22 December 2010


Our family really enjoyed our safari to the Maasai Mara last week.  Pictures will be posted soon, I think.  We've just got a lot to share right now!  This picture is just a teaser for a more extensive photoblog to follow.

I share it because it was on one of our evening game drives with this view that I suddenly felt like I was back at home, not so much because of the view itself which IS quite a bit like a western Colorado summer early evening, but more because of the way it felt.  The cool air of evening replacing the heat of the day, the mingled smells of dust and animals; I've heard that memories are often most closely tied to scents.  Smelling the moist, cool air rising up through the grass I was suddenly a kid again, sitting on a tractor in a hayfield at the end of a long day, thinking.

Most farmers are philosophers; Some are theologians.  My Grandpa is both.  Much of farming is sitting, watching, performing some simple task over and over again; it gives plenty of time to wonder and ponder.  Most of my theology was reasoned out on a tractor, first as my Grandpa or Dad sat on the fender, teaching me to drive, then as I was driving on my own.

For a few minutes, I was alone with my thoughts on the Savannah contemplating man, his condition, MY condition.

It has been a while.  I've been too busy, with too many things to take care of.  But it's not busyness so much as the fact that everything is so removed from life and death.  I'm on the computer doing research, writing, or Facebook.  I'm reading a book or cleaning up the house; Everything is so far removed from the actual business of living.

I get stuck in ruts where I go days or weeks without thinking about my life, my death or my place in the world; stuck in a plastic, pen and paper, electrical, networking, virtual world.  In our virtual worlds, we're big men: always in control, in charge, gods.

Looking across the Earth it's easy to see one man is no big thing.  I needed to look out at this view, needed to smell the smells and feel my own smallness, to see the big picture.  It's then I recognize my place and my need.  I miss home.  I want a 'real' Christmas with cold and snow and clear starry nights but in the scheme of things, thinking of eternity, home is much bigger.

21 December 2010


Last week we went on safari with another family here at RVA.  They have kids the same ages and gender as Faith and Joel.  We booked the trip at a travel fair back in early November.  The plan was to stay at a tented camp in the Maasai Mara Game Reserve.  Given the events of my (Jim's) very first Safari, we were all a little bit apprehensive, but God really knew what we needed.  The camp was beautiful.  Even though the Mara is not fenced, we were several kilometers from the nearest entrance and village and the camp had its own security and intimidating electric fence.  We felt safe.  Not only that, but the 'tents' were really nice.  A full bathroom, wood floors, king-sized bed for us, a bed for Faith and a crib for Joel (Which he loved).  The buffet was full of good food from many different regions of the world.  We felt pampered.  There was time to read books, play with the kids and watch animals.  It's been a while since we really relaxed like that.

I also had a lot of time to think, especially on the ride to and from the Mara where the road is so rough our driver chose to drive off-road because it really was smoother.  Still, I think he tried to get as close to the 80 kilometer per hour speed limit as possible, which rendered any conversation impossible.

At the end of our time there, as we were checking out at the Reserve gate, the van was swarmed by the Maasai women (the Maasai Mamas) trying to sell trinkets.  They are very persistent, and it can be quite intimidating for even an adult.  As we were puling away, the other girl Faith's age said, "Those ladies were being mean!"  To be fair, they kind of are, but it's the kind of meanness borne of desperation.

Faith then said something that I was really impressed by.  She said, "They're not being mean, they're just poor.  If nobody buys anything, they might not be able to eat."  Perceptive, for a five year old.  And it made me think.

The Maasai were traditionally nomadic cattle herders, warriors and raiders.  Their houses were made of mud and sticks, surrounded by a fence of cut thornbrush where the livestock were kept at night.  When grazing resources were exhausted, they'd move on and build a new house and fence.  Today, as you drive through Maasai land, you see some of these compounds (called bomas) built in the traditional way, but most have added a tin roof.  Some homes are made of concrete, some fences are now barbed wire with permanent posts.  In all the bomas, there are signs the Maasai are no longer moving. Pasture is overgrazed; the cattle are thin.  The Maasai, as a people, have been passed by.  Poverty is everywhere.

Some, like the mamas, have turned to peddling trinkets.  Others do traditional dances and songs to entertain tourists.  Most are now herding goats and fat-tailed sheep which can survive on poor-quality browse much better than cattle, but even they look malnourished.

The sights on our drive are raw, heartbreaking.  'Poor' is on display.  Some men stand along the road throwing dirt into potholes, hoping a grateful traveler will toss them a few shillings.  Women and children carry muddy water from dammed-up culverts.  A roadkill zebra with the legs hacked off - free dinner.  Miles and miles of trees cut and burned to sell as charcoal - most of the trees have already been cut; what happens when they're gone?  It's hard to know how to help.

We drove basically from here in Kijabe to the Tanzanian border and the whole way the picture was the same.  It's almost revolting; I want, most of the time, to push them away.  There's no way to help all of them.

Eventually, my thoughts returned to the thieves from the week before.  I don't know much at all about them.  They were obviously desperate.  The blue flip-flop one of them lost in the kitchen was pretty old and worn.

"They're not being mean, they're just poor..."

The way Faith said it didn't sound like simple justification, more like compassion.  I pray for the same thing - compassion.

20 December 2010

Merry Christmas?

I (Jim) have always loved the changing of the seasons.  Having spent my entire life (until moving here) living within a couple of miles of the same latitude in Colorado, I've marked time by changes in seasons and by the ebb and flow of the day's length.  Today I played flag football with some other teachers and station kids.  It was hot; by the end we were all drenched in sweat.  The sun still comes over the hill just before 7:00 and sets on the other side of the valley just before 7:00; none of that's really changed at all since we got here.

Christmas is only five days away, but it doesn't feel like it.  I'm used to Christmas overload; last year Heather began putting up ornaments at the beginning of November!

Last week, we spent the last few days at Maasai Mara Game Reserve and the hotel there was just beginning to decorate for Christmas - just a few lights and streamers.  We swam in the pool and like too many things, Christmas was out of sight, out of mind.

I used to not like the commercialization of Christmas.  I still prefer to think of Christmas simply, but I think my attitude about all the extra stuff has changed a bit.  Honestly, I could go for a few mall Santas, Elves selling lottery tickets, Black Friday shopping, Parades of lights, snow -  All things that can distract, but right now all things that could go a long ways to remind me to remember:  He came.  Small Child.  Empty Stable.  Manger Bed.  Fearful Parents.  Lowly Shepherds.  No lights or streamers, tinsel, bells, snow or gifts.  Easy to miss.  Maybe all the extra stuff isn't all that bad if it gives us cause to remember.

14 December 2010

Nakuru Robbery

We were thrown quite a curve ball last weekend.  Jim went on an all-guys three day, two night trip a few hours away, while I stayed here at RVA with Faith and Joel.  It's never a good thing when, on the third morning, another wife calls you and the first thing she says is "Everyone is okay, but..."

Here is Jim's careful recollection of the story.


A few weeks ago, I was invited on a photo safari to Nakuru National Park.  I was really excited about going when I first heard about it and the details, as I began to learn them, made the trip sound sweeter and sweeter.  To begin, I’d not yet seen ANY wild Kenyan mammals except Baboons, Colobus and Syke’s monkeys, and this park is the best place in Kenya to see Rhinoceros, Rothschild’s Giraffe and Leopard, in addition to many other animals.  Not only that, but we were going to focus on taking pictures.  I began to envision enlargement-quality wall-hangers.  The deal was sweetened when I found out that one of the men from Rift Valley Academy had been planning this photo safari for quite some time with a couple of his friends from Canada who were professional wildlife photographers; we were getting to tag along for three days of their trip.

We planned to stay in a small guesthouse – an old farmhouse – on the park property.  It was cheap, and we’d be ideally positioned for early morning and late evening game drives.  When we got there late last Thursday afternoon we had a wonderful time.  One of the first animals we spotted was a Black Rhino (critically endangered) after being inside the park for maybe twenty minutes.  We got great photos.  The next day was even better – over 20 white rhinos, another black rhino, 12 lions, hyena, flamingos… many, many animals.  That second night, as we pulled into the farmhouse gate, we marveled at an enormous herd of Cape buffalo.  They are Africa’s most temperamental and dangerous large mammals.   I was grateful for the fence surrounding the farmhouse yard, and we were obviously careful to close the gate behind us!

After supper, I began deleting photos like mad, as I was running out of storage space for all these beautiful pictures.  I was really picky and deleted everything I wouldn’t be willing to pay for an enlargement of; I ended up with about 600 pictures.

We went to bed at around 9:30, ready for a 5:30 early-morning photo-shoot for our last morning in the park.  I carefully arranged the things I’d need in the morning around my bed so that I’d be ready to go when the time came.  I hadn’t slept much at all the night before, and I was dead-tired.  As always, morning came far too soon.


I awake to headlamps shining in my eyes.  “Is it time for our drive?” I ask.

No reply.  As I ask again, it hits me.  The men with the headlamps are whispering in Swahili!  There are three with headlamps, and I see movement elsewhere in the room – no telling exactly how many intruders there might be.

As if to make perfectly clear to me the situation and my position in it, the three lamps look at me.  The knobby heads of three rungus, cocked and ready, appear in the glaring light just beyond my blue mosquito net. Not much protection there. 

The rungu is a traditional Maasai warrior’s hunting or war club, usually just under two feet in length and carefully carved from dense acacia wood.  With a narrow handle and a curve carved into it just before the business end – a rounded, heavy ball about the size of a doorknob – it is a crude but intimidating weapon.

I try to see more clearly.  The rungu above my head flinches, threatening.

A harsh whisper.  “Where is da money?”

I say the first thing that comes into my mind. “We don’t have any money!”  I try to speak calmly, but hope to wake the others.  There are three of us in the room – all teachers at RVA.  Brian who’s been here in Kenya for 13 years, and John who’s been at RVA for 11 years.  The words come out only as loud as normal conversation but edgy, emphatic.  Too much? Too loud? Too soft?

On the opposite side of the room Brian wakes groggily.  “Is it time to get up?”

One rungu remains above my head.  Again I say the first thing that comes to mind.

“They’re going through our stuff!”

All three headlamps snap to attention.  All three shine into my eyes.  The other rungus reappear, hovering over my bed.  Swahili whispers intensify.  John is moving now.  All eyes are on me for an instant.  Brian lunges out of bed shouting.

“Thieves!  Thieves!”

A mad rush for the door.  Feet rushing in the darkness. They are all fleeing. John and I join in the chase.  Brian pursues men out the back door.  John and I follow a man through the living room and out the front door.  He throws a pair of pants at us, probably to slow us down.  Afraid of thorns, John and I return for our shoes before giving chase, but mine are gone; nothing is where I left it.  John’s shoes are gone too.  I find my sandals and rush out.  The whole thing has taken only a few seconds. 

The other four men in our group and two caretakers who were asleep in other rooms and outbuildings join in the search for thieves or things they have dropped.  John’s pants are found by the front door, his cash and car keys still in them.  Brian’s camera bag, passport and empty wallet are by the back door.  The robbers are long gone, the gate wide open.  After a quick search of the yard we return to the house.  There we discover the refrigerator and gas canister are gone too.  A couple of men venture down the road in a vehicle to search for the thieves, the rest of us begin to investigate. 


Within a few minutes, a truckload of Kenya Wildlife Service Guards arrived, followed by another, then a couple more trucks loaded with Kenya police.  Their response was amazing.  We pieced together quite a bit of what must have happened.

At about 1:00 AM, the regular KWS night patrol woke the caretaker because the gate was open.  The caretaker wasn’t sure why it is open, but they don’t immediately see anything of concern and don’t investigate further after closing the gate.

At about 3:00 AM, John woke and went to use the bathroom.  He noticed that the security light outside the bathroom window was out.  We later found the bulb, unscrewed and lying beneath a bush.

At around 3:45AM I was awakened and things got crazy. 

We couldn’t figure out how they’d gotten into the house.  The doors were wide open, but we were sure they’d been bolted from the inside before we went to bed.  It took us quite a while to find where they’d used bolt-cutters to cut the window bars in the living room on the opposite side of the house.  They had to cut in five places, and even then, it was a VERY skinny man who made it through to let his buddies in.  We’re pretty sure they must have come for the refrigerator and gas canister.  They had obviously started before 1:00 AM.  That’s why the gate was open.  After successfully removing those from the park through a hole they’d cut in the electric fence (the entire park is surrounded by one) over 600 yards from the farmhouse they were apparently emboldened to come back and take another look.  After having a little picnic outside the gate with the contents of the refrigerator, they came in and began to rummage through our things.

I lost quite a bit of stuff: My passport, our camera set-up that was a wonderful gift from my parents (and sadly the beautiful photos I’d taken), my hiking boots, a cell phone, watch, pocketknife, and a good chunk of cash I had carefully hidden in three different places and had planned to use for a run to the butcher’s after our Safari.  They found all of it.  Thankfully, they removed my glasses from the camera bag before they absconded with it – also my GPS.  I think the removal of the GPS must have been an accident.

The search for missing items was massive.  Kenya Wildlife Service used a couple of sniffing dogs, and there were tons of officers on foot.  When we noticed a small plane flying overhead just after dawn and asked about it, the head of KWS for Nakuru National Park replied, “We are trying to spot the refrigerator.” 

A few items did turn up:  a very expensive flash that John was borrowing, two tripod mounts, a bag of microwave popcorn, John’s glasses (found a hundred yards away from the farmhouse in waist-high grass), Brian’s swimming trunks and a pair of his dirty underwear. 

Looking back a couple of things strike me:

God is Good:
So many things could have gone much worse.  Suppose I had said something that translated from English more easily than, “They’re going through our stuff.”  Suppose their attention hadn’t been mostly on me when Brian began his charge.  Suppose the rungu, which gave Brian a nasty bruise on his hip, had actually found its mark.  Suppose they had gone first into the professionals’ room next door, where well over 60,000 dollars of camera and computer equipment was.  At our orientation school in Machakos we were told that waking during a robbery in progress is one of the most dangerous scenarios we might face.  God’s hand in the words spoken and actions taken were almost immediately evident to us.

Kenyans Are Desperate For A Future:
Poverty is everywhere.  These men probably live in one of Nakuru’s slums.  They’ll probably sell the full-sized refrigerator/freezer for around 120 dollars, the half-full gas cylinder for 100.  My 15 year-old watch for four or five.  The camera and lenses for maybe ten dollars.  Different priorities are found here.  People are poor.  We have really been blessed.  These thieves felt they had nothing to lose.  They were so desperate they cut through an electric fence to enter a game park – some of the most heavily patrolled areas in Kenya - walked through an area in which only a couple of hours earlier we had seen an enormous herd of buffalo bedding down for the night and in which we had that morning photographed 7 lions, in order to steal a refrigerator and some cooking fuel.  People Need Hope.  People need a Savior. (Jeremiah 29:11)

13 December 2010

Comfort food

There's a pretty heavy post coming your way soon, but in the meantime, here's something fun.  

On lucky days in Nairobi, at the Nakumatt grocery store, we can find little tastes of home.  Lately, I've been thrilled with the selection of Old El Paso cans of green chilies and enchilada sauces, and jars of hot sauce and salsa.  We can also get jars of Ragu pasta sauce.  All of these things and more come from the states.  The prices also reflect the long journey.  

Here are some other tastes of home... but surprisingly, they're not from home!  The prices on these items also reflect the fact they are rather uncommon pantry items in this part of the world.  So, we splurged a little to enjoy a taste of home over our holiday break.  Here's what we found:

Pringles from Belgium

Soup mix from South Africa

Ritz crackers from Ireland or England

Pop Tarts, from England

Canned peaches from South Africa

Oreos from Saudi Arabia

The back of the box.  Yep.  We're not in Kansas anymore.

Tic Tacs from... where else?  Ecuador.  

So there you go... our globetrotting pantry that doesn't look too much different from the grocery stores we left 5 months ago!

10 December 2010

DEFINITELY worth a read...

WORLD magazine just named their Daniel of the Year, the Christian news magazine version of Time's Man of the Year.  This year, it happens to be a doctor that has served here at Kijabe hospital since 1977.  His youngest son is still here attending RVA, and his other six children graduated from RVA.  The work he's done here is simply amazing.  This article is definitely worth your time to read.  Get a glimpse into the life of a long-term medical missionary in East Africa.

(We know it's been a while since an update or story on the blog.  We are hoping to do some catch-up in the next few days.  Thanks for your patience!)

21 November 2010

Bird Banding

The other day, we had an opportunity to band some birds.  Here in Kenya, they use the queen's English which apparently dictates the term 'Bird Ringing,' but at any rate, some friends of ours here have been involved for quite some time with ecological studies of birds here in Kenya. Right now there are both local species and those which pass through on their migration from Europe and West Asia.  I (Jim) have had a wonderful time chasing around birds in my spare time (not a lot) and it's fun to learn about how biology works here.  I know.  I'm a big nerd.  Here are some pictures of our banding adventures.  Maybe I'll post some more general photos of birds soon.  This area is really a beautiful place!  Above are some red-fronted parrots we saw as we were setting up the nets.

A female Baglafecht Weaver waiting in the net.  They're the ones that build the crazy hanging nests in Acacia trees.

Cape Robin Chat in hand and a Rufous Sparrow waiting.

The kids getting an up-close and personal view of the action.

A Bronze Sunbird

Our friend Jeff taking some vital statistics.

01 November 2010

A month of activity

Here are some picture highlights from the last few weeks.  There's been plenty to keep the students and teachers busy.  Only three and a half week left to the end of term.  We can't believe it!

Multicultural day is held on one of the Kenyan holidays.  There are no classes, but RVA turns the day into a huge celebration of all the nations represented at the school.  We got decked out in our red, white and blue.  And who knew that kids dried tempera paints sufficed as face paint?!  In the land of 'not-what-we're-used-to', I was pleased with my last-minute success.  

A long assembly is held in the morning, where there are lots of songs, cultural presentations, and finally a flag presentation.  The student who has been at RVA the longest from his or her home country gets the honor of carrying the flag.  It was such an amazing celebration of the diversity that is found here.  Next year, we'll make sure the camera batteries are fully charged!

Here's Joel enjoying our cheap calling rates to the states.  Our phone carrier just lowered the rate from 10/= (shillings) to 3/= per minute.  The ten shillings was a pretty good deal, but now it's about $0.04/minute.  

 The next weekend was pinewood derby and senior store.  Senior store is a "restaurant" put on by the senior class to raise money for their 'Senior Safari' trip to the coast.  This means fresh, homemade donuts, and yummy American-style lunch choices like pizza, hamburgers, taco salads, and hot dogs.  Donuts can even be delivered Friday night to your home!

Students and staff alike work for weeks and weeks on their pinewood derby cars.  Faith and Jim's is front and center... the spotted convertible!  Jim did all the carving, which was beautiful, and Faith added her special touch with the painting.  Once students are in 4th grade, they can work individually on their cars in the wood shop, but until then, many make cars with their parents.

Some go for speed and the hopes to be the fastest in their division, others focus on design and creativity. It was fun to see all the cars on display before they were raced.

The track is set up in the gym (the varsity girls basketball team even had to play on the outdoor court the afternoon before) and is quite elaborate.  It races six cars at a time, has an electronic sensor that times and places the cars.  We can sit right above the track in the stands and see all the action.

The cars are carefully lined up at the top and released.

As you can see from Joel, it's an all-day affair.  The 4th grade races begin after breakfast, with the men's, women's, and 11th/12th grade races finishing up in the mid-afternoon.  Joel was asleep by the time Faith's turn came!

There's even instant replay and a rapidly-updated spreadsheet projected for everyone to see.  If you look closely, you can see that Faith and Jim had the fastest time for the men's division!  There are many heats/semi-finals before the final six cars race their three championship races.  It's a very thorough system!

Here's Jim and Faith watching their car race.  While Jim didn't build the car for speed it did quite well.  It was the fastest car overall for the men's division, but raced its slowest times in the championship, only making third place.  But that's probably okay... we didn't want to get Faith's hopes too high for next year!

Here are the kiddos with the car and their trophy.  Faith had a wonderful time with Jim working on the car.  They made some great memories.  

This past Saturday night was carnival.  As a school, there is no acknowledgement of Halloween, similar to many Christian institutions.  But, there always seems to be an excuse to dress up and eat candy!  Joel was a very cute clown.

And Faith was a sweet ballerina.  Here she is with her two big sisters, Sarah and Naomi.  They occasionally take her for "coke dates" and other activities.  All the titchies have a big brother or big sister.  She had a fun time with them, even with mom and dad tagging along.  

The carnival had many different games and activities, where the students could earn "dollars" which would later be "spent" on candy.  This was the first activity the kids did.  The idea was to do it against your big brother or sister, but Faith insisted on competing against Joel.  They had to stay in the circle and get the flag of the other person's belt.  Here they are sizing each other up.

They've never really competed like this before.  We figured it could go well... or go badly.  So we watched a little hesitantly...

They had a blast!  They ran in circles with huge smiles on their faces, really trying to get the other's flag, but they didn't pull each other over, so that was good.  They laughed so hard the whole time.  In the end, Faith got Joel's flag, but it was a pretty fair match.  Joel is still convinced he got his sister's first.  So they're both happy with the outcome!

Joel loves apples so much (which are a treat here) he was very enthusiastic about bobbing for apples!

Faith tried her hardest to get a basket!

It's getting warmer, so the hair is getting shorter around here.  Faith got her hair cut yesterday, Heather got hers cut today, and Joel's on the list for tomorrow!

So there you have it... now we're ready for November!

16 October 2010

Under the Tree

Right now we're in the middle of a week of spiritual emphasis here at RVA.  The students have had chapel sessions every evening with a special speaker.  I (Jim) have been a good staff-member and have attended all the sessions until tonight.  I showed up, we had a great time of worship, and Tim (the speaker) began to share about grace and what an incredible gift we as Christians are given.  I'd already been thinking about that all afternoon, and I was having a really hard time focusing - I'm really tired - and I felt like I just needed to leave.  So I did.  Snuck out the back door and headed for home.  I happened to have the iPod with me, so I stuck the earphones in as I walked.  I was listening to Jars of Clay - the first song was 'Frail.'   Basically a song about grace.

I walked into our yard and felt the urge to lay down under the Jacaranda tree in the yard, still listening.  The next song was 'Worlds Apart.'  A prayer about grace.  And suddenly there under the tree, I felt a bit like the rich young ruler in Luke 18:18 who was so secure in his possessions he could not bear to leave them and follow Christ.  There I lay - in Kenya - a world away from Colorado, USA, but still a world away from really trusting my savior as I should.

I still worry about the future - and I shouldn't.

When I don't worry about the future, it's because I have confidence in our worldly possessions:
Enough money in the bank to fly the whole family anywhere in the world.
A house in our name in Woodland Park, CO.
A well-stocked pantry.

Edward, our yard worker, was ecstatic about Tuesday night's rain, because his garden would grow and his family would have food to eat - he says he doesn't worry about it, he just plants the garden, prays, and waits.  My thought was that Edward has it easy - he's got NOTHING ELSE to trust in!

So tonight, as I lay under the tree watching the moon with an iPod Edward would have to work two months to buy, I felt lousy.  Like the rich young ruler - wanting to trust HIM with all I am, but saddened because my 'possessions were great.'  Then it hit me:  How cheaply I view His Grace!!  Then the lyrics through the headphones:  "I look beyond the empty cross, Forgetting what my life has cost..."  So I laid there and listened to the song again, and again - in the rain - and prayed.  I still have a heaviness in my soul, but am feeling awed by His Grace.  May we grow to trust Him more!

(The links above are youtube versions of the songs, should you wish to listen.)

12 October 2010


      Four trips to Nairobi in five days.
Two 7 am departures.  (Moving to Africa did NOT make me a morning person.)
                            FURNITURE PURCHASED.
                                                          A street of fabric shops explored.
Meat market braved, tilapia and chicken purchased for two dollars a pound.
Immigration paperwork processed downtown.
        Fingerprinted by the Kenyan government.
             Family time at "the mall." 
Milkshakes for two precious little ones.
   And then ice cream for two precious little ones.
Groceries purchased.  Nine bags of flour will get us through one more month.
Rest of birthday money gleefully spent at Kitengela glassblowers.
Hamburger and french fries savored.

...And now it's good to be back HOME.

10 October 2010

It's midterm!

Well, we made it through the first half of first term here at RVA.  We are currently enjoying a 4-day break before the students return to campus Tuesday night.  Wednesday marks the beginning of spiritual emphasis week, during which RVA brings in an outside speaker and the students attend sessions every evening, as well as some extended chapel times during the week.

So what has life been like here?  We feel our pace of life has been about the same as our last year in Woodland Park when we kept up with teaching, MOPS ministry, and support raising.  (As well as Faith and Joel!)

Jim heads off to school at 7:30, in time for classes to start at 7:45.  Faith walks out the door at 7:53 and her class starts at 8, right behind our house.  (She walks all by herself and is loving it!)  Our helpers come at 8, by which time Joel is usually dressed and ready to start his day too.  Three times a week, I (Heather) walk around the guard trail with a friend for thirty minutes for a little exercise.  Joel sometimes tags along in the kid carrier.  He's a good 25 pound pack for weight training!  The other two days a week I watch one of Joel's friends for an hour or two while his mom teaches a class of Chemistry.  Later in the morning, we have playgroup on Tuesday, preschool on Wednesday, I attend a bible study on Thursdays and there's storytime in the Titchie (elementary) library on Friday.  When we can make it, Joel and I attend staff chai at 10:10 with Jim for thirty minutes.  The staff prays together and shares announcements before returning to classes.  The students also take a break at this time.  Faith has recess and snack with the titchies, and the junior and senior high students have chai and snacks outside.  After these activities, we wander on home, often chatting with other moms or staff who aren't teaching the next class period.  Faith gets finished with school at 11:55, Jim at 12:10.

Here, we get to do something differently as a family.  Something that happened only once in six years at Woodland Park.  We eat lunch together!  Hannah and Edward, our workers, leave at noon for their lunch, and we enjoy some moments together as a family.  Next year, Faith will be back at school by 1, so it won't feel as leisurely next year, but we are sure enjoying it right now!  This year, Jim has an open period right after lunch, so it makes for time together that isn't too rushed.  Joel naps after lunch, but Faith is often busy as a bee, even if she is "resting."  Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, we have Hannah and Edward in the afternoons, so at three o'clock, we share afternoon chai with them.  The kids already cannot go a day without chai, and have been deemed "Kenyan."  Hannah, Edward, and I often talk about culture, swahili, or the kids.  It is nice to take a break with them, laugh a little, and learn a lot.

During the week, there are other things to keep up with as well.  I keep up with the milk and eggs, and take a trip or two a week to the market and dukas here in town to get fruits, vegetables, and staples.  It is a nice 15 minute (or less) walk outside the RVA gate.  If I'm in a pinch, Hannah will also go to get things for me, but it is nice to get out a little bit every once in a while!

Jim gets home anywhere between 4 and 5.  In the afternoon there is chapel for the junior and senior high students, and then there is "8th period."  It can be used as detention time or time for questions and make up tests.  Jim if often at school for one or the other each day.  Around 4:15 on various days, RVA hosts athletic games.  This term, they are playing boys football (soccer), girls basketball, and tennis.  So the kids and I make the short walk to watch a few of the students we are getting to know.

In the evenings, we stay just about as busy.  Once a week, Jim sits in the library to supervise the study hall.  Which has quickly become a biology study hall... the students know he is there and they show up!  So it's not as productive for Jim as he thought it might be, but it's great to spend some more time with the students outside the classroom.  Thursday nights, Jim likes to take off and play soccer with staff or work on projects in the wood shop.  I like to have other women over for tea and a quiet chat.  We often have weekend activities as well.  Caring community meets once a month, we have eight sophomores (boys and girls) that will come over for food, games, and fellowship this year.  We've helped with the two variety nights (where the jr/sr high can chose from different activities after supper) that have happened so far, as well as a few of the titchie evening activities.  Faith had a "hayride and bonfire" night last weekend.  Unfortunately, it was a little rainy, so it was a hayride and bonfire night without the hayride and bonfire.  She had a great time, nonetheless.

The first Sunday of each month (and when school is not in session, like this weekend), we attend the AIC church, which is the local church.  All other Sundays, RVA holds its own church in our chapel, which is more like we were used to in Colorado.  We then eat lunch in the cafeteria (many staff choose to do this on Sundays for the fellowship time) and have a quiet afternoon.  We also supervise supper in the evenings (for a free meal) so I enjoy having a day off from cooking on Sundays (but again... only when school is in session, I'm out of luck today)!

So hopefully that gives you a glimpse of what life is like here at RVA.  There are plenty of other details that fill in the cracks, but that's that big picture.  And yes, it's often easy to forget that we are in Africa, especially when it's been a few days or weeks since we've walked off the campus.  But then again... that's the purpose of this school:  to help these kids get ready for a more western university setting.  We are slowly learning what it looks like to serve here, and are looking forward to feeling more settled and at home as time goes on!

01 October 2010

A tour of our house

We want to take some time in the next few posts to share a little more of the day-to-day life here at Rift Valley Academy.  We've already been here over a month, so I think it's time to share some pictures of our home!

This is our yard from the playhouse corner.  It is quite large.  And a hedge goes around most of it, so it is such a great place for the kids.  In another post, we'll give you a tour of the other surroundings.
Here's the front door, which enters into the dining room.  The cards in the window are thanks to many of you... mail is so special to get here!  We just bought some yellow paint, so soon this will be a bright cheery room.  

When you enter, on the right is the living room.  We just purchased the bookcase from another family, which has been fun to have.  The couches and rug are all rental (and all the other furniture you will see in this post) so we'll work on replacing those, slowly but surely.  That's our cozy fireplace, which we are grateful to have.  We miss the efficiency of our wood stove in Colorado, but this at least adds a few degrees of warmth! 

We brought a few pictures from home which are so nice to have.  These grace the fireplace wall.  The students get a pretty good kick out of the one of Jim and Joel on the tractor!

Through the door on the other side of the living room is the hallway which leads to the two bedrooms, the upstairs and the back room.  You can see the kids' beds are just platforms for the matresses.  Poor Joel has fallen out of bed a number of times, but seems to be getting the hang of it now.  Their window looks out to the front of the house, and is so nice and sunny in the afternoon.

This is the closet in their room.  The door goes to the bathroom that is shared with the master bedroom.  

Down the hall is our room.  It faces the backyard, and beyond that is the Titchie basketball court.  It can be loud when there are evening activities, so it is nice the kids are toward the front of the house.  Our walls are just painted stone.  I think we have the coldest room in the house as well.  Something I know we'll be thankful for when it warms up.  But lately it's been downright chilly!

This is our bathroom.  We've never had such a big bathroom!  Or even our own.  It's been very nice.  Much easier to keep clean when there's a place to put things.  The walls are a nice brown that match the shower curtain we brought!

Back out in the hallway, you can go upstairs.  We are using it as a play area (something else we've never had before!) and a guest bedroom (aka. YOUR room)!  It's a nice space.

Here's where the kids play.

This is the guest room, you can see the railing for the stairs out the door.  If our kiddos were older, it would make a fun bedroom.

This is our second bathroom, the "kids bathroom".  It's the size we were more accustomed to!

On around the back of the house is the "green room".  We are enjoying the paint colors that were already here, and thankful that we only have a few more rooms to paint if we want something other than white.  This might be Faith's room, but for now the kids are quite set on still sharing a room, which is fine with us.  So in the meantime, it can be an office or sewing room.

And on through that room is the kitchen, which is just off the dining room.  That window looks out to the side of the house.  Another fun paint match was in here.  The curtains in this window I made out of a tablecloth that I brought which I just loved.  The blues match perfectly!  You can see we have a microwave, oven and refrigerator.  The oven is full sized, the refrigerator is not.  
Not pictured, through a door to the right is our laundry/utility room.  It has a freezer which we purchased to cope with the less than full-size fridge, and our washing machine.  It's nice to have a freezer so that I can cook ahead a little more, and have the flexibility to make Africa-style cooking a little simpler.  For example, I cook up a whole kilo of dried beans at once and freeze them in "can-sized" portions for recipes.  Or I make large batches of pizza and spaghetti sauce.  That are painstakingly made from fresh tomatoes.  Delicious, but time consuming.  

Well, that's our house here.  We are looking forward to making it our home over the next two years!