Archive - November, 2008

Week 11: Mombasa Round II, Foxies Graduate, and Moving to an Island on Lake Victoria

We returned to Nairobi from Mombasa this past Monday and our time in Mombasa was excellent. Here are some highlights from the rest of our Mombasa trip.

One of the people who came to lead a session with the Foxfires was a local Mombasa pastor whose church has a retreat every year that the Foxfires attend. We went over to his house one night for dinner. It started out with all the Foxies and I sitting there in silence as one of our leaders and the pastor talked, but as the night went on the conversation livened up. We talked about the States a lot and some issues that I am passionate about so I was very talkative. The pastor’s wife is amazing and kept laughing with me and nicknamed me “to be continued” because of my height. Yep. On Sunday, we went to the pastor’s church for 3 good ole Pentecostal services. The last one lasted 3 hours or so. The pastor and a AEE leader who preached kept mentioning me in their sermon, “don’t worry Robert, I’m wrapping it up,” “Robert, you look tired,” and “it doesn’t matter where you’re from, Kenyan or OklaHOMEa.” There were around 250 people there. Afterwards I told them I wasn’t tired and I was sorry if I looked like I was. They said the reason they kept mentioning me was because when you look out into the audience from the stage you see a sea of black and then this white man sticking out with his head a foot above everybody else. So, I need to keep this in mind when in other churches as well.

Fort Jesus – We went to Fort Jesus which was a Portuguese fort and is in the shape of person lying down. I got a bit frustrated because it cost the Kenyans 100 Shillings to get in and it cost me 800 Shillings because I am a “foreigner.” I have my Visa for a year so it is supposed to cost less, but they weren’t fond of that idea. I was quite mad for a few minutes afterwards because I am overcharged quite often and it gets under my skin. One of the Foxies finally said, “come on, you didn’t pay for it, enjoy yourself” which was good advice and brought me back to reality. Fort Jesus was used to keep slaves during the slave trade and other not so good things throughout history so I was a bit concerned about the name Fort Jesus. The guide said it is named Fort Jesus because the Portuguese were Roman Catholic, I suggested they think of a new name…

Ferry – On our way to Fort Jesus we had to cross from the island to the mainland on the ferry. However, when we attempted to start the van to drive off the ferry…it didn’t start because the battery was dead. What happened next was not expected. Right after the van made the dead battery noise, we were surrounded by 20 or so Kenyans who ride the ferry back and forth all day waiting for cars to die so that they can help push them off the ferry and receive some amount of money. They approached and were all talking in Swahili and I could catch some of it (numbers, yes, no, please), but the girl Foxies all looked scared to death which I found entertaining. We told them we didn’t need any help and Cosmos and I got out and pushed the van off the ferry. People were staring at me (more than usual), Cosmos said that it was unusual for a white person to be seen pushing a car, sweating, and getting dirty. We got the car off the ferry, but then there was a hill…so we had to have the girls get out…which wasn’t enough so we had to hire some of our Kenyan friends. Once parked safely we sat under the jumbo-tron I spoke of in my last post and watched Punk’d for an hour or so…or I did at least…the girl Foxies still all looked scared. Then we found someone to jump the van and spent the rest of the day traveling around without turning the van off. I must thank my beautiful car, Cecile, who has taught me many different times that things will be okay when a vehicle decides to “fail to proceed” as Cecile enjoys to do often to keep me on my toes.

Livin on Kenyan Time – My job Monday morning was to get everybody up and attempt to leave at 6 AM. Kenyans are on Kenyan time which means late. Some of them realize that they’re late and care, some realize they’re late and don’t care, and others don’t even realize they’re late. Reasons for this: there is a lot more emphasis on relationships here. People will have an important question or issue to talk with you about, so they’ll come over at noon and not get to the point until night time because it is important to spend time together first. Another relationship emphasis, when I get to the office I must go around to each person and say hello or I am being rude (I was being rude for a month without knowing it). Any who, so some of the time issue is cultural. Another element is transportation. Most people don’t have a car so use public transportation and those who do have a car could be stuck in a jam for quite some time. So, some of the time issue is transportation. In conclusion, Kenyans are late. Back to getting everybody up. I told them all I was going to wake them up and we were going to leave at 6 and they laughed at me. My favorite reaction was one of the AEE staff who looked at me and said “what about morning tea?” It reminded me of a scene in Lord of the Rings when Pippin or Merry ask Strider when they were going to stop for “second breakfast” as they are being chased. How could I consider leaving without first having tea? Silly me. So, I woke them all up very early and we left at…6:30. It was very unusual because they were proud of being late, “we’re Kenyan” they said. Or I guess they were proud of their culture and being Kenyan which I can understand. There was no reason to leave late this morning, no matatu rides, jams, or meeting new people, but part of being a Kenyan is a different understanding of time and that is what I am trying to figure out. However, when we leave on trips, I still arrive at the time that we are told we are leaving (nobody else is usually there) so I put my stuff in the van and tell somebody to call me once it looks like we are heading in the “leaving direction.” This has given me 1-2.5 hours of time to get things done which is helpful, but I must continue to attempt to adapt.

The Foxfires graduated on Wednesday. It was a very nice ceremony. Most of them are moving out tomorrow. Cosmos and I are heading to his home for 2 weeks which will be fun (he is from an island in Lake Victoria). He has been teaching me how to whistle like people from his island do. So far, I have “I’m excited,” “I’m surprised,” and “I just don’t know what I’m going to do with you.” I can only whistle sucking in so he is working on teaching me how to whistle while blowing out. That’s my next 2 weeks assignment.

My family is coming to visit me in December which will be very nice and I am excited to see them. Then in January I am going to meet up with a class from seminary which is traveling around Egypt and Israel to explore “Places of the Bible.” I am very excited about this because it is the main class I wanted to take at Austin Seminary. I thought I would not be able to go on it, but everything lined up so I am signed up and ready to go …yea! Well, that’s it for now. Not sure how often I’ll be able to update in the next few weeks, but I’ll update when I can. Have a great day!


Week 11: Barack Obama

I was sitting outside reading while the female Foxfires were doing their wash and a song came on the radio. It begins with a clip from an Obama speech talking about why he decided to run for President and he kept talking about “our nation” which was unusual because he is the US President-elect, not Kenya’s. I am still baffled by how much I hear about the US in Kenya. This lead me to think about why Obama was plastered on every matatu, t-shirt, and hat in Kenya. He is black and his father was a Kenyan is the answer. As I have felt proud of the changes that have occurred to where our President-elect is black, I have also felt a deep sense of shame and discouragement with the human race. Obama’s victory is such an amazing accomplishment because of the hundreds of years of racism and hate. I’m proud that we have begun to move in the right direction, but I believe it is imperative that we reflect on why this is a big deal and learn from our past. Let us rejoice in our movement in the right direction to make all people equal, but let us also further break the chains of oppression and inequality. The notion of mutual indebtedness, if my neighbor is not okay then I am not okay. Well, actions speak louder than words, so I am off to act out what I believe. Have a great day!

Week 10: CourtTV, Indian Ocean, Mosquito Nets, and Kit Kat Chunky bars

We woke at 6 AM Monday morning so we could be on the road by 6:45 to Mombasa which is a city/island on the Kenyan coast/Indian ocean.  It is an 8 hour drive from Nairobi so I read when we were on the good roads and thought/bounced about when we were on the not so good roads.

We arrived at the ferry crossing to the island and as we sat in line they had a jumbo-tron showing CourtTV to the thousand plus people waiting for the ferry.  It was a police chase show and started out by saying random city, California.  The chase we saw consisted of police chasing a drunk man until he flipped his truck an impressive number of times.  The police asked, “how many beers have you had tonight,” to which the man replied, “I’m not a bear.”  No joke.  I’m not a fan of these shows to begin with, but I have never seen them though this lens before.  I sat there wondering what the Kenyans were thinking about the States right then…probably not the best thoughts.  I felt like saying out loud, “yeah, this is what we do in our free time.”  In my travels thus far I have found the statistic that the US’s biggest export is entertainment to be true.  When I was traveling from Botswana to Zambia last summer I remember watching The Fugitive on the bus and wondering what I would think about a country if this was the only piece of information I had.  It makes for an interesting country: lots of guns, helicopters, and killing.  Any who, the realization that a lot of people abroad who have never been to the States base their vision of what the States are off of our TV programs was a bit distressful.  So, as you are flipping through the channels tonight imagine what a country would look like if those programs were all you had from which to base your vision of an entire country. End Rantish.
We arrived at our destination and unloaded everything.  I passed out and slept the hardest I have in Kenya thus far.  I know at one point I woke up and tried to make my way to the bathroom, but couldn’t because something was holding me back…my mosquito net.  Whoops.  I don’t sleep under a mosquito net in Nairobi because the elevation is high so the temp. is lower equaling less Mosquitoes, but there are lots of mosquitoes here.  Realizing I had been defeated by a mosquito net was entertaining the next morning… 
The night we arrived, I kept asking where the Indian ocean was because I didn’t see it anywhere.  Welp, I woke up this morning, walked out of our room, and there it was!   
We are staying about 100 ft. or so from it.  In my life, I have encountered a few amazing sights like this and believe I prefer this route rather than getting to see everything as soon as I arrive.  You arrive in the dark then wake up the next morning and see all you couldn’t see in all its glory.  It was quite an amazing moment I must say (so I said it (or wrote it) right there).
Our trip is the closing retreat for the Foxfires.  We have different guest speakers coming to talk to the Foxies and William, Mulinge, and I are leading some sessions about going back out into the world after living at AEE for a year as well.  Today, when we had devotion in the morning all of the Foxies were itching to go to the beach.  It reminded me at Dwight Mission when all the campers would change into their swim trunks for Bible Study because they knew swimming was next.  They might focus the first half of Bible Study, but for the last half they’re gone…completely.  That was our morning devotion time.
I woke up this morning to Cosmos standing up in bed next to me saying “HOW…DID…YOU…GET…IN…HERE!?!” and clapping his hands on mosquitoes at the top of our mosquito net.  He wasn’t yelling, but just asking the question quite literally in a thick Swahili accent.  He then made a “oo” sound whenever he clapped on a mosquito.  It was amusing. 
The only other time I’ve stayed on the ocean like this was on the Pacific in El Salvador for two days.  I like staying at a place right on the ocean rather than traveling to and fro.  If you become tired, you go lie down, when you get back up you just walk back out to the ocean.  I am reading a lot, thinking a lot, and looking at God’s beautiful creation a lot.  It’s not the same beach experience as other beaches which I’ve been to.  I guess no beach is like another, but this one is distinctly different.  I don’t think I can explain it in words…
It’s the Little Things
Items disappear from shopping centers in Kenya.  I fell in love with this candy bar here, a Kit Kat Chunky bar.  On days when I am in the office all day I will walk the 2 miles down to the corner and buy a Kit Kat Chunky bar and no matter how well the day is going it improves.  Well, about 2 weeks ago the Kit Kat Chunky bar just disappeared.  I checked every store I was in for the past 2 weeks, but to no avail.  “Goodbye my love!” –Dumb and Dumber quote- Then I came to Mombasa where they still have a plethora of them!  I bought 4 on Monday, but they’re gone now (in a better place).  I envision us stopping on the way home and me squandering all I have left on them…
That’s beardvember week 3 with a Kit Kat Chunky bar.  I pray you all are well.  Have a great day!

Week 9-2: Obama Day, McCain’s Speech, Fundraising Dinner, Band, and Beardvember

We had an election part-e as the Presidential results came in last Wednesday morning (for us). It was amazin’. We woke up at 3 AM (6 PM Central) and began watching Wolf Blitzer and rest of the gang. There was a Kenyan TV station that came and filmed our reactions and interviewed some people. We were on the news that night twice, the Swahili and English broadcast. The Foxfires didn’t believe I was going to be on TV and I wasn’t sure if I would make the edit, but right when we turned on the TV that night there I was in the background. The first broadcast is in Swahili so the Foxfires had to translate it for me. However, the most unusual/funny part of it all occured about 15 minutes after Obama was announced as the next President because the President of Kenya announced that Thursday would be a national Holiday because of Obama winning. So, everybody had Thursday off because it was “Obama day.”

Election Part-e

From Week 9

Most of my conversations about the election have actually been about John McCain and how professional McCain’s concession speech was and how impressive the US political system is. In church this past Sunday we were even asked to go and look up the words to his concession speech or watch it on YouTube because of how much they respected what he said and responded to defeat. I am not a Kenyan, so I do not fully understand how they feel or what the situation is, but it was interesting to encounter this response.

Friday night, we had the big annual Fundraising Dinner for AEE at a hotel downtown.

AEE Staff and Foxfires

From Week 9

The guest speaker was a Member of Parliament and it was a very nice dinner. I was in charge of running the PowerPoint which was put together by somebody else. It was a PowerPoint that had letters fall from the top to eventually form words below or every word would spin, bounce, or dance in some form or fashion. This made it much more entertaining to click the button for the next slide because nobody knew how the words would make their way to the screen. Good times. Earlier in the day I had been adding raffle items to the presentation and they told me that they had 2 “ships” for raffle. I was very confused by this because I wasn’t quite sure what someone would do with a ship in Nairobi (no large bodies of water near by) and I wondered who would donate 2 “ships” to a raffle. I have learned not to question things here sometimes so I just wrote down what they said. Later, when we were running through the slide show and the list of raffle items appeared with 2 “ships” people started laughing and I wasn’t sure why, but quite sure it was because of me. Apparently, a Kenyan saying sheep doesn’t sound like sheep, but “ship.” They got a good kick out of that one. Oh, Kenyans/Robert.

The Ship/Sheep

From Week 9

Rodgers, Wanyama, and I

From Week 9

I have started playing guitar with the Praise and Worship Band at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church on Sunday mornings which is a lot of fun. Most church bands here consist of drums, a keyboard, and a bass. So, I am mixing it up a bit…I think. I am becoming good friends with the drummer and bass player. The drummer was a Foxfire last year and came to AEE one morning for our 8 AM daily devotional for which I was playing guitar. Afterwards, he knocked on the door to my room and asked me to show him some licks which I did and was then invited to come play at St. Andrews. You can’t hear me very well during the services because the drums, keyboard, and bass all have bigger and better amps than my gee-tar, but I have already learned a little on the bass and some more music theory. So, I think that this will be a good reciprocal relationship and a good community for me.

Beardvember has begun. We were told at orientation that November is a really tough month when culture shock really affects a person. Therefore, as a sign of unity between the group, the men aren’t shaving their faces and the women aren’t shaving their legs. Yep.

Beardvember Week 1

From Week 9

I believe that is all for now. I have posted a 3 post since my last e-mail so check them out if you like. Have a great day!

Week 9: The Shower

Bathing when I am in a new place has always been “an experience.”  In France, I did not fit in the shower because it was too short, in the States when traveling I have not been able to figure out how to even turn the shower on (Giffords). Thus, it is no surprise that Kenya has also given me “an experience.”  I moved into AEE 4 weeks ago and the shower heater was not working then. Cosmos was just using a basin that he would heat water in every morning.  I inquired if the shower was supposed to be heated and they said yes so the electrician came out and fixed it.  This led to me waking up every morning to hear Cosmos in the shower (we don’t have ceilings) saying “oh, it’s so hot!” (in a very high pitch Kenyan voice) and other high pitch remarks.  The first time this occurred I was excited to get in the shower and try out the new hotness, but when I got in, it was the same cold water.  The next few mornings I heard Cosmos saying the same remarks and thought he was just joking.  I finally asked him what his definition of “hot water” was.  We have learned we are better at showing each other what we mean than trying to explain it.  So he showed me “the way.”  The trick is that you can’t turn the shower on too much, you can only turn it until the light above your head dims because the water heater is sucking the power.  Then you know the heater is working.  This lead to hot water and me saying in the shower in a deep voice, “oh, it’s so hot!”

Shower problem number 2.
Every time you touch the knob at the end of the shower it electricutes you…for fun. I had thought of some clever ways to avoid this, but they weren’t always fool proof.  So, once again I asked Cosmos, “uh…does the shower electricute you when you touch the knob?”  (Confused look, which I take as no)  Once again back to the shower for example of how a Kenyan showers.  Turns out, the trick is that when you are done showering you must reach out the door and turn off the water heater and light and then it is usually safe to touch the knob.  So, to recap.

  1. Turn light and water heater on.
  2. Turn water knob until the light above your head dims. Make sure you choose the right temp. or you’re going to get electricuted when you touch the knob again.
  3. Shower with exclamations of “oh, it’s so hot!”
  4. Turn off water heater and light.
  5. Carefully turn off shower.

More tomorrow I hope. Thanks Cosmos.

From Maasai


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