Friday, August 31, 2012

For Girls Only!

When Tuesday came, I was really nervous about this camp. I had this idea on my heart for almost 3 months, we had done a ton of planning for it, and we had done all the shopping for it. Of course, the devil loves to discourage, place doubt and fears in our hearts and minds, and take away our zeal when something good is going to happen. 

It took a lot to get me out of the house. We had been having these pretty intense riots in town. There were tons of rumours flying around about what was happening. At one point, the caretaker for our apartment told us to get inside, lock our doors, and don't go out because the angry mob of rioters were coming up the street. Shops were closing and traffic was turning around. So I went into my house, locked all my doors and waited. I waited 10, 20, 30 minutes and nothing happened. I decided to go see what was happening. I went out and everything was normal. It was just a bunch of rumours! 

I finally left. The streets were pretty dead but really calm. I made it to Kongowea safely. I thought I would be late but I was the first on there again confirming my fears that no one would show up. The first person didn't show up until 2:30 (it was suppose to start at 2).  By 3, we had a good number of girls and started. From that time on, it went smoothly and confirmation consumed my fears that what we were doing was right. 

Here are some pics of the 3 days of crazy fun. 

 We had a good mix of Christian and Muslim girls. It was encouraging as a lot of the violence that was going on had some serious religious undertones.

 Balloons always make for a fun time!

I loved this little girl! She was such a joy. Her name was Damaris and she became my little sidekick. What really surprised me was that she was SO well behaved - something that, sadly, not a lot of kids have in this community. 

Bread-eating and soda-drinking contest!

 My favourite game was Lenga Lenga. It's kind of like reverse dodgeball. Two girls stand on either end and try to huck a ball at girls in the middle. Once you are hit, you have to leave. The last one standing, wins. As you can see above, I was the last one standing! I realized how much I really love to play!

 Lots of girly shoes

I know, I know. This is suppose to be a bridal shower game but when we were planning to camp, this was one of the first games that was mentioned for us to play. Once the small girls caught on, the creative juices really started to flow and we got some pretty awesome designs. I realized half way through that most of these girls, the muslim ones, will never wear a traditional wedding dress. They have a very different attire when they get married. They obviously still knew how wedding dresses look.

 A craft I was planning fell through because the supplies I needed were in town and town was in complete chaos. So I summoned Kelvin to come run some games for us. He is great when it comes to this stuff. We laughed really hard! 

 We had the most dysfunctional game of  soccer I have ever seen. They were having a hard time scoring so one of my girls made every hand ball a penalty kick. Thats how they scored their goals and they were really excited about that. 

 After day 2, we were debriefing about the day when, somehow, we broke out into a full on balloon battle. It got pretty heated. My cheeks were sore from smiling so much. 

We did our version of a fashion show, dancing competition, and american idol. It was a huge hit. Look at this girl strut her stuff!

The winners were presented prizes! (This little girl was actually my flower girl!)

The 3 days were a blast. A crazy, messy, chaotic blast. I was so proud of my ladies who ran the program so well (in fact, I barely did anything). I was happy to be able to connect and build relationships with some of the younger girls in the community. My prayer was that they felt loved, accepted and cared for. I think they left feeling that way. 

A wedding experience

I did, in the end, manage to convince Kelvin to take me to the kuhaswa last friday night. I thought it was sort of a 'men only' event but I was wrong. 

Let me just say that it was quite the experience. A fun one at that. 

We arrived at 11:30pm in a convoy of cars. As we arrived, we could hear the scratchy speakers playing local music and saw tons of people standing outside the door laughing, singing, dancing. We got out of the cars and waited a few minutes. Meanwhile the ladies from the brides place worked their way towards us singing, hollering, dancing, cheering, and generally having fun. It was a hoot! 

Then the groom's people (me included) took the sanduku (a suitcase covered in a lesso) and brought it up to the door. Thats when the bargaining began. 

It was quite lively. 

Check it out for yourselves. The bride's side is yelling "They don't have money" and the groom's side is yelling "We have!"They finally settled on a price and we were allowed to deliver the sanduku to the bride inside.
We had to wait to see if the bride was satisfied with what was inside. I would have been surprised if she wasn't because I think she was the one who helped the groom pack it. 
There's Martha, the bride, sitting as they explain what's inside.
Rahab and Gabby trying to get a peak over the crowd of ladies.
She was happy and the room cleared. We hung up the dress (which was also inside the sanduku) and waited for the wazee (older people) from each family to chat. That took a long time.
Then came the traditional kuhaswa blessing. The bride and groom sit with their best man and maid of honour while the elder family members of the bride give them advice. I was told that, because the family was christian, they don't spit on the couple like they are suppose to. It's too bad as I waited all night for that part!
Senior had to identify which one was his bride. I didn't even know. He did pick the right one though. 
The whole night was so cool. It was so neat to see two families come together in celebration for their kids. Although, we didn't get home till 4am. We got about 3 hours of sleep before we had to get up for the wedding. 
On to the wedding day...
The groom entering the church. This is it!
I was so busy during the wedding, I didn't get a chance to take many pictures. So I took pictures of them taking pictures. 
My fav part of the weddings - welcoming the newlyweds to the reception.
Just a glimpse of the fun.
Some handsome men tearing up the dance floor - I mean grass.
The newest newlyweds!
I loved this moment. Everyone had left and the decorations were being taken down. We got to just sit with the couple while they waited for their car. Time to unwind from the awesome day. Actually, they ended up giving us a ride home on their way to their honeymoon! 
Congrats Martha and Senior!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

He truly directs my steps...

I am in constant awe of how God has protected me in this country.

Stuff happens all around me all the time - car accidents, robberies, bombs, etc- and yet I have never been in the midst of any of it. And it's not like it can't happen to me, because it can (I saw a nasty matatu accident the other day just down the road from me. I could have definitely been in there), but God just directs my every step.

Yesterday, I understood this more thane ever.

Mombasa is in a bit of chaos in the moment. Not sure I want to go into detail about all of it over the internet but you can watch this and see a little glimpse of what is happening.

Kelvin and I left home unusually early yesterday morning. We realized we had lots of things to get done and decide to get our butts in gear and get out of the house early. Had we waited like we usually do, we would have gone right through the shooting that started all this chaos. Coincidence? I don't think so.

We also both had plans to go to town yesterday but I decided to go shopping in the other direction first. Had I gone to town, I would have been trapped there for hours. There was pretty intense rioting and no public transport going in or out of town.

After we were done shopping, we had a hard time getting a matatu back to Kongowea (which is on the way to town) as there was a mass exodus out of the city and no one wanted to go towards the city. We finally found one. We kept hearing rumours that the riots were moving in the direction we were going. Not sure if that was true. Thankfully we managed to get to our stop before anything came (although I am still not sure it did come that far. I think it was just rumours). Kongowea was quite calm and a good place to be.

We stayed there till evening. I had to meet my girls and Kelvin was working. It was quite nice. By the time we left, most things had calmed and we came home with no problems.

Its now 11am and people are saying it has started again. I am still waiting to hear if I should venture to Kongowea or not. I was supposed to start our girls camp today and was so excited for it. However, it might be wisdom to stay home. In the meantime, keep praying.

Let me just say that it seems like the rioters are not targeting people. Only one person has died. They are targeting buildings, shops, cars, and churches. For the most part, I think we are safe - for now at least.

Friday, August 24, 2012

5am cow slaughtering

I set my alarm for 4:50 this morning so that Kelvin could get up and go slaughter a cow. He rolled over and said, "you are the best thing that has ever happened to me". I was so drowsy that it took a while for what he just said to sink in.

He was picked up at 5am by the groom so they could go slaughter his uncle's cow for the wedding tomorrow. They had to get one guy to actually kill the cow at the farm, skin it, and cut it up into large chunks, taking out specific organs (including the liver, stomach, intestines which are still good to eat). Then they had to take all these large pieces to a qualified butcher to cut it up into smaller pieces that are suitable for biryani. We learned that this has to be done a very specific way for biryani. After that, they needed to take the meat to the caterers who need to start preparing the feast tonight.

In between all these things, Kelvin has done a million other errands for the wedding including buying water, picking up his clothes, doing a dress rehearsal, buying items for the gift table, and so on. Its now 6pm and I haven't seen him. Its been a bit of a lonely day to be honest. Its pretty hard being in the house by myself for 12+ hours. However, I know how important it is to be there for good friends. It was one of my resolutions for this year.

In the meantime, I baked some yummy oatmeal muffins for the Kelvinator when he gets home. I still had lots to do concerning the wedding, mostly to do with money since I am handling all the finances. I spent some time catching up on emails. I slept in till almost 9am (unheard of for me). I watched a cheesy movie on tv. I called my dad before he went to work. I cleaned our shoes. I wrapped the card box for the gift table. It hasn't been such a bad day.

I hope Kelvin will be home fairly soon. Then I have to say goodbye to him again. They have the kuhaswa tonight so he is escorting the groom with some other men to the bride's home for the ceremony. He might make it home by 2am. (Actually, I want to see if it is appropriate for me to go. I would love to witness such a cultural event!)

I still need to figure out what to where to the wedding tomorrow and glue one of the soles of my shoe back together. I also have the two batman movies that I want to watch.

It's days like today that I am thankful for my cat who provides another life in the house.  I am thankful for internet, power, television, books, an oven, running water, cheap calling rates, and a cozy home. Not everyone around me has these basic things. I am grateful for a husband who takes a few moments of his busy day to tell me how much he adores me.

Ok, am off to start ironing my outfit for tomorrow.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Double Date

The fun thing about all our friends getting married is that we now have lots of young couples to hang out with! 

When Steve got to Mombasa, the first thing he said to us was, "Ok guys, this is important. We NEED to figure out when the new batman comes on at the theatre!" The town they live in doesn't have a theatre so he has been anxiously waiting to get to Mombasa to see the movie. 

So yesterday, the four of us went to see the newest Batman movie. Honestly, I wasn't really in to seeing it. However, by the end, I was enthralled! I now can't wait for the next one! I actually sent Kelvin to town today to go find me the first two movies so I can catch up! 

After the movie, we went to do one game of bowling since it is in the same complex. It was Virginia's first time ever and Kelvin had only gone a couple of times in his life. I took it upon myself to teach them how it is done, show them the ropes, etc. 

I came dead last. And it wasn't a close game. 

Nonetheless it was fun!

Steve is really sweet. He is so excited to show Virginia all these news things. They are totally smitten with each other. Ah, newlywed love!

Kelvin is a left. His first few balls really had a bad angle but then he got the hang of it and, well, kicked my butt. 

Yay for a fun double date!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Steve and Virginia's Wedding

We spent about 26 hours total in a bus just to get to this wedding. We HAD to go. Virginia has been a sister to me since I first came to Kenya in 2005. Their whole family made the long trip to our wedding in December and we were so grateful to have them there. 

Actually, our wedding was a milestone for their relationship. Steve's parents were telling us that when they heard he was coming to our wedding with Virginia, that's when they knew this was serious. It was also when suspicions started raising for Kelvin and I. We were wondering who this american man was who followed the Ronos all the way to Mombasa for our wedding?

Eight months later, we made the long journey for their wedding!

It was truly a celebration. We could feel the excitement in air from the second we arrived. 

 The kids welcomed the bridal party and the bride with some songs and dance. It was really precious.

 Proud parents walking their daughter down the aisle.

 Ryan sang a beautiful song during the signing of the certificate.

The happy could just being declared husband and wife!

Of course, LOTS of dancing from the kids

Mum looked amazing!

 I was totally impressed with Steve and his ability to keep the beat. 

 The ever so dashing brothers of the bride.

 A quick photo with the couple. We actually got to travel back with them to Mombasa where they are on honeymoon right now. I think we will catch them for bowling and a movie sometime this week.

 Of course, we got TONS of precious time with the kids. The wedding was really just an excuse to come see my favourite kids.

 Some of them aren't kids anymore. Beatrice is 17 years old! That was how old I was when I first came to Ilula. I was so excited to see this girl. We didn't get to see her last time cause she was still in school. She was suppose to be in school this time too but the government order all schools to close down for the holidays. Worked out well for me! She is definitely one of my favs!

 The kids LOVE Kelvin. They think he is hilarious. One girl said to me, "Nikole, he is really funny. I bet you never get bored." 

This was my 4th wedding in just over a month. We have one more to go this Saturday then it will be a bit of a break from weddings. At least for a month or two. Congrats Steve and Virginia!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Chanting Masai, Crying in the Coffin, and Spitting Brew on Foreheads

Here is how my bible study ended last week with my girls: 

Me "Ok, what should I pray for today?"
Girl "My father"
Me "But your father died a month ago?"
Girl "Yes, pray for him"
Me "But he is gone, I can't pray for him"
Girl "Yes, you must pray his soul will rest in peace. He is still not at peace"
Me "Well once he died, he went somewhere immediately. It depends where he was with Jesus. That determines whether he is at peace or not."
Girl "He was crying in his coffin!"
Me "What!? Thats not possible"
Girl "Yes, he had tears down his face"
Me " OK, well I don't understand that. I know your culture has some spiritual things that are around that i don't fully understand but I do know that he is gone so I am not praying for him."
Girl "No, we dont know which heaven he is in so we have to pray"
Me "What do you mean which heaven? There is only one"
Girl "No, there are three levels of heaven"
Me "Ok, I am going to pray that we understand." 

I left there and talked to Kelvin about it on our way home. He understood where they were coming from as he is from the same tribe and understands all their traditional beliefs. Then I asked about the crying in the coffin and he laughed. He said it is simple science: if a body stays in a freezer for a while and then is taken out, it melts. Ha! I never even thought about that. Then another friend told me that most people don't embalm the dead because it is so expensive. I began to understand but it just showed me how we have a long way to go with these girls to start thinking and believing God's truths instead of what they hear out there. 

This wasn't the only crazy cultural thing I have encountered this week. 

Lately, we have been having this group of Masais gather just below our window in the evenings. Just before they head out to work (they are typically night guards) they come together to do their traditional chanting, head bobbing, and jumping. It's pretty cool. A lot of tourists pay money to watch them do their thing but we are privileged to watch it right outside our window. 

However, it's getting a little annoying. Last night a friend dropped by quickly and their chanting was so loud we couldn't hear each other talking. Plus, they tend to congregate outside in the early mornings as well and light a fire to cook a big pot of uji. I woke up at 5am this morning to the sounds of them howling and the smell of campfire lingering in our window.

Here they are this morning. One was cutting a tire probably making a shoe. The two pots looked like they were boiling blood which wouldn't be surprising since they are known for drinking animal blood. However, I think it is this medicinal concoction that they walk around with in jerry cans and sell to sick people. Kelvin has had it several times but I wouldn't try it if I was on my death bed. 

Finally, we are in wedding season. Kelvin and I have been busy busy busy doing all things wedding. We are actually heading out in about an hour for a wedding upcountry! We are on the 'wedding committee' for another wedding. It has been quite the learning experience for me. I am the official treasurer which means I collect all the money (which is fundraised) and I disperse it where it is suppose to go. On top of that, Kelvin and I are both apart of the planning, decision making, and organizing of the wedding. 

What has shocked me the most was how incredibly difficult the bride's family is. Kelvin told me it's normal for most girls. The bride's family is VERY demanding. There are so many different ceremonies, gifts, home visits, and conversations that have to happen before the wedding. So this week, being the week before the wedding, the groom must take the sanduku to the bride's home. This is a box which has the wedding gown, some clothes, shoes, make up, and other things. He must come to the house with some money and some friends or else he will not be allowed in. The bride's brothers and male family members will be at the door to hassle him. Once they satisfy the family, he drops the sanduku and leaves. 

Two days after that ceremony, he has to go to the kuhaswa. This also happens in the village very late at night. The groom goes to the brides home where he is welcomed by the family. He has to identify his wife to be who is covered by lessos along with other women who are covered. THe only thing he can see is the eyes. Once he choses the right girl, they sit and receive counsel from the women in the community. 

Sounds nice right? But get this: while the ladies are giving counsel, they take the local brew, called mnazi, swoosh it around in their mouths and then spit it on their foreheads! They are not allowed to wipe it off either! Ca-razy! Once this is finished, the groom is officially welcomed into the community. I like that part. 

Culture is cool. God is so creative in the ways he created all these different cultures with these traditions that have deep meanings. Unfortunately, we have distorted some of these traditions to be about money or greed or pride. For instance, I don't believe all the Masais are actually Masai. I think some are from other tribes but pretend to be Masai to make money from tourists. It's common in Mombasa. 

I got a little dose of Canadian culture today in the supermarket. I found whoppers and twizzlers there for first time! Plus, they had Bob the builder flushable wet wipes on sale. Ah, Canadian culture. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Celebrating Culture

It was cultural day at church yesterday. I personally loved it! I guess growing up in Canada, I didn't really see much culture around me. We are such a melange of backgrounds in Canada that culture seems to get lost - although I guess that is a culture in itself. In high school we had two East Indian kids. That was about how much we were exposed to culture in our town. I remember one girl explaining to us what Taj Mahal  looked like. I was enthralled. Now in our town, we have a few more nationalities but even at that, there are only a handful of them. We often wonder how people will react to Kelvin once he gets to Canada as he will most likely be the darkest person in town.  

My mom's side of the family are Doukhobours which are originally a spiritual community from Russia. I guess that's pretty cultural although I never quite identified with it. We never entered into the 'spiritual' side of the culture because Mom was a Christian. We only ate the yummy overly-buttered food and called our grandparents 'Baba and Deda'. That's about as Doukhobour as I get. Then my dad's parents were Scottish and Welsh but both grew up in Canada. My dad had a kilt and we all got goosebumps when we heard the bag pipes being played. I think what I loved most was listening to my grandmother talk about 'the Old Country'. Although she spent most of her life in Canada, she was born in Wales and spent sometime there when her and my grandpa got married. She definitely passed on the love of English tea to me. 

However, African culture always enthralled me ever since I was a little girl. I knew I was destined to be here. Although I never really thought I would actually marry one and BE one one day. How cool!

I find Kenyans to be very proud of their culture particularly their tribal culture. My husband is a very proud Luo. 

So what did cultural day look like? Honestly, it kind of looked like every other day despite the fact we put up a few decorations. The folks around here tend to live out their culture daily. The women still wore their traditional dresses which most of them wear every sunday to church. We sang songs that we sing most church services. The food was awesome but it was everyday food. I guess in essence we just celebrated who we are! 

 While alighting off the matatu, my shoe broke. I was alone as Kelvin had gone earlier. I was embarrassed as everyone was staring at the white girl who just broke her shoe. I tried to think about what to do but since it was Sunday, all the fundi's I knew would be closed. I walked across the street to a store hoping to find a cheap pair of shoes to buy. Well, the guy in the store saw my dilemma and pointed me towards another guy who just happens to fix shoes in the store! In five minutes, my shoe was fixed. Yay! So I arrived at the church relieved my shoe was ok and overly excited to see my bestie Rahab!

 We turned our youth sanctuary into the stage. 

 Just a sample of the yummy food. Lots of rice, different types of beans, coconutty stuff, mashed sweet potatoes and green bananas, pilau, salads, vegetable stews, peanut butter, fried chicken and fish, and different types of uji! It was unreal. My plate was a mountain of food.

Our dear friend Christine was the guest artist. I always love hearing her sing. 

My handsome hubby was the MC of the day and he did a phenomenal job. This was definitely my favourite moment when he invited all the kids on stage and danced. Most days, he is really just a big kid himself. One of the many things I adore about him.