Monday, March 30, 2015

Homemade goodness

Thursday, March 26

So one thing I can do from scratch is pancakes.  Made those again this morning.  The kids layed a blanket out on the back porch by the garden for breakfast and thought it was a treat.  It is fun to talk about this garden as if it is my own, as if I put my hands in the dirt and planted the basil and sukuma.  Have I ever done this? No.  Well not really.  Unless you count the year we moved to Minnesota and I was trying to be Minnesotan and planted two rows of peas.  

Edna came in this morning and added some more homemade goodness to our lives.  I asked her if she could do something with rice and beans for lunch and she said "yes, and I make tortillas."  Yummy delicious homemade tortillas. I hug her and I'm pretty sure I'm invading her comfort zone.
Edna and her tortillas

Hayden wanted to host a tea party for her friend Claire today so we called her in the morning and scheduled the event for 3:30 this afternoon.  Hayden cleaned up the living room, helped me make real tea with cream and sugar and laid out the table.  For snacks we busted out some American treats - graham crackers, jelly beans and Reese's peanutbuter cups.  After tea they played Spot-it and made rubber band bracelets. 

Hayden has thrived here.  She seems comfortable meeting all the new people and has made friends easily with the missionary kids and Kenyan kids.  She loves all the food we've eaten and the slower pace of life here is totally her thing.  I'm really proud of her.  The only thing she has struggled with is sleeping.  Every night so far she has had major anxiety about bedtime.  She worries about if she will be able to sleep or not, what she will do if she can't sleep, what to do if the power goes off in the middle of the night, etc.  She cries and worries and wears herself right out.  I keep telling her the nights will get easier and easier but if you ask her what she thinks of Kenya she will say she likes the days but not the nights.

Claire and Hayden
I pray for God's blessing on my children and thank him for their resiliance.  They have all had their ups and downs.  Liam struggles with the lack of structure to our days.  If you know Liam, you know he is a fast-paced kind of guy.  Harper has fallen and scraped herself up everyday.  It wouldn't be so bad if she hadn't gotten up in the middle of the night when we first got here and opened every single bandaid I had brought from home.  We have bummed bandaids off of other people daily.  And Charley... she is winning the battle against bed bugs.

Night night, sleep tight

Wednesday, March 25
Since we arrived at Tenwek Charley has had little red bumps/bites all over her face, arms and legs.  (don’t freak out, grandparents).  Smaller than mosquito bites, but not itchy and doesn't seem to bother her.  After the first day I thought that maybe she had gotten into chiggers in the grass or something.  I wasn't super concerned but it started progressively getting worse.  All of the other kids had been rolling around in the grass and climbing trees but not getting the same bites.  Turns out after asking around and finally looking at the bed she has been sleeping's bed bugs.  So.... yuck.  Poor sweet Charley girl.  The housing people came and took the old mattress out and brought us a new one so hopefully that problem is fixed.  I am taking her sheets and pjs over to a house that has a hot water washer and dryer.  At least it's not measles, right?

We took the morning easy, had chai, played in the sandbox with some of the other preschool age kids and chit chatted with all of the Kenyan ladies that watch them while their moms are teaching the older kids. 

It poured down rain after lunch and everyone was happy to see the rain finally come.  The kindergarten through third grade had PE in the field in front of our apartment so Liam went out and played freeze tag in the pouring rain with them.

During the little girls rest time Hayden had a playdate with her new friend Claire.  Claire's house is about a 5 minute walk on the other side of the compound so I just walked her over.  

For dinner we had been invited to the house of one of the longterm missionary family's here, Ben and Jenny Roberts.  They live in a nice house and Jenny is a really great cook so it was a treat to be there and spend time with their family.  They have 3 boys, 13 and under, and Liam really likes to play with them.  We had hamburgers on homemade buns with baked beans, potatoes and apple cake.  Yes please.  

I have been trying to rest in the afternoons but didn't get to today.  By dinner I was SO exhausted.  At one point, Jenny asked me if I had any hobbies and my brain could not compute.  What are my hobbies?

I have so much buzzing around my brain right now that I feel like my thoughts aren't clear.  Is this what God is asking of me?  Am I capable of commiting to years here?  Am I willing?  Will has a niche here as a doctor but what would my niche be?  Homeschooling? Really? Cooking from scratch? Bed bugs? What are my priorities?  What time is it? How many kids do I have?

Night night, sleep tight, don't let the bed bugs bite.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Getting into a groove

Tuesday, March 24
I got up today and tried my hand at chocolate chip pancakes.  The kids all agreed that they were just as good here as they are at home.  A little piece of normal.  A man named Joseph came to my back door with fresh eggs.  I bought a tray of 30.  He uses the egg money to support the orphanage where he works. 

The missionary kids here are all homeschooled and do their school work in the mornings until lunch at 1:00.  My kids count the hours until all of the other kids will be done with school and they can play.  They each have kids their age here to play with and they have made fast friends.  

In the mornings I am going to try to have them work on what little bit of school work they brought from home.  They are only missing six total days of school so it's not much.  They are also going to keep journals of their time here and keep up with reading.  

Liam reading in a tree outside our apartment

We took a blanket outside and sat under a tree to do some school work.  There are 4 or 5 first graders that meet for school in the house across the yard from us.  They came running out of the house and started running around in circles in the grass.  Liam ran over and said, "what are you doing?"  They shouted, "Having recess!" So Liam had "recess" with them.  They basically ran around in circles and up and down the hill.  And had a blast.  Who needs playground equipment?

Edna took us up to a little douka, or market, to buy some fruits and veggies today.  I just asked her to pick out whatever she thought we needed.  We got onions, tomatoes, carrots, pineapples and sweet bananas.  

I asked Edna what she usually eats for lunch at home and she said ugali, which is like a porridge made out of corn flourand water.  She made some for us for lunch today along with some sukuma wiki which is a kind of greens that grows in the garden behind our appartment.  I also made a box of Kraft mac-n-cheese.  Lame I know.  I should have made the kids try something new.  Next time.

After naptime we walked over to the Mitchell's house for tacos.  Hayden met a new friend over by their house named Claire.  They are both in kindergarten and quickly became friends.  They are already planning future playdates.  The power had been out all day and came on briefly for dinner but then stayed out.  We still enjoyed the night in the dark and are so thankful for our new friends here.  Erin and Eric have been so generous to spend time with us and feed us.  We are not a small family so I know extending a dinner invitation to us is no small offer.  

Today felt kind of like what a normal day here might be like.  I am so thankful to be here and to have this experience as we consider what's next for our family.  I feel grateful, tired, unsure and happy.  


Monday, March 23
Sunday night was an improvement.  Everyone woke up at some point and had to be put to bed again but we made it through without an extended awake time.  On Monday morning Will got up early and went in for his first day at the hospital.  The kids slept in late and I squeezed in a shower and quiet time before they woke up.  For breakfast they some American cereal that we had packed but they all opted against the boxed milk on their cereal.  Doesn’t quite taste the same.  Most of the families here have fresh cow's milk delivered daily to them.  We have not tried that yet.

At 9:00 our house helper came over for the first time.  This is a beautiful beautiful thing about Kenya.  Most families have a house helper that comes every weekday to help with cooking and cleaning.  It is very inexpensive for us and also provides much needed work.  Our house helper’s name is Edna.  She has quickly become most precious to me.  How will I go back to living without her? I think she thinks I’m ridiculous.  So she’s figured me out. 

Edna came in the first day, did all the dishes and made African chai for me and the kids.  I loved it but the kids not so much.  She told us a little bit about her family – her husband is a farmer and they have 4 children.  She became a Christian when she was 14 and has taught all of her children about Jesus.  I can tell the kids are not sure what to make of having someone else in the house.  Liam has asked me her name 25 times and Harper keeps calling her "the babysitter".  Here’s what I make of it – awesome. 

We have a washing machine but no dryer so all the clothes have to hang to dry on our clothesline outside.  Edna was about to start the washing machine but the power went out.  It ended up staying out all day.  So she took the clothes outside and washed them all by hand.  I would have worn the same pair of underwear for 3 days before I would have done that.  I said "oh my goodness Edna, you do not have to do that!!"  She said that that is how she does it for her family at home.  No big deal.  Amazing woman.

So while Edna was hand washing our clothes, we went on a walk around the Tenwek grounds with our neighbor, Stephanie Kelley.  She is here with her husband and 4 children for the SP post-residency program.  Stephanie took us to the waterfall that generates power for the compound. It is rainy season now but there has hardly been any rain so the water is very low.  Everyone has been praying for rain to come.  This afternoon it sprinkled but a big rain has not come yet. 

We enjoyed lunch at Barbara Pinkley’s house, one of the long-time missionaries here and then dinner at the guesthouse.  The kids have hardly eaten since we’ve been here but they ate well tonight – baked fish and mashed potatoes.  I haven’t really felt hungry either until tonight.  The 8 hour time difference messes with your appetite too I think.

I wish I could post more photos but I left the cord at home to download pics from camera.  The photos I have are from Will's phone. 

Jet lag

Sunday, March 22
Jet lag makes you want to sleep all day and cuss all night.  More on that.

When we arrived at Tenwek on Saturday it was about 2:00 in the afternoon and we were greeted right away by the visitor coordinator, Lisa, and the cook, Livingston.  So friendly and welcoming.  Livingston took us to our apartment where the Mitchell family was waiting to welcome us and show us the ropes.  The Mitchells are at Tenwek with their four sweet boys finishing up their two year commitment with the SP post-residency program.  They are our “host family” and are helping to get us acclimated to all the newness – show us where things are, how everything works, answer questions, etc.  I so appreciate their help! We visited with them and also gave them the few things we had brought for them from the states.  We unpacked a little in our appartment and then had dinner at the guest house/community kitchen here – beef stew, rice and cornbread. I didn’t have to cook it and it was great.  For the first two days we will be fed at the guesthouse and then we are on our own for food. 

Saturday night the kids were exhausted.  We tucked them into their beds wrapped with mosquito nets and planned to get up for church at 9:00.  That most certainly didn’t happen.  

Around midnight all of the girls were awake.  I was awake and couldn’t sleep either.  We played musical beds for a little while and then I gave up trying to get everyone to sleep and they just stayed up and colored.  Around 2:00 am we all decided to tip toe in the kitchen for peanut butter sandwiches.  Will came in wondering what in the world we were doing.  Finally around 6:00 am Charley fell asleep in bed with Will.  Liam at some point got in bed with them too.  Hayden and Harper gave in to sleep in their beds and I crawled into Liam’s empty bed.  We are all seriously confused.

I was woken up about 9:15 by Will and Charley bringing me breakfast in bed – a plate of eggs, toast and fruit.  They had woken up before everyone, taken a shower and fixed breakfast.  The older kids didn’t wander out of their beds until 10ish.  We spent the morning around our apartment then went to Dan and Heather Galat’s house for chai and pumpkin cake.  

Dan Galat trained in orthopedic surgery at Mayo and then moved to Tenwek with his family I think 7 years ago.  They have raised their family here and it was so good to talk with them and hear their perspective.  They have 5 kids and one on the way.  We also have several mutual connections in Rochester.  As we sat talking with them I felt like I wanted to cry.  Probably exhaustion and hormones.  And just a lot to take in.  Really hope to spend more time with the Galats while we are here.

The Journey

My apologies for the week of silence! I have been writing but not been online.  The next few posts will give the scoop on our first week in Kenya.
Waiting to board in Minneapolis
Saturday, March 21
Praise God we made it to Kenya!  Seriously, so thankful to have our feet on the Tenwek grounds.  Will, the kids and I have been looking forward to our spring break trip to Tenwek Mission Hospital in Kenya for months now.  It is hard to believe that the time is now!  It is also unbelievable that we endured the journey here with no psychotic breaks.  Nothing can prepare you. 

We left at 4:30 on Thursday afternoon, flew for 8 hours from Minneapolis to Amsterdam, had a four hour lay over, then flew 8 hours to Nairobi.  So pleasure and happiness – pause – more pleasure and happiness.  I will honestly deem myself one of the worst travelers of our family.  Close confined quarters for long hours – ick .  The ADHD comes out in me.  I just want to get up and move.  Especially when the fasten seatbelt sign comes on.  And as Will immediately goes comatose at take-off, I cannot sleep a wink.  So 4 angelic kids along with my travel issues is awesome.  The first flight - during the time of our normal sleeping hours – everyone was wound up, watching movies, eating jolly ranchers, and hardly slept a wink.  Liam couldn’t watch all the movies fast enough and squeezed in about 4 I think.  Hayden spent the first couple of hours totally overwhelmed with the movie selection – how could she choose between so many? Harper wanted a constant flow of snacks, and Charley was fussy and disgruntled with everyone and everything.  The second flight we were all exhausted enough that we slept off and on.   Kenya time is 8 hours ahead of Minnesota time.  When we landed in Nairobi it was about 8:00pm on Friday night and they were confused, thinking we had just slept and it should be daytime.

After passing through customs (we were deemed safe to enter) and watching the kids roll around on the airport floor during a good long wait for our luggage – 6 large suitcases and a stroller – we stepped out into Nairobi for the next leg of our journey.  Samaritan’s Purse had arranged for a driver to pick us up and he was there waiting for us along with another doctor heading out to Tenwek.  The Samaritan’s Purse team has been so accommodating in preparing us for our trip and making arrangements for our stay.  We are very, very thankful to them and the work they do!  They take care of SO many details.    

So we all trooped across the airport grounds for about 15 minutes to get to our vehicle.  It was actually nice to get out and use our legs after being confined to a plane for so long.  My legs had swollen pretty nicely by the end of the flight and my cute striped Toms weren’t looking so cute with my cankles.  

Our driver, Jonathan, safely and aggressively got us through Nairobi traffic – ain’t nobody yielding to nobody – and took us to the Amani Gardens Inn, formerly known as the Mennonite Guest house. We were given a nice room with plenty of space for all of us.  The kids had trouble winding down – because there is nothing better in life than bunk beds – but they finally gave in around midnight.  

We woke up Saturday morning around 7:30, took hot showers, and were served a yummy breakfast of omelets, fruit and cereal.   Two thumbs up for the Amani Gardens Inn. 

Things I wished I had packed in my carry on for that night: face wipes, bug spray, flip flops.  
 Will teaching Hayden how to brush her teeth with bottled water.
Bunk beds in Nairobi
 First morning in Kenya

After breakfast there was a new driver from SP waiting to take us to a grocery store and butcher near by.  We had been told to stock up in Nairobi before driving in for our two-week stay at Tenwek.  I have discovered that it’s no fun being a foreigner in an unfamiliar grocery story.  They had pretty good selection but little that was familiar to me.  I needed a guide. We all wandered the aisles and I did my best to get the basics for cooking and baking in Kenya – which I know so much about.  I spied on a couple of other white ladies shopping and copied their selections.  How else do you choose between unrefrigerated boxed milk or powdered milk? A nice Kenyan lady helped me get chicken and beef at the butcher.  
In the grocery store

After shopping we took the 4 hour windy road through the Kenyan hills and valleys to get to Tenwek.  While I tried to soak in the scenery and engage the kids in conversation – I really just wanted to puke.  However, we made it through that last leg with no one getting sick and no other problems.  This is amazing to me! Between the six of us, everyone controlled their body fluids!  I had prayed for a good driver and the guy that drove us, Tony, did a great job getting us to Tenwek safely.  He had also packed a cooler of soft drinks and bags of chips for us, which the kids thought made a pretty great lunch.  Thanking God for safety, health and provision for the long journey.  And if the worse thing that happened was my cankles then I say it was a blessed and successful trip!