Thursday, May 30, 2013

I'm not in America anymore

Tuesday morning! My first full day in Kenya! What are we going to accomplish today, I woke up wondering, as I wandered into the main room to see what was for breakfast. I wish I could tell you what was for breakfast, but I don’t remember.
Every morning around eight, our house mom, Momma Bishop, also called Momma Sally, brought in a thermos of hot milk. I know - ick. Most of the other volunteers dumped instant coffee or tea into their cup-full, and once in a while there was some powdered chocolate in the house. I just drank my hot milk straight each morning. This was something new to me, the girl from the dairy state who only drinks her milk ice-cold and preferably skim. But I can adapt.
And that’s what a trip to a third world country is most about. Adapting.
Along with the thermos of milk, Momma Bishop usually brought a couple loaves of store-bought bread. Some days she also brought French toast, scrambled eggs, or mandazi. Mandazi is considered an East African donut. Fried and sweet – I need to make me some of these sometime soon.
After breakfast (I think that first day I made toast and burned it), Val and I walked down to the corner to catch a matatu to Nakumatt Junction.
The road at the end of our driveway

I suppose you want that explained.
A matatu is a nasty form of public transportation, but they are cheap and they go all over. They are a twelve-passenger van. I’m at a loss as to how to describe it beyond that!
Ok, so you stand along the road, and this van whizzes up next to you. A guy jumps out, they call him the conductor. He’s not the driver. I only once really even saw the driver of one of these. He pretty much stays put behind the wheel and doesn’t get involved.
Anyway, so the conductor jumps out and asks where you are going. No matter what you say, he says he can take you there. And this is where you have to know what you are doing, because he will try to overcharge you, especially if you are white.
Val always told him 30 shillings, and sometimes he accepted that and sometimes he didn’t. I was always like, just pay him and don’t argue. It is not worth it.
By the way, 30 Kenyan shillings is about 35 cents.
So, you jump in this smelly little bus and music is usually blaring, it seemed like either offensive rap with lots of swearing or Christian music. It was weird. But no matter what was playing, it was too loud.
So off we go, down the road and the road is bumpy and the bus is crowded and it keeps stopping to pick up more people. Once in a while, when it was already full, the conductor seemed to ask some people to get off so someone else could get on. They spoke in Swahili, so I never was sure if this was really happening, but it sure looked that way.
When you get close to your stop, you beat on the side of the bus, and then the conductor beats on the roof too, and somehow with all the noise from the music, the driver actually hears this and usually stops. Not always. But usually.
The conductor and the driver must have this all orchestrated somehow. It all seems so chaotic, but somehow they know what they are doing. And no matter how crowded it was, and how many other people got on or off, the conductor knew where us white chicks were getting off. Or at least he did 80% of the time.

Oh, dear, that took up a lot of words. I think I will tell you about the Nakumatt next time. It is much easier to comprehend. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


My daughter Val and I arrived in Kenya May 6, Monday night, got our Visas, got our luggage and cleared customs without a hitch. Our ride was even there to meet us. I had been so worried that one of those steps would fall through and we wouldn’t be able to leave the airport. I pictured myself being Tom Hanks in the movie “Terminal”. I don't know why I worry about everything so much.
Kenya is just so different from the US; it is impossible to explain it to someone who has never been here. Pictures can't explain it, and surely my words can't either.
The first thing we noticed as soon as we walked out of the airport was the smell. Driving to our volunteer house, so many odors bombarded us through the open van windows. Diesel exhaust, decaying something or other, smoked meat, and body odor, but not “normal” body odor, more the smell of someone sweating who has been eating something strange. 
And the traffic. I don't know if there is any place in the world with traffic like Nairobi's. Everyplace is a passing lane and there are no speed limits. The roads have improved a lot since I was here last, the potholes are greatly diminished. But in their place are massive speed bumps. I mean, massive. A small car would barely clear them, and our rear fender hit bottom quite often going over them.
I should have gotten a picture of the passing truck we met right on a curve. It was centimeters from us. 
By the time we drove through Nairobi after nine Monday night, most of the shops lining the streets were closed. Still there were people everywhere, walking home most likely, if they had homes.
The driveway up to our compound was typical for East Africa. One deep rut after another, boulders in the middle of the road and only a foot to maneuver on each side.
Yes, this really is our driveway.
The guest house where we stayed was quite nice. Val and I had a room to ourselves. It was small, with a bunk bed and nothing else. A small bathroom was attached, but the plumbing hadn’t been hooked up. It did at least give us extra space.
Can you guess which bed is mine?
After a quick tour of our home away from home, I pretty much crawled right into bed. I fell asleep with my head whirling with thoughts of what the next day would bring. 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Convoluted Plans

After much procrastination, ta-da, here I am blogging again. Ready to tell you every last detail of my recent trip to Kenya. Ok, maybe you don’t want to hear about everything (i.e. diarrhea, lack of toilet paper, etc.), but you know how I am. I just can’t spare you the gruesome adventures of my life.
I was going to jump right in and take you straight to Africa. But since I didn’t go straight to Africa, you don’t get to either.
When my daughter and I started planning this trip to Kenya, we threw around several different dates. Somehow we came up with the first part of May as the time to depart, which would give Val until the end of July if she was really going to stay for three months.
The problem with leaving the first part of May was that I had promised my Kinship kid that I would take her to a Colton Dixon concert in Milwaukee the first Friday in May.
Hmm? I thought. How could I best make this work out? My son lives near Milwaukee, which is near Chicago. If we flew out of Chicago we could get the cheapest flights.
I came up with the craziest trip itinerary. I mean, when you leave for a two-week trip to a third-world country, don’t you want to leave the comfort of your home and get to your destination by the shortest means?
Oh, heavens, no, not me.
So, I left home around noon on Friday, May3, picked up my Kinship kid and drove to a suburb of Milwaukee. Checked into our hotel and went to the concert.
The next morning, I drove my kid part-way home, where my husband met me for the exchange. He had brought down Val and her suitcase. He picked up the Kid and took her home, while Val and I drove back to Milwaukee.
I spent Saturday night at the apartment of one of my son’s friends. I know. Is this complicated? Typical weekend in my life.
My son took us to the airport in Chicago the next morning. And our plane left at 4:10 pm. Next stop – Amsterdam.
 Since this wasn't a one-trip trip, you'll notice the green overnight bag. Also, the white paper bag and the red and white rope which were going to my son's house. The dog thinks he is going with. Last thing to note - the piece of paper taped on the door right behind me says, "PASSPORT". The one thing I absolutely positively must not forget. 
 Colton Dixon. Was I ever 14-years-old and in love with a pop star? No, I was not. 
 Just one more picture of Colton to appease the Kid.
Ok, so now it's finally time to go to the airport. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Where's Christine????

Where’s Christine? And why hasn’t she posted to her blog in over a week?

I know that you know that I have been in Kenya. And you probably thought that I would be home by now and writing like crazy. Perhaps you are waiting with baited breath to read all of my fascinating stories and see all of my beautiful pictures. Sorry to keep you waiting.

I don’t know what to tell you, except that I got home late Sunday night, didn’t start unpacking until Tuesday morning, didn’t finish unpacking until Tuesday night, and first went on my laptop on Wednesday night. My head is positively swimming and I am still processing a lot of things. The stories will come; the pictures will be posted. I am shooting for actually getting something done this weekend.

So, don’t give up on me. Check back often. Trust me that the wait will be worth it. 
My bags are packed, I'm ready to go. 
I should have gotten a picture when I got back home, I didn't look nearly this put together. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Greetings from Kenya

I didn't know if I would be able to post a blog at all while we were in Kenya. I have internet for just a few minutes, so my thoughts are not together. I would also like to post lots of pictures, but you will have to patiently wait until we get home.
This picture is of my daughter and I, showing off our sunburns. We were staying with a friend who lives in Saikeri, which is in the middle of nowhere and when I post the story of the trip there and back again, you will not believe it!

We are having a great time. Monday and Tuesday this week I worked at the medical clinic in Saikeri. No water or electricity. Can you imagine that in your doctor's office?

Gosh, what else, today we made up backpacks for 76 kids at an orphanage. Last week we visited the IDP camp, our friends from America who are fulltime missionaries here and I can't remember what else we did.

I don't want to leave, but can't wait to share all of my stories and pictures with you when I get home.