Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Land of Milk and Honey...and Monkeys!

Until you move to a place like Africa, much less Burundi, honestly you have no idea how much you have. The little things go a really really long way.

For example, things that we (I mean you) have in the states, you have plenty of and probably don't think twice about....
Diet Coke
Soda in plastic bottles
Desserts in general
Chocolate chips
Brown sugar
Meat that you can chew
Powered sugar
Iced Mocha's
Hair Salons.
Justice. Think long and hard about this one...Whether you like it or not. We do have some goodness is our law system, imagine if you saw this around DC...


Normal Spiders... (Please the next time you breathe a sigh of annoyance as you squish the little piddly Daddy Long Leg that has placed itself in the corner of your living room. Take a moment, pause and thank the Lord that it isn't an African Rain spider that you are being forced to kill. And "kill", I use that lightly because they're so beastly, without a man (thank you Bob and Jon) to kill them, they remain alive and ugly as they sit on your wall staring down at you with a smug look on their hairy disgusting faces...)

Alright, let's refocus. Burundi is lacking in material goods, you're blessed and then I have discovered an amazing secret. Kenya. Kenya is seriously the "Land of Milk and Honey..." over here.

I cant tell you how many times I have said, "You have brown sugar?" or "Wow this meat is tender," or seriously, "you have a hair salon, I haven't had a haircut in 5 months." (Fear not, I have received a wonderful haircut in Nairobi and am looking fine FINE, fine!)

Some pleasant surprises for me while Visiting Kenya...

English. People speak English here! I cant tell you how many times I said "Madame, merci or oui..." and gotten a blank look...(I do appreciate my forming skill of French though;)

Or there's of course the food. So much western food... I've had iced mocha's, ice cream, pecan pie, turkey, enchiladas, Christmas cookies, and re fried beans...seriously canned re fried beans!
I am shocked by what I can find in Kenya's numerous Western-like stores...brown sugar, powdered sugar, and bread pans just to name a few. And not just any bread pans, bread pans that are only $7 instead of $40 (yes a bread pan in Burundi is $40 American Dollars). Cereal. I have had cereal on more than one occasion for Burundi a box of cornflakes is $24 American Dollars....think about that the next time you pour yourself a bowl of Special K.

The Internet. Man, most of you know how slow my Internet is in Burundi. Cant even get in a skype call. Here the Internet is so fast that I can actually download things and have a skype call without a delay. Amazing.

And Coke Light. I have had more than one Coke Light and even in a plastic bottle. MMMmmm...

Go ahead and have a cold diet coke right now. However when you're drinking that cold diet coke, remember that there are some people out there who are having to quench their thirst after killing a huge African rain spider by drinking a regular coke in a glass bottle...

However while they might be drinking a good old coke slightly warm in a 500 ml glass bottle, they might just be looking out at the moneys that live in their backyard...Kenya!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas in Kenya!

Christmas in Kenya. I know what you're thinking...what does one do for Christmas in Kenya? Well besides cutting down a Christmas shrub with a machete (which by the way was brown and dead in two days) can hand out food to the poorest of the poor...
On the day before Christmas Eve, Emily and I put on our long skirts, jumped on top of a landcruiser and headed down to the valley to a nearby UNHCR IDP camp to visit Kikuyu refugees.

We went there with bags of food, clothes, firewood and clean water. Once there we broke up into groups and handed out the items to the refugee families.

Seriously, seeing those refugees on Christmas like that. Thinking about how little they had, the things that they've been through. The stories they shared and the machete and spear scars that they showed. Humbling. I cant help but think so many people don't know, don't truly know what goes on in the world. Come visit me just for a week and I'll show would change your life. For sure.

Anyway, so Emily and I spent the afternoon down there, completely, completely covered in dust. I have never been in a dustier place. I was caked in mud. I can't even imagine living down their in those UNHCR tents, no food, the dusty days in the dry season, and the cold cold nights of the rift valley... Thank God for your warm houses and Christmas cookies...

Then on Christmas Eve, Bob, Julie, Emily and I packaged up some rice, sugar, lard, salt, spinach, flour and maize...loaded up the 30 bags into the landcruiser and then handed out those bags to some of the poorest kids in the Kijabe area... It was another humbling experience, one that reminds you of what Christmas really is.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Kenya Thus Far...

So I am in Kenya for three weeks and loving every moment of it!

First on the agenda, a trip to Mombasa with my favorite family! Driving on the road from Nairobi to Mombasa, almost surreal. Especially when you're zooming in and out between semis crawling at 10 mph and other land cruisers whizzing by, passing when they shouldn't. All the while making sure you don't miss the zebras, giraffes, ostrichs, and packs of camels along the side of the road. All of which I saw (awesome by the way!). The beaches along the Indian Ocean at Mombasa are absolutely beautiful: white sands, clear waters, TONS of sea urchins. A good strong breeze helps to forget how heavy the humidity in the air is...which means my hair was wretched! Curly hair + humidity=frightening...

I enjoyed 5 days at the beach in Mombasa with the Mendonsas! It was a GREAT vacation. Emily and I took a ride on some camels one afternoon down the beach. I'll have to say that I think that camels are definitely one of my new favorite animals. There's something weirdly exciting about sitting on top of a hairy camel tromping down the sandy white beach. And something even more weird about kissing a camel after the ride. Both of which I did and documented with pictures...

On another afternoon Bob, Emily, Will and I went with some others on a "hike" through the shallows of the ocean out to the nearby reef. And I'll admit it, because I know Bob would say it anyway, I was ridiculously scared of the sea urchins and taking many cautious "feminine" (according to Bob) steps through the knee deep water. Hey, those needles on sea urchins are terribly frightening in my opinion! I survived though and have the tale of a hike out to the reef in exchange. That and we did find some really really beautiful purple starfish!
My time in Mombasa ended Saturday though and now I am in Kijabe, Kenya at the Mendonsas home where I will be with them through the holidays for two more weeks. I am excited for the Christmas season, the cookies, music and all that the holidays entail.
A Christmas Tree...oh did we find one! Well It's more of a shrub really. We headed out on our mission, "Get our Christmas Shrub" at 10 PM in the dark of night so that our "hacking" of a nearby tree located in the rift valley would go unnoticed.
So away we went and Bob literally hacked down a scrawny tree with a machete. And hack he did. Finally he cut it, we took it back to the house and decorated it Charlie Brown style.
I am certain that "O Christmas Shrub" will be playing in our house over the holidays...