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Reflection

Posted by: | April 3, 2010 | No Comment |

I wrote this months ago and forgot to post it….

November 23, 2009 (night bus from Mombasa to Nairobi)

It’s always easier to criticize others than it is to look within ourselves and accept our faults, isn’t it?

This morning, I started getting really confused by God. Before I knew that BD was going to pick LD up, I was pondering the thought of LD going to the orphanage.  When you care about someone, you don’t usually let them get hurt. In fact, you intentionally do whatever you can to avoid that person from enduring painful experiences. With one exception: the pain prevents future pain or is, in some way, ultimately good. (At Flatirons, we use the metaphor of a parent taking their child in for vaccines.) I care for little Dan and as such, I want the very best for him. He’s not my kid. Still, I have these strong feelings for wanting the very best for him. So there I was, in the shower, wondering how it was that God could say “no” to so many of his children. “No, you won’t have enough food today.” “No, you don’t get a bed to sleep in.” “Sorry, but no, you’re parents aren’t coming back.” “No, you can’t go to school.” “No, no one will love you today.”

My God is a loving God. I know that for sure. He is good. He loves us. “Us” even includes the people he seems to be saying “no” to on such basic matters (food, shelter, family).  Complex, isn’t it? So there I was, in the shower, wondering why God would say “no” to so many of his children. I ran through the possible scenarios of why you let people you love get hurt and came to the conclusion that God isn’t saying “not yet” (as in, “the timing isn’t right… be patient) nor  is he somehow preventing future pain  by allowing momentary suffering (think: vaccines). He’s straight up saying “no.”  “No, you won’t have enough food today.” “No, you don’t get a bed to sleep in.” “No parents.” “No education.” “You’re forgotten.”

So there I was, in the shower, thinking of how it must pain God to see his children suffer. You see, if my God is the loving, good God I know he is, he must hurt when his children do. I stepped out of the shower with a few things on my mind. First was the reminder that I can’t possibly know what He’s up to or what His plan is.  I trust Him. Part of trusting him, to me, means being able to say “God, I don’t understand what you’re up to and that’s okay.” It’s a strange agreement between not understanding what’s going on and not being angry that I have with God. How can I be angry with him when I don’t fully understand what he’s doing? Second, was this extremely vivid idea of God in pain. Something wasn’t right. I felt like there was a piece missing to the puzzle. What wasn’t I getting?

As the day progressed, I thought through a few things and realized the following:

-It’s not so much God saying no as it is us. We can fix things and choose not to.

-It’s not this life that matters. It’s the next. Perhaps short lifespans and destitute living situations are part of His entirely perfect plan.

November 25, 2009 –  3:45AM – KLM flight from Nairobi to Amsterdam

Wow. I’m on my way home. For the last year, the big event was coming to Africa. For the last two months, it’s been being in Africa – trying to do more than endure, trying to thrive. A few hours ago, it became the journey home. Home.  I don’t have a job. All of my belongings are in storage. Yet, home is unmistakable. It’s a group of people scattered around Denver and Boulder.  Home is not an address. Home is a feeling. In about twenty two hours, John Bryant and Catressa will pick me up from the airport.  Just like that, I’ll be home.

It’s sad to be leaving. Rural Kenya is not an easy place. It’s hot. It’s chaotic. No one knows what time it is… and when they do, they don’t care. Proper sanitation doesn’t exist.  Flush toilets? Hardly.  Usually a long drop or some variation of a “toilet.” There are almost never bars of soap at the sinks… and sinks in themselves are only found in fancy restaurants in Bungoma town. People are content living in huts made of sticks and thrown mud. The “furniture” is simple and handmade. Most “family rooms” (the only room in the hut apart from the bedroom, often) are decorated only with posters from the previous election or political figure and simple handmade furniture (chairs, coffee table). In nicer homes, people have furniture they purchased (still no comparison to what we call furniture) and these covering throws they decorate with.

I’m so thankful for my time in Kenya. Rural Kenya is a beautiful place. The people are strong. The views are breathtaking. There’s never a shortage of laughter. It’s so crazy I can’t adequately compress it into words. Chickens run about. Everywhere. Cattle are tethered to the yard. Tethered to the road. Tether in the sugar cane field. The women are thankful. The children are joyful. The men are good men. In a society where women carry the burden and men idle, it’s enticing to say the men are bad. After all, they are largely abusive and often idle. They certainly don’t carry their share of the load. Then again, that’s the society. Given the society, the culture, the traditions, again, I say the men are good men. They are not monsters.

At the risk of sounding conceited, I’m moving from one good thing to the next. When I left in September I analyzed if I was running to something or away from something. At that time, I was confident I was running to something. Sitting in the plane two months later, I ask myself the same question. Hands down, I’m getting back to something. I have nothing to run from in Kenya. Nothing. There’s a certain peace that comes with knowing that I’m blessed in such a way that I leave one amazing environment only to enter into another.

(Section removed.)

Anyway… back to the leaving thing. I think we’re all always either coming or going. Funny, really, since in order to go to one place, you must leave another… so perhaps we’re all always coming and going. I’m coming to Denver. I’m going from Kenya.

I have mixed emotions about it all. Yesterday was tough. It’s beginning to get a little emotional. I’ve been so strong the last two months, it will be interesting to see how I adjust back home. I adjusted to this life of poverty so easily. I’m not even sure I hope the transition back into waste and abundance will be an easy one.

What if I don’t have as much in common with my friends when I get back? What if I get angry? Or full of guilt? Again, we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. (Though the bridge is in sight.)

“Eggs or waffles” the flight attendant asks. I have a choice. The simple fact nearly makes me want to cry. Again, I’m reminded of how bizarre this journey is.

November 25, 2009 – 9:22AM MST – Canada (North America!)

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” – james 1:27

“That is why I delight in weaknesses, hardships, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:10 (paraphrase)

The time on my watch and the time on my computer match. (The time on my netbook was deliberately set to Mountain Standard Time while I was in Africa.) We’re technically still in a different time zone, but it’s close enough for me. In an attempt to minimize jet lag, I changed the time on my watch in Amsterdam and have been trying to stick to the MST time zone. Granted, this means a handful of hours of sleep in the last three days when I arrive… but I get a feeling staying awake once I get home won’t be much of an issue. So excited to see John and Catressa. So excited to be home.

I want what is familiar. In a few short hours, I’ll have it. My phone will work. I’ll turn it on and connect to my friends. They’ll write, they’ll call, and just like that we’ll be connected again. We’ll be in the same time zone. The same continent. It will be amazing. Excitement doesn’t describe it.

November 27, 2009

The longer I wait, the number I’ll get. Numbness allows the tendencies of waste and over-abundance to sneak in and replace the awareness of those with less.

November 30, 2009 –

Safe people. Safe places. Safe situations. Safety: “Freedom from the occurrence or risk of injury, danger, or loss,” “the quality of averting or causing injury, danger, or loss.” My commercial banking experience has taught me the importance of mitigating risk. Life is largely about mitigating risk – about identifying danger and preemptively determining responsive action plans. Sometimes, it’s about avoiding the dangers entirely.  That’s where safety comes in.

There are times we’re ready to battle and times we require peace. I could battle right now, but I don’t want to. I’ve been battling for the last two months. I’ve battled poverty. I’ve battled sickness. I’ve battled chaos. I’ve battled others. I’ve battled myself. I need a break. I need peace… so I search for safety. I search for safety in safe people, safe places, and safe situations.

Went to MERGE tonight. It was amazing. Walking through the front doors of Flatirons Community Church tonight felt like finally being home after a long journey… and that’s exactly how it’s supposed to be. Flatirons has nailed what it means to be a church, to be a community. For a place that hates religion and hates the pain churches have caused… we’re awfully good at loving.

December 3, 2009

“All around you people will be tiptoeing through life just to arrive at death safely but, dear child, do not tiptoe. Run, hitch, hop, skip, or dance. Just don’t tiptoe.” – Unknown

“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” – Walt Disney

December 6, 2009

It’s easy to talk about the things that don’t matter and hard to talk about the things that do. Reading James Maskalyk’s book, Six Months in Sudan, has really helped with my re-entry experience. I picked the book up in Nairobi and almost immediately began scribbling in the margins. The book encouraged me to think and, somehow, became a safe place for me to scrawl my thoughts and emotions.  What follows are excerpts from the book, sprinkled with thoughts of my own.  What is written in quotations belong to someone else. It’s something I found comforting or thought-proving. What is left are my thoughts.  In a sense, I’m able to cheat a little by sharing someone else’s similar experience with you instead of my own. Luckily for you, I’ve chosen someone much better with words than I.

Notice: I’m not seeking your approval. Nor am I seeking to fight with anyone. I am simply sharing my thoughts and it’s not an easy thing to do. Please be considerate when responding.

“What separates action from inaction is not indifference: it is distance.” –JM

“I’m not telling you to make the world better, because I don’t think that progress is necessarily part of the package. I’m just telling you to live in it. Not just to endure it, not just to suffer it, not just to pass through it, but to live in it. To look at it. To try to get the picture. To live recklessly. To take chances. To make your own work and take pride in it. To seize the moment. And if you ask me why you should bother to do that, I could tell you that the grave’s a fine and private place, but none I think do there embrace. Nor do they sing there, or write, or argue, or see the tidal bore on the Amazon, or touch their children. And that’s what there is to do and get it while you can and good luck at it.” – Joan Didion (Commencement address at University of California, Riverside, California, 1975)

“My time in Abyei was not easy to live through, though worthwhile, nor has it been to recount. I am, however, grateful for both opportunities. They have allowed me to stay firm in the world, to make peace with things I may otherwise have tried to ignore.” –JM (xii)

I have not yet been able to make peace with the things I may otherwise have tried to ignore. I’ll get there.

(from Nairobi) I want to blame others… but blaming others means blaming ourselves. As such, I’m as much a worthy candidate as anyone else. Perhaps ignorance is an excuse. It is most definitely a poor one.  – I don’t expect everyone to associate faces or names with poverty and pain. That, be it a blessing or a curse, is only available to a select few of us. Others, I believe, ought to seek to, at most understand and to at least educate themselves, recognize the situation, be aware.

“We return with no mistake about how the world is. It is a hard place – a beautiful place, but so too an urgent one. And we realize that all of us, through our actions or inactions, make it what it is.” – JM (3)

“Some of the work in repairing the world is grim; much of it is not. Hope not only meets despair in equal measure, it drowns it.” –JM (3)

“People are hungry to be brought closer to the world, even its hard parts.” – JM (4)

“I wanted to see who I was when everything was taken away, when all the insulation between the world and me was removed.” – JM (7)

I learned who I was when everything was taken away. The insulation between me and the world is incredibly isolating. It allows me to live a life of abundance and frivolity whilst others fight for the basics. I learned who I was when everything was taken away. I love that person. I hate that insulation. Some may call it protection. I call it dangerous.

When forgetting is easier than remembering, we must force ourselves to remember. Though easy to forget, the consequences of doing so are grave.

It’s not an easy place to love. It’s complicated. I guess everywhere is, but maybe this place more than others. Most people here are good. Too many of us suffer, though. Too many resources in the hands of too few.” –JM (36)

“You never really get clean, at least not for long.” – JM (72)

“Not only does our language seem irreconcilable, so do our worlds.” – JM (117)

“Being grateful is a lesson I was taught well. It is one the world keeps repeating. Each of us is lucky to be alive and to be surrounded by people we care about. There are a thousand million ways it could be otherwise. … It’s such a lucky thing, it’s hard to believe.” – JM (139)

“Now, take a glass rod, and just touch the inside lip of the beaker. A small piece of glass dust flakes off, so small you can’t see it, and falls inot the water. In an instant, the water becomes a crystal. Completely solid. The molecules are at rest. / I think, for me, that is the reason we are here, to be that piece of glass. It doesn’t matter if you are from the north, or the south, or a Christian, or a muslim, or a civilian, or dinka, or misseriya, or soldier, or civilian. We deliberately don’t care. Our intention is to make a place that is safe and solid for everyone in Abyei. And it is not just about medicine; that is only our tool.” – JM (157)

How awesome is it that we get to be a part of a generation that understands one of the purest ways to serve God is to care for others? I passionately believe that God has directed us to use various tools (talents) to serve him and love others. For some people their tool is medicine. For others it’s childcare. For me it’s business skills.  Grab your tools and let’s get to work.

“I don’t want the work to be easy. I would feel I was in the wrong place if it was. I just want to know that of the many fights out there, this is a good one.” –JM (169)

“Charles Peguy, the French writer, told the story of a man who died and went to heaven. When he met the recording angel he was asked, “Show me your wounds.” And he replied, “Wounds? I have not got any.” And the angel said, “Did you never think that anything was worth fighting for?” – Timothy Radcliffe, “What is the point of being a Christian?”

Joe: “That helped me, when I think that I am hurting at the moment, that at least I tried to fight things, and that is why it hurts like it does.”

“The world never lets go, and we are tossed about by its circumstances.” – JM (171)

“Like peace, sometimes war only needs a little piece to become real.” – JM (191)

“You leave from Khartoum and step off the plane in Geneva, and the world you left… collapses.” – JM (212)

The immense excitement on the Amsterdam-Minneapolis flight.

“I’m not surprised. We completely inhabit it, focus our entire energies on it, but as soon as you queue up in the airport to get a Starbucks latte, it will seem as far away as the moon. But that is why I am writing this. To convince us all that it is not.” – JM (212)

I want to do it again… and do it better. I want to care more. I want to share more. With others and with myself.

“I wonder what we lose as we drop another piece of human pageantry, another extraordinary piece of our history. Perhaps nothing. … I suspect the part of us that encourages uniformity, that engenders such shame, that puts as arbiter a sensibility that sees differences as deviances, is more to blame than his parents.” – JM (239)

The tan lines on my feet and wrist are fading; the signs of months in flip-flops and wearing a watch. I’m sad to see them go.

“I sat there, holding the book, and realized that no matter how much I try, I will never go back to being the person I was before I left. I can try not to think about it most of the time, and most of the time, I will succeed. The memories will fade from video to short sepia snapshots, but from nowhere, a simple sentence will throw all the hardness forward and with it, that helpless, sleepless, lonely drowning ache.” – JM (260)

My generally well cared for body was made tougher by the rural Kenyan lifestyle. After two months without regular exercise or physical affection, my body has changed.  For example, my feet are tickled by hot tub jets. My back muscles immediately respond with pain and relief at the slightest touch. I gained weight. My hard earned climbing muscles lost their usefulness and faded into fat. My tummy padded weight onto core muscles. Catressa calls it my baby belly. It’s this strange mixture of soft and hard. Strength, covered by weakness. I feel human. I feel responsive. In the toughness, parts of me were weakened. I like it. (12/15/09)

“I think there is more war inside of me than I thought.” – JM (281)

I’ve been having trouble sleeping lately, so I stay up late, wake up early. Run at 80%. Dream for sleep, and then watch the hours tick by.

“I want to bring them to that place. I want them to understand that even if we don’t share space with these people, we share a time.

I have other videos I want to show them…. They are of two children. One is starving and about to die. She fixes the camera lens once with her wide dull eyes, then turns away. The other is of a three-year-old boy who is breathing too fast, about fifty times per minute. With each breath, his skin sucks in and his ribs look like a Chinese lantern. … I want to ask them, “Have you ever seen a child so sick? Ever? Really? Where?”

You shared the exact same time as these ones.

I want to bring them there, to erase the distance until it is invisible and only the moment remains. If I can get them close, as near as I can without taking them there, in the hushed and conspiratorial silence that follows their arrival, I have one last question.

So what?

So what.

Tell me. What does it matter that fifteen minutes after this, the mother wrapped the body that once held her daughter and walked slowly down the hospital road, across the football field, and disappeared with her bundle into the market?

She did.

So what to you, so what to us as humans. It’s possible that because you were too far to feel its ripples, it doesn’t matter at all. But if I can make it seem closer, maybe you can sense that it does. Decide for yourselves what we are. Decide for me.

I never get to ask. I connect at times, and at others the eyes in the audience seem far away. .. I wish I could take them, them and everyone I know, and show them that it’s not what I thought, that the swiveling telescope, the mirror images upside down, the sparking wires, that disappearing bright spot, it’s not about trying to reconcile two different worlds, it’s about understanding that it’s one.” – JM (336)

“It’s not about trying to reconcile two different worlds; it’s about understanding that it’s one.” This rocked me to my core. Still does. This rocks me to my core.

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Home Sweet Home

Posted by: | November 28, 2009 | 1 Comment |

I arrived in Denver Wednesday afternoon and am home safe! Aside from a nap and crashing early Wednesday and Thursday evenings, I think I’ve adjusted to the MST time zone.

I’m waiting to hear back from CU Law before I decide what to do next in life.

I hope to write a reflection post, but it won’t happen tonight. Just wanted to update those that didn’t know I’d made it home ok.

Love you all!

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Homeward Bound

Posted by: | November 17, 2009 | No Comment |

I’m tight on time so this post will be short and sweet.

I’m headed home! Here’s the plan for the next few days:

Ashley and I will travel from Bungoma to Nakuru tomorrow (big bus). Thursday morning we’ll leave on safari to Masai Mara. We’ll safari on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, arriving in Nairobi Saturday evening. Ashley will go to the airport and I’ll head to Mombasa on the night bus. (I will meet up with Joe either in Nairobi or Mombasa depending on his travel schedule.) Joe and I will spend Sunday and Monday in Mombasa on the coast of Kenya before taking the night bus to Nairobi on Tuesday. We’ll arrive in Nairobi early Tuesday morning. I’ll spend the day in Nairobi and head to the airport after dinner. Then, I’ll be on my way home!  I have a decent layover in Amsterdam and will arrive in Denver around 4pm on  Wednesday, November 25th.

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Our Kids

Posted by: | November 4, 2009 | 2 Comments |

11/4– Yesterday, the street children lied to me. They know I will buy them fruit; they also know I won’t feed them if they have glue on them.  Yesterday, I bought them fruit (like I have been doing) and, miraculously, none of them had glue. I caught on after the third or fourth kid. I knew these kids should have had glue. They had hidden their glue or given it to a friend to carry. A number of them were high. They were lying to me. The ones I knew were high or hiding glue did not get bananas. As such, only about five or six of them were given bananas… of 15. It made me angry that they would lie to me. I felt like my trust had been betrayed.

Forgiveness.

Yesterday, I called Joe in frustration. “Your kids are being brats today,” I said, somewhat disgusted. “Oh no. No, no, no. They are not my kids. They are our kids,” he replied. He went on to remind me that they really are good kids. They are not used to being treated the way we treat them (with love, kindness, and respect) and therefore, won’t always act the way we expect them to. I suppose with love comes disappointment… and joy.

I know God loves these children. I have a feeling Jesus would show his love for them if he were here… in fact, I’m pretty sure he would love them even if they lied to him. So, I will.

I spent the morning trying to construct financial statements for a women’s group. I’m trying to piece together information from a mish-mash of notes and random papers.

Now, I’m off to play soccer with the kids. Our kids.

–Kate

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One Month!

Posted by: | November 4, 2009 | No Comment |

The Lord is taking me on a crazy journey! So far, it’s been absolutely beautiful… and I’m only half way through! The last month has had its challenges… and its rewards. I’ve been tried, tested, and pushed to the edge. Yet, through it all He has comforted me, amazed me, and reminded me how good He really is.  I came to the realization this week that though I have learned a lot about microenterprise projects in Kenya in the last month, I think I’ve learned even more about myself. I’m learning to be comfortable in my own skin.

On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday I gave a business seminar to a really great group. I wrote a pretty long blog on Thursday, but of course the internet wasn’t cooperating so I wasn’t able to upload it. The group on Thursday was supposed to have a minimum of 20 people present but when we showed up to give the presentation at nine (as requested by the group), not one person was there. We opted to wait to start the seminar until Friday in hopes of a decent share of members attending. Friday morning Ashley and I waited a little over an hour before beginning the presentation. Four people were present. As I have mentioned, it can be frustrating at times. Within another hour, six more people showed up and we were having lively discussions and getting a lot accomplished. Tomorrow, we’ll finish the seminar (some how… there’s so much to cover and in such a short time!) plus the group has a lot of questions, so I imagine we’ll be there for awhile longer than scheduled.

This weekend, a group of us went to Uganda to raft the Nile. Our bus was late leaving Bungoma by about an hour and a half, so it was every bit of midnight before we arrived in Jinja. The bus ride was interesting, to say the least. For example, I’m pretty sure the bus driver hit a bicyclist as we were driving through a town along the way. We stayed at a the Nile River Explorer’s Backpackers site for the night in the dorms. The rooms are really affordable, at about $7 a night. After a light breakfast, we got into our life jackets and helmets and headed to the Victorian Nile, headwaters of the White Nile. Oh my goodness… what an experience! I hope to post some pictures on Facebook soon .While rafting, I saw all sorts of wildlife including monkeys, really huge lizards, egrets, and other birds.  We rafted through a handful of class 5 rapids and a bunch of smaller ones. It was seriously amazing! A really great way to relax after a trying week. Today, we came back to Kenya from Uganda. I think we’re all pretty exhausted.

I’m going to be pleasantly surprised if I can actually upload this blog post tonight, so I think I’ll stop here.

50/50,

Kate

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Posted by: | October 22, 2009 | 2 Comments |

I wish I knew more about the role of business in social change.  I chose to study business and sociology in college because I felt as though success in business required an understanding of how groups of people interact.  I’m learning of a much greater connection between “business” and “groups of people” than I have ever dared to dream of.  Here, success in business means the ability to feed your family, provide shelter, send your kids to school.  The two concepts are clearly related.

Ashley and I finished our first three-day business seminar today.  The women are so grateful for the knowledge. What seem to be basic business concepts to you and I are concepts these women have never heard of before.   — Tomorrow we will spend the day reviewing the records of the most advanced group I’ve met since I’ve been here. I’m really looking forward to it.  At first glance, I think the group might be strong enough to support a microfinance loan. They lack the ability to prepare a solid loan package — something I can certainly work with them on.

Tuesday we went to the orphanage that Daniel’s dad runs. What an awesome place. The orphanage takes care of 100 children – no easy feat. The children all seem to be well cared for. Many of them are dressed in rags. Daniel showed me an old box car filled with maize that they fed the children. Some of the ears were covered in mold. I enjoyed spending the day with the children and will certainly be back to visit.

I will post photos on Facebook when I can. I was hoping to today, but the internet is too slow.

Thought for the day: “Examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good.”

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Glue for Bananas

Posted by: | October 19, 2009 | 2 Comments |

Today was a really good day.  Someone new (from Colorado!) arrived this weekend and will be working with me in the microenterprise development program. Her name is Ashley and we get along well. Today, we gave our first “business seminar.” There is so much information to convey in such a short period of time! We will go back on Wednesday and Thursday of this week. Tomorrow is a national holiday so we won’t be offering the seminar on Tuesday.

After our program today, Ashley and I went to Bungoma where she checked her e-mail before getting a quick lunch of beans at Coffee Garden.  A big bowl of soup costs fifty shillings (less than $1) and is amazing! I really enjoy eating there and am beginning to get to know the staff.

After lunch, we met up with a new friend of mine from England. He is a Catholic missionary working in the area. We enjoyed a glass of juice before heading to the market to buy a mass of bananas for the street children. Joe, Ashley, and I set up a somewhat organized system. Joe would pat search the children for glue. If they had any on them, Joe would confiscate it. Once they were clean, Ashley and I would give each kid two bananas.  It didn’t take us long to distribute the bananas and it was hard to say no to the kids when we ran out.  The bag that once held at least 30 bananas was quickly filled with bottles that the kids had been sniffing glue out of. I really enjoyed the time we spent with Joe today. He treats the street children with respect and dignity. He is so kind and caring to them; the kids are kind and caring in return.  I’ve never been thanked voluntarily by a street kid for food. Today, most everyone thanked us. In a weird way, taking their glue shows we care… something that these children don’t receive often.

We spent 140 shillings in total for the 30+ bananas. That’s about $0.07 per banana. It’s not expensive to show you care around here.

There’s a piki-piki driver in town named Daniel who is a very safe driver. I call him whenever I need a ride from town back home and, if available, he comes to pick me up. (A piki-piki is a motorbike.  It carries two passengers plus the driver and is used like a taxi.) Yesterday, I learned that his dad runs an orphanage outside of town for about 100 children. I made arrangements to visit the orphanage on Tuesday. Today, Monday, Daniel asked if we could stop by his house on the way from town to ICODEI. Of course, I said that was fine.  We arrived to a huge house (though I’m sure it’s cramped with 100 people!) with a big yard. Some bigger kids were playing volleyball, which Ashley and I quickly joined in playing. The younger kids crowded around and watched the mzungus play volleyball in excitement.  We left, as the sun was setting, and promised to be back tomorrow.  Daniel took another detour on the way home (to show us a dam in the area) and we arrived home just before dinner.  Piki-pikis are quite exhilarating.  Imagine a 1980’s sport bike (motorcycle) with one driver and two adult passenger (not odd to carry three or four children!) and that is a piki-piki. They aren’t really made for the rural roads of Kenya. Nobody wears helmets. It’s quite bizarre.

Anyway, that was today. As I said, today was a good day. I’m glad to have Ashley along with the MDP program and various adventures. Holly left today. I have enjoyed spending time with her but am excited for the adventures she will have as she continues on her travels.

Tomorrow, I have arranged for Daniel and two of his friends to pick 5 of us up from ICODEI. We are going to go checkout a local rock (it’s supposed to be really cool), then head to the orphanage for the day. I’m so looking forward to playing with the kids. I intend on sitting down with Daniel’s dad to see what kind of needs the orphanage has, as I’m sure there are many.

Also, Joe has been repairing houses for people in the community whose homes have been destroyed by rain. (Mud houses don’t last forever. As they are mud, the walls wear over time.) He’s also been building houses. Each house costs about 12,000 shillings — less than $200. He’s running out of funding and I’d like to find some money to allow him to build another house or two, if I can. If you’re interested in hearing more about Joe’s project, please let me know.

Blessings from Kenya,
Kate

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Summer Cold?

Posted by: | October 14, 2009 | 1 Comment |

Some days in Kenya are easier than others. Regardless, there is always something trying to deal with.

Today’s trials:

The generator on the farm is broken.

Some neighbors are having a funeral. I’m still trying to figure out what, exactly, this means. So far, it means that there was really loud music and partying all night (until about 6am) and it started again this morning around 9.  I don’t think any of us were able to sleep last night.

Last night, I developed a stuffy nose and sore throat. First, I thought I might be allergic to something in the hut. Now, I’m thinking it’s a cold. It’s about 12:30 in the afternoon and my sore throat is getting worse. 🙁 I’m going to buy a bunch of oranges from one of the stands while I’m in town. I would like to go back to my hut and sleep a bit this afternoon, but that’s just a dream given the funeral taking place. I’ve heard the funerals can last 2-3 days.

Lately, my 40% Deet has been no match for the bugs. I’m going to up it to 80% tonight and see if that makes a difference. I sure hope it does.

My program for the day was cancelled due to the community needing to meet to pray for their kid’s up coming exams. If the parents don’t go to the prayer meeting, their children can be expelled from the school.  Instead of meeting with the original group, I stopped by a tailoring shop in Kabula to check up on some items they are working on. Joyce and I made arrangements for me to bring a formal seminar to them on the 29th, 30th, and 2nd.  My schedule is quickly filling up with business seminars! I look forward to giving the business seminars and sharing the much needed education with these groups.

Merge friends:  I haven’t yet received your package. 🙁 I just check at the post office and they don’t have it yet. I’m really skeptical about the post office. If you send anything, even a letter, please let me know so I can keep an eye out for it. Packages should be sent with insurance and tracking, if possible.

Good news: after thoughtful consideration, I think my Personal Statement for Colorado Law is as good as it’s going to get. I’m at the cyber cafe right now to make some final edits, submit my application, and print the accompanying documentation. I will be printing two sets of everything. I will send one set myself and ask a Kenyan staff member to mail the other. My skepticism of the post office here is not unfounded.

I’m usually such an optimistic person that having so much negativity is really getting to me. However, I think most people would react similarly. I’m confident that this is just a little rut and in no time at all, I’ll be thinking positively again. 🙂

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High Expectations

Posted by: | October 14, 2009 | 2 Comments |

Monday, October 12th

I have been in Kenya now for over a week; what an experience it has been! To say life out here is dramatically different is an understatement. I am continually amazed and confused at how this area of the world can be so far behind in rudimentary advancements like infrastructure, water access, indoor plumbing, and electricity. Flush toilets are a rarity. General hygiene is a nightmare. Things like this will take some getting used to.

I can’t express the beauty of this area. The strength, endurance, and hope of these people are astounding.  At times, I wonder why they haven’t lost hope and sometimes think I would be completely defeated if their fate was mine. In the morning and afternoon, the streets are lined with women and children carrying buckets of water. I wonder how far each individual has to travel to fetch their water and have come to the conclusion that any distance is too far, for everyone should have access to safe, clean drinking water.

In the midst of such desperation, there is great beauty. Tired and exhausted, most Kenyans don the biggest, brightest, smiles over the smallest things. Seemingly all the women can sing and dance (maybe I’ll pick up on it)! I’m often sung to and danced for. Though I rarely understand what is being said, the message is clear: I’m received very warmly and the groups are always grateful that I am visiting.

Visiting the various groups is draining. I believe that to whom much is given, much is expected. The expectation of big things is clear in this situation. These groups are looking to me for advice and help. If I advise them carelessly, the consequences are great. Never before has my opinion on business matters had such a great effect. I am not a farmer, nor a rancher; I’ve never sold maize in the market or kept bees. I know very little of the actual operations. However, I understand business concepts clearly and am solid in that arena. I must trust that God will direct me in the right way when guiding theses groups. I always try to get the groups to think on their own and encourage their creativity rather than declare a better, “superior” way without great consideration. – The program is not well organized and I am on my own for how I conduct the meetings and what is or is not accomplished. I have spent the last week visiting new groups everyday. Soon, I will start to provide three day long business seminars for the groups I’ve already met with.

The plant life out here is different than anything else I’ve experienced! It’s so lush and generally breathtaking. This juxtaposition of beauty and despair really gets me.

I stay just outside a small village called Kabula. About twenty minutes away is the bustling city (2 streets… but still quite large!) of Bungoma. We often drive through Bungoma to reach where I’ll be working for the day. Bungoma is also where the grocery store and internet café are. The poverty in Bungoma is heartbreaking – absolutely heartbreaking. My skin may be thickening but my heart is as raw as ever. This morning, as we were driving to the site for the day, I saw a person asleep under a dirty blanket right next to a pile of garbage. The obvious metaphor was striking. This image came after a good 5-10 minutes of one heart wrenching sight after another. I could close my eyes to my surroundings, but it would do no good. Instead, I keep my eyes open in an attempt to receive everything I can from this experience.

Adrian and I were approached by a street kid yesterday when we were waiting for the pikipiki to pick us up from the internet café. After being adequately convinced the kid would use money for eggs, we each gave him some. This afternoon, I saw the same kid. (Street children are orphans that live on the street. They have nothing. They have no family. They aren’t given the opportunity to go to school. All they have are the gang of other street children they run around with. Most of them have no shoes and are clothed in incredibly insufficient clothing.) I ran across the way to buy a bunch of bananas (three for 10 shillings… roughly 15 cents) for the child who I have since learned is named Kevin. He is a sweet kid with a good command of the English language. How is it that these children can be forgotten? How is it that they go hungry by no fault of their own?

I’m not used to blogging and will be quite impressed if anyone actually reads this entire mess of random thoughts.  Please feel free to comment. I’d really like to know who is reading this! 😉

I’ll try to do better about writing. Thanks again for all of your support!

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First Day

Posted by: | October 5, 2009 | 1 Comment |

I am quickly falling for Kenya; the land is beautiful and the people are many.

I arrived in Nairobi late Thursday evening. I stayed the night at the guest house of Mary & Richard, owners of Primetime Safari. In the morning, Richard drove me to the Easy Coach stop in Nairobi and helped me get my bus ticket for the 9 hour ride to Bungoma.  I unloaded my bags and waited for my bus to arrive. I was a bit uncomfortable as everyone was looking at me. For the first time, I really felt like I was a minority.  The bus ride out to Bungoma was interesting. The roads here are terrible at times, nothing more than a dirt track. When they are paved, there are many potholes. People pass when they can’t see and everyone seems to drive dangerously fast given the condition of the road. An ICODEI driver picked me up at the bus stop in Bungoma town. Bungoma town is filled with people! There are people everywhere here. On the 9 hour ride from Nairobi, there were always people along the road.

I arrived in Kabula Friday evening in time to get settled and eat dinner. There were four other “volunteers” here, all quite nice.  They had been planning a weekend trip to Kisumu and invited me to come along. I gladly accepted. After dinner, I met with Joe until about 10:30PM to go over the MDP program and a few goals.   Joe returned to the U.S. this weekend; I hope to have a Lending Basics manual and Income Statement manual prepared before he returns in a few weeks.

Early Saturday morning we left for Kisumu.  There, we were complete tourists. We hired a local man to take us on a boat to hippo watch. We saw a handful of hippos! The local people bathe and fish in the same water as the hippos; there appears to be no conflict. Later, we went to the souvenir market to purchase gifts for friends and family. We stopped for lunch around 4pm and took quick naps before dinner.  I shared a room at the hostel with two other girls. The third to shower, the electricity went completely out when I was in the shower.  Regardless, we went to dinner as planned. During dinner I began feeling a bit ill. After dinner, I was escorted back to the hostel where I spent the evening in bed. Toby, Adrian, Amanda, and Holly were out dancing until 4am. We were up early for breakfast then found a swimming pool where we relaxed and spent the day overlooking Lake Victoria. I found some local boys and fished with them a bit.  I caught a tilapia! The young boys told me they usually fish on Sundays. The fish they bring home feed their families for the week. The fish were quite small and I wondered how much more food they could bring back to their mothers if they had fishing poles.

At breakfast, we made friends with a Belgian architecture student named Tim. Tim joined us at the pool and agreed to take me into Kisumu town to help me get a wireless modem. We headed into town (piling 7 of us into a tuk tuk) and the others went for dessert while Tim & I headed to the telecom store. Tim’s savvy was much appreciated when the telecom worker tried overcharging me.

Our matutu (mini-bus) driver arrived (on time!) and we headed back to Kabula. We had two flat tires along the way. Apparently this is not unusual.  We got back to the farm late, but thankfully the others had saved some dinner for us. While we were out, three medical students from Maryland arrived. I will be sharing a hut with them for the next few weeks.

This morning, I enjoyed my first shower on the farm. A “shower” consists of a large bucket of water and a small pitcher used to pour the water over my body.  I then went to meet with the program coordinator, Joyce. Joyce and I worked together the first half of the day.  I reviewed a binder of all of ICODEI’s past loans that have been repaid. I sorted them into high, moderate, and low potential categories. I have asked Joyce to request meetings with the groups showing high and moderate potential.  I would like to meet with them and arrange business seminars, if they’ll have me. At the business seminars, I will provide basic business education. Should the groups show promise, I will work closely with them to prepare a formal business plan, work with them on their bookkeeping, teach them about financial statements, and hopefully prepare a loan package that will look quite attractive to the microfinance institutions in town.  — Tomorrow I will be meeting with two groups (one before lunch, one after) to assess their projects and gauge if they are good candidates for our microenterprise development program.

At this time, I feel more like a tourist than anything else. (Largely due to the weekend trip to Kisumu.)  I am very excited to begin work tomorrow.

I feel as though this is a long post that says very little. I hope to have more to report soon.

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