Sunday, June 26, 2016

Music! Music! Music!

Many Kenyan people are very musical.  They sing with gusto!  They certainly put our North American congregations to shame.  Last week we sang the hymn "O My Father" which was familiar to them but the true timing of the hymn was not.  Elder Torrie and I kept a-going anyway (he on the piano/organ and me leading) and by the last verse, they were sort of with us!  I couldn't help but smile.

The neighbor children come over regularly to plunk away on our piano.  They are all learning "Chopsticks" and "Mary had a little lamb" and they know how to make the piano play recorded music.  Tomorrow their parents are going to come over and we'll show off their children's musical abilities.  Will be fun.

I've been asked to help out with the Primary music in our little branch.  It was so fun today.  Took me back to my days doing the music in the Grassy Lake Ward.  My brother-in-law, Wayne Torrie, was the pianist back then.  I learned to lead music and absolutely loved it.  One day, Wayne said, "You know, I can see you and LeRon doing the music in Primary in some far-off country someday."  And now . . . here we are doing the music in a far-off country.  Teaching the children "Once There Was a Snowman" and "Popcorn Popping" and of course the many songs about Jesus.  I intersperse the activity songs with the religious ones.  The children are learning fast and they really sing out.

LeRon and I are planning to start a "leading the singing" course and a piano course.  There are many people, young and old, who would like to learn.  Our goal is to help the people to help themselves so that when we are gone, they can carry on just fine.

LeRon also has the wild idea of having a Saturday branch activity and teaching the people some of our fun dances such as the chicken dance, the Virginia Reel, etc.  We may also get him to do "Father Abraham" if any of you remember that little ditty.  We are thinking of doing it for Pioneer Day in July.  Just a thought at this point and of course it needs the blessing of the branch president.

Following are some photos of life here in the last week.

We love these missionaries that we work with.  We don't see them as often now that our office has moved.  They came to see our new office this week so we had fun taking pictures.  Elder Hales is from the US and Elder Mwaja is from Tanzania.

Elder Mwaja wanted a picture of him and me with the Kenya/Tanzania map and the plaque with the Angel Moroni on it.

Elder Wafula, Elder Arudo, and Elder Hales having fun together.  Missionary work is serious business but it's also fun.  Nice to see the missionaries enjoying each others' company.

Elder Wafula laughed and laughed when he saw this picture of himself.  I finally caught a good candid!

After we finished at the office, Elder Torrie took me to a lovely place nearby with a beautiful garden and a delicious restaurant.

Doesn't this look like California?  But honestly, I don't know how these succulents grow here in the cold!  It reminds me of being in Ireland in December.  I couldn't understand how the flowers could blossom in such cold.  We in Canada are used to cold but when it's cold we wear winter coats and our houses inside are heated.  So this is a very different cold.

We ate outside on the balcony.  They brought us a charcoal-burning brazier to warm us and it really did the job.  Cute little frog!  And yummy chocolate milk, not too sweet.
We ate delicious salmon.  We had had it here with President and Sister Hicken and we loved it so we ordered it again.  Just as delicious the second time!  The brazier warmed us up so we took off our coats.

I succumbed to temptation yesterday and bought a Kenyan Nativity Set!  I wasn't going to buy any more nativity sets since I already have so many but this one really caught my eye.  It's carved out of a gourd.  The little figures are glued inside.  So cute!

And this is the back of the gourd.  Actually I think they painted the gourd red to begin with and then they cut out the scene with a knife.  I've seen other gourd nativity sets but they weren't painted and they were much bigger than this one so I didn't want them.  But this one is small and lovely with its red Christmas color.  What a lot of work to carve it.  Kenyans aren't afraid of hard manual labor and they're not afraid of doing time-consuming, intricate work.  They are true craftsmen.

This is the cover that goes over the Nativity scene for storage.  A Christmas star scratched into it.  Lovely!

President and Sister Hicken's last Sunday at the Langata Branch.  They gave wonderful talks.  I wish I could remember every word but I can't.  They spoke about things they had learned about people and the gospel from being here for three years.  Here they are with branch members, Fredrick and his wife.  Fredrick is a real stalwart in the branch.  He comes early and unlocks and cleans up and takes such very good care of the building.  He sets up the sound system (which is now kept locked away) and when he sees a need he takes care of it.  He is wonderful!  His wife is a lovely lady who speaks very little English so it's hard for her to communicate at church.  So wonderful that she comes even when she can't understand.  Hopefully she can feel some of the good spirit that is there in our meetings.  But I know how hard it is to sit through three hours of meetings without understanding the language.  LeRon and I have done it many times and it's hard to stay alert.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

We're Freezing . . . on the Equator!

I can't believe how cold it is here!  Today we had to buy space heaters for our mission office since we were all freezing.  It's been about 15-18 C (60-65 F) day and night, inside and out.  If we were home in Alberta, everyone would be wearing shorts and loving the mild weather.  I always said that 21 C (70 F) was my favorite temperature--now I freeze at that temperature.  So crazy.  It must be the humidity.  We got new young missionaries in yesterday and the one from Alberta (Airdrie to be exact), said how surprised he was at the cold.  Who would guess it would feel so cold here on the equator?  But most other places in Kenya are very hot and I've been assured that January and February in Nairobi will be VERY HOT.  Hmn . . . we'll see. 

As we drive to the mission office with the truck's heater turned up, blasting us with lovely warm air, I see people walking (or rather, striding) along the side of the road and they are bundled up in winter coats, hats, scarves, and Masai blankets.  Many are wearing rubber boots which I think is a wise idea given how muddy the sides of the roads are.  There are no sidewalks and just dirt at the sides of the road so when it rains, it gets very muddy. 

In fact, yesterday, we saw a matatu (small bus like Jerusalem's cheruts) on its side in a very deep ditch at the side of our road.  It must have gotten too far off the road and slid into the mud.  I hope no one was hurt but I'm sure no one was wearing seat belts.  Then we saw a big semi-truck stuck in the mud with a Case backhoe trying to use its boom to pull the truck out.  No luck.  They had to unload the truck by hand before they could pull it out.

I'll put in some pictures here.  Not necessarily of the cold.  Just mission pictures.  I hope you didn't miss the monkey pictures a couple of blogs back.  So cute!

We've got the best neighbors here in our compound.  This family is from India.  He works at the hospital in a techy position.  Very smart man.  I love their daughters.  They don't speak much English but they smile a lot.  There are several families from India and they all work at the hospital, even doing open heart surgeries.

Elder A and Elder W and President Hicken are trying to start a fire in the fireplace of our new office.  It wasn't too successful.  Just smoked us out.  So we're not going to do that again.  Instead we bought tiny space heaters to put beside each desk and they actually work really well.

Poor picture out the front window.  Driving home in the rain.  Fun to be so close to nature!

We hosted two new missionaries for one night.  We pushed the couch aside and put down two mats and the Elders wrapped up in blankets and made it through the cold night!  One from the US and one from Zimbabwe.

LeRon and me with our Canadian missionary.  So fun to have another Canuck around.  We're at the church because our mission office isn't big enough for the 35 people who were there.  LeRon and I "processed" the 14 new missionaries.  I made copies of their passports and Yellow Fever cards and other important documents.  Then we gave the missionaries the copies and we keep the originals in the safe back at the office.  I also have a file for each missionary with important information, such as home contacts, phone numbers, etc.  LeRon talks with them about safety issues and money issues and budgeting, etc.  Each missionary pays for his own mission but LeRon, as mission finance secretary, controls the money and each missionary is given the same amount each month.  That way they don't squander their own money!  LeRon also pays all the apartment rentals out of the money that the missionaries pay.  Does any of this make sense?

We had a great time with all the new missionaries.  There were 14 new ones -- one from Canada, three from the US, three from Zimbabwe, and seven from Kenya.  These are pictures of just some of them.

So nice to see black and white all getting along so well!  Color means nothing.

These two wonderful missionaries -- Elder A and Elder W -- are the two we work with the closest.  They will be great leaders in Kenya in the years to come.  They are learning so many skills as they assist President Hicken in his duties.  They figure out transportation when missionaries are transferred.  They figure out where new missionaries will stay.  I'm amazed at all the logistical things they do.  They are great young men.  We have Family Home Evening with them every Monday night since they live close to where we live.  It's been great fun to get to know them.  And I can even tell them apart.  When we first got here, all Black Africans looked alike to me, but not anymore.

A very poor picture of the semi-truck stuck in the mud.  The Case tractor was pulling on the front of the truck but it didn't work so the little three-wheeled truck pulled up and they unloaded from the semi onto the little truck.

We love the neighbor children.  They come over almost every evening.  They have learned to play "Chopsticks" on the piano with LeRon playing the second part.  Here we're eating potato chips.  Note little J on the left in her winter coat!  After we ate chips (they call they crisps), LeRon played the piano and we did the "chicken dance."  The little girl in the middle, F, knew the dance and we taught it to J and P (the cute little boy on the right).  So fun!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Kazuri Beads and Fun with the Other Seniors

We took a couple hours off while the movers were moving all our furniture to the new office and went with the Mission President and his wife to the Kazuri Bead Factory, which is very close to where we live and close to the new office too.  Kazuri is a Kiswahili word meaning "small and beautiful."  It was started in 1975 to provide work for single mothers.  Dirt from Mount Kenya is brought here, mixed with water and talc and formed into clay.  The women mold the clay into small beads.  The beads are then fired and painted and formed into beautiful jewelry.  All the jewelry is hand made and it's now sold throughout the world.  You can even send them an order specifying the exact shape, color, and design and they will make it for you.  It was fascinating.

Each bead is handmade.  Looks like yummy chocolate, eh?

Tedious work but these women enjoy it.  They laugh and visit together while they work.

They form the beads and make the holes all by hand.

I like these flat beads the best.

The woman seated at the table has worked here for 39 years.  Apparently she is a very fast worker, producing many, many beads a day.  The girl in between me and Sister Hicken is the young girl who gave us the tour.

After the beads are fired, they are painted by hand.

Some of the women paint wonderful designs.  Sometimes it's their own design and sometimes they follow directions from an order.

There must be hundreds of thousands of beads in this store room.  If you want, you can pick through the jars to find the color, size and design you like to make your own jewellry.  Each bead costs about 40 cents.

Look at all those colors!  These ladies are forming the beads into necklaces, bracelets, and earrings.

Sister Hicken and I both loved this necklace.  It wasn't quite finished but they quickly finished it for her and she bought it.  Since I will be here for a year and a half, I ordered one just like it.  It will take awhile for them to make it for me.

In the shop you can buy necklaces in every color, shape, design, and length.  Sister Hicken and I had a great time looking for that perfect necklace!

Here's more of the necklaces.  I took lots of pictures but am only including two here.

Saturday night the Hickens took all of the senior missionary couples out for a farewell dinner.  The Hickens leave for home in about 10 days.  We will miss them.  Back L-R: Elder & Sister Lyman, Elder & Sister Ford.  Front L-R: Elder & Sister Torrie, Sister and President Hicken, Sister & Elder Petersen.  They are a fun group.  We went to a very fancy hotel (rooms are $500 per night) and ate at their lovely restaurant.  We dined for three hours!  It was fun and the food was good.  Most of us had steak and it was cooked almost as good as my sons cook it. 

Incredible, Strong People

Today in our worship service (which we call "sacrament meeting"), a young man in his late twenties spoke.  He told us the story of his hard life.  When he was 12 years old, his mother took him for a walk one day and told him that she needed to leave for a year.  (Here in Kenya, families are often separated because of the need to go elsewhere for work).  His father was already gone to another country for work.  His mother told him that she needed him to be strong and to take care of his three younger siblings and that she would be back in a year.  Can you imagine?!  Remember . . . he was only 12 years old!  She asked him to stay strong, stay active in the gospel and do what was right.

It was at that time that he knew he needed to get a testimony for himself.  He needed to know that it was right to obey the Word of Wisdom (no alcohol, no tobacco, no drugs, no coffee) and that it was right to stay morally clean.  He needed to know that it was right to read the scriptures and to go to church each week.  He needed to know because he would be the man of the house.  He plead with the Lord and got his answer.  He knew the gospel was true! 

He was able to care for his brothers and sister.  He went on a mission.  He got an education.  And now he is serving in the branch presidency and at the same time he is Stake Young Men president.  What incredible, strong people there are here in Kenya.

Just monkeying around . . .

When we got to the church this morning, as we were pulling through the security gate, we saw monkeys! 

Barbed wire doesn't stop these monkeys!

Walls don't stop them either!

The security guard told us that the monkeys come in from the forest preserves to eat the lush green foliage here in the city.

A sister at church told us that if you leave a window even partly open, and if you leave a banana on the table, the monkey will come in, take the banana and then go out.  Fun!

Hard to get this picture of a monkey mom and her babe as I was facing into the sun.  It's hard to see, but the baby is clinging tightly to its mother.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

People . . . People who need people . . . are the luckiest people in the world!

People.  That's what I want to talk about tonight.  Kenyan people are like people were in Alberta 50 years ago.  And that's NOT a bad thing!  As time goes on, I feel more and more like I'm back in my young teenage years 50 years ago.  Back then people were so friendly.  You'd walk down the streets of Taber and everyone you met said hello even if you didn't know them.  Strangers would stop on the highway to help you when you had a flat tire.  Children could play at anyone's house and they were safe.

That's the way it is here in Kenya.  The five neighbor children come over every day after school.  At first I wondered how their parents felt about that.  So I made a point to go and meet them and they were absolutely fine with wherever their children went.  One mother said, "They visit everyone in every flat and we think it's great!"  How nice for the children to be children and not have to worry so much.  LeRon has taught one of the children to play "Chopsticks" on the piano.  We bought a few little cars and trucks for the kids to play with too.  It's like having grandchildren here.  So fun.  And when I can't take the noise any longer, I tell them to go home and they do.  They are also polite.  Please.  Thank you.  May I?  So impressive.

People . . . Hardly anyone smokes here.  We've counted 13 people thus far and we've been here for over a month.  Amazing.  Smoking is expensive so not many people do it.  So nice for those of us who have a hard time with smoke.  And so nice, health-wise, for the Kenyans.  But on the other hand . . . people burn things every day -- garbage, dead wood and who knows what else.  There's always the smell of smoke in the air.  That's like it was 50 years ago in Alberta.

I mentioned in another post about how Kenyan people, particularly men, walk.  They stride along, arms swinging vigorously, head up and back a bit, with a little bounce in their stride.  They are not out for a stroll.  Definitely walking with purpose.  Women walk everywhere also.  They don't bounce quite as much as the men do.  Most women wear skirts or dresses.  I've yet to see an immodestly dressed Kenyan woman.  (Only white tourists wear skimpy little outfits).  The women are dressed in all colors, including black and white.  Black Africans look especially nice in white.

The school children all wear uniforms.  On field trips, the kindergarten children don't have to walk two-by-two, holding hands, as kindergarten children do at home.  They feel safe as they run along the sidewalk, ahead of their teacher, enjoying each other's company and the green foliage and the sunny weather.  But . . . each school is in a compound that is walled, gated, and guarded.

People are polite in traffic.  "I'll let you in and then you can let someone else in," is the philosophy.  The only honking we've heard is a polite little honk to alert you that they're there and they don't think you saw them.  Drivers or passengers stick out their arms to let you know they want in -- and you let them in.  It's the craziest, most polite traffic I've ever been in.  People wave a "thank you" or give you a smile.  No shaking of the fist or pointing of the finger.

Now as far as it being like Alberta was 50 years ago . . . Alberta has become very prosperous in the past 50 years.  That prosperity hasn't helped people to be more sociable and kind and friendly.  Prosperity seems to have made people more selfish, unsociable, and unfriendly.  Sad . . .

In our Church, we call it "the pride cycle."  People are humble and so God blesses them and they prosper.  The more they prosper, the more prideful they become.  As they become prideful, God allows things to happen to humble them.  They are humble and God blesses them.  They prosper and become prideful . . . So sad.  President Hicken, our mission president, has spoken lots to the African missionaries about how they can help Kenya to avoid the pride cycle that has definitely affected western countries to their detriment.  I hope Kenya can avoid becoming what the West has become as far as human relations go.

As one Kenyan told us, "Kenya is the promised land!  There is plenty of opportunity for everyone."  LeRon and I are very happy here.  We're happy to be serving the Lord and we're happy to be associating with good people -- in our mission, in our branch, and in our neighborhood.

Elder Torrie is teaching these beautiful neighbor girls how to play "Chopsticks."

Beautiful girl with a beautiful smile.  She is moving away soon and we will miss her.

Neighbor children playing at our house.

Cute as a button!

Of all the toys, the John Deere tractor we brought from home is the favorite.

Still not sure how to import pictures.  This should have come in at the bottom.  Just a picture to show how Christian this country is.  Signs everywhere about Jesus Christ.
Above the picture of the matatu:  Now we're on our long drive to the mission office.  These carpets change frequently as they dry and then new ones are up drying in the sun and rain.  Wonderful carpet cleaning business.

I will miss the foliage around our mission office as the new mission office is a walled yard with only gravel to make it interesting.  This lovely hibiscus grows near the door to our office.  I didn't notice all the ants on it till I looked at the picture.

Another pretty flower.  I know this kind grows in Hawaii too but I can't remember the name off hand.  I bought a bird book but not a flower book.  In the bottom picture I'm trying to show the cut and uncut grass.  All the grass on the left was cut by hand with a metal scythe-type thing.  The grass on the right is yet to be cut.  What a lot of physical labor these people are happy to do just to put a bit of food on the table for their families.