Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Sweet Babies and Slimy Giraffes

I started typing this blog post by candlelight. Why, you might ask? Well, I had a bit of reserve battery on the laptop and the power has been out all evening. Subsequently, we had dinner, talked, and read bedtime stories by candlelight as well. This is apparently not uncommon in Kenya, and it is quite unpredictable as to when the power will come back on. I am amazed at how adaptable our kids seem to be as they haven’t minded a bit!

Yesterday we went to the Giraffe Centre, which was pretty amazing. The kids and I took a taxi for about 40 minutes to Karen, an area outside of the city. It was lush and beautiful, almost like a rainforest. The giraffes were amazing! We were able to pet them and feed them pellets. They are very friendly but only want to come near if you have food. B was a little nervous about feeding them, but T didn’t mind getting slobbered on by their giant gray tongues. What a fun adventure!

Today we went to the orphanage down the street to play with the children. We were struck by just how amazingly precious these little ones are. We got to play with the toddlers and then with the babies. It was beyond adorable to see B and T playing with them and being so gentle. B liked to “read” to them and T tried to teach a baby boy how to roll over by demonstrating it. He really liked touching the baby girls’ hair, too. One of the caregivers told me that most of the babies and toddlers will be adopted before age three – that is, unless they have HIV, which is the case for many of their children, and then they are not adopted. If they have HIV and reach age 3, they are then moved on to another home for older children so they can go to school and live there. Looking at the sweet faces of these little ones, that is hard to stomach. It was so hard to see so many precious little people and know that some (though you could not tell which ones at all) already had their futures written for them. I felt so blessed to have held them.

The orphanage takes wonderful care of these children and the caregivers were also kind to us. I thanked them so much for having us as I know we aren’t too much “help”, but they said they thank God for volunteers because they are extra hands to hold the children, more people praying, and possibly additional resources. I didn’t bring a camera today as I wanted to be respectful, however, they said that it would be okay to take pictures in the future (we will be going a couple of times a week) so hopefully I will be able to post some of my kids playing with the babies. In the meantime, here is their website, New Life Home Trust. The experience was moving and we are so thankful we can go back. Not to mention, I definitely wanted to hug my own babies a little tighter, too.

The experience at the orphanage was very encouraging to me since I had been feeling a bit discouraged the last few days. For one thing, the kids’ sleeping has still been pretty rough. So, we are a little on edge. Secondly, I was expecting people here to be a bit friendlier. I really like to talk to people, however I had felt as though I only got occasional smiles and more often suspicious looks. We are in the capital city and I am sure I probably wouldn’t get all that many smiles walking the streets of D.C. either, but I guess I am just realizing that there are probably a lot of social dynamics that I don’t understand. It isn’t that people have been rude, and many have been very, very kind, but it is just a very strange feeling to be so out of place. A taxi driver told me people probably assume that the reason I have children of different races is that T is the result of infidelity, because people do not often adopt here, nor do they adopt if they can have a bio child. So having a “scarlet letter” is a bonus, too. There are many places I can’t go alone and we need a taxi to do most things (which gets costly) so I had felt a little isolated, too. However, getting out to the giraffe center and orphanage (which is very walkable) have been good for morale.

In other thoughts, things are a lot slower paced here (everything takes longer like dishes, laundry, cooking, etc. and there are less things to do or to play with). This has provided me with some great time with the kids. We have been sticking our feet in the pool and saving bugs with leaves, putting on our raincoats and playing in a midday storm, and countless coloring/sticker books and puzzles. They love to play with the kids in the apartment complex, too. We asked T who his favorite friend was. He said it was “the boy with the head.” B quickly reminded him that “everyone here has heads, T.” So, they are up to their usual antics. J

Other notables:

T has been attempting to sustain himself on two meals of instant oatmeal per day.

I learned that just because you boil water to purify it, does not mean it will taste good.

Thank you so much for your encouraging words, prayers, and posts. What amazing friends you all are! And, sorry for the long post again…can you tell I don’t have all that many people to talk to?!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Greetings from Kenya!

I am sitting by the rain-covered window in our little apartment in Kenya. It is 10 p.m. and thankfully B just fell asleep. The kids have been struggling a bit with the time change. The first night was okay, then last night we were up from 2 – 7 a.m. and then they slept until 3 pm this afternoon. Hopefully tonight will be somewhat more normal. I still hear T in the back chattering to J.

It is amazing that we have only been away for 4 days because it feels like so much more than that. It definitely feels like a different world here! The weather is beautiful – about 75 degrees with some breezes and big storms at night. I was thinking just how lovely the tropical seeming storms are as I looked out the window upon the green trees all around, but then my mind was drawn to the muddy streets we walk on and the broken down homes we walk by just outside the apartment compound. Not very far from us is Kibera, the second largest slum in Africa. I cannot imagine the devastation these rains must have on their streets and homes.

The view from our place

The flights that brought us here were not too bad, and definitely better than we expected. Lots of books, stickers, and snacks on the first one (4.5 hours), and movies and sleeping on the subsequent 2 (each about 8-10 hours). Only a few moments where I thought J and I were going to lose it. B got a little motion sick on two and threw up. The key was having the car seats with us to keep them contained, however we looked ridiculous walking through the airports with two giant convertible car seats, 3 carry-ons and a jogging stroller. When we got off the plane we had slept little and were exhausted leading me to have a wave of the “oh my goodness, what are we doing here for two months?” feeling upon entering the chaos of the Nairobi airport and an overwhelming amount of unfamiliar. A shower, sleep, and food dulled the anxiety.

We stopped and grabbed some pizza to take back to our home. T was disappointed that it wasn’t “Chizza from Costco!” He has had the hardest transition food wise actually, wanting the “milk from my house!” among other things. Then we came to the guest house which is a gated-in apartment that is really quite nice. We gave the kids baths and T promptly drank the bath water in spite of our warnings. The next morning he paid for it, by throwing up until noon. B was so happy to be in a new place to explore and she thoroughly enjoyed joining me for a trip to the grocery store though it took much persuasion to get her to take off her tutu and sunglasses, and only wear her dress (she kept the dress-up shoes though).

T couch-bound post "bath water incident"

We were able to find some familiar items (Kraft Mac and Cheese for one) and then a lot of unfamiliar things, which resemble familiar ones slightly. And not to mention the electricity did shut off while we were in there, but luckily came on a few minutes later and nobody seemed to notice except B and me. B really likes it here and does not seem intimidated at all by the differences. She quite hilariously will explain the road situation as cars going everywhere and really close to each other and almost crashing into each other (and us – that part is an exaggeration – mostly :). And she says that we walk on these “dirt tracks” with lots of people on them. She loved meeting some Ethiopians that live in the complex also. They were fascinated with the “Bebes” and were hoping T still spoke Amharic. I was just happy to have someone to talk with for a bit.

Hanging out at the guest house after a walk

I was reading a bit of a book of biographies of Christian women, Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God, on the plane, which was interesting and quite challenging for me. It talked of each of them having “A spirit of independence that is really dependence on God” p.13. I am really hoping God can use this trip to foster my dependence on him (and thereby cause me to be a better wife and mother, too!), and I already see him at work in my having to get used to a lack of schedules and pre-planning, that is the African way and SO not my way. It is very uncomfortable to be in such a foreign place, but also quite exciting.

It is also strange to see people look at you with such stereotypes. I was struck by how many of the western billboards here seem to portray white people as careless, rich, beautiful, fun-loving, or almost foolish when you look at them from an African perspective. The posters display four well-built white men splashing around at the beach and say something about using the cologne when your life is an action adventure. And then you look down and see street children and a man hauling dirtied buckets of water to his home it is quite a strange juxtaposition. I hope to have some more conversations with people about their thoughts on that.

Our first clothesline experience

So over all first impressions: where we are staying is very nice and very safe. We hang our clothes on a clothesline, purify our own water, and do dishes by hand, but that is about the end of the “hardships” in the apartment. The areas around us are more interesting (safe we are told) but feel much more like an authentic experience of Africa with people all around sitting, standing, walking, selling things, and carrying water. You can smell spices cooking, trash burning, and see stray dogs wandering. Some people are quite friendly and want to shake hands, others look at us more suspiciously. It is really quite interesting for all of us. We are working on arranging a taxi to take us to some other interesting sights one of which is a place where you can feed giraffes with your teeth apparently J Only in Africa, right!?Our favorite evening pastime of wrestling with Dad

We do very much miss you back at home!!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

In less than three days...

We will be on an airplane ride (or rather 3 consecutive airplane rides) en route to Nairobi, Kenya. We are so excited! Well, not about the long flight (over a day of travel) or about missing our family and friends; However, we are really excited for this adventure. We are excited for getting to see just how big God is and having our hearts be reawakened to how deeply he loves the people of Africa. We are excited to introduce our kids to the people, the new sights, the smells. We are excited to hug little ones who don't have people to hug them, and to visit churches who are doing amazing things in dire places. So, in short we are excited! We are also nervous. Nervous about what to expect, nervous about keeping a two year old boy sitting still for so long in a confined space, nervous about being away from home for so long. But, still the excitement overrides the fears. And, I have had us packed way in advance, so I am just ready to get going!

We will have internet access, so hopefully I will be able to update the blog regularly and skype occasionally. I would love to hear from you while we are gone, so please feel free to send me an email (or 10!) And, please keep us in your prayers!

In the meantime, here are a few pictures of our recent antics...

The Princess and the Frog Pajama screening party at my adorable friend, Molly's. You should have seen the green cupcakes she made!

MOPS Spring Picnic Fun

St. Patrick's Day Treasure Hunt at my friend, Lesley's. She is ridiculously adorable for thinking this up. The kids loved following the clues until they found their chocolate gold coins!

Early Easter Egg Hunt at the park by our house

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Faith like a Child

It is so very interesting to see life through the eyes of your kids. I know we have found so much more joy in very ordinary things because of the ways they seem to see them with great wonder. One interesting thing lately has been hearing B's take on faith.
The other day as we were reading the Easter story, I was realizing how much more comfortable she is talking about Jesus than she is talking about God. She talks about how he loves us, and loves kids, and how he came as a baby. She loves to see pictures of him as a baby. Then, I was thinking about how he must seem so much more approachable to her (and to me for that matter). He is more concrete and graspable than the idea of God, and furthermore, he came as a vulnerable little baby. That we can understand. Then, it made me think about how that is probably exactly why God decided to come to us in that way. So we could approach Him. What a beautiful thing she has already subconsciously realized.
Later, during a conversation when we were talking about how sometimes we get mad and it's okay to be mad, she said, "And Jesus still loves us when we are mad!" She said it so matter-of-factly, and I, of course, agreed with her. But, then I realized how much that idea of Jesus loving me unconditionally doesn't always sink in for me.

I never realized the tremendous amount of mommy guilt I would have being a parent. I feel guilty constantly for not doing enough or for doing too much or for not being patient enough. I never live up to my own standards; however, listening to B has made me wonder if maybe I should give myself a bit of a break, because after all there is One who really does accept me and still love me no matter my failures. How blessed I am to live with little ones to teach me such important things!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Reflection and Preparation

It's been two years since we brought that precious boy home.

The funny thing is that we don't really remember life without him. It seems like lately more things have been coming up related to B mentioning being in my tummy and then T asking when he was in my tummy. I cringed the first time he asked, but then was quite relieved that he was so satisfied with the answer that he was in my heart. We aren't quite to the stage of him truly wondering about or understanding yet, and for that I am quite thankful. I am excited to take him to Africa to show show him what an amazing place it is. He is already thoroughly enjoying listening to African music (B has memorized a swahili song in fact - they both love this CD that we checked out from the library) and we have been reading lots of books about Africa which he enjoys, too. In fact, this morning when I was reading one to him, our conversation went like this:
Me: Do you remember Africa, T?
T: Yeah.
Me: Did you like it there?
T: Yeah, but I said, "Mama, where are you?"
Me (melted): And then Daddy, and Grandpa, and Papa came and picked you up and brought you to me?
T: YEAH! (Big hug)
So, we are happily celebrating our second anniversary of having our energetic, strong-willed, and unbelievably loving son home!

In other Africa prep:
- Here is a site relating to one of the projects J will be working on for LIA while we are in Kenya. They will be filming another documentary, since the Ethiopia documentary was so impacting.
- I have been writing with a lady who keeps this blog and this forum about being an expat in Nairobi. She has given me some great tips and might be fun to check out.
- And here is the orphanage the kids and I will be helping at.