Saturday, March 28, 2009

Open With Happy

happiness damn near destroys you
breaks your faith to pieces on the floor
so you tell yourself, that’s probably enough for now
happiness has a violent roar
look for it, but you’ll never find it all
but let it go, live your life and leave it
then one day, wake up and she’ll be home
(happiness- the fray)

To Ket open with happy (outside of note)
Dear Ket,
I hope Ket that you not forget me and all anita's home. I wish you luck with your trip. I promise that I study hard so that I go to stay with you there to stay. I love you Ket. I wish you when you go to America greet your family and your friends. God bless you so much.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


This past week I have been helping out at Nyumbani. They care for many, many HIV/AIDS children from ages of not even 2 to 22. It is an amazing program. The first day I went was last Saturday to color with the children and play. This week I have gone to help out in the kitchen which consists of sorting beans, rice, and other vegetables in preparation for cooking.

Sitting looking diligently at large amounts of rice isn’t anything glamorous or exhausting yet it is something that is needed. “I’m volunteering at an orphanage in Africa.” That statement seems packed with so much compassion and adventure. This experience and the past experiences here in Kenya have been quite humbling. Not that I saw myself as anything close to a perfect moral being but I had the idea that I did enough.

Sister Mary who is the head of the orphanage has worked at Nyumbani since 1969. In the early days without HIV drugs 3 to 4 children would pass away a week yet she persistently loved every child like they were going to live to 100 years old. How does someone open their heart to loving a child who is most likely not going to make it? Momma Christine’s caring heart keeps her at Nyumbani away from her own children for 4 day shifts at a time. How does someone care for an orphanage as equally as they do their own child? Sister Julie, an American from Philly, has moved to Kenya and loved these children for the past 5 years. How easy would it be to give up a comfortable American life for an African one?

This women and men give so much of their time, work, attention and love to these children who to many are the most undesirable of all the children in Africa. Anne, Nicholas, Canary, Anthony, Edel, Winnie and all the others were the children who were abandoned by their own families. Yet, walk around Nyumbani for a few minutes and you would soon forget that they were once not loved or cared for. When I look at their faces I don’t see any illness; all I see is a happy loved child.

Coloring books, some clothes, a few random other items and a little of my time was all I had to give them. After the goodbyes, the walk down the drive and a long wait for a matatu, I realized I’m not doing enough.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Lovely Sunday

I woke up under my mosquito net to the sounds of church services near by. I could look out my windows and see people walking in their Sunday best to their churches. From not adjusting the best to the time change, today I decided to have it be a sleep in Sunday since I was headed to Kibera at around noon.

Slowly dragged myself out of bed to grab a quick breakfast. Wasn’t feeling any sort of eggs so I just kept it simple with toast, fresh bananas and hot cocoa. Enjoyed my breakfast outside. Came back up to my room, had a nice shower and then grabbed two Christian books that I’m reading right now: Becoming the Answers to Our Prayers and Celebration of Discipline. Took in the wonderful sunshine and read some thought provoking works while enjoying the African worship music from the church next door.

It got close to noon dropped my books back off at my room then headed down to the guard stand to chat with the security guards while waiting for Joseph to come meet me. Ruth, the lady guard, and I chatted about the most random collection of things from God to politics to checkers. Eventually Joseph came and we headed off to Kibera for the Sunday Kiscodep meeting.

The meeting was attended by 10 of the members. They ran through minutes from the last meeting and then introduced me to the group. I got to say how I had visited the past two summers and how I’m from North Central College who will also be sending another group to visit in July. They covered some business stuff and then we closed the meeting.

I had originally thought that the meeting and a little visiting was all I was going to do. The Vice Chairmen invited us to go to his home for an early dinner. We walked probably 15 minutes through Kibera to a nicer part of it where is home was located. There we meet his wife who had been preparing the meal. I had some rice, chicken and soup along with a really refreshing Fanta. There was a small television where we watching some interesting African rap music while enjoying our meal.

After the delicious meal, we thanked his wife, and headed back to the office. The one last stop was a time to give away maize that had been bought by the donation from Rick and Desiree which I didn’t realize until I was there. Poorer folk from Kibera had come with bags to get some maize from Kiscodep. Joseph and the others urged me to be the one to scoop the maize for the people. It was strange; here I was the person who only delivered the donation and being thanked. I kept trying to explain it was from Rick and Desiree and I was only the carrier. I also tried to explain to a woman that they gave the money because they see that Kiscodep is doing the Lord’s work and they wanted to make a contribution. Eventually, I handed the bucket off to another member of Kiscodep. Being neutral in a donation situation is very hard line to work. I didn’t want to be involved in the process because I wanted the donation to be seen as works of Kiscodep not the young American girl bringing the resources in. Regardless, who the maize was from they were very gracious people.

Six o’clock rolled around and it was time for me to catch a matatu headed back to Shalom. Someone please call Guinness Book of World Records because today we surpassed the number of people who can fit in one Nissan van with a colossal 18 people! Tomorrow maybe 19…?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Nyumbani via the “Yes We Can”

After a ride on the “Yes We Can” matatu this morning and a 20 minute walk, I got to visit one of my favorite places in Kenya, Nyumbani Children’s Home. It takes in HIV/AIDS babies and children. These kids are cared for probably with the right medicine and nutrition. For the younger children, they live in a little house with a mother and father figure. Older kids are self-sufficient in different homes on the same property.

I was greeted by Sister Mary, an English woman who has been helping run things since 1969. She asked me about my trip and future plans. She told me how she thinks the Peace Corps is a great program run by the U.S. government. After a little chit chat, she was like I’m sure you just want to go play with the children, I definitely responded with a yes.

Oh, how I love the little ones. 5 years and younger kids were playing outside while the older kids did a library, computer, and study time rotation. So there I was, 12 coloring books (thanks Meg), 1 big kit of Crayons and 1 Muzungu to pay attention to about 20 children. It was for sure a good time. The mother from C house, Jean, made sure they did run me over. She was also pointing out many children’s names and told me a brief story of how and when they came to Nyumbani.

Of course I saw Nicolas ‘Salad & Chipees’ boy, Anne, & Winnie but I have two new favorites: Gilbert and Canary. Gilbert was 3 and seriously the best colorer out of all the kids. He was all over the Hulk coloring book. Gilbert was the quietest one as well. He would walk up to me, point to the area he wanted to color then I would hand him the right color. He is new to Nyumbani only coming a month ago because his mother passed away and the father can not properly care for him. Canary was sleeping when I first got there but as soon as he woke up Jean walked out with him and was like you need to meet this little boy. Then for the next couple hours he was attached to me. If I’m remembering right he is 2 years old but very small for his age. He wasn’t well taking care. Jean said when he first came he was so thin with a big swollen belly and could barely sit up he was so weak. Now he is much healthier and has a wobbly walk for a 2 year old but was a lot of fun.

Eventually, it was time for lunch and I took it with C house. This is the home of Nicholas, Gilbert, and Canary. We had chips, soup, some sort of meat (I couldn’t really figure it out, chicken maybe?) and salad. Maybe this is where Nicholas got his famous “salad and chipees” phrase. Anywho, it was great to eat with all the little kids. I didn’t complain like I do at Thanksgiving where I’m 22 but still at the kids table.

After lunch, it is nap time for the little ones but the older kids have free time. So I got to hangout with Edel and her friends. We colored and chatted. One boy came over and was like can I please color the high school musical coloring book. I apologized saying I didn’t have one of those and tried to make him feel better with the Spiderman one. He wasn’t too disappointed but then he explained how much he liked the movies and how he has seen all three. I told him I hadn’t seen any of them and he looked at me as if I were crazy. It made me laugh. Eventually 4ish rolled around and I thought it was getting to be the time that I needed to head back to Shalom. I thanked Sister Mary for allowing me to come. I might be going back during the week to help with whatever chores might need to be done.

20 minute walk back to the nearest big junction and then caught a 111 matatu toward Shalom. I, thinking I was being clever, tried to pick a matatu that looked empty. Oh boy, do those things fill up so quickly. I ended up sitting next to a preacher. He began chatting with me asking if I was American and what was a doing riding in a Matatu. He told me most Muzungus are scared. I told him that I’m comfortable in Kenya and if there is to be trouble that I was grew up between two brothers and know how to handle myself. He got a laugh out of that. He told me how he had studied in Chicago at Loyola and that he misses the snow. The ride was probably not more than a 10-15minute ride. Then jumped out at my stop.

The security guard named Julius welcomed me back and asked how my visit went. We stood there and chatted for a few minutes. With how excited he is to chat with me, I am guessing that the average Westerners that come through don’t probably have much time for him. The random little conversations are what I enjoy the most. I have noticed that I am the only Muzungu who eats dinner at Baraza. If there are other Westerners they often eat at the Italian restaurant in the compound. And I have yet to see any other white people in a Matatu. They are missing out on the experience.

Friday, March 20, 2009

17 people + 1 nissan van from the 80s = Great Kenyan Public Transportation

Today Joseph came by Shalom we chatted for a bit over sodas. I also delivered a few items that Desiree and Rick sent with me. Then he invited me to visit the school Kiscodep sponsors. Kiscodep is a community development organization that offers many different services to Kibera (Africa’s estimated largest slum at 800,000 to 1 mil. people in the area of Central Park in NY) such as computer training, micro-finance loans, sponsorship for a school, etc. They had changed locations since the summer. Now they are renting a building from a local church which is an upgrade from the small hut that was constructed out of cardboard, and scrap tin. There I met the head school mistress Susan. She was certified as a teacher but chooses to volunteer her time to teach roughly 35 children ages 3-7. I walked in and immediately the ‘how are you’s started. I got introduced to them, they sang some little kiddie songs. Then the kids were free to do whatever while Joseph, Susan and I chatted about the school.

Before leaving, I took a group photo. But also took some individual photos of the kids and showed them. They think it is so funny to see themselves on a camera. After, I shook every single child’s hand goodbye Joseph and I headed back up to the Kiscodep office. There I got to enjoy the company of his wife, baby girl who is 1 almost 2, and two other little girls who they look after. Sunday I will go back to Kiscodep office to be introduced to the new board and possibly shown around some of the new microfinance business that have been created. I’m looking forward to returning to Kibera.

Oh, one of the most interesting things today was the ride there. Joseph and I were 2 of 17 people squeezed into a Matatu (Nissan box van). And of course, the front seats were not open so my large 6’2 American booty had to squeeze through two rows of people to sit on the back bench with 3 other people. One person even laughed at me because I had to tilt my head because I was definitely taller than the average Kenyan who would sit back there. On the way back Joseph gave me the number of the routes to take to get back to Shalom so I braved it along. And look Mom I made it, maybe I am ready for the Peace Corps!?!

Peace Corps Update
submitted application: September 22nd
conducted interview: October 23rd
nominated for a position: November 10th
submitted medical packet: January 29th
resubmitted dental files: March 4th
dental files processed: March 20th

now really just waiting…

Rugby Anyone?

Today, I again woke up and was like am I really in Kenya? Woke up to my ipod, my bed is comfortable. I fall asleep like a baby then around 3am I wake up til about 5:30am. Breakfast is 7-8:30am. So around 8:25 I drug myself downstairs to Baraza Café. Walking in I soon realized that the place was hopping more than normal.

Right now there are around 26 rugby players from Mombassa staying at Shalom. I very nice gentlemen named Oliver saw me sitting alone asked me if he could join me. So there we sat enjoying our eggs and toast. He told me of how Kenya brings two clubs to Nairobi. Has them play with and against each other and at the end of it they select 26 players out of the 52 from both teams to form the national team. Eventually the Kenya will host Rugby world cup from what I got of the conversation.

Oliver, who is the team manager, also tried to explain the scoring system of rugby. I then compared the game to American football and explained my great love for Da Bears. I said that I had never watched a rugby game and wasn’t even sure if we had a team. He then informed me that we do have team and they will actually be coming to Kenya in April to play against Kenya. He called it the match between the two Obama teams.

After, my breakfast I headed back up to my room to take a quick shower. When I came back down to the café and to enjoy the lovely weather, I bumped into George the man who runs White Gazelle. He coordinated the past two ministry and service trips. I was sitting with Francis downstairs, George joined us. Eventually, it ended up me and him talking of course you guessed it Obama. It is amazing at the interest and curiosity people have about America now because of Obama. He asked many questions about the election. He was also very update about the economic situation we are in. It is very interesting to talk with a person who has a completely different perspective that you. It was quite an enjoyable conversation.

We also talked about his daughter who is at bordering school not to far from their home at Kivuli Center. George and his wife are also expecting child #2 and 3 in July. Twins how exciting. He gave me his phone number and told me that I better call him when I plan to visit Kivuli next week.

At the moment, I’m waiting for Joseph, the man who runs Kiscodep (community development organization) in Kibera. So I will enjoy this beautiful, beautiful day outside while reading and organizing my thoughts in my journal.

Is there a quiet area where I can go to meditate or pray? (Terminal 5 information board)

Well I have made it to Heathrow with no problems. I actually probably had one of my best international flights. I had a window seat so I saw Chicago at dusk and London at dawn. Low turbulence, good movies (Slumdog Millionaire & Rachel Getting Married), decent airplane food, and time for 2 hour nap. A vacant seat between me and the older gentlemen to my right; spacious ride at the back of a 747.

So after 7 and half hours I find myself here at gate B39 waiting until 10:05am. I believe I’m facing west because there is a religious group of men standing near the window. At first, I thought they were Amish because of the simple dress. They were all praying different prayers and bowing in the process.

Along with other travelers, I caught myself staring but not in a disgusted or disapproving way. I wish I had the audacity to ask them what religion they were and what they were doing meant. Even though I’m an American Christian who has split most of my church time between a Baptist and Methodist church I still find their dedication to their faith inspiring. I enjoyed the youngest men of the group who stopped and posed for a goofy photo before boarding the plane to JFK.

The people setting behind me are speaking Arabic. It is so refreshing to be around people from other areas of the world it reminds me not everyone in this world is a democrat, independent, or republican American who cheers for the sox or cubs. I embrace the friendly reminder that my experience and background is merely one of many in this world. I appreciate the hour and half until boarding it allows me experience the diversity while at the same time hoping my cubbies are playing well in spring season. Go CUBS!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

God it's me, Kate...

Why do good people have to suffer? I understand bad things happen in this fallen world but why drag an ailing person through pain. I just see it as unnecessary and mean.
I don’t understand why some of us have so much yet cannot realize how blessed we truly are. To some extent I’m frustrated for you at myself.

Let the sick and suffering know that they are loved and not forgotten.
Help with people’s jobs and incomes, let them have enough to get by.
Let my mom know I love her, today and every day. Allow me to show it better.
Give Edel the strength to keep doing math problems for a real long time.
Make sure Lucy isn’t picked up too much by the older girls.
Let certain friends know that one day they will be with loved ones again.
Give President Obama wisdom and courage to do what is right.
Take care of everyone I love and those who I may not love.
Allow me to find you even when I’m not looking.
Teach me patience and let me feel calm even in the unknown.
Let me live my love for you.

Thanks for the delicious kman meal at dinner and the even better conversation with a friend.
Thanks for the good health that my family has.
Thanks for allowing me a car, gas, and alertness to drive to see my best friend’s last game.
Thanks for not tuning your back on me even when I doubt you.
Thank you for my new second cousin Cole Benjamin.
Thank you for things I don’t even realize yet.
Thank you for my many great friends, who all make me better in their own ways.
Thanks for being my big man upstairs.

Peace Corps Update
submitted application: September 22nd
conducted interview: October 23rd
nominated for a position: November 10th
submitted medical packet: January 29th
resubmitted dental files: March 4th

Teach for America:
submitted application: Feb 13th
phone interview: March 2nd