27 September 2011

You See... God Came, July 2010

Peter is a very industrious, self-employed young man. He puts 100% of himself into his work. With focused speed and seemingly unending energy, he gives his customers a thorough job and has developed quite a number of satisfied and loyal regulars.

I pass him often, either while cycling or walking from my house to Karen dukas. I guess he’s gotten used to seeing me – a rare white person who is not cloistered inside a car. Almost always, he waves to me from across the road and hollers out a hearty and cheerful, “Hello, madam! How is your day?”

Peter’s work space – out in the open and under the sun – is along busy Ngong Road and next to a small river called Mbagathi. He earns his daily bread by washing cars. With the arrival of each customer, he hustles down to the water’s edge and quickly fills two 20-liter buckets. I’m not sure how he manages to carry the heavy buckets uphill with his small frame, but he does so all day long. Besides his two buckets, his only other pieces of equipment are a sponge, a couple of rags and a few small packets of Omo (laundry soap). At times, two or three cars wait in line.

My frequent mode of transportation is my bicycle. There was a time it had gotten plastered with layers of mud from the red clay that is so typical of Kenya’s landscape. I realized that if I attempted to clean it myself, my clothes – not to mention myself – would become splattered with the hard-to-remove grime. So… I cycled the short distance down the road and asked Peter if he could clean my “car”. He happened to be busy washing a car, so his co-worker got busy on my bike.

I guess that’s the first time I watched Peter go about his work. While I sat on a large stone and waited for my bike to be finished, Peter struck up a conversation with me… all the while fastidiously attending to the car he was washing. He removed and cleaned the floor mats first so they could dry in the sun while he transformed the body of the car to a sparkling finish. He didn’t miss a single spot with the soapy water, or later, while drying the car. Even though we chatted off and on, his attention to detail never wavered as he hustled from one side of the car to the other. I found myself greatly admiring his strong work ethic.  

After that day, our greetings turned into brief chats. I learned that Peter came to Nairobi, the big city, from his rural home a few years ago – like so very many do – in search of any sort of job. Eventually, he joined a few others that were washing cars in an area near downtown. After a couple of years, though, the City Council chased them away.

Peter has now been at his present location for approximately three years. With his faithfulness and diligence, his car-washing has allowed him to eke out a living. Daily it provides enough coins to sustain his wife and three children.

There was a time that a group of neighbors in the area really harassed Peter. I guess they were worried that an unsightly kiosk or two might spring up next to Peter’s humble car-wash spot… and run down the neighborhood (or some such thing). They even got the City Council involved and started harassing his customers, as well. I watched sympathetically as the drama unfolded over a span of a few months.  

With a variety of tactics, the neighbors started making headway in their quest to run him off. The frequency of cars – and paying customers – slowed down. Some were afraid of the consequences that might ensue with the City Council’s authority.

One Sunday, as I cycled home from church and approached Peter’s normal spot, I looked around so I could greet him. There weren’t any cars; all was quiet.

Ah… there he was.

He sat dejectedly on the log that he uses as a bench. He held his head in his hand and had the most forlorn look on his face. Where there was normally a wide and engaging smile, today there was only a look of depression.

“Peter, what’s wrong? Where are your customers today?”

“Ai! These neighbors here. I don’t understand why they’re disturbing me. They’re chasing away my customers. Now, how can I earn my daily bread? How will my family eat?”

I walked my bike down the slight slope to where he was sitting, and shook his hand – the obligatory way to greet one another in Kenya.

“I’m not a thief. I’m not an idler,” he continued, as he clicked his tongue in frustration. “I’m using my hands to earn my daily bread. I’m making an honest living. I’m not a thief. I just don’t understand. Now, what can I do?”

Holding his hands flat together, in a prayer posture, he concluded, “I just pray to God. What else can I do? I just pray to God.”

I sympathized with him and tried to encourage him as best I could. Peter thanked me for taking the time to talk to him and I pedaled on home.

I had wanted to spruce up the area near my front door with some greenery, thinking it would bring some life in the midst of all the stone and concrete. But I needed some fertile soil and also some dried manure to enhance the condition of the current stony and dead soil. Another young man, nearby Peter’s location, had recently starting selling plants, soil, and manure – also outside and under the sun. However, lately, he was never there. I had gotten impatient to start my project.

As I ate my lunch, an idea came to me.

I grabbed a couple of plastic grocery bags and walked back over to Peter. After my inquiry, he told me that the other young man feared the City Council workers and had stopped selling his nursery stock. I asked Peter about the prices his friend was charging.

I asked if he would help carry the heavy soil to my house. Being a good-natured fellow – and with no customers in sight – he readily agreed. Once we got to my house, I also asked if he would mix the soil and manure for me. Replying in the affirmative, I dashed into my house and brought out a few basins. Peter took to this simple task with the same gusto he displays when he washes cars.

When he finished, I asked if I could give him “something small” for his help. Now – with his smile reappearing – he held out his cupped hands. I dropped in a few coins (adding up to the mere equivalent of one US dollar).

In all seriousness, Peter proclaimed, “Ha. You see, God came. I’ve been praying and He came.”

I chuckled, not sure what he really meant. It seemed like he was almost referring to me as God.

“No,” he insisted, “God came. He sent you.”

“Now I can take something home for my family. We won’t sleep hungry tonight.”

Shaking my hand in deep appreciation, he added, “Blessings on you, Madam. Thank you, thank you.”

“God came! He sent you!”

- - - - - - - - - -

You may have noticed that this story is dated July 2010. I'm only now getting around to writing it, though. It seems like I've been suffering from "writers' block". In fact, I haven't written a story for over two years!

I was actually amazed when I sat down at my laptop to put this story in to words. It just flowed, so simply and so easily. I was pleased to experience that once again.

I hope you've enjoyed the story.

22 September 2011

Trip to the Kitale area: Matunda, Go-Down, Nzoia Scheme, Machine, and Misikhu

It's different, these days, when I travel to the Kitale area.... since I vacated my mud hut in February. But, God is so cool! Simultaneous to no longer having my own house to stay in... he led me to discover the Karibuni Kenya guesthouse. I absolutely love it!

Relaxing with a good book from their library and a hot cup of tea.

My room for this visit. Last time I had a room in the main house.

Faith, Tony, Sinclair
On my way from Matunda to Nzoiza Scheme - on the back of a motorbike taxi - I happened to see Sinclair (a brother to Martin) in the Go-Down area. Or, I should say, Sinclair happened to see me... and hollered. I had Wycliff (my taxi driver) wait a bit so I could stop by the house. Only Faith and Tony were there, but it was good to see them after so long. (Martin, plus Mary and Zadok, weren't around.)

Ken, Helen, Mary, and Joan
I took Ken and Joan (the couple that now stay in my former mud hut) to meet my friend, Mary Alu. They've heard me speak often of her and also of Nzoia Scheme (the area where she lives). It was a nice outing for all of us. We also met Mary's friend and neighbor, Helen.

I spent the night at Mary's house. In the morning - after a lot of rain overnight - the roads were a mess! Wycliff really struggled to make it through the slippery slop without us falling over! The photos don't do it justice, at all. It was actually quite treacherous. Another boda boda (motorbike taxi) driver asked Wycliff (in Swahili), "Do you really think you'll make it?" Wycliff ignored him, keeping his full attention on his driving. I've always had complete trust in his skills!

The slippery road in the Machine area

Interestingly, "Machine" is the actual name of the village market area.

Pretty view of maize and Mt. Elgon, from my hotel room balcony at Misikhu.

I spent a couple of days with Agnes and her boys at Misikhu. I sympathized with some of her recent struggles, but also rejoiced with her regarding her good watermelon crop. After the watermelon was harvested, she planted peanuts on the same piece of land. She also awaits her maize harvest. Additionally I tried to encourage her regarding some issues with her oldest son, Tony.

Adu (short for Anderson)

Duane, Adu, Agnes, and Zach

Pope (short for Popino) and Duane

Duane, eating lunch

Zach, having fun with an empty box

20 September 2011

Friends: American, Kenyan, Sudanese, British... and the non-human variety

I am blessed with such diverse friends in Kenya! I think it's great to be able to interact with so many folks from so many countries, cultures, and walks of life. God truly used his creativity when he populated the earth.

I met Tom and Scott here in Kenya - several years ago - through Bishop. In fact, I've come to know many neat people through him. Tom and Scott have continued to visit Kenya off and on, and were recently here once again. I got to hang out with them for a good part of a day. We walked a mile or so to the Donholm Steers... specifically so Tom could get one of their ice cream cones. Once we arrived, we happened to meet Bishop and Ken. We first had lunch... and then topped it off with ice cream!

I first met Denise at Brackenhurst Retreat Center, near Limuru, in July 2010. We've recently spent a fair amount of time together and have gotten to know one another better. These photos are from one of the days we spent together... celebrating her birthday!

After a 'cuppa' at Coffee World, we strolled down to the National Gallery. We leisurely browsed an exhibit there called "Kanga Stories: The Cloth that Reveals". We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves!

And you thought I never wore dresses!

On the balcony at Trattoria.

Denise had Tortellacci ai Funghi Porcine Ricota. I had Quattro Stagioni Pizza. They were superb!

We capped off our day at Sno Cream (built in the 1950's. Their ice cream is the best in Kenya!

Hanging out with my great friends - Emily, Martin, Michael, and Kim. 

Also Deng...

... and Mawien

... and Teresia and Rosalie

... and Robert (all the way from Tanzania)

... and Teresia again - this time with our former neighbor, Anne

... and Linet

... and Margaret and Carol

... and Sammy and Emily.

I have always loved praying mantises. I find them so intriguing and fascinating. This one has been hanging out on my veranda for a few weeks. He seems to like my paint cans and stirring stick for some reason. Sometimes I forget he's there and toss my painting rag on top of him... or accidentally knock him to the side of a paint can. Undeterred, he remains in his favorite spot. One day, I decided to get some photos of him. It turned into a lengthy photo shoot, but he didn't mind. He just kept hanging out on my hand or arm the whole time.

I think God sent him to me to remind me of the importance of prayer. Lately, I've been doing a Bible study on the spiritual disciplines; the current discipline is prayer. Oswald Chambers has also touched on the subject recently and the past two sermons I've heard have been on the subject.

Sometimes God goes to all means to get our attention... or at least mine.

I also enjoy geckos. This quite small one was in my kitchen sink. I rescued him and relocated him outside.

This slug I could do without! I don't think it qualifies as a "friend"!

15 September 2011

Jeremiah's birthday party and a Harambee Stars "football" match

There isn't a big tradition of celebrating - or even acknowledging - birthdays in Kenya. However... I am here to bring the party, so-to-speak :)

I love baking and I love giving special recognition to my friends. I think those two things combine well in birthday parties!

It was recently Jeremiah's birthday. The whole family made the long trip across town to come to my new house. The day also included Carol (their house-help), Tina (a cousin), Rose (Tina's mom), and a friend of Rose's. We had a full house and everyone enjoyed the lasagne!

Jim lit the candles on the cake.

Jeremiah enjoyed us singing to him.

The kids gave him homemade cards.

And... we played Jenga!

Jeremiah really enjoyed himself!

Jasmine was her usual cute self.

Kenya's national "football" (soccer) team - Harambee Stars - recently had their last home AFCON 2012 qualifying match. Masudi, Jim, and I were among the crowd of fans at Nyayo Stadium.

At this moment, Kenya was behind.

Jim was thrilled - as was the whole crowd - when Kenya came from behind in extra minutes and won the match 2-1! Just as the final whistle blew, the sky opened up and down came the rain! Everyone either hustled out of the stadium for a bus or matatu home, or sought refuge anywhere they could find. It was a fun day!

13 September 2011

Homemade pizza and giraffe kisses

Masudi has been taking college classes to learn how to be a chef. He recently came to my house to try his hand at homemade pizza! He had two assistants - budding chefs themselves - Jim and Dennis. All four of us enjoyed consuming the end result!

Kneading the dough for the crust.

Jim also loves to cook and lent his assistance.

Dennis used a can opener for the first time.

The three chefs were quite pleased with how it turned out!

Watch a video of the three chefs at work... and proudly admiring the finished product!

Joanie, my missionary-friend from Nyahururu, and her friend, Irungu, came for an overnight visit. We all went to the nearby Giraffe Center. It's always a fun outing.

Joanie, getting one of many "kisses" from a giraffe.

A rather large leg bone from a giraffe.

Dennis enjoyed giving them their treats.

Be sure to watch a fun video of Joanie getting "kissed" by one of the giraffes!