I Am A Fool

Well, that’s what some of our friends and family think of us anyway. Imagine, why would or should we leave the lovely Northern Beaches of Sydney? We had a great lifestyle, had the ability to earn good money, went to one of the biggest churches in the city and lived a 4 minute walk from the beach.

In anyones mind moving to Nairobi which has all the opposite of the above is the most craziest idea ever.

Here, we’re not allowed to make money, the nearest beach is 9 hours away and getting into  a new church is hard work. The roads are so rough I end up with headaches from a sore neck.

Recently we wrote to our friends seeking their financial support, for a simple $10 per month. Most don’t get back to us but I’m really surprised who decided to get behind us.

I know that lots of people think we’re totally insane being here and they are probably right. Who in their right mind would in the prime of their money making years turn their backs on everything comfortable.

But comfortable isn’t us. A kiwi friend who has studied counseling says that job satisfaction is the main priority of those in their 40’s and 50’s. We can attest to that. There is absolutely nothing wrong with making money though. In fact, it’s one of the main things we miss – the capability to earn. Both of us, but especially Pete is a very hard worker and there is great security in bringing in your own income, it feels good too.

Contrary to what people think, I’m more concerned with what God thinks.

There’s this very cool scripture that says ‘He who wins souls is wise’ (Prov 11.30). We’re not out here bashing people with the Bible, we’re working with young people and showing them the love of God. But it’s not just young people who need this revelation, it’s everyone. We’re looking at joining a Rotary Club. Mainly it’s to meet new people, but it also gives us an opportunity to be God’s representatives to the rather wealthy people who attend.

Are we fools? Maybe, maybe not, but as long as the money comes in we’re staying. If we really wanted to make money here we could do it but that would have to be our focus and not young people. Yep, we’ll make it to the beach one day and will love every minute of it.

But true wisdom is leaving a legacy for the next generation. And that’s the plan Stan for the wildcreanberries!

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Home and Away

I’ve tried all I can to call Kenya home but it’s not quite working. I thought if I put it into my head that this was ‘home’ it would happen automatically, but it hasn’t. I still call Australia home. While we will always consider ourselves Kiwis, we see ourselves as more honorary Aussies. Of course, when it comes to the rugby we always love the haka. Our 11 years in Australia were some of the best we’ve ever had.

It’s not a bad thing though, pretty much all expats have a place they call home, but that’s because they’re only here for 2 or 3 years on assignment. For us, as long as the money lasts, we’re here.

It’s been nearly 9 months since we’ve been in our own place. For a month our Aussie mum put us up at her place, then we spent a month in the US before coming here to Nairobi. We’ve been house sitting since then. Getting into our own house is pretty important. I was so over having our stuff in boxes that I just had to get some small things out. Some have been packed since a year ago!

A place can be a house but definitely not a home. I’m hoping when we find a place next week that we can really make it our own. It was way too expensive to bring many belongings with us from Aussie so it was just a few mementos and kitchen gear. Everything else we had to start from scratch.

Between the time we came in 2011 and then again in 2012 living costs had pretty much doubled. Still, we press on.

There’s been some challenges to even finding a place. Twice now we’ve been promised an apartment and it’s fallen through. Apparently on the 28th we’ve been guaranteed a 3 bedroom apartment just up the road from the office. I’m not into crossing fingers but I really hope we get it. The owners of the house we’re in are coming back from New Zealand in exactly 2 weeks and we also have some Kiwi friends coming for a week. So, we’re cutting it pretty thin.

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The actual apartment we hope to get.

At this stage we’ll be sleeping on airbeds, but that’s okay, we’ve done it before.

Thanks to some generous friends we will have a couch to sit on! As I’m writing this blog our builder is sitting in our lounge drawing what he’s done. It was meant to be finished tomorrow, but in good Kenyan time it’ll be next week. We are so grateful for all of our supporters we really could not be here without them. When renting an apartment here you even have to supply your own gas oven, known as a ‘cooker’ here. I guess that’s because people steal them when they leave.

One of the reasons we are here is to host the many international visitors who come to Kenya to look at the work we are doing. Every month for the rest of the year we get the great pleasure of having people in our home, whether it be just for one night or seven. In fact, one couple arrive just a few days after we hopefully move into our home! I love having people at our place, whether they are a local or a visitor. To us it’s really really important to have a nice place that people can call their second home.

Thankfully it’s not over the top expensive to get furniture made. The same lounge suite we wanted in Sydney is about ¼ of the price to be made here and we only have to wait a week for it. To get a bed made takes around 4 days.

Hence, we’ve started a campaign called ‘House our Home’ to give people an opportunity to partner with us to make our new house (actually an apartment), our home. Check out the link HERE which has a whole list of things people can donate towards. The cool thing is that it doesn’t matter if you’re in Australia, the US or the UK, it’s tax deductible, sorry about the rest of you though!

I’m hoping that when we get into our own place that we’ll feel like this could become our home. We’re not ready to go back to Australia yet, but I think I’ll always call it home (of some sort anyway).

The Biggest Sacrifice Of All

There are many ancient religions where children were sacrificed on behalf of their parents. These include the Incas, Moabites, Phoenicians and Islamists.

Usually it was to appease a god, please them or in the hope of better crops.

Even today child sacrifice continues around the globe. ‘There are many indicators that politicians and politically connected wealthy businessmen are involved in sacrificing children which has become a commercial enterprise.’ (Wikipedia)

What made me think of this gruesome event was when our daughter stomped off to her bedroom last night yelling ‘that’s it, I’m packing my bags and getting the next flight home!”

While it may not mean a lot to the average person to us it was a huge thing. Because we had decided to move to Kenya our youngest moved out of home and then moved country to New Zealand where she hadn’t lived for 11 years. Our oldest (Liz) came with us.

Literally she had no choice. Liz is a special needs young adult and cannot live by herself. She is a high functioning Aspergers. Most people don’t even know because she is so friendly, has the best smile, cooks wonderfully and is adventurous. Liz has no worries about jumping on a plane to travel from Kenya to Australia, as long as she has her paperwork printed out and in order. If you ask her how her day was, her answer will always be ‘good’.

So for her to say what she did really hit hard.

People think it’s ‘so wonderful’ what we are doing (working in Africa) but there is a flip side to it that most don’t even think of.

Our kids sacrifice for us to be here.

There are days when you wonder if that sacrifice is really worth it. They have to give up friends, family, jobs and the convenience of the only life they’ve known. There is a huge difference between visiting somewhere and living there.

For Liz she has totally lost her friendship and support network and doesn’t have the ability to rebuild that. There are no great social services for those with a disability here. Getting to a church event during the week is a 90 minute drive each way – and that’s on a good day. Art classes are exorbitantly expensive. Volunteer positions for her are just about zero. Then, there’s the fact that she has to fly back to Australia every 3 months to keep her disability pension.

As parents we really do feel we have sacrificed our kids for this mission.

It happens around the globe time and time again. It’s an extra thing when you have a child with a disability because their future doesn’t look quite as bright as it did before.

We now have to make a decision to whether she stays here or has to return to New Zealand and see her only every few years. Right now the thought of that is too much to bear.

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So when you hear of people working in developing countries take a moment to think about how it impacts their family both for the good and bad. There are those working for a large NGO that cater for their housing, transport and kids schooling, then there are small development workers like us who scrape by on their friends donations. Either way, at some stage they either have to return to their home country for their children’s education or they have to say goodbye to them, unsure of when/if they will see them again.

Skype and social networks never replace a real relationship, but it sure beats the old days before they were invented.

Our kids have been blessed to be involved in humanitarian work in several countries, seen many places in the world that others only read about and have had an impact in changing communities. I believe it has changed them and made them better and bigger minded people. I don’t regret investing in them to travel, it has been worth every dollar spent.

“Children are the world’s most valuable resource and its best hope for the future” John F Kennedy

 

Life as a Teacher

I really enjoy teaching. Whether it’s one on one or in a classroom.

I actually wanted to become a teacher but became a youth worker instead. Where we lived the nearest university was at least an hour away. I was married and there was no way I was leaving my husband just to do what I wanted. Then the kids came along and it never happened.

I home schooled our girls and there were a few extra bodies along the way. Now looking back I would do things differently but at the time you do the best that you can. When we moved to Australia in 2002, I gave up the schooling and the youth work as we needed the money and Sydney was way more expensive than Christchurch to live in.

As I’m writing this I’m overseeing 15 students who have completed a 6 week business skills class that I’ve taught. These are young men who only a short while ago where living on the streets of Nairobi. They didn’t finish primary school, but they could be great businessmen if they believe in themselves.

It’s kind of weird how everything from the past 25 years happens just for that moment. I mean, we moved to Aussie, I ended up working in a high school and then went on to working for a university. I got my MBA (Masters of Business Administration) and we started our work in Africa. I’m tutoring kids here and teaching classes. In the next 5 years we’re looking at building a boarding school.

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I didn’t even finish high school.

I dropped out at just before my final year. In those days you just walked into a job, not like now.

But I’ve also become the student again.

Each Monday I have Kiswahili lessons with Judy, she’s a whizz at languages, I’m not. I’ve taught English as a second language and decided I’d much rather be a teacher than a student. I’m envious of these Kenyan kids, they have to learn at least 2 languages throughout their school life.

I’m 44 and yet feel like a 4 year old trying to learn Kiswahili.

I’ve heard people say that you can never stop learning. Heck, move to a country like Kenya and then you have the right to say that. I was wanting to get my Masters in Development some time in the future, but every day here in Kenya is a classroom.

Society here is our teacher and she’s not always nice or patient.

Sometimes I don’t want to hear what she is saying and some times I just don’t care. Sometimes I just want to go to a movie and forget that I’m in Africa.

The fact is though that we are here and we do have to learn. As someone told us ‘Coming to Africa shows you what’s really inside of you, how big a capacity you have’. I thought I was a big person inside but discovered that I’m not. I’m too judgemental, opinionated, narrow-minded and set in my own ways – thank you very much!!

While life is a schoolroom, we have to be willing to learn.

I’m always telling my students that attitude determines altitude, now I have to take my own medicine. While the medicine might not taste great, it is good for us.

 

 

 

 

 

7 Myths About Kenya

1. It’s Hot

Sure, there are some places that are pretty warm, but overall, Australia is hotter. For the 6 months we’ve been living here there was probably only one week of really hot. Today I am wearing jeans, jumper and ugg boots. Why the boots I hear you ask – floors are tiled here and they get pretty cold on an overcast day.

Living on the Equator is handy, the length of days doesn’t change. You know it will be light by about 6.30am and dark by 7pm. While my arms are tanned, the legs have a lot to be desired.

 

2. It’s Cheap

You must be kidding me. Sure, fruit is cheaper than in the West but everything else is equal to or more expensive than back home. I think it makes a difference for us because we aren’t allowed to earn money so we’re super careful with what we get in. Import tax is anywhere in between 75% and 110%. A couple of weeks ago we were in Uganda and things were half the price of here, to the point that I bought an iron.

 

3. We Live In A Mud Hut

While we work with the poor, we don’t have to live like that. Sure there are hundreds of thousands of people who do live in mud huts but not us. Right now we’re on the search for a 3 bedroom apartment, which we can get for 90,000Kshs (about $1,050 dollars). That’s great compared to what were paying in Australia but it’s a challenge for us. At least when we have friends and family come to stay there’s somewhere nice. We also plan to get some leadership training sessions going with the young people and hiring buildings is pretty expensive so we can host them at our place.

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4. There Are Only Black People Here

You’re either a Kenyan or Mzungu. Anyone white is a Mzungu, it doesn’t matter if you’re from New Zealand, the US, Europe or Australia. Sure, the whites are in a minority but you’re never sure where they are from and why they are hear. There are even white Kenyans, these are children of people who came in the colonial days. They don’t belong here but England is not their home either. They’re in between 2 worlds. I’ve bumped into so many Dutch people I never need to go to Holland. You can pick out the Aussie and Kiwi accents from a long distance. Last month we went to the ANZAC dawn service and there would’ve been around 200 people there. So, there’s a few from the Pacific over this way.

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5. It’s All About War, Poverty & Famine

Yep, there’s lots of poverty around here, but there’s also some serious money to be made. If you can go through all the legal loops and corruption, Kenya is a good place for investing in. Especially so if it’s roads, IT or building.

There’s also lots of money to be made in war and famine. While people in the West get shocked about the crisis up north, they don’t realise that the refugee camps have been there for 20 years. In our travels around East Africa, there are some very nice vehicles, and hotels kept busy because of civil unrest and disasters. Unfortunately, as soon as it’s all peaceful these NGO’s pull out and the businesses close up because of a lack of customers.

You only have to spend 10 minutes at one of the local malls to see that the middle class here is getting bigger.

 

6. It’s A Really Hard Place To Live In

Depends what you mean by hard. Sure, only knowing a small amount of Swahili is a pain, so you’ll get charged more outside of the malls, but it’s not tragic here. You have to be willing to adapt. You make sure you lock your care, when you’re in it. You put your mobile phone in your front pocket. The food isn’t great but you won’t starve. The traffic sucks and you get over paying bribes to the police every time you get pulled up – otherwise you go to jail.

It’s not so much hard as complicated.

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7. People Only Come Here For Safaris

True, most people come here for a safari. They come for a look at an allusive lion, zebra, elephant or giraffe. No, we don’t have tigers, they are in India. It’s surprising though how many people come for other things though. I ran into a lady from Sydney who came over just to catch up with friends. Some people come to build classrooms, visit their sponsored child or volunteer. Sometimes students who are at university need to intern somewhere and that’s one of the areas we work with. We give them opportunity to teach, see the different projects and assist the staff. Right now we need lots of volunteers as the work continues to grow.

Don’t think that what is on the 6pm news is all there is about Kenya or Africa itself. There’s a whole world of amazing things happening here. Sure it’s not Hawaii, but it’s not hell either.

Want to help bring positive change to the lives of young people in East Africa through our work? Why not donate today – click HERE