Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Penny for my Thoughts


I have officially been in Africa for 3 months now. Crazy, I know.

Basically this is just going to be about how I am feeling right now. With 3 months behind me and just 1 to go.

Today I was really hit by a feeling of disconnectedness (not sure if that is a word) from everyone back home. I am really content being here with the new friends that I have made. However, it really stinks that I've had to pretty much abandon everyone back in the States to make this a reality. I just realized that I am missing big events in people's lives and it made me sad. Sad that I am not there, but also sad that I don't know what is occurring in people's lives. Maybe it is my fault for not communicating enough, but I really fell like I don't know at all what is going on with the people I really care about. It is nice to be fully present here and not worrying about things going on back home, but I want to know what is happening because that is my life. Uganda is awesome, but I am going to be going back to life in Clay Center/Siloam Springs next month. Anyway, I'm not sure that these ramblings make much sense. Let's move on.

With regards to the semester, I am feeling so extremely confused and frustrated. At the beginning of the semester Mark told us that the program was about creating tension and not necessarily giving us simple answers in pretty packages. It seems that there are so many conflicting ideas that we are being presented with. I'm not really sure how to deal with it all. I find myself wanting something practical. I want the pretty package that I can use myself and give to all my friends and family back home. But I am pretty sure that will not be my Christmas present. I am learning so much but I'm more confused than when I started. Ugh.

I am also feeling a strange combination of homesickness and not wanting the semester to end. I am so ready to see everyone again, to eat American food, to have flushing toilets, to take warm showers, etc., etc. However, I am starting to realize just how much I will miss things here once I leave. It was so hard to leave my family just going to rural homestays for a week. It will be so much harder to leave them knowing that I will probably never see them again. It is also going to be ridiculously hard to leave the students that I am studying with. We have been planning reunions and times to see each other already. However, I think we all know that we will probably not all be together again come December 15. That is such a sad thought because we are so close right now. I love all of these people and I'm not sure how I am going to leave them.

Ok. Those are my thoughts.

Love you all. See you in just over a month!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Overeating and a gomez

Hello again.

I know you weren't expecting an update so soon...but you get one. Enjoy.

1.) On Friday 5 of us went to Kampala for a missionary dinner. It was with a former USP student, so it was really cool talking to her about her experiences with the program and how she ended up coming back to Uganda. We ate some pretty amazing food as well. Pasta, alfredo sauce, meat sauce, broccoli salad, breadsticks, and, my favorite, some peanut butter/chocolate dessert. It was absolutely heavenly. I think all of us ate way more than we were used to just because the food was sooooo amazing. Dean had to get up and go to the bathroom at the end of the meal because he thought he was going to throw up all of the amazingness. Holly, upon entering the van, said that no one could throw up because then everyone probably would. And that was the truth. However, though a little country sing-along, we made it home with all of the lovely American food still in our stomachs.

When I got home, it was about 10:30. My family goes to bed at around 9:30 usually, so I wasn't quite sure what would happen. Agnes opened the door for me, I went in to the living room, and saw mama and Dokas asleep on the couch. I thought that was a bit odd and tried to make some noise to wake them up and let them know that I was home. I was unsuccessful and went to my room to sleep. In the morning, mama came in and was quite shocked to see me there. Apparently, she had finally gone to bed at about 1:00 thinking I had not come in. She was getting ready to call someone in the program to see what the deal was. Interesting evening.

2.) Saturday morning I made chapati. I find it quite hilarious that I am the only one in the family who knows how to make chapati and I am the mzungu. It took so long because I made so much. Meanwhile, mama was washing my clothes for me. I still have not had to wash my own clothes. It is quite convenient. I help rinse. Hehe.

3.) Saturday evening we went to a wedding reception. I wore a gomez, which is the traditional Ugandan garment. It was sooooo difficult. Mama had to come in and help me put it on. There are so many layers and I really don't understand how anyone puts that on alone. Everyone was very excited to see a mzungu in a gomez. I received so many comments. I think they really appreciated it. The reception was good. There were not too many speeches, which was really nice. We ate there and the people serving gave me the largest portions. I also experienced eating with my hands for the first time. Interesting experience.

4.) Sunday morning I went to a different church with my family. My father had been invited to a church across town to conduct the service for Mother's Union Day. Mama, Tata and I all went to the home of one of the Kabaka's officials for tea first. Then we went to the church. It was quite interesting. The service was in Luganda, but mama translated for me. The person preaching was using the wife of noble character passage. Mama kept translating it as 'the careful wife'. She then used Esther as a positive example of a careful wife. Vashti was a negative example because she refused to go when her husband called her. This apparently justified the king's actions. The gender roles here are very interesting.

5.) Sunday evening we went to Kampala to see cultural dancing. It was really amazing. At one point the women balanced pots on their heads. Some were dancing around with eight pots stacked on their heads. It was ridiculously awesome. We also got to go down on the stage and have our own dance party for a few minutes. It was a good night.

Ok, I'm running out of time. Those are the highlights of the past week. We only have 5 weeks left, which is so crazy. Love you all and see you soon!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Rural Homestays, etc.

Hey guys! Yes. I know. I am TERRIBLE at updating this. Sorry. But here is a quick recap of the past month, with an emphasis on the past week.

1.) I went rafting up the Nile!! It was sweet. And quite terrifying. But we all lived to tell the story. I would suggest reading Dean's blog ( for a great description of the events of that day. He was on my raft and tells the story quite well. He even includes the highlight of my day...dominating the second rapid as everyone else flips out. This following their making fun of me for being the only one to fall out on the first rapid and my teasing that next time they would all fall out and I would stay in. Bahaha. It was a really great time.

2.) We went on a weekend trip to Luweero which was pretty great. We were able to meet a Father Gerry, a Catholic priest. We learned about his ministry in the rural areas of Luweero and then attended a Catholic service at his church the following morning. It was actually really amazing, even though the entire service was in Lusoga and untranslated for the most part. We were also able to visit a Compassion International center to play with the kids there and witness their Saturday activities. It was really interesting to see what our money actually goes toward. Finally, we went to visit the Bishop of the diocese. It was a long weekend, but I really enjoyed it.

3.) I have really been enjoying my time here lately. I am finally comfortable with my family and that has been a great relief. They are amazing and I really love coming home to them every evening. Dokas makes my day. We are now "good friends". I carried her to the clinic a few weeks ago with Mama and the lady at the clinic was so surprised that she was so friendly with the mzungu. The other children are also warming up to me. Their friends sometimes come over as well and we play together. They are trying to teach me some words in Luganda. I have a couple pages full of words that they wrote for me yesterday that I need to study.

4.) Everyone in my home has been sick with malaria in the past few weeks. It has been a bit nerve-racking knowing that those mosquitoes have been in the house. However, I have been taking my medication religiously and sleeping under my net, so hopefully I will stay healthy. Many of my friends have gotten parasites. It does not seem pleasant and I am so thankful that I have remained healthy thus far.

5.) Hanna and I journeyed to Kampala a few weeks ago. It was great. We hopped a taxi and rode to town. That was an adventure. We ate at New York Kitchen which was great American food. Then we went to Nakumat which was so exciting. It was a little taste of America. Basically a scaled down version of Wal-mart. We also went to a market to shop for gifts. It was so much fun. Finally, we hopped a taxi back to Mukono. Great experience, and we survived!

6.) This past week we went to Kapchorwa in eastern Uganda for rural homestays. It is absolutely beautiful. From my home we could see Mt. Elgon. The scenery was exquisite. I was paired with Hanna for the week, which was a blessing. We stayed in a home with Mama Dorothy and her four girls, ranging from five years old to ten years old. Our four brothers were all away at school. Mama was so crazy. She did so much work. Her husband works as a policeman in western Uganda, so he is not around. Neither are the boys, and the girls are at school during the day. She cares for the cattle, goats, chickens, etc. all alone. She would come home carrying two matooke trees on her head as feed for the cattle. It was definitely different than farming in the States.

It was also interesting to hear mama's comments and questions about the US. She was pretty convinced that there weren't leaves, smoke, or mud in the US. We were asked if we had seen the queen to which we replied that we did not have a queen but a president. She then realized that Obama was our president and got very excited. Obama is soooooo admired here. You have no idea. She started singing a song about him and then asked about the African American that came with our group. Apparently Adeline had told them about Manny at orientation and they called him "The Obama". He was quite the celebrity.

Anyway, it was an alright week. Hanna and I had a lot of free time because Mama had so much to do and it was raining a good deal of the time. We helped her with some things, but I think we both wish we would have been allowed to do more. Oh well. We learned a lot nonetheless.

7.) The past couple days we have spent at Sipi Falls. It is basically the most gorgeous place I have ever seen. There are three waterfalls there and we were staying up on a cliff that overlooked all three. On Saturday we were able to go hiking to all of the falls. It was ridiculously awesome. Pictures cannot describe the beauty. On Sunday morning we hiked up to the top of a mountain and had a worship service while viewing the most beautiful scenery imaginable. Our God is great.

8.) I'm back in Mukono!!!! You have no idea how excited I am to be back. How I have missed this place.

9.) I will be home in about a month and a half. I have mixed emotions. I am very ready to be back in the States and see you all again. However, I will miss the friends I have made here and especially my family. Oh well, I don't have to think about this for a few weeks.

This does not even begin to describe the past month, but it's a start. You should also check out Hanna's blog. She has so many more details about what we have been up to.

Well, I love and miss you all. Cannot wait to see you again.

Oh, and I love to hear about life back home...hint hint.

Monday, September 28, 2009


Hey everyone. I just wanted to do a quick update on classes and Jinja while I have the opportunity. So here it goes.

Classes are interesting. It is a lot more difficult than I expected. Our energy is being pulled in so many directions and it is difficult to focus on the academic side of things when relationship building seems to be more important. There is also not a whole lot of access to academic materials. That makes things even more difficult. And add to this the fact that my grades transfer back as pass/fail so I only need to attain a 51%. Basically no motivation.

However, I am actually enjoying most of my classes. Many are conducted in a seminar style, which is not my favorite. I am a huge fan of class discussion; as long as I am not pressured to participate in said discussion. That has been the most difficult part, and I am a long way from mastering the art of talking in class. There are also no tests, which is a bummer. Just lots of papers and presentations. But, alas, I will survive.

What I most enjoy about the classes is the subject matter. So many of the things we read about in class are reinforced by our experiences. We have been discussing African traditional religions in most every class and it has become quite easy to see how these belief systems permeate culture. In Faith and Action we have been discussing Christianity and culture. It has been really challenging to question my faith in the light of the African culture. So many of our Christian beliefs are cultural rather than biblical. This has huge implications for mission work. It is hard because there are no easy answers to the questions that are being posed. It is a tad overwhelming at times.

Maybe I should also give a list of my classes:
Faith and Action-required for everyone in the Uganda Studies Program
IMME Practicum-required for all the students in the Intercultural Ministry and Missions Emphasis (those on homestays)
Reading the New Testament in Africa
African Traditional Religions, Islam, and Christianity in Contemporary Uganda
African Liturature

Ok. I'm tired of talking about classes. So...I'll talk about Jinja.

Last weekend we went on a weekend trip to Jinja. We left Friday evening and returned Sunday afternoon. It was such a relaxing time. We stayed at the Kingfisher Resort. It seemed like a 5-star hotel to us. There were flushing toilets, running water (although only hot showers for about an hour a day), a swimming pool (!!!!), and pretty amazing food, which I have already mentioned.

Friday evening we talked with a couple missionaries who had been working in Uganda doing prison ministry for 11 years. It was really cool to hear from them. However, we were really hard on them because what they are doing doesn't necessarily line up with what we have been learning in class. I felt bad for the couple as they were bombarded with philosophical questions from the group.

We also went swimming on Friday night, which was absolutely amazing. Enough said.

On Saturday we went to The Source Cafe, a business run by a couple local missionaries. The man talked to us about cultural differences as well as what he does in the area. We were then able to eat meals at the restraunt. So delicious. We then went on a devotional tour of Jinja. We saw the source of the Nile, went to the old main street (which was apparently quite a sight before Amin), went to a manual labor site, and saw a local hospital. We were not all particularly pleased with every aspect of the tour (namely the hospital, at which we walked in and basically stared at the people), but it was nice to get to see a bit of the town.

Saturday afternoon we went out in boats to see the source of the Nile. We stopped at one of the islands where the Nile begins and saw the underwater springs. Manny drank the water and immediately realized that was probably not the best idea (parasites). He freaked out a little, but he's still perfectly healthy. Our guide caught a fish with his bare hands. Actually, it was pretty much dead and floating at the top of the water. We had a good time.

That night we ate at Two Sisters restraunt. It was amazing. I had Hawaiian pizza. American food is such a treat. It was so delicious.

Sunday morning we went to church at New Life Baptist. It was pretty interesting. We got there, had a short service, had small group bible studies, then attended the main service. Davis preached at both services. At the main service there was a group of children who sang some Michael W. Smith. One of the boys was dancing like Michael Jackson. It was hilarious. They also recited some scripture. There was a girl who was probably about 5 or 6 who knew every word. It was amazing.

After the last service, we talked with the pastor. He had been to the States and talked in one of Kristin's classes about church planting. It was really interesting to hear about their very Westernized approach to missions.

It was a really great weekend. I am really excited to go back to Jinja this upcoming weekend. We are going rafting down the Nile on Saturday. Some people are bungie jumping too. But I am definitely not. I'm a bit nervous about the rafting because I've heard it's pretty intense. It will be great though.

Ok. I'm tired. Talk to you all later.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Family

Ok. I am really not doing so well at keeping this up-to-date. It seems like there is so much to sayand I just get overwhelmed. However, I will try to fill you in a little. Mostly about things concerning my family.

I am beginning to really enjoy spending time with my family. It is getting less and less awkward. My mom is a teacher at the local primary school. She has many students and it seems as though she is overworked. This week she was even more overworked because many of her colleagues were gone to a conference. She had 250 students and had to grade all of their books every night. I am hoping that maybe some day I can go to the school with her and see how the system operates here.

My father is a Reverend with the Anglican church (which is the dominant denomination around here, so it seems). He is at church all day most every day. Today he is teaching about 1,000 students about conservation and stressing the planting of trees. He also is taking a class at UCU. He has field work to do and a 30 page paper to write. So he is quite busy the majority of the time. But he will take time to sit and talk with me in the evenings. We have discussed politics multiple times due to the tense circumstances. For those of you who have not heard, there were some riots throughout Uganda a couple weeks ago having to deal with a clash between the national government and the Baganda (tribe). It was pretty intense. Not to worry, though. The program was very over-protective of us and our safety is definitely the priority.

Back to the family. Isaac (7) and Deborah (6) are still very shy around me. I haven't had much of an opportunity to interact with them because by the time I get home they are tired and falling asleep on the couch. We have been traveling on all the weekends but one thus far, so I haven't been able to spend time with them then. The situation is further complicated by the fact that the two don't speak English. They are learning in school, but Luganda is the only language they can really speak and understand. And I obviously do not know Luganda (although I am learning a few words).

Dokas (9 months) is finally starting to warm up to me. She does not cry every time she sees me as she did the first few weeks. Josephine told me that I was the first white person that Dokas had seen. She will finally let me hold her and she treats me as she does the rest of the family. It is so great. However, she has been not feeling well the past couple of days. Mother is supposed to be taking her to the hospital today. Hopefully they will be able to figure out what is disturbing her.

Josephine is an 'auntie' that lives with us. I am not quite sure whether she is related or not. She is closer to my age, so I enjoy talking to her and can be more myself around her. The other day I came home and she was preparing chapati. I was able to help fry them. That was a great experience (especially because I love chapati and plan to make them upon my return home). We were talking the other day in class about how this is a hierarchical society. The people who are not actually family members do not have all the privileges of the family. Josephine and Agnes (the housekeeper), do the majority of the work, do not bathe in the inside bathroom, and do not eat dinner in the living room. Coming from an egalitarian society, I tend to think that this is unfair, but no one here seems to have a problem with it, so I guess it is alright.

In the evenings, we sometimes have prayers as a family. They always begin with a song or two. Then we sometimes have a devotional-type thing. Finally, we kneel and pray for a great multitude of things. I always find it interesting what they pray for (when it is in English and I can understand). My mother always prays for 'everyone'. One of her prayer requests last night was for the students in primary 7 because they have exams coming November. I love hearing their prayers. At the end, we usually wrap up with yet another song. I think this time is so beautiful.

Saturdays are washing days. I have only washed my own clothes once so far. And I didn't even really wash them. I just rinsed. It is such a labor intensive process. I would have never thought it would be that difficult. There are 5 buckets lined up. The first is for washing. Then there are about 3 for rinsing and the buckets rotate as the water in them gets more and more soapy. I would try to wring out the clothes and my mother would usually come over and do it for me because "you must have energy". The spin cycle is a wondrous invention. However, I made it through my first time and will have many more opportunities to improve my skills.

I am getting so much more used to the food here. I actually quite enjoy many of the things that I once despised. My favorite is obviously chapati. I also get quite excited when we have fish. Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and cabbage are all also at the top of my list. I have begun to really enjoy g-nut sauce. Matoke is not so bad. Neither is rice. Although the meals do get quite monotonous. I still really do not enjoy posho. No flavor. And I cannot eat bitter berries. We are also getting to eat quite a bit of American food. We went to Jinja last weekend and were treated very well. We had pizza, chips, chicken tenders, etc. Today we are having enchiladas and brownies. There is much more access to these things than I would have thought.

Ok. I'm really tired of writing. I will attempt to update soon. I still haven't discussed classes or our Jinja trip (apart from the awesome food). Things are going well. Love you all!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Rwanda, etc.

Hey guys. I realize that I have been doing a very poor job at keeping this up to date. I apologize. Here is my attempt to re-cap the past 3 weeks:

1) Leaving Kenya was so incredibly hard. I cannot begin to express teh level of hospitality and kindness we were shown over our 2 weeks there. I attempted to pull an all-nighter to make the most of my last few hours in Nairobi, but failed and gave in to sleep at about 6:00 am. I then woke up to pack at about 8 and we left for the airport at around 10. It was so hard to say good-bye, but, alas, I will hopefully see them all again.

2.)Kate and I arrived in Entebbe, Uganda at around 2 and had to wait at the airport until the group flight arrived at 8. Right after Kate and I sat down at a table to wait, two other girls from the program showed up. We hung out until the group finally arrived. I was so exhausted and not exactly in the mood to wait any longer. We finally left and arrived in Mukono at UCU at about midnight. I was dead tired and went to bed ASAP.

3.) The next morning we had to be up at 8. It was ridiculous. We sat through some general orientation and then the IMME (homestay) students had homestay orientation. Following that, we gathered our things and were dropped off at our homestays. I was so incredibly nervous, expecially once I discovered that I would be alone (most people are paired). I got to my home and found that I had 3 siblings: Isaac (7 years), Deborah (6 years), and Dokas (9 months). My mother is a teacher and my father is a postor. There is also a housekeeper (Agnes) and an aunt (Josephine) who live with us. The first day was incredibly awkward. I don't think it helped that I was exhausted as well as not feeling well. However, my mom is very talkative and helped the situation immensely.

4.) The following day we did more orientation things. We also traveled to Kampala. There we went to Garden City (a mall) as well as some famous tombs. It was the palace of one of the Buganda kings back in the late 1800's. 3 former Buganda kings are buried at this site. (Buganda is the area of Uganda that we are in) It was an interesting taste of Ugandan culture. However, I ended up getting equite a bad headache. I wasn't able to eat more than a couple bites of dinner (which is slightly offensive) and had to go to bed early. My mom was very worried and equite relieved when I seemed to be much improved in the morning.

5.) The next day (Friday) we brought our things to campus for the next week that we would be spending in Rwanda. The departure time for our trip was 5:00 am Saturday morning, so we spent the night on campus because it is not safe to walk in the dark. We did orientation things again all day, and retired early.

6.) Ok, so during this entire time I was having a really rough time adjusting. I really did not want to be here and really desired to board a plane either back to Kenya or to the US. There was a section in the orientation notebook about refunds for leaving the program early that I actually considered. (I'm quite better now and taking things one day at a time)

7.) Saturday morning we left for Rwanda. After just a couple hours of driving we stopped to take photos at teh Equator. We then continued on our 11 hour journey. We crossed the border at about 3 and arrived at our destination of Gahini at around 5. While we were waiting for dinner, we spklit up in to our assigned church groups. Each group was to attend a separate church service the following morning. We were preparing because we were expectedd to play a significant role in the service. They told us we neededd someone to give a sermon, someone to give a testimony, and to have songs prepared to sing.

8.) The next morning we attended a rural Anglican church. We got there late and were ushered to the front of the church to sit on the stage. We each introduced ourselves and were warmly greeted by the congregation. The service consisted of a great deal of music (much in the Rwandan language), some speaking (also hard to understand), a sermon by Josh on servanthood, and some songs sung by us. The most interesting part of the service was when the congregation welcomed back a member who had been kicked out of the church becuase she had become pregnant while she was unmarried. We all thought it was the offering because people were all coming up and giving her money. Following the service, Davis played the drum and we danced with the children. Then we ate food that the pastor's wife had prepared. It was really a great day.

9.) Monday morning we had a couple of speakers come talk to us about the East African revival, which had actually begun in Gahini, very near where we were staying. One of teh women had been there when it started. It was great to hear her story. Furthermore, she had lived through the genocide and was the only surviving member of her family. We heard her talk of her faith despite all of the terrible things that she had been through. Her story was just a precursor to the things we would see and hear the remainder of the week.

9.) That afternoon we left for Kigali. Once there we went to teh Nyamata church memorial, which was probably the most difficult and impactful experience of the week for many of us. 10,000 people were brutally murdered in this location. The man that was giving us the tour gave us very detailed descriptions of the events that occured and the killing techniques used. I was very skeptical, until he informed us that he was one of only 7 survivers. His name was Charles and he was only 8 in 1994 at the time of the genocide. His entire family was killed at the church while he was able to hide amidst the corpses. I very much admired his courage in tellingn his story over and over. There really aren't words to describe the experience.

10.) Tuesday morning we went to teh official genocide memorial. It was another rough day. there is a mass grave of about 300,000 people on side as well as general genocide information and information concerning the Rwanda genocide in particular. The hardest part for me was the children's section. There were photos of children along with information about them and how they died. I just could not fathom the brutality with which these innocent children were slaughtered. We also watched a movie called Ghosts of Rwanda which emphasized the world's falure during the situation. It angered and confused me because I honestly don't know what should have been done. It's easy to say that what was done was insufficient, but it is harder to determine a better course of action.

11.) While in Rwanda we spent a good deal of time learning about reconciliation and forgiveness as well. We learned about the gacaca courts and their success. There have been over 1 million casees tried and they are set to wrap up in September. We also heard of all the challenges facing the Rwandese. Such a great percentage of teh population did kill during the genocide. Now the families of the victims are expected to live in harmony with the killers. Reconciliation is necessary because of their reliance on one another. It is simply amazign to me the capacity of these people to forgive.

12.) We also heard from quite a few missionaries in Rwanda doing anything from business as mission to transformational development. I won't go in to detail.

13.) The last 2 days of the trip we spent on an island in a lake in southwest Uganda debriefing. It was incredibly beautiful. We had a cottage overlooking the lake. It was nice to take some time to just chill before diving in to classes. We were also able to further process our Rwanda experiences. I think we all had a pretty swell time.

14.) The Rwanda trip was also a great bonding time for our group. The IMME students traveled separately from the USE. It was good to have a smaller group so that we could get to know each other better. There are some really cool people here that I am looking forward to getting to know more throughout the semester. We also were able to meet a few UCU students. They are really great and I enjoy seeing familiar non-mzungu faces around campus. (mzungu=white person)

15.) The food in Randa was also pretty amazing. No matoke all week! We had chips at every meal, which was awesome. At the resort place we stayed at the final 2 days, we were served chapati both nights. If you don't know what chapati is, you are missing out. One night we had chapati and guacamole. It was heavenly.

Ok. So that is the jest of Rwanda and the couple days preceding. There is so much more I could say, but this is long enough. I will continue with the first week of classes as soon as I get teh chance. Love you all!

Monday, August 24, 2009


Hello everyone! This is my final update from Kenya. Kate and I leave tomorrow at 1:00 to fly to Entebbe. Mercy is also leaving tomorrow evening, so we are all mourning our departure and trying to enjoy the last few hours that we have together. Since the last post:

1.) Saturday was the wedding. It was so beautiful. We got there at about 11:00 because Mercy and Faith were ushers. The wedding was supposed to begin at 12 but, as most everything here, did not start on time. It began at about 1. The service was absolutely amazing. I feel like I know the couple really well, even though I have only really talked to Nyam for about 10 seconds and never talked to Yos. I got to hear their full story at the bridal shower and am just really encouraged by them. They are really cool people. Anyway, the wedding was followed by a meal. Then all of the women went out and danced and sang to welcome the couple to the reception. That was really interesting. There were speeches and they cut the cake (which was beautiful and had sunflowers!). Finally we left at about 7. Weddings here are a HUGE deal. There were sooooo many people there to celebrate together. Everything here is a community event. It was really cool to see.

2.) Saturday night there was an evening party for Yos and Nyam. It was basically for the younger folk and included...DANCING!! It brought me back to the days of high school dances. I had so much fun.

3.) Sunday morning we went to church. Basically the same as last week.

4.) Sunday night we went to a confirmation party for a couple friends of the Okaalets. They were very welcoming and we had a good time. They fed us well...which seems to be a theme here. It was a nice evening. Like I have said before, everyone is just soooo welcoming.

5.) Today Mercy is getting her hair braided, so we are just chilling for awhile while she does that. Yaya!

Ok. So I have told you what we've done but not really how I feel. So here goes...

It has really surprised me how much people have accepted us. I wasn't really expecting to become so attached in just a 2 week span. Mercy's family really feels like family. I am really not looking forward to leaving them. I love them so much and it just feels like a second home. Mercy's friends are amazing as well. It seems like I have known them for much longer than I actually have. They have allowed us in to their circle of friends and that has been such a blessing. There are so many that I will miss. A huge part of me wants to stay here in Kenya for the remainder of the semester rather than leaving. I am hoping to be able to visit again sometime soonish.

I am also excited to continue my adventure in Uganda. It is going to be hard to open up to people there as well knowing that it is just going to cause me more heartbreak in the immediate future. However, if I have good friends in Kenya, I might as well have good friends in Uganda as well. The same trip can hit both places quite easily. I am really excited to meet all of the American students who I will be studying with this semester. I am still quite scared for the homestay, although staying with Mercy's family has been good preparation. Mercy's parents actually grew up in Uganda and are Ugandan, so I'm thinking there will be major similarities between the two situations.

Another part of me really wants to accompany Mercy back to the States. I could really go for a Dairy Queen Blizzard. Not going to lie.

So. I guess I am just feeling really conflicted. I hate that I have to leave these people I have come to love. I am excited to continue with this adventure. And I am missing home. Ick. But, I'm going to push the thought of leaving out of my mind and focus on making the most of the present.

Love you all. Miss you. And I'm wishing you could all experience Nairobi with me!

Friday, August 21, 2009


I figured I would update while I had the chance rather than waiting forever and forgetting things. it goes.

1.) We made it home from Yaya safely yesterday. Haha.

2.) Yesterday afternoon we got to hang out with Faith for a bit. That was cool because we haven't really gotten a chance to talk with her much. She is soooo funny and amazing. She will be going to school in South Africa starting in January. She wants to major in psychology (Claire, you would love her).

3.) Last night we went to a party at the groom's home. It was really interesting because there were Ugandans (groom's family) and Kenyans (bride's family). It was just funny to see the differences. The Ugandans apparently like to party. They dress up very nicely and like to dance. There is sure to be much more of that at the wedding tomorrow. The kids hung out in the corner and watched. I got to spend some time getting to know Steve. He is a cool kid and constantly complaining that he is getting old. He will be 25 next week and is worried that he is going to be 'old and boring like Ima'.

4.) Once we got home last night, we got the pleasure of learning how to take out a weave. Mercy had about 5 sets of hands in her hair taking out the weave. It was an interesting experience.

5.) This afternoon we actually went paintballing. This was my first time, and it was pretty cool. I didn't really realize how much it would hurt. I am pretty sure I will have some massive bruises, but I am glad that I did it.

6.) After we paintballed, we went over to this bridge that you pay to walk over. I have no idea why anyone would voluntarily do such a thing. This bridge was ridiculous. There was wire on the bottom and up the sides and some rope to hold on to. It rocked and was about a foot wide and spanning over a canyon. Not cool. The group made me do it. It was by force though. Wow. Sooooo frightening.

7.) The dress rehersal for the wedding is going on right now, but we are hanging out at Yaya with K-1 instead of going. Yaya is the bomb. There is a restaurant called Java and they have the best fries. So delicious.

8.) Wedding tomorrow! Weddings here are a much larger affair than they are in the States I think. There are supposedly going to be 400-500 people there. The wedding is at 12 or 1 I think and then the reception starts at 5. Then there will be a dance. At least this is my understanding. It should be interesting.

Love you. Miss you.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Hakuna Matata

Ha. Mercy just left us alone at the internet cafe in Yaya (a mall) to go run errands with her boyfriend. It is only like a 5 minute walk home but she is deathly afraid that we will get lost. We assured her that we knew our way and she made sure to give us instructions to explore Yaya but not the rest of Nairobi.

As for the rest of the week, I will make a list for you so that I can keep my thoughts in order.

1.) Saturday evening we went to Faith's concert at Nairobi Baptist (the church that the Okaalet children attend). It was sooooo cool. There were so many talented people there. Some people rapped, some danced, others did spoken pieces. There was a mixture of everything and it was amazing. Faith was in a choir and they sang quite a few songs. Some were in Swahili, which was cool, but I couldn't understand. However, the lyrics of one of the songs they sang really hit me. It was a simple song and they just repeated the same phrases over and over. The lyrics were "Break me so you can come through/Lord I want to see you/Break me so you can come through/I need a breakthough/Take me I am your vessel/Break me how you please" I just realized that God is in the process of breaking me if I will allow him to. I want to be broken through this semester so that God can shine through. This is my prayer for these coming months.

2.) Sunday morning we attended Nairobi Baptist. It is a huge church with attendance near 4,000. I wasn't quite used to that. There was an American guy leading worship in the adult service, so we went and listened to that first, then headed over to the youth service for the sermon. We also were able to witness about 20 baptisms. It was pretty cool. The worship was obviously much more lively than I am used to, but otherwise I found the service fairly similar to those that I have attended in the US. The Vice President of Kenya was at church, so we got to see him. He was just hanging around and talking to people. Yeah...

3.) Sunday afternoon, the Okaalets hosted a bridal shower for Nyam, the woman who is getting married on Saturday. It was pretty cool, but quite awkward as well. We had to go around and tell how we knew Nyam, to which I replied that I did not know Nyam. It was a good time, though.

4.) Apparently people spend the night at the Okaalets quite often. On Saturday and Sunday evening, Kim spent the night, so we got to hang out quite a bit. He had studied in Germany for 5 years and is now working at the UN. It was great to get to know him a bit more. Another girl (I can't remember he name because it is African) spent the night on Monday and Wednesday. She is Nyam's sister. It was also great getting to know her a little better.

5.) On Monday afternoon, we went to New Life orphanage, which is the home of about 20 babies and I don't know how many toddlers. We went and visited the babies. They were so adorable and I absolutely loved it. We weren't able to stay for long because visiting hours were ending and the babies were going to bed. I have to do an internship if I decide to be a Family and Human Services major, so I was thinking that it would be really cool to come back and do it there. I don't know, just one option.

6.) Tuesday morning we went on a safari walk. It was basically just a zoo with a bunch of African animals. When we were almost done, we met a man who works at the park. He told us to make sure we went and petted the cheetah before we left. We were wondering if he was serious and he was. He took us into the cheetah's pen and they brought it up to us. So we took a bunch of pictures petting it. Pretty cool.

7.) Tuesday evening we went to Wamburu's (I think that is her name) house for dinner. She is a singer and a member of the group Afrizo. They are going to the US next week for a tour. They gave us a concert during dinner and they are soooo amazing. They even sang the Circle of Life. They are probably not coming anywhere near you all, but you should check on their website. ( If you get the chance to go to one of their concerts, you will not be sorry. Wamburu is actually going to be attending Berkeley on a full scholarship. Her voice is AMAZING.

8.) Yesterday we went to the Nairobi museum. It was pretty cool. There were lots of things to see. We spent a couple hours looking through all of the mammals, art, etc.

9.) Today Mercy is hanging out with Michael for awhile so we are on our own. Tonight we are going to the groom's house for a party. Tomorrow we are going shopping. Tomorrow evening is the wedding rehersal. Saturday is the wedding. Tuesday we leave.

Ok, wow. This hardly even scratches the surface. Some extra thoughts.

1.) I love all of Mercy's friends and family. Seriously. They are the bomb. We have spent quite a bit of time just hanging out with them and it has really made the trip. Seeing the sights is all fine and dandy, but what has made the time worthwhile is the people. I am going to miss all of them.

2.) I love how laid-back everythings is here. It is the event that matters and not necessarily whether you are there on time. People are so much more willing to spend time with you even if they are supposed to be getting somewhere else. I think that is cool.

3.) Africa really isn't how it is portrayed in movies. Everyone thinks of Africa and poverty. That is the case in many places, but not everywhere. We have been exposed to a very "American" Africa. Mercy's friends all speak in English, are well educated, and are more wealthy. However, they are not taking advantage of their well-being. Their love for their home country is very apparent and many of them plan to get a good education, whether it be in America, Germany, South Africa, Malaysia, or Kenya, not so they can leave and live the good life somewhere else, but so that they can come back to Kenya and work for improvement here.

So much more I could say, but I won't. Love you all and miss you. I am jealous of Mercy and Wamburu who are heading to the States on Tuesday. However, I am also excited for the remainder of my journey and ready to see what God has in store.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Giraffes and Goodbyes

Hello! much to say. I don't know where to start. I will try to go in chronological order.

1.)Mercy's family is amazing. They have been so patient with us as we attempt to figure everything out. I feel so helpless. Mercy or her mother seem to be doing everything for me. For example, Mercy's mother has been helping in our attempts to get breakfast since we don't know where anything in the kitchen is. Mercy has been getting us water for baths (Kenya is going through a water and electricity crisis right now so there is not really any running water in the least not by the time we wake up). Everyone has been so helpful. Mercy's family consists of: Mercy's father, Mercy's mother, Mercy's brother (Ima), Mercy's sister (Faith), and Kevin (aka K-1) who lives with the family. I love them all and am very grateful for their help and understanding so far.

2.)On Thursday afternoon we went to the giraffe center here in Nairobi, which is the home of 9 giraffes. It was pretty amazing. Once we arrived, they handed us pellets and told us we could feed the giraffes. The giraffes would just lean over the fence and eat it right out of our hands. They basically ate your hand too. It was ridiculously awesome. I have pictures that I will upload eventually.

3.)Thursday evening we went to visit Mercy's friend who is in the hospital following a car accident. She had been in a coma a few weeks ago, so her progress was quite evident. Apparently she is back to her old self for the most part. However, she is doing therapy right now and learning to walk again. While we were at the hospital, Kate fainted. The nurses came running in and took her to a bed to moniter. We think it was probably just low blood sugar, but it was quite scary for a few minutes there. She is feeling much better now.

4.) Yesterday afternoon (Friday), we took a cab to The Village Market, which is the largest shopping mall in Nairobi, to see Jenny Barton (a friend from JBU). We were only able to visit with her for a few minutes because her family was leaving on a trip. However, it was good to see another familiar face and catch up a bit. She was very excited that we were in Kenya. Following her departure, we went shopping at the market in the mall. There they sell all of the traditional African items. We were just looking, so one of the sellers at the market taught us how to say "Today we are looking" in Swahili. I think next week we are planning to go purchase some souveniers.

5.)Last evening we went to Mercy's friend Ana's goodbye party. She just graduated and will be attending a university in Malaysia. Many of Mercy's friends study outside of Kenya, which makes for hard partings. I thought it was tough to say goodbye to everyone, and I will only be away for 4 months. Most of these people leave for at least 9 months at a time. One of Ima's friends who we met had studied in Germany for 5 years without coming home! I can't imagine the homesickness. Anyway, the party was very emotional. I had a really good time and got to know some of Mercy's friends. They are really cool and the party was much like one that we would have in the States. Food, video games, and just hanging out. However, in Nairobi it is not extremely safe at night, so the parties are more in the afternoon and early evening. We were home by about 9.

6.)This afternoon we are planning to go to Faith's concert at Mercy's church. I'm not quite sure what to expect, but it should be fun. K-1 is an MC apparently. So that should be interesting. Tomorrow Mercy's family is hosting a bridal shower for Mercy's friend who is getting married next Saturday. I am excited for both the shower and the wedding! Monday we might head to the beach. We're not quite sure yet because we would probably have to go by bus. It would be about an 8 hour ride. If we do go we will probably stay until Wednesday or Thursday. Mercy is our itinerary planner, so whatever she decides we will do.

Wow. That was a lot. But a lot has happened in these past few days. Hope everything is going well with all of you. I still love you all and miss you very much!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Fatigue and Zac Efron

Hello everyone!!!

I don't have that much time right now, but I just wanted to give a quick update while I had the chance.

Kate and I endured a ridiculous amount of flying time over the past 2 days. It was quite unpleasant, even though the airlines did everything they could to make it endurable. There were personal screens for each seat, which surprised me. I watched Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, 17 Again, and High School Musical 3. However, I got practically no sleep.

We arrived in Nairobi last night, where Mercy and her brother picked us up. We journeyed back to her house, ate some delicious food, met the rest of her family, and then went to sleep until about 2:00 this afternoon. We just got our money exchanged and are heading out to a giraffe zoo. Then we will visit Mercy's friend in the hospital this evening. We are also hoping to get together with Jenny Barton, another friend from JBU who lives in Kenya, sometime either today or tomorrow.

Ok. That's all for now. Love you all. And continue to keep me in your prayers.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Hardest Part Is Letting Go


As most of you probably know, I am leaving for a four month adventure in Africa tomorrow. I am both incredibly excited and extremely nervous. I have tried to occupy myself as much as possible for the past few weeks so I wouldn't freak out too much. However, the time has come. Tomorrow I will be leaving Kansas City at 1:20, commencing a series of 3 flights totaling about 18 hours, with the final destination Nairobi, Kenya.

Apparently I have done a poor job of explaining my upcoming trip, so here is a synopsis:

I will be traveling with a friend from JBU, Kate Dorsey, to Kenya. Here our friend, Mercy (also from JBU), has kindly offered to let us to stay in her home. We will meet her family and friends as well as do some touristy things for a couple weeks. Hopefully this will be a good transition time for the two of us as we prepare for Uganda.

On August 25, Kate and I will fly to Entebbe, Uganda and meet up with the remainder of the group that will be studying with us for the semester. From there we will travel to Mukono, Uganda and be studying at Uganda Christian University for the semester. I have chosen to stay with a host family, while Kate will be staying in the dorms.

I am so thankful that I have been blessed with the chance to participate in this amazing adventure. I am so excited to see what God will teach me in these next months. This is a wonderful opportunity and I pray that I will make the most of it and embrace the new culture, regardless of my own comfort. I pray that God will open my eyes and help me to shed the layers of fog that have been blinding me from seeing others as He does.

Thank you all so much for your support and I would ask that you please remember me in your prayers. I am absolutely terrified! I love you all and will miss you immensely.