Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Time to Move??

I got a call from Kelvin's sister on Monday night asking if I was ok. "Why?" I asked. She told me she had heard from one of her friends that there were gunshots at the bar downstairs. I reassured her that all was fine and I didn't think that was true. I am pretty sure I would have heard gunshots if they happened.  We hung up and I popped my head out the door to see if there was any commotion. I could only hear the normal sounds of dance music and people chattering.

I told Kelvin when he got home and he kind of just shrugged it off. He didn't think anything happened either.

However, yesterday Kelvin asked the watchman downstairs if it was true. He said that it was indeed true.

From what we understand, three armed robbers entered the internet cafe downstairs targeting one man in particular. They stole all his money (he had around $300 on him), his phone, and his car keys. This guy is the owner of the barber shop next door. Once they had all that, they fled. It was obviously an inside job of  some sort as they didn't target anything else in the shop and they didn't harm anyone. No shots were fired.

Meanwhile, I was sitting upstairs cooking supper and waiting for Kelvin to come home. Didn't hear a thing.

Slowly, more details are emerging. Apparently it is even mentioned in todays national newspaper. This man must have done something to tick someone off. We have heard about his lifestyle of many women, including several white women, along with a wife abroad and several mistresses. It almost seems he dug himself into this deep hole of scandals and lies. They are assuming its one of his many women taking revenge.

We are also learning that he is not the only man living this lifestyle who works in our building. A few others are into some shady stuff with many women.

My heart breaks at the total disregard of the sanctity of marriage, relationships, love, sex, etc.

Anyways,  Kelvin and I are thinking (and have been thinking - its not just about this incident) about moving now. Please pray with us as we search for the right place.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Mombasa's Seasons

Mombasa has three seasons, according to me, and this is how I have classified them:

The warm and dryish season. 
The hot and humid season. 
The painfully hot and soaking in sweat season. 

Currently, we are entering the hot and humid season. The warm and dryish season has ended. It usually lasts about 4ish months during our summer months. This hot and humid season will last till about February where we will enter the painfully hot and soaking in sweat season. Thankfully, that lasts about 2 or three months and then we slowly transition through the hot and humid season and then back to the warm and dryish season.

So what does hot and humid really mean? It means that:

  • I still need to heat water for a bucket bath. Its just a tad too chilly to bath in cold water. 
  • I sweat when I cook but at least drops of sweat don't end up in the food. 
  • I can wear clothes twice before they smell too bad. In the painfully hot season, you can't even wear them for half a day before having to change and wash them. 
  • Sometimes, I can wear pants at night and feel comfortable. 
  • If the power goes out at night, I won't wake up because the fan turned off. 
  • The fan stays on low. At times, we even turn it off. 
  • If I walk outside for more than 10 mins, I start sweating profusely. 
  • My shoulders often get a nice sweaty rub when I get in squishy matatus and the people next to me have sweaty armpits. 
  • At about 4am,  I pull a sheet over me. 
  • Half my fridge is full of bottles of cold water. 

One things I do love about all the seasons in Mombasa is that the sun is always shining!!!!! We get very few days of clouds, rain, or overcast. It also makes for some pretty incredible sunsets!!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Eid is bringing back the memories

Eid Mubarak friends!

It's Eid al Adha, the Muslim holiday which celebrates Abraham's courage, faith, and obedience to God when he took his son Ishmael to be a sacrifice. Yes, his son Ishmael, not Isaac, like we Christians believe.

For me, this holiday brings me back to when I first moved to Mombasa. We had only been in the city for about 3 weeks and were having a really hard time adjusting. I woke up one morning only to find the eerie prayer calls going for hours and hours. Totally confused, I started getting text messages from Muslim friends wishing me a 'Eid Mubarak'. I was so baffled as to what was happening. It was all so new and surreal to me.

I was able to find an email I sent out to friends about the day. Here is a short passage that I wrote:

Lately I’ve been able to sleep through the loud and eerie prayer calls from the local mosques in the morning so when I woke up this morning at 4:30 I knew that they would be coming soon and that I wouldn’t be able to sleep through them. Well they started around 5 am and they played and they played and they played and they played some more. It wasn’t until about 7am that I decided to get out of bed and figure why they have playing for hours. I discovered that today is one of the biggest celebrations for muslims called Eid al-Adha.

I had to look up what the significance of this day is and this is what my book said, “This celebration commemorates the willingness of Abraham when he was asked to sacrifice his son Ishmael. Abraham showed his readiness and Al’ah was very pleased. A ram was sacrificed instead of Ishmael on Al’ah’s command.” Does that sound familiar? Muslims believe that it wasn’t Isaac Abraham offered to sacrifice but Ishmael. I also believe that this day celebrates the end of Hajj which is the 10 day period where the pilgrimage to Mecca is made. If muslims do their pilgrimage to Mecca during these 10 days, it is more significant than if they go at any other time of the year.

 Today, they will go to the mosque in the morning to do their prayers, fast all day, then slaughter a goat and feast on it tonight. I was walking around town today and there was definitely a different feel to the city. I ran into a friend of mine from the library who was trying to explain to me her excitement that she gets to go shopping They are supposed to buy new and fancy outfits to wear for the feast tonight. I had another friend who text messaged me first thing this morning to wish me a happy Eid day. I can see their excitement. This is a day where they get new clothes, get a wonderful meal, and get to spend time with their families.

Outside our house we usually find this large herd of goats. There must be about 25-30 of them that wander around out neighborhood. Lately, we haven’t been seeing them and I now understand why. Every mus.lim family in the world is supposed to slaughter a goat today if they have the means to. Now, that’s a lot of goats. My guess is that those goats were especially bred and kept for this day. As we walked through the streets yesterday, we could see goats tied up outside of everyone’s houses. And they all have green spots on them! I am not sure the reason for it but the entire city is filled with green goats! We will never see our little neighborhood goats again…

I have learned to love Eid. The beauty of living in a city that embraces two religions is that you get two sets of public holidays! We are not working today since most of our youth are muslims and are busy with Eid celebrations. Kongowea kind of shuts down. Even the Christians celebrate it.

I am not really sure if people really understand what they are celebrating. I think some just know that its Eid so they must celebrate.

For most people, celebrating means food! It's the one day they save up for to make biryani. And its YUM!

In fact, as I was in the middle of writing this post, we had a friend deliver a big pot of biryani to our front door! Guess what we are having for supper!?

Our prayer this morning was that our Muslim friends would seek God with all their hearts.

Because God promises that if you seek Him, you will find Him, the true God.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

My little bundle of inspiration.

Often, my greatest inspirations are our youth. When I see what they go through, how they overcome, and the joy that they still have am in constant awe of them. 

One of them is definitely Munira. 

I have loved this one from the moment I met her. She is a ball of fire in a small package. She is always laughing, giggling, having fun. She seems to never be sad. She has this awesome raspy voice that just roars over the whole room. 

A few months back, she stopped coming on Saturdays. Some of the others told me that she got a job. Honestly, I was pretty sad knowing I wasn't going to see her as much but I was so happy she was able to get work. 

I later learned that she works at an Export Processing Zone, or as we sometimes refer to them, a sweatshop. Conditions are not as harsh as those in other parts of the world and she does get paid minimum wage in Kenya (which is about $100/month). She spends almost a third of that just on transport and lunch. At the end of the month, she comes home with around $70 in her pocket. 

She needed to work to pay off her school fees. Last year she finished high school. In order for her to get her clearing certificate stating that she did indeed pass high school, she needed to clear fees. 

Later on I learned that her father doesn't pay school fees for the girls in her family. In fact, she is the only girl of seven who has finished high school. 

She also has dreams of going to college and becoming a secretary! I have never met anyone so excited to be a secretary (besides my best friend Nikki). She found the college and the course she wants to take. The only issue is the fees. 

Well, yesterday she came bouncing into my office and proudly showed me her high school leaving certificate!!! I was almost in tears!! She worked hard and did it all by herself!!! SO SO PROUD!!

I made a deal with her. I said that if she can save a third of the total college school fees plus some extra money for transport, I will pay the rest. 

So if you want to help ms Munira fulfill her dreams of becoming a secretary, please please donate on the left hand side of this blog. 

She also informed me that it is her birthday tomorrow. She has decided to skip work on saturday, use some of her pay to buy lots of sweets and juice, and come celebrate with the ladies. Can't wait!!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

A Reminder

God tends to remind me that life is not all that bad just when I think things are falling apart.

I mentioned that our last two weeks have just been one thing after another. And it has yet to stop. For example, after finishing the injections in my buttocks, I woke up with a terrible head cold that quickly turned to fever/cough. Thankfully, I woke up feeling a thousand times better this morning and actually had some energy to get out of the house. But I also discovered that my hot water kettle (that I only bought 6 months ago) plus the large fluorescent light bulb in my kitchen have both decided to fritz out on me. And those aren't cheap to replace. Then we discovered yesterday that one of our boys, who we had helped with some medical issues, actually took the money we gave him for medication and used it to pay rent. He has been avoiding us for months and finally came to fess up to Kelvin yesterday. Unfortunately, he came in desperation for more money since he was now being kicked out of his house and still hadn't taken the medication. Kelvin denied as he didn't have any money and now we are confused on how to really help this guy.

You see, its not really huge, life altering things, it just seems to be one disappointment after another.

However, God gave me a reminder of His goodness today at church. Our youth pastor preached an awesome sermon. At one point, he was explaining a passage in the bible (don't remember which one - bad christian!) but then he paused and said,

"Don't get disappointed so easily. God is still working."

As simple as that, just don't get disappointed so easily. Keep moving on. Things will change. God is working. He is indeed there and does actually have good plans for me. Stop hanging your head, rolling your eyes, or getting downright upset over these small, insignificant things that happen.

Then our service leader thought it would be good to call up all the orphans in the congregation and pray for them. This was actually a very bad and embarrassing idea. The ones who stood up (there were many orphans who didn't out of embarrassment) were asked to come to the front to be prayed for. Again, it struck me in the gut that life is actually not so bad. Some are worse off than me. Some suffer constant disappointments and suffering.

 I tried so hard to fight back the ugly cry.

I am seriously SO SO blessed. Even when everything just keeps falling apart, I am STILL blessed. May I learn to focus on all the blessings and push through all the disappointments. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Learning to take good photos

Our wedding photographer, Ben Kiruthi, started a project called the Imani Initiative  where he trains young photographers or photography enthusiasts in the basics of taking a good photo. When I first read about it, I immediately thought it would be a great idea for our youth not to mention that I really wanted to learn from this awesome photographer(seriously, he is one of the best in kenya. Don't even try book him, he's full). 

He agreed to come down this week and spend some sweet hours with a handful of our young people eager to learn something different. Some just wanted to be challenged, some are taking related courses in school, some wanted to learn to take good photos, and some really just wanted to come hang out with us. 

It was such an awesome couple of hours. I learned a TON about photography and was totally inspired by Ben using his gifts and talents God has granted him and totally thriving in life. 

Our youth were pretty impressed with all the celebs he takes photos of and the fact he makes more money than doctors. I hope they are starting to dream big now. 

During a break, he let them use his fancy camera to take a few shots and this is what they came up with:

 Caught me a little off guard. Or maybe this is how I normally look due to the intense heat and humidity.
 Playing with 'depth of field'. See how Irene is clear and Nicky is blurry?
 Oh, now Nicky is clear and Irene is blurry. Aren't they cute?
The whole group with Ben. 

Kelvin and I are using more of our awesome friends to mentor the young people we work with. Our friends are slowly falling in love with our youth and our youth are really begin to grow and develop into the people God has created them to be. We are so proud of them! Almost half my girls started college in the past few weeks! This is a dream many of them never thought could happen but it is happening and they are making it happen. We are so so proud!!

Thanks Ben for coming to hang out with us and share your knowledge!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Ants in my buns

I feel like I have SO much to tell you - you, out there, reading this, whoever you are. This last week and a half has been a flurry of random, overwhelming highs and lows on so many levels. That is how jumbled my mind is about all of it. Let me just tell you a few of the events of the past 10 or so days:

  • Two of our phones broke, including the brand new one that Kelvin bought. I had to pull out our old iPhone that doesn't work unless its plugged in. It may sound nice to have an iPhone but its not. This is one screams difficulty. But its what we have until our two other phones get fixed. 
  • I discovered one of my girls' sister tried to sell her off to an old man because she needed money. No wonder my girl ran away from home.
  • Kelvin and I both have been having tummy issues. We have been taking medicine (including daily injections into our buttocks). The side effects of the medicine are worse than the discomfort we were feeling. We had our last injection today so hopefully tomorrow we will stop limping. Those things are painful! 
  • My cat wouldn't let the vet take her stitches out today. The vet said that it is not normal behaviour for a cat to be THAT violent towards other people. He says we spend so much time with her that we are the only ones she trusts. In other words, I baby my cat. 
  • Kelvin has challenged our boys to come up with an income generating project for the team. We sat with them today and listened to their brilliant idea to supply cheap satellite TV to people in Kongowea. They have really thought it out and done their homework. We were thoroughly impressed. We admitted that we couldn't have done that good of a job. They are brilliant - they just need the opportunity to use their brilliance. This project will hopefully provide for all the team's needs and more. That would mean that they could be self sustaining and not rely on donations. How awesome would that be? 
  • Tomorrow, the photographer who shot our wedding is coming to do a session with a handful of our youth on the basics of photography. I personally can't wait to learn from such an awesome photographer. I hope my youth will show up on time.
  • Police have increased in Mombasa these last few days. There is a group in Mombasa who believes that the coast should be a separate state from Kenya and they are causing raucous. They are threatening to disrupt students exams which are going on. So far, all is well just a whole lot more police  carrying around overbearing AK47s. 
  • We got news yesterday that Kelvin's twin sisters returned home yesterday from boarding school. Apparently the grade 11 students burnt down the dormitories in protest of something. If the school doesn't find who did it, all the students have to pay 10,000KES ($120) to get back to school. Twins= 20,000KES. We are thankful that they weren't hurt. Unfortunately, in another school, some kids didn't make it out when their dormitories were burnt on monday morning. So sad.
  • I have been baffled by the amount of lying that is ingrained in this culture and the people here. It seriously blows my mind how many people blatantly lie about everything and they think nothing of it. I will write a whole post on this soon. 
  • Kelvin has been doing the dishes a lot lately. It's been nice. 
  • Last night I made some yummy buns to go with our vegetable stew. I wrapped the leftovers in tin foil last night only to wake up and find that an army of ants somehow made their way under the tin foil and into my buns. That was the breaking point. Tears started flowing after that. Yes, I cried because ants took over my buns. 
  • I then went and laid in bed to just relax. Meanwhile, Kelvin came and snuggled me. It was just what I needed. I adore him. 
And this is only the beginning of all our shenanigans but I will use some discretion and keep the rest to myself. I can't tell you enough how amazing my husband is. We have walked through all this stuff together and have come out stronger. I am in awe that God has grant me the amazing gift of my husband. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

...Or Not

We didn't end up going to Kipkaren like I had ranted about in my previous post.

Stuff got in the way and we ended up missing our bus on Monday night. Yes, I was pretty disappointed but sometimes life gets in the way like that.

We had a tough couple of days. A lot of figuring out of messy and disheartening situations. We decide that, since we had already planned to be away and handed over most of our duties for the week, we would just hang out for the rest of the week.

It. was. pure. bliss.

We turned off our phones (not on purpose but because they broke or got lost - part of our crazy couple days) and just hung out...together...with no plot, nothing on our plates, no demands. We ate yummy food, watched countless movies, talked for hours, and prayed and discussed what God was teaching us.  We were free to be us and kind of forgot there was a whole world outside. It rained!!! And not just drizzled, but poured and it was oh-so refreshing!! ( I realized that Mombasa maybe gets like 30 days of rain a year- mostly just drizzling). To get some goosebumps was amazing! Last night the power went out so we got to light some candles, enjoy the sound of the froggies singing melodies, and just be.

I was almost in tears because I was so thankful for my husband and this time together. Marriage is a lot of work and isn't always easy so when I get a few days of bliss with my husband, I am so so so grateful.

My prayer is that you too can find some time to truly, thoroughly enjoy your loved ones.

Monday, October 8, 2012

On the road again

We are off again tonight. Feels like we travel every month. We have been invited to a village outside of Eldoret, called Kipkaren, to help develop a soccer program for youth in the community. We are so excited for this opportunity! We don't know exactly how long we will go (probably not more than a few days) and what exactly is waiting for us up there. We know we will be doing a lot of home visits to widows - something Kelvin is very passionate about since his own mom is a widow. We know we will be meeting with youth mentoring them, training them, and playing soccer with them. We know there will be more listening and learning than talking and teaching. I am anxious to work alongside a couple who is like us, black and white, and see how they do community development. I am excited to see some friends who live in that community. More over, I am elated to get out of Mombasa (its heating up again) and immerse myself in village life.

We have also been donated a hefty amount of indestructible soccer balls! Such a huge blessing! A couple in Eldoret is giving them to us so we will be able to pick them up when we get there. You have no idea how precious soccer balls are around here.

Pray for safe travelling. Pray for a wonderful time connecting with the youth and community. Pray that we can discern the amount of involvement we are to have in this project.

I will be back next week with lots of photos and stories!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Thanksgiving Pancakes

I tend to forget Canadian holidays when I am in Kenya. Especially holidays, like Thanksgiving, that doesn't align with American holidays. I always dream of being that wife/mom who celebrates all these holidays and makes it extra special for my family by cooking a nice meal, doing some family tradition, and inviting our friends to join in. It just doesn't happen. Mostly because I forget. Like I almost forgot that this weekend is Thanksgiving. 

I was a little weepy yesterday for many reasons. Holidays (and birthdays) always make me miss home. Sometimes I just wish I could jet to Canada for the weekend to enjoy a yummy food, fall colours, and my family. 

I decided to do something somewhat Canadian - make pancakes. After travelling a little bit, I realized that most countries in the world don't make fluffy pancakes like we do. They make pancakes more like crepes. And Maple Syrup seems to be a distinctive Canadian thing (at least we have some sort of traditional food we can claim). 

They turned out ok. Well, actually kind of pathetic. Nothing like the ones my baba or mom makes. We ate them plain and with our hands. I made Kelvin a couple smokies since the pancakes just aren't enough for him. Come to think of it, the smokies probably weren't enough either. Nonetheless it was nice, it reminded me of home. Maybe from now on, the Opiyo Thanksgiving tradition will be pancakes for dinner. 

I mentioned that we bought some plastic chairs and tables to start playing games with people in the community. Its been such a huge hit. While I was meeting with my ladies on saturday, Kelvin gathered some curious kids and played a game of Rummikub. I wonder how well the kids got it since it is a game that requires some thinking. 

I hope Kelvin won. I am the master of Rummikub. He just can win against me. I know it hurts his man pride. I hope him winning against little kids made him feel better. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Too much fun

Do you ever have those times where you are seriously having too much fun? You are totally free to laugh, make jokes, smile, and be all round joyful. You don't want that time to end but you want the fun to just keep going. Your cheeks start hurting from smiling so much. 

That's what I had yesterday with my two crazy, lovely, amazing neighbours - Miss Ndela and Miss Eddah. 

They called and invited me to go swimming with them (for free I might add). We frolicked in the water till our fingers turned into prunes. Then we were treated to a yummy cup of chai and some nice pastries. We sat, dripping wet, giggling over pretty much everything.  We poke fun at each other and our life situations - me-a white kenyan wife who is trying to blend into this culture as much as I can, Eddah-a fashion designer who is addicted to sugar, and Ndela-a famous Kenyan musician who constantly gets picked on for her marital status. Makes for some good fun I tell you. 

After that, we changed and started making our way home. We LAUGHED all the way home while dancing to our favourite Kenyan gospel song in the middle of the road. We belly laughed when we got in the matatu and I am sure people thought we were absolutely nuts. Then we stood across the street from my apartment, not really wanting to part ways and end our fun. I had to get going and start cooking for Kelvin so we said our goodbyes. 

I came into the house so incredibly grateful for two awesome friends in a place where I am different, I don't quite fit in, I don't quite 'get' everything. Words can't express how grateful I am to God who has blessed me with awesome friends.  

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


I got an email from my dad this morning telling me to call him right when I wake up. My stomach got a little nervous. It's the kind of email that you know something bad has happened or else they would have told you in the email. 

So I called dad right away and he broke the news to me that our beloved pup of around 15 years (I forget how old exactly) passed away. It wasn't a big surprise as she was quite old and ailing. She was blind and deaf and had constant seizures. She was also waking everyone up at night to go pee causing a severe lack of sleep for my parents. Anyways, I guess she had a major seizure and once she snapped out of it, she just wasn't the same. Dad took her to the vet and they had to put her down. 

We loved her. She was such a big part of our family for the past 15 years. Amazing how animals can grab a hold of a special part of your life, eh? We will miss you Lucy lu. 

In the meantime, Neema returned from the vet this morning where she got spayed or, as I like to say, snippered. As you can tell from this photo, she is not the happiest cat alive. I started noticing last week that she was acting really strange. I mentioned it to Kelvin and he told me that she is in heat. I have never experienced a cat in heat. It was wild! We decided it was time to make sure miss Neema doesn't have any mini-neemas.  We bought this tiny basket and picked her up this morning. Since then, she has been trying to bite her stitches (no head cone here) and then she gets scared of them and tries to run away from them. Obviously, they follow her everywhere she goes so it has been a bit tormenting for her.

Kelvin could probably care less about my animal stories. Animals are only really good for food around here so naturally my husband doesn't have the compassion I do for my animals. Thank God that he still loves me! 

Monday, October 1, 2012

All Afro Glam'd up!

Just so you all know, we actually live somewhat luxuriously here in Kenya. You might think we suffer without Reese's Peanut Butter cups, but there is plenty of lovely things to go around for us. When people ask about our life here, I tell them what they want to hear  - like bathing in a bucket, eating rice and beans, dirt and poverty- but then I mention that there are high end coffee shops and 2 for 1 pizza deals. As well as most of our friends are pretty awesome people - graphic designers, radio dj's, fashion designers, famous musicians, nurses, hotel managers, etc. 

I have an amazing community here. I was telling Kelvin the other day that some of the greatest friends I have ever had are the ones I have right now. Most of them are kenyans too. And not that people from different nationalities can't be friends but, lets be honest, sometimes it's easier to have close friendships with people like you. I am forever in awe of the deep, encouraging, edifying, loving and sacrificial friendships I have in Mombasa. 

So why this rant? Well, we got all fancied up on Saturday and went for an 'Afro Glam' dinner with some of our best buds. It was a hoot! Good company, good program, good FOOD! 

 Kelvin and I were severely humbled when they decided to give us a small award for what we do. We got the 'Love' award for our work in Kongowea. We were both so humbled that our peers admired what we do and wanted to recognize us for it. 
 I was thankful that both our names were on it. Because we are partners, a team, a duo. Thankful that we can be used in our marriage. 

One of my favourite women ever, Maria! I can't begin to tell you how many laughs (and sometimes cries) we've had together as we walk through life, marriage, faith, and everything in between. 

Eddah is my personal fashion designer. How many of YOU have fashion designers? Told you we know how to live it up here! Ha, just kidding. Eddah was so insistent that we come to this dinner (we weren't going to go at first) that she offered to make me an outfit for free! I jumped at it (come on, who doesn't like free stuff?) only to realize that she knew we were getting this award and really wanted us to come to accept it. 

Yes, there was a red carpet. Like our outfits? Kelvin's cute bow tie matches my dress. oh how kenyan I've become.