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!!