Sunday, August 21, 2016

Kenya Mormon Helping Hands Day

Yesterday was a Kenya country-wide "Mormon Helping Hands" Day.  "Mormon Helping Hands is a program that the Church started in 1998 in Brazil.  It was originally started to help countries during times of natural disasters but the program also encourages members to band together and give community service.  Yesterday, the wards and branches in the Nairobi West Stake gave service by planting trees in various places.  I didn't think a person needed to plant trees here in Kenya but I found out differently.  Not all places have as many beautiful trees as Nairobi does.

Our Langata Branch joined with Rongai Ward to plant trees at a community hospital in Rongai.  It was a very dry place and very lacking in trees.  Hopefully the little seedlings will grow.  The ground was very hard and rocky and people from the Ward are planning to go and water the more than 200 seedlings by hand with buckets.

Here we are in our "Mormon Helping Hands" vests, waiting to travel to Rongai to plant trees at the hospital there.  LeRon is taking the picture.  Can you see me?

Here are LeRon and I waiting to go to Rongai.  It was cold at first so we had to wear jackets but then it got quite hot.  The yellow vests were warm.  Almost too warm.

Since there wasn't room for everyone to ride in the vehicles, some of the people hopped on this bus.  LeRon and I are in the vehicle behind and there's another vehicle following us.  We have a Toyota pick-up truck with a second row of seats.  If you can believe it, four women and two young boys hopped in the second seat.  Eight people in our truck!!  We had to really boogy to keep up with the bus.

It was quite a ride.  This bus went down roads that "no man has gone before!"

Interesting to see what life is like outside of Nairobi!

The streets got narrower and narrower.  We were so glad we weren't on the bus!

Here's a stand of some kind of tiny fish.  One of the women in our truck said that she would cook some for us someday.  I wasn't so sure I wanted to taste it!

Now the bus is trying to turn a very tight corner.  The men on left had to move stuff so the bus could back up to make the turn.

The bus barely made it past that stand of tiny fish.  Wow. 

Now we're trying to find the bus.  Where did it go?  Somehow we found it and were able to get to the hospital.  I was sad to see all the trash everywhere.  Kenya is a beautiful country but it would be more beautiful if people would pick up their trash.

Here are two of our sweet sister missionaries.  They serve in this area of Rongai.  Sister Ndonge (from Kenya) is on the left and Sister Gondwe (from Zambia) is on the right.  They are wonderful missionaries and very good and sweet young women.

Everyone gathered around before the start of the tree planting.  The kids had a great time.

We took Lilian (the branch president's wife) and Grace to the local Tuskys to buy some meat and buns.  We were glad we had Lilian and Grace with us as we tried to find the Tuskys.  Go right and right, then bump across a no-man's land of bumpy (VERY bumpy) dirt roads (well, all the roads are dirt), then ask for directions, then turn left onto a very narrow dirt road, then left onto pavement, and voila, there was the Tuskys.  A much cheaper store than the Nakamutt's we generally shop at.  This store is definitely for locals.

Then back to the service project.  The dirt was so hard, it took a pick-ax to dig a hole.  Wish I would have had my good shovel from home.

This is a really nice fellow who works at the hospital.  We had a great visit.  So nice that most everyone speaks English, albeit with a heavy accent.  But I'm getting used to the accents.  I'm also learning a few Swahili words (or rather, Kiswahili words).

Fanuel also gave me a tour of the newly built but not yet finished "theater."  I thought it was a movie theater, but no, it was a surgical theater!  This one is for mothers who need Caesareans.  It will be great for all the people in the area who come to this hospital and are not required to pay anything.  Nice to have socialized medicine when it is needed.

This is my sweet Gloria who will be baptized the next day.  She is 8 years old.

And here is the head doctor of the hospital--Rachel--and her cute little son.  They both get to wear the yellow "Mormon Helping Hands" vest.  I introduced her to the two sister missionaries.

All done.  Everyone is exhausted.

Now we're on our way back to Langata.  I clicked this photo of a donkey pulling a cart out the window.  The ladies in our vehicle wondered why I would take a picture of a donkey.  I told them that the only donkeys I've seen in Canada were pets that did no work (other than carry Mary in our annual Grassy Lake Nativity Pageant).

Cute hole-in-the wall businesses.

The Rongai Street Market is held every day.  Lots of businesses selling their wares under colorful tents.  You'll have to enlarge it to see them. 

More of the street market.  I took all these pictures out the window, trying to be unobtrusive.  Not safe for mzungus to stop but we had a load of Kenyans with us so it would have been safe but we were really too tired to care.


The physical fitness center in our compound is coming.  They said it's almost done but it looks far from done to me.  They brought in another huge pile of cement blocks.  I watched workers heft a block on their shoulders and carry it over to the building.  What a lot of manual labor.  Enlarge the picture to see the cool ladder.

This shows how cold it is here.  Elder Arudo needs a scarf to work in the office!

Here's LeRon at home studying his scriptures.

I bought an electric mixer which I was excited to try.  But it was quite disappointing.  Could almost make 1 1/2 loaves of bread!  I'm having a hard time making bread here.  The flour is very different.  The bread tastes good but the grain isn't fine like it is at home.

I took this photo from afar.  I think their brooms are cool.  Just a long branch from a tree with dried grasses tied on to it.  It works well for sweeping large areas.  I've even seen people sweeping the dirt in front of their shops with a broom like this.

The neighbor kids are still popping over to play on the piano.  They call us "the music people".

I find their hair fascinating!

This is the "mosquito racket" we bought from a hawker on the street.  They sell them in stores too.  They are electric.  You plug them in and charge the battery.  Then when a mosquito comes buzzing, you just swat it and "zap" it's gone!  Works very well.

About once a week, we go out for dinner.  This is a lovely place.

This dish is called "Kachos" and is the Kenyan version of nachos.  Very tasty.  Arrowroot and potato crisps with tomatoes, cheese, guacamole and sour cream.  It was delicious.

Our favorite meal is salmon with mashed potatoes and veggies.  We've learned to share.  They divide our meal into two plates and it's the perfect amount for us.

I absolutely love the bottle brush tree blossoms.  They really do look like bottle brushes.

A fully loaded bottle brush tree is magnificent, especially with the sun shine through the blossoms (not like in this photo!)

Our lovely Langata Chapel.  It's for sure the first chapel built in Kenya and some say it's the first in East Africa.

How Can My First-born be 40?

Time flies on wings of lightning . . . We cannot call it back . . . It comes, then passes forward, along its onward track . . .

My first-born is 40!  How did it happen?
I made banana bread for Michael's birthday.  But since he's not here in Kenya, I gave it to the Assistants, with whom we work on a regular basis.  Here's Elder Wafula and Elder Arudo with the sign and the bread.  Elder Arudo says it's cold enough to wear a scarf.  He's a "scarf-man" like Elder Torrie!

At home I usually put up a birthday sign and the birthday person's baby pictures.

Happy Birthday to a wonderful son!

Note the two computer screens.  It was Michael who got me on to using two screens.  So nice to have had such excellent training from a computer-expert.  Michael has been programming computers since he was 5 years old!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

For All You Birders . . .

I've been hoping to see some really colorful birds here in Kenya but so far I've only seen one.  But I still think the birds I've seen are interesting.  I can't always take pictures of them so I've gone to the internet for pictures so you can see the ones I've seen so far.

I've been interested in birds since I was a little girl.  I thought all mothers were like mine.  From time to time, Mom would grab the binoculars which she kept close by and run to the kitchen window.  She kept track of the all the birds she saw in her bird book.  I joined a bird watching club in High School and went on a few birding trips in the area.  As an adult, I bought my own bird book to keep track of the birds I've seen, and my children remember me running to the window with binoculars and bird book in hand!

I showed you this picture in another post.  It's an African Paradise Flycatcher.  It's the most colorful bird I've seen so far and it was right outside my kitchen window.  It didn't stay very long so I couldn't take a picture of it.  But it was definitely colorful and that long tail was gorgeous!

This is a snappy little bird I see a lot in parking lots.  It's an African Pied Wagtail.  Looks pretty sharp in its black and white suit.

I've seen this bird a couple of times.  It's a dark, chocolately color of brown with an interesting head.  It's a Hamerkop, also sometimes called a Hammerkop or a Hammerhead Stork. 

I put a picture of a Marabou Stork on one of my posts that LeRon took out the car window.  In the post I called it a pelican and for some reason I haven't been able to edit that post.  We see these absolutely huge birds all the time.  They are definitely not what I call pretty.  That long pink sac is an air sac.  Not all of them have such huge sacs.  But many do and when they fly the sac hangs down and looks really funny.  The storks nest in downtown Nairobi near the Nakamutt Mega Store so all of the Senior Missionaries call the store "The Bird."  I've seen a couple of these storks in the area where I live but not many.

This Pied Crow sounds just like our crows back home but it looks prettier with its white belly.  Lots of them where we live.  I've always loved the sound of crows because it reminds me of happy camping trips with my kids in Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta.  LeRon has never liked the cawing of crows.

I know that the Egyptians considered these ibises as sacred, hence their name: the Sacred Ibis.  But the more I've seen of them the more I don't think they're sacred at all.  They scrounge around on the ground like chickens.  When we walk in the early evenings, we see them in a dead tree and also on the ground in this muddy pasture place.  They look dirty too.  When I first saw them I thought they were so cool and I put some pictures I'd taken of them on a post.  But now I think they just look like scrawny chickens!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

This Sabbath has Not Been a Day of Rest!

Sundays are not the days of rest I thought they would be.  But we're glad to be of help to our branch.  We head to Church about 9:15 a.m.  LeRon plays the organ for Sacrament Meeting and I lead the singing.  Then we head to Primary to help the young sister who single-handedly has been running the Primary (which is for children ages 1-12).  LeRon plays the piano and I teach the children songs.  Singing time is fun!  It reminds me of when I was the Primary Music Director for many years back in the Grassy Lake Ward.  It is exhausting for me too as I do what I call "my song and dance" which is necessary to keep the kids' attention!  Then LeRon and I both teach Primary classes.

Then, in keeping with the ideas I presented in my previous post, "You ask . . . How Can I help?" LeRon and I teach a music conducting class.  The point of the class is to teach the people so they can take over the jobs LeRon and I are doing.  When the conducting class is over, we will teach a piano class.  Again, the point is to help the people help themselves.

Then we get into our Toyota truck and head the 20 or so minutes to the Rongai Ward where we teach another music conducting course.  We also help them with their Ward Choir but again with the idea that they will be able to help themselves.  There's a lot of very musically talented people there.

We get home about 4 p.m.  So it's a long day.  The drive is interesting.  We always see baboons and warthogs scampering around right next to the road and right next to the many pedestrians moseying about.  I even saw two warthogs scrounging in a pile of burning refuse.  They didn't seem to mind the flames and I wish I could have taken a picture.

Following are a few pictures for the week:

We drove back to Upper Hill (where our mission office formerly was) and it took almost 1 1/2 hours!  Traffic was pretty bad on a Thursday evening.  I've told you before about how Christian this country is.  Click on this picture of a matatu and you will see a picture of Jesus on the rear window.  It's actually a Simon Dewey picture.  (Or is it Greg Olson)?  Either way, it's a painting of the Savior done by an LDS artist.  So cool to see it here in Kenya.  LeRon says he especially likes the logo on one matatu:  "In God We Trust."  The humor is that you have to trust God every day when you drive on these roads.  Sister Msane says she wishes Kenyans would drive "like normal people!"  (She is from South Africa).

We share the roads with handcarts and other slow moving vehicles.  One time a woman was walking (no not walking -- she was sauntering) down the middle of the road.  No one honked.  People just slowed down and patiently drove around her!

These Kenyans are strong people.  Usually a handcart like this is loaded to the gills and is not on the side of the road!

This was taken out my kitchen window.  All of our neighbors are fairly well-off and almost all of them have hired help.  But no one has an automatic washer.  This girl (and not all hired help are girls) washes the laundry outside by hand in big tubs of water.  They wash and scrub each article of clothing and then they rinse it and hang it to dry, usually for several days.  Then they have to iron everything.  I'm grateful for my automatic washer and dryer, even though it's much smaller than the ones I have at home.

I was so happy to buy a mixer!!!  Can't wait to try it out.  The salesgirl didn't want to lift it down from the high shelf because she didn't think I would buy it if I knew the price.  It WAS expensive.  They don't have any floor models here.  But they open each package up and plug it in and turn it on to be sure it works.  They won't let you buy it till they see if it works.  So nice!  I can't wait to make cookies and bread!  I had a nice visit with the salesgirl.  I talked to her about the Church and about how we love Jesus Christ.  I gave her an Articles of Faith card which lists 13 principles that we hold dear.  So nice that most everyone will listen to us.

Here we are in the Rongai Ward.  These people are so faithful.  They come to Church at 10 a.m. for the 3-hour block of meetings and then they stay for choir practice and music conducting.  They are there for about 5 hours and no one complains.  And their choir practice is an hour or more long!!!  Wow!

The monkeys come almost every Sunday between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.  Maybe they want to listen to our Sabbath music!!  They are so cute!!  The sweet young woman guard (who helps to guard our Church compound) was so excited that we got to see the monkeys again today.  She's used to it but she knows I love to see them.  Usually the monkeys are gone before we are out of church.

I love their long tails.  The barbed wire on the top of the wall doesn't faze the monkeys.

Cute, eh?  No wonder Charles Darwin thought we descended from monkeys.  Monkeys are truly very human like.  But I'm glad we know we are sons and daughters of God!

I bought this cool shirt when we shopped at Nakamut on Saturday.  I had a good visit with the young girl who was selling them.  I explained that our Church was a restored Church -- restored to be what it was when Jesus Christ organized His Church on earth.  

I never understand how these pictures come into the blog.  Not at all the way I mean them to.  Isn't this girl a cutie?  This is at the Rongai Ward during our music conducting course.  She is 4 years old and was pretending to be a lion.  She growled at me almost continually and then giggled.  I told her I was a hyena and that lions are scared of hyenas (which I learned in a book about animals in Kenya).  So we growled at each other for a long time.

I took this picture from the Rongai Ward which meets on the 4th floor of a large building. Look at the size of the billboard in comparison with the other buildings.  It's huge.  Then look at the two men, one on each side, who are putting this billboard up.  Before our conducting class started, it was a huge billboard for fresh milk.  But by the end of class it had been changed to this.  I was scared for the two men!  Wish I could have watched the whole process.

Here I am after our long Sabbath day, still smiling but wishing I could take a nap but it's already 5 p.m. so no time for a nap.

The neighbors came over later Sunday evening and sold me two "stress balls" that they had made from balloons and jelly stuff.  I'm holding one in my hand.  They sold it to me for 30 bob which is about 3 cents.  Then they sold me a home-made bracelet for 10 bob, which is 1 cent.  They were thrilled.  They said I was their best customer!

Here's the bracelet that F* and M* made for me.  It was a little big so they are going to make me another one for free.

Aren't these beautiful girls?  They have lovely smiles. D* (center girl) said that F*'s hair (second from left) is softer because she is only half African (Ugandan and England English).  The other girls are full African so their hair is wirier (is that a word?).  It's fun to talk with them about their hair and how they do it.  Fun to have so many nice people live so close to us.