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Week 47: London: From Matutus to Buses and Trains

Before going to Kenya, I planned to visit two places on my way home Kenya if I had a layover in London, my dad’s only cousin lives in Paris and one of my best friends, Brian, and his wife, Kellie, live in Edinburgh currently.  Things worked out and it didn’t cost anything extra to extend my layover in London, yay.  I have learned that when an opportunity like this presents itself, you better take it!  So, I did.  Then the wheels in my brain started turning (danger!) since I had a month or so of free time I thought maybe I could get a Eurorail pass and see a few places in Europe I’ve always wanted to see without having to fly back over the ocean later, save the environment and money (I’m down!).  Turns out, I can get a Eurorail youth pass as a youth for only two more months because I’m 25 and under.  So, I did.  Furthermore, I am couchsurfing where I don’t have to pay for places to stay and meet really interesting people in the cities I visit.  So, the trip is costing a train pass and basic food.  Amazing.  Opportunity seized.

London

My plane arrived into London at 6 AM and I slept rather well on the eight hour flight up from Nairobi.  I had asked people what they recommended that I do in London.  My old boss and good friend, Allison, recommended going on the open air bus tour of London.  She said, “I know it’s corny and pricey, but it’s worth it.” Allison had spent a year in London as a YAV and said she knew more about London than some Londoners because of the tour.  I only had two days and one night in London so this was a great way to the see the tourist sites and hear about the history of London in a short amount of time.  Furthermore, you can hop off and on the bus for 24 hours.  So, although it was corny and pricey I did enjoy myself.

Westminster Abbey:
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Me and Big Ben:
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Mac Store in London:
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London was also my first experience couchsurfing.  Couchsurfing.org is a website people join like facebook, where they create a user profile, but the ultimate goal is to help people who are traveling find a couch to sleep on wherever they are.  It’s free and the host is supposed to provide the traveler with breakfast, but that’s not the best part.  The best part is meeting and staying with a local person and not in a touristy place.  The experience in a city is completely changed by having someone who lives there host you and give advice on what you may like to see.

My first host was Richard and I was his first surfer which made for a good match.  I got off the open air London tour bus with my 50 lbs of luggage on my back.  I could see the landmark metro stop on my bus tour map from which Richard’s directions started.  I had the mindset of, “I walk three miles or so in Kenya without any problem,” however, I don’t have a 50 lbs bag on my back… I would have been fine, but I didn’t google map the directions and ended up not finding his house and wondering around a bit which is all good, except the bag was with me and my back.  Eventually, I realized I needed to look up the directions he had e-mailed me again and take a break.  So, I walked down the street looking for food and internet.  I found a Pizza Hut (I hate to eat at States’ food places abroad) and went in because they had wifi and I knew I would leave full which is what I was interesting in at the time.  I found my mistake in the directions and made my way to Richards.  I arrived and was very happy to meet Richard who was a very nice man who welcomed me very graciously into his home which was only a ten minute bus ride from the heart of London.

Richard and Me (my first host):
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He was drawn to my profile because it says that I am studying to become a Presbyterian minister and he is very involved in his church.  So, he recommended that the next day I go to see John Wesley’s church, home, and grave.  The next day I did just that.  John Wesley was the founder of the Methodist denomination and is known for his heart being “strangely warmed” when hearing a preface to Romans by Luther.

First, I stopped by the Tower of London, but it cost a lot to get in and didn’t fit well into my thrifty month.  Not a good foot to start off on.  So, I went to John Wesley’s which was not listed on the tourist map, but I fully enjoyed.  I was the only person there when I got there.  I was invited to watch a 20 minute video about Wesley, then given a tour of the church, his house, and his grave.  It was fantastic and much more interesting for me than seeing the Tower of London would have been.

John Wesley’s Pulpit with me in it:
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John Wesley’s Bedroom (where he died):
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John Wesley’s Prayer Room where he would begin his day at 4 AM and end his day as well:
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John Wesley’s Grave:
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I love London and it’s history.  As I was on the bus, I looked to my right at one point and there was a tiny plaque which read, “Here the first post mark was officially posted.”  That’s pretty crazy for a small plaque.

After this I headed back to Richards to get my belongings so I could make my night flight to Paris. I had not seen all that I wanted to see, but there will always be things left over. It is impossible to see it all. Sounds simple, but is terribly hard to learn.

Remembering Henry

June 26, 2009, Henry, a student at ByGrace, died at the age of seven and a half.  I haven’t written about him because I’ve been struggling with this for the past month, but it is a big part of my time in Kenya.

Henry was six when I met him at ByGrace in early October of 2008.  He stood out because of his infectious smile.  He didn’t talk much, but would smile like crazy when you asked him how he was doing or talked to him.  I would always play the teddy bear game with him, where if he got to close to me I would pick him up and put him in my lap and tell him he was my teddy bear named George and say, “I shall love you and pet you and call you George.”  He would escape and then walk by close to me so I would catch him again.

Then I started teaching computer classes in 2009.  After a few classes the preschoolers persuaded their teacher to ask me to teach them as well.  So, I would teach the five preschoolers for half an hour before the older students.  Henry was my best student.  He understood English very well and would help his classmates who didn’t know English yet.  In February, Henry went to the hospital for almost an entire month.  When he finally came back, he had lost a lot of weight, but he still had his infectious smile.  I was in Lodwar when we learned that Henry had died after some time in the hospital.  Luckily, everyone at AEE knew Henry because… he was Henry.  So, we were able to mourn together.

Henry had no parents, but ByGrace was his family.  So, I would ask that you please keep the students and teachers of ByGrace in your thoughts and prayers as they continue to deal with and mourn Henry.

Henry during Computer class:
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Week 46: Goodbye Kenya

What a beautiful, painful, and celebratory week, my last week in Kenya.  I walked back through the doors of the schools which I had been going to my entire year after not going for a month (two for two months).  I was no longer Mr. Incognito to all of the smiling faces until I began to explain that I was leaving the next week and this was my last class with them.  I was under the impression when I left for Lodwar that I would have two weeks back in the schools, but the unusual timing of our closing retreat in Uganda had taken another week from time in schools.  Therefore, I walked in to smiling faces, explained that I was leaving to confused faces, and left to a mixture of faces.  I explained to them that I was sorry that I was only back for one class, but that it is the way life is sometimes.   Leaving each school was very difficult.  I was thanked many times at each school and I felt closure as I left and believe that the students did as well.

They have been the main focus of my time in Kenya and I am sure that as I continue to chew on my time in Kenya I will miss them more while realizing what they have taught me, nobody else could have.

St. Hannah’s Girls Basketball Team
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St. Hannah’s Girls Secondary School
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St. Hannah’s Boys Secondary School
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St. Nicholas Primary School
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The biggest goodbye for me was leaving African Evangelistic Enterprise (AEE) which has been my home and office for the past year.  Friday, we had a very nice going away party for me where each person spoke and I closed with a lengthy speech about my year in Kenya.  What a blessing they have been in my life.  I wish that I could transfer my experience with the people at AEE to others, so that they undertood how amazing the people of AEE and Kenya are.  I will miss them and look forward to the day when I will get to see them again hopefully.

African Evangelistic Enterprise after my going away party:
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During my last week, I also got to meet up with Nick from the Mark and Nick duo (I climbed Mount Kenya with Mark and his now finance, Karen).  Any who, Nick’s girlfriend, Maggie who is from Stillwater, OK, has been in Kenya for the past month visiting Nick and I finally got to meet her and see Nick again.  She has been in Thailand for the past year and so it was nice to talk with people my age about our experiences at different places in the world besides Oklahoma while still speaking in our Oklahoman accents, it was great!

The Oklahoman Trio (Maggie, Me, and Nick):
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The day before I left Kenya, I got to meet up with some friends from Austin College who are working in Nairobi for a month.  They are both members of the Christian fraternity I was in during college, Chi Tau Chi.  It was great to meet up with people from AC and talk about our friends on a first name basis.

The XTX/Austin College Trio (Emily, Me, and Daniel)
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Cosmas and Robert’s Last Adventure (for now)

Cosmas and I had our last adventure to visit his newish girlfriend, Nelly, on the other side of town.  As always, it was an adventure and great to see Cosmas before I left Kenya the next day.  At Nelly’s, we watched Extreme Makeover Home Edition and I saw some of Ugly Betty for the first time.  Not what most people from the States think we do in Kenya, but for some Kenyans it is.  Until next time Cosmas.

Nelly, Me, and Cosmas:
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Before we leave on the plane, Phyllis makes us a good big meal to send us off on a good note.  As my posts from Christmas and Thanksgiving have told you, Phyllis can cook incredible food, in taste and quantity.  She has been a great supervisor and friend.  I’m gonna miss Phyllis and her family.

Phyllis’ Mac and Cheese (The best I’ve ever had):
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The Apple Pie for my going away party:
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That’s all for now.  I will continue to blog about my memories from Kenya as they come to me.  Until then, I am taking a European detour on my way home to visit my dad’s only cousin in Paris and one of my best friends in Edinburgh with a few other detours in between those two.  I will blog about those experiences as they come, but for now I am focused on saying goodbye to Kenya.

So, goodbye for now Kenya, thank you for all of the joys and sorrows, new friends and new ways from which to view the world.

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginnings end.” –Semisonic

Week 45 Revisited: Kenya YAVs Closing Retreat and Dinner

Our Ugandan closing retreat did not just consist of us rafting down the source of Nile river, but another day as well. Phyllis, our site coordinator in Kenya, had told us since we arrived in Kenya that we were going to slaughter a lamb, skin it, and eat it. We thought she was joking. The morning after our rafting trip there was a lamb outside… we thought, “she’s really putting a lot into this joke.” Yeah, turns out she was not joking. Part of the broader African culture involves the spilling of blood during a major transition point in a person’s life, Phyllis explained. I personally felt, I have been eating goat and lamb my entire year with the mamas taking care of killing, skinning, and cooking our food. Therefore, I thought it was an important experience to have in realizing what occurs in order for me to eat every day here in Kenya. Apparently, it is difficult to kill a lamb, so we had a professional do the actual killing while other YAVs held the lamb down. Then some of the YAVs took turns skinning the lamb and preparing it to be cooked for dinner. That night we all sat around the grill as our lamb roasted and talked about our year of service together and our futures. It was a beautiful night spent enjoying good friends as our group of YAVs in Africa for the last time.

Kenya YAVs and Hawa in front of the Nile during our closing retreat:
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Saturday, we had our farewell dinner at a nice restaurant at the Nairobi Game Park. Each YAV was able to invite two friends and their host parents. This was another very good experience in closing our year together as the Kenyan YAVs. I realized to an extent during the year what an amazing group of seven we were, but as what brought us together was ending I really was able to grasp what an impressive and eclectic group we are. I’m going to miss my Kenyan YAV brothers and sisters very much.

My two friends, William my boss, and Rodgers, AEE’s handy man:
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Kenya YAVs at the YAV closing dinner (We’re good looking):
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I was finally back in Nairobi after three weeks away and was ready to begin attending schools again to tell them all good-bye.

Week 44 Revisited: Lodwar Videos Totaling Four

Lodwar School Choir (if you’re only going to watch one video please make it this one)

Refiner’s Fire (Tebi and me leading morning devotion music)

Hakuna Mungu Kama Wewe “There is no God like You” (Tebi and me leading morning devotion music)

Atooity Top (me leading an in-betweenie at a school in Lodwar)

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