Monday, July 6, 2015

Africa Journey, Part Three

Saturday, June 6

Today saw us participating in church visitation in the morning and Mrs. Sue and I taking tea at the home of a Catholic social worker woman named Mary, who has worked much with the cholera epidemic that has broken out in western Kenya.  While Mary is a hospitable woman greatly concerned for the physical needs of Kenya’s poor, she is not yet saved.  Welcoming us in to her country home, Mary took us past the goat’s pen, the chickens’ nests, and the pumpkin patch to her front door.  Then she scurried about in the kitchen preparing tea and sweet potatoes for us while we waited on the couch in her living room.

With Dr. Rick, Mrs. Sue, Aaron, Daniel, and Taylor at lunch in the local mall

After visitation, we headed to an American style mall for lunch, where Thomas and I enjoyed a "tikka chicken pizza" (tikka is an Indian spice).  After that, Thomas wrote his exam for Trinitarianism and then we were off to go visiting with the Baptist church in Thika town.  Ashlyn accompanied Thomas and me on our visits, and Thomas was able to go through an entire gospel presentation with two different men.  We made it to a total of three houses in 2 ½ hours!

Next we headed to Mike and Tina’s home, where Tina had prepared a delicious meal of spaghetti, garlic bread, and salad from the lettuce in her garden.  She even made an amazingly scrumptious mango pie, which we enjoyed with vanilla ice cream.

We arrived back at the guest house about 9:10 p.m. that evening.

Sunday, June 7

This morning we piled into Dr. Rick’s vehicle for a trip across Thika town to a church in one of the many neighborhoods there.  Traffic wasn’t too bad and, within twenty minutes, we had arrived at the large brown building with a tin roof and sign out front announcing it as the local Baptist church.  A pew full of children sat at the back and while Aaron directed singing, I shared hymnals with them.  They would be leaving in a few minutes for Sunday School with Mrs. Sue. 

Dr. Rick makes balloons for Junior Church.

In the front of the churchyard stands a small fenced in area where the Sunday School children meet each week.  Sue was decorating the place with sticker charts strung up along the metal siding.  Two long tables stretched across the area, and small plastic chairs around the tables provided places for the children.  Later, the children would gather here for children's church, where Dr. Rick, Aaron, and Daniel would teach them.

Thomas preached for Sunday School.  For the morning service, we sang a duet of “When I Survey,” with my accompanying us on Daniel’s electric keyboard. That morning, Thomas preached a Gospel message from John 3.  A young man named Stephen sat on the right hand side, about three rows from the front.  He was listening intently to the sermon and afterwards, sat down with Thomas, asked questions, and listened to another Gospel presentation.  Stephen is like so many here in Kenya, who are seeking for God and wanting to learn truth.

After a home cooked afternoon meal at Dr. Rick’s house, we prepared for a fruit fellowship that evening and then left for the afternoon service at the local Baptist church in downtown Thika, where several missionary families attended in the evenings.  At this service I had the privilege of accompanying for a choir full of MKs (missionary kids) and Thomas again preached—this time the message was from Romans 6.  Back at Dr. Rick’s house,  all the missionaries came to enjoy a fruit fellowship.  There I was introduced to “MK Clue,” a take-off of the murder mystery game Clue, created by Mrs. Sue.  The boys played chess with Thomas while I played MK Clue with the girls.

Soon, it was time for the missionaries to head home and for Thomas and me to make final preparations for our safari to the Maasai Mara (we leave tomorrow morning at 5 a.m.!)

Monday and Tuesday
June 8 and 9

At the camp

It's 9:19 p.m. on Tuesday evening, and I'm seated outside by an open fire in the Maasai Mara at a camp in Africa.  I can hear hippos' loud groans as they splash through the water, swimming down the stream behind me.  Before me, the hotel-camp where we are staying is illuminated with hanging lamps, each surrounded by its own earthen-colored globe.  A wooden Massai tribesman, clad in traditional red garb, the flowing garment cast around his shoulder, greets entrants to the place.

When we arrived yesterday afternoon, an African Maasai greeted us with a wooden tray full of cold wrapped napkins, to refresh us from our journey.  (After about three hours of travel, we had jounced down eighty kilometers of bumpy gravel roads, pocked with pot holes before we finally arrived at the camp, so the moist cloths were a welcome refreshment.)  A few minutes later, he collected our used napkins and approached the hotel desk again, this time with a tray full of fresh squeezed juice, which we readily enjoyed.

Pictures of Wildlife at the Game Park

Our room would be T20, we learned, as a steward hefted our small piece of luggage onto his shoulder and showed us the way.  We walked under a low hanging flowering trellis down a stone walkway, to where our "tent" overlooked the river.  "You'll see hippos here," he told us.  The "tent" had been built under a thatch roof and atop a large  concrete slab.  Two stone pillars holding hanging lanterns stood at the front of the porch, where two cushioned wooden chairs and a table beckoned visitors to enjoy themselves in view of a heart-shaped branch which overlooked the brown waters of the river.

Unzipping our tent, the steward cautioned us to be sure we fully closed the tent door each time we left, since monkeys loved to play in the area.  "This is cool," Thomas said as the steward left.  "It combines first world luxury with third world primitiveness."  For example, electricity ran only between certain hours.  Hot water was available only between the hours of 6 and 9 in the morning or 7 and 10 in the evening.  I would experience another level of that primitiveness on my last morning at breakfast.  Leaving the table to retrieve a plate and walk through the buffet line, I glanced back at Table 5, where I had left my purse, for I had detected motion.  A creature was putting its mouth into the butter and jam on our table.  Was it a mouse?  Startled and without considering my reaction, I let out a small scream and went walking toward the table, while two wings immediately flapped up from the table and left the breakfast table.  "Sorry" a waiter said, going to retrieve the butter and jam, at which the bird had breakfasted for two small pecks.

Two guinea fowl at the park

On the drive into the hotel, we had spotted several herds of gazelle, whose little white tails flapped almost constantly.  Large topi reminded us of small moose.  Unique birds—such as guinea fowl and ostrich welcomed us as well.

 An elephant trudges past.

Now, as I sit about the coals outside the dining area, an Indian family, one by one, ventures out to take seats next to the fire.  I talk to the girl, a sixth grader, who has traveled quite a bit in her twelve years.  She's already been on safari in South Africa and once before in Kenya but today, she tells me, they've had a superb time.  Not only have they spotted 25 hyenas feasting on an elephant carcass, they've also watched five cheetahs on the hunt, who used the top of a jeep for an observatory.  Passengers in the jeep took selfies with the cheetahs that hung down next to their windows.  After almost two hours had passed, the cheetahs bounced down from their perch to go on a hunt.

 These lions were inches away from our vehicle on Monday and seemed quite content.

We saw a dozen elephants today, a dozen giraffes, and watched a lion chase a wildebeest from afar, but we certainly hadn't encountered anything so adventurous as my young friend's experiences!

Tomorrow Peter will take us back to Nairobi.  He drives aggressively, as if he's racing to get his passengers back to their destination.  Large semis inch up steep mountains, but Peter passes them.  Motorcycles vie for space on tiny dirt roads, but Peter whizzes by.  Pedestrians, sheep, and cattle need to learn that Peter is coming through, because he grazes past in a flash, although he does slow down long enough for the smallest to scamper out of the way.  From my view in the second seat, it seems there are but centimeters between us and cars and trucks ahead of us.  On the way here, I closed by eyes and rested, partly to still my rumbling stomach and partly to avoid the reality of Peter's aggressive driving.

Our stay here has been rich and varied.   Rich, because we've been treated like wealthy mzungus (white people).  By Kenyan standards, we are indeed incredibly wealthy.  In fact, 50% of the world's wealth can be found in America.  We've enjoyed stewards, waiters, and guides, chauffeurs at our service and felt surrounded by luxury here at our hotel-camp.  Varied, because we've seen so much exotic wildlife, received invitations for Thomas to speak at several churches, and visited a Maasai village.

A mother and child in a nearby Maasai village

 A Massai man rubs sticks together to start a fire

Young men, clad in traditional Maasai costume, greeted us with a celebratory dance.   A middle aged woman, outside the door of her cow dung hut, introduced herself as the pastor of the village.  Three young men rubbed sticks together and started some brush on fire.  Next the women emerged from their huts, some carrying children on their backs, to greet us in their customary way with a welcome dance.  Their ears, pierced with many earrings, hung down from the weight of their beads.  The women motioned me inside their circle, so I went to greet them.  As a gesture of welcome, one woman took the beaded necklace from her head and placed it around my neck.  

The women of the village greet us

Next we visited the inside of a cow dung hut, where a child, dirt covering him like condensation on a window, stood in the shadows while our guide explained the features of the mud home to us.  A small shelf housed the entirety of the dishware.  The entire hut was illuminated with a single square window, about 8 inches by 8 inches.  When we left the village, we paraded down the aisle of handwork, where women sat with their beadwork for us to buy.  We greeted them with "sopa," or hello, and I gave several of them Swahili tracts to read.  Though the Maasai are considered Christian, that label is difficult to define at best, since they still embrace pagan practices such as practice polygamy, female circumcision, and body mutilation.

Though we'll have been here under 48 hours, I feel that the safari has been a most welcomed and refreshing experience.  It was a pricey but worthwhile anniversary celebration and we've gotten a view of Africa unlike the kind we would have had otherwise.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Africa Journey Week One, Part Two

Thursday, June 4
 Delicious home-baked banana bread was a favorite breakfast item.

After an early breakfast with the missionaries, Dr. Rick’s family piled into their vehicle taking themselves and Thomas off to the college.  I would be spending time with the Ashlyn’s family today, leaving the house about 9:00 or so.

Around 9:15, two beeps sounded at the gate and, within seconds, Ashlyn’s younger siblings Suzy and Zach were at the door.  “You’re bringing all that stuff?” Zach asked when he saw my backpack and full purse.  Since I wasn’t sure all that the day held, I had packed my tennis shoes and flip flops, as well as church clothes for later, so it did look like a lot.

 The dogs outside Tina's gate may appear bored, but they're excellent watch dogs!

The sky was overcast, and Isaac’s chickens were clucking in the front yard as I avoided the mud and made my way to the vehicle.  Before we arrived at the road on which Ashlyn’s family lived, we spotted two dogs running behind the vehicle. When Tina had begun feeding these same abandoned animals some months ago, they came for the food but quickly left.  Slowly, they began warming up to the family.  Now they have become “outside the gate” dogs, who sleep in the long grass outside the family’s gate, protecting that area from would-be invaders.

I entered Tina’s lovely two-story home and received the grand tour of the place.  Tina, who is looking and feeling much better today after spending time in the hospital a week ago, was excited to visit Violet, whose baby had been born prematurely. 

Visits with African nationals were a special delight.

When the ladies of the family and I arrived at Violet’s compound, she opened the gate, smiling and asking us to come in.  Her little son, an energetic two-year-old, enjoyed sitting on Ashlyn’s lap and playing toys with the younger girls. 

From Violet’s quiet neighborhood overlooking the Del Monte pineapple plantation, we headed back to the congested roads of Thika town, where the minivan jostled from one pot hole to the next, splashing water in a dozen directions.  

On a street like this one, Ruth's dry cleaning business stands.

On one crowded street in the business section, where hawkers sell their wares and tiny shops elbow one another for room, stands the small drycleaning business belonging to Ruth, a church member to whom we were to give a book from America.  But Ruth was not there, so her sister redirected us to her home, a concrete apartment building of five stories that sits on the adjacent corner.  Tina parked a moment on the street to let Ashlyn and I off; we would climb the concrete steps to Ruth’s second-story apartment.  “Won’t you come in for tea?” Ruth wondered when we arrived, but we told her that would be impossible.  The savory smell of Kenyan spices greeted us as Ruth opened the door, and she told us she was making pilau, a rice dish I have not yet had the opportunity to try.  A blue and white fabric swath hung above the couch where Ruth’s toddler slept.  “I’ll bring some pilau to you tonight,” she promised us as we said our good byes.

Descending the narrow and steep steps, we again reentered the busy dirt street, where a mechanic repaired a car and several Kenyans, arms folded in front of them, watched.  A man was selling sugar cane on the street corner, and Tina ordered one for us to share.  With a sharp knife, he skillfully tore the bark from the exterior of the sugar cane and proceeded to whack the now-white cane into pieces of one- to two- inches long.  He bagged the dozen or so pieces and asked for his pay—25 shillings usually, but he wanted more.  After Tina gave him one more coin, I handed him a tract and Tina followed with an invitation to church.  

Enjoying a tasty dinner of samosas and chips

Thomas arrived home from the college, our cue to pile into the now very full van and leave for Thika.  There, we dodged traffic jams and made it to a restaurant where Tina enjoys eating, only to find out that they were out of meat!  Michael decided the restaurant closest to the church meeting place would be our dinner destination.  Tonight the restaurant was busy—people sat around nearly every table.  I tried the savory samosas with chips (French fries)—delicious!—and especially enjoyed the fellowship with the missionaries around the table.  Prayer meeting was likewise a blessing, with several Kenyans (including the restaurant owner) and various missionaries present.  Rain was descending rapidly when we left the building, so Missionary Mike and his son Zac went to retrieve the vehicle while the rest of us remained protected under the eaves of the building. 

Through the streets of Thika and back to the the guest house it was…Thomas to prepare for his last (half) day of Trinitarianism and both of us to get rest.

Friday, June 5

Today was Thomas’s final day of teaching Trinitarianism.  In contrast to other week-long block classes, which have had their exams on Friday, this class will take their exam next Wednesday.  I accompanied Thomas to IBCM today as he finished his final class hours.

On the college property

The college sits on a beautiful piece of property, one of the loveliest I’ve seen in Kenya.  Home to a Baptist church, the well-manicured lot boasts a full-size basketball court, lovely bushes, and flowers bursting with color, which line the gated entrance as well as the front of the building.  A library, its interior recently repainted, houses hundreds of books.  Thousands, still unopened in boxes from the States, yet await their place on the mahogany-covered shelves.

At 11:00 we piled into Michael’s Toyota to make the trip back to Thika.  Recent rains, which muddy the red dirt roads, have made the route of one African pastor too difficult.  He normally uses three different means of transportation to arrive at the college but today would travel with our vehicle, where we would drop him off at a central roundabout, where he could catch transportation to bypass the flooded areas. 

This Kenyan pastor is about forty years old with a wife and two young children.  “Would you like one?” I asked each of the passengers in the van, as I pulled out the tiny bananas Mrs. Sue had purchased at Section Nine the other day.  They are the sweetest, most delicious bananas I’ve ever had!  The pastor ate two of the tiny bananas.  Later, I offered the others some peanuts from the snack food the missionaries had provided.  After the pastor left, I wished I had given him the entire bag. 

We dropped the pastor off at a busy roundabout under a bridge, where he would locate a matatu (a van usually filled with about twenty people) to take him to his home.  Soon, we were back in Thika, where the rest of Michael’s family joined us for our trip to Nairobi and “Ethiopian.”  (Thomas found it humorous that everyone here calls these ethnic dishes not “Ethiopian food” but merely “Ethiopian.”)

Ethiopian food--a special treat!

Driving through the section of embassies in downtown Nairobi felt to us like a different world.  Perfectly shaped hedges, beautifully trimmed lawns, elegant gates, massive buildings, foreboding entrances—all these speak loudly of wealth and culture.  In that section lay our destination, a home that had been transformed into a restaurant.  We ordered three platters of the food and enjoyed rolling up the crepe-like injeras, which are a flatbread made of teff flour.  I found each bite of the food savory and had fun trying out the golden lentils, which had almost a lemony flavor, as well as the rust-colored lentils, which tasted to me as if they had been seasoned with barbecue sauce.

The Friday Maasai Market

Next we took a trip to the Maasai Market, where Africans (allegedly Maasai) sell their wares in a flea-market style.  As mzungus (the Swahili name for white people), we were targeted as those with plenty of cash.  I was frequently assailed by those seeking to offer me their wares, but I knew what I wanted to spend and wouldn’t buy unless the vendor took my price.  “These people just want to make a sale,” Tina said.  “They’re so desperate, because tourism is down since the terrorism.”  My heart went out to these  individuals, so many of whom had exactly the same kind of soapstone jewelry boxes or beaded bracelets or wooden spoons—but each needing the basic necessities of life to be met.  Moreover, each of them needs eternal life through Jesus Christ.

A walk around a downtown mall transported me from Africa to what felt like a cross between Europe and Asia.  It was upscale, full of western stuff at western prices and full of people.  I saw at least fifteen other white people in the supermarket where we got a beverage. 

Next to Coldstone Creamery stands a newly arrived Dominoes.  You might not be able to see it, but Thomas and I, along with the missionaries' son Taylor, took a photo right under the sign advertising Wisconsin 6 Cheese Pizza!

Coldstone Creamery, a recent addition to downtown Nairobi, was our next destination.  While in line, we met two teachers at a nearby school, where several ambassadors have their kids enrolled.  Taylor enjoyed talking to them and teasing them about American football teams.  Since my favorite Culvers flavor is “Cookie Dough Craving,” I couldn’t resist the "Cookie Doughn't You Want Some" flavor and because Thomas is a chocoholic, he had to try the Chocolate Overload. 

Darkness had fallen by 7:00, and we didn’t arrive back at the guest house until about 9:30 p.m.  How thankful we have been for the willing drivers the missionaries have been for us.  Seeing the multitudes of pedestrians along very busy roadways and hearing the traffic laws (such as basically any accident is the driver’s fault) helps me understand why some of the missionaries prefer not to drive at night. Thankfully, we had no serious trouble traveling back to Thika this evening--unlike Mike and Tina’s crazy episode Tuesday, where they were stuck in a ten-hour traffic jam due to heavy flooding!  Needless to say, we arrived back at the guest house safe, sound, and in one piece.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Africa Journey, Week One, Part I

On May 28, we left for Kenya, East Africa, where Thomas had the privilege of teaching a Trinitarianism class at the Independent Baptist College of Ministry in Nairobi.

Selections from the journal I wrote for the first few days of our trip, along with some photos I took (along with some pictures I found on the Web), can be found below.

Monday June 1
 Thomas with his Trinitarianism Class

Today I accompanied Thomas to a Baptist college in Nairobi, where he taught Trinitarianism.  I was able to meet several of the Kenyan pastors while here.  For lunch, we enjoyed mandazi (basically a fried donut but not too sweet) and hot tea for lunch. 

 Mandazi, an African treat
I enjoyed viewing a small glimpse of the neighborhood around the church building today and see sights which trigger my imagination:
A woman wends her way down a path, avoiding the sharp rocks.  Her long skirt wraps around her thin frame gracefully.  On her shoulders she carries a small bundle, her little son. Her turbaned head covers a full head of dark hair. I watch her enter a small doorway, roofed with thin metal sheets that cover the cramped area which serves as a porch.  A half dozen multi-colored, European-looking cars sit in front of this block of homes.  A clothesline atop a roof provides extra space for the Africans in the three-story dwelling made of concrete block to do their laundry, since their yard space is undoubtedly limited.  This is a middle class community in Nairobi, Kenya, and I’m taking in all I can, since our trip here will be over in less than two weeks.  

A young boy opens a cartoon in a magazine, running to show his friend, who walks along the pathway before him.  I look across to a second story porch, where two large blue plastic barrels catch rainwater that the family conserves to use for other purposes.  A woman passes me, her hands holding a basket full of mandazis, which she is delivering to our group.

On the return trip, I note other sights:  
This afternoon we passed a vegetable market.  Most things here don’t appear perfectly manicured.  On the contrary, like at the market, vegetables sprawl along the ground as people haggle for a fair price.  Most of the homes we’ve passed along the highway are ramshackle, built close together, the mud adding its own hue to every dwelling (especially the white ones).  Sometimes, graffiti marks places.  Neighborhood roads are clay dirt that muddies readily, inviting puddles and holes of water.  I wish I’d brought more junky clothes.  Especially shoes.  I'm looking forward to making visits with missionaries in the next couple days so that I can get a chance to experience for myself the African culture.

 Yummy stroganoff

Tonight we enjoyed missionary Sue’s version of stroganoff and peas for dinner.  We fellowshipped around the table, learning interesting African stories--my favorite was about Missionary Stella Ross, who first came to Kenya in 1927 and died sometime in the 90s.  Dr. Rick and Mrs. Sue knew her personally.  At her funeral, 54 elderly people (mainly women) said they had been led to the Lord by her--and that doesn't count the dozens of people who had gone to heaven before her or weren't present at her funeral!

(I look forward to checking out more about her when I return home.  I just found this pamphlet online:

Tuesday, June 2
Tuesday morning saw us arising early for a breakfast of homemade banana bread, chocolate chunk bread, tea, and fruit.  The tea is served, as the Kenyans do, combining the milk and black tea together.  Then sugar is added on the side.  After enjoying some morning discussion, Thomas and I piled into the vehicle with two students attending the Bible college, and Dr. Rick drove us to the home of a fellow missionary.  I would be staying with these missionaries’ teenage daughter Sarah today, who would preparing for her mom’s birthday celebration this evening.  Another missionary girl, 17-year-old Ashlyn, would join us about 10:00.

 Corner Store with its large selection of dry beans

Later that morning, our threesome trekked a short distance to the neighborhood's corner store, which has a large selection of dry goods, including barrels of various beans and rice at the back of the store.  I was about to offer a tract to the man there when Sarah decided to instead give him an invitation to their church.  Then he and Ashlyn began a discussion in Swahili.  As many other Africans, he works on Sundays but said he would try to come if he had a day off.

 A school yard with children playing

On the way back to Sarah’s house, we passed a school, where the children were out at recess, all in their little blue uniforms (girls in skirts and boys in trousers).  The mud school yard and rickety swings are a far cry from the typical roomy school yard in the U.S., where verdant grass and colorful playground equipment are taken for granted –even complained about—by the children there.

Goats tied along the side of the road grazed as we passed and one billy goat with large horns looked slightly gruff, so we stayed our distance.  The mud puddles were not terribly large, so we were able to traverse the moist clay without getting our tennis shoes too dirty.  The sun came out, beating down upon us after a cloudy morning, warming the earth and drying the soil by bits.

As we approached the missionaries' house, I asked Sarah if they ever picked flowers to decorate the tables.  There was a large bush of yellow wildflowers outside their gate, and we began tearing off stems of them to put into a vase.  Two Africans across the street looked on and warned us that the plants were bitter, that we should not eat them, and that we should wash our hands thoroughly after picking them.  When we explained that we only wanted them for flowers, one of the men disappeared and returned with three large yellow and orange dahlias, explaining that these would better suit our purpose. 

A bowl of yellow dahlias, similar to how we ornamented the birthday table

When the rooms for the birthday party were at last decorated, one vase of wildflowers stood in the living room, and the dahlias graced a bowl in the middle of the dining room table.  Sarah’s mom was certainly surprised and enjoyed all of the decorations. 

The birthday feast of hotdogs and hamburgers, fresh fruit (including strawberries—a rarity here), fresh vegetables (cucumbers and tomataoes), chips—called “crips” here—and delicious homemade pies (apple, chocolate and pumpkin for choices) was enjoyed by all.  

Then darkness was approaching, so we headed out with Dr. Rick’s family to return back “home," to the guest house, where we were staying.

Wednesday, June 3
Wednesday morning saw us again partaking in an early breakfast—beginning at 6:00 a.m.  When two beeps sounded at the gate, Thomas, along with the missionaries' college-aged son Aaron, headed out the door to go to the college with fellow missionary Pastor Brent, who had arrived in his Land Rover to take the group to Nairobi.

 Tea Time with two dear missionary ladies

I would be staying with Sue today and enjoying a tea party with her and missionary co-worker Gail at 10:00 a.m.  The sun was streaming in through Rick and Sue's accordian-style gate, its rays touching the Kenyan coffee table (really a hollow wooden drum) at the center of their living room.  Framed paintings of African wildlife—a zebra bending down to gulp some stream water and an elephant lumbering in front of a snow-capped mountain—hung above native Wisconsinite Dr. Rick’s easy chair, which was characteristically covered with a green and gold throw that read “Packers” in gigantic capital letters.

 We enjoyed tea with milk each morning.

Gail drove herself there in a small 2-door vehicle, arriving a few minutes after ten.  Together, we enjoyed Kenyan tea and some homemade sweet bread, as well as stimulating conversation.  I learned of the ministry Sue's and Gail's families had shared many years before, when Rick and Sue had first arrived in Kenya:  Gail’s husband had been head pastor and Dr. Rick, the children’s ministry leader. at their first church  The initial service saw 225 people—mainly children, seated on the grass! 

Samosas, the first fast food

“Do you want any samosas?” Sue asked Gail around 12:00.  But Gail needed to leave, so Daniel (Rick and Sue's 11th-grade son who is home-schooled), Sue, and I enjoyed the tasty lunch. Triangularly shaped, samosas are stuffed with ground beef / vegetables and fried in oil.  According to Dr. Rick, they were the original fast food, used by Sennacherib and his army years before Christ came to earth.

The afternoon saw Dr. Rick, Mrs. Sue, and I braving the streets of Thika to arrive at an often-frequented vegetable stand in an area called Section Nine.  Bananas hung from the ceiling.  Avocados, beans, and other vegetables contrasted sharply on the slanted shelves.  People crowded inside to make their purchases.  Asking for permission, I snapped a few photos, then stepped outside to where an elderly woman sat alone, shelling peas.  When I greeted her in English, she gave me only a blank stare and I found out later it was because she spoke not Swahili nor English but only Kukuyu.  But she listened when an African man spoke to her and seemed not bothered at all that I took this photo:

A few booths down, I visited with a man shelling his own large pile of peas.  After I left him a gospel tract and an invitation to church, Sue entered his booth and purchased a large watermelon, 2 kilos of peas, and some small bananas (delicious and oh-so-sweet!)

Kenya is a land of contrasts, where rich and poor live really quite close to one another.  Traveling through the trash-littered streets of downtown Thika, one notes that nearly every person there is dressed in fine clothes, not because he works in the city, but because he dresses up to make the trip into town.  From run-down shacks on one side of the city, mammoth apartment houses, firmly built and freshly painted, ascend on several street corners.  Scaffolding, constructed of what appears to be rickety long sticks, scales several stories upward on other still-being-constructed buildings.  The last stop we make is a hotel just outside the city, which boasts magnificent landscaping and artfully designed buildings.  Here, a Kenyan named Anne runs a curio shop, where she offers a variety of goods at reasonable prices.  The missionaries wish for me to get an idea of a fair price before visiting a larger market this weekend.

By the time we arrived home, it was nearly time for the guys to return from college and for the 5:00 prayer meeting, where Isaac, Rick and Sue's houseworker, who also attends the college and a local Baptist church, would lead us.  We began by singing “Count Your Many Blessings” in Swahili.  Then we went around the circle and read a passage from one of the Gospels.  Next, Isaac asked for prayer requests and explained that we would each first praise God, then confess any known sin (or doing so silently followed by an audible “Amen,”), then pray for various requests.  Some prayed in English, some in Swahili.  Isaac’s lovely wife was there; she speaks and reads only Swahili; in fact, Isaac has taught her to read. 

Tomato matoke (pictured)

After a beautiful time of prayer with fellow believers, we enjoyed a delicious home-cooked meal of cream and bacon cabbage, fried chicken, and a tomato-pepper-matoke (matoke is a cooking banana) dish.  Then it was time to head back to the guest house and soon, to bed.  (Thomas will give a quiz tomorrow and he laments, “I have only nine more hours of this class to teach!”)  He is wondering how he will cover all of his material in the time he has left.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Vacations, 2013

This summer we were able to take a weekend excursion to Wisconsin Dells and enjoy a two-week trip to San Francisco.

This picture was taken from a stop on the Upper Dells Boat Tour, where we got out to stretch our legs at a lovely cove, where limestone rocks formed unique patterns in a place called, of all things, Witches' Gulch.

Here we are together, with some of the Dells' amazing rock formations behind us.

Ready for the bike trip across the Golden Gate Bridge, we stand in front of the bay on a sunny August morning.

After biking the bridge from San Francisco, we directed our wheels to a park where immense Sequoya trees stared down at us.  Here, in the vast woodland, we posed as a hiker with two large dogs agreeably took our picture.

After school began, we enjoyed a bike trip in a town not too distant and stopped in this green park one cool September afternoon.

Friday, July 19, 2013

A New Nephew!

On Saturday, July 13 little Andrew Michael Huizinga made his appearance.  Two days later, I was able to meet him for the first time.

He was a good baby during the 24 hours I spent with him.  This was his first day home from the hospital.

He enjoyed this little seat, bunching up his tiny legs and arms under the blanket.

Dad had brought Matthew some black licorice for his birthday (which was the day after Andrew was born) and here, he pretends to feed some to the baby.

Emily huddled next to JJ and the baby for this sweet picture.

And then it was my turn--babies do have to be shared, after all!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Grandma's Birthday

In May, my grandma celebrated another birthday.  My parents, along with as many of the grandkids 

and great-grandkids (above) that could, got together to celebrate her special day.

Tim and Christy, enjoying the beautiful spring day.  

Jon and Melody smile in a rare snapshot--without the kids!

The birthday girl herself, burying her nose in a bouquet of fresh lilacs which her great-granddaughter Lydia brought her.

Cousins Lydia and Joanna smile pretty!

Thomas and I
Tim the Fisherman at work

Emily and Daniel pose for the camera.

Grandma with the great grand daughters

Emily and Joanna Joy (with a particularly characteristic grin!)

Dad and his mom

Joel.  Seriously.