Thursday, December 9, 2010

December in Kenya

This is what the month of December has held for us...

New flowers blooming on our patio.
We cooked chili and cornbread,
But we added 2 tbsp of Kenyan chili powder, instead of American chili powder, so the chili was HOT! Next time remember, Kenyan chili powder is a LOT hotter than the recipes call for.
Made tortillas for tacos. Can't wait to eat Mexican food in America! Can't wait to buy tortillas at the store!
This is the extent of our Christmas decor at home - cards. Will took the Christmas tree to the Children's Center, since we won't be home to use it, and they loved decorating it! They should keep it anyway. More people to enjoy it there, than in our little flat.
One of my students made me a birthday cake, so I celebrated with my class and received beautiful hand-made cards throughout the day.
We had Roman Day at school, after studying Ancient Rome all term. The day included some military battles, a big Roman feast, and going to the "Roman baths".
While the boys swam in the "Roman baths" (swimming pool), the girls relaxed and chatted away. Sarah, my co-worker, and I got the girls to give us massages. Great way to spend a school day! I'm an advocate of child labor. :)
The rest of our December will be spent in the wintery cold of America hugging and hanging with family and friends. I can't wait! This girl needs some much needed rest and a bit of a break from Kenyan chaos (even with the year 4 masseuses).

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Christmas Pool Party

Last weekend we met the kids from Limuru Children's Center at the home of our friends, Joe and Linda. Everyone enjoyed the pool party, BBQ, and Christmas gifts. Most of the kids from the Center have gone home to their villages to be with their extended family for the holidays. Those who remain at the Center got to enjoy this fun day. The best part for me was getting to hang out with the kids. I don't get to do that much these days, since we live in the city, far from the beautiful tea fields of Limuru. How could you not smile at these kids?...

Singing Christmas Carols.
Kind of funny to listen to Kenyan kids singing, "Dashing through the snow..."
Will's favorite little girl, Jane.
Eating sausages, a rare treat!
Pool party!
Daddy Will taking care of his kiddos...
Smiling girls.
Getting dry and cozy after a good swim.
I wouldn't have wanted to be the dorm parent that night who had to deal with the noise makers and sugar highs that followed! Merry Christmas from Kenya!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Happenings in flat 17...

Here is a little bit of our life in the "Braeburn Slum", as one of my students sincerely called our lovely home last week.

This is our street from our living-room window.
This is a calm moment on Saturday afternoon. Sometimes our little muddy road turns into four lanes all going one way. Can you imagine four of those trucks across the road? Yep! It happens. Traffic jams are frequent around here, and there is no rhyme or reason to when they occur. Will actually admitted the other day that sometimes he likes watching the chaos outside our flat. When he has to drive in it, he's not so entertained, especially when we're watching out the window to see if we can even drive out the gate. Sometimes it is literally impossible, but when it's clear, you'll hear me yell, "It's all clear. Let's go!"

This is our back patio.
When we arrived at our little flat, there were four pots sitting in the living-room with dying twigs sticking through the soil. I moved them to the porch, cut all the dead leaves off, and watered them. Now we have this!...
You really don't need a green thumb to garden in Kenya. You stick some seeds in the ground, add a little water, and beautiful things just pop up. Our next attempt will be these...
We'll see how well the Kenyan soil does. (It definitely won't be successful because of my green thumb.)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Head Above Water!

This week I've not been doing work at home. I've gotten more marking done at school. Worksheets created the day before instead of the day of. I'm no longer just surviving. Feels good. Thanks for all the good thoughts and prayers!

Monday, November 1, 2010


My British co-workers love to have fun. Going out for drinks or chatting away in the classroom are often more important to them than getting a maths assignment marked or staying late to finish lesson plans. Despite this pleasure-over-work attitude, they seem to get everything done anyway. Their lessons are still amazing. The kids still learn. And they are still good teachers. I say all of this because I have been very overwhelmed with work lately, expecting the busyness that always starts a school year to die down a bit. But it hasn't. It just seems to get busier. So I look at my co-workers and think, what can I learn from them? What can I let go of at work, so I don't go insane? My present goal: Let some things go at work, so I can be a better wife and friend to the people who matter most to me. Thank you my Brit friends for being a great example. Us Americans definitely struggle with workaholism.
Bottom line: Working too much is going to kill me, so I'm stopping now!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Check it out!

Limuru Children's Center was featured on a BBC special. You can see Will's kids, his Kenyan brother Patrick, and even Will in the background here and there. Check out these kids we love!

After vacation...

I got off the plane today in Nairobi after a wonderful week at the beach... The savannah greeted me with acacia trees lining the horizon. The glorious and much needed rain was still puddled on the side of the road. Even traffic was smooth (yea for Sundays). And it all reminded me of when I first came here and everything I saw was exciting and new and African. I was reminded of this at the beach as well while driving to our cottage, passing huts and fruit stands and women with bundles on their heads. I think after two and a half years of living here, I forget how cool some things in Kenya can be. When I get off our chaotic and annoying street in the city, Kenya is a beautiful place. In Limuru we have friends and family that we are invested in.
At the beach we are spoiled with the white sand and warm Indian Ocean.
In Nairobi we have friends who we can share our lives with.
Despite my frustrations this year with Kenya and the hard things that have come our way in the last year, Kenya has given me so many good things. And I'm grateful for it all!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Our Dear Doris

Living in the city this year has made me miss our old home in the Kenyan country-side. I miss the fresh air, the beautiful scenery, and most of all our friends and "family" there. Lately, Doris has been in my thoughts a lot.
Doris works at the volunteer house where we used to live in Limuru. She takes care of everyone who comes in and out of the house. She teases Will all the time. She makes the best lintils, chapati, and mokimo ever! She has the best smile. And she is one of the sweetest ladies you'll ever meet. I miss seeing her each day and getting the update on her two sweet girls. I miss helping her fold sheets. I miss her smile and the way she says, "Hiii Kim," and gives me a hug. I think it's time to get back to Limuru!

If you think of Doris... Pray for her as she raises her two girls, pays for their school fees, and supports her family. Pray she will be blessed by friends and family and work. Pray she will be encouraged in the upcoming days.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The people we meet...

One of the fun things about living in Kenya is the opportunity to hang out with people we otherwise would never get the chance to meet. Like Joe and Linda. They are from the UK originally. Linda serves on the board for the children's center, and Joe has lived in Kenya forever. His kids grew up here and his daughter even went to Braeburn School (where I work). They built a beautiful home near my old school and have had the kids from the center over for BBQ's and swimming parties. They're super generous people who are very down-to-earth. Will got close to them through the children's center, and I started tagging along when we got married.

On Thursday night they invited us to their country club - a 100 year old colonial club that still boasts the "men's bar" where cigar smoke and testosterone are pungent. Stuffed lions killed in 1914 still decorate the interior, and of course, proper dress is required. Dinner, drinks, and old colonial British experience made for an interesting night. And it made me think... We would never have this experience living in America. Our white skin and small international community provide us with some unique experiences in Kenya. I like the people we meet living here. Always interesting.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

My Story

I'm near the end of Donald Miller's book "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years", and it's got me thinking... What kind of story do I want my life to be? The premise of the book is Don's journey to find what he wants his life story to entail, like the stories of movies and books, full of adventure. For those of you who don't know Donald Miller, he's a Generation X-er from Portland, Oregon. So his perspective about life strikes me easily.
I've been thinking of this lately... I've had an exciting couple of years. Moved to Africa. Got married. Working at a British school. Four houses in two years. Change, after change, after change. But recently I've felt like I'm doing nothing beneficial to others, nothing that makes my story special or special to others. I spend my days working (a lot!) with spoiled kids who argue about stupid things while on the other side of the school wall kids are starving in the slum. I come home, we make dinner, I work some more grading papers or planning lessons, I go to sleep, and wake up to do it all again. In between I sometimes hang out with friends, white friends from Western countries and a few African ones. What am I really doing to help others, to create a story that is worth telling, that is worth sharing with the world?

So now I'm trying to think... What would make my story worth telling? I know I want it to be a story where other people are helped, became happier, and feel loved. What does that entail? I don't know. Still asking God to show me a good story.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The truth about my life in Kenya...

An American friend called me this week crying, "I'm having an I-hate-Kenya-day and I just need someone to vent to!" All foreigners have these kinds of days in Kenya, and for some of us they are becoming more frequent. We get frustrated at the stupid drivers, the inefficiency of everything, the beggars who come to our car windows, the thieves who car-jack or kidnap or steel your side mirror as you're sitting in traffic. We don't talk about these things to people back home because people back home will worry or don't understand or will ask us why we just don't go back to America. The truth is, we like the adventure of living overseas. All the good things outweigh the frustrating moments.

I look at Americans I know in Kenya who have been living here for 20 years and love working in Kenyan. Going back to America is something they'll have to do one day, but it's not an exciting thing. I feel like living in America, for me, is not very exciting either, but I don't think I'm one of those people who will want to live in Kenya forever. I'm one of those people whose "I-hate-Kenya-days" are becoming more frequent, and I don't know if the rose-colored glasses of my first year here will ever return. I definitely have a lot of wonderful moments where Kenya is the only place I want to be... the beach, being at the children's center, hanging out with my British co-workers, chillin' with friends, hopping a plane down to Tanzania or over to Uganda. But I also feel like Kenya is turning me into a cynical person.

A couple weeks ago I struck up a conversation with a recent college graduate from America who had a grant to travel the world studying democratic governments. He was a very smart guy from a prestigious school, and he proceeded to tell me how things SHOULD be working in Kenya and Africa, if only they would do this or that. I added that "Kenya will never work well because the government is corrupt and only think of their pocketbooks, a secondary education only gets Kenyans a working-class job as a gardner or houseworker so what is the point, and you can only help one or two people really, you'll never fix the big picture here. It's impossible." His idealism went against everything I said and he thought I was very wrong to say all of this, but after living here over two years, this is the reality I see. Kenya makes even the most optimistic person, cynical. I could go on and on why Kenya will never be "fixed" according to Western standards, and I hate how the reality of life here has taken my optimism and buried it deep within me where I don't see it for many days, sometimes weeks. This is the reality of life in Kenya. This is why my days are numbered in this country. Because some day soon I would like to be an optimistic person again.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Best Husband Award Goes To...

Mine! At midnight as I was doubled over with abdominal pain, my dear husband rushed me to the hospital. He got mad at the slow Kenyan emergency room doctors and nurses. He ran around paying a bill for the IV, then a bill for the shot in my butt, then a bill for this, and a bill for that. He ran my pee and blood to the lab. He sat and held me as I cried and as I slept. He got me a load of medical prescriptions. And he got me home in bed feeling much better by 3 am.

Another experience at the Kenyan emergency room found me with a UT infection. Nothing a lot of antibiotics and $120 can't fix. But once again we were reminded how much we hate how Kenya works sometimes. From our western mind-set, we want the emergency room to move quickly. When someone is in obvious pain, we hope that doctors would rush to figure it out. Instead, some worker takes your blood pressure and weight and height, even if half your face is ripped off. Kenya has a lot of good things, but moving quickly is never one of them. It's moments like this I have to keep visions of the things I love about Kenya in my mind and remember that all places, even home, have their down-sides. Missing American efficiency today and looking forward to the Kenyan beach in three weeks!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

British vs. American

As an American who is now teaching at a British school, this is my comparison of the two systems and cultures...

The Brits love to socialize, and it's considered more important to go out for drinks than to work oneself to death.

Americans value working hard above hanging out with co-workers. They even have a name for it, "workaholic".

The British school system is very structured, with the "time table" (schedule) given to teachers.

The American system gives teachers a lot of responsibility and they create their own schedules in the classroom (for the most part).

The UK has a national curriculum.

The US has state curriculum.

The UK and US systems do a lot of testing these days!

The British system has more checks and balances for their teachers, putting more responsibility on the school rather than the teacher.

The American system is trying to have more checks and balances (No Child Left Behind), but haven't figured out how to balance responsibility yet. (Opinion of course.)

British teachers spell "artefact" and "colour".

American teachers spell "artifact" and "color".

British teachers in Kenya have a drink on campus.

American teachers have to wait until happy hour.

The Brits have lots of holidays. Long holiday breaks.

The Americans don't know how to take a break, and most of them think there is too much vacation for schools. Learn to take a break!

British people travel to other countries.

Americans travel to other states.

British and American teachers are good at practicing patience every day!

This is all a matter of opinion, but it's mine. :)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Our Flat

Here is where we live now... It's a small flat across from the school I'm working at in the middle of Nairobi. We are on the third floor and can see the neighboring slum from our window, the busy street outside our gate, the school, and who is coming and going from the compound. It's small and much different from the community house we lived in amongst tea fields, but we're filling it with our stuff and having lots of friends visit. So it's beginning to feel like home.

You can see all the pots we own in the dish drainer because we have to boil our water for drinking. A water filter didn't come with the apartment, so we're getting our clean water the free way.
Living Room.

Will saying, "What are you doing?"

Our Guest Room.
It's small but welcome to any visitors who want to venture this way. We've already enjoyed putting it to use!

It came with a hideous floral shower curtain. There aren't a lot of options for home decor in Nairobi. We've picked out a new one at Target, but have to wait for someone coming from America. No Target here! :)

Master Suite.
For awhile our bed was simply a mattress on the floor until one day I came home from school and my wonderful husband had bought this beautiful bed from a carpenter on the side of the road. Picking up end-tables this week!
We still need some pictures on the walls and new photos in the picture frames, but overall I think we're doing well for three weeks into living in our Kenyan flat. Family and friends are welcome any time!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Our Europe Pics!

These are some of our pictures of Europe and a few stories from our travels. In no particular order....

Munich, Germany's town hall looked like a gothic building like the Hunchback would live in.
Prague Castle... I want to live here!

The hills are alive with the sound of music... la, la, la, la. This is where the movie was filmed in Salzburg, Austria.

Bled Castle in Slovenia overlooks a lake. It poured rain the entire day we were there, but we still hiked up to the castle.

Here you can see the destruction of the 1990's war in Croatia. Bullet holes in buildings and rubble still remained in parts of every city we visited in Croatia.

This was our room in Kotor, Montenegro. We stayed in an extra room of a lady's house. We LOVED the mouse carpet and pink striped sheets.

Meteora, Greece was one of our FAVORITE places we went. Great hiking, history, views, and monasteries.

Athens, Greece... Just like you picture Ancient Greece.

Santorini, Greece was a beautiful island. Picturesque Greece to the max!

Vatican City has the most beautiful churches I've ever visited. Also saw a lot of graves of past popes.

Will was a great navigator through all of Europe. He is a mad man with the map!

Pisa... The tower really does lean, but besides that, there is nothing to see in this college town. Was kind of like Newberg with some older buildings.

Cinque Terre, Italy was a great place to explore and wonderful swimming holes, which we greatly enjoyed on the HOT HOT day we were there.

Lichtenstein Castle where the King of Lichtenstein still lives and rules.

In the Alps of Switzerland. So beautiful!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Alive and Well

For the family and friends who read this, I just wanted you to know that we're well and trying to get our lives in order again in Kenya. We arrived in Nairobi on a Monday afternoon, started work on Tuesday, moved to our new flat in town on Tuesday as well, and tried to see friends sometime in between. It's been hectic and will continue to be for a while as we adjust to a new living situation and my new job and our new friends and still doing all the old stuff. The point of this post is to say... We just got internet hooked up and we'll try and catch up with you as soon as possible. I'll update you with more pictures from Europe and our new place. Until I get my act together, we love you and can't wait to catch up. You can also call our Vonage phone number during our evenings (11 hours ahead of AK, 10 hours ahead of OR/CA, and 8 hours ahead of MS).

Love you and talk soon I hope!

Monday, August 30, 2010


I liked Germany for its history, modern and old architecture, everyone stays out late and things stay open late, and beer (yep, I actually liked it).

Berlin (2 Days)
Went on a walking tour of Berlin, focusing mainly on post WW2 and the Berlin Wall... Fascinating! I want to go back for more tours. Loved seeing all the modern architecture and what they've built down town where the wall once stood - almost like going into the future. Stayed at a really cool hostel, the Grand Hostel Berlin. Not as cool as Mosaic House, but definitely the second best place we staying on the trip.

Bamberg (1 Day)
BEER. That's the reason we visited this quaint German town. They have 10 breweries in the town limits and Will's favorite beer - rauchbier (smoke beer) which they brew especially in one brewery in this small town. We spent our time hitting four breweries and walking around the old town in-between each. And I drank a beer at every brewery with Will. We'll be working off our beer bellies from now until Christmas.

Munich (2 Days)
Visited the first, oldest, and longest used German concentration camp, Dacau, just outside Munich. It was very dreary and rainy that day, which made the place all the more somber. Ninety-nine percent of German leaders were trained at Dacau and prisoners of all backgrounds were sent there - Jews, Roma (gypsies), homosexuals, anyone against the Nazis. Aside from this difficult tour, we met up with an old friend of Will's from childhood and did some last minute shopping before getting on the train to the airport.

(Pictures are coming soon...)

Friday, August 27, 2010

What you need to know about...


If you're headed to Prague any time ever, whether you're 19 and wanting the cool hostel experience or 90 and needing a quiet night's sleep, the place to stay is Mosaic House. Best place we stayed in all of Europe! Honestly! Check it out online. Just click on MOSAIC HOUSE.

Tell them Will Porter sent you. His friends run the place.