Week 6: October Monthly Update

Hello friends,

First off, I am humbled and happy to announce that with the help of many loved ones, I have raised the $10,000 needed for my year of service in Kenya. So, a great big thank you to all of you who donated for: flying me over here (and back), paying for my food, lodging, monthly stipend, and everything else for a year. You all have taught me a great deal about giving and I hope that through this blog I am able to show you some of what your donation is doing. Also, if you have not donated and would still like to then please click here (click the word “here” literally, it’s blue). Now onto blogging…

In the words of Tom Petty, “You don’t know how it feels to be me.” Example below, yes, they’re serious…”mind your head.”

I am moved into my placement at African Evangelistic Enterprise (AEE) and am really enjoying myself thus far. AEE serves in many different areas in many ways, but I will mainly be working with the Foxfires. The Foxfires are a group of high school graduates who are sent by their churches to live on the AEE compound for a year and go to different high schools everyday for counseling. They talk with the students about sex, drugs, self-esteem, time management, and a lot of other teen issues. I have already sat in on some very interesting discussions in my one-week. The name, Foxfires, comes from Judges 15: 4, which is part of the story of Samson, it says, “So he went out and caught three hundred foxes and tied them tail to tail in pairs. He then fastened a torch to every pair of tails…” Therefore, the Foxfires are setting youth ablaze for Christ. I will let you know more about what I’m doing at AEE as I learn more about what I’m doing at AEE. The Foxfires must have an out of country experience before they graduate (Nov. 26th) so I will be joining them on that in the next week or two. The original plan was to go to the Congo, but it looks like that may not work out so we are working on a back up plan.

I will also be teaching English and Music every Tuesday at a boarding school called ByGrace. Last week, I was invited to the board meeting for ByGrace and it was very interesting to learn all about everything that goes into running a boarding school. The most interesting part of the day for everyone was when my host mother told me that I was driving the bus from AEE to ByGrace which is about a 45 minute drive. It was unusual to drive on the left side of the road and also to shift with my left hand, but I got the hang of it pretty quickly. There are a lot more potholes and unmarked speed bumps here so that added to the fun and meant that every now and then I would yell “Yeehaw!” or “Yippee!” which made everybody laugh. It was fun and educational for everyone.

My new culture adjustment is the subtle way that people communicate differently. My boss, William, will raise his eyebrows as I talk to him after each sentence which means “yes, I understand, go on.” A lot of the Foxfires use their lips to point to things rather than their finger, which still makes me giggle. And finally, they use a lot more grunts or noises when they are talking to one another. The grunt or noise is to let them know “I understand what you’re saying, go on.” So, I have been talking to someone and they will stop talking and look at me and then I will finally realize I haven’t grunted so I’ll grunt, “oh” and then they’ll continue talking. Good times.

I have created a video tour of my room and around where I live for your viewing pleasure. I had to shrink it so it would only take a few hours to upload instead of days so sorry for the poor quality.

Today is also my 25th birthday. Quarter century! There are 3 birthdays in our group in a 9 day span, so we went out Friday night and had a birthday dinner at a very nice sea food restaurant. I had more Lobster than any human should.



Then Saturday we had a tea party with cake. I have never been to a real tea party, just fake ones, so that was a first and very nice.

In Kenya they have a tradition of “washing” people on their birthdays. This is where they store up a bucket of grossness and then dump it on your head. Therefore, I have been in “stealth mode” all day today with my running shoes on. I will let you know what happens. It reminds me of my time at Austin College where the tradition is to throw people in the fountain on their birthday. On my 20th birthday I wore my swimming trunks all day with the arm floaties little kids wear just in case. Nothing happened. Then that following weekend a hoard of my best friends came and picked me up over their heads and carried me to the fountain and tossed me in. It was funnier because as they carried me I was reaching in my pockets and throwing my wallet, cell phone, and other things randomly as they carried me. Therefore, I expect the same might occur this time around. Wait until I am least expecting it. The Kenyans keep telling me that they are fast, but I respond, “you’ve never seen an Oklahoman run have you?” This either scares them or bewilders them so much that they stop bothering me.

Welp, until next week! Jesus loves you and I do too!

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)

Week 4: The 16 Meats

I discovered yesterday, Monday, that I will not be moving to my site on Monday as planned, but will be moving there Thursday, which is not a problem. So, I will update you all on what my placement is like next week.

On Sunday, we went to St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church and then to one of the greatest meat places to which I have ever been thus far in my life journey. It is called Pampa Churrascaria and is in Nairobi. It was our last meal together as a group before we split up to our different sites. It is the nicest restaurant I will encounter while in Africa, I presume because I’ll be paying for the rest of my meals.

The Meat Story

They brought out 16 different kinds of meat to us, which took a while, but I decided to wait until they were all upon my plate before I started eating. Therefore, the 7 women had finished eating and the 2 other males were slowing down when I began, but it was marvelous once all 16 had arrived on my plate.

To know which meat was which I decided to make a chart.

In order to share my experience with you all I decided to take a picture of all the meat, label each meat with a number, and write down what they all are below.

1. Chicken Thigh
2. Chicken Leg
3. Beef Drum Garlic
4. Turkey
5. Crocodile
6. Pork Sausage
7. Pork Rib
8. Top Beef Sirloin
9. Nile Perch
10. Lamb
11. Beef Sausage
12. Goat
13. Camel
14. Beef Hump
15. Beef Ribs
16. Bottom Sirloin

My top three were:
1. Chicken Leg
2. Pork Rib
3. Top Beef Sirloin
The Aftermath:

Meat Coma:

It was somewhat unusual eating so much food in Kenya where the gap between the middle class and the lower class is greater than in the States. However, I have started to question what the difference is between having a high percentage of impoverished people in the same city as you as compared to half way around the world. In the same city, you encounter them more and therefore, think about them more, but whether people are impoverished in the same city that you are in or half way around the world doesn’t matter. What matters is people are impoverished and I believe that should influence the way that everybody lives, everywhere. The notion that if my neighbor is not alright, then I am not alright. This coming from the man who just ate 16 different kinds of meat in one sitting…my 2 cents from a blog post which was supposed to be entirely about meat…it happens…

I hope all is well with everyone! Have a great week!
Sincerely,
RTQ

Week 3: Barack Obama

Today is our 3 week point in Kenya. This coming Monday is when we all go off to our sites for the rest of the year. 2 go to a small town outside Nairobi to teach at a high school, 1 is going to the coast of Kenya on the Indian ocean to be a Biologist, and I am moving to Karen which is northwest of Nairobi. The remaining 4 are staying in Westlands very close to the Supervisor’s house. Orientation has been a great bonding experience for the 8 of us and a great introduction to Kenya. We are all excited about going to our placements, but I think once we are there we will miss each other quite a bit, especially me and the coastal person because we will have to travel to see anybody else from our group, but it will provide a good opportunity to practice Swahili!

I have been asked about Barack Obama in the past 3 weeks frequently. Barack Obama is like a hometown star because Obama’s father, Barack Obama Sr., was a Kenyan who lived in Kenya all of his life except for college and graduate school in the States. However, Obama only met his father for 10 days when he was 10 years old in Hawaii and didn’t visit Kenya until his late 20s. So, Obama is a hometown star who didn’t grow up in his hometown/country at all which makes an interesting situation and Q&A sessions.  I’m sure that I will have many many more conversations about Obama in the next 11 months.

I did all of my laundry by hand for the first time this week. Apparently, in terms of clothing, I only brought 10 tops (T-shirts, long sleeve), 7 bottoms (Jeans, Khakis), a suit (2 ties), some socks and boxers, dress shoes, trail shoes, and chacos. I washed all the tops, socks, and boxers and it was an experience. I soaked, wrung everything out, and attempted to find places to hang everything to dry. My forearm muscles burned like crazy because of (attempting to) wrung everything out (reminding me of trying to beat a cake in Zambia and getting very tired before the job was done). However, I actually enjoyed washing everything by hand. The first time you do something it is usually more enjoyable than every time after that. However, I know that I will respect clean clothes more now and be proud of how clean/dirty my clothes are.

Sunday we went to church and then to the New Life Home. The New Life Home takes in orphans, especially those who are HIV positive, and gives them a place to be taken care of until they are adopted or find a foster home. There are currently 52 children there. There are babies (new-6 months), the “crawlers” (6-12 months), and the toddlers (1-3 years). We arrived right at the end of naptime and so all 8 of us grabbed a “crawler” and carried her/him downstairs and outside to go play. I spent an hour hanging out with 2 “crawlers” mainly. One would cry until I hugged him and the other would attempt to find anything to put in his mouth. It was good times. Then I went to hang out with the babies and ended up bottle feeding 2 and helping transport the rest to diaper change time and pajama application. It was a wonderful afternoon and we were all very happy afterwards. We have been invited to return whenever we would like and so I hope to do so throughout the year. I think it would especially be a helpful break during a stressful week.

If you have not already done so please check out the pictures I added this weekend in the next post by clicking the play button in the center. Have a great day and I will write to you from my site placement next week.
RTQ

Week 2: Pictures

Hello friends,
I have a better internet connection now so am adding pictures from Kibera slum, the archeological site visit in the Great Rift Valley, and some bo-jazz in between. So, without further adu:

 

-If you would like to pause just put your mouse over the middle at the bottom of the picture.
-If you would like to see the pictures bigger, then put your mouse over the bottom left corner and click on “Pictures Week Two” when it pops up. You’ll be taken to another page where you can see the pictures bigger. Word.

Let me know if you have any questions and please comment. I am quite proud of a few of the pictures. Have a great day! Kwaherini (Swahili for goodbye to a bunch of people).
Sincerely,
RTQ

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