Walking the Sea

Walking the Sea: December 2009

Sunday, December 27, 2009

A Needed Rest

The blog has been pretty quiet since I got home as I arrived to a dead computer. Well, not dead, but definitely in a coma. I think it's God's way of making me transition back to my responsibilities slow and easy and to give me lots of time to relax and think. God knows when he needs to manage me, when he needs to take over my schedule and give me room. I love it when he does that and I'm even grateful he did it with my computer. I really did need this room. Yesterday, a computer doctor came and picked up my laptop and says with an organ replacement or two, it should be just fine and back up and running after the new year. This is quite fine with me as I leave in the early morning for northern California for the rest of the week. Before I left for Kenya, I wasn't sure if I would be feeling up for the trip or not, another ten hours in a car. Now that I'm home, I am realizing the trip is exactly what I need and after all the traveling I've done recently, what's another ten hours? Besides, it will be beautiful scenery. The trip will also be good as I get to spend it with other young adults in the Quaker church celebrating New Years and I'll have time to work on a writing assignment for Barclay Press without the interruptions that home would inevitably bring. (I've already checked to make sure someone else is bringing a laptop.)

Since I got home I have spent most of my time in my room reading which I consider a special treat. It's such a pleasure to get lost in a good book. However, you can tell I've matured as I can now put a good fiction book down to come here to the computer lab and work on some research for the lessons I'm writing. That is my main focus of things to do this week which is strange. Nearly all the things that would normally mark my schedule are just not there. No tap dancing, no substituting with the schools, no photography work with the theatre, nothing. It feels like floating through a fog. It will be interesting to see what that feeling changes into next week when all those things start up again. You would think after a trip of only three and a half weeks, being home wouldn't be so hard to adjust back to but it is. I grew in ways and changed in ways I did and did not expect and when one thing changes in a system, the whole system changes. What that will mean is the question I am asking and sitting with. I do know one thing though. The questions I've been living before I am now activly seeking answers for. In God's good time he guides us and shows us the paths we need to walk. I'm glad he is there helping me to find my next step.

365-09 #360

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

3 AM, Really? Adjusting Back

This morning I woke up at 3 am, Eden said the second night is usually the hardest for jet leg. Figuring I probably wasn't going to fall back asleep I went ahead and got up. Twelve and a half hours later I am ready for a nap. The fog and mist never lifted from the vally floor today, it's cold. Brrr... I am missing that 80/90 degree weather. My body is still adjusting and I'm giving myself that time. I know I also need to give myself time to adjust to being back but there are things I never want to adjust back to. I'm still working on putting words to those things.

Pictures will take a while to have printed up as I need to go through them on my computer and I can't turn that on right now. It's going into the shop right after Christmas to be fixed and it will take about a week. But believe me, it will be well worth the wait. I need the time to think about things inside anyway so that's good.

I'm off to go take a nap now or I'll be truly practicing silent worship tonight at church. Have a Merry Christmas everyone!

By the way, the drivers here in Oregon are really cautious... The comparison between driving in Kenya and driving here has given me much amusement.

365-09 #359

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Duck has Landed

I am now back home after having flown in last night. It was a long flight but interesting. I am still trying to find my land legs and am pretty tired. When I got home, I had a good laugh as someone had decorated my door with "Welcome Home Sarah" signs, a big balloon, and licorice. I came in, dropped my stuff, cleared off the bed and crawled into it. This morning I was dizzy as I cleaned my room, not an effect I was expecting from flying and being in airports for 33 hours. When I started feeling better, I bundled up (it's COLD here!) and ran errands with my friend Deborah who I ran into walking to my car. She happened to come by to drop off my mail, such a nice serendiptious moment. Tonight I went to go hear her play at the Mission Mill event "Magic at the Mill". The music was beautiful (she's a violinist) and I really enjoyed seeing the grounds all lit up with a variety of Christmas lights.

Tomorrow is a quiet day as well which I am grateful for. I hope you are all doing well and have a great Christmas! I would appreciate your prayers for my laptop. I've been having some issues with it concerning its connection to the charger and now it has to be fixed, I can't get it to turn on. Please send your good thoughts my way. I really need the computer for the free-lance work I do. Not to mention all those pictures. . . Thanks!

365-09 #358

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Monday, December 21, 2009

Snowing in Amsterdam

I'm sitting at the internet cafe in the Amsterdam airport. Though it's past 7:35 am, it's as dark as when I landed an hour and a half ago and the snow is still falling. Back in Kisumu, the sun will have already been up for three hours. Having never been before to the south hemisphere, I never realized quite so much how placement on the earth effects how you see the sky and when the sun arrives. This was the part of the trip I wasn't particularly looking forward to, a five hour layover but considering what else could happen with the snow storms of late, five hours suits me just fine. My plane, last I checked, is still on time so things are looking good.

Eden, I would also suggest the meditation center here if you haven't tried it already. It's very nice and very quiet, a different space which I enjoyed this morning. Making this trip a hundred or two hundred years ago might have taken months and for me it just takes 33 hours. I am grateful. I am grateful to have had the time in Kenya, I am grateful to have spent time with the people I was with there and for the friendships we developed, and I'm grateful to God for guiding it all.

Now that I'm in a place where it's snowing outside, it feels a bit more like Christmas. Yesterday we decorated Eden's Christmas tree in what was probably upper 80's or 90 degree weather. I didn't think I would have the opportunity to decorate one this year as I decided before I left not to put up a tree at home for the little time I would be there. It was fun and like holding Abigail on the train, I learned something about Christmas in the process. The materialism of Christmas was just not there, we worked with what we had and made something beautiful with our creativity and ingenuity. God likes to do that as well. He makes us beautiful.

I hope you all have a holy Christmas.


365-09 #357

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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Flying to Oregon Today

Good morning! The sun is up, the birds are singing and the fresh scent of cleaner on the floor is drifting upstairs. I love that smell. Gift and Precious are calling out, it's so nice to hear the voices of young ones walking around. It has been nice to have some transition time before heading back to the states. Here no one has stared at me and I feel like I can just be myself, not to mention the wonderful time I've spent with the Graces. I've gotten used to being an anomaly but it is nice to have a break from that. When we first arrived at the youth conference, Philemon parked the car right next to the outdoor service and led us four white women through the crowd of 1,200 Africans sitting under the trees. Walking through them with their attention focused on us was definitely one of those experiences that will stay with me.

Last night we got to see the sunset over Lake Victoria again, it's so beautiful to see it set over the water. This has been a wonderful time here in Kenya. I have done so much and experienced so much since coming here it hardly seems possible it was three and a half weeks ago that I arrived. I'll have a lot of internal questions to answer when I get back, a lot of things I now know I can't unknow, not that I would ever want to take the knowledge back, but it begs the questions, what do I do now, how does my life change now that I do know? With what I have seen, how will that direct my life from here on out? Those questions do not have quick answers, the only answers I can give is how I choose to live my life and love the life around me whatever that may be. At the end of Lord of the Rings, Frodo asks how can you go back and pick up the pieces of a life after all you have experienced? You can't go back and return to what and who you were. You can only go forward and let what has changed sink deeper in. Thanks be to God.

Blessings on you and thank you for all of your support as I've walked these Kenyan roads. It has been a joy to read your comments from the other side of the world. I will continue to write about my time here in Africa when I am home.

Asanta sana to those I have known here,

365-09 #356

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Saturday, December 19, 2009

"It's hard to find a private bush."

I'm sitting here with a cat fast asleep behind the laptop screen. On one side the feet are sticking out and on the other is her head and paws. It's nice to have the company as the rest of the household is now all in bed. Outside the night life is singing a chorus to God and on facebook, I notice a few references to Christmas which greatly mystifies and amuses me. Christmas has been a point of much laughter for us here where it is eternal summer. It does't feel like Christmas at all except for the occasional decoration in a hotel. Christmas in the cultural sense is just not a part of our world here.

Even though Christmas as you know it is just not part of my life here, I find I had to come to Africa to rediscover what Christmas really means and it was in an unusual place but then again, perhaps it was more Christmas-like than anything I have ever experienced in the states. Seven of us were riding the bus from Kitale to Turkana, five from the delegation accompanied by Peter and John. John had wisely placed me in a middle seat with him on the aisle. At first, I did not understand why but it didn't take me long to find out. Throughout our nine hours on the bus, two of those waiting for the luggage to be loaded on top of the bus, people got on and off in the villages, standing in the aisle absolutely packed. Emily spent the last part of the trip with a man in her lap. During the last quarter of the trip when we were all hot and tired, a woman with a younger woman and baby got on the bus and stood nearby in the aisle. Having a good view of the baby, I asked about her and John trying to clarify what I was asking inquired if I wanted to hold her. My eyes lit up and I exclaimed, "Could I?" And that is how I spent just about the rest of the trip with a two month old baby girl in my arms. For a while she was awake and looking around, I bounced her and held her up for the three of the women in our group who were in the row behind us. Then Abigail decided everything was all right and she trustingly fell asleep in my arms. I sat there holding her and thought about Mary on another trip in Africa holding a precious baby in her arms adn I wondered if she looked down at her baby's face and marveled at what a gift he was and who he was. Did she sit amazed? What was she thinking as she traveled dirt roads of her own? Holding Abigail really brought home for me that Christmas is all about the gift of a child. It now feels much more like a holy-day to me.

The other news from our bus ride is that John sold me into marriage to a local Kenyan. It's okay though, I was married off first and then had the baby. Several men who were most likely farmers or shepherds, as are most Kenyan's, got on near the beginning of the trip. Even despite being really interested in the book I was reading, I had observed John having an animated conversation with them. When he finished, I asked him what they were talking about. He was very good about filling us in when we asked. He told me the men had asked who all these muzungu women were and John told them they were daughters of men who lived in Turkana and he was delivering us to our grandparents. The man then asked about me and if I was available for marriage and if I could wearing necklaces and carry water. (The necklaces around the neck is a cultural thing.) John informed him that I could be trained and they proceeded to discuss the bride price. If I remember correctly, it was something like 50 cows, 20 camels, 160 goats and a bunch of chickens. With five of us, John should make out well though Eden says I should have gone for quite a bit more. A day or two later, we were talking about a specific marriage and we asked about the number of cows involved which is a perfectly normal question to be asking here. The woman we stayed with the night before last was amazed we go for free in America.

Last night Eden came to pick us up from the host family four of us were staying with and took us to a hotel in Kitale before driving the rest of the way to Kisumu in the morning. She let us sleep in as long as we wanted (till 7:15 for me) and then we got warm showers or baths. It was absolute luxury. After such a full week of traveling, seeing Turkana, and then attending the youth conference of North Yearly Meeting, we were more than ready for some TLC. Now we are with the Graces and enjoying their kind hospitality. We have all loved our experiences among the Africans here but it's nice beyond words to be staying with them, people who let us just be us and not the muzungu guests. Downtime is important when traveling so much.

While Eden left with Ruth for Nairobi, Jim took the rest of us to a place right on Lake Victoria where we attended a farewell party of someone he knows where he was playing the trumpet. It was so much fun and quite a change from what we have been used to. I was just stunned to see other white people there and wanted to shout, "Muzungu!" every time. It was really weird. I've hardly seen any whites whatsoever except those I was traveling with so seeing someone with light skin is quite a double take.

Some common sights here in Kenya-

-Donkeys or cows pulling carts. Men do this too.

-Homes made of branches and mud.

-Buildings plastered with advertisements.

-1,200 Quakers gathered together. The talk went really well by the way.


-Cows walking through town. This includes Nairobi.

-Bugs I have never seen.

-Open markets

-Bikes carrying an astounding amount of items.

The title of this post was something that Eden said earlier today in reference to finding somewhere to go to the bathroom and is now my quote of the day. With her, we usually use hotels for bathroom breaks, but there have been many times during this trip when I would have much preferred a bush. But as Eden says, it is hard to find a private bush where we were traveling. The hotel bathrooms though, have been pretty good. The privacy is more away from the Kenyan's not each other as we have no personal space left. Our modesty with each isn't there anymore. You travel so much with one another, it happens. One of the things I am going to miss the most when I return back to Oregon is them. I am used to being surrounded by people I really enjoy all the time, I will really miss that when I get back.

I will post a more thoughtful post tomorrow. We are at the Grace's home now and are enjoying time with them before we fly out. Tomorrow should be a great day.

365-09 #355

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Flying without wings - please pray

(posted by Marielke on behalf of Sarah)

I would like to ask for your prayers as tomorrow morning 8am Kenyan time (Thursday night 9pm Oregon time) I will be speaking about 'Youth in Ministry" to 1,200 Quaker Youth and Young Adults at EAYM - North Conference.
I had no idea it would be so large an audience, glad I didn't so I didn't have time to get nervous, but I'm thankful and humbled by the trust and confidence God has in me and the faith I am sure you all have in me as well.
I would appreciate your prayers!

365-09 #354

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Swimming in the desert

Greetings from Turkana! I'm unable to post this myself so Marielke is taking a message back for me to post in Kisumu.
We have had an amazing time here, it has been like walking in a dream for all of us. John and Peter took us to Eliye Springs on Lake Turkana and it truly was a paradise. There was a beautiful beach, palm trees waving in the breeze, a warm lake to play in with flamingos, goats, and camels in the background.
We camped there on the lake and spent the evening gazing at the stars. John and I played catch with the palm tree pods and Emily taught Peter how to play hacky-sack. We swam a lot in the lake, playing crocodile & fish, snake and giraffe, and we taught John and Peter Marco Polo. I'll write again in a few days.

365-09 #353

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Singing and praying

(guest post by Marielke)

At the Quaker Service (Programmed Worship) in Nairobi on our first Sunday here in Kenya, I felt moved by the songs of praise. Singing, clapping and dancing to praise can be something really beautiful!
At the YQCA Triennial gathering, we were called into every session by two local Quaker Youth choirs: from Chwele and from Lugulu Yearly Meeting.
As our time here increased, along the way some songs of praise have become part of our Kenyan experience. I will write down a few, and hopefully Sarah will be able to post some video recordings later:

Haleluya tumwambie Bwana asante
(we say thanks to the Lord)

Mambo sawa sawa (x2)
Yesu akiwa enzini
Mambo sawa sawa (x3)
(things already better (x2)
when the Lord (Jesus) is in the throne (or: in control)
things already better (x3)

Ejoko Yesu [solo] Ejoko Yesu [congregation]
Ejoko noi akuj[u] kanga - Ejoko Yesu (x2)
(thanks Jesus, we thank you very much Jesus)

In her introduction of the theme of the gathering, our first speaker at the conference, Deborah Saunders, gave us the valuable advice to "write down the things that God speaks to your soul. Write down what God did for you, every morning after your prayers, write down your thanks. These words can comfort your soul in moments of need when there is no one else around. It will also strengthen your trust in God, as it can testify that he will make you walk through the valley, through the storms, but God will always pull you through."

For me, this linked nicely to the message of our second speaker, Oliver Kisaka, who taught us about the elements of prayer:
"- Adoration (it is human nature to worship - so if not God, then it will be something else [idolatry])
- Petition (put forward your case)
- Repentance (realisation that as human beings we fail and make mistakes many times)
- Thanksgiving (a very powerful element of prayer: a thankful attitude for what is followed by a sincere request will be more effective than complaining about what is not)"

I will try to take these teachings flowing from the experiences of our speakers in and remind myself of them as life goes on.

365-09 #352

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Take Care of My Ducks

Okay, so John brought a laptop with him so I still get to post. Yay! We said our goodbyes at the center and five of us women went with John and Peter in a matatu (small van for public transportation) to Kitale. The ride was relatively uneventful except we had to take our luggage off the roof when it started to rain, (didn't even know it was up there), Emily hit her head when we went over a bad bump (she quickly recovered), and we saw another matatu on the side of the road that had apparently rolled. Prayers for safety are never empty, the roads can be quite treachorous. While John finished paying the matatu, the rest of us had gathered by a building underneath an overhang to wait out of the rain which had decided to go to Kitale after us on the road. Emily and Marielka were just finishing putting on their ponchos when John came up the steps, saw them, and asked incredulously, "What are those? You look like the devil!" to which Emily responded, "You're just jealous!" Then we walked two doors down to the hotel. :) Later after we had dropped off our bags in our hotel rooms, John came by our room to make sure no on was putting on those "plastic dresses" before going out. We needed a relaxed evening, deeply needed a relaxed evening. It feels like we're in the lap of luxury despite the music with a deep base coming from somewhere down on the street and the sports game people are watching which is apparently going extremely well judging by the periodic shouts of jubilation. There is are beds and the promise of a hot shower in the morning.

I'm excited to be starting out on this portion of the journey. Turkana is not for the faint of heart Eden told us long ago. It is very hot, borders the Sudan, and is very dry. John loves it. I understand when you get there, people ask how Kenya is. They don't consider themselves part of Kenya, they are Turkanans. The drive alone will be an adventure I am sure which we start right after breakfast. As we were leaving, Eden told John and Peter to take care of her ducks. Back in Nairobi, she commented once, "Good, I have all my ducks in a row" after making sure we were all there. The name stuck and I rather like it. She mentioned snakes and scorpions there in Turkana and when we got curious for the stories behind that, she told the ones staying with her she would tell them after we left. Probably a good idea.

365-09 #351

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Sliding Down the Mountain

Dear Friends,
This morning begins a new stage in our journey. We are leaving Mabanga and heading to Kitale for the night before taking the bus up to Lodwar where we will spend a few days with John Lomuria and others from the area. I’m not even sure I’ll be able to post this myself as the internet is giving me a lot of trouble so I might be leaving this one with Eden to post to my blog when she gets home.

The night before last we had Culture Night. There was a lot of African dancing and singing as well as some Scottish dancing and other representations from whatever cultures we were from. During the Rwandan’s team’s piece, the thunder and lightening were roaring at full force. It felt like the heavens were drumming to the beat. With the rain pouring down, and the thunder rolling though with the wild beat pouring out from our feet and bodies, it was quite a party! Then the lights went out which I thought only added to the atmosphere. It was no problem, people just held up their cell phones to light the “stage” until someone brought in a lantern. Vivian and I made a lot of people laugh by getting up and dancing with the Africans on one of the pieces. He started and I joined in. I think it was the night when we all came together, laughing, dancing, singing, having fun. The European delegation brought people up for Scottish dancing and the Africans thought that was just hilarious. When it was us American’s turn, we started out with a classic, fun, praise song, “Praising the Lord” and then followed it up with a song very near and dear to our hearts that we wanted to share with them (that’s how I introduced it) by dancing and singing the hokey pokey. (More hilarious laughter from the Africans.) We polished off our set with a sincere song of thanks for what they have given to us and how our experiences with them have added to our lives. Some of the other teams did skits with a great point. I don’t think I could describe here why they were so funny but I will try. One were two women selling chapates, one consistently selling at a lower price and people kept taking bites out of it. We thought it hilarious because it was so like the experience of shopping here, people calling out to you, pulling at your arms, pleading with you to buy their wares. The point was at the end, the woman who sold at a cheaper price had a very holey chapate but the women who held out for ten shillings still had her chapate intact. The point was purity- a great illustration. The other were people doing all these sick things in a bucket, a cigar, taking bugs off, going to the bathroom three times (that one had us rolling on the floor!) and throwing up. Then a man came and drank it all up. That was a powerful illustration of what God has done for us. All in all, a great night delighted in by all.

Yesterday we got to go on a trip of our choice and I went with nine others to go see Mt. Elgon and the caves. The caves themselves were amazing and I loved hearing the bats in the dark, flying just over our heads. Peter, a man from Turkana, says I am very courageous to go in the back of the caves with no fear of what might be there. There must have been thousands of bats in those caves, the calls and their wings was a music I will remember and treasure. The real adventure was on the way back. It had been raining on the mountain for four days and by the time we were ready to leave, the tires were caked with mud and the roads themselves were all mud as well. Can you guess what happened? We SLID down the mountain, quite literally. For about forty-five minutes the moments we had any traction were few and far between. We weren’t stressed though- we laughed our heads off, it was so funny! Slide here, slide there, slide into the ditch and then drive along the ditch until we would realize a culvert was coming up then we had to get out. For a while, we managed quite well. Eden is an AMAZING driver. Then finally, we all got out and helped push her out, walking along side the truck and trying to get the lorrie (truck) onto the road. The mud was thick, red, and there was plenty of it to be had. Eden says it was even worse the last time. A trip that would have normally taken about six hours took over ten. It was an adventure to remember. What I was most impressed with was Eden’s attitude. She took it all in stride and enjoyed the experience, always staying calm with a level head. She gets a medal for world’s best driver.

I am writing this while we are in our last talk which I admit I am only partly listening to but I really wanted to write you before we leave for Turkana as I doubt I will be able to write you until I go to Kisumu next week. John has places there he wants to show us and then we are going to the youth ocnfernce where I am speaking on youth in ministry. I understand the road there will be particularly bad which here, is saying a lot. It will be a seven to ten hour bus ride on Monday to get there. I am hoping for a nap and a good book. Today we leave for Kitale on a matatu which I understand will be an experience in itself. I am looking forward to it.

I have been learning so much here and finding the courage to ask some questions that are a lot harder to ask at home. Oliver, the speaker at the moment, says it is very important to wait upon God and listen for him. I think I needed to go out of my context to hear him better and to find the courage to ask the questions. On the way to the mountain, we talked about this. Four of us women are at similar places and we got to ask our questions together. Oliver also says we must feed the spirit and feed the soul . He is telling us we need to read which I love but this is not a reading and writing culture. It is good to hear. I’m going to head back to my seat, I have been up in the front writing this to you and am ready to go just listen. I hope you are all enjoying your Christmas season. For me, Christmas is a long ways away from my world. We have talked about it a bit among the delegation, with the warm weather and no decorations, it seems a world away and I think we are quite happy with that. We are enjoying ourselves as we learn and grow here in Kenya.

By the way, someone asked what the temperature here is. No one knows. The weather is the same everyday so no one ever bothers to look it up and the newspaper and news don’t report it.

Emily’s mom – I will pass on a warm hello to Emily for you.

365-09 #350

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Friday, December 11, 2009

Please Pass the Napkin...

Yesterday afternoon at lunch I was sitting with John and Peter when I asked one of the napkins on a plate further down the table. They both turn to me and give me really shocked and confused looks so thinking they misheard me, I asked for the napkin again- same matching expressions. I pointed again and realizing what I wanted, they both burst out in uproarious laughter. They then informed me complete with hand motions that a napkin is what they put on children. (More laughter!) They are still telling that story tonight to to much acclaim. The other good story is days before arriving here to the conference, Eden lent me her phone so I could talk to John. He asked me if I had pants for the trip to Turkana and thinking nothing of it, I said yes. Peter happened to be with John during that conversation and he, as he later told me, was stunned to hear John's question and asked him who in the world he was talking to? You see, here, pants means underwear and Peter wanted to know who in the world are you asking about their underwear? John informed him he was talking to an American and that is what they called trouser. That story is getting a lot of laughs tonight too.

The conference is coming along very well. We've had great sessions on Divine perception, Quaker history, leadership. Today I have been sitting beside Eden which I love as it reminds me of sitting beside Stacey at Riverdance. It was so fun to hear Stacey exclaim, "Wow! That's a really hard step!" I appreciated the dancing so much more that way. It is rather the same here. I appreciate so much more the cultural context hearing Eden's responses and getting to ask her a question or two. Though, by themselves, the talks are very powerful as they are. Some of the speakers in particular, tell it exactly like it is and I have appreciated that. I also have come to believe that every conference should have two full African children choirs to sing and dance. I have LOVED hearing and watching them, they are very fun to watch praising God.

Another thing I have found very interesting is the different position of Orion in the sky. He is laying on his side here low on the horizon and that more than anything brings the reality home that I am in a very different part of the world here.

I need to go as the dinner bell rang a while ago but I wanted to let you know really quick that my talk on Women in Ministry went very well. Jane, a Quaker pastor here, helped me with the cultural context and it was great. Eden was part of the group and I got a good response from her afterwards. This evening John and I presented on the Quaker Youth Book Project as one of the interest groups and that also went very well.

Off to dinner now. I caught site of the meat preparation yesterday. Most buildings are open air here, so I am now a vegetarian for the rest of the trip. I'll see what else they have. :)

365-09 #349

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Conference Begins at Mubanga

We are now settled at Mabanga where Jez and I are taking pictures of a praying mantis in his room. Tonight we officially opened the conference after having people arrive all afternoon from Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, and of course the foreign delegation from Britain, America, and the Netherlands. Folks from Tanzania are arriving tomorrow.

The last time I was able to write you was from the Friends International Center in Nairobi. That night we went to the Yaya Mall (sp?) to meet some others for Dinner but beforehand, we heard the Masai Market had been outside for the day. We headed out there to get a dress for Hetty as she needed one and I think nearly all of us ended up buying something or other. Picture it getting dark (which it does very quickly here) and the people closing up shop. Shopping frenzy is the best way to describe it. Besides the general very hurried and fun scene, my favorite part was watching Eden, someone who knows well how to bargain with them, engage the people around us we wished to purchase from.

Eden has been a great through this whole trip. She can explain to us the ins and outs of Kenya history and culture in a way we can appreciate the nuances and enjoy the differences while understanding them. Yesterday as we drove from Nakuru to Mabanga, Eden gave those of us in her vehicle a lesson in the history, polity, and spirituality of Quakers here in Kenya. We all had paper and pens and in our laps and were taking notes. One thing I have not understood to this point is that the 17 yearly meetings of Kenya are not based on theological differences. The splits are based on tribal power: which tribe has the power and who they choose to benefit with that power. If you have studied the Old Testament culture of the Bible, you are already a long ways toward understanding the culture here. Here, donkeys are still pulling carts, people work in the fields, the hospital's milk comes from their cows, the houses are similarly built, and the client/patron relationship is going strong. Here it is more about the community than the individual. Eden shared with me today that if an individual has extra money, they are expected to use that money for the greatest need in their community whether that is school fees or a surgery. Having studied Biblical culture, what I already know has helped a great deal. Yet, there is so much to learn.

As I know friends and family of others I am traveling with are also checking this, we are all doing fine. On Monday, we celebrated Emily's birthday while singing to her on safari in Lake Nakuru National Park and then over dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant. Marielke is also doing well and is enjoying helping out at the conference by organizing the interest groups. They both pass along their hellos. I think Hetty's friends are also checking this. As I write, she is acting as the observer to the Nominating Committee meeting in another building.

Today we visited a local Quaker Hospital and were shown all around. The staff were so gracious and welcoming and each person explained what they did and what we were seeing as we went. A local meeting to where I live, Reedwood Friends Church, has donated a lot of equipment to the hospital including Mubanga trees so that made it particularly meaningful for me. It's neat to see the church raising money for something and then get to go see what it is actually going for. On the way back to the center, we talked about how hearing the statistics on AIDS and poverty is one thing, looking into the eyes of a patient with AIDS, and seeing and smelling poverty is quite another. As someone told me, seeing such things will haunt me forever in pleasant and unpleasant ways. I've never been comfortable with the materialism of America, I outright dislike it, now I'm even more that way. It has actually been very freeing to be surrounded by an agrarian culture.

The weather here is wonderful. I have been comfortable to rather warm in a short sleeve shirt. That's it- a short sleeve shirt. I am thoroughly enjoying that. I am still working on my ugalie eating skills. It's a type of food you roll into a ball with one hand and then make it a bowl shape to scoop food into. My attempts at this provided great mirth and entertainment for the Africans at dinner. Glad to be of service. Speaking of service, during the opening ceremony tonight, Bainito, the clerk, mentioned my name and John Lomuria who was sitting next to me told me to stand up and I looked at him asking what I had volunteered for. Bainito informed me I am helping record what happens for historical record. Good to know. I am speaking at the workshop tomorrow and am serving as the workshop coordinator as well as leading an interest group with John on the Quaker Youth Book Project for which we are both editorial board members. We are very much enjoying spending time with each other again. He arrived this afternoon and we will be together for over a week as he is taking five of us delegates home with him to Turkana to see where he lives and to meet his wife and kids as well as showing us around.

My health is good by the way and I am very thankful for that. We are actually all quite well and are enjoying being together with all the other young adults here.

While I wait for John to come back, he is going to add a message as well, I'll share with you a few phrases I've learned: “Time is not money when time is all you have” and “We treat, God heals.” The first has helped teach me why things can move so slowly here and the second Eden told us at the hospital.

John says: I have just come out of the nominating group this night where Eden and Musonga and Ruth Lowe have just served trying to nominate leaders of the YQCA who will take the group for this other three year term.

P.S. Internet is spotty and hard to get onto at best so I'm posting whenever I can. Thanks for your comments!

365-09 #348

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Sunday, December 6, 2009

Church - Kenyan Style

I thought I would just write a quick message to all of you while I had internet access for a few minutes. We are at the Friends International Center taking care of some odds and ends and showing those who have not seen the center around. (I saw it on Monday.) This morning's church service was really interesting to us in many ways. We all loved the singing and the dancing. I personally could have gone for more dancing. Bainito says there will be dancing at the conference. (grin) Since we couldn't understand most of the words, we sang along as best we could and I tried to listen for the love of God with my heart. They had us all come up and introduce ourselves, bringing greetings from our home meetings. Then they blessed us and prayed over all those who would be attending the conference. I haven't been to a church that does this since the church I grew up in so I loved that they did that for us. I feel truly sent. There was also a bit of discussion about women and men in ministry which helped me know what to say when I speak on it in a couple of days. During the service, they talked about the draft constitution instead of a sermon so we learned a lot about the politics of Kenya because the speaker gave his opinion on things as he went through it. Eden says it is good to educate people about these things through the churches so they have a better understanding of what is going on but I would have preferred them to do that after church. I would have liked to hear an African sermon. One of my favorite parts was after the talk when they sang the last song. Earlier, I couldn't tell at times whether they were singing in English or Swahili but this was definitely Swahili. Instead of trying to sing the same words, I made up my own words as a prayer to God to their tune and I loved it. It was very meaningful for me. It was really good because I felt like I really got to connect with God, something as you know, I have been growing in here.

After church, we were invited upstairs for tea which also meant bread and butter sandwiches and hard boiled eggs, a much needed lunch. Tea here means hot water and milk steeped with tea and sugar. It is quite tasty. It was good to meet the pastor and other staff and the clerk signed our traveling minutes. For the non-Quakers reading this, a traveling minute is a letter of introduction from your home church introducing you to other Quakers you meet while traveling vouching for your ministry.

The afternoon was nice as we hung out at the retreat center, did laundry and sang Julie Andrews songs. It was the first afternoon we've had any free time and it was much needed. After we leave the center, we are going to dinner. We are hungry and tired so dinner is more than welcome. Church was about three hours long. :) We are ready to go now, have a good day! Thank you for your comments, it's good to hear from you. Kwaheri (goodbye)

365-09 #347

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Saturday, December 5, 2009


You, I am sure, would love to see some pictures first so here you go. :)

Good Morning! I would like to add a specific prayer request besides safety, health, and ministry. While the bug bites have been going down (they don't itch by the way), there is one on my face that is swollen and I would really like that to go away.

One of the things I have found most interesting is the contrast between poverty and modernism. We were driving in the bush over mud gullies with cell phones going off. There are a lot of cell phones. I suppose they are more reliable than land lines. They use a lot of sheet metal in their construction, a lot of shacks and lean-tos for store fronts. Seeing baboons on the side of the road is normal and cows are hearded through the city.

This morning we are headed to church and I am looking forward to it. The only praise singing I've heard thus far was some music on the radio one time coming back from the safari a bit and hearing the masai sing and preach in the morning. I didn't understand any of it, but my heart did and I enjoyed laying in bed in the mornings in the camp listening to it. While typing this I found a song I love on youtube and am playing that. I didn't even think about this beforehand, that this might be a growth point, but without my usual God-support from those around me, without that regular feeding, what I do get means so much more. While I am here I am keeping up with a class on the Christian mystics I have been auditing and after typing my post, I checked responses to my posts on there and it felt so good to read people talking about God and what they are learning. It felt like a bolstering support to me. I think it's good to have my usual ways of spiritual nuturance unavailable. It forces me to relate to God in new ways, to see new things about him, and to better hear his voice.

Please feel free to comment, I really enjoy getting them. Also, feel free to use this blog to get messages to the other delegates or Eden. I know some of them have given this blog out as a way to keep up with us. I'll convince Emily and maybe some of the others to write guest posts. :) For now, I'm off to breakfast and church and then we haven't yet decided. Vivian just got in late last night and hasn't been here yet before so I am sure we will be playing tourist or relaxing around the guest house. We have double rooms on the fourth floor all together so it's quite fun. Vivian and Marielke have just agreed to speak English for my benefit instead of Dutch. I told them I am used to ignoring most of the conversations around me having been traveling with people who speak Italian, French, and Swahili. Having so many around who speak English is a nice treat. Have a great day friends!

Could someone tell me who won the civil war game?

365-09 #346

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First Kiss

Yes, that really is a picture of what you think it is- me kissing a giraffe. It was actually pretty fun and one of those many cultural experiences I've had here. Others have included Nairobi rush hour traffic (don't plan on moving much), moving out of the path of a muddy warthog, trying to walk through the markets with ten personal shoppers surrounding me, experiencing white power and what that really means, and kissing a giraffe on a warm afternoon.

The safari was amazing. It is so moving to see animals living together in the wild- completely free, roaming and feeding in the way they were created. The drive there was tough, though, as we broke down three times on the way, each time having to get out on the side of the road, the first time having a huge crowd of people, mostly children, gathering to watch the muzungus try to put water in the car. It took me a little while to decide whether to mention the smoke coming from some holes in the car to our driver. Many of you would have mentioned it right away but on the other hand, you didn't see the van or feel it die several times before leaving the city. The third time, our driver had another company take us to the lunch spot in their empty seats and then we got a ride from there into the park while a new van was delivered that night. Peggy told me before I left that she would be interested in what surprised me the most. One of the biggest was the roads. Eden wondered what I thought they would be after she had warned me about the ride to Turkana. But I didn't think for one second that the road to one of the most famous parks in the world would be no more than a rutted dirt track through the bush for over an hour. Rutted were the good roads, going through creek beds or having to go through a wide area of mud and washed out gullies was also common.

We went on a game drive that first night and it felt like I had passed into another land. Made the day completely worth it and more. God must have spent some extra time creating this place. The Masai Mara is so green this time of year with wild flowers dotting the landscape. Giraffes walk through the plains among the zebra and herds of elephants roam the hills. Lions lounge in the sun, the hippos lounge in the river while the monkeys steal anyone's lunch who isn't looking. The whole scene is breathtakingly beautiful. Some of the highlights for me was the herd of 35 elephants we had been watching from a distance then drove around the side of the hill to watch them come down passing yards away from our van. We also were very fortunate to see a leopard lounging in a tree, cheetah sleep under a tree, lions mating, and watching all manner of birds fly overhead. Yes, I got some fantastic photos and am will be sharing them with you when I get back. One thing I tried to remember was to put the camera down and enjoy just being there with the animals, to know what it feels like to see the hippo rise out of the water, to watch the monkeys playing on the log, to see a leopard looking down at you from its perch, the look in the lion's eyes when it contemplates what to do about your presence.

The camp we stayed at was wonderful. I felt like a man from some books Adria once suggested I read, Thomas Covenant. At home, I am simply another person, but here I am served. It is very strange and a new experience that helps me understand the history of Africa. Half our group stayed at the lodge and three of us were at the camp so we had our cook all to ourselves. He was a good cook and we enjoyed him but I must say, it's nice to eat a meal without someone urging me to "Eat more! Eat more!" Our group talked about it over dinner tonight and Eden said white power is there but that some people enjoy it, think they deserve it and it goes to their heads. I don't like it. I can't go shopping in the markets without having several personal shoppers at my side all talking. I can't stand anywhere outside where we are staying without being examined and stared at. I have never felt what that is like before.

I am learning so quickly to adjust to things here even as I struggle to do so. Last night was my culture shock hitting the wall night. I'd had it. My patience was done, I was tired of being stuck in a car all day (I've been in a moving vehicle much of my time here), tired of waiting, tired from waking up so early (I am up between 5-6 without an alarm), and I missed having any kind of familiarity with much of anything. Unfortunately or fortunately, this happened to be the night I finished the safari and moved on to the delegation portion of the trip. I met Jim, Isaiah, and Jessy Grace and we went out to get something to eat. Having western Quakers to talk to (they live in Kenya) helped a great deal as well as seeing a familiar face in Emily Stewart. This morning I went to the airport with Eden and we got lattes. A familiar taste turned out to be much needed. Finally getting to meet Eden after talking with her so much on facebook has been really nice, she is a great host. It felt so comforting to be with her, a friendly face goes a long ways after a week of traveling. Finally getting onto here to post and traveling with a group has also been great today. After breakfast, we went to the Elephant Orphanage, Giraffe Center, had lunch with giraffe walking by, and then went to the Market. After wandering among the stalls, we got to go out to eat an Ethiopian dinner in an outdoor garden. The weather is wonderful by the way. It feels good to be warm.

Tomorrow we go to church and give greetings from our home meetings. Four of the other delegates are here, the rest are flying in over the next two days. It sounds like it is going to be an amazing time together. We are staying in a guest house at an abbey until Monday, it's nice to be settled here together.

I still look around me and am amazed at where I am and who I get to be with. I am learning a lot about diversity, seeing God in the unfamiliar, and the freedom inherent in getting to let all lesser labels go and simply be a child of God on an amazing adventure with love and joy as my guides.

365-09 #345

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