Saturday, July 30, 2011

Planning a cross cultural wedding

Traditional Kenyan weddings are quite different from Canadian weddings.

Kelvin and I have decided to put away our cultures and just do what we want to do.

We have gotten a few raised eyebrows with some of our decisions.

We met our wedding decorator the other day and I told him that I want one of my colours to be navy blue. He looked up at me, raised his eyebrows and gave me a puzzled look. Not a colour he is used to working with I assume.

I have had a lot of people ask me the colours of the wedding. In fact, it is often the first thing they ask (even the men). They ask so that they can dress to match my colours. My eyes brows raise as I looked at them like, "huh? You want to match my decorations?" Why should I even pay for decorations when they can just be my living, breathing, moving decorations?

Our wedding is on a wednesday. Up go the eyebrows again.

Our guest list is about 350 people. When I told my parents that, they both were like, "What!?" I couldn't see their eyebrows but I am sure they were sky high.

The reception is going to be a bit later than most Kenyan receptions. It is going to be almost like a Canadian one where they eat supper and then there is a dance afterwards (but our dance will end at around 10pm). Whenever I tell people that, they go, "Oh?.....that sounds cool..."It's new concept that, after thinking about, people really like. It takes a while for them to get it though.

We want to do a private ceremony outside in a garden or backyard. We have gone a couple of places to see what they would charge and what the conditions are. I explain to them that I just want it for the ceremony. They start talking about food, a band, a high table, etc. I say, "no, no, no, just the ceremony." Kelvin then pipes in and says, "she means the church service." I guess that is what it is called here. The person we are talking with then goes, "Well we don't have a church here." I say, "No, we don't want the church service in a church. We want the church service outside." Eye brows raise, eyes roll to the sky as the person processes what I just said. A few seconds later he says, "Ok, I think I understand."

It's only been a week since we started planning. I can't wait to see how many more eye brows will raise in the next couple of months.

Home is where...

....the heart is.

....your family is. sleep. grew up.

I have been pondering lately what makes home, home.

I am heading to Canada in a week and a half. When I tell people this, this is what I say, "I am going home in a week and a half and will return home on October 6th."

What I mean is that I am going to Canada in a week and a half and will be back in Kenya on October 6th.

As I am about to officially become Kenyan (ok I don't know if I will become a citizen or not), I am starting to think about where I will really call home. What will make Kenya my home? Is it my husband or my group of friends here? I definitely don't fit in with my skin colour and english accent. I have a set up a little place here in Mombasa when I have all my stuff and get to take care of. Its my own little house. It is home in Mombasa.

Kelvin calls the village where his mom lives home even though he didn't grow up there or has never spent a huge amount of time there. In his culture, you have to at least build a house up there so you have a place to stay. But you build this house and maybe spend a few weeks a year up there. We never go to visit his mom just for a visit. We are going home and expected to help out just like it is our own home (that was a big cultural concept that I had to get used to).

I usually call Ilula my home in Kenya. I have been visiting since 2005 and the Rono's have become my Kenyan family. When I go up there, I am just like another one of their children. I am expected to clean, cook (ok not really but I should be doing it), and contribute to the household. When Angelina calls me, I answer, "Hi Mum" and then she asks me, "when are you coming home my daugher?" How did this amazing african woman become my mom and this tiny village in the middle of Kenya become my home?

But I grew up in Castlegar. That small town in the mountains of British Columbia largely shaped who I am today. It is where some of my closest friends and family is. It is where the majority of my things are. It is where my wonderful parents, brother, and dog is. But its not necessarily where my heart is. I don't plan to go back and stay there again for a long period of time.

I want to say the right spiritual thing and say that earth is not my home. Ultimately I am just passing through on my way to heaven. That is where my ultimate citizenship is. That is the truth.

But still there is that warm and wonderful feeling of home here on earth.

What about you? What makes home, home? Where do you feel most at home? Is it family, stuff, heart, where you grew up, or something else?

Friday, July 29, 2011

Yes, I am eating

I have had numerous people ask me if I am affected by the huge drought in northern Kenya. Just to clear things up, I am indeed eating. 

Things here in southern and central Kenya are just fine. Our prices of regular food have gone up (some staple foods doubling in price over the past 4 months) but I don't think it is due to the drought. Fuel prices keep rising slowly which, in turn, makes everything a few cents more. Sugar is also scarce these days. I don't think they harvested as much sugar cane as they usually do. It will be back soon though (and to be honest, Kenyans could do with a little less sugar in their tea). 

The drought is heavy on all of us here. Every night it is the top story with news of yet more deaths. It's hard to believe that is happening not to far from us (a plane from Mombasa to Dadaab, one of the largest refugee camps in Kenya, would take less and 2 hours). Yet we seem to be so disconnected from it. There has been speculation that this massive drought was predicted at the beginning of the year but not taken seriously. The Kenyan government has been criticized for not doing much to help their people. They claim they are doing the best that they can (yah...right). 

However, Kenyans have stepped up to take action. There is a service in Kenya called MPESA. MPESA allows you to transfer money from one phone to another. Safaricom, the company that  offers MPESA, has opened an account where Kenyans can transfer money right from their cell phones to the Red Cross who will distribute it accordingly. In the last day or two, Kenyans have sent over $200,000! 

If you can, give a little to help out. Over 6 million people are starving. That is the population of Vancouver times 2. Try find an organization that is collecting donations. I know I will be sending some money through MPESA today.

Just a little proof that I am eating. Kelvin took me for some yummy ice cream at the beach a few weeks ago. 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Quite the week

It has been quite the week.

That is a good thing.

A week and a half ago we got the news that we had been dreading: Kelvin was denied his visa.

We were surprised that we found out so soon since they told us we would know end of august. Kelvin traveled all the way to Nairobi to pick up his denied documents. It wasn't fun. I did cry for about 20 minutes but then got over it.

Our plan was that, if we didn't get the visa, we would get married in December.

So this week has been full of wedding plans!! We have the venue, the date, the colours, the guest list, and the band. I am meeting with a lady about invitations and we are going to look at decorations with a wedding designer. It has been so much fun!

I have also decided to go home for a couple months. Since the wedding will be in December, not many friends and relatives will be able to attend so I wanted to go home to celebrate with my peeps there. I leave in a week and a half and will return to Kenya in the beginning of October. I will spend a few days in Vancouver hanging out with my granny, catching up with some college friends, and going to a BC lions football game with my high school grad date. I will then fly to Castlegar on August 14th to spend the rest of summer in the beautiful Kootenays.

I look forward to doing some wedding dress shopping with mom and a few close friends. I can't wait to sit on my deck and drink coffee with my dad in the mornings. I am dreaming about artichoke and asiago cheese dip with pita bread and steak with broccoli. I want to do some of the local hiking trails in the beautiful mountains and go sea-dooing down the river with my brother. I am looking forward to my time at home.

Keep us in your prayers as to what our next steps will be as a married couple. We are not exactly sure where God wants just yet and we don't know where we will get the money to do what He asked us to do. But we stand on His promises that His plans for us are indeed good, He will supply all our needs, and He will never leave us nor forsake us!

Can't wait to see your beautiful faces in a few short weeks!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

'He will eat you!'

I was sitting beside the pitch yesterday, watching the boys practice, when two little sisters came up to me and struck up a conversation.

They didn't speak english but their swahili was simple enough that they could talk and I could understand and even respond a few words here and there. (Actually, at first they didn't think I was white. They thought I was a Kenyan because I could speak swahili back to them. At some point, a group of about 10 school came over to analyze me and see if I was truly a white person or if I was an Indian. It was quite humorous listening to them debate and watching them stare at me intently.)

I was reading a book that had a picture of a shepherd and a sheep on it. They asked me, "who is this?" I told them, "It's Jesus. Do you know Jesus?" The older girl said, "Ah yes. I am a Christian, Islam is not good."

I just smile and nodded.

Then the younger sister started asking about Jesus. The older one started to explain to her about Jesus, loving Him, and knowing that he is the only way to get 'up there' to heaven.

"And Satan?" the younger sister asked.

"He will eat you!" The older sister scolded her.

I burst out laughing. And so did the little girls.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

School, Babies, and Goals

I realized that it's been a while since I wrote an update about the Rehma Boys. Let me tell you a few tidbits about what has been happening over the past few weeks.


We now have 6 boys in school! Last week, the sixth boy started his Clearing and Forwarding course (it has to do with moving shipment through the port) and is already loving it. We still have boys doing mechanics, art, high school, driving and computer classes. Some are struggling as they have been out of school for 5+ years and only made it to gr.8. But they are slowly learning that hard work is key if they want to do well.

We now have two boys that we are working with to start school. At the end of August, we will take one to the other side of the country to interview for an awesome agricultural program. The other one wants to begin with taking a driving course and then work his way to getting into a mechanics course. If you want to help us by sponsoring these young men to go to school, please let me know.

Keep praying for these boys. I know that life gets tough for them especially now that they are in school full time. At time, the temptation to quit is strong. Pray they will have perseverance as they look forward to their futures.


We got news that another one of our boys gave birth to a healthy baby on friday! We knew that his 'wife' was expecting but didn't know that she was almost giving birth. Funny thing was that, the boy, showed up to the game on friday and didn't say a word about it to anyone. He said that he had been saving up for the hospital bill for months now from the small money he gets doing house chores for a family.

Pray for this young man, his 'wife', and their new baby. He is working hard to be able to support them. The lady is living with his mother for now just for some extra help for the first few months of being a new mom.

I am going shopping in a couple days to buy all sorts of fun food and baby stuff to give to our boy. A baby is worth celebrating!!!


The local MP has put on a large (free) league for teams in his constituency. We were able to get into the league when we got news that another team dropped out. The league has 28 teams and 4 pools. So far, our boys are kicking some serious butt in their pool. Like I keep saying, they are really good.

Thanks again to all those who pray and support us in one way or another. Kelvin and I keep falling in love with these boys over and over again. They break our hearts with some of the poor decisions they make but overall we can see them transforming into some amazing young men. Pray for finances for us to keep supporting these boys. Pray for wisdom in making decisions and guiding these young men. Pray that our relationships with Jesus would become more intimate and pour out on the the lives of these sweet young men.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Whistle while you work

This morning we had our 'guy' come and wash all our clothes. As he sat in our toilet (the toilet, shower, and laundry is all in one tiny room) for almost 3 hours (we had a lot of clothes to be washed) he whistled and sang sweet songs to himself. At times, I would just stop and tune into him as he softly sang melodies in his vernacular language. 

As I thought about it, I realized that most of the people who come and work in our house whistle while they work. 

Last week we had a plumber come in to fix a leak in our sink. He too passed his time clanking away at the metal pipes while whistling a tune to himself. 

We had a friend of ours come and fix a bed that had broke. He didn't whistle as much as he sang all sorts of different songs while he banged our bed back together. 

And every morning the caretaker of our compound gets out his broom and sweeps the compound, waking us all up as he whistles while he works.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Wazungu Season

There has been a flood of white people that have arrived in Mombasa. It's wazungu (white people) season. College students are travelling and volunteering during their summer holidays. Entire families are taking their yearly 2 weeks paid vacation and hitting up Mombasa's resorts. Expats are returning to their homes for a few months and  hanging out with their Kenyan wives (our neighbour has been gone for a few weeks now leaving her child at home with a friend. We suspect she is in some hotel with her white husband).

I have been able to meet some cool people as they discover Mombasa. I like hearing what they are learning, experiencing, seeing, processing, etc. 

However, I have noticed that I am being treated differently by the locals. 

All of sudden, I am getting a lot more attention from people (especially men) asking for pretty much anything. I have to fight harder not to pay higher rates in the matatus, often making sure that I have the exact amount ready so they can't 'forget' to give me my change. I am using my swahili more to show them that I am not a tourist and indeed know my way around this town. The kids at the primary school where the boys practice have started following me around and chatting away with me thinking that I am one of the 14 volunteers from Ireland that have come to teach for the summer. 

It's a little exhausting. 

But such is life. I will just have to get over it for the time being. 

In other news, Mombasa has turned cold! Alright, it has become cool. During the days, you are still likely to sweat but at nights, a harsh breeze blows in bringing cool air and thick clouds. I can actually feel a cold (sore throat, sinus headache) coming on as I sit in a long sleeve shirt and long pants on my couch. 

It's delightfully refreshing. 

And this past weekend, we got the pleasure of seeing Juliani come and perform at a rally that Kelvin was the MC for. Juliani is probably the biggest musician in Kenya. His witty rap lyrics are all Christ focused. His stage presence is overwhelming. His signature dreads whip back and forth as he flings his head around. He is one of a kind, that's for sure. 

I think 40% of Kenyan male youth think they were born to rap like Juliani. And I would say that about 1.5% of that 40% are actually somewhat talented. That makes for a lot of terrible musicians. I have had so many young men show me their stuff. I just nod and smile while trying to decide if I should be honest with them and tell them it's terrible or if I should just let them pursue their dreams and allow God to show them that music isn't their gift. 

The first time I saw Juliani, I was disgusted. At that time, his biggest song was, "I want a piece of your ear like Mike Tyson." I looked at my friend and asked, "Is this boy really a Christian?" She quickly assured me that I needed to understand the rest of the lyrics (that were all swahili slang) in order to understand the gist of the song. After listening to his music and seeing him perform half a dozen times, I have realized that he truly is a follower of Christ. And a humble one to take time out of his day and put on a (free) concert for a crowd of school students. 

The students went wild.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Practicing Head Shots

Our boys are very talented. They are truly one of the best teams around. But one thing they are terrible at is finishing. They get so close to the net after some brilliant passes and footwork but then they fumble the ball or get a weak kick on net or miss the net completely. I watched them play a brilliant game the other day but they just couldn't hit the net. They should have won by 5 goals but they only got one (and won the game!). 

Yesterday at practice, Kelvin tried to get them to practice aiming their shots by placing different coloured cones in a line and giving the cones a worth. If they hit the cone, they got points, if they missed the cone, they lost points. They started off kicking, and then they went to head butting. That's where I got these hilarious pictures.
I just had to sneak in this picture of the handsome coach.



Kadenge, leap froggy, leap!

And my favourite. It's none other than Andrea! He almost looks like he is giving the ball a high 5 or something. Actually, I took many shots of him and they all look like this. It's quite the technique. 

They play a game on Sunday. Maybe I will get to see more of these awesome head shots.  

Friday, July 8, 2011

Wachira's Self Portrait

We asked Wachira, our goalkeeper in Art school, to draw something for his sponsors. This is what he came up with:

Impressive? After one month of art school, I think it's pretty awesome. It is actually one of his assignments. It is a self portrait. We feel like proud parents. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Jack of all trades, Queen of none

Today I had a bit of a pity party.

I woke up and checked my online writing course only to find that my teacher was thoroughly displeased with my latest assignment. I was crushed. I thought the piece was fantastic and I had had some other writers think it was pretty wonderful as well. But this disappointing feedback really broke my heart.

I guess I thought I was decent at writing. Now writing is just proving to be incredibly difficult. For my instructor, my writing is always 'good', 'nice', 'ok'. But I want it to be 'great' 'fantastic' 'amazing'. I never get those kind of comments from my teacher or peers. I see others getting these praises and even better ones but never me.

This eventually spiralled my thoughts to this: Jack of all trades, Queen of none.

I actually didn't come up with that phrase myself but found it on a blog of one of my peers. This is how I have always been. I have been good at everything. There is not much that I can't do well(maybe with a little time and effort). I was always a really good basketball player, a good citizen, a good student, a good friend.

I have never really excelled in anything though. I have never been GREAT at one particular thing.

I am not sure being great at one thing, and lousy at other things, is better than being good at everything and great at nothing. But part of me just wants to be anything.

As I was just wandering through some of my frequently visited websites, I came across a video on It is called 'Obvious to you. Amazing to others.' The whole idea of the short video was that often we think others are amazing. They have an amazing talent, idea, gift, skill. We just wonder how they get these amazing things. But that person thinks that their idea, talent, gift, skill is no big deal to them. It is without thought. It is nothing special. It's like engrained in them. It comes naturally without effort. It's too obvious to them, but it's amazing to others.

What is obvious to me, but amazing to others? What are people amazed by when they think of me but I seem to think it is no big whoop?

Then it clicked.

I get the most praise for my heart, love, ability to survive, endurance, work, and compassion for Africa.

It seems like a strange talent or gift or skill. But that is my amazing.

Even yesterday I met with some other missionary friends who were amazed at how Kenyan I have become and how I utterly delight in my Kenyan life (most days) and the Kenyan people. I am constantly being told 'You are doing amazing things. I don't know how you do it Nikole. You have such a heart.' For me, my heart for African comes so naturally that I don't even think about it.

So I vowed to myself not to allow those thoughts of 'poor me', 'I have no talent', 'I am great at nothing' enter into my mind.

My next assignment for my writing class is to write a short bio about myself in less than 50 words. This is what I have so far:

Compassion is what moves Nikole to leave her small town in Canada and grow roots in Kenya. A laughing orphan, an empowered widow, a former street boy in school, a healed baby is what makes her thrive. She shares their stories hoping to inspire change, generosity, compassion, and love. 

Yup. That about sums up my amazing. 

Coffee Guilt

I have been walking around feeling a little guilty lately. Shameful, really. Almost like I am sinning against the coffee gods.

I have succumbed to instant coffee.

When I grew up, I didn't even know how to make instant coffee. It was simply a no-no in our house. No exceptions. Taboo. Practically sinful.

It wasn't till last year in Kenya that I tried my first cup of instant coffee. I had to ask someone to show me how to do it. I had no idea how much to put in. I had never seen coffee just dissolve like sugar in water. I didn't mind the taste but it definitely didn't compare to home-brewed coffee.

However, after a year of drinking instant coffee on and off. I have to admit...

I actually... it.

I have found a good one that I look forward to every morning (although the Starbucks VIA is my all time favourite but cannot be bought here). I do have coffee grounds but have yet to figure out a way to make a good cup of coffee without a coffee maker or french press (if anyone has any ideas, I am willing to try it.)

Instant coffee is the only coffee in Kenya. If you order a cup of coffee in a restaurant, they will bring you half a cup of hot water, a small cup of hot milk, and a package of instant coffee. It is very rare to find brewed coffee which is ironic since Kenya is known for coffee. Much of the world's coffee (including Starbucks) comes from Kenya. Have you ever heard of  Karen Blixen or the movie/book Out of Africa? The best cup of coffee I have ever had is in a coffee shop in Nairobi called Java House where they serve amazing, brewed, Kenyan coffee. Kenya has good coffee, but for some reason they have succumbed to instant.

But for now, I will enjoy my instant coffee.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Feeling Motherly

I am in my room on my bed with my perky laptop perched on my lap. I am listening to Kelvin and six boys from our team talking in the living room.

Today I feel motherly.

Kelvin told me he wanted to have some boys come over so that he can do a bit of a leadership talk with them. Since we don't know if we are going to Canada or not, Kelvin wants to prepare them early to take over the team and take on more of the responsibilities just in case we do end up leaving quickly.

So I went into mother/wife mode. I first started thinking about what I would cook and how I should arrange the house. I counted all my cups and plates (since we are only 3 people living in this apartment, I don't have a lot of dishes.) This morning I started cutting up onions and tomatoes as to have them all ready to go. I butchered two chickens and then marinated it before baking it in the over. Meanwhile making sure that my kitchen is spic and span by washing all the dishes once I was finished using them and constantly wiping the counters. I had everything prepared, warm and fresh, and clean when the boys finally arrived. I was so impressed with myself.

The boys devoured the food. It made my heart so warm watching 'my boys' fill their bellies with good food. I started to realize what my mother feels like when she cooks and feeds us. Its such an amazing satisfaction.

After lunch, Kelvin wanted to have a chat with them about the team, life, responsibility, respect, being a man, etc. I decided to take a break and head into my room to let them relax a bit (I know they are a bit intimidated when I am around). I can hear them talking about keeping time and respecting one another. Kelvin is encouraging them to hold each other accountable and take care of their bodies (ie, no drugs). Amongst the serious talk, Kelvin cracks a joke and they all burst out into that young-dude-too cool for school- laughter.

My heart is smiling.

I think they are wrapping up now so I am going to go tune into their conversation.


My beautiful, outgoing, bold, strong, loving, caring, compassionate, courteous, inspiring mother turns 49 today. 

So I must wish her a very happy birthday! I was I could be there with her, sitting on our deck, while indulging in her traditional birthday cake: a homemade strawberry tort. 

I love my momma.