Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Today


My soul is the same as my brothers' and sisters'
We all travel many miles on our journeys
One expeiences the struggles and joys of life regardless of wealth or poverty
Looking closely, I see the same red African soil covering our souls
Yet when I return home mine will be washed off and their's will remain
But in the moment this does not matter
We walk hand in hand, black and white, poor and rich
Because loves sees no differences, only the Lord in one another

Thursday, July 24, 2008

On the Road Again



Today I'm head up to Naperville to visit friends. Driving to Princeton then the train the rest of the way. Feels weird to be at home. I'm still trying to wrap my head around the inconsistencies of this world. How can it be that God gives me so much and Judith, Edel, and Lucy so little? The hardest part is trying to figure out what is my role in all of this? Still processing. Meanwhile here are some more photos.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Processing...



Made it home safe to chilli Saturday evening. Nice and yet strange at the same time to be home. I'm still processing all the experiences I had. Trying to figure out where I'm at and where do I go from here...

But I'll leave you with some photos since I'm not able to put my thoughts into words.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Leaving on a Jet Plane



Just got back from a 3 night adventure on safari and then to the coast. The traveling was crazy, I'll explain more later. I'll be flying out tomorrow here at 11pm nairobi time and getting to chicago on saturday 105pm local time. I don't have time now but I will write more later. I will also be posting photos then as well. Crazy to think the trip is coming to a close.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Leaving Where I Felt Most At Home


Yesterday, we visited Nyumbani (aids orphange) to help with chores in the morning and play with the children in afternoon. I enjoyed helping Edel with her homework again. Worked on knowing the value of money and practiced writing English. I never enjoyed homework so much. I also got in on many games of Old Maid and UNO. After a full day at Nyumbani, we headed out to Anita (the girls home) for a slumber party. We were greeted and then taking to the hall where all 50 something of them get back together. Then for the next hour and half we had the greatest dance party ever. Rick also tried to play popular american songs that they girls knew on his guitar while the rest of us sang along. I don't know how successful we were but I know we provided alot of laughs. Eventually, we headed up to the houses where 8-12 girls leave with a house mom for dinner. I enjoyed cabbage, beef stew, rice, and potatoes. We had great dinner conversation about our families, music and a number of other random topics. Whitney, Nathan and I headed to bed fairly early around 9 because some of the girls have school on Saturday morning. Not before Nathan had Whit and I hyperventilating with his Neil Diamond routine. We slept in til 830ish-9. By the time we got up the girls had the majority of their morning chores done. For breakfast we had tea, and chapti. We made the chapti (tortilla like bread thing) into a sugar roll. Whit and I added butter to the surface and then dumped mounds of sugar. It made for a delicious morning breakfast.

After we helped the girls clean the table so we could play games of UNO. The rest of the morning til lunch we just hung out with the girls: played on the playground, kicked a ball around, took goofy photos and such. Some how during this process girls started doing our hair. Right now I have a half head of micro braids, look pretty ridiculous. We eventually had a enormous lunch. But the afternoon had to come to a close which also brought the end of the last visit to Anita. I had grown attached even more this year to a little girl named Lucy. The girl is absolutely the greatest thing. If there was a way to adopt I would be a mother. I gave many goodbye hugs but Lucy was my last one before getting into our van. As soon as I turned to the van the tears started to flow. )
This trip has been great but incredibly challenging as well. But my time at Anita was pure joy. I could with no doubt spend forever there. If the peace corps only posted people there... (this might be the last blog before safari and heading to the coast for some days

Thursday, July 10, 2008

No to Nakuru, Yes to Poopoo



Today the rest of the group is making the way to Lake Nakuru which is the home of thousands of flamingos but I remain at Shalom House. The past couple of days, I have had some number two issues which has lead me to be the captain of the D team (I'll let you figure that one out). So between my bathroom visits, I have been processing and reflecting on my experiences thus far. I have really been searching for what the Lord wants me to get out of this second experience.

Yesterday, we visited Kibera the largest slum in Nairobi that is the home to 800,000 to 1,000,000 people in the area of Central Park. After the elections in December there was violence in allparts of Kenya but Kibera experienced alot of destruction and violence. On the way to the Kiscodep office we saw signs saying "stop violence, keep peace." We pulled up to the office and as soon as we stepped of the bus we were greeted by familiar faces that eagerly welcomed us back. We took the afternoon to tour the community development programs. One of the stops was a preschool. It was constructed of tin, plastic sheets and cardboard. It was dim, musty where mostly a class of orphans tried to get an education. They also receive typically their only meal of sugary soup here. At the end of our afternoon together we headed back to their office where they treated us to soda pops and muffins. They did not enjoy these snacks, only provided for us.

2 Corinthians 8:2-3 "Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability."These people gave us things that they do not even enjoy themselves. I ask myself how can this be. They know the feeling of going to sleep with hunger in their gut and yet they give the wealthy Americans all they have. How do I make sense of this?

2 Corinthians 8:10-11 "And here is my advice about what is best for you in this matter: Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means."Where does this leave me? What is right for me to give? Last night in our devotion time we talked about how greatly in proportion to what they have, they give. If I was to do the same and they were to visit my home what would the equivalent be? Would they leave with my family's best china or car even? Even as a college student, I could give enough money to make a difference in that school of orphans. I'm already trying to process how I go home and continue to live aware of wealth I have been given only by the grace of God and how we are called to share it.

Also another thing I attempt to hang on to is the lesson of knowing what is important in life. There are times when I'm sitting with a child that I know that I can not fix their suffering. But I can share a laugh and a smile. I realize through processing alot of the experiences here that in life even when there is great frustration and hardships to go through there is still joy and happiness.

I've also learned to be content in single moments. In the States, we often get caught up in the fast pace business of life. Here I am much more able to sit with someone and be completely in that moment. My mind is not wondering about something else, I'm not focused on the next task. I can sit with another person and be content in that single moment. Over the past year between my experiences in Africa I feel like I was able to hold on to some of this thinking but regardless it slowly would fade and at times be completely lost. I wish there was a way of bottling this so I would not forget to enjoy life.

The thing that I hope to hold on to the most is to not forget what it is like to walk the paths of Kibera. I never want to forget that I've been blessed with wealth that not everyone in this world experience. I want to remember that I feel moved to make the biggest difference I can. I can't simply go home and keep my same perspective of the world and my place in it. This is where I am at right now.

Random side note: I want to wish my sista Tobey a happy 30th birthday. I hope July 10th is a beautiful day back home in the states for a beautiful person. Separate but equal. Love you.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

I Love Lucy



So for the past couple of days I've been enjoying Kenya but my spirits have remained low. Uganda was an eye opening experience but I'm still trying to process everything. What it means to be a western here, do people see you as their equal? What exactly am I suppose to be learning this second time around in Africa? Post returning home what career path does God want me to take? I thought I had everything figured out but this trip has turned my thinking completely upside down.

On the 7th, we returned to Nyumbani the hiv/aids orphange. The first half of the day we spent doing chores around the combound. I enjoyed the time to just chat with Theran while doing mindless tasks. The second half we were able to play with kids. I saw Anne and Nicholas but by the time we were done the were taking naps since they are the younger kids. So I sat in the shade helping Edel a 8 year girl with her math homework. I enjoyed it completely. As we were sorting beans before lunch we met another american lady who helps out at Nyumbani throughout the year and has for the past 4 years. I asked about Kenith, a 12 year old boy that was very thin. Last year Dorthy and I took a great liking to. She informed me that he had passed away in November. I don't know why but it totally caught me off guard. Maybe it is because the kids at Nyumbani seem so healthy and happy I forget that they are ill. Regardless nyumbani is a place i could just spend days upon days.

Yesterday, was a down day for the group. We did the touristy stuff like go to the elephant orphange and the giraffe house. I think I group enjoyed a lighter, easier day. We also had a group discussion time to air out different things we have been having a hard time with thus far in the trip. For me it was a fresh breath of air.

Then we head to the outskirts of Nairobi to Anita Home, a center for street girls. Getting out of the van I immediately recognized faces. One of the girls whose names stuck in my head was Lucy. She is now 7 year old girl and the youngest in the Peace Home, the center has 4 different houses that act like families for the girls. Whitney and I first sat down to a very reserved and quiet group of girls. But with the help of many UNO games the group was brought to life. We enjoyed random conversation and the competition of UNO. Lucy has this cute little smile that makes it look like she has a secret but she is going to share. I completely enjoyed the visit and looking forward to going back on Friday and spending the night.

Today we are headed to Kibera the largest slum in Nairobi that houses 800,000 to a million people. We will be visiting community development projects and reconnecting with a community organization that we got to know last year. Afternoon, headed to the top of the tallest building in Nairobi for a bird's eye view. Also will make a trip back to Kivuli to visit the boys and make some purchases of crafts made by Rwandan refugees.

(sorry for any mistakes dont have time to proofread)

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Back to Kivuli


Yesterday on the 6th I got to return to Kivuli the center for street boys right in the heart of a slum. I recognized faces and names. Our group in enjoyed a show by the boys doing acrobats and juggling. We also had a decent game of pickup basketball going on. I think the boys find it amusing that the myself and whitney, two american girls, can actually play. But before all that we had gone to the local catholic church to take in a morning mass.

Later in the afternoon, the boys took us on a tour around the slum. They showed us a recycling program older boys run. One of the boys I met last year is now working and living there. It was good to see the positive change in his life.

Today we are heading to the hiv/aids orphange. I'm excited to reconnect with Anne and Nicholas (salad and chips little boy). Write more later when I get a chance.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Road Trip Uganda 2008



Entebbe to Gulu to Lira to Omot to Sipi to Kapchorwa to Kiriki to Jinja to Lingria to Kampala

I've spend the last two weeks traveling around the whole country of Uganda, experiencing both urban and rural. Faced bumpy roads for long hours. Searched for Western vs. Non-Western restrooms. Enjoyed many bucket baths.

Uganda was very different that my stay in Kenya last year. It was hard to experience poverty but also the effects of violence on communities of people. It is one thing to struggle to find food and resources but it is another to worry about violence of rebels. Our group visited many IDP (internally displaced perons) in Northern Uganda. These people are living in larger communities away from their home land because the still fear the LRA. The conditions are so unimaginable. There was a camp of 200 sharing 10 bathrooms. The school systems are fairly non-existent. On a walk through the camp I noticed a structure of bare sticks, I asked the man what it was. He then told me that it was a church. People bring tarps and other clothes to pitch over it on Sunday mornings.

Even in these conditions people find the faith and determination to worship the Lord despite all of their hardships. It was quite amazing to interact with them.

Throughout the last two weeks, we have helped an organization distrubute shoe boxes filled with items such as soap, toys, and school supplies. We get to witness the joy and hope that a simple box brings to these children.

But my emotions and thoughts have been all over the place since being here. There are days were I could be content living here the rest of my life. Other days I'm overcome with all the difficulties and endless numbers of problems these communities face. The Lord is definitely challenging me and making me take a position on what I believe my role in all of this is.

Yesterday, we travelled from Kampala to Nairobi on a 14 hour bus ride. I had a quick fish lunch on a 20 min stop. I was thinking of the hotdogs, brats and burgers that the rest of my family probably enjoyed to celebrate our nation's birthday. Missed home on the 4th. Also want to wish my brother Lou a happy 24th birthday.

Today our group is headed to one of the centers for street kids. I'm so happy. I feel like I'm coming home. Last night and this morning I enjoyed being greeted by friends I made last year. I'm very excited to be spending the next two weeks here.