Archive - September, 2008

Week 1: Kenya

Hello friends! I am safe and sound in Nairobi. All of the flights went well to Nairobi. The world definitely appears smaller when you travel half way around it in 17 hours. On my flight from Chicago to London, I sat next to a man from London who works for Harley Davidson. We discussed the pound-dollar rate, accents, and words that differ between the States and the UK. I had an emergency row exit seat so life and my legs were good. Our second flight from London to Nairobi also went well. I again had an emergency row exit seat and therefore got to talk with the flight attendant. I asked her 20 questions and figured out how to convert Celsius to Fahrenheit…roughly. We got off the plane and in conversation with my fellow YAVs I determined that my lack of sleep had my brain functioning at about 35%. I could literally feel my vocabulary shrinking. We got our bags and were off. It was around 10 PM when we arrived at our site coordinator’s home to have a snack. There Henry and I learned that we would not be staying with the rest of the group (because there are not enough beds) and were picked up by a taxi and taken to a Monastery. We had to ring the bell at 11:30ish and a German Nun answered the door not so pleased about being awakened. We went to bed and I slept for a few hours. I awoke at 3 AM and remained awake to hear the morning prayers at the Mosque nearby at 4 and 5 AM. I got up at 6 and watched the sunrise while reading. I then had a very nice quiet breakfast. This was a very romantic morning to begin my time in Kenya.

Our group of eight then embarked on becoming accustomed to Kenya: time, food, currency, and everything else. We had a professor speak to us about the Sudan and everything that is going on there currently since it is a bordering country. Then we went to arguably the biggest slum in Africa, Kibera, and learned about an amazing program which has started in micro-financing. I could spend the entire blog post on that visit.

All eight of us have been placed with a host family with whom we are currently spending out time. We had a big dinner Friday night where we met our families and then afterward went home with them to live until Wednesday. My (host) father and mother are extremely hospitable and generous. In the culture here I am not allowed to call them by their first names, but call them mom and dad. They worked as teachers and father eventually taught at university for ten years. They decided to build a new home for their family, but realized there weren’t any schools around. So, rather than living in it they transformed it into a primary (and boarding) school called ByGrace. That was in 1994 and since then they have opened up another school which is a few miles away. They have also planted 7 churches. So, they have done quite a bit for their community! My mother and father take very good care of me and make me sleep under a mosquito net at night. They both have an amazing laugh and a great sense of humor. My sinuses have acted up so I am coughing and my nose is running like a faucet. Therefore, they made me drink this soup that was just garlic, ginger, and carrots. They sat and watched me drink all of it and laughed as I did because of the faces I made. When I was finished they all cheered for me and it did help my sinuses, so that’s my host family in a paragraph.

A few fun stories/notes:

I am eating better here than I did in the States, although, I would pay a large amount of money right now for a personal pan pizza from pizza hut.

On Saturday, mom took me to both schools and introduced me to the students. We went by each classroom, kindergaten-8, at each school. First they would giggle when I walked in because I have to duck to enter the room because the door is only 2 meters or 6 foot 4. Then they would laugh when I started talking because I sounded funny apparently. One of them said that I sounded like the TV because most of their TV shows are from the States. Needless to say, I provided some good entertainment. This next year I will be working at ByGrace school at least once a week, so I am very excited about that because I did want to do some teaching.

Sunday morning I went to church with my family. They are Pentecostal. At the first service, they asked me to introduce myself and preach. So, I introduced myself and preached. It was funny because I had like 5 different sermons in my head so I had to just choose one and run with it. (Update: I have now prepared 3 post-it note sermon outlines which I have placed in my wallet in case I am called on again to preach spontaneously, “decently and in order”) At the second service, I tried to explain my Presbyterian tradition and told them that we are lovingly called the Frozen Chosen. I said, “how much does something that is frozen move?” I stood very stiff and got a good laugh. The second service lasted for 2 and a half hours which is normal here. I told them that if we went for more than an hour people start glaring and get up and walk out. This confused them.

After the first service, the following conversation occurred:
Me: “Is there a bathroom that I can use?”
Pastor: “yes, follow me” (We get outside and he looks at me and says) “you need a bathroom?”
Me: “Yes, I need to go to the bathroom.”
Pastor: He looks at me puzzled because I have a suit on and we have a short time between services. “You would like to bathe now?”
Me: “No, oh no, I need to use the toilet.
Pastor: “Oh! Sorry.” Smiling and laughter followed.

I am slowly learning some Swahili. We start Swahili classes on Friday. It is difficult for me to understand Kenyan’s English which means that it is definitely difficult for them to understand me. I am getting used to people driving on the other side of the road. I still get into the wrong side of the car. I am getting quicker at converting kilometers to miles, Celsius to Fahrenheit, and shillings into dollars. I have yet to figure out liters into gallons. Well, I believe that is plenty for now. The group will reunite on Wednesday for orientation for the rest of September and then we will all move on to our placements. I hope you all are well.


PS I can’t post pictures right now, so I will update this Thursday or Friday with pictures.

Week 0: September Monthly Update

Hello friends! Welcome to my blog about my upcoming year in Kenya as a Young Adult Volunteer (YAV). I am getting on a plane today heading for Kenya! If you are not sure what I’m talking about or will be doing for the next year I will answer some of the questions I have most often received in the past 6 months.

  • What are you doing? I will be serving in the Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) program through the Presbyterian Church (USA). This program sends young adults (19-30) to serve nationally and internationally for a year. There are five international sites: Guatemala, Peru, Northern Ireland, India, and Kenya. I am going to Kenya.
  • Am I going alone? No, there are 8 of us heading over to Kenya total and there is a site coordinator who lives in Kenya permanently. So, we already have connections and will be met at the airport.
  • Why now? The main reason is I will still have my final year of seminary to reflect theologically and spiritually on my experience in Kenya rather than attempting to deal with that at my first ordained position. Graduating from seminary and then doing this didn’t make much sense. Furthermore, the timing just worked out best.
  • What will I be doing? I’ll be building relationships with people. People from another culture who have different understandings of time, relationships, food, and pretty much everything. This excites me and reminds me that I am going to be challenged constantly during the next year. My job placement is working with a non-profit organization called the Association of Evangelicals in Africa and Madagascar (AEAM).
  • Where’s Kenya?

Right there! (it’s in red)

If you have any more questions please let me know. You can leave a comment by clicking on the “comment” button at the bottom of this blog entry. My goal is to update this blog once a week (probably Monday night for me (8 hours ahead)), but we’ll have to see how everything works once I get over there.

In other news:
I have been in Louisville, Kentucky for the past week participating in YAV orientation with 29 other Presbyterian young folk. It has been great to get to know everyone and I am going to miss the 24 people not going to Kenya a lot this next year, but I am very excited about having met them and formed good relationships. It has been weird saying good bye today and watching each country roll off in the vans. However, it will be incredibly uplifting to know that there are others all over the world going through the same culture shock and life changing experience that we’ll be going through in Kenya.

Also, I finished my ordination exams in a weekend. I did my exegesis, a paper about the Greek text of Matthew 20:1-17, in 2 days and felt pretty good about it. I was supposed to have until Thursday, but turned it in on Monday. That makes life a bit stressful, but it is behind me now.

Well, I am off to be reminded of why being 6 foot 5 is not the best attribute to have for two 8 hour plane flights…Have a great day!


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