About Me

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Malindi, Kenya
This blog used to be about me and my new husband starting our life together in Brookhaven, Georgia. Now, 8 years, 3 children, and 1 trans-continental move later, I'm writing for me; to document the emotional and spiritual journey I am on so that I don't forget the paths I have traveled in my heart and mind.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

NEW BLOG

We now have a new blog!!! From this point on, keep up with the Nicholsons at:

tunapendakisumu.wordpress.com

Last post

For some reason I'm a little bit sad about this being my last post on this blog. It's not like a virtual web address really means anything, but I guess I feel like this blog has been a document of mine and Chris's life from when we got married until the time we move ourselves across the world. Just like moving out of our house, giving away our precious dog, and selling almost everything we own, this is one more goodbye. I guess it's a goodbye to this time in our life when things were easier and more comfortable than we even realized. At the same time, there will be some comforts and perks that come with our Kenyan lives, so I am in no way indicating that the years in Atlanta were the "golden years."

This is just me realizing that we've been blessed beyond our imagination with friends and fun and we are about to let it all go. As we are coming up on our two month mark, I can feel time just slipping through my fingers, and so many questions welling up in my mind (sometimes coming out in the form of tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat). Can we really do this? What will our lives be like in Kenya? What impact will this have on our family? What all are going to have to sacrifice that we don't even realize right now? What all are we going to miss out on?

I remember at Harding, not ever wanting to do a study abroad semester, because who would want to miss out on everything going on at Harding for a WHOLE semester? You might get back to school and be totally out of the social loop!!! Ha...that was my concern over being gone for 3 months. Needless to say, we will be out of the social loop when we get back from Kenya.

There are a lot of things I am looking forward to about our move, but I just feel like right now I want to take time to mourn what I am leaving. Maybe it's the rain or the fact that I just noticed where I still have Emory's birthday marked on Google calendar, but I am feeling a little sad today.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Steve and Tobias

There are two security guards that work at the Nyanza Club in Kisumu. This is kind of like the Kenyan's version of a country club...ish:) Every morning that I go to work I walk up to the Nyanza club to catch the shuttle to take me to work about 10 miles outside of the city. I can't remember when or how, but at some point I just started talking with the two security guards at the front gate of the Nyanza club. Steve is 27 and Tobias is 25. They arrive at work at 6am and work until 6pm or 6:30 everyday, seven days a week. Tobias has not had one day off in a year. Steve has a wife and three-year-old daughter, and also helps take care of his brother. Tobias helps take care of his younger sister, as both of his parents have passed away. Now this is a very typical story of a life in Kenya, but these two guys are just amazing and God has put them on my heart so strongly that I can't stop thinking about it. Every morning they greet me with a huge smile on their face and they are always talking about how good the Lord is and how they desire to do what's right. They wanted so badly for me to come see where they live before I left so I told them I would yesterday and mom came with me, thankfully. We headed over to Nyanza around five in the evening, and first took a tuk-tuk to Tobias's house. He lives by himself in a part of town called Manyata, and suffice it to say it was quite the adventure just going to his house. He called some of his friends over to greet us and went and bought us all some cokes-he wouldn't let us leave until I finished my whole half liter of coke. We were so touched by his desire to welcome us into his humble home, but at the same time we were also getting so tickled at the whole situation. We would say something that we thought was really nice or normal, and sometimes, for no reason we could understand, they would all get so tickled at us and laugh really hard, which made us laugh because we had no idea why they were laughing and then they would laugh at us some more. The conversation was good, but also humorous because in Swahili, the word for he and she is the same, so he would be talking about his sister but I'm trying to figure out which guy he is talking about because he keeps using the masculine pronouns. Well they finally decided it was time to go to Steve's house, and I said it would be okay to take a motor bike because, of course, they said it was "very close." So we hope on a motorbike with the seat slightly too short so I'm sitting on a metal piece in the back and we head off over a glorified foot path and onto a very busy road on a bike with no rearview mirrors and no helmets (don't ever tell my children I did this). Steve and Tobias were on another bike which kept dying so we would pass them and I was thinking where is this guy taking us and I feel really nervous, and then they would catch up and pass us with huge grins on their faces. This happened several times until I was really getting tickled at the whole situation. We finally made it to Steve's house and met his wife and daughter and brother. We sat there and talked by the light of a lantern (no electricity) as they shared with us their life stories and told us how strongly they believed in God and his goodness. I just kept thinking, these are two amazing men. No bitterness, just a desire to make life better for their families. When it was time to go home, it was pitch black outside, so Steve used the light of his cell phone to help guide us around the mud puddles on the path from his house and Tobias drove slowly behind us on his motorbike to shed a little more light. They were going to put us in a tuk-tuk to go back home but I asked them to come with us the whole way because I don't feel safe out after dark, so they took us all the way back (which was quite a way) and we said goodbye.

We spoke to them again this morning and assured them we would see them again soon. I don't know why but neither mom or I can stop thinking about them. I want so badly to help them. I'm praying that God shows me how. What an amazing way to end my time here for now. Kwaheri Kenya, nitarudi December!!!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Last day of work

Today was my last day of work in the lab at Kisian. I was hurrying the whole day to get everything done that I needed to get done before leaving...taking inventory of all the supplies, finishing up some experiments, gathering things to bring back to the states, and giving out some small gifts to the people that have helped me out since I've been here. The people I'm working with here really are so great. I will surely look forward to seeing their smiling faces when I come back in December. Tomorrow I will say goodbye to the children at ringroad, and wednesday we head back to the States. It's such a weird feeling. Just thinking about leaving those children makes me have a huge lump in my throat. There is one girl, Diana, that I love so much, but every time I have to leave she cries and cries until my heart is so broken. It doesn't seem fair that I am leaving them. They need someone there all the time. One of the older girls gave me a purse. She was so embarrassed to give it to me that she gave it to mom to give to me. It touched me so much because I know that she has nothing, but she still chooses to give something to me who has everything. I can't explain the way these gestures make me feel. I am learning more and more that the best thing I can give them is time. They need someone to sit and listen to the thoughts they have as if they matter. We all take this for granted, but there are people who really don't have anyone to talk to.

Well my computer is about to die, but I'm having trouble getting my thoughts together anyway. Maybe I will have more luck later. I'm anxious to be back with the people I love in Atlanta, but my heart will remain here when I am gone...

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Out to the field

As you can tell by the pace of the blog posting, work has really picked up in the last few weeks (and at work is the only time I have internet). I'm working on wrapping things up in the lab and finally feel like I can start to relax a little. There has been a lot to do, and I'm not exactly sure how productive all my hard work was, but I'm trying to be optimistic about it. I can truly say that I did all I could and gave it my best shot. I have gotten to know the people in the lab even better now that I have had the chance to work along side them, and they are all really great. I'm really looking forward to coming back and being able to work with these wonderful people. Today, since we had a little bit of time, we got to go out to the field to see what it is actually like at ground zero- so to speak. I was really impressed with our field coordinator, Bernard. You could just sense that everyone he was working with really loved him, which is pretty good since he is always coming to get their blood:) I met a few people that provide assistance with keeping track of who gets in the water how often and getting everyone together for the blood draws. It was nice to be able to thank them for their work.

We met one mama who was a sand harvester (most of them are men). I was really amazed at her. She stands all day long shoveling sand from one pile to another, moving it away from the shore to make room for the next boatload of sand coming in off the lake, and when I met her she had a huge smile on her face and seemed incredibly happy. It was a rainy day so most of the workers were not out, but there she was working alone, as hard as ever. I joked with her about how she was so strong and I would never want to get in a fight with her and she laughed and said no she wouldn't fight me because I would shoot her with a gun (she was really laughing as she said this so it isn't as morbid as it sounds, but it was very odd-Bernard explained that many Kenyans think all white people carry guns). As we left I noticed that Bernard gave her some money and she was extremely grateful (she is not part of our study so there was no conflict of interest here). I can tell he really cares about the people he is working with which makes me so glad to know he is the one who will be handling our field work.

The shuttle that takes me home from work is about to come so I can't write any more now but I have so much to say. This has been such a good trip. It was so hard to say goodbye to Chris AGAIN yesterday, and I am very anxious just to be with him for a long time. My mom and our friend Caroline, from Mauritius are here with me and they are wonderful company. Caroline suggested we make crepes tonight, and when a French woman offers to make crepes for me, I don't turn her down! We even found some Nutella here in town. Life is good...more later...

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

No longer alone

Finally, Chris, Cody and my mom arrived...YAY!!!! I think the moment I saw Chris's red bandana and knew it was him coming off the plane was one of the happiest moments in my life. It's not that the first three weeks here were particularly bad, it's just so hard being in a foreign third world country by yourself. So Mick and I picked them up from the airport and headed back to the Davises, where they made us an amazing breakfast of pancakes and strawberries and bacon. Next we headed out to the orphanage to see the kids...Chris was so happy to see them, and they were even happier to see him. It was so cute to see their faces light up when they saw he was here. They got to meet my mom and Cody, too...which they really loved. The girls just took to my mom so quickly, asking her a million questions and gathering so close around her. She is amazingly kind and compassionate with them. I feel like they see her as the mom they don't get to have. I'm so glad that my mom is here spending time with them. And what can I say about Cody, he is a NATURAL. I kept thinking, where did Cody go? and then I would find him surrounded by children with their undivided attention. He and Chris are quite the pair. They can talk to anyone and make an immediate friend. It's like the cultural walls just dissolve in front of them. Anyway, the three of them make a great team here, and I think they are having a lot of fun. I love hearing about their adventures when I come home from work...work...hmmm...well, things have been REALLY busy for me at work, but I'm getting the hang of things and figuring out how to manage my time so I don't feel quite so stressed. Tomorrow night we have been invited to go eat with one my coworkers, and I am really looking forward to that. Several other coworkers have expressed interest in having me and Chris over and I have told them I plan on doing the same once we are in our new house. I'm really excited to get to know everyone in the lab better.

Oh yeah, for lunch on Saturday we had the meal I had made and it was actually really good. The second try on the beans and the banana bread were huge improvements and everything else was a success. I know you were all worried about this:)

Sunday was church in the morning, then we took three 9-year-old-boys and one of their 3-year-old sisters out to lunch. Chris took the boys to the bathroom to wash hands and said they couldn't get over the automatic hand dryer-what a thrill! The little girl's name was Diana, and I fell in love with her. She was beautiful and sweet and polite. She just sat in my lap and ate whatever I put on her plate so neatly (well, she wasn't too crazy about the kale-I guess kids are the same everywhere:) Anyway, I was in heaven holding her, but she got a little heavy for me after a while since we were walking all over the city, so I had to pass her off...to who?...to a 9-year-old-boy of course. He just put her on his back and carried her forever like it was nothing. Anyway, after lunch and walking around town we went to a Kisumu soccer match, complete with its own vuvuzella, and then we had burgers at the Davises with a mission team from Amarillo. We met a great missionary family from Kitalli (couple hours away from Kisumu) and are really excited about spending more time with them...maybe even this Christmas?

Life here is somewhat like a roller coaster. I have to admit, I am kind of ready to come home. Work has been stressful, and I still don't have a 'home' here of my own and that is getting old. But I'm growing more and more excited about our future here in Kenya. It still gives me butterflies in my stomach when I think that I am going to be LIVING here...are you sure about this?....WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?...You must be crazy!....these are all thoughts I still have daily. But the sense of adventure, the personal growth, the ministry opportunities, and the opportunity to share this special piece of the world with our friends and family are all calling me forward into my new life in Kisumu, Kenya with A LOT of excitement. The next time I come here, I will be coming home!!!!!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Burned beans

OK, so the beans were a flop. I was so determined to make a really good meal for Chris, mom, and Cody when they got here. I had soaked the beans and followed all the instructions but after several hours of cooking, they still weren't soft...so I decided to cook them overnight. I woke up this morning to the smell of death wafting up from the kitchen. I hadn't added enough water to the pot and the beans were charred. Poor Jen can't get the smell of burnt beans out of her mind, as it seems to be on our clothes and skin and in her backpack (thankfully she is being a really good sport about it), but I haven't given up. I will try to make the beans again tonight, and if it doesn't work, I will try again. I am determined to cook something good here!

I have somewhat hit the wall in my trip like I did last time. Last night, I had leftover indian food for dinner and it was not good, so I had a piece of strawberry yogurt bread that I had made on Tuesday and it had somehow turned bitter. Then, I decided to make banana bread which turned out ok, but it's like the baking powder wasn't mixed in well or something and I kept getting these little glimpses of a tangy taste every few bites. Then, the beans....not to mention somehow I got bleach on my clothes because I was decontaminating the counters after cutting up the chicken. My clothes are looking so incredibly dingy after being washed a few times here. I don't know if it's too harsh of detergent or what but most everything I brought is turning into a muted brownish version of whatever color it used to be. It makes me feel very frumpy.

But at the same same time (Kenyans like to say things twice like that) I don't really feel that bad. I have plenty of food to eat and clothes to wear so I am doing better than most people around here. Thankfully I saved one dress that hasn't been worn or washed here at all so I can wear something nice when I go to pick everyone up at the airport. I think I just keep battling with the feelings of wanting life to be a certain way versus accepting the way things are here. The concept of living in Kenya the way I lived in America just doesn't work, nor is it a healthy goal. I just want to have peace with my life here, trying to make things better, but accepting it when things don't turn out the way I want. I've always thought of myself as being low-maintenance, but now I see that is all a matter of perspective!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Cooking in Kenya

Chris, my mom, and Cody Kemp are coming to see me in just TWO DAYS!!! I'm so excited I can hardly stand myself. These past three weeks here have been really good for me, but I miss Chris so much, I mean so so much. Let me also say here how excited I am that Cody and my mom are coming. I have to brag on my mom here... I mean how awesome is it that she is coming all the way to Kenya to see me? and even without my dad! She is such a strong woman and a HUGE mentor in my life. Kenya is not an easy place to be, but I have no doubt that she will love it here. I have been telling everyone that my mom is coming and that she is super strong. I am so thankful for her and also very anxious for her to have a good impression of our new home! Cody has been a friend of mine and Chris's for about 5 years now. Even though he is a few years younger than us, he has taught both Chris and me a lot about the Lord and about how to love others the way Christ loves the church. He is one of our very best friends and I can't wait to see him.

In anticipation for them coming, I have been trying to make preparations for their arrival. I thought I should cook a really good meal for them when they get here. But with me working all day and nothing being available pre-prepared, I have been working on this meal in stages. Wednesday night I started soaking some black beans and made some flour tortillas. Tonight I will finish making the beans, make some banana bread, and cut up the chicken so that it can be marinating. Saturday, I will just have to cook the chicken, warm up the beans, put together the yogurt sauce that goes in the burritos, grate the cheese and chop the lettuce and...voila... chicken burritos in Kenya! As you can see, cooking here is a little involved, but I am really enjoying it and since I don't have internet at the house I am really thankful I found this book- "How to Cook Everything" in the flat. It really has a recipe for everything starting from scratch which is what you have to do here. The only short cut I took was to buy some really expensive boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Maybe when my mom is here she can educate me on how to cut up a whole chicken from her days in France. I don't know if I could ever bring myself to do the killing of the chicken, but we'll see.

Anyway, the meal might turn out to be disastrous (if you read the blog on our previous trip to Kenya you know all about that:), but I don't really care because I will just be so happy to have the three of them here with me. Hurry up, saturday!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Pics from Ringroad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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500,000 friends

I was walking around Kisumu by myself yesterday, so I had a lot of time to think. I won't bore you with everything that's been going through my mind with no TV, internet, or ability to go out after dark (which is 6:30pm), but here is one thing that was pretty cool. By many people's definition in America, a friend could be someone you don't say much more to than "how are you?" and "fine." The funny thing is that here, every single person I pass asks me that, I mean EVERYONE. So in a city of 500,000 people, I have 500,000 friends. This is a very good thing because sometimes walking around alone I start to feel very vulnerable, especially when a group of guys come up and start asking me a lot of questions and walking along beside me. I have found that in this situation, the best defense is to make friends with as many people as possible by smiling and talking to people so that I don't feel like I'm alone and I don't feel as scared. Yesterday, as I was walking, a woman came up behind me and just struck up a conversation with me. She was very nice and it made such a difference in how I felt when I was walking with someone else. We just chatted along the way, and right as I was about to arrive at where I was going, she turned off to go see a shoe man about fixing her shoes. I think God sent her to me at that exact time so I didn't have to walk the whole way by myself.

Anyway, yesterday I got to go see the kids at ringroad again. They weren't really doing anything in class because most of the teachers were gone and the term was finishing, so I just hung out with them and laughed with them and took some pictures. I don't know how to explain it, but there is something truly special about these children.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Kwa sababu ni mzuri

I have officially made it through two weeks without Chris... one more to go!

Things have been going pretty well and I am starting to get the hang of things at work. The samples are going to be coming in a lot quicker next week so I will be very busy. The Kenyan workers here are very eager to learn so I am always explaining to them what I am doing and letting some of them help me so that when the work load increases I can count on them to help me process all the blood samples. I can't really think of any people in the world that would be more pleasant to work with. They are also eager to help me learn Swahili and are constantly saying how good I am doing and how quickly I will learn. I think I could really get used to all this affirmation;) Tonight I am going to a worship night with some of the other missionaries in town and I am really looking forward to being with a lot of Christians and just worshipping the Lord.

I have been doing a lot of worshipping by myself to help me get through this past week. I love the song, "Oh Lord, God of Isreal there is no God like you in heaven or earth below..." For some reason just singing that song gives me an incredible amount of peace. Chris also made me a playlist on my ipod of Christian songs and I have been listening to that a lot. Here are some of my favs:

Beauty for Ashes- Shane and Shane
Healer-Kari Jobe
Psalm 13- Nate Hale

It's amazing how comforting music can be.

Tomorrow I plan to go back to ringroad and see some of the kids again. I am supposed to be teaching some classes, too, so we will see how that goes;)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Being pruned

Sometimes you just have those days where you feel like God is really pruning you. That is what I feel like right now. It's kind of like when you have a bad dream and you know it's just a dream, so you know you will eventually wake up, but that still isn't much comfort. I've been going through some extremely difficult things, and I find myself thinking, "this is what God was talking about when He said we would have trouble and we would suffer, so I know I will make it through this." But you still just feel incredibly sad. It's not the worst thing in the world, because as Christians we have hope. This is something I learned when I was in middle/highschool and I would get sad all the time. Eventually, by the grace of God, I learned that although there would be sad times, there was always a light at the end of the tunnel. It was ok to be sad, but i never had to reach the point of, as Anne of Green Gables would put it, being in the depths of despair. There aren't depths of despair for a Christian, there are valleys of sadness, but God's hand is always there to catch you at the bottom so you don't keep falling. I'm really so thankful for that.

9 more days until Chris, my mom, and Cody come...

Monday, July 18, 2011

Weekend Njema

Well, last weekend was a really good one and very welcome after the long week of work. I got to go to see the kids at Ringroad on saturday and also visit with the teachers/staff. The people and children at that place are just amazing and I always love to be with them. They welcomed me back with open arms and I went around to each classroom where they sang for me and then I got to tell them how much I missed them and loved them. I just can't wait to get to know these kids better, because I think that they so desperately need to know what it feels like to be loved. I think they were very happy that I was back and surprised that I remembered some of their names. On Sunday I went to church at ringroad by myself (the day before one of my friends came with me to see the kids). It was really weird walking back through the slums by myself with everyone staring/yelling/pointing at me and trying to get my attention. I knew that they wouldn't hurt me, but it was still a little intimidating. I always try to smile back at them and say hello even though that is not always the first response that comes to mind to the things that they say, but I always want to represent Jesus and the hope that he offers. It's not that they say anything particularly mean, it's just that it makes you feel so incredibly "apart" which isn't really a good feeling. At church they asked me to get up and say something and I told them I looked forward to the day when they wouldn't count me as a visitor anymore. I hate the thought that I will always be a foreigner, but I'm excited to see how the power of God can transform that into something wonderful. I was looking at a verse in John that says that Jesus would not leave his Disciples as orphans, and I wondered how the sweet children at Ringroad would interpret that. The way I see it, if God's power can transform their situation as orphans then He can definitely transform mine as a foreigner. Getting to know the Kenyans has really deepened my relationship with the Lord and my understanding of His word. Some of the conversation that takes place between Jesus and His disciples has always seemed a little odd to me, but when I hear a Kenyan voice saying the things the disciples said it kind of helps me understand. They don't necessarily ask a question when they want an answer, and communication is seen as a process that occurs over time, not in a single conversation. Communication is done in stages, a little at a time, and not necessarily with words.

Things have been a little tough at work lately, but nothing ever comparing to the troubles people have around me. A verse that has been helping me so much lately is the one that says in this world you will have troubles, but take heart, Christ has overcome the world!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

One week

Well, it has been almost one week since I left Atlanta. Time seems to be going slow and fast all at once. It's been really hard being away from Chris, but I'm trying to keep myself busy and enjoy the people I am with. Work is going pretty well, and tonight we are supposed to be going to a local kareoke place, so that should be pretty interesting. This weekend one of my bosses comes into town and wants to have some meetings, but I'm hoping I can squeeze in some time to go see the kids at ringroad-I still haven't gotten to see any of them yet.

I've been sleeping better and better at night, and I'm so thankful for the Holy Spirit with me all the time so I am never alone. I am definitely clinging to the Lord right now because it is so easy to feel lonely in a foreign country, even if you are surrounded by some really great people. I have been able to talk to Chris everyday and that has helped, but at the same time it makes me really miss him. The cool thing is that all the ex-pats here are really nice because they know we are all going through the same thing. And of course the Kenyans are super nice, too.

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Psalm 139:23

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Thoughts from a jet-lagged mind

Today is my second day in the lab and so far things have started off much better than last time. For starters, I already know a lot of the people here and they all act like they are so happy for me to be back so of course that makes me feel good. It's so funny because last time my favorite person was the security guard at the front desk, and he has now moved elsewhere on campus but the new security guard in our building is already my favorite again. I wish I could explain how much he smiles and how big his smile is, you just can't help but love this guy. Again, no one else seems to really talk to him much, so I always try to ask how he's doing or just chat a bit when I walk by. I guess maybe the Kenyans see the security guards as being in a different social class or something.

I'll be getting my first blood sample today so I can start my experiments. I'm starting to get excited about my role in the lab in December. We are doing a lot of planning for the future and the people that I will be working with are really great. Hopefully I can use this time to start training some of the Kenyans to do the experiments I am doing so when I come back in December we can really get going.

I brought a lot of things to keep me busy in the evenings because without Chris I don't feel very comfortable going out at night. We were able to ship over a guitar and I bought a cheap book on how to play so I am trying to teach myself. So far I have learned three cords and it is harder than I thought, but I am loving it. I really just want to learn the cords so that I can play along with worship songs if we ever have groups over and we can all worship together. I used to play the piano and I think I just forgot how much I enjoy playing an instrument, so we'll see how this goes. I also brought a lot of books, movies, and my Swahili lessons so hopefully I can back to learning that.

Last night I was having a really hard time falling to sleep, and so I just started thinking about all the things I have to be thankful for and I was really overwhelmed at how good God is. I realized that I got sad last night because I let myself think about what I didn't like about my current situation instead of all the things that God is doing through me. I prayed and told God that today would be different, that I would really think about the joy he has given me, because that is the only way that people will see Jesus through me. And I am so thankful that I have time to do things like try to play guitar, read some books, and learn Swahili, because I never have a spare moment when i am at home. So this post is me trying to practice what I prayed last night. Am I missing Chris? yes. Am I missing my dog and sad every time I think that she won't be at home when I come back? yes. Do I get a little lonely? yes. But these are all temporary things, and compared to the blessings God has given me they are nothing. The travel went great. The people I am with (both Kenyan and American) are very nice. I have two really great bosses, and the weather here is absolutely perfect. So far, I have even enjoyed the food pretty well! (However I am still VERY thankful for the cliff bars, slim jims, fruit rollups, cheese crackers, peanut butter crackers, and cow tails that I brought-when would I ever eat all this stuff at home and not feel guilty about it?)

The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them. Psalm 145:18,19

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:8,9

Thanks for the verses, mom;)

Saturday, July 9, 2011

5 minute post

I have made it safely to Nairobi and got about 5.5 hours of sleep last night, so that's pretty good. The flights went well, and on the first one I ran into an AWESOME friend at the airport who totally hooked me up and I got to fly economy comfort which means I had lots of leg room and just extra room in general. Thank you so much Jay! I can't tell you how much that encouraged me!

The next flight-different situation-Cramp-ola! but when I stepped off the plane celebrity style (meaning we had to climb down the stairs onto the tarmack) it was totally worth it. I'm so glad to be back in Kenya. Today we are catching an 8:30 flight to Kisumu where we will have the day to run errands such as getting a phone, money, water, etc, before starting to work on Monday. The two girls I am with, Jen and Laura, are very sweet and I'm thankful to be traveling with them. Our taxi driver to and from the airport is so so nice and reminded me how much I love Kenyan people, but it was hilarious I'm sure to see the three of us girls with all our luggage (two huge suitcases and a carry-on per girl) crammed into this little hatch-back car. We had to give the front seat to one of our duffles of lab supplies.

As a side note, Chris and I packed a grey rubber bin fulll of some stuff for our house. We secured it with zip-ties and duck tape. The driver asked me if it was a bomb...ha:)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Let the blogging begin

So I kind of decided not to worry about blogging while we are in the States, because I want to spend as much time as possible with the people here before we make the big move to Kenya in December. But, I'm heading back to Kenya in 1.5 weeks and will be staying there for 6 weeks, so expect some posts while I am there!

This trip will be much different than the last for several reasons:

1. I am going sans Chris (he loves to make fun of me for using the word 'sans' but I love to use it-that is the only plus to going without him:)

2. No dilly dallying around this time. My project has got to get rolling pronto. I will arrive on Sunday and start in the lab the next day. I have six weeks to collect some kind of meaningful scientific data, and if you know anything about the world of science, you know this won't be easy.

3. Chris will be coming out three weeks after I arrive...YAY! And he will be bringing with him my mom...YAY! and Cody Kemp...YAY! Cody and Chris will be staying two weeks and my mom will stay until I leave (thank you so much mom:)

4. This time around we will have already secured a house for when we come in December, so we will be commissioning different furniture makers around town to make us a few things we will need for our house, so by the time we arrive in Kenya in December we can just go and pick it up (in Kenya, well-made plans such as these are like a guarantee that it won't actually happen, but we are hopefully optimistic)

5. This time I know a little more of what to expect, I know how to get around town, how much things cost, what the culture is like, etc, so there is a smaller 'black box' for this trip than the previous one.

I'm starting to get really excited about going. By far my biggest concern is being away from Chris for three weeks, followed by overall nervousness about completing my job in a satisfactory manner. I'm trying to practice trusting the Lord in both of these things. I'm reminding myself of ALL the ways He has come through for me in the past, never leaving me hanging. It will be an adventure, that's for sure, but there is some definite fear involved.

One thing God has really been teaching me through this is that it is good to do something that scares you every once in a while. So that would be my encouragement to you-the next time a good opportunity presents itself in your life that scares you, go for it. The Lord will surely be with you, and it feels so good once you're done (at least I hope so-I'm counting on that:)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Home again home again jiggedy jig

So I guess everyone has figured out that we are back in the good ole US of A.

As an aside and to explain my post title, you may or may not know that the Jones family has an unquenchable silly side that is present in various levels in each Jones family member. We tend to get a little "sloppy" in our language, shortening words that don't need shortening, and sometimes adding onto words or phrases (fellow Joneses, feel free to chime in and back me up here). Chris particularly likes pointing out my abbreviations (presh for precious, delish for delishous, awes for awesome, redic for rediculous-that one really doesn't sound right) and some of my other friends (Kim Tomlinson) have picked up other strange sayings like bursay wersay kinana pumpum (when it's cold outside, of course). We have other words like din-din (dinner) dee-dee(dessert) ee-oh (hot). I can't explain why I have the urge to take a name like Levi and shorten it to Leaves, or why it seems more appropriate to say home again home again jiggedy jig than just to say, we're home, but it does, and that's all there is to it.

AAAAAAnyway, we are really glad to be back. When we got to Atlanta we were greeted by my sister, Anna, and her two oldest boys, Jon David and Luke, my brother, David, and his wife Eryn, Chris's sister, Amanda, and both my parents. It was such a warm welcome and made us feel so loved and honored. To be honest, I don't feel like I have gone through much culture shock since we have been back. This may be because I had already spent some time in Togo, West Africa, a few years back, so I already knew what to expect, but I'm going to give all the glory to God and thank him for protecting both Chris and I from this heart-ache that many people experience.

Don't get me wrong, I have definitely had my moments of thinking, wow, the American culture is SUCH an EXCESSIVE culture-I mean people here think they are living as simply as they can and don't realize how much excess they really have. Then I look at myself and see the same thing in my life, and I think God is teaching me just to accept his children no matter where they are. Whether those children are bogged down by what they don't have or what they do (and both are equally as cumbersome!). And the only way to learn this lesson is through love, because once you truly love a person, your whole perspective about them changes. Chris and I love so deeply our friends here and also our friends in Africa, and while I still can't fit all the pain and hurt and the whole spectrum of circumstances into my brain in order to make any sense of it whatsoever, God commands me to love all of his children, and I have found that when I do that, everything else seems to fall into place.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Do you know a man called Jesus?

God has filled our cup to overflowing over the last few days, and I really want to share some of the things He has done for us.

Last week, I had a really cool conversation with one of the security guards at work. We have slowly been getting to know each other over the last few weeks, and I ran into him in the break room while he was eating lunch. We chatted just a little bit, and as he was walking out of the room, he paused and looked at me. He said, with a huge grin on his face, "Do you know a man called Jesus?" What a perfect, simple question! I think he really cares about me and wanted to make sure that I knew the same joy he knows. I felt so honored and touched. I said that I did and that I loved Jesus very much and I asked if he knew him. He still had a big smile on his face when he told me that Jesus was his personal savior. It's like we exchanged something that transcends all cultural and socioeconomical barriers, the love of Jesus Christ! Today, he asked me if I was happy when I walked into the building. I feel like he just wants to make sure I am ok, and I'm so thankful for his smiling face every day.

Last friday, I took off early to spend some time with the kids...they have game day on friday afternoons, and I hadn't been able to be there for one yet. I have never had a more captive audience in my life! They gathered around me, from first grade to seventh grade, and they just waited for me to do something. I practiced all the Swahili that I knew, which they got a HUGE kick out of, I sang them a song, and I tried asking them a lot of questions. Some of the younger ones are so shy that if I even look at them they start to laugh hysterically. One girl, named Susan, I absolutely LOVE...she makes me laugh so hard. When I address her, she gets so tickled she can't pull herself together enough to make a response. As soon as she recovers, she looks at me again and her tickle box gets turned over all over again. After a while they wanted me to tell them a story, so I told them the story of the lion, the witch, and the wardrobe. They listened to the whole thing, and when I finished, one of the older ones immediately said, "Oh the lion is kind of like Jesus Christ, dying for that boy." The girl who said this is named Grace, and we've gotten to know each other pretty well. Her English is excellent, and she asked me to teach her a song, so I taught her a song about casting her cares on Jesus. I got to know another girl, named Sharon, who is like the class clown. The next day I went into the first grade class to read them some books, and they started singing some songs for me. Videlis (the one who had malaria last week) sang a beautiful song in Luo, and my heart melted! Then some of the girls showed me how they can dance, and they've got some serious rhythm. Next, I was informed that I would teach the fifth grade for the next period, and of course, the topic was HIV/AIDS!!! I did the best I could. And my friend, Molly, helped me out by teaching some on Schistosomiasis. Chris was there, too, and we tried our best to explain that people who are HIV positive shouldn't be rejected or treated any differently. We know that 30% of these children are positive and they are terrified to take any medications because they don't want anyone to know they are sick.

Everyday here brings new challenges, uncomfortable situations, and also really sweet memories. Those kids are really growing to love Chris and feel more comfortable giving hugs...Chris said that children who don't know what love feels like have to learn how to be loved. I hope and pray we can teach them that.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Time of Wonder, by Robert McCloskey

I answered my own question! I found out on-line that the quote in my previous post is from a poem called Time of Wonder by Robert McCloskey.

It has been on my mind a lot lately because I have such mixed emotions, both about going home in one week, and about coming back here for four years. As far as flying home next week, I am a "little bit sad about the place I am leaving." I will miss all the natural beauty that surrounds us here. I will miss the people we have gotten to know, the people from my lab, the people from Ringroad, the Davises (who have already become like family to us), and the new friends we have made in the missionary community here, Matt, Peggy, Brad and Ellie, and all their sweet kids. I think I will miss the feeling of adventure that comes with everyday living here. I will miss having someone to do my laundry and clean the dishes (come on, who wouldn't love that!) I will miss the laid back pace of life. It really is hard to worry here...which is a really good thing for me. I will miss the tea and yoghurt, both of which are really tasty here. I will miss THE WEATHER!!! I think when we move back to the states the only place I will be able to stand is Florida (there you go Dan and Mel...thought you would appreciate that one:) I just love wearing sandals everyday and no sweaters or coats.

I'm also "a little bit glad about the place I am going." I will be happy to be back in Atlanta with all our amazing friends! I will be happy to see my family, and to spend the time we have in the states this next year traveling to see Dan and Mel in Ocala, to see Anna and Don in their new home in Perry, to spend some more time with my girlfriends from Harding. I am also really excited to see our dog Emory. She is so sweet and I really miss her a lot.

I think it will be somewhat of challenge this next year to be "fully present" in Atlanta in the midst of all our preparations for moving to Kenya, but that is something I will pray for and strive for. I always want to be fully present wherever I am, because God may have put me there for a reason.

It's hard to think about how much we will miss out on when we move to Kenya. Our nieces and nephews will continue to grow up in our absence! We will miss birthdays, school plays, ball games, performances... I hate thinking about it, but it's true. I love reading my family's blogs, but it's hard not to get a little sad about what we are missing, and knowing that we will be too far away to be active participants in the lives of our families for huge chunks of time. This brings me back to being "fully present" once we are in Kenya, which we are also really praying for.

Dear Lord, please fill our lives here with family and friends that will be dear to our hearts like the ones we will miss in the US. Help us not to dwell on what we aren't present for, and focus on all the amazing things we are present for, while we are in the US and then here in Kenya! Help us also to strengthen the bonds that we have with people in the US as we are far away. I'm not sure how this can happen, but I know you can do it. I ask for this because I know that feeling close to the people we are away from will help me feel at peace in the distance.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Quotes

Does anyone know where this quote comes from???

"A little bit sad about the place you are leaving, a little bit glad about the place you are going..."

Not sure if I quoted it quite right, but it's been in my mind a lot lately... anyone know where this is from???

Hitting the wall

I knew it was bound to happen at some point, and it happened today...or maybe it was last night. Anyway, the way I see it, any time you spend a significant amount of time in a different place with a culture you're not used to, language you don't know, customs you don't understand, etc., you first find everything very exciting and interesting and adventurous (especially if you're Chris Nicholson, but also, to a certain extent, if you are Sarah Nicholson). Then, you reach a point where you become used to it and start to find it familiar and comfortable and even like the "different" way of things. But, I believe, between those two points, it is very common to hit a wall. And I think this happens various numbers of times for various people before reaching the "comfortable" point. All this to say, I have hit the first wall.

Yesterday, we were out all day (which was supposed to be a couple of hours) involving hours of driving over extremely bumpy roads, loud staticky radio blaring in Swahili, listening to community health workers receive their training, and most of all, NO LUNCH!!! Now some of you may not know this about me, but when I do not eat, I get very cranky (don't worry, Chris has already pointed out to me how I eat 10 times as much as most of the kids he is with all day, and I felt guilty about that like I thought I was supposed to), and I really enjoy eating things that taste good (Kenyan food tends to have very little taste, which, admittedly, is better than bad taste). Anyway, we finally got home and I was so hungry I thought I would pass out. But cooking over here is no trivial thing, so I started to cook the meat that we had been marinating all day. Chris helped so it didn't take quite so long, and when we finally sat down to eat I was really excited for this wonderful meal. Unfortunately, this meal went about like all the others I have tried to cook since we have been here...not so good. Cooking here is, as our new friend, Peggy put it, experimental. Everything tastes and cooks just a little different, and for some reason, I got really discouraged about not being able to cook a good meal for my husband. We ended up pulling out some leftover brownies and having more dessert than we really should have because we hadn't been satisfied with dinner. Chris said, either we will get really skinny while we are here, or we will become diabetics.

Now this experience seems like a small thing, but it has put me into a funk. Today I went out to the field to help collect some data from some children. And, being the only white person on the team, all eyes were on me. There is something demeaning about people getting your attention by calling you "white person." (I know I know, it seems ironic for me to be feeling this way considering that our fellow Americans that happen to have dark skin have felt this multiplied times 1000). They want to say "how are you" but say it very nasally on purpose because they think thats how we sound. I just started getting so annoyed because I was tired and hungry and over it. The other thing they know how to say is "give me sweet." Very endearing, I know. Anyway, I got to thinking, maybe I was struggling because this was a new place where I didn't know any of the children and they didn't know me. There was no relationship there. I just began to look at all their faces and thinking, God, how can I really love all these children? I've past the point where they look the same to me. They all look very different. But how can I have enough love to look at each and everyone and, even though they do and say things that annoy me, still love them because I know they are precious children of God, and they are hurting and starving? I found myself thinking that love can be very cumbersome. It involves getting to know someone, caring about that person, and hurting when they get hurt, and I just don't know if I can handle that for all the children in Africa, or in Kenya, or in Kisumu. Then I was very thankful for God's infinite love, and thankful that I am not God. I realize that he knows my limits. I'm still trying to understand what He wants from me here, but I think I will start by loving people that best that I can. I love the people that I work with, because I have gotten to know them, and I think they see that I am genuinely interested in their lives. As I get to know the children at ringroad, I am loving them, too. The relationship changes when they see that you are not a "catch-and-release" friend, but that you come back, day after day, week after week. This is when you see the ugly side of things, but also when you experience relationship and love that can bring mutual transformation into God's image, as you understand, a little better, who God is (a relationship between Father, son, and Holly Spirit) and how He desires to commune with you.

Anyway, Chris and I are going to the supermarket to try and find me some snack food for during the day to keep grumpy Sarah at bay, and I'm going to give myself a break from the cooking experimentation for a few days. I find myself thankful that my job does not involve going to the field everyday, where I would likely have the above experience over and over again. Instead, I can come to lab where I can build relationship with people here because I see them day after day. I guess the Lord knows what He's doing after all;)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Temporary home

Today I went to the field with one of the field teams to collect some samples for one of our studies on schistosomiasis. My job was to give the children some jewis (juice) and biskwit (cookies) after they had their blood drawn. The man taking the blood, Boaz, is very good at it, but it is still hard to see the children get so sad. Children everywhere hate needles! (and grown-ups, too, for that matter). I have really enjoyed going to this school and interacting with the children, but it has also been a challenge for me. This school happens to take in disabled children, which many schools do not, so there are a lot of children there with unique challenges...as if living in a third world country, sleeping on the dirt, drinking water that makes you sick, and not getting enough food to sustain you aren't challenges enough. I've really struggled to process how one child can be asked to bare such heavy burdens their whole lives. Sometimes I just try very hard to look deep into their eyes and smile to show them I love them, and they smile back in the sweetest way! Lord, shower your grace on these special children, help them through this life so that they can enter the next where they will be beautiful, perfect, graceful, and strong!

Also, one of the sweet little boys from the ringroad orphan day school (where Chris works) has absolutely stolen my heart. Chris told me yesterday that he has malaria which is worse for him because he is HIV+. Sweet Chris went to see him and sat with him for a while since he was laying there alone. I am trying to remember everyday that this world is not their home. A Carrie Underwood song comes to mind: "this is my temporary home, it's not where I belong, windows and rooms, that I'm passing through, this is just a stop, on the way to where I'm going, I'm not afraid because I know, this is my temporary home." There is a home waiting for these little ones where there will be no more tears or sickness, no more hunger, no more sadness. Just think how overjoyed God will be to see His jewels finally shining the way He meant for them to! I try to keep thinking about this.

Oops, I was going to try not to make this blog about poverty, so I guess I slipped up with this one. I guess what is important is to know what can I do to help? I ask for prayers to help me answer this question. Even as I write this request, I know part of the answer. God wants us to see something good to do and do it. I want to live like that, just finding something good to do in each minute and doing that thing.

Blessings: Last night, we had dinner with a wonderful missionary couple that live here in Kisumu. We are sooo excited to get to know them better and to have some like-minded friends here with us. What a blessing! Tonight, we will look at another potential house for us to rent when we move in December. We have several good options for housing, but nothing that we are sold on, so the search continues. Another blessing- we found out through our new friends that their is a place in Kisumu that sells ice-cream which tastes JUST like homemade ice cream! I tried it and it's true! YAY! By far one of the biggest blessings of life out here is seeing the beauty of God's creation every single day (and night-the stars are unbelievable).

Overall, life is good:)

I will try to post some more pictures and videos when I have a better connection. As of right now my camera is dead and I can't find the charger! Hopefully I can find it so I can continue to document our trip.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Kisumu, part I





Rural Kenya


video

Chepkong' ony



This is the house Chris lived in for one year.

I was so excited for them to show me their science lab. I snapped a few pictures of their chemicals and supplies...




video

Kenyan food, scenery, and travel

Our sweet driver Joseph, and his precious little boys...one of the many blessings on our trip!




"The Nest"- an orphanage in Nairobi for abandoned babies





Thursday, January 27, 2011

Hii ni nini?

I know everyone would rather see pictures than read text, but I'm very sorry, there is just no way for me to upload pictures right now. I'm using the internet at work and trying to be discreet about the fact that I am blogging during work hours.

So we had our first Kiswahili lesson last night. It is such a funny language. The phrase Hii ni nini means "what is this" and so far is my favorite thing to say. There is a lot of repetition in this language:

me-mimi
you-wewe
father-baba
slowly-pole pole
what-nini
brother-kaka (this is an unfortunate translation in French, although the spelling is different...)
sister-dada
he/she(they don't have gender)-yeye
we-sisi

We asked our Swahili teacher how to say you are not fine if someone asks you and you don't want to say "fine." She didn't know. They just don't say anything negative. It is really amazing.

Everyday, Chris and I are amazed at the way people live here, and I have wanted to write about it several times, but I have decided that I won't be doing that. For one thing, you really can't understand it until you see it for yourself, which is what I want everyone to do so they will come visit us:) For another thing, I never want to treat the plight of any people as a way of me having something really cool to talk about. I never want to enter a competition of who has seen the most impoverished people, you know? I want this blog to reflect the great respect and love I am developing for the people of Kenya. So when I talk to you in person I will share these things, but not here.

Tonight, we will be attending a worship time with some local missionaries. I'm so excited to have time to start making friends here and to worship the Lord with fellow Christians that speak English. Sometimes you need that!

We have started to miss home a little bit, but we are so happy to be here. We were talking this morning about how we are annoyed at some of the aspects of life over here, such as the shower having a switch on the head so you can choose either cold water or scalding hot (during my shower I just switch back and forth when it becomes either too cold or too hot to bare). Chris says that it's ok to be frustrated at times, but we need to be careful never to let our frustrations trump our thankfulness for everything we have. I have such a wise husband!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

First Day of Work

Today was my first day of work in the lab. I caught the shuttle right down the street from where I stay and they took me all the way out to the lab. This is one of the benefits of being associated with the CDC...I get free transportation to and from work, which is a huge blessing! So far, everyone we have talked to has given me the impression that housing is extremely difficult to find here and very expensive. I'm trying not to get discouraged about this, but sometimes in these circumstances you start to feel things weighing you down more than you would ordinarily. I think everyone thinks that living in Kenya should be really cheap, but it really is not. Cars are expensive, houses are expensive, food that reminds you of home is very expensive, appliances are expensive (you get the point). I'm praying for God to teach me to trust in Him. Even as I write this I know that I will look back and wonder what I was so worried about. After all, hasn't God always taken care of me?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

End of Phase I

So we are approaching the end of our 10 days with our team here in Kenya. Greg and Suzy Williams are getting on a plane to head back home this evening, and the Kahn's will be with us for a couple of more days. Tomorrow is my first day of work in the research facility in Kisumu, so I am a little anxious about it. It's like the first day of work all over again! I feel somewhat torn because after seeing those precious children at the orphan school, I want to spend as much time with them as I can, but I know that I will be going to work everyday. I'm praying that God gives me peace about my job, that I feel comfortable there and, mainly, that I feel like it is where I need to be. It's hard to look back at how I came here and think that God doesn't have a plan for me in this lab, so I trust that he will show me what that plan is. At the same time, there is so much need in the slums and I don't want Chris to have to face all that by himself everyday. But God can work that out, too!

Yesterday we went on a safari and saw a leopard, 6 lions, a bunch of rhinos, zebras, giraffes, impalas, water buffalo, baboons, monkeys, flamingos, vultures, and lots more! It was amazing to see these beautiful animals in the wild. I've never seen such beautiful landscape in my LIFE!!! I can't believe that we are going to be living in this place. We can go see these animals any weekend we want!

I remember the second night sleeping at the Conway's house. I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn't stop thinking about what I had gotten myself into. Why in the world had I agreed to move to this crazy place? Don't get me wrong, I still have those feelings a lot, but now they are mixed with feelings of excitement, because now I know some of the things I have to look forward to. The beautiful weather, the amazing scenery, the wildlife, the adventure, and more than that, the fellowship with these loving, generous, wise people. I think about getting to play with those sweet children, and spending time with people in the village where life is so simple. Chris and I also talked about how rewarding it will be to be able to see transformation in the people that come visit this place. We've already gotten to witness God using Africa to change the hearts of the Williams and the Kahns, and that is only the beginning. I think about the college students coming over for eight weeks, like I did 5 years ago, and knowing that their lives will never be the same. This is such a wild, strange, unpredictable place that often brings a lot of heartache, but along with the terrible pain comes some moments of unspeakable joy. The Conway's guard/yard man shared some of his wisdom with us this morning. He prayed for rain and last night it rained! He said because of this some of the people who heard this will believe. He said he is thankful for every good thing because it comes from the Lord, even just a little rain.

Here is another lesson in Kenyan culture: Instead of saying they are joking or kidding (which I have never heard any of them do, so they are usually speaking about one of us, and usually Chris) they say we are cheating them. Also, they don't have boyfriends and girlfriends, and if you use this term, they think it means a sexual partner... we learned this the hard way after asking the girls at Chepkong'ony if they had boyfriends...oops!

Friday, January 21, 2011

What you need to know; part I

Here are some interesting things we have learned that help us communicate here:

When you say thank you, a Kenyan will say, "Welcome" and when you arrive somewhere, a Kenyan will say "you're welcome." So just the opposite of how we say it.

If you say hello, they tend to answer back "fine." And if you say how are you, they tend to say "thank you."

If they say something is sweet, they mean it tastes good, not necessarily that it has a sugary flavor. Kenyans tend to like very bland food, and would never like the cakes, candy, and ice cream that we like.

Kids, on the other hand, love to get candy from Wazungu (white people). But they immediately throw the wrappers on the ground. So I have gotten into the habit of unwrapping everything before giving it out. They are NOT worried about the germs on your hands (or anything else for that matter).

If they say something is OK, it means it is very good. I still struggle with this, because if I ask if I can do something, they say it's OK, and I think they don't really want me to do whatever it is. Joseph explained to me that when we say OK, we mean 50/50, but when they say ok they mean "Eet eese vedy goood." (that was my attempt at typing out their accent, which takes a while to get used to).

"Just there" can mean to the right, to the left, around the corner, straight ahead, far away, or close by, and this is generally their way of giving directions when you ask where something is.

"Very close" can mean any distance away from where you currently stand, and this is generally their way of explaining how far away something is.

Interesting experience of the day: I took my first ride on a piki-piki. This is basically a motorized bike that people drive around like taxis. There are no helmets available for passenger or driver, and I was wearing a skirt, which made for a really interesting experience. I wish I could have remembered the driver's name, because he was really nice and made me feel as safe as you could feel one of those. He was my age, and his parents had died when he was 13, so he couldn't afford the fees to finish his schooling. His brother and sister live with him, and his brother was able to go to school at ring road orphan school (where Chris will be working) and was therefore able to go on to University! I thought this was really cool!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Caribu!

Caribu is the Swahili word for welcome, and I have heard it so much since I've been here. I have never met a more welcoming, generous, hospitable people in my whole life!

I'm sorry for not uploading pictures, but with the internet here I'm lucky to get some words up...don't worry, I'm taking lots of pictures and videos... although I forgot to ask someone to video all the Kenyan girl students doing the electric slide with me as I held up my ipod to play the music. When I asked them what they do for fun they said...we like to take a picnic. Ahh, the simpler things in life.

How can I even describe the things I am witnessing? I can't encourage you enough that if you EVER have the opportunity to come to Kenya...TAKE IT!

Yesterday we spent the day in Chepkong'ony. This is a rural school where both Chris and my brother Daniel spent significants amount of time teaching and ministering. I can only say that it was very surreal being there with those people and meeting teachers that remembered my brother and my husband. WOW. They took us around the school showing us their science lab and the water spout that was made possible by a fundraiser I participated in while at Harding (Texas vs the world). They were so proud of this water spout, and they showed us how they almost had electricity. The wires on the poles came right up to the school and then stopped. They made us chai tea and it was AWESOME. We listened to the children sing and Suzy, Cindy, and I took the girls aside and talked to them. They asked us a million questions about America and wanted to touch my hair and my skin. They fixed us a HUGE feast which I'm sure they could not afford, and we talked with the teachers about the school, life in Kenya, the bleak job prospects for their students, the culture...reading this I realize that it is a very boring story, but I just wish you could have been there. They had not had any American visitors since Chris left five years ago. The small children in the surrounding villages had never seen white people. They were so eager to talk to us and learn everything they could for us. I've never felt so honored and valued by total strangers.

Let me say again that two of our biggest blessings here have been our driver, Joseph, and our friend, Boaz. They have gone everywhere with us and helped us translate and answer cultural questions.

Today we drove to Kisumu. My stomach had butterflies as we approached the city that would be our new home. Every city we have been to so far has been soooo different. And I think Kisumu is my favorite. It is not too rural to be uncomfortable, but not too urban to be unsafe. We drove around today, trying to take it all in. We stopped in the slums and walked into the heart of them to see the orphan day school where Chris will be working every day. This was a bit overwhelming. I'll never forget walking down those dirt streets the first time. So many children came out around us yelling Wazungu! (white people) or how ahh youuu? or hallo (this was done as if holding their nose because they apparently think we sound very nazzly). They all wanted to shake our hand or touch us.

This is definitely a special place, and I'm still processing everything. Tomorrow we will go to look for housing and cars and such. Friday we will spend more time back in the slums with the children...at least we didn't see any kids high on glue like we did so much in Nairobi, although I'm sure they are there. As we drove past some children on our way they were waving, and Joseph told us they were very hungry. I don't know how he knew, but I know he was right. They are all very hungry. His comment took the wind out of our sails for a little while. What do you do with this?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Jambo

Jambo from Kenya!!! We made it here safe and sound and God has blessed us so much so far. We made all our connections, got all our luggage, stayed with some of the most hospitable people I have ever known (thank you to the sweet Conway family for opening your home to us) and have an incredibly nice driver taking us around Kenya. His name is Joseph, he has a wife named Mary, and he was born on Christmas day! Pretty cool.

I'm writing from a cyber cafe in Eldoret where we will stay the night tonight and tomorrow. We spent yesterday in Nairobi holding sweet babies and going to church with some of the street kids. The trip is going very well and we are learning a lot. The Conways were a hugely valuable source of information on life in Kenya, both in Nairobi and Eldoret, which is a much smaller town. I am anxious to see Kisumu and picture what life might be like there. We are all feeling very well, and we are working on getting over jetlag.

I will keep you posted as often as I can. Thanks for the prayers!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Nicholsons...chapter 2


Ok, so I have not blogged in quite a while, partly because we have been really busy, and partly because I didn't feel too inspired to blog, but the time has come again. To sum up what has happened since my last post, I have accepted a job with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention studying a parasitic disease and Chris has started to form a nonprofit organization bringing college students to third world countries to do mission internships using their majors. We feel so strongly that God has lead us to the place we are right now, and looking back, we are overwhelmed at the pieces God has put into place which bring us to this day, the day we go to Kisumu, Kenya! On our first trip, we will be spending a total of six weeks there. The first ten days will consist of Chris, myself, Greg and Suzy Williams, and Cindy, Roger, and Eli Kahn taking a sort of survey around Kenya. We land in Nairobi, spend a day there with the Conway family, and head to Eldoret. We will spend a day in Chepkong'ony, the school where both Chris and my brother Daniel each spent a year working with the kids and teaching some classes. I am really looking forward to finally seeing this place and more importantly the people I have heard so much about. Then it is on to Kisumu, where we will spend three days looking at hospitals, housing, cars, groceries, etc., to understand what it looks like to live in this place. We will also get to spend time with our friends the Davis's while we are in Kisumu. Finally, we head to Nakuru for a quick safari and back to Nairobi to see off our friends while Chris and I head back to Kisumu for another 5 weeks. I will be working in the lab full-time and Chris will be working with an orphan day school and a medical clinic located in the slums of Kisumu.

The intention of this trip is to make preparations for us to move to Kisumu in December 2011. Our hearts are full of the love that has been poured out by our friends and family, and our souls are eagerly looking to the Holy Spirit to guide our steps along the way. Leaving the people we love (and our sweet dog:) is by far the hardest part of this step of faith. We hope to keep in touch as much as possible with all of you over the next six weeks. I will be posting updates to our blog so you can be on this journey with us!