Tuesday, April 24, 2012


I'm off on safari tomorrow, after the conference ends in the morning and I don't know if I'll have access to a computer. Plus I want to save space on my camera, so I have to post these now. =)

The Kenyan (and other African) Friends LOVE to dance and sing and praise God. It seems like one or two sessions a day start with a long and loud Quaker dance party. It usually starts small, with several dozen people and a few brave dancers, then it just grows and grows!

Here is one during the daytime, which you can see better:
Here is one during the night, a bigger crowd, but a bit harder to see:

This one is from last night, a joyous worship, though no dancing. We sang Seek Ye First. For each verse we sang in our own language, so I'm sure it was English, Spanish, French, Kiswahili, Aymayra, German, and who knows what others. (In my small group alone people could speak over 20 different languages!) Then at the chorus we all sang Alleluia, which I guess is the same in whatever language. It was very moving.

And, as promised, here are some pictures of breakfast:

This has been my normal breakfast - a stack of plain white or brown bread with jam and a mug of Kenyan tea. The tea is some combo of milk and tea, maybe more milk than tea. A few mornings I've been lucky and they've had hard boiled eggs.

There are often beans or some sort of porridge (very watery and made from millet) but I couldn't stomach it, so it's usually bread only for me. Many people make sandwiches with the butter and jam and eat them that way.

So today is the last full day. We're having business now (oops, missing out on part of that!) and then dinner and then a celebration! And tomorrow we'll have breakfast and a closing worship, and then the insanity of departures. After experiencing the trip day, I can only imagine. Send organizational and patience thoughts to us all!

Monday, April 23, 2012


I have a few minutes before dinner to post some random things. I've mentioned animals, flowers, weather, shopping, etc, but I haven't really talked much about the conference itself. I'm not sure if I can yet, or how much I can say. There is a lot.

I think at this point I can say the conference is made up of lots of little moments.
Sitting with a friend as a companion as she gave a difficult message in worship.
Connecting another friend (really sending her in my stead) with a group who had great worship.
My connection with a Kenyan woman who is concerned about the youth in her yearly meeting and wishes they were more supported.
Giving extra clothes to a woman whose luggage has still not arrived.
Wonderful conversations with brand new people.
Finding kindred spirits.
Two of the plenary talks that were challenging, hopeful, uplifting, inspiring.
Just... being open.

I try to get a chance to write in my journal at least once a day to record my thoughts and feelings. There is so much to record! And so much to remember.

Well, back to less serious things (because I need some less serious time at the moment!)
Did I mention I had a pizza and milkshake on Saturday? Oh boy, I could use one of those again. I'm not sure what it is about the food - whether it's too much of the same, or a flavor, or what, but I am eating less and less. Hopefully I'll lose some weight. =)

Following are some variations on what we see for most lunches and dinners. There is usually rice, pasta (spaghetti), and ugali.  There is always some sort of watery soup and half a roll. Then there are beans and/or lentils and/or a beef stew of some sort that is spooned on top. Then there is a great big pile of greens (part kale, part spinach) and a great big pile of coleslaw (just cabbage and carrots). The day I took these photos they had these glorious potatoes. They were so good I went back for a whole plate of just potatoes.
Many people get all of this food piled up in huge piles on their plates. I've found out what I like and don't like and take it from there. I always skip the soup. I usually get only rice and as little a pile as they can give me. I always get the cabbage (except it had pineapple in it one day: SICK!). Sometimes the cabbage is warm, sometimes cold. They did do fried chicken one time, and fried fish another - and both were very tasty. Glorious! I will always go for potatoes. With the beans or lentils or beef stew I either skip it or get them to give me as little as possible. Although yesterday I got a bean dish and it had cilantro! I don't know why, but it tasted so wonderful to me - I've never loved cilantro as much as I did last night. Oh! I should say the potatoes had rosemary in them. Rosemary! I almost cried. I wish I wasn't so obsessed over food. I'm sure this is better than some people eat normally. I'm trying not to complain.
Oh, they do sometimes have watermelon or pineapple as well or bananas. I'll try to post a picture of breakfast...which has been equally...interesting.

These are especially for Patty. I don't know what these are, but someone said they are stork. Whatever they are, they live all over the campus, they are large, and they are loud. I don't know if I'll get a video of them or not. They sort of remind me of bleating sheep. They are obnoxious, but they make me smile. And they are beautiful. 

Off to dinner - wish me luck (and wish me chicken or fish or potatoes!)

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Flora, fauna, and fabric

Last night we had a bit of a plague of large creepy flying insects. I was sitting in the Pastoral Care room having a meeting when I realized more and more of these things were flying around. The woman next to me was trying to say a prayer and the bugs were landing in her hair, flapping in her face, and she kept jumping and freaking out. I had the heebie jeebies big time! Then someone else said people were having difficulty in the cafeteria because swarms of the bugs had flown in and people were trying to eat with bugs dropping into their soup and flying around their faces.

We made our meeting quick and headed over to the auditorium for FWCC business meeting. When I walked in I saw huge clouds of them swarming in the building. SICK!!! In my pastoral care role during that meeting I had to sit up on the stage behind the speakers and hold the meeting - with these big nasty bugs flying around. They dissipated after 30-45 minutes so that was good.

I still don't quite know what they are, but I guess they are a good thing in Kenya because they signify the rainy season. And apparently they taste good. A friend of mine had stayed behind in the cafeteria and one of the cooks came out and said the bugs were good. Ben didn't believe him. So the man fried some up and they shared some. Ben said the bugs were better than one or two of the food items we've been served! I wasn't there and I think I'll pass on future offerings of bugs. Blech.

Here is kind of a shot of the swarms in the auditorium: 

Here's how big they are...

And here are some other fun bugs outside our room, probably trying to get in...

 I've heard that after these guys mate or whatever, their wings drop off and they fall to the floor. So after the mass orgy was over, the floors everywhere were covered in twitching bodies of these guys. The staff has been sweeping them away all day.
 A big moth outside our door. I think I could hear it scratching at the door to come in.
 A walking stick bug outside the dorm. It is a very convincing looking stick!
 It seems nearly every bush and tree here is flowering. These are just a couple of the flowering bushes on campus.

Today was excursions day so many of us went off on trips. I went with a large group to Nakuru Town. I wanted to find some fabric (pictured below) and some other things.
I went off with several folks who seemed to know what they were doing. First we had to find an ATM. The leader woman with us got directions and off we went. I guess some ATMs take Visa and other Mastercard. We passed by one that took Visa and I thought I'd stop and try it. A woman from the group stayed with me and kept an eye on where everyone else went. No luck with the ATM. I can't remember my PIN number!  So I came out and the woman and I headed off to catch up with the group. She said she'd seen them cross the road but didn't know where they'd gone from there. We walked for blocks and blocks and saw no sign of them. The sidewalks were packed with people selling goods (radios, watches, shoes, underwear, stocking caps, food, books, and on and on). We got to a certain point where we could see quite a way and didn't see any sign of our other friends. We were lost/separated together.

The woman turned to me and said, "Well, I'm Joy!" I introduced myself and we went on our way! We turned back the other way and I asked a shop owner if he had seen a bunch of white people walk by. Yes he had! And one was wearing a green hat - our party! We walked and walked, but saw no sign of them. We gave it up and went into a grocery store to get a few things on our shopping list.

Hmm, I wish I'd taken a picture of the store now. I guess it had most of the normal things, but lots of things in tiny little packages, tiny little plastic bottles. They had enormous amounts of steel wool (I don't know what that was for) and a whole aisle of fat and lard for frying. I guess they fry things a lot. There was salt lick for animals, in the same aisle as candy and snacks; hoes and farming implements, and giant sacks of flour and sugar. It's always interesting to go to grocery stores in other countries.

Then it was well past time to have a sit down and a bit to eat. I must say our packed lunches left a bit to be desired. We decided to head back to the hotel we had stopped by earlier because there was a restaurant there. We walked in and who was there? The other folks from our group!
It was a lovely restaurant - I shared a pizza (YUM!) with Sharon Frame and had a milkshake (a couple scoops of ice cream floating in some milk). It was such an excellent meal. The guy in our group got a veggie burger and fries. Fries!! He let me have one. So good! And the bathrooms were nice too. =) (The squashed photo up there is Joy and I in the restaurant.)

Anyway, the other half of the group now wanted to go to the grocery store, so we split up again and Joy and I went to the market across the street. That was pretty intense. As soon as they know you're even the least bit interested you are swarmed and surrounded with half a dozen or more people pressing all sort of things on you - jewelry, hats, knick-knacks, cards, paintings, etc. I was very firm that I just wanted fabric. Once they realized what I wanted and what kind, suddenly everyone had fabric! I suspect many people pool their money or are somehow related because if I gave money and needed change, the woman would often get change from some other person standing nearby that I had thought to be a random vendor. And if they didn't have what I wanted in one spot, the person would lead my somewhere else to show me what was in the other area.  I may have spent a little more than I should have, but I think I did pretty well and I got a load of very nice fabric. There are some vendors on campus that have beautiful fabric; I'm going to try them again. The other day I asked about a piece and the woman said 12000 ksh (kenyan shillings). That's about $145! A little ridiculous. Some of my friends who have experience say I should say to the woman, "that is muzunga price!" and walk away. Muzunga being 'white person.' Maybe even dumb white person to pay that much! One of the pieces I got today was about $10. So I'll give it a try.

For my birding friends, there are loads of birds here but I haven't been able to get any on film. Maybe I'll have better luck on the safari next week.

I can't believe I've been here 5 days now, and the conference only has four days left. I feel...expectant. What will happen next?

Friday, April 20, 2012


These are the vans we rode on, with the luggage being secured on top. We are at the Friends Center here, taking a breather in between travels.

Just some buildings. It's not all huts over here, but some pretty big impressive buildings.

and some in process that aren't quite as impressive.

It's very hard to capture the gigantic size of the Rift Valley, but, here's a try...

Following are pictures of the library on campus. Of course. =)

It is a beautiful new building (with nice bathrooms that even have toilet paper!)

This particular section caught my eye. See the sign?

There was nothing there! Oh wait, I think that's it way, way over there.

This is the most sparse library I think I've seen! Even the library I worked in in Guatemala seemed to have more. Of course it probably had less, but the building was much smaller. I am very curious what their plan is, if they need books, if they want them, how they go about getting them. It was just sad to see such an empty library.
But it was beautiful and very quiet.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The weather

The weather has been very pleasant here so far, especially for a girl raised in Oregon.

The mornings start out a bit cool, but usually comfortable, somewhere above or below 60. The sky is blue, blue, blue and birds are singing.

As the day progresses it gets warmer and warmer and more humid, but probably only up to 70s and low 80s. In the afternoon, without fail, enormous black clouds come rolling in with portentous thunder sounding in the distance. And we all bet on when the rains will come and how hard they will be. Will I get to my room for my raincoat and umbrella before the rain starts? Or will I be out in the middle of it all when the buckets start raining down?

Some days when it starts raining it doesn't let up for the rest of the evening, and even goes on through the night. Other times it rains for a short while and then stops. But the clouds stick around and it cools back down again.

Some people I think are carrying everything they need with them for the day since it can be a long way to get back to your room. Sometimes you need a sweater in the morning, sometimes not. Later in the afternoon you'll definitely want a raincoat and or umbrella. While the sun is out you want longish sleeves and a hat to keep from getting sunburn. When it gets cloudy you want that sweater again because it cools down, especially when the sun goes down. And when it gets dark you really want a flashlight because the campus isn't well lit and the pathways are full of sudden steps up and down, cracks, bumps, etc all waiting to surprise you and trip you in the dark.

What time is it now? Well, I've left my sweater behind and I've got my raincoat and umbrella and flashlight. It has been cooler today so I may wish I had some long underwear bottoms for under my skirt, but I don't think there will be time to go back for those!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


I am here in Kenya! I've been planning to say this all along, and it is true: As I was expecting, it's not what I expected!

After a very long couple days of travel (which have stories of their own), we arrived at Jomo Kenyatta Airport on Tuesday morning at 6am. They had served dinner at something like 11pm the night before, and woke us up at 4:30am for breakfast! We got off the plane and went in search of money changers - we'd heard we'd get a good rate at the airport, and not so much elsewhere. That accomplished, we went in search of the way out. We filled out our visa applications and waited in long lines to clear immigration. They scanned our fingerprints, which I don't believe I've ever had done at an airport before.

Then down the stairs to find our luggage. And find that there were dozens of other Quakers milling about waiting for luggage or friends. There were all sorts of problems: damaged suitcase, missing or late luggage, etc. But finally we all had our luggage and moved on into the welcome hall where there was a large group waiting to receive us.  It was wonderful to see friendly faces. We were led out to a tour bus van and climbed aboard as our luggage was thrown up on top and secured with tarps and ropes. About 30 or 45 minutes later we finally left.

We went only a little way, though I'm sure it took an hour, to get to the Friends Center in Nairobi. Here we waited for awhile later for the other two buses from the airport to catch up with us. I think we left there around 10am. Someone bought the last bottle of water ahead of me so I got a lukewarm bottle of sprite. Anything as long as it's wet! But no food, which was probably a mistake because it had already been about 6 hours since any of us had anything to eat and I was getting hungry. But I'd heard Kabarak University wasn't that far away, a few hours, and we'd already come a distance, so surely it wouldn't be that far...?

Perhaps not, but for one thing the traffic was awful! It was rush hour apparently and the roads were completely clogged. I noticed very quickly that the lines on the roads were merely suggestions, and not taken all that seriously. Sometimes, there were two lanes of traffic going one way and one going the opposite, then without warning that middle lane would switch to the other direction. I think people just took advantage of that lane: if no one was coming their way they would use it. People were merging and passing at very close quarters without any signalling; motorcycles were weaving in and out everywhere, and people were often crossing the road, weaving in and out of traffic, sometimes no more than an inch or two from a passing vehicle. One time, we were passed on the right and left side at the same time! (And I'm pretty sure that was on a two way road.)

We eventually got out of the busy congestion of the city and were in a more rural area. I saw chickens, sheep, goats, and donkeys grazing on the side of the road. Then we had to slow down for some baboons crossing the road. Then I KNEW I was in Africa! Later I saw zebra off to the side and a heard of gazelle or something like that. Since it is the rainy season everything is greening up. There are flowering trees and bushes everywhere, with such outrageous colors: purple, blue, yellow, pink, etc. There are also some impressive giant cactus trees.

Our bus was climbing up and up and we came around a corner and were suddenly looking out over the Great Rift Valley. We were all trying to take pictures from the dirty windows of the speeding, swerving van. The driver finally stopped off at a viewpoint - which, of course, also turned out to be a tourist trap with some very persistent salespeople. I don't know that I knew this before, but the Valley stretches from Israel right down Africa all the way to Mozambique (I think that's where it ends). It is huge! Hard to describe the immensity of it.

After tearing ourselves away from the hawkers and salespeople, we got back on the road. Around 12:30 or so our driver stopped again at a place where we could buy food. Thank goodness! I thought I was going to die I was so hungry. I guess it's called Kenyan Time, what our driver was on. He said we would stop for just 10 minutes - but I'm pretty sure it was more like 30-45 minutes; and this happened at all the stops.

This stop was the first time I looked for a bathroom. I found one off in the corner and went to investigate. Squatty potties. Just a nice hole in the floor inside a stall. And the whole bathroom was covered in water, so we were all trying to do our business without getting wet from the floor. After I left my stall I saw why it was so wet - a woman on duty took a whole bucket of water and threw it into the stall. I guess they do this to wash out the stalls after each use. Hey - I wasn't that messy. =/

Back to the buses and finally on the road again. I slept a lot of the latter half of the journey. I was so tired and and miserable from days in tiny cramped up, uncomfortable seats. All I could do was go to sleep. We got to the university finally at 4pm.

It's kind of a haze for awhile after that. All I wanted to do was find my room and lay down. The registration line was long, but I got through it. Then I found out a map and schedule wasn't included in my packet. So I wandered around aimlessly for awhile and finally decided to dump all my stuff in a pile on the ground and take a rest right on the sidewalk next to some building. After awhile I had the energy to get up and go find my room. There was, of course, another line there to get my room key, a roll of toilet paper (for the bathroom) and a bucket (for bathing).

We are at 7 or 8,000 feet so I think the altitude is messing with me a bit. I'm just slightly dizzy from time to time and tired. But I'm feeling more human and getting into the swing of things. I'm going to sign off now before the power goes out again! Thank goodness for auto save!  More as soon as I get here to the computer lab again.

Friday, April 13, 2012


If I can't find a way to post anything and you want to know what's going on, here are some options.

Conference website

World Conference Facebook page

Or follow @Kabarak2012 or @FWCCAmericas on Twitter for more updates. Search for the tag #FWCC2012 for all online updates.

Two days to go!

Of course I haven't been very good at writing anything here! But the hope is I'll be able to write something I'm IN Kenya.

There is a large pile growing in the living room: clothing, paperwork, medicines, notebook, Bible, sunscreen, little tissue packages, and other odds and ends. Every time I see something I need while I'm walking through the house I grab it and toss it on the pile. Tomorrow I'll go through the pile and compare it to my list and see what I'm forgetting. I know I don't have any mosquito repellent or any cash. And a friend is bringing a mosquito net on Sunday afternoon.

So here's the schedule so you'll know where I am:

Sunday, April 15 - fly out of the Minneapolis airport at 9:30pm
I arrive in Amsterdam at 1:00p on Monday, then we have a long layover. Oh yeah, I'm traveling with three other people on the plane (yay!) - Jeanne, Gale, and Geoffrey. Hopefully we'll get out to explore Amsterdam for a few hours, stretch our legs and take in the sites.
Then we're back on the plane at 9:00pm.
We arrive in Nairobi at 6:25am.

I think there is a one hour or so shuttle to the conference site, which is at Kabarak University near Nakuru.

I'll just be bumming around campus I guess because the opening ceremony isn't until 4:45 that afternoon/evening.

For the first three days the schedule looks something like this:
7a - early morning worship and other activities (um, I'll be sleeping)
7:30a - breakfast
8:45a - Worship and reflection on the theme - each time led by a different world section
10:15a - tea break!
11:00a - home groups
12:45p - lunch and rest (ie. nap time!)
2:45p - Thread groups (these are sort of interest groups and you attend the same one every day and the discussion grows day by day - love this idea)
4:15p - tea time!
4:45p - Thread groups (in case folks want to participate in two different groups)
6:30p - dinner
8:00p - varies - keynote, section gatherings, interest groups, FWCC business
9:45p - epilogue.

And then passing out after that I guess. =)

Saturday, the midpoint of the week, will be for excursions. There is a long list of things to do, places to go. I'm looking at a few different options - Kariandusi Pre-Historic Site, Kericho Tea Plantation, or shopping in Nakuru. Hmmm. Decisions, decisions.

Then Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday are mostly the same as the first three days, with some variations here and there. There is a final celebration on Tuesday night.
Wednesday is closing worship and then people start departing around 10:15.

I'll be sticking around for a little bit, waiting for my safari to start.
So here is the schedule for that (provided by the safari folks):

April 25: Kabarak - Lake Nakuru:
Depart from Kabarak University by 12:00, drive to Lake Nakuru National Park. Check in at Genevieve Guest House in time for lunch. At 15:00 hrs start your game drive around the lake whose shallow alkaline lake has earned fame as home of the greatest bird spectacle in the world. The park features rhinos, lions, buffalos, Hippos, waterbucks, giraffe, a large variety of Monkeys among other wildlife species.  The Park is known worldwide for being the habitat of the Pink Flamingos and over 400 other bird species. Dinner and overnight Genevieve Guest House

26th April: Nakuru - Maasai Mara:
After your breakfast, do your final game drive as you check out of Lake Nakuru Park for the drive to Kenya's finest Game Reserve Crossing the Great Rift Valley towns of Naivasha, Maai Mahiu, Narok and the game studded Maasai Plains. Arrive in Maasai Mara time for lunch at Flamingo Camp. Relax at your Camp before you take the afternoon game drive. The game drive gives you the opportunity to spot the magnificent black maned lions for which the Mara is famous. Cheetah, leopard and smaller cats and predators are frequently seen. Dinner and overnight at Flamingo Camp

27th April: Maasai Mara:
A full day of game viewing and exploration of the reserve. This part of the Northern Serengeti is where the great wildebeest migration is resident and it will be possible to see large herds of these animals with zebras and many types of gazelles covering much of the reserve. You have best chances of seeing “The Big Five” Elephant, Rhino, Buffalo, Leopard and giraffe . Bird watchers will also see a large variety of birds. All meals and overnight at Flamingo Camp

28th April: Maasai Mara – Nairobi:
After your breakfast do your final game drive in this park and drive to Nairobi.

Sigh. Then it's back to the airport. My flight leaves at 10:30pm and I get to Amsterdam 5:40am.
Perhaps I'll take advantage of leaving the airport again, since my next flight doesn't leave till 1:30pm.
I get back to Minneapolis at 3:40pm.

So now you know pretty much where I'll be and what I'll be doing at every minute. =)

I'm hoping I'll be able to post when I'm there but no guarantees. I know there is a computer lab at the University, but if I have to fight with 900 other people for access, I'll probably give up. And I don't know what options there will be while on safari. But I'll do my best if there is any computer and internet available.