Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Coming home

Monday, April 11, 2011

Dear Family & Friends,

The powers that be have told the couples to stay put here at the flat so they are all enjoying an extra day off from their labors.  The cars of all the other residents in our apartment are gone meaning they all went to work.  Other than a few more sirens than normal, the streets sounded pretty calm today despite the rally.  The couples aren’t complaining though. 

Yesterday we had a great experience.  We go to church where the couples take us and yesterday they took us to Upper Hill Ward that meets in the church office building where they all go to work every day.  After Sacrament Meeting some White guy came over and said, “I know you but you don’t know me.  I’m Rachel Rackham’s husband.”  Then it hit me, Margaret Rackham had e-mailed me saying that their son-in-law, John Westhoff, was going to be in Kenya.  It never occurred to me that we’d actually run into him.

A surprise meeting: John Westhoff, husband to Rachel Rackham, at church on Sunday in Nairobi.  The church and office building behind us.

After church we invited him over for dinner, such as it was, using up anything I had on hand and could find in the cupboards.  We had a wonderful visit, us learning about his family and his work, and he asking questions about living here in Nairobi.  He will be here a month and is scouting out the living conditions if his family is to join him here.  He told us about his one-year service in Iraq.  He is in the medical field and is in the Army.  Growing up as a military brat he has lived all over the place, and now his family of wife and five children have moved around a great deal too. 

I decided since we had company that I ought to cook the ½ cake mix I found in the cupboard.  Having no oil for the cake I put in butter.  I baked it in a loaf pan in the little electric ‘Suzy Bake Oven’ that I had no idea how to use.  The oven temps were in metric so I hadn’t a clue what the temperature really was.  There was an oven thermometer so I thought that would help.  I heated it up, put the cake in but it didn’t bake so I kept turning up the temperature.  Surprisingly the cake turned out okay and didn’t seem to be too over or under cooked. 

That’s when I realized that I had no powdered sugar for icing.  I looked on the Internet for other types of icing, but ended up looking in my cupboards for substitutes that might work.  I am not used to being an experimental cook and I would never do this unless necessary (don’t try this at home).  I took some Ovaltine (the only thing resembling chocolate in the flat), put in a little butter, vanilla and canned milk and put it in the microwave.  I poured it over the hot cake.  Hey, it tasted okay!  So we had warm chocolate cake and it was good!  I’m feeling the latent chef in me that I didn’t know was there…

John decided to walk home just before dark.  Jim called him later to see if he made it okay.  He said he missed a turn and walked an extra mile, but that he needed the exercise.  John is here doing some Nile Fever study, at least I think that’s what he said.  After dinner we loaded John up with stuff so that he could find his way around Nairobi.  He is going to try and learn Kiswahili while here so Jim gave him some of our old flash cards.  As for my Swahili, it did seem to come back after being here a week.  My old brain seems to find it in there somewhere.

The weather in Nairobi really is ideal.  Kenya is heading towards ‘winter’ now as we head for summertime at home.  It feels a bit like spring.  It is beginning to rain more at night now, but the sun is up during the day.  It is breezy and lovely, partly cloudy, beautiful, perfect temperature.

We delivered the last of Emily Sullivan’s white shirts that we brought to the AP’s.  They were just going into the office so they can add them to their stores for missionaries lacking in a lot of clothes to wear.  Local missionaries often show up with one white shirt, hardly adequate for a mission.

The best part about today is that we are finished with some important contract negotiations—signed, sealed and delivered—with one of our contractors.  This has been a standing problem and Jim probably is the only one who could pull it off—at least no one else has been able to do it after months of trying.  We are relieved.  We also completed three more reports. 

Tomorrow Jim needs to visit people in the office while I stay here and wash the sheets and towels, clean a little bit, and pack.  Two long flights, some driving, some waiting, and we’ll be home.  Why does just a two and a half week trip seem like we’ve lived here for a really long time?

Saying goodbye to Nairobi and our view from our apartment window.  The tree with violet flowers has yellow blossoms part of the year. The violet flowers come from a bougainvillea bush crawling up into the tree.  Not a bad view to wake up to in the morning. 

The power is off and on again this morning.  The Internet is not working at all today so I might be sending this from home.  If I’m lucky, I’ll be able to do the wash and cook dinner before we leave.  I was just grateful that I was able to blow dry my hair before this long trip home!  I finished one load of wash and got brave and put another in.  The power went off.  I panicked, took the soapy wash and hung it out to dry.  The power went back on.  I put it back in the washer and it finished.  The power went off.  I hung it out to dry again.  I think I want to go home now…

Years ago right before we finished our mission there was no water here at the flats.  This continued for a couple of weeks as we welcomed the new couple taking our place.  They were pretty good sports as we greeted them saying, ‘Welcome to Kenya; we don’t have any water!”  I was visiting with the office couple and asked them if they had had any trouble with water shortages and they said that they didn’t have water for over six weeks!  The water was available to lower apartments or on the other side of the complex.  After they got their water bill (they had to pay for what they didn’t get) they were so mad they began looking at other apartments, but they are still here.  They still experience three-day power outages. 

It must be time to go home--always an adventure in Kenya.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Pictures, Chyulu Hills, Kenya

The downstream side of a sand dam.  The water at the dam filters through the sand, making it clean.  It goes into the acquifers, feeding the hand pumps.  The runof here is used to water the animals.
What is this I asked?  Frog spit!  I learn something every day!  This is what little froggies do when they are about to get eaten--it is their defense mechanism.

This is a really nice clean water hand pump.  When the pumps were located nearer the school buildings, they were in much better condition.  They were able to keep the fences up, well sites clean, and the runoff went into their shamba (garden), eliminating mosquito-growing ponds.

These little monkeys were abundant at Man Eaters Lodge.  The waiters would use their sling shots to keep them from stealing the food while we were eating.  One fast little monkey got away with a piece of Sister Tuttle's roll.  He was so quick it was funny and cute!

We don't see very many of these in Africa--a swing set!

We left some homemade baby blankets donated from friends in America to this lady in the clinic.  A well was also donated there.  She is also holding one of the plaques stating where the well was donated from and that it belonged now to the clinic.

This is the site monitor's wife and daughter.  She woke her little girl up from her nap so she was quite groggy when we gave her a doll.  After a while she was playing happily with her new 'baby.'

We came across this little outdoor classroom and wondered what they were up to.  We realized that
the teacher had made mud clay and had the children fashion the alphabet--so clever!  We saw the work of one child--his alphabet was perfect, except that it was an exact mirror image--dyslexic?  

I love the beautiful acacia trees that the giraffe are able to eat
from regardless of the very large thorns.  Also note the
weaver bird nests hanging off the ends of the branches.  The
male weaver bird has to make the nest for his little wife.  If
she doesn't like it, she dumps it off and makes him do it again!

The beautiful Mzima Springs where the hippos hang out with a couple of crocks.  We saw the hippos but not the crocodiles this time.

We've never seen this type of turtle before, inside Tsavo Game Park out of Kilaguni Lodge

We saw so many of these little miniature deer-like animals; they are so tiny (Dik Dik) so we're sure they are the bottom of the food chain, but the population seems to have grown anyway.  They are always in pairs--if you see one, you soon see their mate.
This giraffe looked pretty beat up and old but didn't mind posing for pictures.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Kilaguni Lodge, unrest again in Nairobi

April 7-9, 2011

Dear Family & Friends

After our Wednesday morning well visits, we called on David Maluti, the councilman in the Chyulu Hills area, member of the Church, and one of our contractors—he does hand dug wells.  Each time we visit he has more ‘stuff’ unlike most villagers.  He has a tractor now.  My favorite addition to his home though is what I discovered on last year’s visit—his indoor toilet.  We checked out the beautiful chapel in David’s area and learned that they already have electricity.  Their mango trees in the church shamba are doing better, of course, than the chapel without water being pumped to their garden.

We finished our look-see and went to our guide Gerald’s place and met his wife, sons, daughter, and the grandmother.  They had a kitchen garden, a small home for grandma, a small home for their family, a kitchen building, and a large chicken coup.  The coup also had Guinea Hens, which we haven’t seen before at a home—only while driving in game parks.  He said they tasted good.  All the buildings looked modest, but they also had a car.  Most Kenyans don’t own cars, especially those living in the villages. 

We gave our Site Monitor’s sons Happy Factory Cars and then Jim showed them how to make a race track in the dirt.  Then they got creative and began listing names of cities in Kenya, then America and China.  These drawings grew as they played.  This was fun!

After staying two nights at the Man Eaters Lodge we heard from Sister Byrd (employment couple) who was at the Kilaguni Lodge saying that Leah wanted to talk to us.  Leah was a maid when we knew her last but now she is in charge of reservations and accounting and such.  She begged us to come and see her and said she would make a deal for us.  She is the sweetest lady, very religious, and while there the employees treated us as though we were the King and Queen of England. This was just the impetuous Jim needed to figure out a way to go to our favorite place.  So, this was his birthday gift to himself—and me too.

The Kilaguni Lodge is where we always stayed (and most couples stay) when we are working in the Chyulu Hills area.  We only went to Man Eaters as a second choice because the fee to get into the game park (Kilaguni is inside) for non-residents is very high.  Last year at this time, both we and Udall’s did not have resident cards.  We stayed for a week at Man Eaters so it would have been incredibly expensive to stay at Kilaguni since they charge each time you go in and out of the park.  The fee when you are a resident is really reasonable in comparison.  But this trip we decided the extra cost would be worth it to us—take it on the chin and enjoy!

At first Sister Tuttle didn’t want to move, especially when the Man Eaters Lodge gave her a hard time, charging her more money for bailing out one day early.  They told us that it would be highly unlikely that Jim & I would get our money back at all, for the one day.  So be it.  We packed up our things and drove to Kilaguni.  It is like a dream come true.  I can’t describe the feelings when we drove up to this incredible place.  We saw Leah immediately and gave her a big hug.  We were given damp towels to wash our hands and some passion juice.  Sister Tuttle immediately realized that this was a good idea—how could you not as you sit in awe while you eat and watch the ‘animal show’ before you.   Like players in a play, the animals seem to know when they should come on stage to take water or wallow in the ponds in back of the lodge, or come to the salt lick as the elephants do.  Sister Tuttle remarked after eating her five-course, Tilapia dinner that it had been the best meal she’d had since she’d been in Kenya. 

The ‘animal show’ at the back of Kilaguni Lodge.  Two giraffe here; we saw cape buffalo, impala, warthogs, elephants, zebra, water buck, and more, while we ate our dinner.

We settled into our newly refurbished rooms, making the stay even more enjoyable.  The bathrooms were really beautiful, and these were in all the regular rooms. The tile work was perfect.   Each room has a balcony so that you can watch the animals from your room.  We greeted many of the same employees that still work there.  I checked out the leopard pictures, still on their wall, that I gave the lodge years ago.

We went on game drives that first evening and before and after breakfast before heading back to Nairobi.  None of the pictures I took of the animals could compare with the lovely ones I took when we lived here in 2004-2006, but they will have to do.  Obviously, we were here long enough to get amazing photos then, and went to the Masai Mara where there are a whole lot more animals to look at.  Nevertheless, we saw a huge population of Dik Dik, the little animals that look like miniature deer, ostrich, three varieties of Guinea Hens, hippos, and the same animals we saw at the watering hole, except that they were up close and personal on the side of the road.

We arrived back in Nairobi by about , just in time to miss the normal jams one gets stuck in.  We are amazed at all the construction of buildings and roads that we have seen these last two years.  All the kiosks they had gotten rid of are being replaced by ones provided by the government so that previous shop keepers can still make a living.  (These were all torn down beginning around 2006 when they also cleaned up the garbage along the roads).  Amazing roads are being constructed with help from China.  They have been busy in Africa because they are building roads in Sierra Leone too.  Victor told us that they are even going to provide low-cost housing for the Kibera slum, the most notorious slum in Nairobi.  How are they going to provide housing for a couple million people?  The city is becoming more modern and it is wonderful to see their growth.

As tired as we were from our trip, we stayed up till 1 AM working on our reports, Jim going over and over the mess created over the last three years.  Today is Saturday the 9th, and he finally has decided upon a price to finish up our contracts with Pass Africa.  Now we only have two more reports to go…whoopee. 

Tonight Victor Koroso, our long-time friend, took us to dinner.  The couples went elsewhere.  We wanted to go to the place we used to eat at but couldn’t remember the name of it except that it started with a ‘P’.  Jim directed Victor around till we found it (Peppers).  Victor now owns a fairly nice van and I think a sedan too.  After it is paid for he said he owns some land and wants to take out another loan and build a house so he can stop paying rent.  His wife works in a little food kiosk, and he gives transport, provides office supplies to the people who work there, and anything else he can think of—jack of all trades.  He is always reliable and served us well and is one of the few Kenyans who never asked us for anything.  We wondered why he wanted to buy our dinner, but he said that we used to feed him sometimes and I guess he just wanted to do this.  We had a great visit.  We gave Victor a doll for his little girl and a car and soccer uniform for his little boy. Gee, we just love our Kenyan friends. 

We gave Victor a doll for his little girl, and a car and soccer uniform for his little boy.

Today through Monday there will be another rally in the streets of Nairobi, but they feel Monday will be the ‘big one’.  They are welcoming back some exiled cronies called the ‘Ocampo Six,’ who were involved in the post election violence in 2007-8.  Half are affiliated with President Kibaki and the others with Odinga of the opposing party.  You may recall that the violence caused by voter fraud on both sides ended when these two men made a deal to share political power, but Kibaki is still the president, Odinga the Prime Minister. The activists plan to disrupt travel, and any time a zillion people get together like this it ends up getting out of hand quickly. Luckily we are not flying out till Tuesday night so we hope they will be worn out by then.  The place of gathering is the Uhuru Park, close to our apartments.  The International SOS says to avoid
Mombasa Road
, which is how you get to the airport of course.  Because of this we are hiring Victor to take us there instead of the Tuttle’s.  Another couple is supposed to fly on Monday.  They are trying to get a plane ride out of here on Sunday.  Traveling is always an adventure—sometimes it’s just more exciting.

I am finally caught up on my writing.  Just three more days and we’ll be flying home, we hope.  We keep getting dump alerts from Mammoth; I hope we get to ski when we get home!

Love, Mom & Dad, E/S Greding, Jim & Karen

Friday, April 8, 2011

On the side of the highway, going back and forth to Man Eaters Lodge.

On top of a sand dam that has not yet filled up with sand.  Gerald below, left, E/S Tuttle, & Jim

One block of latrines.  A Kenyan rule is that latrines will be far separated from each other--one for girls, and one for boys.  Some of the doors stick so they are being adjusted to keep the hinges and locks in place.
The beautiful baobob tree.

Typical classroom in one of the many schools we visited.

Oops, maybe they ought to fix this?

And this malaria breeding pond?  Just divert the water to the shamba and they've got it made.

Jim showing his magic trick--they are always enthralled

Cute dollies for some cuter, little girls...
Loved this picture of these cute little guys, hamming it up for the camera in their new soccer shirts.  Jim said he expects them to win their games now that they look 'smart'! 

Wells, sand dams, latrines, hand wash stations

Tuesday & Wednesday, April 5th-6th. 

Today is Jim’s 69th birthday and I didn’t even remember it till he told me--oops.  In my defense, when we are away from home there is so much else on my mind.  Later he did give both of us a gift, which I’ll mention in another post.  Otherwise, it was just, ‘Oh, happy birthday’.  How lame is that?

Today we met with Gerald who was Ajay’s site monitor and we followed him while he led us on his motorbike.  The bikes (called piki piki in Swahili) are made for these roads.  Our truck is not, but Elder Tuttle is a good driver and we managed to keep up some of the time. We saw many schools, latrines, wells, and sand dams.  It was a long, hot day and we all came back tired, hot and sweaty.  Sister Tuttle and I were complaining about the fact that we were in skirts and had to walk through tall brush, constantly getting snagged by the thorny bushes and had to pick burs out of our clothes and shoes, but I did love the exercise.  We visited with the kids at the schools (our favorite part) and delivered some plaques for the schools that LDSC provided to put on the wall in their office.  We also provided a sticker for the hand pumps.   Most schools also received latrines (two blocks, one for boys and one for girls and they were usually far apart) and in some cases, hand washing stations. 
Gerald with his piki piki (motorbike), and always talking on the phone.  We had a hard time keeping up with him while he led us for two days to the well sites at the schools.  Gerald nearly had a spill on the highway when his bike tire popped!  Luckily he managed to come to a stop without spilling (whew!)  Note the brush in the background—that is what we drug our skirts through catching them on every thorny bush and collecting burs.

We got a bit sunburned even though we used sun block and we came back to the hotel feeling quite done in, but it was still a great day.  We were able to hand out a bunch of goodies too: the books and rulers provided by the YW, a bunch of dolls and Happy Factory Cars and some soccer uniforms.  When we get back to Nairobi, the rest of the white shirts will be donated to the mission.  This is because the African missionaries usually show up with only one white shirt.  It is obvious that they will need at least five white shirts while on their missions.  You should see our clothes at the end of the day.  You can imagine the young Elders riding their bikes or walking in the dirt, carrying their backpacks, sweating—they get so dirty!  We will hand them out to the Mission President who knows they are coming.  They have a spot in the cupboard that they can draw from when they get new missionaries without a lot of clothes.  Emily Sullivan had a Laurel project and collected two large boxes worth of shirts, ironing them all!  She also sent a box of ties.  The Nairobi Kenya Mission appreciates this gift!  When we go to Sierra Leone, they will also benefit from her efforts.  Thanks much Emily!  (Pictures to follow in a few days when we deliver them.)

YW donation of books for students to write in and rulers.  More pictures will be sent separately of the school.

On our first travel day most of the wells we saw were down by the river.  We wanted them to be up at the schoolyard.  We were happy therefore when we went the following day and saw that all of them were actually at the school.  Gerald would talk to the people when we would come upon a dirty well to instruct them on how to take care of it and remind them that the well was theirs now and they had to maintain it.  When the well was on school property it was better monitored.  When it was a little distance away, the wells were dirty and the poor fencing (which we weren’t too pleased with) was often wrecked by animals and the children.  These sites were a bit muddy and we had to make sure they understood to divert the water away from the well so it would not stagnate for a malaria-breeding pond.  Why do I think I’m repeating myself?  These wells are also used by the families surrounding the area.  Some water tasted sweet and others were salty, which for some reason the children did not mind drinking.  Over time the salt content might get a little bit better, but at least it is clean water, free of diseases. 

No matter the condition of the water, the placements of the well, or any other thing, the people were very appreciative of their new wells. We were pleased to see that many schools had started a little garden because they could water them now.  No matter what we Americans thought of the wells and latrines (we’re so picky) the people seemed to love and appreciate them.

The latrines looked good except for the way the doors were hung.  Most were a bit too long and scrape on the cement, hanging them up; as the children pull at the doors the locks and sometimes the hinges come undone.  Apparently, this is typical of all the old outhouses that we see because the doors are all hanging off the hinges or just sitting next to the latrine.  The hinges were more often than not put in with nails instead of screws.  We cared, the people didn’t notice.  Ajay has agreed to repair them all, however.  The people tell us that the outhouses only last a couple of years—no wonder they don’t care—all it has to do is last just long enough. We are considering doing leach fields (septic systems) instead because they will last and it doesn’t cost very much to get them drained—gee, you’d think that job would cost a LOT of money…

We saw a few sand dams and learned a lot about how to construct a really good one.  This is something we have never done before and there were no specific instructions.  A man from the government did come to the sand dam jobs (there are 30) to give instructions, but unfortunately they were not all created equal.  The cement work was usually pretty good and they all served at least three good purposes: put water back into the aquifers so that the hand pumps will have water for a longer period of time, give animals plenty of water to drink, and the collect sand to be used to make bricks or cement.  The government and the people are very high on these dams.

I am amazed at what happens—the dam is built and then water rushes along bringing sand with it.  The sand filters the water as it goes into aquifers and also cleans it for use; if a pipe is properly placed from one side to the other, it can be used for clean drinking water.  One side builds up with sand, the other just with water.  We think that very few dams had the proper piping.  We saw a few where the pipe was either too low, without a valve, or not long enough on the sand side.  Next time we’ll have specifications in our contracts, now that we know what we are doing.  The contracts made a few years ago have none, and I suspect it was because no one really knew how to do them correctly.  Once again, the people are happy with whatever was given to them. 

This is the sand dam that is already filled up to the top of the cement dam.  They need to add another layer to the wall, which is in the foreground.  On the other side it is lower and has water for animals.  The sand filters the water and the water then cleanly fills up the aquifers so that pumps don’t go dry.  A proper dam will have a pipe on the water side that would allow clean water to be collected.

Back to our buggy tent—I’m sure they miss me…

More pictures to follow. 

Mom & Dad, E/S Greding, Jim & Karen

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Monday afternoon, Man Eaters Lodge, Chyulu Hills, Kenya

April 4, 2011

Dear Family & Friends,                                                                       

We left our flat at with our one shared suitcase and another larger one filled with handouts.  Since the road has been repaired it was a pleasant journey of about four hours.  It is the rainy season and the land is green and beautiful right now.  It has been raining at night here in Nairobi and it rained after we arrived at the Man Eaters Lodge where we’ll be staying for a few days.

We made a few stops on our way to the lodge.  First we found the young Elders’ flat and discovered it was their P-day (preparation day) so they were home and in their casual clothes.  We dropped off a few of the donated white shirts so they could give them to new members or investigators.  They might also use them for baptisms.
One of many white shirt donations.  The Elders were having a P-Day so we caught them home.  The Elder on the right has a shirt that says ‘Hakuna Pesa’, which means ‘no money’ in Swahili. 

We visited the Branch President, Steven (don’t ask me to spell his last name), at the beautiful Darajani Chapel.  He is still trying hard to get his members off of the church and/or government food dole.  They have a very large shamba (garden) behind the chapel, which a few members use to grow vegetables in between the mango trees that they planted years ago when we were first here.  They are not very large trees because they cannot afford the fuel for the generator to pump the water to them, but they have begun to produce fruit nonetheless.  Their last crop had bugs so they couldn’t sell them for much.  Steven said that they are going to spray the trees next time so that the fruit will make a better profit.  We saw electrical lines in front of the church and asked Steven when they would finally get power.  He said it will take five months; we laughed because nothing ever happens in Africa when it is supposed to.  We gave a few white shirts to President Steven and he giggled when he saw the two children’s white shirts that came with ties. 

President Steven giggled when he saw these two little boy shirts with ties; at the Darajani Chapel in Chyulu Hills.

From there we visited the windmill pump, which is located at a school.  It has been having problems but apparently Ajay (Pass Africa) repaired it again, and it was working.  They still have those useless plastic taps on the wash stands, so we encouraged the schools to purchase a few brass taps so that they will be able to use the stands.  Very few people want to help themselves, so we were surprised and impressed on our visit to Kenya last year that one school replaced the plastic taps with brass ones.  Most Africans wait for someone to help them out instead of fixing it themselves and showing some ownership of what has been donated to them. 

We visited 6-toe George (yes, he really does have six toes), who works as a mechanic at the gas station in Mtito Andei.  We were anxious to inquire about his chicken project, assisted and begun by Elder & Sister Anderson over a year ago. They have six families participating in the project.  They buy day-old chicks, give them medicine and take good care of them so they don’t lose them.  In about six weeks they are ready to be slaughtered.  They put them in a freezer at the gas station, waiting to be shipped.  They have deals worked out with customers so that the demand is actually growing.  They began with 50 chicks and now they have worked up to 200.  They are making a profit to share among themselves, keeping half of the money back to re-invest in the project. It is working!  Something is working!   

There is another group of 15 that only made it through the first cycle—they took their profit and ran.  George is going to try to organize them into two groups because it is easier to keep control of things and get rid of anyone not willing to work.  George keeps trying.  I am excited to e-mail Elder Anderson to let him know that something thing he and his wife worked on for all those many months is supporting a few families!  George said it is not right to be on the dole and take money or food when you haven’t worked for it--another man who ‘gets it.’  Brother Anderson will also be proud of the fact that we saw several kitchen gardens (something else he encouraged while here).  Isn’t it great to know someone made a difference?

On our trip up and on our trip back, we see this all-to-common sight.

We’re settling in our not fancy but adequate tent waiting for the power (generator) to come on.  The power comes on early in the morning () and during the evening till .  The overhead fan keeps us from feeling like we are going to suffocate when we go to bed; luckily, by it is cool enough to let us sleep without it.  The Man Eater Lodge sports an amazing amount and huge variety of bugs.  We had to compete for our dinner with these little black creatures that landed on our food and liked to hang out in our tent.  We found a very big, ugly bug in our tent that could have been a spider or a beetle, but Jim said it squished more like a spider.

A typical meal here is an appetizer, soup, salad, dinner, and dessert, which is included in your room.  Water or soda is extra.  The food is usually pretty good, but the meals are usually more than I can eat—I start out big, and end up requesting less and less with each meal. 

We got back to our tent and I longed for a shower to wash off the sweat of the day.  It is hotter here than it is in Nairobi and very humid with the river right below us.  I know it takes a long time here for the water to get warm (it is solar heated) but after a while I began to complain that we didn’t have warm water.  Jim assured me that I was wrong.  He took the first cold shower and then I followed, grumbling.  At least the water was tepid and not as bad as many cold showers I’ve taken, but darn, this place is not cheap and we have to put up with massive amounts of bugs and then have to take a cold shower!  And we are out in the boonies so we won’t have Internet till we get back to the flat Thursday night.  Oh, well, suffering is good for the soul…

This is one of the few places I can sleep with a mosquito net because it is on a 4-poster bed and I don’t get claustrophobic.  So, off to bed I go, even if to just to get away from the bugs.

Love, Mom and Dad, E/S Greding, Jim & Karen

Friday, April 1, 2011

Culture, & Rioting in Nairobi

Wednesday-Friday, March 30, 2011
While working in the flat our old friend Sampson stopped by to say hello.  He used to wash our cars when he was an unmarried young adult, but now he is married and has an 18 month old daughter.  He is still washing cars but he has worked with the employment couple and learned a new skill and is installing window coverings.  He is getting new referrals and his business is growing.  Like he says, he needs to take care of a family now and work harder.  He told me that he had moved out of Kibera, one of the most dangerous slums in Nairobi.  He goes to the Westlands Branch and knows his Branch President, an Australian with three daughters who works for the UN, so maybe he actually attends.  I asked him if he remembered what we had talked about so many years ago and he did: I told him that good, Mormon men don’t hit their wives.  He was astounded when I told him that if you did this in America you might end up in jail.  In Africa, you can beat your wife all you want to and it is simply ‘tradition’.  I was even happier when he told me how he treated his wife.  I gave him a hug and he said he would visit again.

Above: Sampson with a doll for his little girl.  Since we can’t seem to leave our flat yet we might as well give away what we can while here.  Jim gave a doll to the cutest little girl dressed in bright clothes.  When I tried to take her picture her older siblings wouldn’t let us and took her away—we never know exactly what prompts this—afraid of the camera?  Afraid that we’ll steal her away?  Anyway, it would have made the cutest picture!

The difference between cultures: our friend Sarah was visiting and wanted to see some pictures of my family so I looked on my laptop but didn’t have very many.  I remembered that Mike had a website for his dental practice and that his family picture was on there so we looked him up.  He has this little sidebar showing his veneers with the before and after pictures.  One was of a woman whose space between her front teeth was ‘fixed’ with the Cerac veneers.  Sarah was surprised that anyone would want to do that.  Sarah’s mother has a space between her front teeth and in Kenya that is considered to be quite beautiful!  So all you Americans worried about the space between your front teeth—come to Kenya and smile big!

This flat (apartment) has the worst stove of any of the couples.  The one in my old flat and probably most of the other couples have a few gas burners next to the electric ones.  This one does not.  I spent a half hour trying to fry hamburger and it just wouldn’t cook it.  I changed to the burner that I found working and the meat was quickly sizzling.  The problem is that once it gets going it just gets too hot.  Last night I attempted to fix burgers and I not only burned them on the bottom but created a lot of smoke and an awful, acrid smell in the kitchen.  This is also caused by the very old frying pans that they have here.  The meat looks normal but when it is cooked it turns reddish instead of brownish—does that mean that it is free of chemicals or does that mean it isn’t from a cow?  Where’s the beef?!

When the power went off and on one day I also realized what a problem this would be to just have an electrical stove.  When we lived here before the power would often go out for three days at a time.  How would they cook without power unless they also had a gas stove?  Luckily they are doing an inventory of all apartments to update and replace what is needed.  I decided to make a list for them as I have lived here for a few days so that when a new couple comes the place will be ready for them.  We have settled into our routine of filling water bottles with the filtering system in the apartments, and putting Jik (bleach) in our water to clean vegetables and dishes.  One of the happiest things to return home to is to NOT have to do these routines.  One added job this trip is that I actually have to do some housework.  This is usually something I get to avoid on these trips, but we’re in this flat alone and dirt sort of blows in on everything. 

I remembered one good tip from our friends the Banks who are from the UK and lived here as the missionary couple when we were here long ago.  And, this is actually the flat they lived in.  She said she just kept the hallway door closed because then the mosquitoes would not find their way into the bedroom.  This works like a charm!  No more night-time buzzing.

While busy wading through the massive paperwork we didn’t notice what was going on at our nearby park the last couple of nights and especially late Wednesday afternoon.  I even had to go online to read all about it. There was a massive uprising by university students who lit fires at the Uhuru Park (that we can see from our top floors), vandalized whatever they felt like and clogged the streets so that vehicles moved only inches in hours.  They pelted police with rocks and beat up journalists, and blocked the main roads (they like to ruin everyone’s day).  All of this rioting is because of their unhappiness over government corruption.  They also wanted to get rid of the police commissioner.  The Kenyans want to see real reforms and transparency in the government and this is hard to come by in these countries.

Last week some known gang members were killed by police instead of being arrested.  You’d think they’d be happy to get rid of the bad guys.  Kenyan police are known to be corrupt--worse yet, they all think that they are ‘dirty Harry’. But when university students took to the streets to protest the government, no doubt easily fired up with the help of activists, the peaceful demonstration turned ugly.  That is when the police shot into the crowds and killed two activists and later a university student. 

Luckily, most of the couples had left the office before things got out of hand, but the Tuttle’s had an appointment downtown and really got stuck.  They spent four hours getting home when it normally takes about 15-20 minutes.  They were so exhausted after their experience that they went directly to their flat to recover.  They were supposed to have dinner with us and later dessert with the employment couple, Elder & Sister Byrd.  We were having yummy peach cobbler with Byrd’s when we finally saw their truck drive up at . 

We had another problem--Sarah was here that day and had eaten dinner with us and didn’t leave till .  We were concerned for her because we knew it would take forever for her to get a Matatu (mini-bus) back to her friend’s place.  Normally the buses are everywhere, but during times like this they don’t run at all.  We put her large purse in a plastic bag to lessen the possibility of it getting stolen.  She walked from our place to the Serena Hotel and worked her way around till she finally got a bus ride home.  We had gone to bed at and sometime between then and 2 AM she had sent us a text message that she had arrived safely.  She told us that even though she was nervous it was safer for her to be out than it would be for us, and she just might blend in with the university students.  We thought we’d not be going out to dinner anytime soon, but as it turned out they must have gotten tired of rioting in the streets at night because it only happened a couple of evenings. 

We continue to work in our flat while Tuttle’s go into the office. Next week we’ll be going back to the tented camp that we went to last year.  ‘Tented’ sounds a bit scary, but even though it is made of a heavy canvas and you unzip to get into your room, it has all the amenities of a regular hotel—well, most of them anyway.  They do shut down the power in the middle of the night, but by then your overhead fan is not needed to breathe as the weather cools down.  Of course, there is no air conditioning, but the setting is beautiful next to the large river.  We get fed three times a day and they have a swimming pool.

Stuck in our flat, we still found a way to give some things away--a soccer uniform for her little boy.

I’m usually better at getting over jetlag, but for some reason I wake up at or and can’t go back to sleep.  This is not a problem this week because I just pass out on the couch whenever I can’t keep my eyes open anymore.  This has been quite a relaxing week—Monday we begin our journey.