Tuesday, May 28, 2013- Wrapping Up Our 2013 Trip

Last week we finished the IT Connect training conference on Friday and the participants headed back to their respective countries: Tanzania, Mozambique, Ghana, Cameroon, Nigeria, South Sudan, and a few IT guys locally from Kenya.  Krista and I had a chance to do some shopping and sight seeing again over the weekend, and we attended a large church in Nairobi.

This week I have been in the office in Nairobi helping with some research on improving the wireless network for the office and the guest accommodations.  This service is especially important for guests who arrive here from other countries and need to connect with their coworkers or family back "home".  The normal tool they use for this is Skype, but without an Internet connection this is impossible.  I have experienced that many times myself on prior trips!  So we are working on improving the wireless coverage so all guests will have Internet access to communicate with others for important work or family connections as they pass through this regional center.

Krista and I are also meeting today with the head of HR for SIL Africa Area to talk about our thoughts and questions as we consider moving here.  If you have seen Krista's Facebook posts or other notes, you will know that we are feeling now like this is not the time to come here to live.  We are still seeking the Lord's guidance in this important decision and we appreciate your prayers!

While there is certainly a need in East Africa for qualified IT people with my skill set, we also have identified some important issues and concerns which we don't see an immediate resolution to, which would prevent us from moving here.  Getting Krista's perspective on these things has been really helpful and I appreciate and respect her opinion.  Over the years, she and I have always been together in unity as we look to the Lord for His direction, and we are now sensing that He may be saying, "Not Yet" as far as coming here or elsewhere overseas.

On one hand that is discouraging, because we have both been looking forward to the possibility to serve the Lord closer to the "front lines", but we also know that God's timing is perfect.  We recognize that my role in serving the fields from a central office in the USA, basically as the Director of Technology R&D for SIL's global operations has a strategic significance.  I would need to leave that role to serve in Africa.  Therefore remaining in the USA has a positive side that I would continue in my current role, helping oversee the development of solutions that impact Bible translation and language development around the world.

We will continue to seek the Lord's will in this matter and try to stay sensitive to His leading!  I may be able to have an increased focus on involvement in Africa Area IT work even from the USA, and that is something that I need to investigate further, in discussions with our leaders.

We fly out this evening on an overnight flight to Amsterdam, then have a few hour lay-over there, and tomorrow make the remaining flight back to the USA - about 25 hours in all from the time we take off on our first flight until we land in Charlotte.  We have had a good trip here but we are now looking forward to getting home!

Thanks again for praying for us during this important trip!

Birthday - Tuesday May 21

Today is Tuesday, May 21st.  Happy 49th Birthday to me!  Next year is the big 50. Absolutely incredible!  I am now in that “mature” age bracket, huh?  HA! I still feel like 29 inside. A tad slower on the outside though... :)

Well, this was a good morning.  My hair dryer worked well and there were no lizards in our room.  I was so afraid that I would blow a circuit again with my dryer and then “I would blow a circuit myself”.  Thank you Lord! And thank you for a good night’s rest too. With no lizards.

This morning I again sit in the classroom with the IT team although I am not listening to them but to my music through headphones. Too much of that IT lingo lulls me to sleep. Just in case, I slip out to the veranda to purchase a coke, the highest in caffeine that they have available. Coke in the morning is yuk to me but a necessity as I do not drink coffee. Hey, I made myself an ice-tea yesterday. They don’t have ice here, so at tea time, I poured a hot tea and let it cool. I found a small fridge in the bottom of a water-cooler, poured cool water in the hot tea and placed it in the fridge for a bit. By lunchtime, it was cool enough to drink. Still no ice, but it was so good to my taste buds.

Let me catch you up on the weekend. It was very busy and very tiring.

We visited the Maasai Market. Now for those of you who know me, most know that I do not care for shopping, even for groceries. I don’t care for the crowds and those who are inconsiderate of others and leave their cart (buggie) in the middle of the isle. I would rather purchase everything via the computer.  BUT, when it comes to novelty items, then I like to shop.  I don’t necessarily always purchase but I do like to look. In describing this shopping trip, I am not sure where to begin.  It was INCREDIBLE including various emotions.

First, it took us nearly an hour to arrive there after leaving the BTL Conference Center. There were 11 of us in total, including our driver, Robert (not our usual sounding “Robert”; more like “Rowbert”). The Maasai are a tribe who make their own items to sell and the market is located downtown Nairobi. As you enter the gate, a guard waves a security wand over your body. Immediately, you are overwhelmed with the closeness of the people and the brokers that come and invade your personal space.  Not to sound mean, but they remind me of mosquitoes and I attracted three of them quickly because I was a “white-lady”.  Brokers do not work for a particular person but for themselves to obtain money, of course. They want you to buy everything and to buy immediately.  You find yourself constantly saying to them “no thank you, no thank you” and inside you are thinking “GO AWAY, GO AWAY, NOW!”.  Eventually, they go away for a minute or two and give you a break but they do return to your side. I was looking for a few particular items for my children so it was difficult to concentrate but I managed.

None of the items are labeled with a price. You have to ask the owner or artist what they want for it and then dicker out an agreed upon amount. Usually, they write it down first and then you counter it with another amount much, much lower. I feel that I did fairly good for myself.  I found a picture of an elephant painted on banana fiber and the artist wanted 180,000 shillings for it, which would have been about $2,250. I actually think he meant 18,000 shillings which would have been about $225, at least I want to believe that is what he meant.  After the dickering process, I made the purchase for 2,000 shillings which was about $25.00 AND he included another smaller one during one portion of the dickering process so I got two pictures. Now, when I arrive home, I will frame and display them near my Africa shelf. I would tell you my other good deals, but then my family would know what I purchased for them.

After a while you get really perturbed with the brokers who constantly follow you and are in your face. They constantly tell you story after story which you know is not true.  At one point, I got so irritated that I stopped.... looked up to the peskiest of them all and said: “do you know what the phrase, ‘you’re full of bologna means’?” His response: “no mama, I do not”. He backed off a bit after that. Overall, I enjoyed the event and plan to return this Saturday to finish my shopping. This time I will really now how to handle ‘em :)

After the market experience we visited a store similar to Wal-Mart but it was called Nakumatt and it was actually stocked better than our US Wal-Mart stores. I bought two size D batteries for 90 shillings which was $1.13 US. I thought that was a pretty good price.  Remember the old store called Woolworth’s?  They had one of those and it was really nice too.

So after the trip to the Maasai Market and Nakumatt and then the dusty bumpy road trip back to the center, I was really tired but after a week of not getting out, it was well worth it :)

SUNDAY, May 19:

We attended worship service at a local church. We were told

that our walk there was about 10 minutes. I put on the new maxi-dress that I had purchased and the new sandals. Twenty minutes into the “walk” down this road that sort of tilted to one side......I was getting pretty weary and nearly turned back. But, being the only woman in the group of men, I was determined not to give up. (I would now like to give them the 2-inch blister that I acquired on my foot from trying to keep up with them!) Anyway, after 45 minutes, we came upon the 3-story brick church building. When we entered the gate, I knew immediately that I was the only white-woman. AND after climbing the 3 flights of stairs, I was the only white-woman sweating bullets :(    Being on the 3rd floor brought a small breeze to the overly stuffy room. All of the Kenyan ladies were dressed to the hilt. They were all so attractive.

Amazingly, they had their babies dressed in fall and winter clothing. One little one, probably 8 months, was dressed in a wool hat, sweater and boots. Here in May and June, they are entering their winter months and most are chilly and usually wear a heavy jacket. To me......this is perfect weather! No jacket in my closet!

The service began with music of course including electric piano and drums. Songs were sung in Swahili and then some in English. The music was great and we could praise the Lord however we wanted. We didn’t have to stand motionless but could worship as we felt led. From shortly before 11:00 and until noon, we sang, listened to announcements, listened to young children recite scripture by heart, sing solo’s and quote poetry. It was so spirit filled. Unfortunately for me, I was terribly hot, which I am most of the time for those of you who know me. Thank goodness for a little battery-operated fan and loud music. I sat that little fan behind the paper bulletin in my lap and I don’t think anyone saw it :) 

Because we had scheduled a group to leave the center at 1:00 for an outing, our leader suggested that we leave the service early. That time happened to come just as the pastor began his sermon. I felt awkward leaving then but it was nothing we could control. So, we began our “walk” back to the center.

At 1:30 we left for the Giraffe Center in a van with 10 of us in total. The trip was over an hour’s drive. Again!  But the giraffe were so beautiful and so unique. Did you know that the heart of a giraffe weighs 25 pounds?  And that they only sleep for an hour at a time.  Also, the most vulnerable time for them to be attacked by lion is when they bend down to get a drink of water. The center we visited had 15 of their own giraffe that they bred and raised. Each had a name and a personality all their own. “Daisy” was the first that I approached and fed. She didn’t like to be pet at all and was real good at head-butting. I mostly fed “Helen” who seemed to be starved (I think that she just liked the food) and would let me pet her. So absolutely incredible that God created each one so different.

Oh! And I got a giraffe-kiss.  All you had to do was hold a pellet (a long one, of course) between your lips and bend towards the giraffe. They knew exactly what to do!

After we finished visiting the Giraffe Center, we headed for a bead factory but because I am tired of typing and Hank needs to edit this, I will tell you of this factory later.

So, today ends my “birth” day. Thanks mom, for having me 49 years ago. And dad too! :)

Friday May 17

Today is Friday and I am sitting in the dining room at the BTL Ruiru conference center. It is near the classroom where Hank is teaching and a great place to just hang out and do some work. I saw my friend, Pennina sitting at a table and decided to join her. First I went back to my room and got a bag of Peanut M&M's.  I decided to share them with her guessing that she may have never had them before. I was right. Just one and she LOVED them. This brought out another soon-to-be friend. Her name is Beth. She too had never had M&M's and soon discovered that she loved them too. 

We sat for over an hour and shared the differences of our lives, mostly cooking and the foods that we ate. I have learned to enjoy vegetables here. They have such a different taste.  And the fruits here......are WONDERFUL. Fresh watermelon, pineapple, papaya and bananas every morning. Oh, and the passion fruit juice I can never get enough of. It is so good.

Both Pennina and Beth are young and have small children. I feel so much older today as I am nearly 20 years their senior but still we can relate. I share with them about my children and then about our dog. They had never heard of an indoor house dog. And especially one that slept on a human bed or rang a service bell to go outside to potty :)

The three of us talked most of the morning.  It was a good day today.  Tomorrow we are to go shopping at the Maasai Market and I look forward to getting out.

Thursday May 16

This morning came with a difficult start. Last evening ended in frustration and tears as I experienced mixed emotions of being here. Although I am enjoying the people, the climate and the reason for being here, I miss the luxuries of home. I miss my children (right) and the dog (below). And some of you are probably wondering why I miss them because they are in college anyway (not the dog though). But there is a difference in having your children away to college vs. being in another country. And as for
those of you who don’t understand my missing the dog......having a pet in your presence is not something that can be replaced. As far back as I can remember as a young child, there has always, always been a dog or cat around me. My first remembrance of a pet was “Dusty”, my dad’s dusty-colored dog. He was a good dog.  So thinking of having to give up “Missie”, our dog, when and if we move here, is truthfully heartbreaking for me and something I dread.

I know that God will take care of this issue but just thinking about it brings instant tears to my eyes. When and if we move, I will not get another pet.  It is just too hard. The other factor that is hard here, is when you are feeling ill and you can’t be in your own bed. I'm just not feeling well today. Probably something I ate.  OK, I am done complaining now.

Wednesday May 15

Tonight, Wednesday, I sit in a small meeting room with Hank and a number of other IT guys. They are having a conference meeting via Skype with 3 others: one from Waxhaw, NC and one from Australia.  They also tried to connect with a lady in Canada but she was busy with another meeting at that time. Technology is great! They are all sharing about their current projects and giving updates.

I, of course, am bored :)    I am the only woman in the room, so I get up and check on the food and take the covers off the bowls to be prepared for serving. Now I understand why they asked me to attend.  :)

Today I made a friend. Her name is Pennina Mueni and she is one of the servers here in the banquet room. She is beautiful and young and she is the wife of a doctor. I asked her what her husband did and she said: “He is a doctor. For humans. A doctor for humans”. I find her to be funny as she probably does me as we compare our lives.  She also has a little boy, Andrew, who is one year old.

Tuesday May 14

Today I am sitting on a bench in a grassy square yard lined with yellow-green bushes and trees, shading half of the yard. I am guessing that the temperature is 74 degrees, maybe 76 Fahrenheit. It is perfect weather. Birds call behind me and a crow is cawing insistently to my right. There is a building being built on the center so the noises of hammering and banging on tin are vivid to my hearing. A few people are walking in the distance providing muffled voices. My goodness, that crow is so persistent! Basically though, I am alone and it is something I have needed for the last two days.

I am in Kenya, Africa. It is so hard to believe. We are in Ruiru which is a small town and we are staying at a quiet retreat center owned by BTL (Bible Translation and Literacy). We are here for two weeks because Hank is taking part in a training seminar for IT people called IT Connect. I am here to visit Kenya as we ponder the possibility of our moving here.  We have been considering this possible move for over one year now and I am in hopes that God will write it on a wall this week or next.  That would be too easy though.

Our flight to Atlanta, GA was very short, being no more than an hour total. Our flight from Atlanta to Amsterdam was one I will not soon forget. I do not know my airplanes but this one had 3 rows. The rows on each side of the plane consisted of 2 seats each. The row in the middle consisted of 4 seats of which Hank and I had the exact middle two. As soon as I sat down, I began praying that God would help me through this flight. I needed to control my thinking about it being so claustrophobic-ally tight in there. My knees touched the seat in front of me and my shoulders rubbed those beside me. For a few moments this would not be a problem but contemplating the next 8 hours like this made me dread this flight. My love of flying was quickly disappearing.

Hank was being so patient with me and helped me with everything I needed and I was feeling very needy.  :-)  Looking back now, I’m sure there were rather comical moments for anyone watching me try to function in that wee bit of space on the plane.

Hank’s highlight of the flight was when I shocked myself with my TENS unit. I wear this little machine that connects to my back muscles and provides shock stimulation so that I am better able to move around and receive a bit of relief from the back pain that I have been dealing with recently.  Because those airplane restrooms are so inhumanly little (I think Twiggy designed them), I somehow disconnected one of the leads from the patch which left the connector open to anything it touched and I did not know this until a bit later.

(As I sit here and write, various things catch my attention and I will record them in parentheses). (Now a rooster calls out and combined with the crow and various other birds, it is beginning to sound like quite a musical selection of nature. And now there goes 2 little boys.....8 years old perhaps, making noises that even a mother could not translate. They have water wings on their arms so I know that they are headed towards the centers’ pool. I do love watching children. These 2 little guys are in a world of their own.)

So, I returned to my seat and returned the little box to the normal power range and feeling nothing......I proceeded to up the power thinking that I just couldn't yet feel it.  Wiggling around I thought that would help but instead, I got a terribly hot jolt to the upper portion of my torso which made my entire body jump drastically and my brain do a little jig. Somehow I managed to turn it off.  Not sure what had just happened, I reluctantly turned it back on and increased the power again but still nothing happened.  So searching one end of the lead to the other end, I found that it had disconnected and had been touching the metal portion of my chair which is why my entire body had been shocked.  I'm surprised that Hank and the other passenger beside me did not feel this too!

Without thinking, I proceeded to attach the lead to the patch on my back and forgetting that I had increased the power, I gave myself another hair-raising, hair-perming body jolt when the two connected.  Receiving the double strength of that power sent me another surge that this time brought tears to my eyes and a bewildered sensation to my brain.  As Hank gave me a questioning look and I'm sure the passenger behind me wondering why I was jumping like a rabbit in my seat, I quickly took the entire machine off and just decided to deal with the pain. At that moment in time, it just wasn't as bad as the shock I had just received. A hard lesson learned!
Arriving at the BTL conference center, after about 30 hours of travel...