Friday, October 28, 2016

Christmas, Giraffes, Elephants and Missionaries

We played Christmas music all day yesterday.  Why so soon?  Because our three amazing sons finished the harvest!  At last!  It's been a long hard haul this year.  (The latest harvest we've ever had ended on November 1).  Our tradition is to play Christmas music over the two-way radio just as harvest is finishing.  Because, as LeRon says, "If we don't have a harvest, we won't have a Christmas!"  Our whole year's income is dependent on the harvest.  So . . . Merry Christmas everyone!

Now back to our mission here in Kenya . . .  LeRon and I took Elder Egbert and Elder Musonda to see the Elephant Orphanage and the Giraffe Center here in Nairobi which are both very close to where we live.  

Missionaries are allowed one P-day a week.  P-day is a "preparation day" to do laundry, buy groceries, clean house, and see some of the sights close to where they are serving.  Missionaries are great fun to be with.

LeRon and Elder Egbert (from the US) and Elder Musonda (from Zambia) at the Giraffe Center.  The Center was established by a Scottish couple to protect the Rothschild Giraffe which is endangered and is only found in East Africa.  Several pairs of these giraffes have been successfully introduced back into the wild.

Elder Musonda is hugging the giraffe as he feeds it.  So cool to feel the rough, slimy tongue!  Not only fun to feed the giraffes here but you can stay overnight in the mansion on the property.  Giraffes stick their heads into bedroom windows and you can touch and feed them from the privacy of your room!  I hear the rooms cost between $500 and $2000 or more per night!!!

You can hold a food pellet between your lips and the giraffe will grab it with his (or her) tongue.  You get a very slimy kiss.  Yuck.  But a giraffe's saliva is antiseptic so you don't need to worry.  Elder Egbert said it was gross!!

LeRon and I both tried to take a picture of Elder Musonda "kissing" the giraffe but he jumped back too fast and we both missed it.

I had a hard time feeding the giraffe with my hand.  No way was I going to feed it with my mouth!  Every time it got its tongue close to my hand, I screamed and dropped the food pellets.  Don't know what's wrong with me.

What a majestic animal!

Feeding the giraffe by hand is much easier.  Still feels a bit gross!

I'm surprised the giraffe didn't bite Elder Egbert.  Looks like he's poking that giraffe's eye.

A lovely grey heron.

I love the warthogs.  So cool how they kneel as they scrounge in the dirt.  Someone said that the warthog should be our mission mascot as missionaries spend so much time on their knees praying!  But on the other hand, warthog brains are very, very tiny, and missionary brains are definitely not tiny.

Now on to the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage which rescues orphaned baby elephants, cares for them, and then re-introduces them into the wild.  Visitors can see them for only one hour per day to minimize contact with humans.  Here I am with Elder Egbert and Elder Musonda.

Look at the wrinkly skin on this baby elephant.  So cute.  I love elephants.

Elder Egbert and Elder Musonda

You can turn the volume off while you watch this short video.  Just people oo-ing and ah-ing over the darling baby elephants.

Now on to the Karen Blixen outdoor restaurant at Tamambo's.  Karen Blixen wrote "Out of Africa", a book of her experiences living in Kenya, which I have not read and don't intend to (after reading about it on Wikipedia!)

Delicious food in a beautiful environment.  It's finally warm enough to eat here without asking for little heaters at our feet.

Elder Egbert loves the foliage here.  So do I.

Elder Musonda arrived in the mission two days after LeRon and I did.  He is Elder Egbert's trainer and is doing a super job.  Missionaries work under a "trainer" for 12 weeks.  Then they are generally transferred and receive different companions to work with. 

Isn't this gorgeous?  I love clouds and trees.

The flowering jacaranda trees are so lovely and smell heavenly.  Better than lilacs.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

What do Cattle have in Common with Cemeteries . . . Other than C's

We often share the road with cattle.  If I put my hand out the window, I could touch the cattle.  They are definitely not afraid of noisy vehicles.  They feed on anything green beside the road and sometimes they are being herded by boys with sticks and sometimes they just roam.  I'm sure their owners find them when evening comes.

These cattle have humps on their necks, some quite huge.  They look kind of like Brahmas but I don't think they are.  But what do they have to do with cemeteries?  Well, the cattle go where there's grass to eat.  And the cemetery close to our church has lots of tall grass.  So that's where the cattle go. 

So interesting to see cattle in the city.  We see them so often that I forget to take pictures.  This time I was trying for a picture of their humps.  Some of the pictures turned out.  If you look closely, you can see the hump.

This picture was through the window.

I'm getting better at taking candids!  These cattle don't have very big humps.

But look at this hump. Isn't that cool?

We drive past this forlorn cemetery every Sunday.  It's absolutely huge and looks like no one cares about it.

LeRon and I and our daughters love to walk through cemeteries.  We've seen cemeteries in countries all over the world.  This is the first one we've seen that looks unkempt.  Someone told us that this is where they bury people with no family but I don't believe it because I've seen groups of people gathered here for burials,

And some of the plots look cared for.  But many don't.

We've seen this on several head stones:  sunrise and sunset, rather than born and died.  Cool!

Someone obviously had enough money to build a little building over this grave, maybe to protect it from cattle.

Our son Craig wants to have a mausoleum for his grave.  These little buildings are kind of cool.

This grave is definitely protected from grazing cattle.

Gorgeous Jacaranda tree here in the cemetery with its purple flowers.

And here are the cattle peacefully grazing in the cemetery!

Outside the cemetery, people walk on the dirt paths.  The women carry all kinds of things on their heads!  How do they do it?

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Warmer Weather and Warm, Friendly People

I did two blog posts previous to this one.  I like to keep my blogs short so sometimes I do several in one day.  Here goes this one . . . 

The weather is gradually warming up.  In the middle of the day, the sunshine is intense but the mornings and late afternoons and evenings are cool and you still need a sweater.  We are continually amazed at how cool it is here at the equator.

We have had some wonderful missionary experiences lately.  So amazing to have someone walk into the mission office and want to know more.  J* walked in with a list of questions.  Since I am just the missionary secretary I looked around for the young missionaries but they had just gone into a meeting with the mission president.  Sister Msane was busy working at her desk.  I swallowed hard and started answering his questions.  I wasn't as coherent as I wanted to be but I told him that I knew these things were true.  He has been back in the office several times with more questions and it has been so exciting!

Sister Msane and I checked out the local Karen Hospital this past week.  Hospitals have to be approved before our missionaries can use them.  The Karen Hospital was started and is privately owned by a Kenyan lady doctor, Dr. Betty Gikonyo, and her husband who is also a doctor.  Her story is amazing.  She lived in a small village "up country" and never wore shoes till she was 12 but she always had a desire to gain an education and become a doctor.  She worked hard until she attained it.  Her dream of a hospital has been fulfilled.

The hospital was really nice with up-to-date equipment, very nice, well-educated staff and it was clean and cheery.  We were impressed.  Several people living in our compound also work at the Hospital, including doctors from India who are also well-educated and professionals in their field.

Sister Msane sponsored a brunch today for the women church leaders in the Nairobi stakes.  I got to help her with the food and it was so nice to meet these good women who care so much about Kenya and about sharing the gospel here.

After the brunch, LeRon and I went to a birthday party of Dan, a young boy in our compound.  We love the people we live around.

On another topic . . . I've learned why it's hard to find good cheese here.  Cheese is not part of the culture here.  They just don't eat cheese.

The Karen Hospital.  It's a lovely building with gorgeous grounds -- flowering trees and lots of bushes and flowers.
Lovely black Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary Stake leaders.  We had a great time visiting with them and sharing ideas on how to share the gospel here in Kenya.  The sisters loved the breakfast casserole that I made.

We learned that Kenyans just don't eat cheese.  Some of them tried it but most didn't like it.  And that's okay.  There's some African food that I don't like either.  Sister Msane loves cheese and put together a large platter of different cheeses.

Sister Msane talked about humanitarian projects we could be involved with.

Women love chocolate!  Everyone has a chocolate bar with a paper saying "Sweet is the Work."  It was a really lovely brunch.  I was the only mzungu there.  (Just noticed that my chocolate bar is upside down!)

Then it was back to our compound to celebrate Dan's birthday.  He was happy to have his Japanese grandparents from Malaysia here for a visit too.

The kids had fun swimming in the swimming pool and this baby swam in its tiny swimming pool too.
Black and white.  Our compound has such good people living here (or rather, staying here as the Africans say.  They never say that you live somewhere; you always stay somewhere).  Here's Jaco and Mariska, my "children" from South Africa.  They are of Dutch descent.  I have adopted all of the people as my children since I am old enough to be their mother.

Celebrating Thanksgiving

Canadian Thanksgiving falls on the second Monday every October.  Since we always have Monday night Family Home Evening with the Mission President and the missionary Assistants, we decided to turn it into a Thanksgiving Dinner.  My kitchen is teeny-tiny so you can only imagine the work of preparing a Thanksgiving dinner with all the fixings for 11 people.

Cooking in a different country is an interesting experience at the best of times.  Ingredients are different, even when they are the same brands as at home.  And many products you simply can't get so you have to improvise.  The altitude makes a difference in how fast things cook too.  Recipes seem to work differently.  So it was a challenge to throw together a Thanksgiving Dinner.  But we did it and it was delicious and we had a lot of fun.  In fact one senior missionary who will remain unnamed said it was the most delicious meal he'd had since he came on his mission.

After dinner, we laughed and talked and a had a great time.  Then we each told about things we are grateful for and it turned into a spiritual feast as we shared our thoughts and feelings.  We ended the evening by some joining with us to sing "O Canada."

I'm grateful to be a Canadian but I'm also thankful for my American roots (my Dad and both my Mom's parents were born in the US -- my Dad came to Canada when he was 2 and didn't know for many years that he was American) and for my Pilgrim ancestors (10 of them came to America on the Mayflower way back when).   And I'm so glad I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and that I am on this mission in the good land of Kenya.

L-R:  Sister K (returning home from her mission), Sister Msane, President Msane, Sister & Elder Ford, Sister & Elder Lyman, with Elder Torrie worshiping the ground his wife walks on!!  The missionary Assistants came a little later so missed the pre-dinner photo.

Another Birthday Boy

This time, it's our second son, Craig's birthday.  38 years old!  Wow.  What happened to the years?  So glad he was sent to us from his heavenly pre-earth life.   He has been a joy to raise and we enjoy him just as much as an adult.  Happy Birthday dear son!

Craig had eye surgery when he was 2 years old.  His eye turned in and they needed to cut the muscle a bit to straighten it.  When he came out of surgery, he had bandages on both eyes even though the surgery was only on one eye.  And he had straight-jacket type things on both his arms so he wouldn't pick at the bandages.  He was such a brave little guy.

His first words to me were "I can't see."  He wasn't upset, just stating a fact.  I explained that he wouldn't be able to see until the next day and that the bandages needed to stay on to protect his eye until tomorrow.

When it was time to eat, the nurse told me to feed Craig since he couldn't bend his elbows to get the spoon to his mouth.  Craig was really offended at this idea.  He held out his arms.  "Take these things off," he said.  I told him that no, he had to leave them on so he wouldn't pick at his bandages.  He said, "I won't pick at the bandages.  Take these things off."

So to the nurse's horror, I took the arm-things off.  He sat and ate his food and then got down to play with toys.  He never picked at his bandages and he never complained about not being able to see.  Wow.  The nurses were so impressed and so was I.  He was so brave.  And only two years old!

Happy Birthday Craig!

We were in awe of another baby sent from Heavenly Father.  Tiny cute little thing!

Here I am in the Bow Island Hospital with new-born Craig.  His hair was so blond that you could hardly see it but it was definitely there.  Later on it turned almost white and then back to blond and then turned into a very dark blond.  So interesting how their hair color can change.

LeRon and Michael were pretty excited to have a new baby too.

One baby takes all of your time and two babies take all of your time too.  I was more relaxed as a new mother this time and consequently, Craig was a more relaxed baby.  Other than the worry over a couple of hernia surgeries and then his eye surgery when he was two, I found him a pretty easy-going baby.

"Coochy-coo.  Smile for the camera, little sweetie."

Brothers -- one blond and one dark.  Sometimes I caught Michael hitting Craig as he sang "I love brother, he loves me, we are a happy family!"

My Mom and Dad (Grandpa and Grandma Conrad) were enthralled with another grandson.

Doesn't Craig look cute in his little suit?

Grandma Torrie always had a lot of fun with her grandchildren.  Craig and Michael are definitely enjoying it!

Craig had a BIG laugh.  You could see his tonsils!!!