Archive - February, 2009

Week 22: Super Bowl, Back to School, and Good-Bye Nokia 1200

Super Bowl

I last left off with us returning from Mombasa to Nairobi from our first retreat.  Welp, Henry had requested during orientation in Aug. that we all watch the Super Bowl together.  So, Henry, the Smith-Mathers, and I found ourselves walking down Rhapta Raod once more at 1 AM to our coordinators house to watch the Super Bowl.  It turned out to be a really good game; however, I was the only one awake by the last quarter of it.  I definitely watched it through a new lens.  How would I view the US if the Super Bowl was all I had from which to base my opinion.  Also, we didn’t get the commercials which is usually in my opinion the best part.

Back to School

Tuesday night William (my boss) and I went out for our weekly 2 for 1 night at Pizza Inn.  There we decided it was time to start going to schools even without any Foxfires.  So, the next morning we hopped in his VW and went around to 7 different schools.  After about 4, I was like “William, you do understand I am just one man, I can’t do all of these schools by myself.”  We ended the day with only 3 schools ready for me to start coming now, which is a lot more than nothing.

Good-Bye Nokia 1200

Wednesday, I was on my way to meet my coordinator to help her with some laptop problems.  William and I’s school antics took longer than I had anticipated so I was running late.  I went to my usual matatu stop, but was more rushed than usual…so I hopped on the first one that came.  There were some Kenyans that were saying “come on” (who were not the matatu operators) which should have told me something shady was going on.  But I hopped in.  On our way my phone buzzed with a text so I pulled the phone out of my jean’s pocket and then returned it to my silky jacket pocket.  At some point in the ride I felt a tap on my side, but didn’t pay any mind to it.

When I get out of matatus I always pat my pockets and make sure everything is there…welp, my phone sure wasn’t.  Then everything clicked and I realized the man beside me had picked my phone.  So I chased down the matatu.  It stopped.  I found the man and told him to give me back my phone.  “What phone?” he replied.  I persisted a few more times, but I didn’t want to drag him out of the matatu because he had some friends with him.  So, I decided to let it go.  I used someone else’s phone to call mine and sure enough the SIM card had already been taken out.

I really just wanted the numbers out of the phone.  I didn’t care too much about the phone itself, but it was gone.  My only vindication was that my snake score was like 4600 which took me 5 months to get.  So, if he attempts to beat my score he’s in for a rude awakening.

I stopped at the store and bought a new Nokia 1200 within the hour.  I thought about upgrading to the Nokia 1206 which is in color, but decided that the Nokia 1200 and I were made for each other.  Then I went to the cell phone provider’s office and they were able to give me a SIM card with the same number for only 20 Shillings (a quarter).  5 months in Kenya without having anything stolen…not too shabby.

I was also reminded of how much money I have compared to my close friends at AEE who I interact and shop with everyday.  If their phone had been stolen they could not have just gone like I did and drop $25 on a new phone.  It didn’t even phase me besides being somewhat annoying.  So, I have spent some time reflecting upon my financial situation in comparison to those around me (once again).

Fanny Pack from Peru YAV’s

My fellow YAVs from Peru sent me a Peruvian Fanny Pack which was waiting for me when I returned from Egypt-Israel/Palestine trip.  I am excited about breaking in this new Fanny Pack and believe I have officially started a Fanny Pack collection.  I want to especially thank Katie Rains for actually mailing it to me in Kenya from Peru.  I think it took 3 months to get here…that’s awesome!  Thanks Peru YAVs!

The Professional Me with Peru Pack:
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The Normal Me with Peru Pack:
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The “You’re a Tiger” Me with Peru Pack
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Week 21: Basketball Ministry, First Kenya YAV Retreat, and Fires

Basketball

St. Andrews Presbyterian Church has a sports’ ministry which I first heard about when I started attending St. Andrews.  I have been running around the past 2 months (Mfangano Island, Family Vist, Egypt-Israel/Palestine) and hadn’t had the chance to join in any sports.  Welp, that all changed during Kenya Week 21.

Wednesday, I met up with the St. Andrews basketball team and we headed to Moi Forces Boarding High School.  I was really excited to play basketball since I hadn’t played in 5 months!

We arrived and played the most civil game of basketball I have ever played!  At one point, I was fouled pretty hard on the arm and yelled “Foul!”  I felt like “that guy” in a game who always complains!  Every person on the court had been fouled pretty hard at some point in the game, but I was the only one to object.

The court was interesting.  It used to be made of concrete, but had deteriated and was now a fine gravel basketball court.  I am definitely not used to playing on such a court, but believe I will get better.  I was told that there is only one nice wood court in Kenya.  I had never thought to be thankful for the 2 indoor wood courts my high school had.

I thoroughly enjoyed playing again and look forward to getting out as many times as possible in the next 5 months.

Earlier as we were leaving St. Andrews for the school, I was told that Nakumatt Central (Kenya’s Wal-Mart) was on fire and we saw billows of smoke as we drove by.  On our way home, the St. Andrews bus dropped me and a teammate off so we could walk to the main matatu stop.  In order to get there, we had to walk right by the Nakumatt that was still on fire with hordes of people around it.  I said a prayer to myself that everyone made it out alive and was alright.  For the first few days they thought that nobody had died.

First Retreat

On Friday morning, very early, Henry and I walked down the road to our coordinators home for the ump-teen time.  We were on our way some where, but weren’t sure where.  Our coordinator had told us to pack: a swimming suit, malaria pills, and warm clothes.  The swimming suit and warm clothes together kind of confused us, but we have learned to do what we’re told.  Once in the van, we were informed that we were headed to Mombasa on the coast of the Indian Ocean.  No warm clothes needed.  So, we had a lot of funny beach clothes moments.

The 8 hour drive to Mombasa is interesting.  The first quarter the road has pot holes so large that a semi could fall in, while the last 3 quarters the road are nicer than most roads in the States.  Makes for an interesting trip.

We were only there for the weekend, we arrived Friday afternoon, had Saturday to hang out, and then headed back Sunday morning.  It was really nice to see everybody and spend time together.

The best part of the weekend came on Saturday night when they had a really good cover band play at our amazing buffet dinner on the Indian Ocean.  The songs ranged from Enrique Iglesias to Lynyrd Skynyrd to James Brown.  This obviously led to 7 YAVs, 1 Coordinator, and 2 Facilitators from the States moving to the dance floor as the other 100+ dinner eaters watched and laughed at us.  It was awesome!  I hope to recreate this moment soon somehow.

Kenya Fires

In Mombasa, I learned that the Nakumatt fire I had seen on Wednesday had been much more deadly than anyone previously believed.  36 people were killed in the Nakumatt fire and it is believed that the guards were told to lock all of the doors to prevent looters from getting in which trapped many people inside.

Then on our way home from Mombasa we learned that Saturday a Gas Tanker had flipped over and as people were collecting gas someone purposefully threw a match down blowing the tanker up killing 113 people and severly burning 178 others.  So, please keep Kenya and the families who lost loved ones in your prayers.  To read the Times article click here.

Week 20: Inauguration and Week 20

I slept most of the day after getting home from Israel/Palestine at 6 AM.  I remember waking up and hearing the 8 AM devotion which happens right on the other side of my plywood bedroom wall.  But I didn’t wake up again until around 3 PM.  I was then off to a worship service to pray for Obama as he was being sworn in an a few hours and then to the Inauguration watch party.

I was feeling well rested when I arrived at St. Andrews for the worship service in honor of the historic election of Obama for Kenya/Africa/Everyone.  Before the service began, we were invited outside for some Kenyan snacks.  I decided I wanted a Fanta so I went up to the man who usually sells pop at church and said “how much?” to which he replied, “No pay, it’s Obama day!”  I then tried to convince him that each Tuesday for the next year was technically Obama day, but I don’t think he bought it.

The service was really nice.  It was interesting because the Associated Press and other press folk were there.  So, when we prayed all you could hear around us were cameras flashing.  The service included singing, a poetry reading, and a few sermonettes.  At the end of the service the choir started singing, “He’s got the whole world in His hands.”  They were referring to God as they sang, but I couldn’t help but think that the “he” could easily refer to Obama.  Being the President of the most powerful country in the world means that your decisions and leadership have an enormous impact on every country in the world, not just the US.

Then we were off to a hotel in downtown Nairobi to watch the Inauguration ceremony.  The dinner was very nice.  I wanted to sit there for a week and just eat.

Dinner at Inauguration watch party:
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Every person I had met from the States in Kenya in the past 5 months was there.  There were also a lot of Kenyans and other nationalities there as well.  Wangari Maathai was the most famous person there.  She was the first women in Africa to receive a Nobel Peace Prize for “her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace.”  She was also the first women in Eastern Africa to receive her Ph.D. and is all in all a very impressive women.  During my class sessions, when I am talking about how my students can be whatever they want to be, I use Wangari Maathai as an example, especially for young Kenyan females to know that they can be whatever they want to be.  So, it was cool to meet her.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Inauguration and the unique experience I had of going through the Presidential elections in another country and culture.  I definitely have a different view of politics in the States and how our entire process works.

Me and Wangari Maathai:
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After the Tuesday inauguration party, I spent the rest of the week getting back into the groove of Kenya.  It is much different living on the AEE compound by myself without Cosmos.  It has its advantages and disadvantages.  I learned that the Foxfire program was up in the air because of lack of funding, but we are now working on ways to work that out.

It was good to be back in Kenya.  It is my home.

Week 20: Homeward Bound

Monday morning bright and early, Andy (our professor), Mary-Elizabeth, and Isaac (roommate) walked me to the bus stop which would take me from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv.  It was surreal (again) walking along the Old City (Jerusalem) walls with my professor and friends to fly back to Kenya.

When the bus finally pulled up, a woman about my age walked up to the bus as well.  Stacey is from Indiana and has been teaching in Korea for the past year and half.  We started talking and discovered that we were both flying to Cairo and had layovers until 11 PM (we were arriving in Cairo at noon).

It was an interesting bus ride to Tel Aviv as we picked up several Jewish people with cool hats.  They had to take their hats off in the bus because they could not fit otherwise.

We arrived to the airport and had the joy of going through Israel security.  Not just Israel security, but Israel security a day after a ceasefire had been declared with Gaza.  So, it was a bit hairy.  It took me 2 and a half hours to get through security.  All of the inspectors were pretty grumpy as well.

When it came to searching my checked bags, luckily, I had a really nice women.  I had an entire bag of things that were donated from my seminary group which added to the interestingness.  The fun began when she pulled out 11 bags of M&Ms and 4 bags of Reeses.  Luckily, she was just jealous!

Then she came upon the feminine products I was bringing back to Kenya to donate.  Luckily (once again), she just found a small box of tampons…at first.  This is when it became fun for a second.  She looked up at me with a bewildered, worried face and said “um, why do you have tampons?”  I replied simply, “there is a project in Kenya, where I’m going, where we donate feminine products to women who otherwise would not have them.”  This was a satisfactory answer and she carried on with her job which included taking about 5 more boxes/bags of feminine products out.  Fun times.

Thus ends the checked baggage search.  I was grumpy at this point, but they had a security guy take me over to the check-in desk and rush me through so I was less grumpy.

I then found out why he rushed me through when I was blessed with the gift of going through “Line 1″ of the carry-on security.  Here I got to take out everything electronic…which if you know me…was almost everything I had.  My Mac’s power cord was what became my Achilles’ Heal.

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As you can see I have duck taped my power cord’s box because it sits on the floor in Kenya which is usually wet during the rainy seasons.  So, I duck taped it (logically).  Well, that wasn’t a good enough answer so security…so I had 3 officials come and look at it.  Finally, they deduced that I was a not terrorist and I told them that I appreciated the sentiment.  I went to the gate and had a few minutes before the plane began to board.

We arrived to Cairo around noon.  Stacey had never been to Cairo, so she wanted to go see the Pyramids.  I had spent a week with them and wasn’t so down with spending money, but decided that it would be fun and “you only live once.”  Egypt Air has a tourist deal where rather than buying a visa to sit in their airport ($15) you can pay $20 and have a tour of the pyramids and a nice dinner.  I was very weary of accepting this offer, but we did it.  We hopped in the Egypt Air bus which took us to the Pyramids (20 minute drive).  On our way there we picked up our guide (we didn’t know this was going to happen).  He was old and everybody knew him wherever we went which made me quite sure he was some sort of God Father Pyramid Man (you never know).  So, we saw the Pyramids.  It was just as impressive as the first time and cool to see them again through another angle with another presenter.

First Sighting of Pyramids Round II:
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Looking at Pyramids in between the Sphinx and the Pyramids:
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The Sphinx Round II:
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The Nile:
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Then we were taken to a perfume shop (part of the catch).  We sat through a short speal about perfume and smelled some.  It was funny because Stacey hates perfume, but was gracious and sat through it anyway.  At the end, I told him kindly that we were not interested and that was that.  I was relieved that we were pressured.

Then we went to New Cairo which is on the other side of Cairo by the airport.  It is a thriving area with nice apartments and a big outdoor food court.  There was a McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, and many other chain restaurants.  We went to the one restaurant that was not a chain which I liked.  It was a very nice dinner which in the States would cost $15 at least and it was included in our $20 for the entire tour.  Not too shabby.

We then returned to the airport around 7 PM and hung out until my flight boarded at 10 PM.  It was great to be with Stacey for the day, a fellow traveling companion who was from the States.

Stacey and I after a long day:
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I took some Tylenol PM once on board the plane for my 5 hour flight back to Nairobi.  I slept most of the way with our plane arriving early at about 3:30 AM.  I didn’t want to call anybody and wake them up so I just sat down right outside the airport and fell asleep on my bags until Rodgers arrived to pick me at 5:30.  On the drive home I fell asleep again which is really hard for me to do usually.  And I was finally home, in my bed, after being in transit for almost 24 hours.

I like my bed.

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