Monday, October 31, 2011

Christmas for the Boys!

I had a good friend email me the other day telling me about the World Vision Christmas Gift Catalogue that she received. Many charity organizations send out “Alternative Gift Catalogues” during the Christmas season giving people the option of giving their loved ones a donation in their name. My friend then asked me if we have set up anything like that. She said that she would love to give to something a little closer to home rather than World Vision. She got me thinking.

After a little brainstorming and talking it over with Kelvin, we have decided that we would love to bless our team with new team t-shirts and a large basket of food to take home to their families!

This year has been incredibly tough for Kenyans. Some of their staple foods have doubled in price in the last 8 months making it harder and harder to fill their bellies. While food prices have soared, salaries and unemployment rates have stayed the same. Our boys have struggled big time. Barely a week goes by when we don’t have a couple of them approach us because they can’t pay their rent or they aren’t eating. It breaks our hearts. Even Kelvin and I are feeling it and have had to cut some yummy foods out of our diets. Plus, it’s hard to treat yourself to homemade peanut butter cookies when your friends are eating one small meal a day.

Our goal is to give 25 boys maize meal, cooking oil, sugar, bread, milk, beans, onions, tomatoes, salt, paraffin, margarine and even meat (which they hardly eat anymore). On top of that, we will have team t-shirts made for all the boys. They have been asking for official team t-shirts (that they can show up to games in) for a while now.

We can purchase all of this for only $25 per boy!

We want to appreciate the boys and their commitment to the team. We also want to share Christmas, one of the most important holidays for us, with them.

If you would like to give one of your loved ones a Christmas gift for a deserving young man, you can make your donation on the left hand side of this blog. Please make sure to write “Christmas Gift” under the ‘donation to be used for’ tab. I will then send you a card that you can give to your loved one explaining the donation you made in their honour.

So if you are struggling to find a meaningful gift for someone who seems to have everything (or is really hard to shop for ;)) why not consider the gift of giving? Please pass this on and encourage others to take part.

Thanks for helping us bless our boys this Christmas!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Thankful for Community

It's not easy to pick up your life in Canada, everything you know and all the people you know best, to come and settle in a completely foreign country. A country where you stand out because you look different, you talk different, your ways of life are different, etc. A country where you can't speak the national language and the culture is so upside down compared to yours. As much as I love it here, there are definitely days I miss home. I miss my family most. But I think I miss things that are easier. Life in Kenya is tough and sometimes I just need a break. A break from the heat, the dirt, the noise, the constant heckling, the poverty that surrounds me, the bland food, and so on.

I think I will be forever torn. Good thing I don't have to be on earth forever but have a citizenship in heaven that I belong to.

However, since I have returned, I have been overwhelmed by the community that God has placed me in. I have REAL friends - not just people that I think I should try help or minister to - but true, beautiful, wonderful friendships. I have an awesome church that is not perfect but probably one of the godliest churches I have ever attended. I have people who love and care for me. I am so honoured that one of my best girlfriends' here, Rahab, is throwing me a surprise bridal shower (she told me she was but I don't know any of the details) and inviting all my girlfriends to come. I can walk through the streets and randomly bump into people I know. I don't feel different from them. I don't feel like the white girl who they have to be nice to. I feel like one of them. And they treat me like one of them.

And I didn't make all these friends through Kelvin. If Kelvin wasn't in my life, I think I would still have this community around me.

Of course, it has taken me 3 years (yes it has been 3 years since I first moved to Mombasa) to build these friendships. I had to do a lot of adapting and learning of the culture and what goes on in their lives. But I have integrated to the best that I can (although I still can't speak swahili fluently - that is my next goal as I am really starting to feel the pressure to learn it). People appreciate when you understand them. People appreciate it when you don't think of yourself as greater or better off than them, or like you are here to come and help them because you are rich and they are poor. People want love, acceptance, friendship, fellowship, care, and to feel like they belong.

And that's what I feel here in Mombasa. Like I belong.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Varnishing Queen

Ok, so it took me a week to get it finished. Things just kept popping up and days passed without me even realizing. However, today my little wooden stand is finally finished. 

I know this is a minor job but it is the first time I have ever done varnishing (or any sort of handy work like this). Kelvin kept giggling at me as all I could think about was getting home to varnish. I just love to learn new things. 

As I suspected, I didn't use half the varnish that I was told to buy. So I saved myself $1.50 and half a can of varnish. However, I am still scraping varnish off my skin and had to do a minor haircut after I dipped the tips of my hair into the can of varnish. Whoops! 

My house is getting closer to being mould free!

Monday, October 24, 2011

"Wishing You Success"

"He wants a success card. You must get him a success card." We were told (not asked or requested) by a cousin of ours. Her son is doing his KCPE exam in a few short weeks. He needs a card wishing him success. 

In Kenya, students are require to do two national exams. At the end of primary school, they do their KCPE exam which determines which high school they can go to. And then, in grade 12, they must do another exam, the KCSE, which pretty much determines the rest of their lives (aka which university they go to and what kind of job they will be able to get). I personally dislike this system. It takes all that you have learned in school and puts it into one exam that determines everything. In Grade 12, they are actually tested on everything they have learned since gr.9. That's a lot to study. The system needs to change. 

So the exams are approaching (actually the gr. 12's have already started theirs). These tacky success cards are found everywhere now. Every street corner they sell them. Prayers are being said all over the country. Some churches dedicate whole sessions just to pray for the "candidates" doing their exams. 

I never pray they do well. I always pray that they get what they deserve. If they study hard enough, I pray that they get the result they worked hard for. Sometimes I think people rely solely on prayers saying God will give them the grade they need. It's all in His will. So if they get a terrible grade, "It's God's will". I disagree. Its because you probably didn't study hard enough. God's will is that you work hard. 

But I'll save that ramble for another day. 

So I bought our cousin's son the tackiest card I could find. These are a big hit. If the card is not completely over decorated and it doesn't play music when you open it up, its a let down to the one receiving it. 

I just noticed that the card actually says "Happy Birthday" on it even though it is a success card!!!!! Haha, Kelvin and I are having a good chuckle over that. Only in Kenya....

It lights up inside and plays a keyboard version of "Fleur de Lys" inside. 

He is bound to be successful with this card. 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

I am about ready for a washing machine.

I woke up early to gather all my stuff that needs to be washed. We had called our guy who washes our clothes to come today. After two weeks of pouring rain and crazy humidity, the sun has finally appeared long enough for my clothes to dry.

All the humidity has made everything smell. And if anything was wet and put into the laundry bin, there is a good chance it started growing mould. 

Its now about 9:30am and the guy as yet to appear. He usually shows up around 7am. We have tried to call him but his phone is not working. Now, all my stinky, mouldy clothes are in piles needing to be washed. UGH!! 

A few days ago Kelvin and I went to a friend's house for lunch. My friend, who is a swiss lady, said that the first thing she bought was her washing machine and that she doesn't think she could live without it. I had been asked if I wanted to buy one but I figured that I can employ someone to do it, help them support themselves, and just save a whole swack of money. 

I am now thinking otherwise. I have been looking at a few machines in the supermarkets and realized they are much cheaper than I had thought. The temptation to buy one is stronger than ever. Maybe we will have to buy ourselves a wedding gift. 

On top of all the stinky clothes, my wooden shelves have gone almost completely mouldy. I noticed a funny smell coming from it and when I looked closer, I found a ton of green fuzz all over it. I spent some time wiping it down and decided that I needed to seal it somehow. We went to a local carpenter that said that we just need clear varnish and he will do it for us for about $1.50. Great, I thought. However, after we talked a little more, I realized that he was trying to jip me by making me buy more varnish than I needed. He told me that 1 litre would do. I talked to my dad and he said that he used a quarter of a litre to do 3 coats on his entire wooden kayak. So I was suspicious as to why this guy said 1 litre. In the end, I resolved to do it myself. Why should I pay someone when I could do it myself? Plus, it will be a good learning experience for me! 

Then I tried to attack the army of ants that collected in my kitchen over night. Sneaky little brats. I shooed them away, got rid of the source (my garbage), and then closed off their tiny hole where they were escaping from. I watched them scurry around, as if their world was ending. Harsh, I know. But now my kitchen is ant free. 

Funny enough, as I was spending time with God today, I randomly asked for supernatural patience today. I don't usually pray like that but God must have known that I will need it. 

Praying my washing man will show up soon! 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

School Progress

Today, Kelvin and I decided that we had to go check up on some of our boys at school. We currently have four in Mombasa at four different institutes all studying four very different things. 

Our first stop was for a boy who needed us to go pay for him to go on a field trip with the school. We headed to the school ready to pay the fee. Once we got there, we had a chat with the dean of students and the boy's teacher who told us that he was not impressed with our young man. Apparently he was caught cheating in one of his exams. He was asked to bring in a guardian and said he didn't have one (we fill in as his guardians as his parents live in another part of the country). They told him he needed to write three apology letters to the school. When I read the letters, I giggled. They read something like this, "I sincerely apologize for being caught cheating in my exams." He was sorry he was caught. Not sorry he cheated. I think it was just an english mistake but I thought it was funny. 

The dean made the decision that he would not be allowed to go on the field trip because of his actions. Fair enough. The dean began to explain to us some of the crazy things that some kids do in their school. I started to realize that our kid was not out of the ordinary. 

The teacher then let us see some of his assignments and previous exams. We were shocked to see that he was one of the top students in the class. We are not sure why he felt he needed to cheat when he seemed to be pretty bright. None the less, the school handled it well and Kelvin plans to talk to him at practice tonight. There is another field trip in April that he will be able to attend. 

We then headed to the art school where our goalkeeper is studying. We have made pretty good relationships with the staff so they were happy to see us. Upon walking in, the receptionist said, "We tried calling you a few weeks ago but you couldn't be reached." I knew this wasn't good as I had given her my number in case something was not going well with our kid. She explained that he had missed almost 2 weeks of school and they were getting worried. After the 2 weeks,  he called and said he went upcountry for a burial. Kelvin and I looked at each other puzzled as he never mentioned this to us. I am pretty sure it was a lie. The real issue was that he didn't have the money to get to school and back. That made more sense. 

We met with his teacher who said that he is a bright kid with a very natural talent for art. She showed us some of his work (one of which is the picture below) and said that she was happy with his progress. But then she stops abruptly and says, "But he tunes out the last hour of class. The first hour he is focused but the second hour he seems to get tired. He always starts talking about soccer." We kind of giggled just because we know him so well and how he doesn't like to miss practice. We continued to talk to the lady about some other good and not so good things and how we can help. It was a very positive meeting. The teacher seems really invested in him which I really appreciate. 

A few things stood out to me with both of these meetings: 

1. The boys are naturally quite bright however it is their characters/behaviours that are hindering them. I find this all too true in so many instances around here. In as much as we can help people, if their characters/behaviours don't change, then it's hard to move forward. 

2. More often than not, it is poor teaching that makes kids not to do well. As I was looking through some of the marks of the first boy, I would notice that in some classes, no one got over 40% on a test. You can't tell me that all the students just didn't do well. We also had another boy in high school who got all D's and E's on his exams yet he was ranked 11th out of a class of 60. 

3. Parents/Sponsors/Guardians rarely check up on their kids. I think all the teachers we have met are so appreciative that we come and take time to check in with the kids. Sometimes there are some real issues that need to be sorted out but there is not effort from guardians. I think it also makes them pay more attention to our boys. 

4. Education is so different from the West. Half the time I just smile and nod when I see something I don't like or doesn't make sense to me (and that happens a lot). Growing up a teacher's kid and in a great education system is something that I can't take for granted. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

More Pictures of the Weekend

Ok, finally managed to upload the rest of the photos!

Biryani goodness. It's just too good to be true..mmmm

Old town Mombasa is predominately Muslim and has a strong arabic influence. It makes for good food and beautiful structures.

And its quite dirty. We missed the tourist street and took the back road.

Beautiful Diana!

The sun decided to bless us with it's presence for a couple hours. Just long enough to stroll the beach

Yah, he can be a little girly at times. 

Stunning woman.

Smiles after a wonderful day.

Master chef extraordinaire! I was so excited to find broccoli in the market so we ate it every meal for a few nights. 

Thanks Diana for a wonderful weekend!

Back in Mombasa

I had planned to upload a swack load of photos from my weekend with my friend, Diana. However something is wrong with my server and it didn't let me download the rest of them. So this is what you get. I will try upload more tomorrow. 

Like I mentioned, I had a sweet friend come visit this weekend. Despite the poor weather, we did manage to have a wonderful time. I totally love entertaining people and always welcome people to come visit (hint hint). It was great to have some good chats about God, life, ministry, africa's overwhelming problems, and what we are suppose to do about it. She is the child sponsorship coordinator for a non-profit that works in Kenya, Sudan, and Congo. She manages about 1000 sponsored children. Pretty amazing eh? I picked her brain on a lot of more logistical things of running a smooth sponsorship program (as we have 7 boys who are sponsored now) as well as some other organizational things. She was a huge blessing to me and Kelvin. And it was pretty sad when we dropped her at the airport yesterday. 

She did bring along a pretty fantastic camera and decided to be a tourist, feeling unashamed to whip out her camera whenever and wherever she wanted to. I think I am too proud because I don't want to look 'touristy'.  So these photos are not mine.

I took Diana through Kongowea and we sat at the pitch while the boys practiced. To my delight, Zizou brought his baby girl, who they have nicknamed Nikole, to the pitch to have a good snuggle with me. 

Mealtime. Yummy!

Old town's narrow streets.

Old town's artsy side. 

I will try put up more pics later

Monday, October 17, 2011

Just to clear things up..

....I am perfectly safe.

I have had a few people contact me asking if I am safe.

the answer is yes.

Today has not been a very good day for Kenya in the news. I am not sure of all the details that are happening but I know that it is far out of reach from where I stay. Most of the action is way up in northern Kenya.

Keep the country in prayers. I guess you never know what could happen. But you could say that about any place in the world really.

For me, I am fine. Actually quite content.

Friday, October 14, 2011

A Flooding Mombasa

Finally a little glimpse of sunshine has peeped through the clouds today. 

At least the rain has stopped. It had been raining since I returned here on Saturday. 

You are probably thinking, "gosh Nikole, you are such a baby. It's just rain." You are right, it is just rain. But in Mombasa, it makes everything go haywire. Mombasa is generally really hot, sunny, and humid. They do have very mild rainy seasons where it drizzles or pours on and off for a day or so. However, it does stop and at least let your clothes dry and all the puddles disappear. 

Not this week. Mombasa has had torrential downpour. They actually calculated that it poured for almost 24 hours straight a couple nights ago. In a town where everything is dirt and there is no such things as indoor malls or dryers, it just leaves everything messy. Mud, guck, water, dampness...yuck. 

It has gotten so bad that it was even one of the top stories on the news last night. Almost 200 people have been displaced in Mombasa because their homes have been flooded. 3 people died in an accident due to the rain. Homes, stores, and schools have been damaged. Mombasa lacks good infrastructure so something so abnormal and extreme as this rain has had some severe side effects. 

For me, my house smells. Everything is damp and can't dry. I have pretty much been hiding in my house the last couple days on mould control. And you can't wash any clothes cause they won't dry but yet they will get some mildew if they stay in the laundry bin. I have now laid them out all over the floor in another bedroom as to keep the smell contained and reduce the growth of mildew. 

On a more positive note, I have loved the cool weather and the sound of the rain. Who doesn't love to curl up on the couch with a hot cup of coffee and watch a movie??

Today things seem to be a bit better. I am grateful as I am picking up a friend from the airport today who has come to spend the weekend with me. I am hoping to show her the sights, eat the yummy food, and hit up the beach providing the weather holds out.

Oh mister sun, sun, mister golden sun, please shine down on me! 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Kidney Bean Sickness?

Beans are a staple food here in Kenya. They grow well and are cheap as well as nutritious and filling. I personally have never made them because they sell them cheaper on the road outside than I could make them myself. By the time I use all this gas boiling them, I might as well just go buy them outside. However, I came home and found a large bag in my house of beans. Since they were there and I didn't want to waste food, I thought I would attempt to cook them. 

I was told that if I soak them over night that they will take less time to cook. So that's what I did. 

About an hour later I went to peek on them and found that they had softened considerably quicker than I thought they would. I showed Kelvin and he told me not to soak them any longer or else they will split. Instead, boil them for 15 minutes and then put them in the fridge. So that's what I did. 

After they finished boiling I showed Kelvin what they were like. Without thinking anything of it, I took one bean and popped in my mouth. Kelvin freaked!! "You know you are going to be running to the toilet all night if you eat them like that." "It's just a bean. I will be fine" I said. "Sawa, don't call me when you are sick." 

So I decided to look up if you can really get sick from uncooked beans. 

Turns out you can get very sick! 

I guess raw or half cooked kidney beans contain a really strong toxin that, with eating as few as 4 or 5 beans, can cause severe nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. 

In order to make sure these toxins get eliminated you must them rapidly for at least 10 minutes. Many people make the mistake of soaking them or just putting them in a slow cooker. But they must be boiled!! 

My stomach was in knots thinking about this one bean I ate. I did more research and found that I had to eat at least 3 of them before I could get really sick. Glad Kelvin screamed at me after I ate just one. 

So tonight I am going to attempt to make the beans.

 I am definitely going to make sure that I boil them fiercely before eating them. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Settling in at home

I just managed to get my internet up and running this morning. I am now just catching up on emails, facebook, blogs, and tons of other somewhat mindless things on the internet.

It feels so wonderful to be nestled back in my little home in Mombasa. On sunday, I was leaving church with Kelvin and a friend overwhelmed with contentment and peace. This is home. I do not always like it and it seems to get more dysfunctional by the second but its home.

Instead of writing huge paragraphs about my journey, my observations, and thoughts that I have gone through over the past week or so, I am just going to do it in a point form list. Here is goes:

  • Saying goodbye was easier knowing that I was going to see my family again in two short months. 
  • Saying goodbye to my grandmother was horribly emotional as I am not sure if I will ever see her again.
  •  The flight to Amsterdam sucked. I already hate planes even if they are smooth sailing but I felt like the plane was rocking back and forth for the first 5 hours. Then Amsterdam was having some terrible winds and at one point threw our plane to one side causing everyone to gasp. It was so foggy outside that we didn't see the land until our wheels almost hit the ground. All I could feel was that we were going down. The flight to Nairobi was much more pleasant. There is no better feeling than having your feet firmly on the ground. 
  • Seeing Kelvin again was pure joy. I felt like we could have talked for hours catching up on life. 
  • Found an awesome wedding photographer in Kenya. 
  • Saw a dead body just minutes after it had crashed on its motorcycle. The helmet was completely smashed, blood everywhere, and some innards were sprinkled on the road. Such a raw moment and made me really thankful that I have been safe. Made me ponder about life and how quickly and unexpectedly it could end. I was amazed at how so many people stopped what they were doing just to stand by the road and stare at the dead body. Move along people! I am sure you have some where else to be.
  • Drove by another accident on our night bus home. I thought we were getting hijacked by a gang because everyone in our bus gasped and woke up. Again, they just had to get a look at others' misfortune. 
  • I thought our bus would be the next one to crash the way our driver was driving. 
  • Mombasa has been gloriously cool since I got home thanks to a small storm that has made its way through the area. It has poured rain all night drowning out the blaring music from the local bars. Although everything has turned to mud and none of our clothes can dry on the line. 
  • Men cannot clean houses. I came home to a very neglected home. I spent my first day cleaning every forgotten corner. 
  • Mould has also started to appear. I guess its gotten crazy humid thanks to all this rain. Just gotta keep on top of things so this mould doesn't get out of control (don't worry, it's not that extreme.)
  • Jet lag has been terrible. I have never experienced it like this coming back to Kenya. The last few nights I have been wide awake at 1 am spending time with my Kindle and sleeping in till mid morning while feeling groggy till mid afternoon. No fun. 
  • I pulled a muscle in my lower back yesterday trying to move around my new mattress. I try not to bend as much as possible. 
  • I am excited to start writing out my wedding invitations. 
  • Some of my neighbours have disappeared. I am told they went to Europe with their older white husbands. 
  • I have a sweet friend coming to visit this weekend from California. I love visitors! 
  • Kelvin and I are getting more and more ready to get married as the days past. Only a short couple months and we will be husband and wife! 
A little glimpse of life for now. Power is out and my computer is about to die. Talk to you all later!

Monday, October 3, 2011

It's Official!

The Rehma Boys are officially a registered charity!!!

This is such a huge blessing!

We actually teamed up with my auntie and uncle who run a non-profit already. They were looking for more projects to take on as they had shut down some of theirs and we were praying for a door to open for us to register as a charity. It just matched up so well! 

We are more inspired than ever to move along with the project. We have some big visions for our team, our boys and the entire community.  Kelvin and I spent the better part of the year wondering where God was taking us. As the time passed by and doors closed, it was made very clear that we are indeed suppose to be in Mombasa. And we are so excited to be there. 

So what does this mean for YOU?

Well, as a registered charity we are now able to issue tax receipts (to Canadian residents only). I realized what a huge deal this was when many people were hesitant to give knowing that they couldn't get any tax breaks. But now you can! I have also set up online giving which makes giving so much easier and more convenient. 

Another huge benefit to being registered is accountability. We now have a board of directors and people to help us with the finances watching to make sure that we are being good stewards of our money. We are also excited to have a team of people who are willing to help and guide us as we make decisions concerning our work. 

Uh isn't God amazing???!

So if you would like to give to the Rehma Boys, you can click the link on the left hand side of my blog. I have also updated their site ( to give you a better idea of what we are doing, where we are going, and how you can help.

Thanks for staying invested in our lives and the lives of the precious young men we love so dearly! 

Here are some random videos of the boys that I had stored on my computer and wanted to upload with my awesome internet.