Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Made it!

I'm in the land of well paved roads, big American-like shopping malls, and cream cheese! I made it to South Africa and am enjoying my time with Molly, Rebecca, Marc, and little Abigail. I feel like I'm in America most of the time because everything is so developed. It's much different than Kenya. Today, on Christmas Eve, we delivered presents to children in a hospital and are now headed to Marc's family's house for two days to celebrate Christmas. We'll enjoy good food, opening presents, and swimming in the pool. Not a bad way to spend the season! Then we go on holiday to the beach for a week.

Many of you have been in our conversations... family far away and friends stuck in feet of snow in Oregon. We're thinking of you all and wishing you a wonderful holiday (even if you're stuck and not able to make it to your destinations). Much love and blessings!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Headed South!

I leave for South Africa in the morning to visit friends for three weeks! My internet access will be more limited, so I won't be posting a lot in the coming weeks. I just wanted to say MERRY CHRISTMAS to my family and friends back home. I hope you have a blessed holiday. I'll try to call my family from South Africa, but if I'm unable, please know that I'm thinking of you and I love you. I'll have lots to share when I get home to Kenya. Love you!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

I'm an aunt AGAIN!

My sisters are popping babies out right and left! Isabella Maria was born on Tuesday night to Lisa and Artie. She came more than two months before she was supposed to, weighing only 2 lbs. 10 oz. She is teeny tiny but doing well under the circumstances. Her lungs are developed enough that she can breath on her own, but she will be in the hospital for the next few months. All this information I learned after receiving an emergency email that my mom was headed to Anchorage because Lisa had gone into labor early. Calling home immediately and in a state of panic, I was relieved to hear on the other end that all was well considering. After talking with Lisa and Artie, I was even more relieved and blessed to hear their voices. Although Bella needs lots of prayers, baby and mommy are well. She is definitely the tiniest and cutest Christmas present our family received this season!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I love my friends!

I got on-line Monday night to discover that Newberg, Oregon was having a snow day. Immediately I emailed my old crew to say, "Have fun with the day off work and enjoy Abby's pizza!" Abby's pizza is a tradition on snow days. Since everyone is free from work, we always put chains on the car, loaded up, and headed to lunch for pizza. When I mentioned it in the email, it triggered several emails making plans for a lunch date. Although I couldn't be there, it was fun to be a part of the planning. It made me feel part of the "fam" back home. John and Erin chimed in from New Zealand, and it felt like we were all making plans together. Thanks for including me in the fun friends! You bless me miles, oceans, continents, and time zones away! It was also nice to see pictures of snow...

(Thanks Pete & Lins for the snow pics!)
A little different than Nairobi...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas?

I walked into church this morning to the sound of "Joy to the World", and I thought to myself, "Oh yea! It's Christmas." It has been a strange Christmas season for me without the commercialization of the season, lights on every street, and the lack of seeing my breath outside. It feels more like a summer holiday, with the exception that I have to go to work each day. I walk to and from school seeing the scenes pictured here and the temperature rising each day (Micah and Marla, I think of you often in this climate). It's just plain weird! However, there have been moments that remind me it's December...

My Birthday
The day started with my students bringing me lots of gifts and love. My wonderful room moms surprised me with cupcakes and beautiful flowers.

In the evening my friends threw me a party - a progressive dinner.
Here we're waiting for the main course.

While waiting, Stanley sang me an African song to the beat of the drum.

The Staff Christmas Party
Christa, Wendy, and I are standing in front of the first Christmas tree I'd seen in Kenya. It was December 6, and our party was outdoors.

Candles and Christmas decorations felt like the season even though we were eating on a patio outside, and I wasn't wearing a huge winter coat.

Christmas is here! I have to keep reminding myself of that because it surely doesn't feel like it!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Hospital Visit 2

I went to the hospital again today. The antibiotics I was prescribed on Sunday didn't work. I was blowing green mucus out my nose all week, suffering major sinus headaches, and dreading my upcoming airplane ride to South Africa. So today I drove to the doctor for some more antibiotics - THE STRONG STUFF! Round two - let's pray it works!

On a good note... I drove to the hospital by myself! This may not seem like a big deal to most people, but it was the first time I drove in a different part of the city than Gigiri, my suburb of Nairobi. Driving a stick-shift in Nairobi with limited skills is something I'm continually practicing, and today I got to practice in a common Nairobi "jam". It was a first, and I was successful! Being that today was also a holiday and I had the day off work, after the hospital visit I drove to my favorite place - the Windsor Resort pool. Sinus infection or not, I was sick of being in bed!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

My Hospital Visit

I went to the hospital this morning. After a week of sinus congestion and a serious ear ache yesterday that felt like my head was going to EXPLODE, I decided it was time to go to the doctor. In Nairobi, we go directly to the hospital for medical care, so this morning Wendy, my roommate, drove me to Aga Khan University Hospital (funded by the "pope" of Islam). I was in and out within an hour, which does not occur most days of the week, with drugs in hand and an appointment to come back next week. Already I'm feeling better. Praise God for drugs! Was the Nile trip still worth it, even though it made me sick? Definitely!

Thursday, December 4, 2008


While others were sleeping after a big Thanksgiving meal or getting up early to hit the American sales in every store, I was on a bus from Nairobi to Uganda. After 10 hours on a bumpy, dusty Kenyan road and 3 more hours in Ugandan traffic jams, I arrived at a backpackers hostel. For $5 a night we were provided with a mosquito net, bunk bed, and complimentary blaring music until 3 am. When I awoke the next morning, the purpose of my trip began: WHITE WATER RAFTING DOWN THE NILE RIVER!

Uganda is the source of the River Nile where the wide river rushes creating a myriad of class 4, 5, and 6 rapids. We traveled by raft for 30 km in six hours, hitting four class 5 rapids and a few 3's and 4's. On three of the class 5's we flipped our raft, were sucked under water, and eventually popped up again to careen through wave after wave of water. I think I inhaled half the river.

(This picture isn't actually me. It's some friends in another raft, but it gives you an idea of my experience.)

Kami and I appreciated our Ugandan guide, Henry, who helped us survive the raging rapids. He actually flipped us on purpose most of the time, but we sure had a fun time! As you can see from this picture, I was completely wiped out after our day on the river and a bit dehydrated too.
After a good meal and a shower, we walked back down to the river we conquered. I couldn't believe it...

Rafting the Nile River was one of the scariest and most exciting adventures of my life. I think my heart rate doubled most of the day! Although I don't have pictures of the actual rafting experience (It's a little hard to hold a camera while holding on for dear life!), the video is awesome. I can't download a video with African internet, but I'll go into the details of each rapid and the stories of the day when you see the video this summer.

After another night with 90's music lulling me to sleep, I woke up early to hit the bus again and head back to Nairobi. Eleven hours later I was back in Nairobi, headed toward my own comfortable bed, exhausted, sore, and still feeling the bumping motion of the bus. Two full days on a bus and a head cold later, the entire experience was completely worth it. It's been almost a week since my rafting trip, I'm still sick, but I'd do it all again in a second! Rafting the Nile was a once in a lifetime opportunity that I highly recommend!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today is American Thanksgiving, and unlike most Americans, I had to go to work. Although we were in school at Rosslyn Academy, we enjoyed a celebration of our own: Cultural Diversity Day. We started with an International Thanksgiving Feast in the elementary school, where we ate our fill of foods from India, Korea, Ethiopia, Israel, Uganda, America, and more. The spread was so extensive, it was hard to choose, but everyone had something they liked: American hot dogs, mac and cheese, Swedish meatballs, and Indian curry. I ate way too much!

After feasting, we visited the Cultural Fair where students visited different countries around the school flagpoles and got stamps in their "passports".
We watched presentations, cultural dances, band and choir concerts, cultural games... the list goes on. The most exciting part for my students was face painting and henna. Here are some of the results...Of course I joined in and got a mustache. (Veritas friends, you can see that nothing has changed. Even in Africa I have to get my face painted with the kids!)
By the end of the day, we were all exhausted but had a wonderful Thanksgiving together. It's tough working on a holiday, but I guess I can't complain too much since we had Obama Day not too long ago. :) On the plus side of things, the weather is warm and sunny (80 degrees today), and I get Friday off for Thanksgiving, so don't feel too sorry for me. :)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Joys of 5th Grade!

This week my class was in charge of chapel. Our topic was "responsibility", and the kids did a superb job remembering their lines and parts. I was very proud of them. It reminded me of assemblies at Veritas School. We even sang a song about responsibility (in the good old classical Christian education style), which I wrote to the tune of "Do a Deer". Whether in Africa or America, there's always a song to sing in Miss Grimes' classroom!
What did NOT remind me of Veritas was sending 11 girls to the principal on Friday. My "teacher skills" (or parenting skills?) are definitely being put to the test with my pre-teen fifth graders. They have awesome hearts and are amazing kids, but sometimes I think those rising hormones cause a blockage in their brains. Oh the joys of teaching! :)

Sunday, November 16, 2008


Whenever I talk on the phone with family and friends, I often catch myself saying words or phrases I wouldn't have said in the past. My English is changing. Sometimes I have to laugh at myself because other people notice it, like when I say, "There are millipedes about the house" or "I am having a car" (that means I have a car). My English is changing. Part of this is due to the British influence in Kenya, part due to speaking to Kenyans, and part due to the large international community I live in. Some of the common phrases in my new vocabulary include:

flash me = call my cell phone and then hang up (most often used to save purchased cell phone minutes, but still let someone know you've arrived)
hooting = honking (a car horn)
You look smart = You look nice
We are three = There are three of us
Scuse = excuse me
to let = for rent

Another change in my speaking is where I stress syllables or fluctuate my tone. All of us "newbies" do it now, and we have to laugh at ourselves. In Swahili, the emphasis is always put on the second to the last syllable of a word, so Kenyans tend to use the same rule in their English speaking. Hearing it so often, I've picked it up. So when I talk with you on the phone or see you this summer, please don't laugh at me too hard for my non-American English words or my funny emphasis on words. :)

(Oregon fam... It's gone beyond the "Kim pauses". It's a whole new level! I look forward to Pete's comments especially. :)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I'm an aunt!

Six hours ago Elijah James Brigham was born. My baby sister has a baby! In the midst of labor Emily sent this email:

Well we think it is that time. I do believe that my water has broke and off we go.
Todd, Emily, and ELI

And five hours later Eli came into the world, a healthy 8 pounds 1 ounce and 21.5 inches long. Isn't he a good looking boy?! He was born on Armistice Day (aka Veterans Day), a day of peace when World War 1 ended. Maybe that will be a glimpse into his future calling.

When I got the news, I was so excited, then I started to cry. It surprised me that I reacted with such emotion. I didn't think it would bother me that I would be so sad about not being there. If I were in the States, I wouldn't be in Wisconsin where Todd, Emily, and Eli are anyway. But it's moments like this, when big things happen back home to people I love, that living far away is tough. Regardless of the distance, I'm right there in spirit.

Emily and Todd, I'm so happy for you and so proud of you! I can't wait to meet Eli in person, but that's about seven months away, so skype me when you're settled. I love you so much!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

It's All Politics!

There is much buzz in Kenya following the results of the U.S. presidential election. Most Kenyans are very happy Obama won the election, post it proudly in the newspaper, and talk about it on the streets. The morning after the election, one of my Kenyan co-workers went off in a tirade about Obama being the Antichrist, but that was the only Kenyan I heard who was dissatisfied with Obama's presidency. Why does United States politics even matter to Kenyans? It doesn't really. It's more about Kenyan politics than anything. President Kibaki declared a national holiday, which I'm told he does now and again, for political gain. As is true in every country, politicians are always thinking about their own political strategy. By declaring a holiday and giving everyone a day off work, Kibaki is trying to gain a little more allegiance from the Luo people (the same tribe Obama's father comes from) since there has been animosity between the Luo people and Kibaki, who is Kikuyu. It's all politics. What's new?! Tomorrow the newspaper and people on the street will probably be talking about how stupid it was for Kibaki to declare a national holiday.

HOWEVER... Since there was a national holiday and none of us had to go to work, I went to Hell's Gate National Park (about two hours from Nairobi). We hiked through a canyon where many people have carved their names in the rock. Guess whose name we found on Obama Day?!We also saw lots of wildlife... zebras, gazelles, impala, and giraffes.
Along the way we learned why the area was named "Hell's Gate". It's an active volcanic area with hot springs used for thermal energy. As we walked through the canyon we took little "showers" in the warm waterfalls, and the end of the hike had a spectacular view. Looks nothing like I imagine hell to be.Kenya politics is ridiculous just like everywhere else, but today I benefited from the craziness. Obama isn't even in office, yet he's certainly been a good president for me so far. :) We have yet to see how this presidency works, but it will be an interesting four years no matter who you voted for! (And by the way, I did vote. My absentee ballot was set up before I left the States. No way was I going to miss out on this election!)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Obama Day

I received this work email the morning after the US elections...


Tomorrow has been declared Obama Day in Kenya. While my fellow US citizens IN the United States are going to work the day after the election, I get a day off in Kenya. CRAZY! But great for me. I'm going hiking with friends! :)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A Special Treat

I was blessed last week with my first packages from friends back home, which included many special treats, including three People magazines. In four days I read all the magazines from cover to cover and was thoroughly caught up on American pop culture. So when we had a birthday party for a co-worker at my house, the first thing everyone picked up from the coffee table was my People magazines. The boys were the first to grab the magazines and enthusiastically catch up on the latest celebrity babies and the history of Palin. It was quite funny. Thank you friends for everything you sent! It was a huge blessing. I loved the pictures of the Oregon Fall leaves and the magnets I'm using to hang the pictures on my frig. It felt like Christmas, so thank you for the lovin'. My friends in Nairobi thank you too!

Friday, October 31, 2008

This is Fall?

While all my friends and previous co-workers are enjoying the crisp days of Fall, red leaves, and wearing sweaters, my experience is quite different. It is Spring in Nairobi. The temperature averages 70's and 80's each day, so it draws me outside my classroom like a mosquito to a light bulb. My Alaska roots shine through even in the Southern Hemisphere - when the sun shines, we must go outside! So this week class 5B did their social studies assignment in the elementary courtyard. Working at a school with the perfect climate is a really tough job!

Sunday, October 26, 2008


I drove a stick-shift vehicle on the wrong side of the road today!
Although my car didn't have the common insignia seen on cars of student drivers in Nairobi, "Driver Under Instruction", it was very obvious that I was a first time driver. (For those of you who don't know, I do not know how to drive a standard transmission vehicle.) After six or seven loops around the school parking lot, practicing stopping and going and stopping and going, I ventured onto the street. I drove through a nearby neighborhood and then on to Village Market, our local "mall". Jessie, my instructor, treated me to some Italian ice-cream, and then back home we went. I stalled the car several times in the parking lot of Village trying to reverse, and the guard had to hand signal traffic around me. I thanked him for his patience and help. He was very nice and responded, "It is very normal." After dropping Jessie off at the school gate, I drove home by myself. It's still a rough ride if you jump in the car with me, but it's a start. I'm not going out to attempt crazy Nairobi traffic jams yet, but I can at least get myself to the grocery store. Today is a successful day for me in Africa.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

U.S. Elections in Kenya

While family and friends back home are bombarded with political TV commercials, internet pop-ups, and campaign signs in neighbors' yards, US citizens in Kenya see only one face and hear one name: Obama. If Kenyans were voting in the US election, Barack Obama would win by a landslide. Most of this is due to the fact that his father was Luo , one of the major ethnic groups in Kenya. So when I'm shopping in the market or talking with friends, I'm often asked who I'm voting for. If I say Obama's name, I'll always get a friendly smile from Kenyan friends or a better price from the vendor. Kenyans' views don't just show themselves on the front page of the newspaper or in conversation. I've seen bumper stickers, signs, clothes, and even a secretary's book bag at school with Obama's face and name. Has all this campaigning swayed my vote? I'm not telling! :)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Dip in the Indian Ocean

In honor of the first president of Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta, we got an extra long weekend, which gave some friends and I the opportunity to hit the beach. We headed to Mombasa, the biggest sea port on the East African coast. Getting to and from Mombasa was CRAZY. A story I will save for another time. But once we got there, it was like heaven...

Our bungalow was beautiful with an open great room, swimming pool, and five minute walk to the white sand beach.
A Zanzibar bed lay on the porch for anyone who wanted to be awakened by the sunrise.
We ate a lot of seafood: white snapper, lobster, prawns, and crab. Delicious!We took a dhow out to the reef, which we walked on during low tide, and went snorkeling with our guides, Mario and Leo. (The area had a lot of Italian influence, so a lot of the Kenyans we met told us their "Italian" names. One of our best buddies on the beach was named Marco Polo. :)I saw some familiar sea creatures and some exotic animals on the reef.
A common scene during our day included many vendors who bothered us incessantly and camels walking by offering a ride.Most of my time was spent laying on the sandy beach or playing in the blue waves of the Indian Ocean. It was very difficult to leave and come back to the rain of Nairobi. (Yes! It's been raining!) It was a wonderful vacation that will need to be repeated or maybe God will send me to live there one day, open a missionary guest house, and enjoy the humidity daily. For now, it's back to reality... I've been very spoiled this month with several long weekends and national holidays. I have to remember that not every day in Africa is a holiday.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


I went on my first African safari this weekend. Paul, Chris, Kami, and I headed about three hours north of Nairobi to visit two parks, which lead us into the northern hemisphere and a stop at the equator. It was my first time in the northern hemisphere in three months!

Here I am at 0 degrees latitude...

Despite what people think, water does not swirl in the opposite direction when going down a drain or toilet in the southern hemisphere. It's the same whether you're in the north or south. They had funnels to test it at the equator. I've also tested it in Brazil. Same results - no difference.

The lodge we stayed at sat near the base of Mt. Kenya. Each morning I woke up at 6 am to see a beautiful sunrise as I had quiet time with God on the balcony. Here was the view from our room...We saw three of Africa's "big five" (buffalo, rhinos, and elephants). If you can't see, those are rhinoceroses behind me. I still need to see leopards and lions to see all five of Africa's famous beasts. I'd like to see a cheetah too. Although we didn't see the "cats", we saw a lot of beautiful herbivores.We ended a full day of safari with a beautiful sunset as we hoped and waited for lions to come out. Although the lions didn't expose themselves, we did watch vultures eat a zebra carcass with the setting sun behind them. Overall, I'd say my first safari was a great success.

Being out in the beautiful expanse of Africa, seeing all the variety of animals, and driving through jungles and savanna... I love it. Friends here have said to me, "It's cool to see all the animals," but for me it was more than that. I can't completely explain it, but I know God has brought me here for reasons beyond teaching at Rosslyn for three years. It's exciting to think and anticipate what He has planned. All of this probably sounds cheesy, but I feel like these three months in Africa are the beginning of something bigger. Who knew that elephants and giraffes could have such an impact! :)