Monday, November 30, 2009

new things . . .

There are LOTS of new things in our life since we arrived in Kenya. Some are wonderful, some I'm not too sure about. One of the things that has lots of newness involved is food! Everyone is always curious about what we eat so I thought I'd fill you in on that. Above are some samoosas (the triangle that is filled with meat, cabbage and carrots) and spring rolls which are kind of a cross between what we call a spring roll and an egg roll. They are filled with lots of carrots and cabbage. They are delicious! I have a lady that makes them for us and we can throw them into the freezer and pull them out quickly and heat them up for lunch. It is almost our only option for a "fast food" meal.

Cooking is all from scratch which takes a bit more planning and time but overall it hasn't been too bad. I took some serious heat for never have made biscuits before since I'm from the South but I have to admit most of the biscuits I consumed came from Chickfila or Cracker Barrel! I haven't actually made biscuits yet since baking is a bit tricky at this altitude (7500ft) but I have made homemade banana and zucchini bread in addition to a special high altitude chocolate chip cookie recipie that turned out well. Otherwise I have made things like vegetable beef soup, chicken soup, potato soup (do you see a trend?), chicken and rice, zucchini/chicken/rice and (hold on to your seats) chicken enchiladas. What are enchiladas without chips and salsa? Well I decided to make those too. I cut up some tortillas (that are made freshly around here and are plentiful), fried them, added a little salt and voila . . . chips! I chopped up some tomatoes, red onion added a salsa seasoning packet that I brought from the U.S. and we were in business. The kids loved them. I thought they were OK. They will quench my Mexican cravings which are sure to come! Luckily I can find enchilada sauce in Nairobi so the enchiladas were easy!

We've actually had very little "Kenyan" food since we've been here. But we are managing in the kitchen pretty well. Rhett comes home for lunch each day so I have to plan to have lunch and dinner each day which is a change. I'm used to just grabbing something simple but I have to come up with something that has a bit more substance for him. We do a lot of soup for lunch and I throw in a samoosa for him. The same lady that makes the samoosas makes pizza crusts so I can make a pizza pretty quickly for lunch too.

Another new thing around our home is chai. Chai (tea) is a staple of the Kenyan culture and I've grown to really appreciate it. At 10am sharp everyone is Kenya stops what they are doing, takes a break and enjoys a cup of chai. It is not the Indian spicy tea we call "chai" in the U.S. It is a black tea that they mix with a lot of milk and sugar. This mid morning break is really nice unless you are a doctor trying to do something emergently in the hospital and everyone is at chai. I've heard this can be a big frustration for expat physicians trying to practice here. Emergency C-section? But it is chai. Stat Lab? But it is chai. You can see how this cultural difference would be difficult to understand. For me at home it is so nice - Claire even drinks it and looks forward to it each day.

This may put yard work in perspective for you! This is how our grass gets cut! This guy just took this big machete and started hacking. He was coming really clost all of his limbs which made me nervous but he didn't seem to notice too much. He picked up all of the clipping and bagged them and carried them off.

Here is a shot of those chips and salsa! Claire has asked that we have them at her princess birthday party in addition to pizza and pink cup cakes!

Not to be forgotten . . . sweet little Gus. Don't be fooled. He won't eat anything. What every I can manage to squeeze into his mouth gets "raspberried" right back at me. Sometimes I can get him to take some banana or avacado off my finger but he is not having a spoon anywhere near him unless it is in his hand. Sigh. I think this may be a sign of his independent spirit that we will see more of in the future. The rule-breaker himself.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

So much to say

I've been holding off on a post for a while now. Where do I even start? The past two weeks have been pretty intense on several different levels. I struggle with how transparent I should be on this blog. I've heard so many words from many of you like "inspire", "encourage", "amazed" and I find it hard to stand up now and say that it has been a struggle for me these past couple weeks. But I want to keep it real and remind myself and you that I am just an ordinary girl empowered by an extraordinary God who loves me.

It isn't that I don't like it here - I really do. I have just been missing my old home. I know that sounds incredibly immature and whiny. Homesickness is for sissies! But, unfortunately, it is true for me. I was thinking about what it would have been like if we had just moved to a new city - even a far off one with a different culture within the U.S. I could think of so many different ways it would be possible to meet new people (join a church, the Y, bible study), get the kids involved in preschool etc. It would be really tough at first to find a niche but eventually I could find like-minded people to share my life with. Here is not really too different from that scenario - I'll eventually find people I click with and have things in common with here - it is a big place with lots of opportunities to know people and get involved. It was really everything ELSE that is different that really threw me for a loop that would have been the same if we had just simply moved in the U.S.

There are very few things in my life that are the same as they were 3 weeks ago. I can think only of my husband/kids, some clothes and my sheets. My shampoo is different, I don't have my car anymore, my internet is totally different, everything I put in my mouth or cook is different. I guess this is just a part of culture shock but man it was tough. I was on the verge of tears until about three days ago with frequent spill overs.

I don't doubt the decision to leave everything behind and come here. I know it is where God has us for this season of life and ministry and I know that it is a good thing to leave "home" and stretch my boundaries. It kind of took me by surprise, really, and I felt like one of those weak sissies I mentioned before. I guess I just think about my "old" life and, man, I loved it. We lived in a wonderful city with an amazing church family, pastor and small group. I was in a wonderful bible study group with women who loved and encouraged me. My children were in the most wonderful first school experience I could imagine. We were close to our family. I loved my house, my car and all the opportunities we had there.

When I think about what I miss most my mind zips back to something that I did every single day . . . driving in the car with my kids. Nothing special there but I miss it so much. We had our favorite CDs we sang in the car together (the Annie soundtrack was one of the best!) and we looked for yellow cars and garbage trucks and got excited when we found them. We zipped through the drive thru at Chickfila (or Cluck-Cluck as Ford called it) and I got a large sweet tea and the kids got apple juice and we just went about our day running a few errands . . . Publix, ballet, car pool for preschool. It was just the normal part of my life that I really loved and really miss here.

Claire asked me the other day "Mommy, where is the McWane [children's science museum] in Kenya?". I thought she would melt into a puddle on the floor when I told her there wasn't a McWane Center here. She was trying to hide her disappointment but couldn't quite manange. I wanted to cry with her. I promised her we would go back to the McWane Center one day and she seemed pretty OK with that. She asked me if we could get on an airplane and go back to Ama and Pa Pa's house. I told here we would definitely do that one day but for now we were going to be living in Kenya. She seems to be having lightbulb moments where she realizes that people and things she loves are far away. I've tried to be strong for her but I also wanted her to know that it is OK to be sad and miss things "back in Alabama". I ask her how her heart is feeling and she is being honest when she has some sadness in her heart and we talk about it and pray about it. I'm thankful she is willing to share her emotions and fears with us.

OK, so that was my pity party. I'm feeling much better the past few days. On Saturday we left Kijabe for a fun family day trip and it helped me clear my head. I prayed and just told God how I was feeling and laid all of my sadness at his feet. I am depending on Him for my happiness not the comforts, convenience and happiness of my day to day life. I am so thankful for the opportunity to be here. I know our lives and hearts are going to be transformed by the experiences we have. We are starting to feel more settled and I am s-l-o-w-l-y figuring out how to live here. Make no mistake - I'm hardly roughing it. Yes, it is Africa, but I live in a lovely new apartment with hot water, oven and refrigerator. I visited the library at RVA this morning and checked out library books for the kids. This afternoon Claire went to ballet class with some other little girls on the station. Even though it requires us hiring a driver for the day ($$) I can get to a big city and find almost anything I need (except chocolate chips:) if I am willing to pay a premium price for it. I am surrounded by an amazing landscape and very friendly Kenyan people. Rhett is starting to dive into his "new life" at the hospital where he has so many opportunities to help relieve people's suffering and share Christ with them. I am reminded several times a day of the reality of many of the people here and it keeps Christ at the forefront of my heart and mind.

I have been so encouraged by a handful of people who have come up to me and said "I remember what it was like when we first got her . . . it was so overwhelming". Just that validation of I'm not the only one who feels overwhelmed is so encouraging. When someone takes the time to say "I've been there and I understand . . . it was tough" it is humbling and I appreciate it so much. I want to always remember this feeling and use it to encourage and connect with people in the future. Because after a while I think a lot of people forget what this adjustment time is like . . .

I have had some really nice moments since I've been here. I think I'll finish with one of them so this whole post isn't such a downer. Our first Sunday here at Kijabe we went to church at RVA (Rift Valley Academy). It was Baptism Sunday and 3 students were being baptized that day. We gathered on a hillside under huge old trees surrouding the baptismal pool. We sang songs and one by one each young person had the opportunity to share their story of how they came to know and follow Jesus. They had people who were special to them read scripture and pray for them. Then someone special to their spiritual journey baptized them and we sang a song of celebration for each of them that they picked for just that occassion. It was wonderful. I will look forward to Baptism Sunday each term!

So for now I have to dig in and carefully hold all of those sweet memories of my former life close to my heart - but not too close. I have to look around a find wonderful new ways to live and share my life with others around me. Please continue to pray for us as we adjust to our life here and Rhett starts to work . . . it is going to be challenging but wonderful for all of us.

Monday, November 16, 2009

From Nairobi to Kijabe

We were anxious for our driver to meet us and pack up to head out to Kijabe. Honestly we were a little nervous too. We took in all of the sights on the 45 minute drive and wondered what we would find when we got there!

Here we are - finally at our new home! This is our first look when we arrived . . .

This is the view from our front steps. The Kijabe Guest House is the building you see and in the back ground is the valley on a cloudy day.

This is half of the "sitaplex" (sita means six in kiswahili). Ours is the bottom apartment.

Here is where all the culinary magic happens. The kitchen is actually huge and very nice. Cooking a big challenge for me here. Everything is from scratch which is new to me. There is no last minute meal planning or running out to grab a bit to eat in a pinch. The stove is gas and I light it with a match every time I use it. We ran out of matches this morning and Rhett had to walk to the store to get some more so we could finish making pancakes!

This is what you see when you walk in our front door. The pictures don't do it justice really. It is really nice and very comfortable. We did take down some of the African decor that donned every wall and made it feel a bit more like home for us - a nice refuge for our family.

This is our living room which I love. I kept the elephant because I kind of like him!

This is the dining area where we spend a lot of time. The kids' toys are stored in those cabinets so they play in here a lot too. That will be our source of heat in the months to come when it cools off quite a bit at night. We are looking into having some sort of barricade made to keep little people away from the broiler in the middle of the room - "no touch" won't really cut it for this one.

After many years of our little pink bathroom this bathroom is spacious and so nice! The hot water heater is set at about 211 degrees F with no option to change it so we have started shutting it off at times and being really cautious when we use the water.

This is Claire and Ford's room. We imported the bedspreads but we will just ignore the curtains! We really need heavy curtains on the windows because the wind blows really hard at night. Really hard. About 6pm every night it starts to kick up and it howls all night long. Claire said she couldn't sleep the first few night because the wind was keeping her up! The cool wind comes in through the windows and makes it a bit drafty.

This is my pantry. Do you see anything interesting? How about the sacks of flour? I had the same sack of flour for 5 years in Birmingham. Apparently I will use quite a bit more here since I'll be baking so much more. Do you see the Kimbo? That is shortening. I've never bought shortening in my life much less used it. I'm not exactly sure what to do with it but I was told to buy some so now I have about 2 kilos worth just in case I figure out what to do with it. Do you see our milk . . . in boxes? We decided to start out this route. Many people here have fresh milk delivered from the cow each day. We haven't looked into that because it would mean pasteurizing it and we really don't drink that much milk even with the kids. Maybe once Gus is weaned we will switch. Freshly baked English muffins bought at the market, brown eggs . . . in a bag (not in the refrigerator). Not pictured is my three tiered fruit and veggie stand where all the good stuff is stored.

Out exploring the first day . . .

The fresh market where I go to buy all of our fresh fruit and veggies from the "Vegetable Ladies". The freshest days are on Tuesday and Saturday - if you get there early you might even find some strawberries or apples.

Who needs Publix when you have the Super Duka? Yes, that is the local store. They have a bit of everything there at a slightly higher price than Nairobi. The stores in Nairobi are modern and if you weren't paying attention you might think you were in Walmart. The prices are pretty high for some things (even by US standards) so you have to shop smart and avoid imported things. I frequently find myself buying "American Garden" brand items just because they are familiar. I'm sure as I live here longer I won't feel like I need those familiar items.

Here is the "Titchie" playgroud at Rift Valley Academy. The gate to RVA is just above our house. The "Titchie Swot" is the elementary school. It is quite a hike up through RVA campus to get there but the playgroud is fun and worth the trek for our kids! It is totally old school and takes me back to my childhood. None of this stuff would be considered "safe" by US standards today. But it was safe enough when I was 3 and way more fun!

This was the view when we were driving to Kijabe. The cluster of white buildings in the distance is Kijabe Station. We are on the escarpment of the Great Rift Valley so everyting is on a slope. The school (RVA) is at the top (considered Upper Station), the hospital and our house and a few others are down further and called Middle Station and below the hospital is called Lower Station where most of the housing is located.

The weather has been absolutely beautiful since we got here. It is rainy season and everything is green and blooming and is just wonderful. It feels like spring during the day before the winds kick up. I do have a few moments when I yearn for the height of autumn going on in the south right now but I can't complain about the beauty here at all.

We are still getting settled. Trying to get the lay of the land. Rhett is still home helping me get oriented and figuring out how to live here. We start Kiswahili lessons on Tuesday and plan to keep that up twice a week. Rhett has been hitting the Rosetta Stone pretty hard lately so I'm sure he will be the star student of our class.

The kids say "Jambo" to everyone they meet - it's so cute. The Kenyan people are very friendly and enjoy greetings and chatting. The kids are a little shy when it comes to shaking hands but we are working on that. They seem to really enjoy it here. There are lots of kids around and it is fun to see them playing with new friends. The family with 3 kids who previously lived across the hall from us moved out just before we got here so there aren't any kids in our building (mostly used for short term volunteers) but the family who runs the guest house has 3 kids (including a 2 year old little boy) and a play ground so we will be spending lots of time over there. I really am amazed at how adapable the kids have been. They haven't missed a beat. They just want to play and have us close by.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Claire's quotes for the week . . .

"Mommy, that must have happened before we were born when we were dead."

Mommy, I have something very serious to tell you . . . I'm changing my name to Pam."

(almost a week after arriving in Africa) Wait a minute!! Where is our TV here?? (We don't have a TV here, honey.) What about the Wonder Pets? It's three o'clock!
Guess how much I paid for all of this food? About 8 dollars! For 12 freshly baked english muffins, a pineapple, about a dozen bananas, 3 zucchini, 6 tomatoes, 1 green pepper, 1 cucumber, 12 passion fruit and 2 dozen eggs. Oh, and all the fruits and vegetables are organic (the farmers here can't afford fertilizers or pesticides). I know those bananas look kind of scroungy but let me tell you those are the real deal! We are getting jipped on bananas in the U.S. It's a shame. We sacrifice taste for beauty. My kids ate all those bananas in two days. Ford has been asking for more "namas" every since. I will make at least weekly visits to the "vegetable ladies" where I will buy all of our produce plus english muffins and tortillas just up the road from our house.

Speaking of food . . .
Gus started eating it this week. So far the jury is still out on the rice cereal. I think he wants to jump straight to the real stuff . I made my first two batches of baby food this week and froze it - carrots and butternut squash. I bought the veggies fresh, boiled them and then put them through my baby food mill. Is that right? I just kind of guessed. It was a little time consuming and very messy but not too bad. I bought a blender so hopefully that will help the process go smoother. I also need a better way to freeze it. All I could come up with were my breastmilk bags that I brought just in case I needed to put some milk away. And now I've used all of them. The only other option I have is gallon freezer bags. Our ice tray only holds about ten small cubes so that wouldn't be very efficient for freezing. Any other suggestions?

Here is Ford downing half a dozen passion fruit - his new favorite treat! I'm pretty sure if we weren't living in Kenya he wouldn't be eating passion fruit!

I know I jumped ahead on this blog post but I'm going to go back and tell you a little more about our arrival at Kijabe, our apartment and or first few days here as soon as I can! I know several of you are anxious to hear from us so this is for you :)
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Monday, November 09, 2009

From Birmingham to Nairobi

What a crazy couple of weeks we have had. I intended on carefully blogging this whole experience but somewhere along the way I started drowning in everything going on around me and had to put it aside in order to actually get everything I needed to do done! It all just happened so fast.

On Oct. 31st our friends from near and far descended on our house and carted off all of our stuff to our storage unit. The only problem was when they got back from taking all of our stuff to the storage unit there was still a lot of stuff in our house. That was when the overwhelmed feeling started creeping in. We were starting to feel pressed for time realizing all that we had to do before we left. And one of those reasons was actually a huge answer to prayer . . .

To make a very long story short on Oct. 30th we decided to rent our house! God clearly had his hand in this as everyone we know has been praying for the sale of our house for the last 8 months. Our prayer was not just that our house sell but that God would be glorified through the sale of the house. We just didn't realize that He would choose to glorify Himself in an even bigger way. Without going into all the details a very good friend of ours sister and family were recently relocated to Birmingham. They have just put their home on the market and needed a place to rent until they sell theirs and can buy something here. It worked out amazingly that God would minister to and provide for both of our families through this arrangement where we rent them the house, it remains on the market, they can take care of it for us and handle the utilities with no commitment to us. If ours sells they move out and if theirs sells they move out. Win/win.

So we had to get the house ready for them, move out all of our stuff, pack for Africa and do what we most wanted to do: spend time with our family and friends. We had wonderful time trick or treating with cousins and psuedo-cousins that night and the next day we were commissioned at our church. That was an incredible experience. I can't even describe how it feels to see so many people we know and love coming to pray for us. I cried each time. Even in the third service I thought I had it all together since I had already done it twice that day but I saw an old friend from work who I haven't seen in a couple years coming forward to pray for us and the tears flowed again! Afterward the morning services we had a wonderful lunch at a friend's house and were able to reconnect with lots of old friends. It was a bittersweet time knowing were were about to say good bye. In hindsight, it was a bit too much for us to pull all of that off in less than a week. It was also emotionally overloading to have it happen so fast. If we could do it again we would have moved out a week earlier and hand time to devot to cleaning and packing without feeling like the clock is ticking.

Our precious family came to love us and be a part of our commissioning

On Monday we had an "Africa Party" for Claire at school. The only thing African about it was the name though :) Claire has been amazing through all this. She is so brave. She did tell me a few times that her stomach hurt because she was "nerbous" because she was moving to a new country.

Her friends hug her and wish her good bye. They sent home a beautiful stack of letters and drawings that were so special for her to read and feel like she was really being sent and prayed for too.

Then it was back to reality. Packing. How do I fit all of these clothes into this suitcase? Would you believe that I did? BUT it weighed 54 lbs so I had to take out some and reconfigure before it got the green light. We did a lot of reconfiguring of bags over the next few days.

Rhett in the middle of the packing process. It was starting to come together at this point

The final product, are you ready? 9 duffle bags, 4 action packers, 3 suitcases, 4 car seats (3 convertible and one infant), 1 baby backpack carrier, 4 rolling carry ons, 3 backpacks, 1 computer bag, one purse and two strollers. All the bags weighed in right at 50 lbs.

So we got up on Thursday morning and packed our stuff into two different cars (with my Dad meeting us at the airport with some of our luggage also). We had to walk through our house one last time. Sad. I have memories in every corner of that house with my kids. It seems strange that I won't be going back there. It was a great house. I didn't have too much time to process it though because we were in a hurry. Driving down the street that I had driven down countless times the last 5 1/2 years . . . the same street I walked up and down late into the night when I was pregnant with Ford trying to get my labor started . . . and pushed Claire up and down in her "beep beep" car . . . anyway, sniff sniff, we said good bye and off we went.

We met our whole family at the airport and got all of our bags checked. The ticketing agent wasn't particularly friendly but it worked out. He weighed the first few bags then hardly paid attention to the rest. World Medical Mission paid for one extra bag per person, one family bag and one bag for Gus so that took care of 14 bags so we had to pay for 3 more. We got one "baby item" per child which I didn't realize beforehand so we were lucky that it worked out since we were carrying on one car seat for Ford.

As we were waiting and spending last minutes with our family a large group of troops came walking through the terminal on their way to Afghanistan or Iraq. Everyone started clapping and stood up cheering for them as they walked through the very busy atrium. It was a touching and tear jerking moment and it kind of put our situation in perspective. We could have very well been there saying good bye to Rhett and his brother on their way to war - not knowing if our kids would see their dads again. It made our departure seem somehow less severe as we watched those soldiers march off to war.

We said teary good byes and before I knew what was happening I was on my way - trying not to look back. Claire was eagerly walking forward saying "Come on! Let's go to Kenya! Come on!" and Ford was chanting "Kenya! Kenya! Kenya!". I cried until we got to the gate. I guess they took pity on us at the security line because I can't begin to describe how much stuff we had and we didn't get stopped at all and even had a very helpful man walk us through and assist us. It all just kept happening so fast. I still had people I wanted to call and errands I wanted to run. I told Claire I would take her to her favorite park one last time and still hadn't done it. I wanted to get 6 month and 2 year pictures of Gus and Ford taken. No time. I blinked and I was getting on the airplane. Amsterdam bound.

I was quickly jerked back to the here and now as we tried to get all of our stuff and children on that plane. I am usually a very low maintenance traveler. I wonder what is in all of those huge carry on bags that people hoist above my head. Well, now I know. For us it was everything precious, expensive or irreplaceable that we wanted to carry with us. Unfortunately we needed 2 more people to carry it on with us. We even made Claire push a rolling bag and cheered her on because we knew if she gave up we were in real trouble. We got lots of ugly looks and comments as we bumped every single person on the aisle in the head - twice - as we passed them by. Then we got to our seats and somehow they had issued two boarding passes for one seat . . . mine. So then I just stood there with no where to go and all of this stuff and all of these children and, well, it was just plain awful. But soon it was over and we were all on the plane and settled in our seats. Rhett and Ford sat on the bulkhead and Claire, Gus and I had a row (Gus didn't have a ticketed seat but they gave us and empty seat and I could bring his carseat on board - lifesaver). The next thing I knew we were in Amsterdam.

We had just enough time to take care of all of our transfer details and get to our next gate before we started boarding. We walked right past the baby care center and kids play area both of which we could have used (not to mention a change of clothes and a toothbrush) but, alas, it was time to go again. I felt rushed the whole time - even on the plane - it just went by so fast. We got on our ride to Nairobi next . . .

This time I sat on the bulkhead with Gus and Ford and Rhett sat in a nearby row with Claire. We didn't have a seat for Gus but we did have this handy dandy bassinet which once again was a lifesaver. He got to nap, I got to eat without him grabbing at my food and we were both happy. His neighbor in the bassinet was a beautiful little girl from Denmark whose parents had immigrated from Kenya 11 years ago. At first sight her mother and I had nothing in common. Her: devout muslim, black, Afro-European. Me: Christian, white, American. But as we sat next to each other on that flight and cared for our children similarities began to rise to the surface. Our babies were on the same schedule it seemed. We soothed them to sleep in the same motherly ways. We baby-talked and hushed our little ones. It was as if those barriers and tags disappeared. Then towards the end of the flight she began to dress herself in a long flowing black gown that looked quite lovely with her brightly covered hijab and her bearded husband came to help her with her children and the differences became slightly more apparent but for a few minutes on that flight we were just two moms and it was really beautiful.

Then we were here. Kenya. We made it. I am being completely honest when I say the flight was not a big deal. Yes we flew for 16 hours but it really was fine. I heard less whining and saw fewer tears during that time than on a typical Tuesday. Our flight arrived around 9:30pm or so and we were able to basically walk right through customs and meet our Samaritan's Purse driver, Gerald (just like on Sid the Science Kid - Claire would tell you) and he whisked us off to our temporary quarters the Mennonite Guest House.

We were all so tired that we fell straight to sleep upon our arrival and enjoyed a leisurely morning before going out on an outing to the Giraffe Center in the west Nairobi area of Karen. The center was nice. We got to see the giraffes really up close and personal which was fun.

I love this one of Gus peeking out . . .

Do you see the smocked giraffes on Ford's jon jon? I saw this at a consignment sale an thought it would be perfect for the Giraffe Center! I guess you can take the girl out of Alabama but not the Alabama out of the girl since we have smocked outfits for every occassion :)

Saturday night the jet lag kicked in a little bit and each child took their turn being awake which made it tougher for us to adjust since our sleep was being messed up more by being awake with them. Ford got up and said "Mommy! Mommy! I wanna get up!" as he hopped down on the floor and gave a little clap and had a little bounce in his step. That was just before I promptly placed him right back in bed! Once again we made it through and I just kept reminding myself that this was going to be the worst night and tomorrow would be better.

On Sunday Gerald came back and took us to church, Nairobi Chapel which was very interesting. It was basically the African version of a mega church. With a few big differences. The first being that it met in tents. As in wedding reception/circus style. Lots of big white tents - one for the sanctuary, one for the creche, one for prayer, one for youth worship, and several for children's Sunday school. We took Claire and Ford to their tents, I mean, classes and dropped them off. I could see through the divider inside the tent as we were dropping Ford off into Claire's class as she sat on the carpet and no less than 5 Kenyan children played with her hair which was a new thing for them to see I'm sure. We were so proud of them. It was not an easy situation for them. They were in a new place with new people who speak funny English or Kiswahili and whose skin was a different color and they were the only white child around but I have to tell you they never even really noticed all those differences. They just went to Sunday school like normal and afterwards Claire said she liked it.

The service was quite good. We spent time praying for the form 8 kids around Kenya getting ready to sit for a national exam which will decide what type of secondary school they will be able to attend based on their performance as well as praying for the country of Zimbabwe which is in a bit of a crisis right now. They spoke of the church in South Korea where one of the assistant pastors had just returned and heard him describe how God is at work in a mighty way there. Did you know there is a church in Seoul with a million members. Their annual giving is over a billion dollars. Tens of thousands of small groups. Missionaries going out in droves. I had to pinch myself because I couldn't believe I was sitting at a mega church in a tent in Kenya praying for Zimbabwe and getting report on the church in South Korea. Neat!

Back to the guest house for Sunday lunch and a rest. Sunday afternoons a gentleman brings a horse to the guest house for any children who are there to ride. For 100 Ksh Claire got to ride for about 10 minutes. She loved it.

Here are a few more pictures of the guest house. There are several of these types of guest houses around Nairobi that help missionaries coming and going and allow a place of rest and rejuvenation for some. It is quite lovely.

Beautiful lawn and gardens . . . the perfect place for chai!

The outside of our room #14 which is a family suite. A large room with a partition with adult sleeping area on one side and a crib and bunk beds on the other and another bedroom with bunk beds. The toilet is in one room and the sink and tub down the hall in another. It is decorated in the missionary chic style that kind of reminds you of your grandparents or an old aunts home.

Monday we went to Westgate Mall to shop to get supplies and groceries for our trip out to Kijabe. Did I just say mall? Yes and man is it ever nice. They did check under our car with a mirror for explosives but other than that it was quite a normal upscale mall. We shopped at Nakumatt which is like a Super Target or Walmart. I pick up among other things on my long list: rice, sugar, flour (white and whole wheat - I wasn't sure what self rising meant so I just got all purpose - I hope that works), juice, detergent, green enchilada sauce (I promptly brought 3 cans even though they were a little expensive because I love my green enchiladas and thought I wouldn't be partaking for quite a while), peanut butter, shampoo, chocolate bars, Bisquick (I recently learned it is possible to make pancakes without Bisquick - who knew? I'm going to stick with what I know, however.) and a hairdryer among many other things. It was about 24,000 Ksh or $325. Next stop cell phone store. We got phones just inside the Nakumatt we got middle of the road phones that have email and basic internet capabilities for 12,000-13,000 Ksh each plus 1,000 Ksh worth of minutes of each of our phones. Grand total 27,498 Ksh or $376.68. That hurt a little bit but we need to have good communication - especially if I am traveling any distance from home without Rhett. The phones were all really expensive compared to the States. It is a good alternative to checking email on the computer too which can be tricky. However there is now improving wireless internet sevice through Safaricom so we also picked up two modems and megabytes to go along with those. The modems were about 4,000 Ksh ($55) and we bought a fair amt of megabytes now and will top up as needed.

Gerald was of great assistance to us as he watched the kids who have really taken to him. I asked him to be our nanny ;) We stopped by Art Cafe and had a yummy cheeseburger, fries and coke. Are we really in Africa? I did notice around the mall a few intersting things: the sign on a fake Christmas tree read: X-mas tree and the many signs advertising a Christmas festival read: X-mas Festival. Hmmm. I'm thinking there might be something there besides just a need for abbreviation. I'm also thinking Jesus doesn't appreciate the X so I usually take the time to include Him in the word "Christmas" or write C-mas at the very least if I'm in a hurry. I wonder if this will be the trend at stores in the States too?

We were able to Skype with our family tonight which is always fun and the kids love it. The word on the street is that with our wireless modem we should be able to video Skype when we are "in town" on the 3G network. So get excited Grandparents! The network is slightly slower out in Kijabe but will be much better than the dial up service otherwise available. So bloggers get excited because I should be able to keep it up!

Tomorrow we are going to get a few perishable items and meat before heading out to Kijabe - our new home!! We are a little nervous about meeting everyone and seeing this place we have heard so much about but only imagined until now. Please pray for us as we make this transition. Another request would be that God would provide a car for us. It is becoming more and more apparent (and more and more people are telling us) that we really need a car. We have a budget in mind and hope to find something soon that fits not only our budget but our needs. We were encouraged over the last few days to find out that prices of cars have fallen here and we won't need to spend as much as we thought. We also will mostly be using our car for trips to Nairobi or other well traveled areas so the advice we have been given several times is that we don't really need an excessively rugged SUV that we thought we would. That has put a car in our price range and so we would ask you to pray with us that we find something that works soon.

My next post will be from our new home in Kijabe!!