Thursday, April 4, 2013
Easter Weekend Extravaganza
My Thursdays usually consist of going to two classes, a group meeting, and then eating fried fish for dinner. This particular week all my previous engagements were canceled so Aubrie, Kaitlan, Leah, and I decided to take a bus to town to meet up with Jake and Max. The plan was to eat at this cool Italian restaurant that Aubrie and I found a few weeks ago. Buses at Daystar rarely ever leave on time so under the supervision of a Daystar student, we hopped on some “bota-botas” to make it to the end of the road and then caught some “matatus” to town. A bota-bota is a mo-ped/motorcycle and a matatu is public transportation (either a van or bus). It was a blast getting downtown like the locals do. We got there for about $2 a person. I felt Kenyan and very independent. Then we walked around the city until we relocated the restaurant and ate some of the best Italian food I've ever had. Jake and Max ended up not being able to join us so we had a girl’s day. We shared four entrees and even ordered two tiramisu deserts! YOLO! It was the best tiramisu I've ever had. It was so fresh. YUM! Who would've thought that Africa is the place to go to get good Italian food?
On a bota-bota
On a matutu
Leah Laky and I waiting for our food
On Saturday we went on a Daystar sponsored day trip to see the fourteen falls. It was about a two-and-a-half hour drive to the falls. Well worth the drive. Once there, we snapped tons of pictures of the magnificent falls enjoying the mist and sound of rushing water. The majority of the group walked across the falls and then a few brave souls jumped off and plunged to the bottom. It was a thrilling site to see. Once they crossed the river, they took wooden boats back to the other side. To end the day, we went to a resort near the falls for dinner, some hangout time, and dancing. My friends from the DRC taught me how to dance with some Congolese flair. It was a highlight of my day.
He got paid to jump off to impress tourists
Loving the falls
Boat back to shore
Crossing the falls as a team
Hanging out at the resort near the falls
Most of the girls
[See Resurrection Sunday Post]
On the Monday after Easter, eight people from our program and one Kenyan friend headed to Mt. Longonot to conquer its steep slopes of ash and lava rock! The rest of the group was busy climbing Mt. Kenya which has the third highest peak in Africa- where three in our group reached the summit. When we decided to climb the volcano we thought it would be a breeze. When we got there we followed a group of school children up. At one point we were in the lead...then about 10 minutes in, they passed us up along with the nuns in their heels. We made it up to the top in no time though and I felt so accomplished conquering my fear of steep inclines! Then we ate lunch on top of the crater and made the decision to hike the 7 something Kilometers around the crater. It may look easy, but believe me, it is not! We made it to the summit and around the whole crater in less than 3 hours. I was really proud of us. Then we hiked back down the steep slopes and got some pizza at the mall in Nairobi to celebrate our success! We hiked over 13 Kilometers that day. It was one of my favorite days in Kenya by far. The next day we all paid for it with sore legs though!
About to start out hike around the crater!
Made it to the summit!
Those are clouds! We were up high!
Standing on the crater!
The crater! Those are trees down there in the middle! It is really high up!
We made it!
Sunday, March 31, 2013
I was sitting here wallowing, thinking about family, church, food, chocolate, lamb cake, Easter eggs, all the things that I associate with Easter, wishing I could teleport home for the weekend, when I realized that no matter where I am, one thing remains constant: the real reason for Easter and why I celebrate it.
Jesus died on the cross and rose again, offering a brand new start for all who believe in Him and I am whining over Reese's peanut butter eggs? What is wrong with that picture?
I woke up this morning with a horrible attitude, not wanting to go to church because I knew it was not going to be the same. I thought to myself, "It's not 'my church'." Jessica! What is wrong with you? You are a part of THE church! The body of Christ is "your church" wherever you are!
Then, when I was actually at church, there were a handful of children from Mulandi Primary school where Hannah, a student, taught. The entire sermon, I heard one of the girls whispering behind me to Dara about Hannah. She was asking her where Hannah went and when she was coming back? My heart was so warm hearing them talk so fondly of Hannah.
Right after the service a few of the girls named Mary, Wendy, and Judy came up to me, alongside some younger girls, and asked me if I was going to stay forever and why Hannah isn't coming back? I tried my best to explain. They did not seem satisfied with my responses.
Then out of nowhere, they started singing and signing "Our God is an Awesome God." Hannah had taught them how to sign this song in ASL during her time at Mulandi. We then went over the alphabet and how to sign your name and say hello. I was loving it! They asked if I would come and teach their class. They actually fought over which grade I should teach because they all wanted a teacher like Hannah.
Hannah truly made a difference for her students during her short time with them. They will never forget her, the things she taught them, and stories she told them. I want to make an impact like that one day. An impact that might not seem so monumental on the grand scheme of things, but that is monumental on an individual scale. Hannah may not have solved all of Kenya's education system problems, or provided an entire community with clean water for life, but she surely made a difference in the lives of her students. People like Hannah, who use gifts like teaching to share God's love, are truly an inspiration to me. It was like God was reminding me of why I am here and what He wants me to do with my life. Thank you, Lord, for that reminder.
Another thing that "hit me" at that service was when the Pastor asked us to turn to our neighbor and share what is special to us about Easter. I immediately thought of traditions and that without Christ rising, Christianity would not exist. While I was sharing these things with the person next to me, I heard the little girl behind me telling Dara how cool it is that the Easter story never changes, but it is still the coolest story ever, every year! What a simple, child-like answer that rings of such truth! How awesome is the Easter story you ask?
Read Matthew 28:1-10
Christ is Risen, He is Risen Indeed!
Some of my sisters in Christ ready for an Easter service at Lukenya Community Church!
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Elephants, Ostriches, & Other Happenings.
Two weekends ago we visited an elephant orphanage. It was such a cool experience to see so many baby elephants in one place! I have only ever seen elephants in the zoo. Most of the baby elephants were orphaned from poaching and many were found abandoned in deep wells that they fell into.
Seeing the baby elephants!
After going to the elephant orphanage, we went to Jeff's favorite Ethiopian restaurant. The food was amazing! It reminded me of the Indian cuisine that I ate on Devon Ave. in Chicago this past semester. The spices were delicious and I definitely ate way too much. The food consisted of a sourdough bread called injera, topped with different meats and dips. After our meal we had popcorn and the strongest coffee I have ever tasted...even with 5 scoops of sugar. We also had gum arabic burning on the table for a great smell and ambiance. It was quite the amazing dining experience.
Ethiopian food, YUM!
To continue our wonderful day, we visited Nairobi's National Museum. Jeff has a project he is working on there and we were able to see part of it in progress. We saw an exhibit of every bird in East Africa, an art exhibit filled with psychedelic black light art, Turkana Boy as well as many more skulls, pictures of Rendille Dancers at a festival, and many African mammals. My favorite part was walking through the history of Kenya. We learn a lot about the Mau Mau (a rebel, resistance group) and how Kenya gained its independence.
Entrance to the museum.
To end our day, we went to a mall and got frozen yogurt. I had a scoop of tiramisu flavored yogurt on top of a waffle cone. It was TDF. To die for.
Mall in Nairobi.
This past weekend we woke up in time to get our mandazi and sausage link at the dining hall for breakfast, loaded a bus, and took off for a hotel that doubles as an ostrich farm and restaurant. Talk about a themed hotel...There were ostriches everywhere! The lampshades were ostrich eggs, the chairs and menus were ostrich leather, there were paintings of ostriches, and ostrich skins on the walls. When you walk outside, there is a pool, playground, and outside eating area where we spent the majority of our day feasting on amazing ostrich steak (a delicacy), ostrich burgers, and other dishes such as salads, potatoes, cream of vegetable soup, and rice. Ostrich meat is some of the best meat I have ever had. It is the perfect combination between beef and chicken. It looks like a steak with no fat and is very tender. It melts in your mouth. In between amazing meals, we played on the swing set and RODE AN OSTRICH! It was such a funny experience. I volunteered to go first and was a bit doubtful of these creatures’ abilities. He was very easy to ride though...which might have had a little to do with the fact that two Kenyan men ran alongside me on the ostrich making sure I did not fall. We ran around the pen once and then everyone else got their turn. By the time everyone in our group rode him, the ostrich was a little tired and ornery. He made a pretty funny hissing noise. We are grateful for his services and I'm sure he is thankful that we keep him in service and off someone's plate.
Just your typical college weekends in Africa--seeing cool animals, exhibits, and eating amazing food!
Sunday, March 24, 2013
“Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work." -Mother Teresa
The sisters at Mother Teresa's home live these words out every hour of every day.
Mother Teresa's is a home and safe haven for disabled women. The age-range of the women who live there is rather vast. I would say the youngest could be around 10 and the oldest around 40-50. I am not exactly sure. The majority of the girls that live there have physical disabilities, often combined with mental challenges and some have multiple handicaps. I know for a fact that most of the girls have Cerebral Palsy. I also know that a few have autism, Down syndrome, are blind, and/or deaf.
When you first walk into the home, you are greeted with warm handshakes and smiles from the sisters. Then you put away your belongings and put on a green apron. The red ones are for sisters only. Work time. First, you tidy up the bedrooms while the girls get their teeth brushed. Many against their will. I get the impression they do this routine every single morning. In order to clean the bedrooms, you move around all the crib-like beds so that the sisters can dump buckets of disinfectant-diluted water on the floors which you will mop around with bundles of sticks. These bundles work better than any other mop or broom I have ever used and I am sure they are much cheaper as well. Then the sisters soak up the water with giant rags as they repeat The Lord's Prayer, Hail Mary's, and other Catholic prayers in a beautiful and quiet chant-like way. As they are soaking up the water and wringing it into buckets, you make the beds with colorful uniform sheets. Then push the beds back, let down the curtains and to top it off, spray each bed with the scent of a lavender air freshener.
Next you will do another task like hanging up freshly cleaned laundry or chopping up massive amounts of green beans for dinner. One thing I love about this is that along with the sisters and other possible volunteers, a few of the girls who are not as physically disabled help out. I love that these girls are expected to help out around at the home, doing chores, and how happy they get when you tell them they are good workers. They really are. One girl named Sara can whip up a freshly made bed in half the time that I can and twice as well done. Plus, it seems to me that she would rather continue with her work than strike up a conversation with me. She is quite dedicated...or maybe I'm just weird. :)
Lunchtime! This is by far the best part of the day, and sadly the last thing before you are politely asked to leave at noon. Noon is when "everyone awake is either in school or at prayer." Volunteers are welcomed to come back at 3:30 after prayers are done, but the bus schedule doesn't allow us to go back in the afternoon. Now, back to the food. The sisters make a good lunch for these girls. They get a heaping plate of mixed veggies, some ugali, and a few hunks of fried fish. For dessert they get hot chocolate.
Many of the girls are able to feed themselves or help feed their friends, but a majority must be fed by volunteers or the sisters. The first time I went, the girl I was feeding preferred sleeping. She was just not having it. In order to get her to take her food, I would have to tap her face to wake her up, quick squeeze her mouth open and shovel some food in. We weren't the best of friends that day, but the next time I was there she was quite chipper and took her food like a champ. I also was able to feed Lucy. Lucy is a gem. She has CP and is blind. She is verbal but does not say much and repeats herself a lot. Also, she mostly speaks Swahili. She called me Mom and Dada a lot which was kind of hard to handle, but I enjoyed the little conversation we had. She LOVES hot chocolate. She would open her mouth and say "AHHH" then take her drink and say "MMMM." It was too funny and she knew it too. I would giggle at her and she would crack up right back at me.
There is also a girl named Immaculate. She is a hoot. She has quite the chomper on her. She likes to play this silly game with the volunteers. She will hit the seat next to her and make you sit down, then she will go to bite your arm or push you away. What a joker! She thinks it is too funny. Don't tell her, but it actually is. I'm not sure if she likes me or not, but I really like her, so hopefully the feeling is mutual.
There is another girl who loves the radio and sings and dances along to the beat. It warms my heart to see her love for music. Pauline has the most beautiful smile I have ever seen and whenever I tell her she gets so shy and rolls away in her chair blushing. A girl named Lucy speaks fluent English so we had a pretty lengthy conversation about America, Obama, and being Mzungu. She told me that she wants me to stay in Kenya forever. I told her not to give me any ideas. I also told her that when I first got to Kenya that my hair was darker but that mzungu hair changes color from the sun. I did not think anyone else in the room was listening but everyone surrounding us busted out in shrill squeals of joy and laughter at the fact that my hair changes color. It's really the little things like that that make my day at Mother Teresa's.
This is Ann. She got up out of her, leaned on my waist and walked me around to her favorite spot outside to sit.
This girl’s smile is contagious. She loves to shake my hand and greet me, as do many of the other girls.
On the car ride home last Friday, I asked my friend Aubrie what she thought about everything we saw and experienced while at the home. She told me many things but one thing that really struck me was that she said that being at Mother Teresa's really reminded her of our dependency on God. In the same way that these girls depend on the sisters for everything they need, that is how we are with God. Everything we have comes from him. We rely on him for everything. He cares for us, loves us, supports us. He is our rock. The sisters at Mother Teresa's are the hands and feet of Jesus to these girls.
Mother Teresa's is truly an amazing place. The sisters are some of the most dedicated and loving women I have ever met and the girls are so well taken care of. I wish I could spend a whole week at the home getting to know everyone but as of now I will continue my weekly visits. This place gives me such joy, inspiration, and hope after every visit. I cannot say enough how wonderful it is. May God bless them and their amazing ministry.
Monday, March 18, 2013
Jambo Bwana (Zanzibar)
Instead of sitting on campus all week during recess for the Kenya elections, we decided to create our own spring break and head to the island of Zanzibar off the coast of Tanzania.
Even though it was a challenge, bartering at the many small shops lining the narrow streets of Stone Town was a highlight of this trip. Another thing to note is that Zanzibar is over 90% Muslim. It was easy to pick up on this through the architecture, the dress of the people, and the call to prayer that we heard throughout the city daily.
Inside the Tembo Hotel
Stone Town was absolutely wonderful. When we weren't eating delicious food, lounging in our beautiful rooms, swimming in the pool or the beaches of the warm salty Indian Ocean, or bartering for cool souvenirs, we were...oh wait, that is all we did! Living the life!!! My favorite place to eat was on the boardwalk right by our hotel (Tembo hotel, the former U.S. embassy). It was a park looking area by day and a lively music, people, food filled market-like outdoor restaurant by night.
There were about 50 vendors with basically any kind of meat, seafood, dessert, drink, bread, or pizza you could imagine. On this trip alone, I tried shark, octopus (tentacles and all), calamari (not even fried), shwarma (my new favorite Mediterranean food which is basically a chicken gyro with garlic mayo sauce and chili-tomato sauce- the perfect combo of sweet and salty), and many different fish (even with the scales on)! There were tons of coconut bread, kabobs, and nutella/banana/coconut pizzas being consumed by our group. I have also had many different flavors of Fanta since being in Africa. I have had the basic orange, grape, and strawberry in the States, but here there is pineapple, mango, green apple, passion, and my favorite, black currant.
One of the food-vendor’s spreads.
Another highlight of Stone town was taking a wooden boat over to Prison Island to see the 100+ year-old tortoises, and to go snorkeling! We saw many starfish, sea urchins, coral, Nemo fish, Dory fish, angel fish, a puffer fish, and tons of other native fish including a huge school of tiny little fish. We also went swimming at night when the algae glows in the dark when it is touched. Basically you glow blue in the ocean at night, it is so neat!
Snorkeling in the Indian Ocean!
In Stone Town we also:
Beautiful stained glass in the church.
Former Slave Market/ Anglican Church
Fresh food in the market.
Typical set up of earrings outside a shop.
I love the rainy season!
Local boy puddle hopping.
My henna tattoo that was given to me by a deaf woman. We tried to talk in sign language but her dialect was different than ASL.
Such a cutie! She makes me miss the little girl I watch in the summer!
After our two-day excursion in Stone Town, we ventured an entire hour to the other side of the island for what I would explain as beach/resort/camping experience. Our huts, which were complete with sand filled floors, beds, mosquito nets, and fans, were so fun! 7 of us girls piled into that 'dorm-like' room for the rest of the week. The rest of the camp site was filled with other huts, a communal bathroom, a reading loft, volleyball court, and bar where we ate breakfast and dinner every night!
The food at New Teddy's Place was AMAZING! Every morning we were given the option of having sweet or salty breakfast. I had the sweet one day which consisted of 2 pancakes filled with chocolate and fresh fruit. Another breakfast of choice was the salty breakfast which consisted of an omelet filled with peppers, a chapatti, and fresh fruit. YUM! My favorite dinner was lemon garlic butter fish with veggies and chips. It was the best fish I have ever had. We also ate some delicious lunches at local restaurants.
We spent many hours walking the beaches with friends picking up amazing shells (that I would pay money for in Florida) and having great conversations. Every morning after breakfast we usually spent the rainy part of the morning (it's rainy season now) in the reading loft or hammocks reading books recommended by Jeff, African history books, romance novels, religious/inspirational books, the Bible, or journaling. What a relaxing vacation-type activity to start each day with.
Almost every morning, with the exception of one, I got up at around 6:00 am to watch the sunrise with my friends. I had never seen the sunrise before and I set my sunrise standards pretty high right off the bat. God's glory was proclaimed through the beauty I saw on those mornings! Not to even mention the amazing sunsets we've seen on this trip as well. The African sun has got to be different than the one in America. Almost every day, without fail, there is an amazing view to be seen in the sky.
On Friday night, Teddy's place held a BBQ where we had a large variety of food. The meats included chicken, fish (an entire fish grilled on the BBQ), and octopus. The flavors of the meat were almost overwhelming they were so good. I could not stop eating! Later that night we went to a dance party on the beach where locals and other tourists of many different nationalities danced the night away. We even danced with Masai warriors decked up in their traditional outfits. It was an “out of this world” experience.
The next day we packed up and went back to Stone Town for one last meal and shopping extravaganza. Then we boarded our plane and took off back home. Home. Kenya feels like home now. What a strange feeling. We first felt it after Rendille, but this confirmed it. Kenya is the most familiar thing to us for now.
Monday, March 11, 2013
Weeks in Review
I am going to buzz through some highlights of the past few weeks and things that have been on my mind.
Riding in style on the Daystar bus!
Going to Town
On our first free weekend as a group, we were challenged by Jeff to hang out with Kenyans (or other African students that we have met) and to do something fun! Sounded like a good plan to me. A small group of us decided to go to Nairobi with our good friends Noni and Ruth. Noni is Kenyan but lives in Tanzania because her parents are missionaries there. Ruth is Malawian. For our trek to town, we all boarded the campus bus and that took us to Nairobi. While there, we shopped at a store called Zanzibar which was good because their gifts were well priced, and it gave us a reference point for when we headed over to the Masai Market (where you have to barter).
Then we got pizza at the Pizza Inn. It was the first 'American' meal we had all eaten since being here and we definitely splurged. I ate a pizza that was half BBQ sauce, bacon, and pineapple, and the other half was Tikka chicken, green pepper, and onion with some Indian spiced sauce. It was out of this world! We walked around and visited a salon where Noni and Ruth got their ears pierced, and we also made a pit stop to Java House (an American coffee shop that is the Kenyan equivalent to Starbucks).
Our final stop before heading back home was the Masai Market. The market is very crowded, and it was very hot out but it was so much fun! People are constantly calling "Sista, sista, I have a deal for you!" and grabbing at your hands trying to show you their crafts, gifts, and handiwork. It is quite the overwhelming and beautiful experience. I got 3 soapstone figures for free because men would ask me where I was from, I would answer Chicago, and then they would give me a free gift because I am from Obama's home. A few of us girls also received a few marriage proposals as well. Overall, it was a successful day and I am really grateful for our friendships with Noni and Ruth. They are truly gems.
In Kenya, a majority of people are not very punctual or efficient with their time management skills. I can show up for class 10 minutes late and the lecturer and most of the class will not arrive for another 20 minutes give or take (usually give haha). If you are walking around campus and run into a friend, they will stop and hold a lengthy conversation with you whether or not either of you have plans you need to attend to. If we need to be on the road for something by 5:00 p.m., that usually means anywhere from 5:30-6:00 p.m. If you plan on getting back to campus by 7:00 p.m., try 9:00 p.m.
Time is never a given factor and that is OK. I have come to appreciate not feeling rushed and also the feeling of worth when people stop you to talk and really value relationships over schedules. Of course, as an American who loves efficiency and predictability, I get frustrated at times. However, it is going to be really hard to adjust back to the American way of time keeping.
New Life Children's Home
This orphanage is for babies and very young children. I think that the oldest is a little over 2 or 3 years old and I am not even sure of that. The children are precious. We are able to visit this home whenever we can. I have only been their once so far but I am planning on going to it most Tuesdays with Jake since we don't have classes on that day. It was such a cool experience. The facility is quite beautiful and the children are very well taken care of. It seems like they are constantly being held by staff and volunteers. They are not shy children and have an over abundance of love. Many of them have nasty coughs but they are all taken to doctors regularly. It was such a strange experience to be holding children and being so happy and just enjoying loving them and then having an overwhelming feeling of sadness because you know they do not have parents and many of them could be HIV positive.
While I was there one child was being adopted. That was cool to see. I overheard someone saying that the adoption process takes 3 hours. I was shocked and am going to find out more information about that on Tuesday. It seems unreal to me. Anyway, I was able to hold 2 babies named Anneke and Joseph. They were so cute! Anneke was quite the sassy little baby with an attitude. Joseph was very chill and loved playing with my glasses and being held above my head. "Super Baby!!" I cannot wait to go back and learn more and love on more children.
Joseph & I
He is the cutest!
The toy market is the largest thrift shop I have ever been to. The whole market is outside, and you barter for the price you want. I got 2 shirts for about $1and RayBan sunglasses for about $2, a new bathing suit for $4 and had a blast! All my second-hand lovin’ friends would have been in their element here. I cannot wait to go back there either. There is also a food market in the same area and one interesting thing that happened was that as we walked by, a little girl (whose father owned one of the booths) ran up and hugged all of our legs. Originally we would have just thought "awe, how cute is this little girl?" but after being in Kenya for some time now, we could all easily see through her big eyes and smile. Her father had trained her to hug foreigners in order to guilt trip them into buying his food.
About a 15-minute walk off campus is a resort/pool/motocross/paintball place called Lukenya. Two of the boys from our Daystar group did a promotional video for them in exchange for our group being able to use their pool all weekend, get one free meal, paintball, and ride All-Terrain-Vehicles (ATV). It was such a fun weekend! ATV-ing in the African wilderness was an out of this world experience. Jake drove the ATV and I was the passenger. We drove right past many zebra, giraffes, and some cool birds and other wildlife. I could have ridden on that four-wheeler all day.
Our whole group attended a Peace Dinner. Sing Africa, Afrizo (Daystar's singing group that tours the U.S. every year), a speaker, drama club, and a great meal were all a part of the night. A few of my favorite parts of this night were getting to meet more people from Daystar, seeing the moon rise over the rocks surrounding Athi River, and hearing everyone sing the Kenyan National Anthem. It was very cool to hear about peace, especially with the upcoming elections. Praise God the elections were mostly peaceful.
Campus is surrounded with amazing rocks for climbing and exploring. One Sunday a small group of us walked off campus and found a cool place to climb that wasn't too difficult and has an awesome view of Athi River. The rock looked like it was made of granite. It was very neat and I will never get used to the views I have seen since being here. The Saturday before we left for Zanzibar, we went on a rock climbing trip off campus. We were told it could be a hike anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours. It took us a little over 3 hours. We were not prepared to say the least. Once we hiked to our destination on the rocks, the group went rock climbing. I thought about giving it a go but hiking up the rocks was about enough of a rock climbing experience that I needed for that day. I watched and took pictures. It was awesome! The view was incredible and the hike was definitely worth it.
We made it! Finally!
On the path to the rocks. It gets steeper and filled with wildlife the farther you go.
Showering with a monkey
One morning I woke up and went to take my daily cold shower and as I was bent over rinsing my hair in the faucet, a monkey decided to climb halfway through the slotted window. When I stood up, I made quite the gasping noise when I realized I had a visitor. After the initial shock, it really wasn't that big of a deal to me. It is a funny feeling when seeing a monkey in your shower seems somewhat normal to you.
After our night class one week, we went off-campus for a chicken and chip dinner. It was delicious. However, later that night four of us got seriously ill. I was the only one who made the trek to Doctor's Plaza, but the other three ended up at the school clinic with some antibiotics as well. Paige took very great care of me and Jeff and his wife Asaaska met us at the hospital, took care of me, and let me crash at their place for the night. They were awesome surrogate parents, and I am so grateful for their help and making me feel so much better. It wasn't fun at all, but it was a good experience, and I am thankful for the good care I was provided with and that we are all healthy again.
Monday, February 25, 2013
I want to be a GREAT teacher!
This past Friday, Hannah Schaap, Becca Reed, and I had the opportunity to visit Rosslyn Academy Nairobi, Kenya. Rosslyn is a Christian international school that provides an international pre-K-12 education. I believe they are located about 10K outside of Nairobi, and they have a beautiful 40-acre campus. When you first drive through the gate, it looks like paradise! The campus is overflowing with beautiful landscape, flowers, and intriguing architecture. All of the buildings have a curve to them and the library is shaped like a circle. I felt like I was in the most beautiful college setting I have ever been in, and this is just a school for pre-K-12.
The students do not live on campus, but many teachers and staff do. There are over 50 nationalities represented at Rosslyn, and I have never really experienced so much diversity in one place. Rosslyn is a mission based school. All of their teachers have a firm relationship with Christ and that was evident in the way they taught and interacted with their students.
The academic excellence at this school is unreal. I was almost in tears observing how well behaved the children were and watching the teachers work in their element. It was breathtaking. One teacher explained it to us saying, "This is a teacher's heaven. The kids want to learn." Kids are still kids no matter where you teach, but these teachers seem to be doing everything right, and I did not hear one teacher or staff have to discipline a child for talking in class or not focusing on the task in front of them. With great teachers, comes great students, I suppose.
First, we all took a tour of the amazing campus, and then Hannah and I went to a fourth grade classroom to observe. The students are reading Mr. Popper's Penguins and they were going through each chapter summarizing it into a word or phrase. It was a great review and refresher for many of the students, I'm sure.
Then we headed over to 2nd grade. This was my favorite part of the day. In 2nd grade the students were learning about dinosaurs. There were probably only 2 or 3 kids who were from the same place. Diversity at its finest. The classroom was huge, colorful, and even had a sweet reading loft above us. We all sat on a carpet in a circle while the teacher led a discussion about dinosaurs and what we know about them. The students all participated and were fully engaged the whole time. Then we read 2 stories about dinosaurs and they had to determine whether they were fiction or non-fiction. These 2nd graders really grasped concepts in ways I have never noticed in children before.
I learned two fun teaching techniques from this 2nd grade teacher as well...When she is reading and claps, the students say the next word (guaranteeing that they are focused on the reading), and when she stops reading and counts to three, the students start reading aloud together. I thought this was so clever and a good way to handle classroom management in a setting that would otherwise be hectic. Shoot, if I was in second grade and was sitting on a rug with my friends, there is no way I would have been so engaged as these students were. It was very encouraging to see.
We headed over to pre-K and got to play with the kids and help them draw pictures of things that move mysteriously...like wind or the sun. We know they are moving but we can't really see them move or know why they do. The fact that preschoolers grasped that concept was mind-boggling to me. Yes, I did see boys picking noses and girls being giggly (kids are still kids) but over all, this classroom was so well organized and the kids were so cute and well behaved.
After lunch we went to senior seminar. This is the coolest class ever! Senior seminar is a course that seniors take (obviously) and they research a topic of choice (illegal immigrants, gorilla art, gender roles, etc.) and write a 10 page essay as well as present a 30 minute presentation with media used. Talking to the seniors about their project ideas and progress on them was so neat. If I had been in this class I would have picked the easiest topic and rushed through it. These students picked very complex ideas and were putting forth a lot of effort into their work.
Finally, before we debriefed our day with some staff members (which was basically us applauding the school in every aspect and encouraging the superintendent about how great his school is), we were able to observe an 8th grade English course, which was taught by a fellow Chicagoan who had a nephew and niece at Trinity Christian College. He was such a 'hip' teacher and you could really tell how comfortable the students were in his class. They had just finished up learning slang terms and they wrote songs and raps including their vocab. We were able to see the students fearlessly get up in front of their peers and present their songs.
I was going into this day expecting something much different, and I was truly blown away. I had no clue that schools like this existed! I know that this is not the only school running in this way but, if this standard of education works why aren't more schools jumping on the band wagon and raising their standards? It is sad that many good teachers are being held captive by the 'system.' I know there are many GREAT teachers everywhere, and I have been lucky enough to observe one last semester. Also, I have had many great teachers in the past and I am sure to have many more to come. I guess just seeing a school so saturated with them was exciting to me.
Every technique or strategy of teaching that I have been taught was implemented at Rosslyn in the way that it should be implemented. It is sad that in some schools you only ever see teachers teach the way these ones did on days that they were being observed. I am really hoping to student teach in an international school like this and to be able to learn from such amazing teachers.
Overall, this was the best observation experience I have ever had in one visit. For me, it was such a motivation to become the best teacher I can be and it also opened my eyes about international schools and for the first time ever I was glad that I am going to be certified for elementary education as well as special education. Although special education is my passion, this was the first time I was able to vision myself teaching in a general education classroom. I also know how badly Hannah needed this day to encourage and refresh her. I know that I will remember this day for the rest of my life. It was the day I realized that I really do want to be a teacher! And a great one at that!
I am already seeing how much my mind set has changed and how difficult it is going to be for me to adjust back to the American way of life and thinking. Actually, I hope that I never do adjust back. I want to be forever changed because of the things I have seen and experienced during this time in Kenya.
Monday, February 18, 2013
Two Fridays ago I was able to observe Hannah Schaap student-teach at Daystar Mulandi Primary School. I say student-teach because that is what Hannah was told she was going to be doing. In reality, she is the teacher. Mulandi is a very new school and is going through the transition of a private school to public one. Some of the teachers are paid by the government, but many are paid by parents (or should I say not paid by parents), which is why many teachers just do not show up.
For the eight different grade levels/classrooms, there are usually only about 4 or 5 teachers who actually show up each day to teach. Hannah's classroom is shared between grades 3 and 4 with only a tin wall dividing them. Watching her teach has really inspired me. She was completely thrown into a new environment with barely any help or materials to work with and she has truly thrived! She even talks with a Kenyan accent to make it easier for her students to understand her. She is putting time and effort into their learning and truly cares about their success. They especially love it when she teaches them some sign language (gestures) and I love hearing all of her stories and seeing pictures of their work. I'm sure Hannah will be able to see great progress in some of their work over her weeks of teaching there.
I really love the conversations Hannah and I have about teaching opportunities and how we both never truly understood the education system and its challenges until being here. Even just yesterday Hannah's student teaching placement was at risk because the public school system in Kenya was going to go on strike (a fairly regular thing here.) God is SO good though. Right when she thought she could lose her job she was able to meet a woman named 'Mama' Joy from Red Rhino Children's Home down the road from her school. About 11 children from Red Rhino attend Mulandi, and Hannah was able to go and visit the home after school one day last week. Then, on Sunday we were invited back to visit again.
David, the man who began Red Rhino, offered Hannah a position. There is a one-room school house on Red Rhino's land that the children used to use for class so he let Hannah know that if the strike happens that she can teach the kids from Red Rhino (11 of which already attend the school she was placed at) in the school room. They are an official NGO and have all the paperwork she would need. How sweet is that? God truly provides when we need him to. Thankfully the strike did not happen and the children of Kenya are in school today! Still, that is an awesome testimony of God's provision.
Going to Red Rhino was such an awesome experience. We were able to meet David (the man who started the home), play and dance with the children, eat lunch with Joshua and Michael (two boys around 8 yrs old who were called our hosts/gentlemen all day haha), tour the boy’s house (they are phenomenal!) and have chocolate cupcakes and pineapple sweets to celebrate a girl’s birthday. The children are so loved there and well taken care of. I wanted to take them all home with me, but knowing how well off they are there really opened my eyes about a lot of things.
On Friday, Becca and I are getting on a bus at 5 am to go into town on the opposite side of Nairobi to observe in a Christian school. We will not get back until around dinner...which realistically means that we won't be back until 7 or 8 pm. Kenyan time. I'm still adjusting. I am really excited to be able to see this school though!
I am also looking forward to hopefully being able to visit an orphanage in Kibera (the largest urban slum in Africa) and to visit an institutionalized orphanage for children with special needs. Basically, I just want as much exposure as possible. It is heart breaking but heartwarming and hopeful at the same time. Hope. This word has never meant so much to me before.
Monday, February 18, 2013
Rendille Days 2-3
After one of the most sleepless nights of this trip so far, we woke up to a cool breeze, chai tea, and some amazing pancakes. By amazing, I mean AMAZING! We sprinkled some sugar on them for an extra sweet treat. I'm sitting here drooling thinking about them. Then, Jeff let us know that after much searching and asking around, he has located some camels for us to see. The plan is to take a drive through the desert to one of the most beautiful Rendille villages, and that among the camels we will see on the way, we will be taking a half hour hike to a natural pool/waterfall.
Pancakes from heaven
First, we go to church! Church was very interesting. We were able to meet 3 girls who had just moved to Korr for the year to be school teachers. They were very inspiring. The sermon was given by a missionary who has been living in Korr for about 30 years I believe. The sermon was very westernized and was about the upcoming March elections. The music was fantastic and my favorite part was watching Shemi (Asaaska's brother) play the keyboard while a man with Down Syndrome broke out in some dance moves next to him!
Shemi and his dancing friend
We got on the bus and began our trek to find the camels. Taking this ride in the desert to our location made me realize how remote this part of Kenya really is and how impressive it is that the people Rendille thrive here. (The Rendille are a semi-nomadic tribe who are camel herders and believe in the god Waaq). Along the way, we saw many people herding their goats, a herd of camels, a herd of baby camels, many villages, and we even picked up a woman who was walking back to her village with water from Korr (a 20 kilometer walk that she makes every day). Rendille people rarely ever complain...if I was in this woman's shoes, I would really struggle with that one.
Woman who walks 20 Kilometers everyday for water
Chilling with the camels
The drive was breathtaking but nothing compares to the waterfall. It was magnificent. It was so smooth that we used it as a water slide and the pool at the bottom was perfect for swimming in. If that isn't cool enough on its own, three camels and some cows showed up to join the fun! Camels make the silliest noises--almost like a cow mooing...but more like a cow dying.
Natural water slide!
Water fall slide!
Pool with the camels starting to join us!
On the way back to Korr, we stopped for some good old-fashioned bird hunting, and we picked up fire wood for a bonfire. I was also able to stop by one of our new friend's house to try and see his sister. His name is Marmellow, and he doesn't get to stop by home often. I was able to meet his little sisters and his older sister's mother-in-law. She was very kind and wanted me to take her picture. She said that she would have cooked me a meal had she known that I was coming. She seemed very flattered that I was there. She also sold me one of her hand-woven baskets for 80 bob (less than a dollar). What a steal! Seriously though, I felt like I was stealing. I should have offered her more, but I didn’t want to be that mzungu (white person) who insulted such a sweet lady.
Marmellow’s sister’s mother-in-law and his sister
Marmellow with his sister holding the woven basket his sister’s mother-in-law sold to me
Awesome lady who filled up the land cruiser with firewood
That night we ate the goats that were slaughtered for us. They were delicious. They even served the intestine, which is a delicacy among the Rendille. There was also a tomato and onion dish that I ate WAY too much of. I cannot get enough of vegetables here. I crave veggies nonstop. What I would do for some Chipotle or a salad right now...not to say I haven't enjoyed the food here. I have. It's amazing, I will miss it when I'm in the States again...but you always want what you can't have right?
Also, I cannot wait to learn how to make “chipati” (amazing tortilla like things), “mandazi” (sweet puffy bread...kinda like an unfilled fried donut), and “nyama choma” (roasted goat meat) to make for you all when I get back. I'm not sure where I will get the goat though. I will also be making you Daystar's version of spaghetti and meat balls. I love it! It is spaghetti with fresh cilantro and tomato cut up and then a thin meat sauce with potatoes on top. It is the BEST!
After dinner, warriors from a surrounding village came to join us and dance. Tribal dancing is so cool to watch in person let alone take part in. I had such a good time. I usually am a horrible dancer, but I'd like to think that I picked up traditional Rendille dance moves fairly quickly. It was so fun! I couldn't stop. The dancing is a sort of head bob, jumping up and down, and walking in a circle dance. I will just have to show you in person when I get back.
I slept like a baby that night. The desert breeze is so cool and refreshing at night. The next morning we ate amazing pancakes again and scrambled ostrich egg. One egg fed our whole group! We also burned and ate natural chewing gum and used thorns as toothpicks and a certain kind of stick as toothbrushes. Then we went into town to buy sandals made out of old car tires. The shoes were just pieces of tires held together by some nails poking out the bottom. The fitting of the shoes was a much longer process than we thought. Once the shoe maker adjusted the straps and flattened the nails sticking out the bottom, we were on our way!
Chewing gum being burned
My new shoes
We said our goodbyes and got back on our charter planes and flew back to Nairobi. On the way home, our pilot flew very low and took us by some awesome waterfalls embedded in the mountain sides. It was breathtaking. One cool thing about going back to Daystar after this weekend away was that for the first time for many of us it felt like home. The familiarity was something we looked forward to and I can say that we feel a sense of belonging and community here in Athi River.
See you next time, Korr!
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Wake up. Eat a fresh mango and mandazi. Get on the bus. Commence adventure.
When we arrived at the small airport, we quickly went through security, and met our pilots (a young Cornerstone graduate and another man who are both missionary pilots for AIM. Their stories of how they started in aviation ministry were awesome! They were great pilots. Then we boarded our charter planes. A five-seater and a 13-seater. Crazy!
Take off. WOW. Kenya is amazing from the ground, but even more so from the sky where you can see the magnitude of God's creation and his beauty declared from the amazing architecture, magnificent mountain ranges, wonderful water falls, dry desert, and various villages. (Take that for alliteration). Even seeing Kibera (the largest urban slum in Africa) from the air made it that more real to me how many people there are in the world and made me that much more excited and maybe even anxious about having the opportunities to see things in real life that others only are able to see on T.V. or online. With knowledge comes great responsibility.
Midway through our flight we heard an announcement that the five-seater plane was experiencing technical difficulty. I immediately began praying. I knew that it wasn't too big of a deal, but we did have to land to fix the problem. What could have been intended for evil, God intended for good. We were able to land at Lewa airstrip in the middle of what seemed like nowhere. Lewa is a super fancy, expensive, destination game resort. Royals William and Kate were engaged here. We were able to view this place for free! Plus, they had a western toilet. It was the coolest bathroom I've been in, in Africa...and the last I would see for 2 1/2 days. Haha. The 13-seater landed first and we were able to see the 5-seater land and almost take out about 5 or so zebra. I am so glad we did not have zebra for lunch that day.
After we landed in Korr (the village we stayed in for the weekend), we were taken to our huts, and fed an amazing lunch of the best rice I've ever tasted, goat meat, and cabbage. The food here is to die for. Then after getting settled, we met two women who showed us rope throwing which is a tradition among Rendille people. By throwing their ropes they were able to tell us that Kyle would be married this year, Hannah would have a teaching job, and that our program director (Jeff) and his wife (Asaska, who is from Korr) will have many children. Asaska explained to us that the rope throwers truly believe that what they predict will happen and that most of the time it does. They believe that if you think hard enough that something will happen, it will. Very fascinating. Then we heard Rendille stories that are passed down orally through generations.
Welcome to Korr!
Rendille rope throwers.
Rope thrower’s shoes that are made of old tires.
Goat meat lunch! YUMM!
Side note: Korr is a town in Rendille-land that Asaska's grandfather began. It has wells for water and it is very modernized compared to the rest of the nine clans surrounding Korr. Korr has schools, Christian churches, missionaries, electricity, small shops, etc. We stayed at Asaska's family’s house in the huts made for when people visit. They were absolutely beautiful. We even had our own bathroom (cement hole in an outhouse) and shower (a small room where you take a shower with a bucket). That may sound strange to most people, but honestly, it was really clean and very nice. Rendille people know how to host. Not to even mention how great the food was and how hospitable everyone we met were. Asaska even provided all of us with dresses for the women and kikoys (basically skirts/wraps) for the men. They were beautiful! We wore them almost the whole time we were there because they were so cool (temperature & style wise).
After that, we traveled to Wiam village (which was about 2ish miles away by foot). As we walked into the village the first child I saw happened to have Down Syndrome. I was a bit speechless at first. I was so excited to get to experience this village and even more excited to meet this girl (since I am a special education major). I immediately tried to communicate with her and she understood "How are you?" and responded "Fine." She could also speak some Rendille although it was obvious that she repeated herself a lot and talked very shyly. I asked our translator her name, and I forget what it is but I remember it means "one who brings rain." Her smile was contagious. I asked what grade she was in and the translator explained to me "She is not 100% normal and is still in nursery." I tried to explain that she has Down Syndrome, but I don't think that phrase meant anything to him. I asked what will become of her if she does not ever graduate nursery? Will she be married off? Will she be circumcised? (98% of Rendille women are circumcised the night of their wedding). I had so many questions and was given no definite answers.
Walking to Wiam!
Children like this girl with Down Syndrome, who I met in the middle of the Kaisut Desert, are the reason why I want to teach special needs children in places like this. To not only bring more hope, joy, and love to these children's lives, but to give them dignity and to educate communities about these exceptional people. This girl is lucky. She is taken care of, loved, and at least gets to go to school. I have heard many stories of children who are not so lucky though...beaten because they are thought to be demon possessed or burdens to their families. If I can make a change in just one of those children's lives, I will be overjoyed.
Once the sun set over the mountain, it cooled down considerably and the men in our group were able to enter the Nabo (basically it looks like a large circle of rocks) for prayer. Women are not allowed to enter. It was explained to me by a translator that Rendille people are a completely male democratic society with no leader, only elders, and the women are not allowed to talk to men other than their husband. So while we girls waited for prayer to end, we sat outside some huts listening to the hushed sound of chanting, and we watched the stars.
I have never seen so many stars in my entire life. One interesting thing in Africa is that the big dipper is upside down here. Fascinating. Then, some of us were able to enter a hut and learn about the home, see cookware handmade out of roots & gourds, and sit on camel skin rugs. Camels are sacred to the Rendille people. Finally, we had the chance to milk a goat. I tried and tried with no success. In fact, the goat milked me...I tried to milk that poor goat so long that when someone finally took over for me, milk squirted all over my hands. Haha.
When we arrived back at Korr we ate dinner and sat out star gazing, singing, and telling stories until very late. That night, it was SO windy and we realized that our hut's door would not shut. It was very loud and Leah and I just decided it would be better to just stay up and chat all night because neither of us was going to sleep anytime soon.
Monday, February 4, 2013
In my African Culture class today our lecturer said two significant things that really hit home for me as an American:
"If you want to jeopardize your life in Africa, you raise a point against the government." –Chiko.
We are so blessed to have a democratic government that protects our rights- especially freedom of speech and expression.
"There are people in this country who do not know where to get a single penny, but still live economically." -Chiko
I have noticed after seeing how other people live and trying things like washing my laundry by hand, taking short, cold showers, having less technology, and eating rice at almost every meal, just how materialistic Americans are and how comfortable we are in our little bubbles and ways of life. Just because we were taught to live life one way, does not make it the only way or an economical way.
I feel so at home here. Especially when I'm interacting with the children I have met so far. Their smiles capture my heart, and their fascination and curiosity make me feel not so alone when everything around me is so new. Seeing Kenyan culture through a child-like point of view is something I really appreciate, and it has helped me realize how much is out there for me to learn.
On our first trip to downtown Nairobi, we were walking through a park by a pond and out of nowhere two kids walked right up to Luke and joined our group. We paused and decided that this shady spot by the pond was the perfect spot for a group picture and to interact with these kids. Tyler took pictures of them and showed them his camera as they beamed with smiles, Jake taught them high-fives, and Paige wooed them over with candy. It is absolutely a moment I will not forget. There was also another boy who was probably around 10 who threw bread crumbs in the pond for Jake and I so that we could see the Tilapia fish jump around.
Then as we moved on to our next destination, we saw a little boy (about 4 years old?) carrying his baby sister down the sidewalk. It broke my heart. How blessed am I that my mom was able to stay at home with me or pay for babysitters, when this little boy- who was barely old enough to talk- appears to be this little girls caregiver during the day? I'm not sure if their parents were out working or if they are even alive, but seeing this little boy acting as an adult truly changed my perspective on how blessed I am and what things like poverty, human deprivation, and oppression mean.
On Friday, most of us did not have classes so we decided to venture down the road to get fresh smoothies (for about 50 US cents) and to explore the shops and meet some people. We quickly learned that a lot of the people living on this road do not speak English well or have very thick accents. We came across a group of about 6 children (all under age 5) playing and tried to say hello. They were frightened of us and cowered behind their parents. Their parents laughed and tried to make them say hello. Their efforts didn't work. We walked on and when we turned around to head back we knew we would see these children again. Paige got out her candy (quite the ice breaker) and we arrived by their home again. This time, a little girl came running into my arms and hugged my neck tightly and started playing with my glasses. Paige gave out Tootsie Rolls and the oldest of the kids kept saying "Choc-o-late." It was adorable. My heart instantly melted. We gave high-fives and laughed, and I just held on to that little girl and she rested her head on my shoulder. When it was time to leave, she pouted and her parents thought it was hilarious! I hope to see them again soon.
After church this Sunday, Professor Jeff Dekock invited our group to his apartment in Nairobi for hotdogs, hamburgers, potato wedges, fruit, pop, and this amazing salsa-like dish that you top your meats with. It was phenomenal. We played games, ate WAY too much food, hung out with his daughter and family and chatted about our experiences as well as the big weekend we have coming up. We are being blessed with the opportunity to go and visit Jeff's wife's village. Jeff's wife is from the Rendille tribe who are semi-nomadic camel herders. The Rendille village is located in Northern Kenya, and we will be there from Saturday morning until Monday morning. Jeff has informed us that it will be life changing and that not very many Africans, let alone Americans, get the opportunity to go and spend time with these people, learning about their culture. I am stoked to say the least. Also, Jeff's wife has made us each a traditional Rendille outfit (dresses for the girls, wraps for the boys).
Before we had arrived at Jeff's apartment, we went to visit the Arboretum. It was so beautiful and we saw a monkey, huge bamboo plants, and my favorite...kids! Jake held a little boy almost the whole time and impressed the rest with his back flips and juggling skills, Tyler joined in on hide and seek, Paige rocked a little baby boy to sleep until his mom came back, and I played games with about 10 or so kids for what seemed like hours. When I ran out of games to teach them, they taught me.
We have also done other fun things like:
Eat goat meat
Low & High Ropes Courses
See monkeys all over campus
Learn how to do laundry
I can't wait to have my first full week of classes under my belt and I am really looking forward to this upcoming weekend. Blessings from Kenya!
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
On Your Mark:
These past five days were spent saying many goodbyes. On my last day of classroom observation in Chicago Ridge, I received "advice" and many cards from the fourth graders in the class I have been observing since September. They decided to surprise me at the end of my last day and lined up to read their cards out loud and smother me with hugs. What a blessing those children are. My desire to become a teacher has never been so affirmed before. The next day, my family threw me a little going away party. Talk about delicious food! So blessed with going away gifts from my students, family, and friends.
Packing. What an experience. It is so hard to pack for the unknown. I packed my life (for about 3 months) in two 50 lbs suitcases, one carry-on, and a back-pack.
Thus begins the journey of a lifetime. I am nervous. I am excited. I am frightened to leave. I am ready to go.
"I know Who goes before me, I know Who stands behind. The God of angel armies is always by my side."- Chris Tomlin
The beautiful thing about studying abroad is that I have no clue what to expect! The sights, the smells, the people, the food, the culture--everything will be new to me. Yet, I know that I can fully expect that this experience will challenge me and make me grow--and that is what I want. Studying abroad is one of the coolest experiences I have ever had the privilege to take advantage of, and I haven't even stepped outside of the country yet! It has already began changing me for the better and I hope you all look forward to meeting the new and improved 'Jess' in May, because I cannot guarantee I will be the same one you sent to Africa when I get back.
The next 104 days will be spent with friends (new and old), families, professors, and the occasional giraffe. It will be filled with much laughter, many tears (joyful and sorrowful), beautiful smiles, the occasional sunburn (OK probably more than occasional for me), stomach issues (hopefully not), shouts of joy, praises to God, and some deep self-reflection.
I want to look back on this trip and know that I made myself step outside of my comfort zone and followed God's will for my life. I most nervous about the culture shock and the things that will be out of my control-like the elections in March. I am most excited for the wildlife, the theology courses, making new friends, and church!
Please be praying for our group as we head out into the unknown on this amazing journey!!
Thursday, January 17, 2013
One Week Left
Today marks one week left in the States! I have been spending lots of quality time with my family, church family, and friends. I am so blessed to live close enough to Trinity so that I could continue to complete student observation hours in Chicago Ridge over break. I have also been able to visit my friends at Trinity and participate in and attend Outcry (weekly worship service led by Trinity students).
Tomorrow is my last day student observing, and it is going to be hard saying goodbye to all my fourth grade friends. They have been a great first class to observe and have made me smile every day I am with them. I can only imagine how hard it will be to say goodbye to everyone else. At least I have the comfort that it is a "see ya later" and that I will be reunited with you all in 3-ish months.
As I prepare my heart for this journey, I have been trying to soak up every moment with my loved ones and have had the most encouraging advice given to me from many amazing people. After hearing their stories about how God has moved in their lives and how they hope he moves in mine, I am more than thrilled to embark on this journey. In fact, like I have alluded to in my first post, I believe it has already begun!
December 26, 2012
To begin, my first desire to go to Africa was quite a few years back, when I met a missionary family from Nigeria- the Camiolas. This family and their joy for the Lord has been an example of how I want to live my life. Their Nigerian daughter Nansik has stolen my heart, and the ministry they do in Jos has inspired me. By my freshman year in college, I knew that I wanted to major in special education and that somehow I wanted to incorporate that into missions in Africa. I always thought that Jos, Nigeria would be the first place God would call me to go to in Africa, but that plan has quickly evolved. In the spring semester of my freshman year at Trinity Christian College, I was walking to class and saw a poster advertising a new semester abroad program in...KENYA!
WOW, I could not believe it! I was planning on only being able to student teach in Africa and knew that it would be a struggle to accomplish that. This opportunity was more than I could have ever dreamed of, and I could not let it pass by! When I saw the poster advertising the Kenya semester program, I quickly sent a picture to my dad saying, "I’m going!" He replied, "How much does it cost?" I said, "No more than a normal semester." His response was, "I would have said, priceless." Priceless.
I attended the first meeting describing the program, and I knew that this semester was made for me. I sent in my application and the waiting process began. After what seemed like forever, we received the news that over 20 people had applied to the program and that they were taking no more than 7 from Trinity. Again, I waited. On July 18, I received an email saying that I was accepted! I was shocked and nervous, but mostly excited! I know so many people who want to be in my place, and I am so grateful for this opportunity. From January 24-May 8, I will be studying at Daystar University, Athi-River Campus. Did I mention we will be spending spring break on the island of Zanzibar, Tanzania?
Then, there is the extended process of getting shots, preparing my packing list, researching African culture, and most importantly, picking my classes. That has been a journey in and of itself. Originally, I was planning on getting 2 education courses done while I was in Kenya and then catching up on what I missed in summer school so that I would still be on track to graduate on time. Then we figured out that the classes I needed either would not transfer or were offered in the fall semester instead of the spring one. I was so discouraged and spent many hours worried and wondering if God was giving me a sign to either reconsider my major, or if I should really go to Africa or not. After meeting with my favorite theology professor, I realized that I could pick up a theology minor at Daystar (which would make me feel more confident going into missions), and I would just have to do an extra semester at Trinity. Even though I thought my plans were ruined, God revealed to me an even better plan that would better prepare me for what I want to do. So, what I am planning on is taking 3 theology courses in Kenya, as well as observing at a Kenyan school for field experience hours, and when I get back I will take one summer school course and then finish up my education courses at Trinity. I will be taking one extra semester, but that last semester will be spent student teaching anyway. It may take me a little bit longer and cost a little more, but this experience is priceless to me.
At this point in my life, I feel a clear calling from God to teach in Africa and after researching special education programs in Africa (or the lack of) I believe he has given me the desire to start a special education program somewhere in Africa. This semester in Kenya is the perfect opportunity to see if this "suburban girl" can survive in Africa, and it will give me time to focus on this desire God has given me. I am SO excited for this semester to begin, and I cannot wait to see how God moves in my life. Please be praying for my safety as we are traveling, Psalm 121. Also, that I would find strength I didn't know I have when I need it and peace as I leave my family and friends for the first extended time ever. Thank you to everyone who has already prayed for this journey of mine and for your support. I love you and can't wait to write my first blog post from KENYA!