miss Orene’s Academy

 

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OK. I am way behind the curve on this one. I feel as if I missed the entire Facebook first day of school photo competition a few weeks back. I am happy to report that school has begun at Miss Orene’s Academy. (Named for my paternal grandmother, Orene Pierce MacPherson, a professional educator, and because all the fancy schools call themselves ‘academy’ something or another). This year all my students have a grade number and we’ve got one in middle school and one in high school.

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We were homeschoolers in the states and we have continued here in Kenya. Math is still math and reading is still reading.

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The extracurriculars have changed as well as the destinations of the field trips.

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Sports teams have become pick up games of basketball and ultimate frisbee with the neighbors and the locals. Dance classes have become my eldest daughter organizing her sisters and neighbors into a dance group that she choreographs and leads.

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Field trips are at local mission hospitals and children’s homes. State parks and zoos have become safaris and monkey watching from the homes that we stay in during our weekends away.

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Our state-side 100 plus student history and art program has become about a dozen children meeting in my home once a week to share in music and a random assortment of learning opportunities.

 

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It’s not easy but we try to make it fun. It can be lonely so we share when we can. I am proud of my children. They are doing well and learning much.

 

 

How much better to get wisdom than gold! To get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver. Proverbs 16:16

 

 

 

To America and back again

Here are a few numbers to help represent the time that I spent with my 5 children in the U.S. this summer.

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9 weeks

over 3,500 miles driven

over 8,500 miles flown

over $1,000 raised in cash and goods for Kenyan’s in need

4 states visited

5 airports utilized, in 3 countries

5 pediatric check-ups, 1 immunization, 15 total inches grown        (5 by 1 child)

6 dental cleanings, 2 cavities filled, 3 dentist offices visited

3 teeth lost, in 2 weeks, by 1 child

3 cousins met, each born while we were in Kenya

1 youth mission trip, 1 week Boy Scout camp

4 kids, each 1 week at summer camp

5 days at the beach, 3 days at the lake, 2 days playing in a river, pool visits uncounted

1 day at Sea World, 1 day at Kennedy Space Center, 1 day at Stone Mountain

at least 19 BFFs visited

10 homes overnighted in

countless hugs

immeasurable support and encouragement

a minimum of one visit to each: The Varsity, Weaver D’s, Papa Johns, Dominos, Little Caesar’s, Chick-fil-A, Krispy Kreme, Dairy Queen, Taco Bell, McDonalds, Publix Deli, Kroger Deli, Chili’s, Mediterranean Grill, Hurricanes, Auntie Catfish, D.J.’s Deck, La Tropicana, Taqueria Tsunami, Australian Bakery Café, Willie Rae’s, Miss Mamie’s Cupcakes, Douceur de France, Ben and Jerry’s, Subway, Starbucks, (and cousin Sylvia’s kitchen)

pounds gained, unreported, (see above)

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I have been home in Kenya for almost three weeks now.  It has taken me that long to unpack, rearrange my wallet (dollars out, shillings in), and to begin to enjoy the memories from our time in the US this summer.  Our time there was fun, restful, and needed more than I realized.  We were uplifted in body and spirit.  Our friends and family prayed with us, laughed with us, laughed at us, encouraged us, listened to us, and treated us as if we had never been away.  I had fewer fights with my sister than I had anticipated and more disagreements with those curious about our life in Kenya than I had imagined.

Then we returned to our home in Kenya.  The weather was wonderful, the flowers beautiful, and the zebra still line the road.   Finally, our neighbors made the return so much easier.  They decorated the front door, filled the house with roses, left dinner in the refrigerator, and refreshed the cupboard with groceries.

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I am appreciative and humbled.  This time would never has been possible without the help of many.  People kept my children, drove us, helped us pack, transported our luggage, paid for us, entertained us, hosted us, raised funds for Kenyans, fed us, supplied us with items we no longer own, and just made us feel good.  I haven’t been that relaxed in more than a year.  I continue to feel the uplift.  I can never thank everyone enough.

 

 

 

 

 

The attempted shake down

I’ve written and rewritten this blog entry a few dozen times.  Every time it’s too wordy.  So I have decided to keep it as short as possible.  A cop pulled me over and wanted a bribe.

Driving in Kenya is a challenge.  When I first arrived the thought of driving here reduced me to tears.  I worked up the nerve and now I laugh at how remarkably these driving conditions have become my new normal.  I was warned that trouble with the police was all but inevitable.   I have been warned to always have an exit strategy from every traffic back up.  I have been warned to not stop and assist if I witness an accident.  I drive a 4 wheel drive with insanely darkly tinted windows and keep the doors locked at all times.  Automobile air conditioning is considered a safety measure (no windows down).

So as I drove into town with a Kenyan friend in the passenger seat and my three daughters lined across the back seat we faced a traffic log jam.  I saw my way out and took it.  It necessitated driving on the wrong side of the road for about two hundred feet with no oncoming traffic (due to the traffic log jam.)  No problem.  I don’t typically drive on the wrong side of the road but this was an easy choice.

That’s when the uniformed police officer appeared from (as the over used phrase goes) out of nowhere.  He stepped in front of  my car (I was travelling at maybe 5 mph) and knocked on the hood with his baton.  I stopped, grabbed my wallet, emptied it of most cash that I then stuck in my pants pocket, rolled down the window, and smiled.

I’ve had my fair share of interactions with law enforcement officers around the world.  Most of them have been quite positive.  The best have been in New Orleans.  Once in Argentina I was a afraid (I’m still certain that he was one of those agents of The Dirty War that threw some of the disappeared” off helicopters).  However, never have I been so sure of the corruption and unfairness of a police officer who was out for nothing except money from me.  I was incensed.

Every one of those personality tests (Meyers Brigs type stuff) scores me through the roof on justice.  Not that my kids would believe it.  They have long given up the complaint, “that’s not fair”.  “Life’s not fair,” is my inevitable retort.  But man, get me out in the ‘real world’ and let me loose on the empowered abusing the unempowered and fireworks are bound to fly (and a few choice words that I save for the lucky).  Only this time, for the first time, I am the unempowered.  Even worse, this time I fear that my children are at risk.  So I continue to smile.

I endure a bombardment of ridiculous questions.  I listen to him tell me that he will need to take me to “the station” over and over again.  I, this was the worst of it, listen to him be rude to my Kenyan friend.  A woman.  A maid.  She clearly doesn’t rate high in his world view.  I don’t speak much Swahili but bad manners are universal (so is the ‘F’ word I’ve come to realize).  It’s when my Kenyan friend is clearly exhausted that she tells me in broken English that “he wants money”.  Time for me to pull out the big guns.  I ask loudly and clearly for my daughter to hand me my cell phone so I can call (insert name here).

The person that I announced that I would be calling is a Kenyan employed by the same NGO as my husband.  He is the person that I have been told to contact in time of crisis.  I’m wondering how he is gong to handle the news that I’m being hauled off to the pokey.  Then, like magic, everything changes.

It was the name.  The fact that I had a Kenyan contact programmed into my cell phone.  The cop shares a few choice words with my Kenyan friend, hands me my driver’s license, and tells me to move on.   Proof of one of those other universal truths: It aint what you know, it’s who you know.

I was so crazy mad.  I apologized to my Kenyan friend.  I felt like her association with me caused her difficulties that day.  She seemed unfazed.  This unfortunate incident opened a wonderful door into an ugly war of class bias, ethnic bias, gender bias, that we were then able to discuss and cry a little over.  It brought us closer and opened our hearts a bit to one another.  Life in Kenya is full of corruption.  Life in Kenya is horribly unfair.  Life in Kenya is good in a really weird way.

 

When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous but terror to the evildoers.  – Psalms 21:15

 

 

 

Kisumu

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How’s that for a sunset?

On Easter weekend we travelled about three and a half hours south west of our home to the city of Kisumu.  Now that is driving time on Kenyan roads.  It’s only about ninety miles.  The city sits on the shores of Lake Victoria.  We went to visit new friends and to see an area of Kenya that we haven’t been to previously.  We had a remarkable weekend.

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The couple that we were visiting have lived in Kenya for the past decade.  Previous to that they lived in Costa Rica.  They are super fun, were great to my kids, and made us feel completely at home.

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They work at a Christian NGO in Kisumu called Agape.  Agape is the Greek word for unconditional love.  That unconditional love is what Agape heaps on the city’s street children.  We spent part of our weekend at the home for boys.  There is also a home for girls but we didn’t visit there (this time).  These homes are for children who have lived on the streets and range in age from six to eighteen.  Some have been on the streets for long periods of time and some have just arrived.  Drug use and prostitution are common.  Some come from abusive families and others come simply from utter poverty with no one to care for them.   Agape provides physical, emotional, and spiritual counseling.  They provide tutoring services to try and equip the children for a return to school.  They try to find family that is willing to take the children in or otherwise find a children’s home for them to go to.  It is through God’s love that these children begin to see alternatives to their current life circumstances.

So my kids did what they are great at, they hung out with other children and loved on them.

They colored with children who had never held a crayon.

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They played checkers with bottle tops on a board painted on a table top.

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They swung on the tire swings.

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They just hung out and talked.

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That was how we spent most of our Saturday.  It was a great time.

On Easter Sunday we thought we would mix things up a bit and we went for a boat tour in Lake Victoria that highlights the hippopotamus that live there.

The boat on the left was ours for the morning.

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We were given life vests that seemed like at some point in the past may have provided some degree of buoyancy.

 

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The hippopotamus watched us set off from shore.

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It wasn’t long before our boat bailing skills were called into action.

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I’m not kidding.

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Thankfully we are all good swimmers so I was able to enjoy the sights and the scenery.

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After an hour on the Lake we came back to shore and returned to Agape for an Easter Sunday worship service.

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That’s how my kids were dressed.  No special dresses this year.  No suits and ties.  It was an Easter Sunday service that I will never forget.  Not until I was sitting with the boys and listening to the worship leader did I begin to realize that for some of the boys this was their first time ever in any Easter Sunday service.  In fact the worship leader began by asking the boys if they knew what day it was.  Some boys replied that it was Sunday but not one boy knew that it was Easter.  To listen to the worship leader tell the story of Jesus, a lightning fast summary of his life, death, and resurrection, and to know that this was new for many of these boys was surreal to me.  But I smiled and I tried to show the love that Jesus has for them.   Then it was time for the Easter festival that had been planned for the afternoon.

There was something akin to a three legged race that involved being tied together into a group.

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There was tug-of-war.

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And who knew that Ryan’s unicycle riding skills would come into play?!?

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Easter 2014.

“Do not let your hearts be trouble,” Jesus told them.  “Believe in God and believe also in me.”     – John 14:1