Friday, November 30, 2012

"This would never happen back home..."

I can't count how many times I have said that these last two days.

We almost lost the new apartment last night after we had already installed a water pump and put netting on the windows. They wanted to increase the rent. We simply can't afford it if it goes up. Kelvin fought with the agent who wanted more money even though the owners themselves said it was ok for us to pay what we are paying. At one point, I thought we would be homeless come Saturday. I sat and petitioned my God and He pulled through. We get it at the original price for a whole year. This lack of communication and shady/greedy agent would just not fly in Canada.

Our water has been out for two days. And it seems our managers don't even care to refill it after they told us they will countless times. Meanwhile we are in the process of packing and cleaning and washing our apartment. Without water, it just makes it a whole lot harder.

We had our manager try to kick us out this afternoon because the next tenant was ready to move in. He told us that this morning. We said no. We are leaving early in the morning tomorrow. He also tried to con us out of our deposit and over charge us for painting the house. My husband is clever and didn't let that fly. We will get our full deposit back and found a cheaper way to paint the house.

Top news last night was how are we going to register the nomads to vote in the upcoming election? I had to giggle. They can't register certain nomadic groups because they won't be in the same area in the next couple months. A challenge Canada doesn't deal with so often.

Top news this morning was that a man killed his wife and ate her. Yap, that happened. Although, I do remember a guy in Canada who chopped up his boyfriend and sent his body parts to various places. So maybe this could also happen in Canada?

I went to coffee with a friend for some much needed girly chat. We sat there for almost an hour, after our dishes had cleared, waiting for our bill. We ended up asking our waiter for it. I don't think restaurants in Canada like customers just lingering in there for a long time after they finished eating.

I guess I need to stop comparing Kenya to Canada. I do that when I am frustrated with how things are going here. I am just praying our move goes smoothly tomorrow and I can feel settled in my new place. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012


While I was in Nairobi in September, I met a friend of a friend of a friend of mine. Got that? He was a missionary in Eldoret. Him and his family spent a year building a children's home. When I mentioned to him that we play soccer, he asked if I needed any balls. I quickly said YES! 

Balls are one of our biggest expenses. They are not cheap and they get destroyed so easily with our boys. Usually, we can only buy one or two at a time so the whole team has to share them during practice. 

This missionary told me that his church had donated like 30 boxes of these indestructible balls and he  had already given out as many as he could. He offered that, if I could somehow get them, he would give me around four boxes (with 10 balls in each).  It was quite the adventure getting them as we discovered that his children's home is deep in the village outside of Eldoret. However, it was all worth it. Now our boys get to practice with an abundance of soccer balls! 

And these balls are truly indestructible. You can poke nails through them, slice them with a razor, or even drive over them with a car and they won't bust! They also never deflate! Perfect for our stoney terrain and rough boys.

 I watched the boys practice last night for the first time in a while. It's so good to see so many of them out there.
While on the sidelines, I got to goof around with these sweet girl. She came dressed like a footballer and brought her own little plastic soccer ball to play with! Way too cute! 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

It has become too real...

HIV/AIDS, that is.

It became too real for me last week.

I remember, during my first trip to Kenya in 2005, wondering where all the AIDS was. I mean, back home in Canada, we had been fed the news that this horrendous disease is killing the masses. Words like 'epidemic', 'catastrophe', and 'threat to humanity' were being used to describe the disease. Celebs were creating clothing lines where profits were going to 'fight' AIDS in Africa. AIDS day became a new holiday. As far as I understood, it was a big deal.

So you can understand my confusion, as a naive 17-year-old girl with a heart to save the whole world, when I came to Kenya and didn't see 'it' anywhere. I guess I didn't really know what 'it' looked like.

I began to realize that people don't walk around with big stamps on their foreheads saying, "I have AIDS!". It's actually not easy to point out people who are living with AIDS because often they are sick with very common sicknesses like pneumonia, malaria, typhoid, or even the flu. Because their immune systems are so weak (because of AIDS), those seemingly common sicknesses become life threatening to those living with AIDS. If you meet an orphan whose parent died with AIDS, they will most likely tell you that the parent died of a common disease like typhoid or pneumonia which is true but AIDS played a big part in that.

I am not an expert on the disease by all means but I have learnt some things in the years I have lived here.

Now I know many people who are living with AIDS. Some of them are very near and dear to me.

I even had a doctor tell me once that, if he had a choice between AIDS, cancer, and diabetes, he would rather have AIDS since, with the right treatment, you can have a long and healthy life with it.

However, last week, the reality of this nasty disease became too real for me.

Kelvin got news that one of his friends was 'sick' in the hospital. We didn't know what 'sick' meant as that is how Kenyans describe any type of sickness they are feeling. But we quickly learned that he is suspected to have AIDS as a woman, who he was known to have slept with, was in the same hospital dying of AIDS. Apparently, they are certain wards that contain just people with AIDS and she was in one of those wards. Kelvin went to see her and she was already paralyzed on the left side of her body and was unable to speak. I had met the lady just a week before that.

Kelvin went to see how his buddy was doing since his family really didn't want anything to do with him if he was now infected with AIDS. People still tend to shun others who have the disease, even if they are their own family.

This lady, who was now on her death bed, wrote a list of all the men she had slept with. On this list were several more of Kelvin's friends and men in the community. After Kelvin got this list, he rounded up these men as well as some other buddies, and they all wen to get tested. Unfortunately, some came out positive.

This is when my heart really started to break for so many reasons:

- a whole bunch of men, some close buddies, all shared the same woman. I think that is pretty nasty and can only imagine how ashamed I would feel knowing my close friend and I slept with the same person.
-a lot of these men, including our friend, are actually married.
-in one day, their lives have dramatically changed because they couldn't keep it in their pants just once.
-the community probably won't be so forgiving of them now that they are infected.
-these men may have slept with other women after sleeping with this woman which means that they could have infected a whole bunch of other women. So now they may have to break the news to some women they got all cozy with, that they too need to be tested.
-I kept wondering how this woman, who was dying in the hospital, was feeling after she infected all these men. Did she know she had AIDS? Did she do it on purpose? Maybe she got it from one of them?
- this lady doesn't have any family around so I think she was dying a sad and lonely death.

The whole situation made AIDS become too real; it hit too close to home.

And my heart was heavy, really heavy.

I asked Kelvin what we can do. He said that the best thing we can do is teach those close to us to be responsible. For me, that means I have a group of young women from that community that I can reach out to to make sure it doesn't happen to them.

Finally, last night, we got the call telling us the woman died.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Things that made me glad this week

I had some issues with my google account and it's storage limit. Thankfully, I figured it all out and now I am able to post pictures again!

Just a small glimpse into some highlights of my week (because there were some things that made me pretty sad this week-will share about it later). We must keep looking for things to be thankful for right? Give thanks in all circumstances...

1. Rose and Paul's paradise wedding. 

This wedding was simply gorgeous! It was at the nicest resort in Mombasa and it looked out over the Indian Ocean. The deco was stunning and the food yum. The guest list was 80 people so it was wonderfully intimate. Not to mention, I totally adore Rose (as my new best friend here) and was delighted to see her walk down the aisle. 

 A high table perched over the Indian Ocean...divine. I also LOVED getting to dance my way into the evening. They played a lot of "white people" music and Rose's family were the first ones to hit the dance floor and the last ones to leave. I got to let out my awkward white girl and just dance!! Ah, felt so wonderful.

2. Treats from home!

My best friend, Nikki, and her sister, Charly, put together this nice package for me a couple weeks ago as a random act of kindness. I was in tears as I was opening it at the post office (you have to open it in front of the people there so they can see what is inside and what to charge you in duty). I bet the ladies there thought I was nuts crying over chocolate and coffee. But it made me happy and we have been enjoying these treats all week. Not to mention the beautiful roses I snagged from the centre pieces at the wedding....

3. A subwoofer (sp?)

Nicky, the young man who works for us, came to me with a big fat grin on his face and told me that he managed to save up 5,500kes (like $70) to buy a subwoofer for his 'home sound system'. He told me he saved for 4 months to be able to buy it. Part of me was excited about the fact that the idea of 'saving' is finally getting into his head. But then I wondered why a subwoofer? Don't you want to go to school or something? So I asked him and he told me, "Now, in my area, I will be the one with the biggest sound system and making the most noise." I had to giggle! Didn't know making the most noise was something to be proud of?

4. Christmas!

Our Christmas campaign is out and we are having lots of awesome response from wonderful people! Keep it coming! We have yet to reach our target.

5. A fridge full of veggies and one large watermelon

Kelvin and I went to the market on Wednesday. You have to understand that this is no small market. It is the largest market in the coast of Kenya. It is ginormous! And totally overwhelming for a white girl like me. Nonetheless, I squeezed in between the vendors trying to get me to buy everything while I was dripping with sweat. We came out with a hefty bag of fruit and veggies to last us a while. I had to squeeze them into all the little spaces in my fridge. And down below is one large watermelon that made us giggle. This particular type of watermelon is in season right now and most of them are actually in the shape of a bean! We just had to buy one. Oh, and that's Neema sleeping up there. It seems to be her new thing.

6. A few days at home with Kelvin.

Kelvin has spent more time at home this week preparing for our Christmas events and a Christmas play he is doing for church. I won't lie, it's been wonderful spending so much time with him this week.

7. Our new apartment!!!!!!

We are moving in next week. I know, I have told you that already. But I am just so excited! Come visit please.

Have a wonderful weekend and find some things to be thankful for this week ok? 

The Sweat Moustache is Back

The sweat moustache has returned. The awkward line of tiny sweat beads that adorn the top of your lips is now presenting itself back on my face.

Mombasa is heating up again! And I am spending more time wiping the sweat moustache off my face with my shirt...

I even had a cold shower yesterday. Although it wasn't entirely by choice; power was out in most of Mombasa all day so I couldn't heat water to bathe.

The fan now stays on the medium level all night long and all throughout the day.

Ice Cream shops are becoming more and more tempting by the day.

I take extra trips to the grocery store just to enjoy the air conditioning.

However, I am so so so excited to move next week! The new apartment faces the ocean which is a big deal. Our current apartment does not face the ocean therefore we get no breeze coming through our place. Now, I didn't say that we can view the ocean; we are just facing the direction of the ocean. The new apartment also has lots and lots of big windows that are filled with window panes. There is this new fad in housing in our area. People love these chic sliding windows that are meant for an air conditioned apartment. They look kind of fancy but they are terrible unless, of course, you have an air conditioner (which most people don't). The don't let in any air (as half the window is closed at all times) and they are really tiny. So it makes for a really hot n' stuffy apartment.

That's why I love our new place. Its a bit older but it doesn't have these new fancy schmancy windows that are all the rage. And that means that I get to experience lots of ocean breezes flowing through my house. Ahh sweet breezes...

For now, Kelvin and I will enjoy a nice cold glass of fresh passionfruit juice I made this morning....yum!

Monday, November 19, 2012


Christmas is creeping up on us. It's time to tell you about this year's Christmas campaign. 

Last year, we were able to supply all our boys with a large bag of groceries for Christmas. They had Christmas feasts with all their families! If you want to read more about last year's "Christmas for the Boys", please click here

This year we have three special ways that you can give:

Celebrate with Community

$20 will provide a Christmas feast for four community members. In Kongowea, special events and holidays are celebrated with lots of food! Families will invite neighbors, friends, and other community members to come enjoy a large feast of goat biryani. This Christmas, we want to hold our own feast and invite all our youth and friends in Kongowea to celebrate this special day together!

Cable TV for Kongowea

$50 will provide the capital needed for the Rehma boys new business venture. They were challenged to come up with an income-generating project that will help support the team’s needs as well as their own personal needs. Over the past 2 months, they have researched and planned out a very impressive business plan to supply cable TV at a low rate to the residents of Kongowea. All they need now is the capital to start the business.

College Students

$150 will pay for one term of college school fees for our youth. Over the past year, we have identified and mentored several youth that we would like to support to further their education. We believe that these particular youth will be focused on their families, great leaders in their communities, and give back to others in need.

You can donate on the left hand side of this blog. In the "donation to be used for" box, please indicate which project you would like to support. Once your donation is received, you will be sent a card explaining your donation that you can gift to your loved ones this Christmas. Note that all donations are tax-deductible. 

As a side note: one of my favourite gifts to give and receive for Christmas is a donation made. I remember, when I was graduating from high school, my french immersion teacher gave me the coolest gift. She gave me a card that said she donated $25 in my honour to an organization that aided victims of war. It is the only gift that I remember getting for graduation. I still have the card. 

It really is a wonderful gift to give your loved ones this Christmas! 

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Noah: Our latest graduate!

Time for me to brag about another one of our youth. 

Noah graduated! Noah is one of the young men on our team. He approached us last year and asked if we would be willing to help him go to college. By the sounds of things, his parents aren't so supportive of him. They live upcountry and don't really bother to provide or help him. Noah is a young man of really noble character. He is the kind of boy who might lie to you and then feel so guilty about it and come confess right away. 

He did a one-year clearing and forwarding course (something to do with the port). We used to go check up on him at school and the teacher couldn't stop saying good things about him. He passed all his exams and was even able to find an awesome internship. We are now praying that this company will hire him full time once his internship is over! 

We attended his graduation on November 3rd. We were the only ones who could attend as his family had other things to attend to. It was a very long ceremony. We arrived at 8 and left around 1. By the time we left, they were still doing some presentations and opening numbers. Yes, they hadn't even handed out the certificates yet. Noah was gracious and let us leave early. 

So SO proud of this young man!! Congrats Noah!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Mini - Meltdown

Upon returning home on Monday morning, homesickness began to creep up on me. Around 4pm, I just couldn't hold back the tears and struggled to figure out why I was so upset. I realized that I just missed home. 

It's not an unfamiliar feeling for me but it is rare nowadays. In the past two weeks, I have had several people ask if I miss home and I proudly answered that I miss my family but not really home. I am pretty content here in Kenya. That's why I was so surprised that I was in such a misery come Monday afternoon. 

And when you are so homesick, it seems like every small thing becomes a HUGE obstacle. And mostly I start to blame it all on 'Africa'. "Ugh, kenya power sucks!" "Africa is so corrupt" "It's so dirty in Africa. Why can't it just be clean." "Its so dysfunctional here in Africa." 

I was actually picking out pumpkin seeds to roast, tears dripping down my face, while murmuring, "Stupid Kenyan pumpkin seeds are so hard to get out!" 

Tuesday and Wednesday got a tad better but I still had a few moments of tears and murmured "I hate Africa" a few more times. However on Wednesday afternoon, I had a mini-meltdown after realizing that my internet modem is broken and needs to be replaced. It was especially disheartening after we had just put a large deposit on our new apartment (which we are really excited for!!) that pretty much sucked up all my savings. Just one more thing that we need to shell out some cash for. Nonetheless, I sucked it up and went and bought a new one - which is working gloriously now. 

I was reading an article on SheLoveMagazine this morning and I came across this video. At first I laughed, because there is a lot of truth in it, and then I cringed realizing that that was me. Although I live in Africa, I still complain about 'First World Problems'. 

So today I am no longer complaining (which is easier now that my internet is back). I am purposing to just let things go and enjoy the small stuff. 

I love the last one "I hate when they put pickles on even when I ask for no pickles".

Some Muddy Soccer

We are home! We did indeed make it to Kipkaren for a wonderful week of learning, listening, teaching, and fellowshipping. 

I grew up in a small town so I love the intimacy of a small community. Mombasa was the last place I ever wanted to be cause its so big, clustered, dirty, and cramped. Going to the village is like a vacation for me even if I am working all day long. The beautiful sunrises and sunsets, the quietness, the green landscape, the cool weather, the simple lifestyle, the fresh produce, the humble people, and the slower pace of life. So wonderful! 

Our hosts were amazing! They have this swanky guesthouse (which was three times bigger than our apartment in Mombasa) fit with the most comfortable beds and steaming hot showers!! They fed us wonderful meals and let us enjoy their family. We learned a lot from them! They too are a mixed couple like Kelvin and I. They have been doing community development in this area for 14+  years. I picked their brains on so many things like their mistakes, triumphs, difficulties, finances, etc. We were so privileged to work with them. 

 We tried to wake up early every morning to have coffee and do devotions together while the sun was rising. Spectacular! 
The reason we were asked to come up there was to help start a youth program similar to ours. The state of the youth in this community really broke our hearts. I was especially heartbroken for the young women most of whom dropped out of school at an early age and got pregnant either by their husbands, someone else's husband, or some random men. They really need someone to walk alongside of them and point them towards Jesus their Healer, Forgiver, Redeemer, Lover, Provider and Father.
Above Kelvin was doing devotions for a group of youth and widows in the community. After devotions, we took the youth and did some team building exercises while teaching them a few life skills. 

 Jayden, the son of our hosts, is too adorable for words. Seriously, he melts the heart of everyone he meets. He is a man of the community just like his father.
 Jayden watching as the boys begin to play soccer. 
 It was really really muddy. It poured with rain every afternoon we were there. I loved the thunder and lightening but didn't so much enjoy standing outside watching soccer in the rain....
....hence the awkward missionary/village/freezing cold fashion. Finally, by the third day of being ridiculously cold, I put away my pride and dressed to be warm instead of trying to look decent.

 We came hoping to find a bunch of youth eager to play soccer. We were told there were many but quickly learned that they only come if there is something they will get out of it (like a ball, blankets, gifts). So our method of reaching youth through soccer didn't work out so well. The show still went on and Kelvin did what he does best: love on youth and point them to Jesus. Here they are praying after practice. 

 We even brought some swanky cones and balls for them to practice with.
 A seriously cute kid! The best part is that he doesn't even speak english (even though his Mom is american)! They taught him swahili first which has kind of inspired me to learn so that my kids will be bi-lingual. 
 Kelvin utterly amazed me the whole week. He was in his element doing what God has created him to do best. It was so amazing to see my husband truly THRIVE in what he was doing. I was so so proud of him!!! 

We have committed to supporting a group of youth in the community. About 50 of them have formed a group where they come together to grow closer to God, grow closer to each other, support one another in their lives, create jobs and do income generating projects together. We hope to go again every couple months to mentor, train, walk alongside, and love on them. 
We couldn't go all the way to Eldoret and not go to Ilula to visit all the kids and my 'family'. We only spent one night but it was just enough to drink yummy chai, sing the latest hits with the girls, goof around with the young kids, and talk and laugh around the dinner table with the Ronos. To our surprise, Emmanuel picked us up in their 'new' car. We had quite the ride to the children's home. At one point a large piece of metal fell off the side of my door as we were sliding around in the mud. It felt so good to be home....

We are back in Mombasa and will be updating you with some exciting stuff soon!!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

On the road again...again

We are leaving tonight. I hope.

We were suppose to go  to kipkaren a few weeks ago to work with an organization there and help build up a soccer program for youth. However, stuff happened and we didn't make it. In fact, we missed our bus but that was only the beginning of a rather crazy week.

Tonight we are booked to leave Mombasa at 10:30. We will probably arrive in Eldoret around 1pm tomorrow, pick up some free soccer balls, and then head to kipkaren for a week or so. I am still thoroughly looking forward to our time up there, connecting with friends, and seeing how we can connect with youth. I have packed my socks and sweaters and looking forward to getting a bit chilly.

You probably won't here from me till next week!

PS. Our boys actually won today! They have been having a hard time winning lately and have been getting a bit discouraged. Our goal was phenomenal! If he wasn't there, we would have lost terribly. The goal we scored was kind of lame but, hey, a goal is a goal. Everyone had heavy hearts today after a young man, a friend to many of our boys, was shot dead yesterday by a police man in Kongowea. It was such a tragedy that seems to have rocked a lot of people. My heart goes out to the family, who we know well, who is now having to deal with the loss of a son/brother. I am just thankful that our boys were more interested in watching the MAN U vs ARESENAL game than attending some political rally (where this boy was shot). 

Friday, November 2, 2012

Four Years

November 8, 2008. 

That is the day I first stepped into Mombasa four years ago. It was also the beginning of possibly the hardest 6 months of my life. 

We were placed in a mansion that was meant for a large Indian family. There were 8 bedrooms, 7 bathrooms, a humongous living room, and hallways that you could do endless cartwheels in. And we were only two girls. The house had some pretty major quirks: no water, no airflow, lots of dirt and gecko poop, a tiny kitchen, a noisy neighbourhood, and a few guards with their own personal issues. It was not an easy place to manage. 

I started off pretty excited about what was planned for us but my zeal quickly faded. It just wasn't what I felt called to do but I did it because we were told it was necessary, a spot needed to be filled and we got lots of praise for our courage to be there. Meanwhile, I was fading. We lived in a difficult neighbourhood and got constantly heckled by the men even though we tried as hard as we could to cover our bodies and act respectfully. It didn't matter; our skin colour was enough to make them go crazy. We had little preparation and support for what our work really entailed. No one guided us. We pretty much had to figure it out on our own. It was a huge learning experience and a massive point of growth in my life. But it wasn't easy. 

I eventually fell into depression and needed to get out. I went for counselling, my dad came over to visit, and they moved me to Word of Life. 

That's when things changed. I met Kelvin. I felt alive again in a position I felt I was good at. I was cool, literally, from the sea breezes that flowed through the Word of Life compound. It was a life changing few weeks to say the least. 

I swore I would never come back to Mombasa. Never ever ever! 

But alas, four years later, this city has captured my heart and offered me a wonderful life, an awesome community, and a pretty rad husband. 

I dug up some old pics of my first stint in Mombasa in 2008. 

We hosted a huge Christmas party at our house. To this day it is one of my favourite Christmas'. We had such a blend of cultures and religions there. We ate, played games, and hung out. We talked about the meaning of Christmas and love was shared. Such a memorable moment!

Our house came equipped with this inflatable boat that we had too much fun in. I remember rocking it back and forth singing "Rock the boat, don't tip the boat over..."
I worked in a youth library and we did a lot of youth events. We had a retreat for valentines day and we did some skits. I think this guy was proposing to me during our skit. 

This was new years. Yes, we laid in the driveway in the middle of the night. It was hot.
I spent most of my time trying to make friends. Some of these girls I still see today.
My organization partnered me with another girl named Sheena. I am really not sure how I would have survived without her. She was originally from Hong kong but lived in Canada. Naturally, she attracted every person in Mombasa who was also from Hong Kong so I listened to a lot of Cantonese and ate a lot of chinese food during my 9 months in Kenya. 
We used tuk-tuks a lot. It was easier and cooler. I hated walking around town. 
We purposed to enjoy ourselves since we lived in such a beautiful place. Here we had gone to Malindi, just north of Mombasa, for a day of snorkelling. Sheena was such a water baby. I didn't like the salt water and I didn't find the ocean refreshing as usually it was so warm from the heat.
My bedroom. 
The view from the outside of our mansion. I didn't say it was a pretty mansion. 

In the community we lived in, most the streets were like this. It was cramped and crowded but some of the structures were really beautiful. Some were pretty ugly. It is the old city of Mombasa and it is rich with history.

So Happy Four Year Anniversary to me!

Mombasa, I am glad you showed me that you can be an enjoyable city to live in. Thanks for loving me and caring for me over the past four years!