Our Partners Are Important

It’s coming up to 3 years of us living in Nairobi, Kenya. It’s been an interesting time, never dull or boring that’s for sure.

This time last week I was in Dubai escorting a teenager on their way to Australia. I remember thinking ‘Maybe it’s time to go home because it’s so convenient’. There’s hot water out of the tap, the electricity works all of the time, it’s clean and you can even walk about at night on the street. Although it was all a false world, it was pretty good for 2 days.

Me with Sam on his very first flight of his life.

Me with Sam on his very first flight of his life.

The truth is, life here is not always easy and you’ve got to have big shoulders to handle some of the challenges. Security is always an issue – gangs, terrorists, pickpockets. You’ve got to consider more than 40 tribes in the country, all with their own way of doing things. There’s the learning of Swahili, trying to cope with the traffic and not being able to buy all of the things you need very easily.

This is the cost that those who work in developing countries pay. However there are many benefits to it as well.

You meet amazing people who are similar but different to you. You get to see sights and in our case, wildlife that is particular to this part of the world. You get to experience a type of life that others only ever dream of.

elephant faceon

We try and see what we do as a privilege.

That privilege is only possible because of the partners we have. There’s 75 year old George who is nearly blind and is on the pension, who gives us $30 a month from his small income. There’s also a couple who give from the rent on their property. Someone gives us $5 a month as they are a single parent. It’s always very humbling.

March 2014 with George who always takes us to KFC when we visit.

March 2014 with George who always takes us to KFC when we visit.

Without partners we can’t be here. Without people’s sacrifice, we’re stuffed.

Some of our partners give just once or twice. HD Projects is one such partner.

hdprojects1

Pete worked for HD Projects in Sydney for around 7 years, starting out as a labourer and eventually as a project manager. If you asked him he would say that it was the best companies he’s ever worked for. He has a lot of respect for the owners Richard and Clyde. The only reason he left was because he was tired and his role was pretty stressful. One thing about Pete is that he is committed to his work and gives it 150% of his effort.

HD Projects are one of our corporate sponsors. This happened way before we even came to Kenya, they just didn’t know it.

HD helped finance into Pete’s ute which he used for travelling all over Sydney for jobs. They then bought is back from us when we left in 2012. This helped provide for moving some household goods over with us.

In 2013 they provided the funds for a vehicle for us to use in our work here in Kenya. You can’t just buy a small hatchback here, you need a 4 wheel drive and a car that you can easily get parts for. In the end we found an X-Trail and are super happy with it.

Now in 2015, HD Projects have funded our car costs for a year. It’s such a relief as most things are really expensive here and our budget for living costs is quite small. One tyre is $330 and we needed 4 of them. Pete is absolutely ecstatic that we are much safer on the road and that we can actually have funds to repair his bike and the car.

Pete changing a flat tyre in the middle of an animal wildlife park.

Pete changing a flat tyre in the middle of an animal wildlife park.

Whether it’s a retiree, a business, a church or a total stranger, all of our partners make what we do possible.

Today we want to say asante sana (thank you very much) to those who sacrifice and partner with us. It doesn’t go unnoticed and every day we are aware of the people in the bigger family of the ‘Wild Creanberries’.

Run, run as fast as you can

One of the few things my father left as a legacy was the love of running. I can’t remember what age we were made to start running but I remember being in middle school. I never entered competitions except for the Round The Bays in 1983, just after my father died.

I’m not a fast runner, now I do what I call a ‘granny shuffle’.

But I do like to run. At 46 though, the body doesn’t quite bounce back like it used to.

We’ve lived in Kenya since 2012 and I pretty much decided that running would go on the back burner. While we lived in Sydney I could jog along the streets and then the beach, it was great. I entered the City to Surf, the biggest funrun in the world where 80,000 people run the 14km trek up Heartbreak Hill to Bondi Beach. I ran it years ago.

My finish wasn't so enthusiastic.

My finish wasn’t so enthusiastic.

Nairobi is a little (okay a lot) different to run in. I can’t go for a run before 6.45am as it’s just getting light. At that time of the morning there are footpaths full of people making their way to work. There’s no ‘keeping to the left’ you just have to squeeze in between the crowds. I actually like to go later when there’s less people but it’s way too hot.

One of the biggest obstacles for safely running here is the footpaths, or lack of them. Around where we live there are a few footpaths but they have holes in them or are broken up in places. When you’re running you kind of feel like you’re in a cross country event. About 200 metres from our place you turn a corner to go down and up a hill. You would have to be insane to try and even run over that spot. A few times I’ve nearly twisted my ankle on loose rocks.

And then there are the trucks.

I don’t know what it is about trucks here but they are way overloaded and go slower than a snail up hill. They puff out this thick, dark smoke that doesn’t go in the air but out at face level. It’s gross.

This photo doesn't even show how bad the smoke from the trucks are.

This photo doesn’t even show how bad the smoke from the trucks are.

So for the first few years I didn’t bother running. I set up a home gym area but once you get up to 100 squats, situps, pushups and the like, what’s next?

We returned back from our overseas trip a month ago and I decided ‘what the heck, why not give running another go’. So I have.

I’m only a couple of weeks into it, and amping up the anti to see if my foot can handle a run three times a week. I’ve a Morton’s Neuroma under my right foot which plays up whenever it feels like it. It’s like having a hot, sharp poker up through your foot. In 2011 and 2012 I climbed Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. In 2012 the last day was excruciating because my foot played up so much. I just couldn’t wait to get down.

My faithful runners.

My faithful runners.

On March 8th, Lizzie and I will be running 10km’s in ‘The First Lady’s Half Marathon’ around Nairobi. I really want to get up to a half marathon status but not sure if my foot would make it. One of my dreams is to run in the Lewa Marathon through an animal conservancy. Here’s hoping I can do it by next year.

So why do I run?

I run because I like getting out there with my headphones on and not worry about all of the world’s problems. I need to run to keep myself fit. When I run I drink a lot more water than if I sit in front of a computer all day. I run because I can’t afford to go to a gym.

And I run because I like it.

How We Travelled With No Money For Two Months

We’ve just done an 8 week trip away from Kenya, travelling through Dubai, Mumbai, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand. In this blog I’ll be telling you how we did it with no money. For us it was a total trip of faith – that’s how we hang. If you’re not a Jesus follower, read the blog anyway with an open mind because it’s not something we can invent.

A bit different to how we look in Kenya.

A bit different to how we look in Kenya.

Hannah, our youngest was getting married on December 19th in NZ. Of course it’s something we wouldn’t/couldn’t miss, but we had no idea how we were going to do it. Our budget for living in Nairobi should be $3,500 a month, we get in around $2,000.

Hannah really looked stunning.

Hannah really looked stunning.

Until this year Liz has been getting in just under $800 on the disability pension from Australia. We knew it would be stopping in January. Each month we would use a couple of hundred dollars to put towards the budget. We didn’t like it, but the cost of living in Kenya is sky rocketing.

Hannah and Luke. The reason we took this trip.

Hannah and Luke. The reason we took this trip.

I remember complaining to God (He’s got big shoulders) saying I was over dipping into Lizzies pension money and He could find another way to find $5,000 to fly us home. She didn’t have enough in her account anyway but I wasn’t about to take any more.

In Auckland we stayed at my cousins - Jeff & Jeanettes.

In Auckland we stayed at my cousins – Jeff & Jeanette.

One Saturday we had a youth leaders meeting at our house. These are kids who run the child sponsorship monthly meeting, they also take about 90 minutes to get from the Kibera Slum to our place – many times they walk some of the way. We feed them lunch and then we do a bit of training. This day at the end we asked who had prayer requests. Some needed school fee money, others jobs, others provision – we needed 500,000 shillings. Remember, most of these kids live on 200 shillings a day.

Mathew, the leader prayed for us and for the wedding. This was on the Saturday.

On the Monday I’m in a meeting that is dragging on a bit so I check my emails on my phone and there’s a notification from a small church (The Embassy) in Sydney that supports us a small amount per month, instead it says there’s $2,000 this month. My heart skipped a beat and then I thought ‘maybe it’s meant to be $200 because we’ve been overpaid before, but $200 is awesome’. I send a Facebook message to someone in the know and leave it. The next day I get a reply that yes indeed, they decided to bless us with extra. I remember writing ‘thanks, you’ve just paid my flight home to my daughters’ wedding’.

Liz came with us to every meeting, sometimes 4 a day.

Liz came with us to every meeting, sometimes 4 a day.

On the Wednesday I emailed some friends who gave us $1,200 earlier in the year when we thought Pete’s dad was dying. We kept it aside for ‘the day’, which didn’t happen. They said we could use it for whatever. The same day, someone emailed me and asked how short we were for our flights home, I said $800. They said it would be in our account that day.

Ross & Ros are our faith partners in what we do.

Ross & Ros are our faith partners in what we do.

Within 4 days, God had heard the prayers of others and my whinging and supplied money for flights. Sure, we hop scotched around the globe on super cheap flights, but we did it.

So, we had our return flights sorted but that was it.

We saw the ocean from time to time but didn't play in it much.

We saw the ocean from time to time but didn’t play in it much.

When we got to NZ we had free accommodation at my cousins house and then our future in-laws lent us the ‘windy’ a super little car that kept going and going. However, that was it.

We flew in on the Friday and the next day we started our ‘furlough’. This is when you leave your work back on the field and spend endless days and nights visiting your current and potential supporters. Somewhere in the 2 months you’re meant to take a break – not something we achieved.

Evan and Moira used to pastor the church that supports us. This was before they went to NYC and us back to Kenya.

Evan and Moira used to pastor the church that supports us. This was before they went to NYC and us back to Kenya.

The plan was to be in Auckland with Hannah on the weekends and travel on the weeks. The week leading up to the wedding would be totally spent in Auckland.

That first Saturday we go and see some friends who we got to meet when they hosted us for a youth conference – 21 years ago. They gave us some money for ‘incidentals’ – for us that meant wedding clothes. We had nothing to wear to the wedding of the year. So that was provided for.

On our way around NZ we stopped in Waihi where Pete's family came from. This is the area being mined.

On our way around NZ we stopped in Waihi where Pete’s family came from. This is the area being mined.

Everywhere we went people fed us (a lot) whether that be at a café or in their homes – and they paid for it all. There were very few times we had to pay for anything, which was great because eating out in NZ is really expensive. There were times people gave us envelopes of cash, put money into our bank account or went out and bought us things.

Pete’s a country boy at heart. He milked cows a couple of mornings while we were staying with some friends on a farm. He loved it and it was the closest to getting a break. Not because he had helped with milking but because of the generosity of our friends, they gave us a fuel card to use for the next month. That meant all of our petrol costs were covered. Just as well because we ended up doing 3,000 kilometres in that time.

Pete milking cows in Cambridge.

Pete milking cows in Cambridge.

One of the things we kept praying for was $5,000 to give towards the wedding costs. It never came through. We felt really bad that we could contribute hardly anything. One thing we wanted to do was give our kids the deposit for a house when they got married. Going to serve in Africa killed that one. Sure, we pulled together some funds for a few homewares, wedding props and something towards the photographers, but it never felt enough. We have short term borders at our home and we managed to save that, but it wasn’t just the same.

So while we were super blessed to have our costs covered, this one thing never came through. I don’t know why but it is what it is.

One thing I did notice is that people who sacrificially give to us each month, went overboard in looking after us. Generosity is not just an action, it’s a part of a persons’ character. It was the same people who give to us, kept giving whether it was cash, cheques, petrol cards or gas vouchers. We especially noticed it in New Zealand because we were there for a month.

Uncle Bob knew Liz when she was just a toddler.

Uncle Bob knew Liz when she was just a toddler.

However, it wasn’t much different in Aussie. We had a friends’ house and car to use – for free. Sometimes we had 4 meetings a day. It was exhausting but good at the same time. Considering we weren’t meant to come back until June this year, we managed to fit in a lot. Again, people would just give us a blessing of cash, which was very cool.

Singapore was hot, humid and lots of fun.

Singapore was hot, humid and lots of fun.

I remember being there for a few days and we were in the car, Pete said “Well God, when’s it going to come through again?” The funds had dried up and this time we had to pay for petrol. That very same day someone gave us a few hundred dollars. It paid not only for our fuel but the hire car we needed for a couple of days at the end.

Last but not least, we needed $600 for travel insurance. Insurance isn’t one thing you can do without when you’re abroad, it’s not worth the risk. We hadn’t been insured for a couple of months and it’s not a nice feeling. In our last few days in Aussie, two people gave us cash which covered the whole amount. That will keep us going for 6 months and then we’ll get a 12 month policy in July.

No, we didn't go tenting.

No, we didn’t go tenting.

No, we never stayed in hotels (except a cheapy in Dubai on the way), we slept in lots (11) different beds. We caught 14 different flights. We spent endless hours in airports. We visited the beach 4 times in 2 months, the most spent was an hour.

Our ‘holiday’ was the day and a half with my cousins in Singapore but besides that it was head down and butt up.

There are two things this trip proved to me:

  • Nothing is a surprise for God, He knows what we need/want
  • Generous people are always generous, it’s who they are

Now we’re home and we, like you, have to keep believing God for more. In 5 weeks we move apartments to save money. It’s another opportunity to see what He will do for His kids.

Thank you to everyone who gave us a bed, meals, petrol, cars, flights, clothes, tools, coffees and more. You are not forgotten. You are appreciated and loved.

My friend Cath is part of our intercessors team.

My friend Cath is part of our intercessors team.

On Safari To The Ends Of The Earth

We have just finished 7 flights in 5 days – and yes we are exhausted.

Here’s the lowdown on what it was like. Safari is the Kiswahili word for a trip, so we had a safari to New Zealand.

Pete with his first Burger King in 2 years.

Pete with his first Burger King in 2 years.

To get the cheapest flights we had to jump around the globe, travel on night flights and have a few layovers. First stop – Ethiopia.

Ethiopia is only an hours flight away, but unfortunately you still have to be at the airport 3 hours before the flight and you could get to the airport in an hour, or three hours. Because we had to be on there by 3am (yes, that’s in the wee hours of the morning), we had arranged for our taxi to pick us up at 2.15.

Dubai at night.

Dubai at night.

He didn’t come. Pete called Patrick who said it wasn’t Sunday morning, that was tomorrow. No matter what Pete said, Patrick was not getting out of bed. It’s not like you can ring up a taxi company and call one in. Thankfully our boarder, Racquel, had just got home with her friend and she called her taxi guy ‘Tim’. Tim came to the rescue.

JKIA (the airport) is pretty easy to get through, especially at 3am. No one is allowed in unless they have a ticket. Bags are scanned first thing, then through to the ticket pickup, just like at any other place.

Liz inside the mall, not really interested in the dinosaur.

Liz inside the mall, not really interested in the dinosaur.

Anything seems long when it’s early in the morning, especially waiting to get onto the plane.

Once up, it’s down again pretty fast.

Without sounding biased, our airport is way better than the one at Addis. Except for one thing – they have seats like sunbeds which you can stretch out on.

All of our flights were relatively short, we spent more time in airports than anything.

The flight to Dubai is only 5 hours and we went with Jet Airways (India). We were in Dubai for just under 24 hours. Normally we stay at our mates apartment which overlooks the Dubai Marina, but it wasn’t available this time. So we stayed at a super cheap (for Dubai) place called Eureka Hotel in Deira. I’d read the reviews and was expecting a dump, it is not too bad actually. However, I always find that there are hidden costs not shown on websites like booking.com. The good thing is that it was only one train stop from the Deira City Centre (mall).

Some of the light show in Dubai.

Some of the light show in Dubai.

We first went to the Dubai Mall at night to suss out the price of some camera gear and also see the outdoor light show. Last time we watched this Pete dropped his phone into the harbour, no such thing this time!

Before we caught the plane the next afternoon we visited for the first time the Deira City Centre. We use trains as much as possible in Dubai because they are super cheap and run every 3-5 minutes. The coolest thing about Dubai is that you can walk around freely at night, not something we get to do in Nairobi.

The next hop jump flights were through Mumbai (2 hours) with a 2 hour layover, before heading to Singapore. Finally all of the stores at Mumbai have been outfitted but beyond the good coffee at Costa, it’s just a pitstop. I still couldn’t see a Forex so we paid with US dollars so in your mind you have to know how much change you should be getting so you don’t get ripped off.

The sunrise coming into Melbourne.

The sunrise coming into Melbourne.

We tried as much as possible to sleep during the 5 hours to Singapore but it just didn’t happen for anyone except Liz. I was shattered by this point and so was Pete. What was meant to be a day of sightseeing didn’t happen for two reasons:

  1. We were stuffed.
  2. It was bucketing down with rain.

Instead we crashed at our cousins house for the afternoon and slept for 3 hours. It’s always nice to have a shower after all those hours and even better to sleep in a bed.

Back at Changi Airport we took Pete to the different sites in it. Of course there’s the mandatory visit to the Butterfly House and various rooftop gardens.

While we had booked with Emirates, they code share with Qantas. I’m not sure why they do it, but Emirates is WAY better than Qantas. Qantas always have the worst food for coeliacs but on the upside, I had two seats to myself.

We stopped in Melbourne long enough to get our bags, go through customs (Ebola free) and then line up for another 45 minutes to get back through security.

Pete showing James from Chicken Run in Dee Why photos on his phone.

Pete showing James from Chicken Run in Dee Why photos on his phone.

Getting on a plane was the last thing on our minds but in 2 days time, we did the last haul – to Auckland. This is what it was all about, getting to see our youngest daughter and be there for her wedding in a few weeks.

Now, the bags are packed away. No more need for the neck thingy that supports you when you sleep. No more lugging around heavy bags. No more declaration forms to complete. No more airport or plane hotels.

It’s over – for 7 weeks anyway!

Finally Taking A Break

This week we just passed our second year of completion in Kenya. It was a big goal for us and we’re preparing for even bigger and more impacting work in the next few years. We’ve got our visas until August next year but intend to stay as long as our visas get renewed. We’re on a humanitarian visa which is good because it’s much cheaper than a business one. The downside is that we can’t earn the much needed dollars to continue our work here.

Most people go ‘home’, that would be their other ‘home’ every few years. We’ve decided that this routine is not enough and you need to be continually raising the profile of your work and the money to go along with it.

The last time we were all together was 2012.

The last time we were all together was 2012.

Currently we are $1,000 short in our personal budget every month. That’s not including ministry costs. To give you an idea of rising costs, our electricity bill was 3,500 shillings when we arrived, it’s now up to 12,000. That’s the type of rising costs we see all the time in developing countries.

We’ve had an interesting two years. It certainly hasn’t been dull and boring that’s for sure! You’re always learning something new and have to continually grow bigger in your capacity to handle the challenges that come along. You make mistakes, you advance in what you’re doing, you make lots of friends and are constantly building the vision.

Now it’s time to take a break and recharge our batteries.

Looking forward to being in our old stomping grounds.

Looking forward to being in our old stomping grounds.

At the beginning of this year, if you asked me whether we would return to our home countries twice in 2014, I would’ve said no way. Earlier, Liz and I went back on a 7 week speaking tour. It meant at least 3 meetings a day, early mornings, late nights. It was great, but it was work. In those 7 weeks we had 3 days off.

Now, we’re returning to Australia for 2 days, New Zealand for a month and then back to Aussie for 9 days. The main reason is that our youngest daughter Hannah is getting married, so that’s a pretty good reason to go! This visit will be at a slower pace, catching up with our sponsors and just a couple of public speaking appointments. We even get two days at the beach at our friends holiday home.

We look forward to the beach and being able to walk around at night.

We look forward to the beach and being able to walk around at night.

 

But our main focus will be our daughter. It has been quite hard on her organising a wedding pretty much by herself. As her mother, it has been challenging not to be there for her. It will be the same when they start having babies in a couple of years. We won’t be there to share the experience with them, except via Skype. Hannah has already told me that I WILL be there for the birth of her children. I told her I can do any year except 2018, when we are driving around the whole of Africa (so plan it right you guys).

We're going to be in Sydney for NYE which is also Lizzies 25th birthday.

We’re going to be in Sydney for NYE which is also Lizzies 25th birthday.

 

While we would love to catch up with everyone, it is physically impossible. Normally we wouldn’t come back at this time of year because people are in holiday mode and are making the most of their Christmas vacation, which is totally understandable.

 

I will try and blog as much as possible when we’re away but from past experiences, I can tell you that accessing the internet in those countries isn’t as easy or cheap as here. What three of us spend in 3 months on phones in Kenya, will be the same as what one of us will spend in 1 month in NZ.

We intend to enjoy the beach and Summer weather as much as possible – our beach is 9 hours away! We also have a shopping list of things we just can’t get here, simple things like iron on patches. Most of all, we’re looking forward to sharing the stories about the wonderful young people we work with here.

We will be catching up with our Aussie grandparents in the country.

We will be catching up with our Aussie grandparents in the country.

 

Meanwhile, here’s our itinerary to date. If you’re in that city and we haven’t managed to contact you for a meetup, get a hold of me via Facebook, it’s the easiest way.

Nov 19 – 21 Sydney
Nov 21 – 23 Auckland
Nov 24 – 28 Tauranga
Nov 29 – 30 Auckland
Dec 1 – 3 Hamilton
Dec 4 – 5 Tokoroa
Dec 6 – 7 Auckland
Dec 8 – 9 Tauranga
Dec 10 – 11 Tokoroa
Dec 12 – 19 Auckland
Dec 20 – 21 Whangamata
Dec 22 – 23 Rotorua
Dec 24 – 28 Sydney
Dec 29 – 30 Moss Vale
Dec 31 – Jan 3 Sydney
Jan 4 – 6 Central Coast
Jan 7 – 9 Sydney

 

 

 

If I Only Knew

We are fast approaching our second anniversary of serving in Kenya so I thought I’d write down a list of things I wish I’d known before we came. Of course, hindsight is an awesome thing, but if you ever consider moving this way for a short or long period of time, it might be good to know.

 1. Africa Is Not Cheap To Live In

It’s a myth that’s for sure. We did our budget in 2011 but by the time we got here in 2012 prices had skyrocketed. Most things have stabilised in price since the VAT (tax) of 16% was added. Locals have really struggled since then. We spent a lot of 2013 buying furniture for our place as money came in, with most things bought second hand or built at a roadside carpenters.

Of course, income determines if something is expensive or not. Our budget is short by $1,000 a month, which is a lot when you aren’t allowed to earn money within the country. Our rent is half of what we paid in Sydney for something more than twice the size. We wanted a place where we could have people come and stay, relax and then go on their journey. We’ve had people from NZ, Australia, Germany, Switzerland, Canada, Ethiopia, USA and Norway stay with us. We love it and are grateful for the apartment we have to be able to do it. But our landlord put up the rent by $100 per month after being here for a year, so we’re looking at alternatives for next year.

 

Equivalent to $9,700AUD for a 2001 car

Equivalent to $9,700AUD for a 2001 car

 2. White = Rich

If you’re not Kenyan, you’re white, even if you’re not white. That means you must have money to burn. If you go to the markets on the side of the road, you will spend more time bargaining than what you want. This is why people go to the more expensive supermarkets because they just get tired of being hassled all the time. A friend of ours got his suit for his wedding made for $50. If Pete went, it would be 3 times more the price.

If we want furniture made at the roadside market we send a Kenyan there first for a price so we know what we should be paying. No matter how much you tell your colleagues that you don’t have much money, it doesn’t matter, because you will always have more than them. What people don’t see is the amount of money spent on the work you do – petrol, car costs, school equipment, feeding people or running programs.

I need to get me one of these!

I need to get me one of these!

3. You’ll Want To Go Home, Often

Sometimes you wonder if the obstacles are worth it, wasn’t it much less complicated back home? Well, yes it was. Kenya is not impossible to live in it’s just very complicated. As a friend said to us in our early days “Living in Africa will show you what capacity you have on the inside” and I happen to think he’s very right.

It was much easier living in Australia. If we wanted to earn more money, we’d go paint a house. We understood the language. You could walk the streets at night and no problem. There were parks to play in that were free. If you wanted to go to church you had a Saturday night, Sunday morning and a Sunday night to choose from. The ocean was a 4 minute walk from our place.

There’s probably twice in the last couple of years when I’ve thought “Stick this, I don’t need this hassle, I’m heading home”, but for Pete it’s been quite often. He asked me the other day why we were here again. My simple answer is that God knew we were big enough to handle it.

 

 4. Set Work Boundaries

We’ve got plenty of friends who work in the same area as us, but with different organisations. All of us have the same problem – we struggle with work boundaries. I’ve a friend who gets paid for 2 days a week but often works for 5 ‘because they’re in need’. Our phones will often go off at 10pm. We’ve had one weekend off in the last 2 months. I’ve calculated we’ve had 5 days of actual holidays in the last 2 years. When we’ve travelled out of town or overseas, it’s all to do with work. That is really dumb.

This year I decided to work at the office until 1pm, have lunch and then do the rest of my work from home. In essence I can work anywhere in the world but feel obliged to turn up to prove I’m actually working. Between now and when we fly out to Australia in November I’m even taking an hour out in the middle of the day to get some exercise and sunshine.

Next year I’m even thinking of rehashing my working conditions by spending less time in the office and more in the field with people.

Learn to turn it off

Learn to turn it off

 5. Sign A Contract

Too many people come with good intentions which get squished out and changed to be not what they came for. I’ve friends in another country who came to work with orphaned children then after 8 months were dumped because the organisation didn’t want to make necessary changes for improvement. Another family came to build a school but wasn’t allowed any input into the long term planning of it. Others were having to give a certain percentage of their support money for the ‘privilege of volunteering’. Make sure the requirements are written down and everyone understands the small print, who pays what and what is expected. For some reason we do this in the business world, but not in development work. Go figure?

 

6. Do Your Homework Before Coming

We had been to Kenya 3 times before moving here. Most times we came for 2 months and travelled to neighbouring countries as well. However, there is a BIG difference between visiting and living somewhere. How basic everyday things are run is a huge task to learn. It took us 6 weeks to even begin to figure out directions and where things were. Unfortunately, people who have lived somewhere for a long time take everything they’ve learnt for granted. I remember getting pulled across the coals because we didn’t visit a person in hospital enough. Apparently here you drop everything and race off to visit someone, you also take fruit or juice. No one told us about that, and we didn’t even know how to get to the hospital.

An important thing to look into is getting a visa, owning land and traffic laws. Everything here takes a l-o-n-g time and it’s never straight forward. Join expat blogs before you come so you get an idea of how things work. Get Swahili apps on your phone. Use Google maps to see how far things are in distance. Learn some history of the place.

 

 7. Clothes Are Expensive Here

Of course, if you want to, you can buy cheap clothes at the local market. The one closest to us to called the Toi Market. There you can buy second hand clothes, sometimes new ones, which come from overseas. Pete gets a pair of new jeans for $10, guys are lucky, they know their sizes and can get it off the rack. Ladies, not so much.

The clothes at the mall are way overpriced. These are either imported (and thus have large tax) or top of the line. I envy Kenyans, they don’t have to worry about skin tones, they’ve all just got brown skin. They can wear really bright clothes and look awesome!

When we return to Australia we’re buying up big time, especially in the sock and undies department. I think we might even go with empty suitcases.

toi  8. People Won’t Listen To You

The number of people who won’t listen to you if frustrating to the max. I mean, what do we know, we actually live here and know how the system works. Visitors have wasted so much money because they JUST WON’T LISTEN. One friend was told by his travel agent that he would have to pay $50 more for an English speaking taxi driver. What a load of rubbish, English is one of the national languages here. Of course, he decided to ignore all of our advice and ended up paying thousands of dollars more than he needed to. We’ve had others who didn’t want our help (thank you very much), decided to do things their way and paid way too much for a vehicle hire and didn’t get to see the areas they really needed to.

And that’s just the visitors.

When you’re trying to bring in different ways of doing things, people will predominantly resort back to their ways. The proof of the success of your teaching is if they put it into practise when you’re not around. If 50% of it is done, that is pretty impressive. We’ll be gone for 8 weeks and it will be interesting to see what the state of things will be on our return.

 

 9. You’ll Spend A Lot More Time On A Computer Than You Ever Thought

There were 2 things I didn’t want to do when we came to Kenya – fundraising and sit in front of a computer a lot. Guess what, I’ve ended up doing both. It’s a necessary evil. Today someone said to me that they haven’t seen a newsletter for a while (it’s been a month). Flip my lid, I’m on Facebook every day, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and weekly blogs but it still doesn’t cover everyone. There’s marketing material to be designed, videos to create (and they take ages), grants to write and complicated emails to answer. It’s not unusual for me to be on a computer 8 – 12 hours a day.

man 10. It Just Might Be One Of The Best Moves You’ve Ever Made

When Africa gets under your skin, there’s nothing you can do about it. Sure, not everyone should be here long term, in fact, most shouldn’t. Whether you come for a short or long time, all that matters is that you’re doing what you should be doing. If you come with a flexible attitude, don’t always compare it to your home country and be in an attitude of learning, then you should be fine. I called the first year ‘Going back to school’. Every day and even parts of a day were a lesson.

What you will be surprised at is the number of things happening across the country and especially in Nairobi. There’s music festivals, fun runs, street performers, fashion shows, expos, conferences and more. You will meet some amazing people, fruit abounds year round and you’ll never get bored. You’ll notice there are lots and lots of nationalities, wildlife you’ll only read of in books and have experiences your friends will envy.

Africa, Kenya are places that will change you for the better. You’ll get a bigger world view. You’ll miss it when you leave.

sunIf you plan on coming for at least 2 years can I highly suggest that you don’t do anything for at least a month or two. Get to know the place, the people, directions and get your home set up. We get so passionate about helping people, we can hinder things by rushing in too fast. When we got here some of our team members were leaving and we were expected to take up the slack. I’ve heard of it happening lots in many projects and the newbies either sink or swim. Most of the time we didn’t have a clue that was going on and I remember every few days we were saying to each other “I don’t have a clue what I’m doing, I hope we’re doing okay”.

The Road To Eldoret

On Monday we needed to go to Eldoret to take a dog to a new home, one of our students to his placement and also to look at one of our projects we did a couple of years ago.

While it seems straight forward, nothing here in Kenya is simple. Before we could go on our trip we had a meeting, which meant a pickup at the airport at 6.30am. Of course, the flight was delayed by 90 minutes. The only way to tell was because I could find it online. At the airport the only flights up on the screen were those from Kenya Airways and our guy was coming in on Jet Airways.

Us with Chege at Java

Us with Chege at Java

The plan was to go and have breakfast with a businessman to discuss whether a project we’re working on will be possible. But when we got there, plans had changed and we had a meeting and THEN the breakfast, at around 10am. We ended up going to a lovely hotel called Ole Sereni. Apparently this is where the US set up their embassy when theirs was bombed in 1998. It also backs onto the Nairobi National Park, although we didn’t see any animals!

We then had very little time to get our Aussie mate back to the airport for his ongoing flight. At JKIA security checks can take up to 30 minutes. You wait in your car, then you have to get out (except the driver), go line up (ladies with a female security guard), show your ID and then they pat you down to make sure you’re not carrying a bomb. Of course, they never check under the seats where you could easily hide a bomb.

Kiwi

Kiwi

The next part of our trip was to travel out to Kiserian where the training farm is that Pete assists with. It was the total opposite direction from where we wanted to end up but we had to go and pick up ‘Kiwi’ a dog who was travelling the 6 hours with us to Eldoret. We spent a whopping 15 minutes there before we started on our real trip.

It was just over an hour to Nairobi and by then I was snoozing and the dog was throwing up. I can do dislocations, broken bones and blood, but I don’t do vomit. When my kids chucked up Pete was on cleanup duty. Thankfully we always have baby wipes in the car.

Ninety minutes later we arrived in Naivasha to pick up the student. We then spent 45 minutes looking for him. There are no big meetup points in Naivasha. He told us to ‘meet him at the bridge’. Well, there are two bridges outside of Naivasha and he wasn’t at either. Eventually I sent him a text message to say if he wasn’t there in 10 minutes we were going without him. Surprise, surprise he turned up.

The toilet blocks we fundraised for

The toilet blocks we fundraised for

By then we were starving so only an hour later we stopped at Java House in Nakuru. Java is a place we go to in Nairobi for a small meal, it’s relatively cheap and the food tastes good. The student we were taking had never been there before in his life. For him, to spend $6 on a meal was not even thinkable. It was really nice to be able to take him out somewhere he’d never been before in a town only an hour from him, but he’d never had the money to travel there.

Our Golden Rule is that we don’t drive long distance at night – we broke it. The roads are too dangerous, the truck drivers crazy and it is just not a good idea. Thankfully Pete was driving but it was pretty stressful.

We left home at 6am and got to Eldoret at 9.15pm. Of course, we then went to a hotel for a cup of tea and our student got to order sausages and chips for the second time in the day. I think he thought he was in food heaven. It was midnight by the time we got to bed because we had to introduce Kiwi to the other dogs. He wasn’t going to have a bar of it and kept trying to jump back into the car. It was pretty sad really but after 30 minutes he was okay and locked into the garage.

 

Lizzie in filming mode

Lizzie in filming mode

The next morning Kiwi was best mates with the other two dogs. We headed into town to do some shopping for our student. I quite like country towns, they’re more intimate than Nairobi and a lot cheaper. Prices in Nairobi are sky rocketing but prices in Eldoret were awesome. We bought a few things for our student to help him set up his room. He won’t get paid for another month so needed some bits and pieces and food.

We really wanted to head out of Eldoret by 12. It wasn’t going to happen. Firstly we had to go to the farm to make sure everything was okay for our student. Next, we headed to the place we had done a toilet block project in. Sadly the kids were on holidays but we got lots of filming done for future videos. We were pretty pleased that 2 years later they were still in good condition. Just as well one was unlocked as we needed to use it.

Pete waiting for us to film

Pete waiting for us to film

The drive home was long, really long. We stopped off in Nakuru again, at Java again and headed back to Nairobi, again. By the time we got home we were all sick and tired of sitting down and over dodging in between trucks.

On the flip side we managed to pick up super cheap veges and fruit on the side of the road. I made sure we got lots of rhubarb to go into the freezer.

We were glad we got to go even though it was a really long trip. We got to see what our students need to start in a job. We could tell that our projects are still working. We got to give a dog a home.

 

 

So, what do you do actually do for a job?

Here we (Shaz and Liz) are in the last week of a month speaking tour in New Zealand (NZ) before we head to Aussie to do the same. We’ve been in schools, unis, Rotary Clubs and had lots and lots of coffee catchups with people.

In this month alone we’ve slept in 12 different beds.

Besides the question of corruption the other question I mainly get asked is “So, what do you actually do for a job?” So here’s what we actually do, although every day is different.

 

Sharon

I try to be in the office by 8.45am but it depends on traffic. Sometimes it takes 5 minutes, other days 30. Basically in the mornings I volunteer with an organisation called Afri-Lift which works with children and youth for very poor backgrounds. On Mondays I’m in meetings until 2pm, Tuesdays I write grants for fundraising, Wednesday’s prepare for a 6 hour teaching day, Thursday teach, Friday do marketing.

 

The afternoons/evenings are taken up with work for BeyondWater (the Aussie charity we started in 2007), writing LOTS of emails, blogging, social network updates, looking at projects and every now and then taking Pete out for a coffee. I work till about 9pm most nights with my other spouse – the laptop.

IMG_7193

Some of the great kids we get to work with.

Three out of four weekends we also have programs on. One Saturday we train youth leaders, another we have a tuition program in the Kibera Slum and the third Sunday of the month we assist with the Riziki Childrens Program. That leaves us one extra Sunday to meet up with some young couples we are mentoring.

 

In addition we host lots of international visitors, sometimes go to the Kibera Slum with food packages or randomly do things like have the odd day off.

 

Pete

My days are certainly never dull and boring. Like Sharon, on Mondays we have a staff meeting for a couple of hours but every day/week is different. Sometimes you’ll find me tiling a kitchen, fixing a tractor, buying a truckload full of seeds to transporting tomatoes. You will also see me working with teenage boys training them on the ‘how tos’ of farming. This might mean pulling apart something that doesn’t work and showing them how to fix it. A lot tends to break down and it’s giving the locals the skills so next time they can fix it themselves. When I say things are varied, it’s a slight understatement. One morning I might be trying to find a market for the produce that the trainees grow and then that afternoon helping to install a water tank.

pete

Pete showing one of the boys how to use machinery.

I try and spend 2 – 3 days out at the farm which is about an hours drive. But I also need to be in town to work out all the other stuff. I’m not confined to an office or computer but every couple of days you can’t get away from paperwork. I work with a small team of people who have different roles but one thing I’ve learnt is that you can never over communicate.

Here in Kenya things are complicated and take much longer than say in Australia. You can’t go to one hardware store and get everything you want. Just because they say something is definitely in stock doesn’t mean it’s actually there.

This year I’m trying to take a couple of afternoons off a week. So far I’ve failed miserably.

Every couple of months we get personally involved with our water projects. That might mean driving a few hours to meet up with the community to make sure they’re on track.

That in a nutshell is our life, but it’s much more interesting in reality than in print. We meet amazing people, every day is a challenge and there is lots of work yet to be done.

 

Why not join us by:

  1. Giving (ask me how)
  2. Joining us (long or short tem)
  3. Find out more (shoot me an email – thewildcreanberries@gmail.com)

The Expat Dilemma

I’ve read about it, but experiencing it is quite different. I haven’t lived in New Zealand for 12 years and Australia for 16 months. We’re on assignment in Kenya (East Africa) and this visit was to make connections and raise much needed funds to keep us in Nairobi.

Firstly of course is the reverse culture shock – where you return to your home of previous residence. The only chance on our 4 flight trip to exit an airport was in Singapore where we went to my cousins for the day. I’d never been to Singapore so everything was very cool until I spotted a sign that said ‘Be considerate of other drivers and indicate’. I just started laughing in the back seat, I’m not quite sure if it was the 2 sleepless days catching up with me or the thought that this would NEVER happen in Kenya. When we arrived in Sydney there was the increase in early morning train rides that were a shocker and where you felt like an idiot for not knowing. One of the things that really bugged me was the lack of free wireless on offer at the malls. Every mall in Nairobi has some form of free wifi. Because labour is so cheap, toilets at the airport and malls leave for dead the quality of toilets in Aussie. I was so disgusted with Sydney airport toilets but I did appreciate those hand driers that are supersonic and dry your hands with just one pass in the drier.

liz surfing

Liz boarding. The bonus of NOT being 9hrs from the nearest beach.

The biggest sense is that of not belonging. I miss the familiarity of Nairobi and how Kenya works. Sydney is definitely not home anymore. Partly because Pete isn’t there and partly because we have moved on. Liz and I even went to a leaders meeting at our local church and my thought was ‘It’s great here but man would we be bored if we returned’. While it was great seeing friends and family, I also have friends and family in Kenya.

We were only in Sydney for just under 2 days to fly to NZ for a family reunion and then kick off a 6 week speaking tour. The last time I was at a family reunion I was 8 and our family lived about 4 hours away so we didn’t see the others very often anyway. So here’s this bunch of total strangers spending a weekend together at a remote beach that only those 60+ really have memories of. The rest of us sort of knew each other but it was just a matter of who are you, whose your parent and what have you been up to for the last 36 years? The saddest thing about choosing to live overseas is the lack of connection with family. There’s no holidays together, no shared memories. It doesn’t sound much, but it is quite a huge thing.

ang n shaz

Downside of 8 weeks on the road – wild hair.

In Kenya, customer service is a top priority but obviously not here. A taxi driver said about our one suitcase “I’m not lifting that into the car by myself”, hmm, don’t become a cab driver then!

I keep reminding myself that it is just different and we are not here forever. It’s not all bad. Family go out of their way to make you feel welcome. People are interested in your story and so far the weather has been good.

It’s early days yet but I think this trip will be worth it. I hold my breath and hope that we raise the necessary funds because we really do want to stay in Nairobi and work with the most amazing young people on the planet.

 

 

 

Size doesn’t Matter

We seem to be caught up in a world of numbers (how big your church, outreach, youth group), money (how much you are on) strength (how many pushups you can do) and belongings (how many properties you own). Sometimes I get a bit over it. When did numbers and money become the ultimate goal of life?

Sure, I love having money to do the things we want to do, who doesn’t? I love travelling (been to 18 countries, and not just airports), I love speaking to the thousands and I love doing crazy things like white water rafting on The Nile.

my 2 loves

Bushwalking in Kenya

But one thing I’ve learned over the years is that there will always be someone smarter, richer, more fit and better at some things than myself – and that’s okay. I’ve completed an MBA but want to do another Masters Degree some time soon but does that make me more than someone who has just done their undergrad? Does it make me lesser of a person because I choose not to do a PhD?

I think it’s time we put quantity aside and look at quality of something.

We are on assignment in Kenya (that’s East Africa if you didn’t know) for who knows how long. There’s no shortage of NGO’s, community help groups, churches or ‘mega outreaches’. If you go into the slums you can see endless schools in tin shacks, lunchtime church meetings and welfare organisations operating. I dread to think how much aid and development money has gone into organisations and I ask myself ‘What impact is it making?’

Now while this might sound a tad negative, actually it’s a good thing. We constantly look at what we’re involved in and are more than happy to see lives changed forever.

liz sorting maize

Liz showing the trainees how to use the bean sorter

Kids are going to school where before they had no way in. Others are no longer living on the street and stealing, they are being educated and are now in jobs. Some who were sponsored are now volunteering, giving back to their community. We’re working with an organisation that doesn’t have the thousands on the books but their history is quite incredible – schools, sponsorship programs, agricultural training, leadership programs are just a bit of what they’ve done. That’s because they are into developing young people and not just giving a handout.

teacher 2

Teaching computers on a donated laptop

The key is not how many have come through the door of your work, but what lifetime change are you bringing?

For us personally, the person who gives us $5 a month to keep us here is as much as of a hero as someone who gives 10 times more. Every person who gives does so sacrificially. We have those in their seventies who give from their small pension. There are those who are students who have an after school job and give to us, while others give from their house rentals. It’s not about the amount but the impact it’s made.

Some generous person gave us $500 as a one off gift and from some of that we were able to give some teenage boys their first ever Christmas party. That meant small presents, a buffet lunch, party hats, streamers – the works. They got involved in making the meal and decorating the room and it was a special time for all of us – especially our family. Rather than being a day where we miss our youngest daughter (even more than normal), we were out with a bunch of kids who had no place to call home. But this was only possible because someone sacrificed A LOT.

present opening

Present opening

So please don’t look down on what you do or give – it does make a difference – if not to you to the person you are helping out.

It’s not the size it’s the heart motivation that the action is done in

Want to find out how you can help in our work – check it out HERE.