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Week 7: McCain/Obama Debates & Playing Guitar by Cell Phone Light

First off, I have redone the site.  I put a post after this one about the changes if you would like to read on.

I received my absentee ballot which is an empowering feeling to receive a ballot half way around the world.  It has been a very interesting political season for me because I really enjoy watching the Presidential Debates and the VP debate; however, Kenya is 8 hours ahead so in order to do so one must get up at 4 AM to watch them.  So, we did…  By “we” I am referring to the 8 other YAVs, the coordinator and her husband, and our spare, Blair, a YAV who is still here from last year.  The first debate was easy to watch because I was living in Westlands and had access to a TV with CNN.  The second debate and the VP debate proved to be more tricky however lacking CNN… but I had internet in an office that was locked up like Fort Knox at 4 AM.  So, I asked the key holder if I could borrow the keys because I wanted to wake at 4 in the morning so I could watch the Presidential debate.  I think in the States a Kenyan saying this would have received an unusual look or no, but a States person asking a Kenyan was greeted with a smile and an offer to leave some tea out for me.  So, I got up and unlocked all of the locks on the doors and set everything up for CNN.com and was ready to go.  The debate started and the same line kept repeating over and over because the internet was too slow.  So, I did the next logical thing.  I called my family on Skype, asked my dad to turn his web cam on and put his laptop in front of the TV so I could watch the TV at home.  It worked!  It was like I was sitting right there on the coach in our living room in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma!  The VP debate did not fair so well because apparently with 20 minutes or so left the Kenyan internet provider realized they hadn’t been paid yet and cut our internet off.  I decided for the last debate I would play it safe and go to Westlands where there is CNN and bread and tea from Phyllis our site coordinate at 4 in the morning.  Needless to say, when you wake up at 4 in the morning to watch all 4 debates you feel much more patriotic than when you just flip to the channel on accident at 8 PM back in the states.

I have come to AEE at a good time, but an unusual time as well.  In Kenya, the school year ends in November/December, so everyone moves up a grade at the beginning of the year literally.  The year coming to an end means that the 5 Foxfires I live with currently will be graduating and leaving at the end of Novemeber.  Furthermore, the schools which I have been going to everyday will end soon for the year as well.

The 2008 Foxfires:

From 10-22-08

Although this will be awkward in the short term, I believe it is the best possible way it could work out in the long run.  I will have been exposed to the program and understand how it is supposed to look towards the end of the year and will be able to help get the next group of Foxfires off to a good start and spend most of the year with them.  So, I am kind of in training right now and learning the ropes and then next year I’ll be ready to go.

It has been raining a lot this past week (example below: me trying to sleep at 1 in the morning):

Rain means that the power is going out a lot more than usual as well.  The power will usually go out for a short while every other day or so, but when it rains and its dark (so people are using power to light their homes) we just wait for it.  The power is out right now actually, I had forgotten because Macs are amazing and never die.

There are quite a few things I enjoy about the power going out:

  1. It usually happens when I am deciding whether I should go to bed at the right time or stay up too late and read or what have you.  The power goes out, decision made.
  2. I get to use my amazing phone.  When our supervisor bought us phones she walked up to the person at the phone store and said “what’s the cheapest phone you have” and the answer was “the Nokia 1200.”  I love the Nokia 1200 with a passion.  No flare or bling, just straight up functionality and the best feature…it has a flashlight.  So, the power goes out and everyone has their fancy phones, but whose phone do they turn to?  Mine, the Nokia 1200.
  3. When it’s not sleep time and the power goes out then I play guitar in the cell phone light which is becoming one of my new favorite past/present/future times.  Usually when the power comes back on I’m a little frustrated.  In Zambia, the power would go out right after the sun had gone down and it was always so pleasant for us because we had all usually just sat down to dinner and so we would have a candle lit dinner every other night.  I understand that this is a major infrastructure issue that needs to be addressed, but I believe there is something to be said about having everything that distracts you from people taken away and just focusing on each other instead of on each thing.

I hope everyone is well.  Have a great day!
Sincerely,
RTQ

Week 5: Frisbee Throwin, Hand Shaken, Giggle Provoking, Tree Planten Kind of Week

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

We had today off because it was Ramadan, so Leslie, Blair, and I went to the Arboretum Park, which is a gigantic park in the middle of the city. We had a picnic and then started to play Frisbee. It was great to get some physical exercise besides walking, push-ups, and sit-ups. There was a young boy who kept riding his bicycle through the middle of our throwing triangle and he would go off to the side and watch us for a few minutes. I would look at him and ask, “do you wanna play?” and then he would vigorously shake his head “no” and ride off on his bike as quickly as possible. Rinse, lather, repeat and 3 times later I “incidentally” threw the Frisbee over right by him. “Can you get that for me,” I asked. Finally he picked it up and launched it in an unpredictable direction which lead to me playing Frisbee with him for half an hour as well as his younger brother and cousin. His mom looked at me and said, “If he starts throwing plates at home, I’m sending you the bill.” I laughed and went over and attempted to explain to all 3 of them that we were throwing a Frisbee, not a plate.

As we strolled out of the park, the boys road their bikes around us and I thought back on my childhood. I could remember those days when I had to ride my bike. No particular place I was going, but for some reason there was some sort of drive in me to ride my bike and play. My favorite memory during my trip down memory lane was when I use to come home completely exhausted but knowing that my mom would make me Spaghettios with sliced franks (which they don’t have here apparently) with a big glass of milk! That was my job as a kid and it was glorious. I have often thought back on my childhood and teenage years since going to college and beyond. Broken Arrow, Oklahoma is an amazing place to grow up is what I have come to realize and continue to realize in all of my travels. My 2 best friends lived walking/biking distance from my house and if we worked it right we could get 2 dinners usually, 3 if we got lucky.

My thoughts then ran back to my time in El Salvador when our group of 8 was working with a group of same aged Salvadorians. The groups were split up and asked to act things out and the differences became clear quickly. I distinctly remember the command to act out “your childhood.” I posed into a video game playing mode with my tongue sticking out which there are a few infamous pictures of me doing as a child. The States people all posed playing games or doing happy things, but the Salvadorians either hid by curling up in a bawl or rubbed their stomach for food. “Wow,” I remember thinking to myself on my first out of country experience, “I’ve had a very privileged and happy life.” See what happens when you start playing Frisbee…

Friday, October 3, 2008

I moved into my placement in Karen at the African Evangelistic Enterprise (AEE) Thursday. Yippee! It is an amazing place and I will give you a tour of my room and the campus during my update next week.

My first day on the job, I woke up and was told that we are going to a graduation. I thought, “great, that will be fun and relaxing.” It was for 40 graduates from a 2-month class on how to care for people with HIV/AIDS in the Nairobi slums. With this being my first day, I assumed I would not be doing anything. Nope. I was called on stage before diplomas were handed out and was the first hand graduates shook coming across the stage (the other hand shakers were the Presidents/Leaders of their organizations). Then I was asked to do the closing prayer for the graduates…which I did. Interesting day…

Saturday and Sunday, October 4, 2008

On Saturday, we traveled to Konguviri Girls School in Nyeri which is about 3 hours outside Nairobi right next to Mt. Kenya. I, of course, was unaware of where we were going or what we were doing until we got there. I have found Kenyans flow from English to Swahili without even noticing so I will be listening to a conversation the group is having and all of the sudden Swahili, everybody laughs, and I cry. So I was expecting a small church in the middle of nowhere. Nope. It was an 800 plus all girls boarding high school. We arrived and the team walked on stage and I felt 800 plus eyes on me. In Nairobi, I see other white people quite often in the wealthier parts of town. However, when you move outside of the major cities it is much less common to see other white people. So, a muzungu (white person) arriving at their school invoked 800 plus giggles and eyes to be glued on me. Interesting feeling. I introduced myself and said I would be staying for a year and the crowd went crazy. I wasn’t done talking, but I decided to end it there. As the weekend continued the eyes slowly left me and paid attention to what they were supposed to be paying attention to. It was a really amazing weekend. I played guitar and sang a few songs with the help of my other AEE members and afterwards was asked by about 10 girls what the best way was for them to get a scholarship to major in music in the States. I wish I knew more about music universities, but I gave them the best advice I could. Whenever the guitar comes out, Robert being a music teacher ensues. I should have taken better notes in my music theory classes…Any who, to share this experience with you, I uploaded a video of the girls singing. Somebody stole the transformer for the town and so they were without power all weekend which I thought really added to the night worship service, but wasn’t so good otherwise.

If you are in your office reading this and about to click play make sure your speakers are turned down. This is in the dark because of no power, but it gave me God bumps (goose bumps from God):

This song is in Kiswahili and the girl on stage is asking the question and the congregation is responding. This proves my claim of 800 plus girls.
Question: Who is exalted today?
Answer: Jesus Christ is exalted, there is none like him.

Monday October 6, 2008

We woke up early early to attend a borehole dedication in Nakuru which is about 3 hours outside Nairobi in the Great Rift Valley. The borehole was just beyond where we went for our archeological sites visit a few weeks ago. AEE performed a dance during the dedication. There were 2 Parliamentarians there which was a big deal apparently. So, it decided to rain heavily on them as they spoke, which apparently in Kenya is a sign that whatever is being dedicated or done will be blessed. Sounds like a good way to make light of a difficult situation.

A few schools were there who were going to be using the water from the borehole, so once again, it was whispers and giggles of muzungu, I waved. I had just learned I was going to this celebration the night before, but I was still recognized and called forward to be given a fly wisk (a Kenyan fly/mosquito swatter)

and then was asked to plant tree #11, so I did.


I greatly appreciated their hospitality and they said it was to welcome me to Kenya.

This song was for the Parliamentarians. The leader asks the question and the group responds.
Question: Who shall we send forth to visit the guest of honor?
Answer: We shall send __________.

Sorry for such a long post, but a lot has happened and I didn’t want to leave any of it out. I turn 25 this coming Monday, October 13, so that will be old…er. Also, I have a physical address now. My parents are sending a test letter to make sure it works. My physical address is:

Robert Thomas Quiring
c/o African Evangelistic Enterprise (K)
P.O. Box 24974-00502
Karen, Nairobi, Kenya

If you would like to send me goodies (Reeses, Spaghettios, Velveeta Shells and Cheese, the basic necessities of life) I think it would be a good idea to get a group together in Broken Arrow, Austin, Sherman, Dallas/Allen and wherever else and just send one big package rather than lots of small ones because it cost more money. If you would like to know what I need/want then please click here and ask me. Have a great day and let me know how you all are.
Sincerely,
RTQ (Relaxin’ under the tree)

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