How does one dress when traveling through four hemispheres in 24 hours? I left 80-something degrees in Nairobi and arrived to snow falling in Paris. Texas was sunny, and when I arrived in Mississippi at 6pm, I could see my breath in the air. Traveling in December is a little different than June and July, but despite the cold, I made it safe and sound. After two years of perpetual summer, my feet are adjusting to wearing socks again.
The best part of being in America this time is being here with Will and seeing family. Even though it's my first time to Mississippi, it feels like home. Everyone has been great, and I'm learning and experiencing lots of good Southern things - shopping at the Piggly Wiggly, eating chicken and dumplings, and meeting lots and lots and lots of very nice people.
On Monday we're off to Alaska. From Nairobi to Mississippi to Alaska... we're definitely experiencing some cultural changes, but it's all home. A little weird, but still home.
Visiting America is always exciting! And a little bit scary too. For anyone who has lived overseas, you understand what I'm talking about. If you haven't, please don't be offended by these words. Some people have been upset with me because I've felt weird about going to America in the past, but let me try to explain...
I'm going "home" tonight to Mississippi. The funny thing is, I've never been to Mississippi, yet it's considered home because it's America and my husband-to-be is from Mississippi. I'll be "home" in Alaska, but I haven't lived in Alaska in 14 years, and aside from my family, only know one friend who still lives in the ol' home town. For Will and me, Kenya is home right now - it's where we met, where we live, where out friends are. We've never been to America together, but that is "home" also. Home is a very confusing word.
When thinking about going "home" to America, I get excited about seeing everyone, meeting new family face-to-face instead of on a computer screen, eating bagels and cream cheese, seeing Christmas lights on all the houses. These things are very exciting! I'm itching to get on that plane! Been jumping around the house all week. Counting down! I can't wait!
At the same time, I don't fit in America in some ways. I drive on the opposite side of the road now. I hear myriad languages every day. Children beg at my car window while stopped at an intersection. I drive like a maniac and use my car horn more than my turn-signal, which isn't called a turn-signal here - it's an indicator. Kenya changes people. I'm a different person because of Kenya. I view the world differently. I speak differently. Being "on time" means something different to me. I have different experiences that no one back home understands. I am surrounded by people in Kenya who understand all this, but at home people cannot relate (as much as my dear family is trying). That's the scary part of going home - people expecting me to be the same Kimberly, but I'm not. Going from the Third World to America the Beautiful is always a little unsettling. But it's more exciting than unsettling, so AMERICA HERE I COME!
Hope I packed enough clothes... I get cold just looking at this picture!
I debate writing this, but people always tell me they want to know what's going on with me in Kenya, so here is the truth...
TRAPPED describes how I'm feeling lately in Kenya. The walls, the guards, the safety issues... I don't often talk about these things. Mostly, I don't want to scare my dear family or make them nervous about me living here. But the reality of life in Kenya involves being very cautious about safety, and lately it seems to bother me more than it ever has.
There is a lot of crime in Nairobi and across Kenya. Police can't be trusted, as they are very corrupt and blatantly ask for bribes. Car jackings, murders, and kidnappings occur even outside the city. I don't want to describe particular stories, but these safety issues are part of my daily life. Because of these things, I can't drive many places by myself, I don't go anywhere by myself at night, my car doors are constantly locked, I can't go for a walk in our neighborhood alone, and I am constantly aware of what's going on around me when I'm out and about town. I don't even wear my engagement ring because I would never forgive myself if it was stolen. All of these precautions are necessary and good, but I feel like I'm losing my independence.
I used to drive eight hours to another state by myself. People in Portland aren't going to hold me at gun-point while at a stop light. I can listen to my Ipod on neighborhood streets back home and not worry about someone stealing it or stealing me. I miss my freedom these days.
When I get to America in six days, I want to drive by myself to the store just because I can - with the doors unlocked. I want to walk through a neighborhood by myself with my Ipod in my ears. I want to go to someone's house and not wait for their guard to open the gate. I want a little independence again.
(Sorry if this scares some of you. I am safe because Will and I are smart about it and we make good choices. I promise.)
Thanksgiving didn't involve sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie for me this year. I didn't wear a warm sweater and sit by a fire. And I didn't see a single relative. Despite all that, I was with "family", had an amazing feast, and relaxed with my tummy full (in a bikini that is). This year Thanksgiving was spent with my dear friends on the Kenyan coast. A girls' weekend! We laid on the beach, sipped cocktails, ate fresh seafood every day, and worked on our summer tans. (It's summer south of the equator right now.) It was a wonderful time to get some much needed rest with people I love. Couldn't ask for a better weekend! Of course, being at the beach, relaxing in the sun, on Thanksgiving, made me reflect on the last year. These were my Thanksgiving thoughts...
I'm sitting by the pool this morning watching the colobus monkeys swinging from the branches. The sun is peaking through the tree branches and settles on my knees. The next time I experience this will be to get married. And I feel so blessed. This year has been one of the craziest and most difficult of my life and at the same time, the best. I am grateful to God for the hard and the bad that has strengthened and grown me. I'm thankful for the good and the amazing that has also made me stronger and grown me and made me happier and more loved than I have ever been, more than I knew existed on this earth for me. How can God give me so much good in this life? Because He loves me. I don't deserve any of it, but He's the best Daddy in the universe who takes such good care of His daughter. And I am blessed beyond measure by that love.
When people hear that I live on the equator, they assume that it is HOT all the time. Not true. I live on a high plain at about 6,000 feet above sea level. Although I'm just two hours south of the equator, the weather never gets too hot or too cold. Our lows are probably in the 50's and highs in the 90's - perfect weather to thaw out the Alaskan in me. Lately, because of the rains, the weather has been quite cold. (Alaskans, make no comment.) Animals have died from hypothermia, not because it's below freezing, but because they're so weak from the drought that when the rains finally came, their weak bodies couldn't handle the cool air and water.
If you drive 20 minutes out of Nairobi to Limuru (where Will's house is and where my home will be in less than four months!), you rise 2,000 more feet and the weather is even cooler. I'm usually wearing wool socks and sweaters when I'm there at night - no central heating, just cement walls and doors that everyone always leaves open. On the street you'll see people bundled up in winter coats, stocking caps, and gloves. The temperature gets down in the 40's, and you can definitely feel the difference when you're coming from Nairobi. When I tell Kenyan friends that I'm moving to Limuru after I get married, their response is usually, "It's cold there!" I agree!
How does an Alaskan girl, who walked to the bus stop in 30 below with frozen eyelashes, think 40 degrees is cold?! Blood thins. It's all what you're used to I guess. And it makes me a little nervous to head to Alaska in December. Will I be like the weakened African animals and die of hypothermia? Probably not, but my family is sure to see me layered in the three sweaters I currently own. Looking for Christmas present ideas?... Sweaters are at the top of my list!
On recess duty today I saw a lone third grader sitting on a bench, so I went to see how she was doing. When I asked her if she was sad, her response was, "I'm not sad. I got bit by a cheetah, so my leg hurts." She went on to tell me how she was petting a caged cheetah this weekend at a park, and it attacked her. Our conversation was several minutes long about her trip to the hospital and stitches, but my favorite part was when she got a smile on her face and said, "It hurts to sit down because the cheetah bit my butt." The smile, the sentence, the cute French accent... Gotta love teaching in Africa.
The city of Nairobi doesn't have a whole lot to offer in terms of entertainment after a year of the same restaurants. And you can only go to the movies so many times in a month, since the selection is not that great. So we decided to mix it up a little with a night of bowling on Thursday. Just a low-key night out with friends, and I was thinking of my blog fans when I took my camera...
Will and me between rounds.
Friends Adrian (Will's housemate) and Kami (my dearest girlfriend in Kenya).
Will chillin' while Carmen (another housemate of Will's) bowls for a strike.
Kami and me - BFF! :)
It was a great night out with good friends. Next time I blog about bowling, it will be to say I scored over 100! Here's hoping...!
After living in Kenya for over a year, the novelty has worn off. Driving in chaotic traffic, passing donkey pulled carts on the street, and unlimited access to mangoes and avocados has become a normal part of every day life. A trip to the coast is still exciting, but nothing new to blog about. Safari pictures of elephants, lions, and cheetahs have been posted time and time again. The things that were blog-worthy have already been written about, so my blog is slowly losing its appeal. What is new about my view of Africa? It seems like everything here is just normal, filled with the day-to-day to-do list like everyone else: work, friends, family, grocery shopping, and the occasional dinner out on the town.
It's amazing how quickly a foreign place becomes familiar. I feel I've been reaching to find something new to write about and find nothing to grasp. Yet so much in my life has changed this year... I'm getting married. I'm changing jobs. I'm dealing with the joys and the stresses that comes with major life changes. To be honest, I haven't wanted to write about the real-life part of living in Africa, the part that isn't much different from living in America, the part that is very personal.
My view of Africa these days... It's real life like anywhere else.
Last night it began raining in Nairobi, and it didn't stop. We got a whole day of rain! Good rain. The kind that pours off the edges of the roof outside and leaks through the ceiling of Will's house. The kind that forms puddles that don't dry up right away. It was a good day in Nairobi. A wet day, bringing hope that maybe Kenya won't be in drought forever.
It was a regular day at school, as I walked to get my lunch. As usual, I stood in line with the kids to get my deli sandwich overflowing with veggies. The lunch lady, who has my order memorized by now, put a plate on top of my lunch and handed it to me. She always gives me two plates, so I can cover my lunch with one to protect it from the kites (one of the many types of birds that hang around Rosslyn campus). On many occasions these pesky birds have been known to swoop down and take apples, sandwiches, and any other food they can grab right out of a child's hand. This particular day, I was the victim. While walking from the lunch line to the teacher's lounge, a kite swooped down out of nowhere and tried to get my plate-covered lunch! Luckily, my lunch was protected and spared from the kite's talons. But my hand was not! A little blood and a pounding heart were the only results, however. I guess living in Africa has to entail a little danger now and then.
I know I've been a horrible blogger. I'm so sorry. As most of you know, I've been a bit distracted lately. Something about a handsome man I know... :) So as I sit on the computer tonight, I thought I'd just give a random update on life in Kenya. This is not a usual blog post - no subject or point and unfortunately, no pictures. Just want to say I'm still here and I haven't forgotten my blog fans.
The Water Crisis... It is so dry here! Crazy dry! All the Masai men are bringing their cows into town because there is no grass in the valley for them to graze on. The other day on the way to church we got in a jam - a cow jam. No other cars were around, just a herd of cows we couldn't get past. They were so skinny with their ribs sticking out. The water crisis is hitting Rosslyn campus as well. There is no more city water coming our way and the big borehole is empty. We have a little water left in the smaller borehole on campus, but once that runs out, we're out of water. What does that mean? No showers, no drinking water, no flushing toilets. Possibly they might have to close down the school if we can't buy water to fill the tanks. We'll see. Please pray for rain in Kenya. My lush part of Kenya is turning into a dry and yellow landscape. We need rain!
My class... Loving them! I have a great group of kids this year that I am thoroughly enjoying. It was a tough start to the year for me because I was pretty worn out from a busy, traveling summer. But this class has helped me get back in my teaching groove, and I'm loving it. We're back to singing about nouns and dancing to multiplication hip-hop. I still love this job!
I'll add more updates later. Sorry for being a lame blogger lately. Love you all!
In North America you have "snow days" - days when you unexpectedly don't have school. In Kenya we don't have snow, but we have random national holidays that are determined the day before. Last week, Tuesday was declared "Census Day" and everyone in Kenya got excused from work. We found this out on Monday, when the government declared that they needed more than four hours on Monday night to go from door to door throughout Kenya to count people. So Tuesday, as we sat at home because almost every place was closed down for this national holiday, the census people came by with their notepad, asked us questions (including "Have you ever had an abortion?"!), and marked the door with chalk to show that they'd come by our house. The funniest part was that I didn't even count as a resident of my house because I spent the night at a friend's house the night before. Census Day... Obama Day... I'll take all these holidays anytime! :)
Another random note... The other day at work I got an email stating that "the school fields are being sprayed with diesel, so be aware." Why diesel? To get rid of termites, which burrow into the ground. Think that solution would work in America? I think not, especially being sprayed during the school day with kids about. You gotta love Kenya... no OSHA!
There are things I always like about the start of school... The rows of school supplies that fill the stores. The warm days of summer still lingering. The fresh smell of new textbooks and curriculum. Unfortunately, none of these things start the school year in Kenya. School supplies in Nairobi are mostly found at one store. The warm days of summer don't come till October, and believe it or not it's COLD! And our textbooks and curriculum are on a sea-faring container somewhere on the Kenyan coast waiting to get through customs. However, some things always remain the same about the start of school and remind me why I am a teacher.
My 18 students arrived two weeks ago with eager, smiling faces. Some were a little nervous, others excited to be the "top dogs" of the elementary school. My students come from seven countries: Madagascar, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, U.S., Canada, Ethiopia, and Korea. They speak six different native languages and have lived in more places than I can name. We're off to a great start in my new huge classroom! This is the biggest classroom I've ever taught in. It's amazing. I even got to paint a couple walls red for a homey-feel. We're in the middle of place-value to the billions, editing our own work, and researching Native Americans. So far this year is looking like another great one!
I've been back in Kenya for less than a week, and the constant talk around campus is the WATER CRISIS. The rains in Kenya have been very small. In some parts of the country there has been no rain for several years. The last year that I've been in Kenya, we have suffered from drought on occasion, I've been without water for several days at my house, and I have known people whose crops failed because of drought. My school, however, has not been without water during these times because they have an extra borehole which provides water when the city water is no longer available. This may not be the case for long though. At teacher inservice this week, my superintendent expressed great concern that our school may run out of water because our water sources are almost empty and no rain is in sight. If we run out of water, we have to close the school. Please pray that rain comes to Kenya, that our campus water holes will be filled, and that Rosslyn staff would be creative at ways to conserve water. While we wait for the rains, one of our current campus mottos is: If it's yellow, let it mellow. If it's brown, let it drown. Family and friends who I stayed with this summer... now you know why I didn't always flush the toilet. Habit! Thank you for your prayers.
After two months of traveling across America, I made it back to Kenya safe and sound. It was a crazy summer in the States, but a fun-filled one. I've been horrible about blogging it all the last month, which I'm sorry for. I'll make it all up soon. Now it's back to the normal routine of things, which I must admit I'm grateful for. Traveling non-stop and moving to a new place every two to four days was a bit exhausting for me, but totally worth it. Thank you family and friends for a wonderful summer. You blessed me lots! I don't think you can know all the ways you have been a support to me this summer. Sleeping in my own bed again and seeing people I love in Kenya is refreshing and strange. Refreshing because I can just sit and do nothing and be in my own neck of the woods again. Strange because it feels so normal. Kenya is home. However, Oregon is home. Alaska is home. I have many homes. I guess I'm realizing that home is where the people I love are.
When I'm not in Alaska, the thing I miss most is always family. So it's no surprise that the thing that the thing I've enjoyed most is hanging out with family again. For the first time in several years, all my mom's kids (and now grandkid too) were together. Fishing was first on the agenda, which was successful as usual, but I only got one 20-pounder. My 50 pound goal has yet to be achieved.Ya, that's me in all those clothes on a hot Alaskan summer day. :)
We went camping and did a little tubing on the lake. Actually I didn't brave the 43 degree water on a 53 degree day. No thanks! But my sister and niece did. (No wetsuits - just swimming suits.) Crazy girls! I will admit that some of the Alaskan has left me after all that Kenyan sun. We tugged the inner-tube with the fishing boat. Fishing boats can be used for all purposes!
Seeing "adopted" family has been a great joy as well. My best friends, Micah and Marla, whom I haven't seen in two years, visited with their two sweet daughters.Marla and I, true Alaskan girls, wanted to enjoy a dip in the cold lake.
However, living in Brazil and Kenya has thinned our blood, so we took precautions... survival suits!
We got quite a laugh out of our astronaut-like gear, but had a good swim even though we couldn't sunbathe.
My dear family, I love you very much. Thank you for being a support to me always. I have been very blessed by this visit, more than I can express.
The best part of arriving in Alaska this week was meeting new family members.
My nephew Eli...Aunt Kimberly and Eli took a nap.
And my niece Bella...
It is good to be home with family and to be back in Alaska. It's always interesting to be back here because I'm reminded of what used to be "normal" for me that isn't so normal anymore. One "Alaska" moment today was going to lunch at the Stop-and-Go Cafe where we ate lunch surrounded by videos for rent. We got to eat and decide on what movies we want to rent to take home. What other place can you eat a meal in a video store? I love Alaska!
I have been back in America less than a week. It has been an onslaught of emotions... exciting, nerve-racking, fun, and sad. I will admit that I threw up from anxiety after getting off the plane. Didn't expect THAT! But my body reacted that way. After a few days I'm no longer anxious, feeling like my old self, and enjoying good company, food, and sights. Today John and Erin took me on an Oregon hike, like the good ol' days. The view is a lot different than the views I've experienced in the last year.
And some views were not so different...The crew in Oregon
The crew in Kenya
I did catch myself looking for gazelle and zebra when we passed a grassy, yellow field, but realized I was in the wrong place for that.
Instead, I saw the blue-green hills of the coastal range and beautiful flowers.
I am glad to be back in the States, but must admit that I'm realizing so much about myself and my heart with this visit. Transition is always a bit difficult, and I have spent the last few days processing many thoughts and feelings. I'm learning that it's time to close some doors in the U.S. and solidify others, time to take my whole heart to Kenya and not leave pieces of it behind, time to say good-bye to an old life I was hanging onto for the last year. (I've been reading Ecclesiastes lately. :) I really feel like God is giving me this summer to figure a lot of things out, which most of you would think I figured out when I left here a year ago. I'm obviously a slow learner - it's taken me a year to realize that the U.S. is no longer home. So here I am with an opportunity to love on all my family and friends and looking forward to seeing each of you!