Thursday, June 30, 2011

Oh Canada!

After living in Kenya for almost 3 years now, I have never been more proud of being a Canadian. 

Canada is truly an amazing country. 

I am grateful that God chose me to be born in a country that has a government who actually takes care of it's people, has some of the most gorgeous landscapes in the world, and has an incredible blend of beautiful, humble people. 

Don't get me wrong, I do love this quirky country of Kenya (Kenya ranks #16 on the failed states list for 2010 - not something to be particularly proud of.) 

I haven't decided what I am going to do today to celebrate Canada day. Unfortunately, I don't have many canadian friends here in Mombasa to celebrate with. I think I will make my dad's famous camping burritos (which he usually makes this time of year when we do a big family camping trip to Summit Lake). I was also given a huge bag of Jolly Ranchers (I know they are not specifically Canadian but they remind me of home) that I plan to suck on all day. And maybe I will give my family a call later on and say hi as all my aunts and uncles will be celebrating at my house in Castlegar. 

Happy Canada Day! 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

He still died for me

I sat in my bed this morning, like usual, to spend my time with God. Recently, I have been working through a study from the book Bad Girls of the Bible by Liz Curtis Higgs. I am almost at the end of the study. The last Bad Girl we study is the sinful woman in Luke 7:36-50.

This is by far the most powerful woman I have studied in the bible. Over the last few days I have found myself almost in tears, my heart so moved by Love and compelled to worship. 

I was going through various verses in the bible that talk about how truly amazing our God's forgiveness is. I was led to a familiar verse. 

"But God demonstrates his own love for us in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8

My study book asked me to put it in my own words so this is what I wrote: 

God loves me so deeply that, even though He knew that I would never stop sinning nor would I ever be worthy, He still sent Christ to die for my sins.

Jesus knew that I would never stop sinning when He gave His life for me. It is rare for someone to love someone so deeply to actually give up their life for that person. And if that is the case, the person they would be dying for is probably a pretty noble person. But oh no, Jesus died for all people whether they were worthy of it or not. Not only that He died knowing that they would never cease to sin. 

I am just in awe of God's great love for me. 

This compelled another thought in my mind concerning the young men we work with. 

There are days that I see them making huge leaps forward. Their behaviours are changing, they are more interested in Christ, they are becoming respectful and loving towards one another and their community, they are gaining hope and responsibility, and so on. 

But then there are days that I feel like they are going no where. 

This weekend we had a game in town. As the boys were getting dressed, Kelvin smelled marijuana. One of the boys was smoking (which we do not tolerate at all). He went over to where they were sitting and tried to see who it was but they all denied it. He came back to sit with me. I turned around towards the boys and saw a huge puff of smoke coming from behind a tree. I couldn't see who it was but some of the other boys could see. I told Kelvin and he went over again to try confront them but they all denied it. 

I was so hurt. We do so much for them and yet they have the guts to break the simple rules that we have made and lie to us? 

Then I found out today that one of them took some plastic cups out of Kelvin's bag and decided to take them home (they are the only cups that I own in my house). Seriously? Why must you steal my cups? 

One of our boys, who we put into school, has been skipping (for some legit reasons and some lazy reasons) and we have been notified that he has also been getting into marijuana. Ugh! 

It just hurts. After we put so much prayer, love, finances, time, effort and emotions into them. 

But then I think of what Christ did for me. He gave His entire life for me knowing that I would still sin against Him. It probably hurts Him too. 

And you know what baffles me even more? The fact that Christ knew that I would never stop sinning! Yes, I may become like Him but I will always hurt Him with my sins. 

I do all this for the boys with the hope that they will become amazing men of God. But I do not know if they will really turn out that way. And I wonder that if I knew what they would be like in 10 years, would I still do these things for them? If I knew that the one boy we put into school was going to end up being a drug dealer, would I still support him? I honestly don't know. 

But Christ did it for me. 

And that's amazing. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Ziploc Bags and Honey Bears

I was shocked to see a hole in my precious Ziploc bag. I went through all the different rodents that could have done this. I was wondering why they would possibly want my detergent? That makes no sense. I thought they liked things that taste good, not things that will foam in their bellies. 

And then it clicked. 

A few days ago we had someone come and wash our clothes. The man was confused when he couldn't find the soap in the original package so he picked up my Ziploc and asked me, "Soap?" I nodded and he went to work. 

I guess he couldn't figure out how to open the Ziploc bag so he resorted to poking a hole in the side and pouring it out. 

I have to admit I got a little fussy because I make a point to bring Ziploc bags from home because you just can't find the same quality here. 

I had another Ziploc incident with Kelvin the other day. I told him that there is some leftovers in the Ziploc container in his fridge that he can have for lunch. 

"Ziploc? Is there a key?" 

Ha, I almost burst out laughing right there. It's one of those cultural things that just totally pass you by until it comes up. 

In other news, I was absolutely delighted to find this honey in a bear squeeze bottle at the supermarket today! It put an instant smile on my face. My smile almost doubled when I realized it is actually cheaper than the honey in a screw top container. 

It was the first thing that I showed Kelvin when I got home. He didn't understand my excitement. But its ok. It warmed my heart. 

I can't wait for breakfast tomorrow morning with my new honey bear!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Baby Nikole

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that Kelvin and I had gone to visit one of our players, Zizou, who had just had a baby. We brought them a big supply of food stuffs and baby things to congratulate him and his wife. To my delight, Zizou brought Saumu (his wife) and baby Nikole to their game yesterday! (Yes, the baby is nicknamed Nikole. I am assuming it is named after me since Nikole is not a very common name in Kenya). 

Zizou was so cute carrying his baby across the field and over to where I was sitting. He just plopped the baby on my lap and went to get changed for the game. Saumu came up and greeted me with her huge, beautiful smile and sat down beside me. 

Baby Nikole loves to cry! Saumu kept telling me how she never sleeps at night and when she is awake she only cries! I got to experience it first hand as the baby cried on and off for a good 2 hours at the game. 

I was so blessed to have a girl to hang out with. Saumu and I chatted the entire game. I spoke english and she spoke swahili but we managed to understand each other (for the most part) and have a wonderful conversation. 

I remember the first time Kelvin took me to Kongowea. We passed this dirt pitch in the matatu and I had a little vision. I envisioned Kelvin running soccer programs with tons of young boys every evening. I envisioned myself sitting on the sidelines chatting with all the girlfriends or any girls from the community. I saw us becoming mentors and 'parents' to these kids slowly introducing them to Jesus. 

I don't think I realized how my seemingly small and insignificant vision has come to pass. I never thought that this is what we would be doing. Sure, it isn't exactly what I had envisioned but it is sure close. My dream of reaching the girls sort of faded after realizing that the boys never bring their girlfriends to the pitch (maybe thats only a Canadian thing) nor do they really even tell us about girls that they are interested in. However, I never thought about their wives! (My original vision involved more young teens not like the young men we work with). 

I hope that Saumu comes to more games. Her and I had a great conversation that I would love to continue. She is a muslim. Notice the markings on the baby's head? Those are put there so that the baby is protected from evil spirits or ghosts. Saumu looked at the large Baobab tree behind us and shivered in fear. She told me that ghosts come out of those trees and she didn't want them to get her baby. I then opened up about my belief in Jesus and how He is greater and stronger than anything in this world so I don't need to fear these spirits. He lives in me; I believe in Him. 

'The trees of the woods shall rejoice before the Lord..." 1 Chronicles 16:33a

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A childhood friend comes to visit

I have had the most wonderful week! My long time friend, Katie, came to stay 5 whole days with me in Mombasa. She is doing a research project for her degree in Dar Es Salaam (about 600km south of Mombasa) and took a week off to come spend time with me. I was so blessed! 

Katie and I grew up together. We started dancing and playing soccer together when in middle school and our friendship became stronger in our last years of high school. Since high school, we have been either going to school or travelling or working in different parts of the world so we only get a short period of time during holidays to catch up. This week was wonderful having so many  hours of just catching up with all that we have done and who we have become over the past 5 years. 

I put her back on the bus  yesterday morning on the verge of tears. It was sad to see her go. I spent the rest of the day feeling a little homesick. 

Having Katie around gave me the chance to really enjoy all that Mombasa has to offer. I guess when you live in a place, you forget to really enjoy it. People always say that if they lived as close to the beach as I do, they would go swimming everyday. I don't know why but I just don't go. However, Katie gave me an excuse to do all these fun things that I never do. 

I forgot how refreshing it is to go swimming the ocean. We bobbled in the waves as we chatted about life. She was in awe of the beautiful beaches.

 I gave her a tour of Old Town Mombasa (my old neighbourhood) where we admired the beautiful structures and enjoyed the local food.

There is a sweet coffee house in Old Town that serves traditional Swahili coffee (coffee with spices such as cinnamon, ginger, pepper, lemongrass and others). You take off your shoes and cozy up with cushions on the floor. 

A walk along the ocean. 

We even went out dancing! It was a hoot although I am not so sure that I would do it again but I am glad I experienced it. 

It was my nieces birthday party on Sunday. Michelle turned 8 years old. 

All the kids who came for yummy Pilau and cake!

Kelvin was asked to preach at a small concert at a church so Katie and I tagged along. We totally enjoyed the hyper atmosphere and watching all the kids dance. 

Our final night we decided to take a 2 hour sunset boat cruise on the Mtwapa creek. Kelvin and I had been wanting to do it but wanted to find some people to go with. It was just gorgeous! After the sun set, we just sailed on the still, quiet waters under the stars and candle light cracking jokes and laughing while the frogs croaked in the distance. Amazing! 

So thankful for a good friend from home. It is just what my heart needed!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Agogo is one boy who will force you to smile. He walks around with pride lifting his shoulders but when you chat with him, you realize he is just a fun loving young man. He has been a source of amusement for Kelvin and I over the last few weeks with his boyish antics and his naive comments. He has surprised us by stepping up his game and becoming one of our top scorers. When he scores, he just looks at Kelvin with this goofy grin on his face and Kelvin laughs. 

Agogo only made it it gr. 8 and then his family could no longer afford for him to go to high school. He has literally been hanging around Kongowea for the past 5 years. He is a hustler. Despite his lack of education, he has managed to secure himself several short term jobs to help sustain him and his family. Pretty impressive for a young, uneducated dude like him.

Kelvin talked to him the other day to see what he wanted to do with his life. He had always wanted to go for a driving license. He knows that he could get a good job being a driver somewhere in Kenya or even outside the country. So I quickly found someone to sponsor him to do driving school and he is doing his first class this morning! 

Here is Agogo sporting a serious face that I have never seen before. He must be pretty serious about his driving. 

Many of our boys have not made it to high school. They end up finishing gr. 8 when they are about 14 or 15 years old and then can't move onto high school because their families can't afford it. So they literally just live in Kongowea bummin' around trying to pick up odd jobs for years on end. Right now, most of them are too old to go back to high school. It is still possible as some high schools will still take them but their maturity level is a bit higher than the students they would encounter. One of our goals is to meet them where they are right now and try to figure out what the best way forward is for them. Most of them don't want to go back to high school but want some sort of technical training. Many institutes only require a gr.8 completion for you to enrol. Some want to do driving courses. Some just want some capital to start a small business.

Slowly, we are helping to meet these needs. God has been making me to realize that I am not responsible for helping all of them. It's amazing when I have a prayer for a certain boy or even ask someone about possibly sponsoring one of them, and then all of a sudden, the boy has found his own means to go to school. It's amazing to watch God work around us. I feel so privileged to be apart of his work in these precious young men. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Finally some good customer service.

Customer service in Kenya is completely backwards.

It drives me up the wall.

My mother owned a retail store while I was growing up. She was an amazing saleslady with her number one priority being to get the customer what they need. Her business did very well  and people grew to love and trust her. After watching her for 9 years, I picked up the same skills and mentality that she had. I have a pretty good handle on what customer service really is.

In Canada (and other developed countries), the salesperson or business owner depends on the customer to bring in their income. Therefore, their greatest interest is to serve the customer in a way so that they will keep coming back and buying their products. They value the customer because they realize that, without the customer, there would be no business.

Kenya is the complete opposite.

The business owner in Kenya often has the mentality that they are providing a service to their customers since, without them, their customers won't have what they need to survive.

A couple examples:

  • I go up to the desk to pay for my item. I hand the cashier (often the person who owns the business) a large bill. He doesn't have any change (which is always the case in Kenya). He then looks at me as if it is MY problem that HE doesn't have change for me. He expects me to start rummaging through my purse to see if I can muster up enough coins while he sits there and stares at me impatiently. I usually drop what I wanted to purchase and leave the store to find someone else who has change. 
  • Matatus, privately owned public transport, pick people up at any point on the side of the road. I will stand at the roadside and see a matatu coming with the conductor signalling to me to see if I want to get in. I raise my eyebrows showing him that I chose his matatu to get in to. The matatu then screeches to a halt a few feet ahead of me. As I am walking towards it, the conductor then says,"Ah, faster mummy, faster!" I take a good look at him and step away from the car. YOU need ME to get into your car so that YOU can get my money yet YOU are RUSHING ME? No thanks, I will just wait for the next matatu. There are plenty of them. 

And the list goes on. 

I realize that I making some big generalizations here. Not all Kenyans are like this. Let me tell you about Louisa. 

Two weeks ago I was complaining to my friend Louisa about how itchy my bed bug bites are (yes, I am still battling those pesky bugs). She mentioned to me a product that she sells that would help with that itchiness. She explains to me the company and give me all the information. I then remember a friend telling me about another product from this same company that she said works really well. So I ask my friend Louisa about it and she gave me more details. I was intrigued. She then suggests that we meet at a certain time and place and look into it a bit more. 

Today we finally met after a few weeks of trying to catch each other. She came all the way to where I was so that it was convenient for me. She sat me down and explained to me everything. She even reassured me that my money would be returned after 30 days if I didn't like the product (which means that she wouldn't get her commission). Her genuine interest was my need. She really wanted to help me out. She knew her products really well and took the time to discuss them all with me and answer all my questions. By the end of our meeting, I wanted to buy everything from her. I ended up walking out with a product (and a few extra ones) that I feel confident about. 

Finally some great customer service. 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Dreamin' of Summa

Yesterday, Kelvin and I were sitting on the couch in silence watching TV. I guess the program wasn't interesting enough to keep my attention, so I let my mind wander. 

I started dreaming about the delicious summers in the Kootenays (thats the area I grew up in). 

A girlfriend and I decide to go out for a coffee and sandwich at a cute little joint in town. I park my zippy little white echo on the side of the quiet street. My hit-of-the-summer song (I always have one) shuts off as I turn off the ignition and pull my keys out. I toss the keys in my stylin' summer bag and step out of the car. My friend and I cross the street and enter into the quaint little bagel shop. The  sun shines down on us giving us the perfect amount of heat. I am not sweating nor do I have goosebumps.

As we enter the shop, the first thing I notice is that no one is staring at me (which is never the case in Mombasa) and that everything is so clean (which is also never the case in Mombasa). The girl at the counter greets us with a perky smile and asks what we want. She patiently waits for us to decide and the tells us that it will take only a few minutes. The great customer service is refreshing (I will write a post on how backwards customer service is in Kenya one day). My friend and I chose a seat by the window and begin to catch up. The meal arrives a few minutes later while we are already in deep conversation.

My plate is pretty much spotless after almost 2 hours of chatting with my dear friend. So refreshing, I keep thinking. So refreshing to be in the warm (not sweltering) sun, to be treated as normal, to have an amazing chat with an awesome friend who has an accent I can actually understand, to eat good and tasty food, to be able to drive in sane traffic and listen to my favourite tunes, to be wearing short shorts and a tanks top exposing my arms and maybe a bit of cleavage. Ahhhhh, I miss summer at home. 

Just as I am in the middle of my day dream, Kelvin interrupts me and says, 'I really want to Canada.'
Shocked that he was dreaming of Canada, I looked at him and said, "Me too. Me too."

My brother teasing me one summer as he purposefully threw a gigantic rock in the water right next to me. Yes, it created a huge splash and soaked me. Ah, I love summer. And my brother too I guess. 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

3 days of craziness, 3 months of waiting

This week has been overwhelming, to say the least.

After finding out that the visa application needed to be in by this friday, we spent the last 3 days getting everything we need. Some things were easy to get, but some things proved to be a bit more difficult.

Kelvin was planning to travel Thursday night and arrive Friday morning at the High Commission. However, we ended up coming across a paper that said that the only hours the High Commission is open to the public are Thursday mornings from 8-10.

We kicked our butts into high gear Wednesday afternoon in order to get everything together.

I got a little pushy and snappy at Kelvin (who insisted on stopping to chat to everyone we would pass in the streets even when shops were about to close and we still had tons to do.) Kelvin kept trying to get me to chill out but I kept reminding him that if I wasn't so pushy, we wouldn't have got it all done in time.

Finally we had all the papers in order by 5pm on Wednesday night. It was such a relief. We forgave each other for the way we treated each other over the past 3 days of intense pressure.

 Kelvin left on the bus last night and arrived in Nairobi this morning. He scurried up to the embassy to hand in his application.

He was told he will know in 3 months.

So we had a hectic 3 days and now we are waiting for 3 months.

Kelvin is now back on the bus coming home. He will arrive tonight. I will be so excited to see him.

Pray for us as we wait. Pray that we would find favour in the eyes of the immigration officers. Pray that our papers would be clear and concise and, if we missed something or messed up on something, that God would give us grace (not only did we have to rush to get everything, we had to make sure that everything was filled out properly as one small mistake can lead to immediate refusal).

Pray that God's will would be done.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Beach Bums lookin' for a visa to Canada

We had a friend come visit for a few days who was adamant about going to the beach. He just loves the everything about the beach. For us, the beach is no big deal. We live here and see it daily. Although, I guess I should take advantage of it more often. A lot of people would kill to live where we live. Anyways, while our friend frolicked in the waves, we relaxed in the shade. We napped, ate, chatted, and laughed till my cheeks were hurting. Have I mentioned how much I adore this man??!?!?

We got news last week that Kelvin was awarded a one year scholarship to the college in my hometown! We had been waiting for this news for a few months and were elated when it was all finalized. Although, this is only the first step. And it just gets harder from here. 

Study permit. Canadian Immigration. Ugh....

Canada is NOT an easy country to get into (which is rather ironic because we are the most multi-cultural country.)

As I was researching all that needs to be done for the application, I found out that if Kelvin expects to be in school in September, the entire application needs to be in by THIS friday! 

I went into Visa mode. 

There is no way we can get the original documents that we need from Canada here on time (plus Canada post is threatening to strike - good timing) so we have to resort to printing scanned documents. 

We have a lot of documents that need to be compiled here in Kenya including some letters that we need to get from family, friends, people of authority, etc. We have a paper that needs to be signed by Kelvin's mom so it is on it's way to the village tonight. She will sign it and put it on a bus tomorrow and it will arrive on Wednesday morning. 

On top of all this, my internet is acting up. I went to the shop to see what was wrong. I thought they fixed it until I got home and it still didn't connect. I almost threw it at the wall and cried like a baby because I was so frustrated. Good thing Kelvin is a little more level-headed than I am. 

And you know when you are just a little edgy because a few things go wrong, then every little thing just seems like a huge obstacle? Yah, thats how my morning was. 

I was on the verge of tears when I finally sat down at 3pm. I decided that I just needed some time to connect with my King. I needed to relax my mind, lay aside all these things that seem so huge (but really aren't) and worship God. So I turned on my itunes and belted out songs of worship. I am pretty sure the neighbours walking by thought I was nutso. Or maybe not. Maybe they were blessed by the music. It didn't matter because I got to meet with my first Love. As I began to sing, peace consumed me. I was overwhelmed to tears. A smile came across my face. I opened my bible to Psalm 20 and read of God's strength and faithfulness. Some put their trust in chariots (or visa applications) and some put their trust in horses (or Canadian immigration) But I choose to put my trust in God! 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Things that have made my heart glad this week

I have had some beautiful moments and encounters over the last few days. I wish I could write a blog post about each of them, but let me just recap a few things that have made my heart glad. 

1. Baby Zizou

Last week we found out that one of our boys just had a baby girl. We only found out recently that he was living with a 'wife' (not legally married but have moved in together and, as far as I know, are committed to one another) and that his 'wife' was pregnant. He stopped coming to practice last week and when Kelvin would see him, he would look absolutely exhausted. He usually a cheerful fella but his whole demeanour had changed. We were then told that his wife had given birth so he was at home caring for her her and baby. At first my heart broke a little because I know that Zizou doesn't have anyway of supporting himself let alone a wife and child. However, a child is a reason to celebrate in my eyes so that is what we wanted to do. 

Kelvin and I decided to make a surprise visit to see his new baby girl. We brought along all sorts of foods and household items to bless them. I wanted him to know that a child is a precious gift and also a huge responsibility. I find in Kenya, people often down play the birth of a child especially if it was done out of wedlock. Married or not, a child is precious. As we entered to the house, the wife was elated that we had come to see her. She quickly handed me the precious 2-week old baby girl and she slept in my arms for the duration of our visit. As soon as Zizou returned home, a huge smile came across his face. He was delighted that his coach would make the effort to visit him and congratulate him. I also learned that they have nicknamed the baby Nikole. 

Thank you Jesus for letting us be the face of your love, grace and mercy. Thank you for the gift of precious baby Zizou. 
Here is Zizou looking serious at practice. 

2. Teeth

One of our boys was attacked one night as he was going home last year. He spent a few nights in the hospital. I think his jaw was badly damaged and his front teeth had been knocked out. Since then, he always has seemed self conscious of smiling. He would only smile when he was truly comfortable with the people around him. I had started praying about possibly helping him out and I even shared my heart with a few people to see if they were willing to help him get his smile back. But to our surprise, he showed up to the pitch on Monday with a new set of teeth! We have no idea where he got them or how he paid for them, but Kelvin said he was smiling like he had never smiled before. Amazing how God answers our prayers. It's a humble reminder that I do not have to do everything for these boys. It doesn't depend on me to look for donations to help them. I am now challenged to take it up with God first before asking others. 

3. Peanut butter cookies, a good friend, and a nourishing conversation. 

I have expressed my frustration with baking on Facebook a few times. I just haven't been able to figure out my oven so I tend to burn everything. I then tried to make peanut butter cookies the other day and, to my delight, they turned out awesome. It took a lot of fidgeting with all the little knobs and constantly watching over them, but they turned out great.

So yesterday when I knew I had a friend coming to visit, I thought I would make a batch for us to enjoy while we chatted.

Well, we ended up eating over half of them over the 4 hours of chatting. I can't tell you how wonderful it was to just sit with a (relatively new) friend and talk about life, God and all things in between. I just love a good, long, deep, fun, nourishing conversation!  I have been praying for more deep friendships in my life over here and I thank God that He is hearing the cries of my heart!

I took a simple, online travel writing course a few months ago and totally loved it. I then came across MatadorU travel writing course and decided that I would take the plunge and sign up for another course.  I am only one week in and already I am learning so much. This a much more intense and innovative course. It also has an incredible network of travel writers from all over the world. I am totally intimidated by the amazing places travelled, the creative ways of storytelling, and the big blogging world. Maybe one day, this whole writing thing, will actually add a little sumin' sumin' to my bank account. 

I am looking forward to so much more over the next few days. We have a friend from Holland coming today who may be able to do some small business training with a few of our boys. I have a bible study of girls who I am always excited to hang out with. Another chapter of my writing course comes out as well. Whoopie!