Coming Home

I once asked some friends who were returning to Australia after two years of volunteering in Tanzania “How long do you think it will take you to get used to being there?” Their answer was a couple of months.

After spending 6 weeks in the US, I can verify that answer. We were just getting used to the conveniences of life and how things worked in another world.

But now we’ve returned home.

Home is where the majority of my family is. Hannah is with her husband Luke in New Zealand, awaiting the birth of their first child next year. That leaves Pete, Liz and I.

home

We were all a bit anxious about returning because we knew what we were heading into. It will be home for a few more years. We were looking forward to a more familiar world and definitely not living out of a suitcase.

Home, a 4 letter word that means so much more than that.

Our first morning here was interesting. None of our showerheads were working, so I ended up having a bucket shower. One where you fill a bucket with boiled water and pretty much pour it over yourself a few times. I realized afterwards that I had forgotten to pull out the tap so water came out of the showerhead.

shower

We thought our internet had pretty good speed, until we went overseas. Now it feels painstakingly slow. It’s way better than dialup but also much slower than what we experienced in the US.

Coming home meant unpacking an entire houselot of furniture from a spare room. Because the floors had been sanded and repolished all of the cupboards were full of red dust. You could tell that the workers had thumbed through our clothes hanging up because their fingerprints were all over the place. We also discovered they had stolen our very good iron and used our TV stand as a ladder. We knew because there was paint all over it. To say we weren’t happy campers is an understatement. And this was just Monday.

Of course, you can’t live in their world any more without the internet, but guess what wasn’t working when we returned? This meant trips down to the mall to visit our friendly staff at Zuku who worked it all out for us.

Jetlag, unpacking, buying food, meetings on day 3, all were a bit much. Before Liz headed off to volunteer at her preschool I insisted that she put up the Christmas tree to keep her busy. Liz had absolutely no worries about jetlag. She slept like a baby, while Pete and I got about 2 hours sleep and stayed awake the remainder of the night. We’ve never had such jetlag in our entire lives, and we’ve done a lot of travelling. It took an entire week to get back to normal.

Coming home also meant that we were broke.

We stayed two weeks too long on our trip. While we had a couple of schools in that time, it really put the financial pressure on us. We didn’t realize how expensive the US was going to be for public transport and food. We stretched ourselves way further than ever before. We don’t have a credit card to fall back on, no savings that we could dig into. What we had is what we had and with the fall in the Aussie dollar there wasn’t much bang for your buck.

dollar

Coming home meant coming back to very little freedom. This has been my biggest challenge to date. No more walking around at night. Always having our bags and cars checked at church and shopping malls. Having to take off my jewellery before walking out in public. Locking the metal gate and door every time you step out, even to get rid of the garbage.

The loss of freedom is something I haven’t got used to. A friend who lives here but is in New Zealand over the Christmas break, couldn’t help but send me a post of Facebook post to say she had just walked home at 10pm at night. I miss freedom.

But – this is home.

 

 

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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’.

Trying To Move On

It’s been two weeks since our house was broken into just after 3pm by armed men. We’ve all been on an emotional roller coaster that we weren’t prepared for.

A lot of this was due to small things. Like on the Sunday ‘after the event’ we discovered that a small pottery container which held all of Pete’s cufflinks was gone. It might not seem much to the average person but I was happy that none of Pete’s things had been stolen. Even more so, Hannah, our youngest daughter had given Pete a set of cufflinks with ‘Dad’ engraved on them, when she got married last year.

Dealing with the police has almost been worse than being held up at gunpoint.

Lizzies Lego gun she made to protect herself.

Lizzies Lego gun she made to protect herself.

The first night we spent hours with the police while they stood around the car that had been used in several burglaries that day. They insisted that our gear was all there, including the laptops but we could not see it because it was late at night. No matter how much our neighbor insisted on looking at our things, the big boss refused to allow us for a viewing.

Pete jimmied up the door with a plastic chair so that we would feel safe. None of us slept well that night. The next morning we got the call to go back to the police station. We really needed to get a new lock but that would have to wait. We kept Liz with us all day, she was in no state to go to work. None of us were.

Pete's extra security - actually it was for my peace of mind.

Pete’s extra security – actually it was for my peace of mind.

The landlady came around, I’m not sure why because she just sat there and waited to be served a coffee. She has made our stay here very difficult and we can’t wait to move out. She has lied constantly – we found out that there is only a water supply 3 days a week and we are expected to pay for all new locks and keys.

Basically the next three days went like this:

  • Wait for a phone call to go to whatever police station was needed
  • Get there and wait some more while not being told anything
  • Spend wasted time shaking hands with the same police officer who spent their time talking to one another
  • Pete being hassled by one or two officers for him to buy them a ticket to New Zealand because he was rich
  • The same officers following Pete to the canteen badgering him to buy them a drink
  • Go home still without a police report

Meanwhile, we also ran out of water, waited for plumbers to fix endless problems and try and get the place ready for our visitors from Ethiopia.

The getaway car with the bullet hole from where the police shot at them.

The getaway car with the bullet hole from where the police shot at them.

With new locks and new security measures in place we started sleeping better. We started finding a ‘new normal’.

Then there was the one week anniversary of the break-in. I made sure I wasn’t home at the time it happened. It was all still too fresh.

We went to get a new wedding band to replace the one that the woman who was the gang leader, ripped off my finger. The first Sunday it was all too much for me. The second Sunday I had psychologically prepared myself to get it sized.

ring

We’ve decided that while we can’t replace the personal items such as our anniversary rings that were stolen, we could make a new start on some things. Our good friends at a church in Australia donated enough for us to get a TV. It’s going to get a lot of use over the NRL season that’s for sure!

We’ve been super blessed to have people lend us a laptop until we get another one and we are trying to move on with our lives.

Once again, it’s the police that keep tripping us up. To claim on anything for our insurance, we need an abstract, it’s the official police report. Our neighbor keeps getting phone calls from a police officer demanding money. We are sure that is why we haven’t got the report – because we won’t pay up. Yesterday we were asked to go back to the police station.

A TV thanks to the church of C3 Coomera, Australia.

A TV thanks to the church of C3 Coomera, Australia.

We thought it was for the abstract – in fact it was for a line up.

There was no preparation, no telling you what was going on. I was told to go into a room and there were 10 or so women and then I had to choose one who was ‘the culprit’. How after only seeing her for about 5 seconds, and two weeks later, was I supposed to get the right woman? Of course I got it wrong. The worse thing was that I had to stand about 90cm away from these women, and when I thought I had the right one, walked up to one and tap them on the shoulder. How dodgy is that.

Still, we walked away without an abstract.

The sign for the officers room

The sign for the officers room

I’m not sure all this hassle for an abstract is actually worth it. The police keep dragging everything up and still nothing changes.

Nothing except us. We are more vigilant in security – we lock the car doors as soon as we get in, Pete has installed new and more locks, Lizzies motorbike driver collects and drops her off at the gate.

This is how the police put out the few belongings they recovered. Notice all the Mac products were missing...

This is how the police put out the few belongings they recovered. Notice all the Mac products were missing…

I miss the freedom we used to have. But in fact, was I blind to what the situation was really like for the majority of people who live here in Nairobi.

If you would like to help us move on, you can make a donation HERE

When A Gun Is In Your Face

This last week has probably been the hardest ever in our lives, well, to date anyway. Five days beforehand we had just moved into another apartment (see previous blog). We were just settling down, most of the unpacking was done bar about 5 boxes and ready to do life in a new place. The only reason we moved was to save $300 a month to help our shrinking budget (due to the declining dollar). We wanted to live in the same area because it is nice, but also one of the safer places in Nairobi to live.

That was all about to change.

Just after 3pm on Tuesday, Liz came home from the preschool she volunteers at. I was sitting on the sofa working, and literally 5 seconds later 3 men walked through the door. For some strange reason I automatically slid my phone under one of the cushions. My immediate thought was ‘maybe it’s Lizzies motorbike driver and she’s left something with him’. It only took a split second to realize this was going to be a holdup.

gun

One guy went straight to Liz, another one came to me. He said “You see this (the pistol), you know what it’s for, do what you are told’. Immediately they demanded the phones, I told Liz to hand hers over. They never asked for mine.

One of the guys grabbed my arm and asked to see the money. In that moment an older woman walked in, she was tough. Obviously she was the ringleader. I showed them my bag and they emptied everything out. There was only about $30 in it because I had just paid the power bill. The woman said ‘Is that it, give me the gold’. She started pulling at my wedding band really roughly. I told them it would come off easier with detergent and started going to the kitchen. Things immediately got tense, maybe they thought I was up to something.

We couldn’t get out because they had locked all the doors and even pulled the curtains.

Liz was getting really upset saying “Why are you doing this to us?” They told me to shut her up otherwise they would gag her. They kept demanding the gold, so I took them down to my jewellery box. There’s not much there but they tipped everything out. All I kept saying is “Take what you want just don’t hurt my daughter”.

One man came back to me and took me alone down to Lizzies room. He had my wedding band in his hand and said “Madam, I can get this back to you…” Immediately I thought he wanted sex or money and he wasn’t getting any of it. I said “No, I don’t have anything” and walked back to the lounge.

They then told us to get on our stomachs on the floor. One tied us up while the others ransacked the place. By now the woman had disappeared. I remember pleading for them to leave the purple hard drive as it had all of my babies photos. Then they covered us with blankets.

hands

I was trying to keep Liz calm by telling her to keep her eyes closed. I just kept praying out loud and telling her it was going to be okay and we would be out soon. To be honest, in my mind I was worried they were going to shoot us before they went out.

I could hear them pulling things off the shelves and cupboards, one person was even right by us by the bookshelf. They were obviously looking for hidden money. They then pulled the blankets off and demanded to know where the cameras were as they had seen the tripod in the cupboard. I said to them that I was just a missionary and I was storing stuff for people. They covered us back up.

It seemed a lifetime but the whole thing was probably over in 15/20 minutes.

One of the thieves slid the hard drive under the blanket. He was polite and said “Here is your hard drive as promised”. “Wait 20 minutes and then you can go”.

They took the house keys and left. I heard a car start so got up and untied us. I found out our feet were loosely bound with a phone cord and our hands with a tie. I ran to a window and realized the guard couldn’t see me so I ran to our bedroom window and yelled “Stop that car, they are robbers” but it was too late. The white car went slowly through the gate.

I called Pete straight away, probably gave him a heart attack. Liz had her door key in a pocket. She was absolutely terrified. She thought they were coming back and I just needed to get her out of the house. I grabbed the car key (the only one we have) and ran downstairs. By now the neighbours had congregated. I sat Liz in the car and called some friends who live just up the road to come and get her. She just needed to get away from it all and I knew we would have a long night with the police.

The neighbours were really good. Instantly one got onto his phone to a friend because he recognized the car as he was pulling into the carpark. His friend told him which hire car company he had sold it to. The foolish thieves did not know that it had a tracking device in it, which would be their demise.

I called Lucy, our Kenyan daughter as I didn’t have a clue what to do. She called the police, and her aunty to help out. Lucy came home with a motorbike driver. It was really good having her. She said we need to go to the police station immediately, I wanted to wait for Pete.

Thankfully Carey and Martha arrived and took Liz straight away. It was only minutes later Pete arrived. Instead of taking the normal one hour to get home he did it in a world record time of 20 minutes. It was such a relief when he arrived. You should’ve heard him rip into the security guards, I think the whole of Nairobi did.

Martha & Carey

Martha & Carey

The rest of the night was spent going to the police station and reporting it. Then the deputy commander and his aide came back to look at the apartment. It was then we found the apartment downstairs had been robbed before us. All 6 of us jumped in our car because the commander had been told they had found the car on the other side of town (via the tracker) and we had to go to the hotel where it was. We got there to find all of the thieves had run away after shooting a police officer. The police had (again) rushed into the situation, didn’t wait until the guys went into a room, just went in guns blazing.

We were assured that all of the laptops and iphones were there but for some strange reason none of us were allowed to look at our stuff. No reason, it’s just was as it was.

Once we had dropped off the police (they didn’t have a car), and the neighbor we discovered there was no power at our place. Bummer as our phone chargers were stolen. Even though it was 9pm, we went and grabbed some dinner. It was a somber night, but it was just the beginning of another saga.

You will have to wait until next week to find out the rest of the story.

If you would like to help us get back on our feet you can make a donation HERE