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 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).
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.
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.
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!!