18 September 2010

First Service Day

One week ago, approximately two thirds of the 500 students here at RVA took the opportunity to participate in numerous outreach projects around our region.  I (Jim) led a group of about ten high school boys on an outreach project just down the hill from our campus helping to set up a new nursery for native tree species here in Kijabe.  Deforestation is a huge problem throughout the African continent.  Most remaining trees here in Kenya are found in specially protected forest reserves, and even those are being rapidly exploited.  In fact, one of the largest of these forests lies just above our home here, but short hikes into the reserve reveal numerous illegal charcoal pits, and tree cutting for posts.  After nightfall, when sitting out in the yard, we'll hear trees crashing to the ground to be chopped up and sold as charcoal for cooking fires in Nairobi.
This hillside seen from RVA was entirely forested in the late 1980s but is now totally denuded.  At this point, there is little hope of any forest regrowing in this area without some type of intervention.  Here much of the moisture isn't rain so much as condensation which drips from the leaves of trees every night.  Our friends in Woodland Park know the type of 'rain' I'm talking about.  The problem is, that this type of moisture leaves bare earth or grass dry.  As a result of this deforestation, many of the streams in our area which used to carry good water all year now run only during the rainiest seasons. 

Our group teamed up with Craig Sorely from Care of Creation, Kenya as he worked to set up a new tree nursery to raise some of this area's most useful and vulnerable tree species.  Additionally, the Nursery will have a small teaching farm where people from the organization Farming God's Way can help to educate farmers in the Kijabe area about healthy farming habits which stress good stewardship of God's creation.  Most of our time was spent stringing wire through fenceposts made of old grocery sacks.  It was hard work, but when I saw Craig today, he was still very grateful for the help.  

It's hard to imagine how problems like this can be corrected.  It will probably be at least thirty years before that hillside has a decent stand of trees growing on it, and who knows if the streamflow can be restored.  Sometimes it feels like it is still a losing battle and that trees as disappearing more quickly from the forest reserve than they can possibly be replaced, but it was encouraging to work hard with some high school boys and see seeds of change growing in their minds and in the minds of the Kenyans we were working with about our role as Christians in caring for the environment.

15 September 2010

Only in Kenya...

Okay, maybe a few other places too, but we wanted to share some things that are a bit different about our lives here before they become 'normal'!

Our milk is brought to the school fresh six days a week.  The cafeteria pasteurizes it, we drop off our large tin milk pail in the morning and pick it up full of warm milk in the afternoon.  (It's a funny accessory to be carrying around campus... between that and going to pick up eggs from the Kenyan who sells them in the maintenance department every few days, I feel like we're on a farm!)  The milk is not homogenized, so when I pour it in our glass pitcher and we finish it, this is what is left on the sides of the glass.  

Here's our washing machine.  It seems kind of space-age compared to what we were used to seeing in the states.  It doesn't hold quite as much as we are used to washing in a load, but we are so thankful to have it!  The name of it is "Fuzzy Logic."  Also different.

Here are flowers I purchased in Nairobi that lasted us at least two weeks, and guess how much they cost?  $2.50.  Oh... and avocados?  They're twelve cents.  And twice as big.  (Many other things do cost a fortune compared to what we were used to in the states, so we'll enjoy our flowers and avocados!)

This is the tank that our washing machine drains into.  Our yard worker then scoops the water out and waters our plants with it.  (We don't have a faucet or hose or anything like that.)  Something maybe we should catch on to when we go back to the states!

These are two switches, up high, in one of the bedrooms.  One is for a red outside light, the other for an outside alarm.  If we have 'unexpected company', this is how we can alert the guards and those around us.  Just so you know, these are rarely used.  Mostly we test them to see if they are still working!

You can see the light and bell outside the upstairs window here.

This is our cell phone.  It has provided quite a bit of amusement.  From the spelling of 'dialing' (see below), to the instructions as to unlocking the keypad 'long press the * key' to the explanation in the users manual for making the phone ring as if you are receiving a call so that you can get out of a meeting or unwanted conversation.  Yep, that's really in there.

So there's a little peek into some of the changes in our lives.  Some make us smile, and some make us cringe, but I imagine they'll all be 'normal' here pretty soon!

14 September 2010

We're still here...

We've been having spotty access to the internet, and difficulty accessing Blogger when we do have access, for the last week or so.  We have lots we want to share, so hopefully soon the times we have to spend posting pictures and thoughts and the availability of access will line up.  Thanks for being patient!

08 September 2010

Friends... already??

While we were preparing to come to RVA, we looked forward to the community that we would have here.  One hundred adults living on a school compound, with the same goals and vision; we knew we were bound to have some friends and not feel lonely or isolated in Kenya.  BUT, I (Heather) also set my expectations rather low, and expected some tough times until those connections really formed.  Or maybe I'm just skeptical because it took two, three, four years, to make friends (or to know anyone!) back in Woodland Park.

Let's just say I was more than pleasantly surprised last week, and the Father blessed me more than I could have ever expected in just the first week of school.  Here's the story:

Monday: first day of kindergarten for Faith.  First day of teaching at a new school for Jim.  Big changes for our family.

Friday: my birthday, away from the extended family and great friends who often helped me celebrate it.

Well, Sunday I was not feeling so great, and by the time the evening came, I was bed-ridden, with a fever and other unpleasant side-effects of traveling in a foreign country and drinking the water and eating the food... you get the idea.  Monday morning was worse.  Jim sprang to action, and so did everyone else.  A neighbor took Faith to school (she didn't miss a beat), came back to watch Joel and to help me get my house help and yard worker set up for the day (their first days too).  Another mom picked up Joel for the rest of the morning, our neighbor went back to pick up Faith at lunchtime.  A long-time staff here brought me medicine, Sprite, a heavy comforter, and checked in every hour or so, and the whole staff prayed for me at chai time (morning break).  Faith went to a friend's house in the afternoon, Joel napped here and was picked up again for playtime until Jim could get home.  Another long-time staff family brought Jim and the kids supper.

I hadn't worried about a thing all day long.

Tuesday and Wednesday I slowly recovered, and was feeling great by Thursday, which brings us to part two.  One of the single gals who has been here a few years, who also joined us at ABO, invited our family over for supper, along with another family who we've really gotten to love.  She fixed a fabulous dinner and surprised me with birthday brownies and ice cream!  Then the dads and kids left and in walked all sorts of wonderful women!  They showered me with cards and little gifts and love.  And Sarah had even more in store: homemade ice cream for the ladies, which is a huge treat here.  It was such a blessing to have her work so hard to honor me, and for other women to take the time to celebrate a newcomer too.  It was very humbling... much more than I ever expected.

Friday, the real birthday, was just as wonderful.  I had people drop by all day (something I love...) with more cards, flowers, little gifts, and many encouraging words.  Even a hand painted card from the new art teacher.  And a package that we had been expecting for a while arrived with perfect timing!  We were invited to dinner at the staff chaplain's house, where we had a wonderful meal and delicious cake.  Faith went off to an ice cream social with the elementary schoolers, while the three of us stayed and chatted and were loved until it was way past bedtime.

I honestly thought that birthdays were something that might not be too celebrated at RVA among the staff when life gets busy here and the focus is on the students.  Jim had asked me what I wanted for my birthday, and I told him I just didn't want to be lonely.  Without Jim doing anything, this is what God provided for me.

While there are plenty of challenges:  getting food is always an ordeal, our cookie sheets seem to burn whatever is on them, I forgot to pick up Faith from school on Monday (picture day... which I also forgot), we have no idea how to budget, but there's always plenty to buy, and there's always that much more to learn; we are also very aware that this IS the place the Lord has made for us, and while we will stumble through for a while, we have been shown, very clearly, that we will be LOVED.

04 September 2010

It's been a big week!

Right now it's time to crash into bed, but we wanted to share a picture of our new kindergartener with you before it seemed like old news.  This is the sign in front of the elementary school, known as "Titchie Swot."  It means "little learner", and we have a little learner indeed!