Writers Block

After years of blogging I literally hit a wall. I wondered if people were actually reading my blogs and if it were worth the time and effort.

 

While a lot of that hasn’t changed, I’m going to give it another go. We’ve spent the last 4 months traveling through New Zealand, Australia, the US and Canada. It wasn’t a holiday but a speaking tour to try and raise funds for our work. It seems that while we’re in Africa, very little money comes in. When we’re out, money comes in but if we’re to build a team, we have to be on the ground.

Four months is a really long time to be away. It showed up some of our organizations weaknesses – which we’re now working on to improve.

 

So, I’m going to try and be more consistent at the whole blogging thing – keep an eye out for some of our travel stories!

 

You Probably Won’t Like This

This week I saw online a video about a well known musician who visited Western Africa and was shocked when he saw young boys sleeping outside in a canoe like boat. He was so shocked his first reaction was to put them up in a hotel that night. The video at the end stated ‘these boys are safe for tonight, millions aren’t.’

The comments that came in after this was posted included words like ‘amazing, wonderful, we should be like him’. However, since I’m working on the ground in such areas I had a totally different reaction and got berated for it, so thought I would write about what actually works and why short term solutions are not the best.

What people don’t understand is that when a famous person appears in a developing country as a spokesperson or ambassador for a large organization, they are getting paid for it. The average person receives between $20 – 50,000 dollars for an appearance fee. That’s on top of their first class ticket, staying in a five star hotel etc. Very few self fund their appearances. They don’t just ‘happen’ to be in Liberia or Sudan in between a gig.

Unless it’s an emergency situation, like a famine, short term is not an answer. Famine or war situations don’t happen overnight. The famine happening in South Sudan for example, has been warned about for years.

Large NGO’s spend A LOT (some up to 90%) of their income on administration, private planes and paying their top managers more than a CEO in Aussie gets. ‘Project Costs’ can easily be hidden, but these include getaway weekends for staff, safaris (team building), conflict resolution meetings (staying at a spa can resolve a lot you know!). Meanwhile on the ground the team are working with limited resources in dangerous places and often don’t have what they need in crisis situations.

I’m not saying these things to point at certain groups but when you’ve been doing it as long as me, you see things as they really are, not how they are portrayed in the media.

So what actually does work?

Long term solutions for people to help themselves out of poverty. You have to look at it holistically. For these boys sleeping outside, putting them up somewhere for a night or two actually puts them in a worse predicament. If the famous musician wanted to do something, he would find an organization he has a trusted relationship with. They in turn would be able to come up with an action plan that would include reconciliation within their home community and find one family member that would be able to take them in. The family would need ongoing support from a community worker to make sure donations are spent where they should be (food, clothing, housing, education, medical) and not at the local bar up the road. That child will need financial support until they are at least 18 years of age. Then they need support in starting a business and going on to tertiary education.

Let’s rethink child sponsorship.

I’ve been to events where there’s a hard push after a pull in the heartstrings video presentation for the thousands in the crowd. Then the presenter talks about how bad the situation is, then they get people to put up their hands if they will sponsor a child for X amount of dollars. You’re instantly given a photo to put on the fridge and ‘wallah’ you have a new child in your family.

We need to become intelligent givers and start asking the hard questions. How much of that money gets through to the project? What child protection policies does the organization implement? Where are the annual reports? What happens when that child finishes secondary school, what is the plan?

Now I’m not discouraging child sponsorship, I do it myself.

 

What I want people to realize is:

  1. It’s not your child – they belong to someone else. You are simply assisting a community.
  2. The money doesn’t go to them – it gets pooled together to cover project costs.
  3. There is no point in sponsoring for a year or two, it’s a commitment that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
  4. Don’t send them gifts. Most of the time it won’t get there, and the money you spend on postage and the gift, could be used in a more impacting way within country.
  5. The word ‘sponsor’ in the developing world actually has negative connotations connected to it. It’s like saying someone has a sugar daddy. The money isn’t free, there are strings attached.

 

If we want to get more kids sponsored we need to be telling the success stories not just the sob stories.

My last rant is about the huge waste I see in transporting goods from your home country to a developing country. Often you can buy or get made the chairs, desks, pencils, sport gear, underwear, babies clothes, any clothes and furniture in the needy country. It costs on average $10,000 to get a container shipped over with goodies. Then, you spend up to another $5,000 to get it off the wharf with bribery money. Often when organisations sort through what is in that container, they throw half of it away (especially clothes) as they are unusable. People think giving their junk is an honourable thing. Trust me – you can keep it.

We should be encouraging manufacturing in developing countries, buying from within where possible. While we see the nice smiling faces of a kid in Africa or Asia opening a shoe box at Christmas time, it doesn’t have lasting impact. The money spent on the effort could start small businesses who employ parents and give them business training –  who could then feed their families, pay school fees, buy clothes from the market more than once a year and make sure their kids have a future. Yes, they would even buy their kids a toy.

So, did the famous musician waste his time? I hope he got to see some organisations working on the ground being a part of the solution and not cause more problems. I hope he invests into these organisations long term and gets more involved.

I hope the adults in the video don’t beat those boys up or worse because some white foreigner with a camera crew came into their ‘home’ and therefore thought the boys were getting paid for being on camera.

My hope is that we become more intelligent givers who aren’t afraid to ask the hard questions.

Organisations in developing country need partnerships that cause them to become self sustainable, they need long term solutions through development and not aid.

Go ahead and sponsor a child, it does change their lives. But also send them a letter a few times a year. Build a friendship with them, not a reliance on you as a Westerner and therefore their funder. Most of all, sacrifice your income and go and visit them at least once in your life. You will find your life will be changed forever.

You are not a donor – you are a partner. Build good partnerships.

The Windsor

Okay, I admit I’m not into golfing at all. The last time I got close to a green was at a putt putt course in Sydney for Lizzies birthday. I remember when I was a kid getting paid 50 cents to be a caddy for my father and uncle as they played a round on the local golf course.

Image For the last couple of months we’ve had a boarder living with us. Anthony is from Germany but has a real American accent, he’s here in Nairobi researching for his Masters Program. Anthony told us about this place called The Windsor Golf Hotel & Country Club. We work most weekends but found one Saturday to go up there and have a look.

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When you get there you can hardly believe that there is such a place like this in Nairobi. It’s clean, green and elegant looking.

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The buildings are all done in Victorian style even though the place was only established a few years ago. There’s stacks of activities to do there (we had a coffee) including golfing, bird watching, cycling, swimming and even petanque. I’ve been to a few clubs around here but this one definitely seems to be of the ‘old establishment’. In some clubs you are not allowed to use your mobile phone, other places it’s cashless and you use a swipe card, other places children aren’t allowed.

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We didn’t get to go inside one of the rooms but they looked pretty good. There seem to be 4 posted beds, all done up in Victorian style. Wooden floors are the norm here so you’d want to have a pair of slipper available at this time of year when things are a bit cooler.

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It’s a nice place for a wedding with some special gardens which would look great for a photoshoot. Apparently the most venue to hold a wedding is outside at the 10th tee which has the backdrop of the golf course and buildings. This alone costs you $2,000.

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I do have to say that the service for the coffee was super slow. It wasn’t just for the coffee but getting the bill. Generally here in Nairobi you eat and then they bring you the bill in a wallet/folder. The waiter then comes up and gets it with either your credit card or cash. Tipping is not compulsory, only if you’re happy with the service and it’s up to you what you give. At least we had a great view of the golf course while waiting for what seemed forever.

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Even if you’re not into golfing the Windsor Country Club is worth the visit. They’ve got plenty of activities happening and it’s nice to get away from the madness of Nairobi without travelling too far.

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Check out their website for more info – http://www.windsorgolfresort.com/

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Daughter of a Missionary

To be honest, when mum asked me to write this blog post it was just after I had a huge blowout at her about how much I dislike (to say the least) the fact that they live on the other side of the world and had given up their lives to help those in need. People often look at missionaries and volunteer workers and say how wonderful it is that they have given up their lives to help those in need and that it’s such a heroic act. It seems that people don’t often think of the practical things like the sacrifice the rest of their family makes for this to happen. When mum and dad told me that they had decided to move to Kenya I thought that it was a “nice idea” for them to do something different. I had lived overseas before and knew that I would survive without them. But not long after they left for Kenya I felt like my right arm was chopped off. I think this was because I knew they weren’t coming back easily. After a few months of them being over in Kenya I was struggling a lot and decided to move back to New Zealand where all my extended family are.

all of us

Here are 5 things I have learned over the past year and a half:

  1. You’re allowed to miss them

I miss the daddy daughter coffee dates, the ability to live at home (DON’T UNDERESTIMATE THE AWESOMENESS OF BEING ABLE TO LIVE AT HOME! Seriously though, I miss it quite a lot and wish I hadn’t taken it for granted), the painful but great back and neck massages mum gives, the long walks on the beach talking about life with my parents, family outings, special moments with my sister (which were few and far between since we were always arguing), and the list goes on. At first I felt guilty that I missed them because they were doing “such an amazing thing” but then came to realise that it’s my right as their daughter to say I miss them.

  1. Most people don’t understand

No one tells you how empty life can be without family. No one tells you how hard it is to organise skype dates between different time zones. No one tells you how scary it is when you hear of bombings and disasters that are just around the corner from where you know your parents are. The matter of the fact is no one tells you because no one really knows until you’re in the same situation. I don’t actually know anyone else who is a missionary’s kid.

Dad's 3 girls. Not sure how he puts up with us!

  1. Your parents are irreplaceable

The other week I was thinking about the future. What is going to happen when I get married one day? Is my dad going to be able to afford to come to my wedding and walk me down the isle? (He has no option; he’s going to be there whether he likes it or not thank you very much!) When I have my first child is my mum going to be able to be there to hold my hand through the ordeal? How often will they be able to see their grandkids? I don’t want my kids to miss out on having their crazy Crean grandparents around. There is no one who can ever replace my parents in those moments.

  1. Make “other family”

Throughout my life when travelling I have learnt to make other people my “other family” when mine aren’t around. Since living in New Zealand I have somehow managed to find Luke, my prince charming. (Awww!) His family, the Rutlands, have become my family, not because its kind of what happens when you get in a relationship, but because I chose for them to be. His dad, Andrew, takes me for driving lessons, makes me laugh, and gives me great advice. His mum, Sharon, (it’s a weird coincidence that our mums have the same name…) takes me for coffee, gives me hugs and talks with me about life. His sisters, Amy and Hannah, (another weird name coincidence which gets very, VERY confusing) have become my other sisters whom I can laugh with, argue with and cause mischief with. And his gran is one of the coolest gran’s around! I couldn’t do life here without them. I can’t say thank you enough to them for being so supportive and loving me like their own.

Mum and I Skype each week and we message each other all the time.

  1. Accept the fact that there is no such thing as normal anymore

As a missionaries kid you have to learn to modify your thinking of the basic things. What do you do at Christmas time, Fathers Day, Mothers Day, your birthday? Who do you spend those days with? Everyone else has his or her families.

The 4 of us in the US. I left them to come back to Aussie. They went to Kenya.

I’ll tell you a secret: every other day I feel like calling my parents and telling them that I hate the fact that they chose to live in Kenya and that they should come back and live close to me. But I know deep down that this is what my parents are called to do. I know they wouldn’t be happy just living a “normal” life in Australia or New Zealand. And even though most of the time it sucks not having a normal family, I am really proud and glad that they are doing what they love.

This is us on top of Mauna Kea in Hawaii before I went to school there.

 

Lizo Crean

We have the best two kids in the world – every parent should think their kids are the best by the way. But truly, they are very cool.

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Liz at 8 days old with her dad.

 I’ve decided to write about Liz because so many people ask about her and her ‘story’. Most say they notice something a little different about her but can’t put their finger on it. So here goes.

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It took her a long time to get used to Santa.

Liz was born at 2.10am on December 31st, 1989. It was a normal pregnancy, a long birth, but you know the first labour, as soon as you get a bit of pain you think it’s all started. She was a bit of a floppy baby at first but fed REALLY well.

Things progressed normally for a few years but there were some differences. Things like she packed the biggest tantrums if she couldn’t go with her dad. She didn’t like going to sleep. Her speech was slow in developing. She didn’t interact with kids the same age. Liz crawled at 12 months and walked at 13.

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Taken at around 19 months of age when we first lived in Australia.

Liz has always had the cutest smile and her personality has taken her a long way. She’s always been an outdoor girl. Forget playing with dolls and having pretend tea parties. Get her to ride with her dad on the farm bike and that was another thing.

When Liz was 3 we went to India for 3 weeks. Both the girls got the chickenpox and I remember my sister Angela nearly throwing them at me when we returned (she was a champ). After this, our pastor sat with us and suggested that we take Liz to the doctors as she wasn’t advancing as fast as her peers. I’d suspected for a while that something wasn’t right but for Pete there was no way that HIS daughter had anything wrong with her.

Eventually we took her to our GP who got her into some tests and then a speech therapist. Jeanette was the best thing since sliced bread. Until we left Tokoroa Liz would meet up with her each week. I still have all of Lizzies speech language books. I still remember all the specialists visits, the blood tests, the million and one questions about pregnancy, birth and milestones. Liz knew every test by heart because she had them year after year.

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Sleeptime was never Lizzies favourite time of night – still isn’t.

It wasn’t until years later that we were told that Liz had a syndrome called ‘Global Delayed Development’ and that she was mildly intellectually disabled. Basically she was 6 – 8 years behind what she should’ve been. We were devastated and went back to Jeanette with THE piece of paper. Her reply – “I knew it but didn’t want you putting her or yourselves in a box. Liz will be able to do what Liz can do”. Sure, she had therapy to try and do buttons up, Riding for the Disabled, visits to a child psychologist for her anxiety issues. There were some really tough times – on all of us.

There were times of going one step forward and two steps back. There was the time in her teenage years when you could see her getting depressed and it looked like a little bit of her (inside) was dying each day. There was her younger sister who had everything she didn’t, and Liz became aware of it. There were the struggles of her trying to do mainstream subjects and finding it really difficult. There were the heartaches of her going to youth group and coming home upset because not one person who talked to her.

And then there were the victories. When she was 17 Liz learned to tie up her shoelaces. She finished high school (neither Pete nor I had). She got to be the youngest deacon ever in church. Liz got into photography and helped out with that. There are some phenomenal older people who’ve become Lizzies honorary grandparents and she loves them to bits. The times she has got employed were great and now she volunteers 5 days a week at a preschool in Nairobi.

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Liz with her mate Pastor Don McDonell.

Who would’ve thought that this kid who hated to be touched, was scared of the ocean and couldn’t put 2 words together when she was 3 ½ could’ve turned out to such an incredible young adult. When Liz was little all I wanted her to do was to hold my hand, but her skin got negative impulses from touch and it had to be trained. When she was about 18 she started holding my hand in public, and it was a bit embarrassing until I thought to myself ‘I’ve waited all these years for it and I’m going to enjoy it’. I’m not sure how she overcame her fright of the ocean but now you can’t get her out of it.

I remember the first time Liz said ‘I love you’. I was hanging out the laundry in Tokoroa and Liz was playing outside. That’s a trillion dollar memory.

So what does the future hold for Liz? Who the heck knows – well actually God does and I’m pretty comfortable with that. She’s been receiving the disability pension for the last couple of years while we were in Australia. Because we moved from New Zealand to Aussie she had to wait 10 years for it. Then we moved to Kenya. For the past 18 months she has had to travel back to Aussie every 13 weeks to keep that pension. Most of it goes on travel and she’s had a blast doing it.

The new regulation is that she has to travel back every 6 weeks. It’s insane, but there are not exceptions to the rule, even if you are helping vulnerable kids in a developing country. We are now in the final stages of the next step. It involves her getting assessed by a GP to see if she is at a stage of never being employed (sweeping a broom could be a job). Next, she is interviewed by a Centrelink rep. Then, we wait 6 months for their decision. Either her pension will be stopped or they will allow her to keep getting it without her returning every 6 weeks.

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Liz and her Uncle Dave. Taken in 2014.

We’re hoping for the latter but preparing for the former. Having Liz go back every 6 weeks is a real killer. Trying to find flights that she can pay for is tough. Finding places for Liz to stay is getting tougher. We’ve had some really generous people who’ve had Liz over but you can’t keep using them. Then, what is she to do each day? It’s like living in 2 worlds. While she is away it’s not the real world – people never get ticked off with you, you don’t have any responsibilities, people spoil you. Then it takes a good month to settle into life back here and then you do it all over again.

We are so grateful that Liz is an easy going person. She still has lots of challenges (low reading level, not good at handling money and not always the greatest at reading social cues) but they may be lifelong things. Liz needs a good amount of support for daily living, but she is doing okay for now.

And now is all that matters.

2 Months On The Road

So here we are at the end of 7 weeks travelling through various countries (UAE, India, Singapore, Australia & NZ). We’ve spent a lot of time talking, talking and more talking. This has included primary and secondary schools, Rotary Clubs, business meetings, churches and university students. In between we’ve done lots of coffee meetings doing catchup with supporters and friends.

3 creanies

So here’s some advice for those thinking of doing the long trip idea:

 

1. Lock in time out

I’ve made the mistake of not doing this. The idea was to get along to the doctors for a checkup and places like the skin cancer centre. It just didn’t happen and it simply was my fault. In the end I even had to cancel other meetings because of a lack of time.

 

2. Plan for travel time

I didn’t put enough time in to get from A to B, especially in New Zealand. Because we hadn’t lived there for over 12 years I’d forgotten how tricky it is to get around it fast within a strict budget. I should’ve put in an extra day for travel without appointments on that day.

 

3. Book in a hotel sometimes

We were really blessed to be able to stay for free at peoples homes. It meant staying on mattresses, pull out couches, spare beds and bed sharing most of the time. I never realised how much my daughter snored until this trip. A real highlight was booking a couple of nights in a Melbourne hotel. Sure, I got it super cheap (why pay full price for anything) but just having that was very special. I highly suggest that every now and then when you ‘re on the road long term to do the same. I know it sounds weird but being able to go to the toilet without having to rush or someone else banging on the door is a wonderful thing.

 

4. Take time out for friends

Speaking to large groups is great you get the advantage of the masses. However there’s nothing like one on one coffee with friends. Not only do you not have to keep telling your story over and over again, but you get to just be yourself. Sitting down to have a laugh and a coffee while reconnecting is worth the world. I don’t think I’ve eaten and had so many drinks (don’t worry I don’t drink alcohol) for a very long time. To me my relationship with people is even more important than the work I do.

 

5. Pack lightly

I’m kind of impressed with myself for how little clothing we brought with us. ¾ of our baggage was actually filled with merchandise that we would be selling. The only things I didn’t wear were my swimmers and running shoes. Shoes because I didn’t even have time to get out in the fresh air for some exercise. You’ll find we all pack too many clothes when travelling. I foolishly thought that it would be warm where we were going. In Christchurch it dropped below 9 degrees and I froze to death. Hence, always take a jacket.

 

6. Rethink the 8 week idea

We got to about 5 weeks and thought ‘it’s time to go home’. I remember when we were travelling for 8 weeks in Africa as a family and we got to about 6 weeks and thought the same. Continually travelling is exhausting work. If you can break it up with a week off I think that would be better. However, for me, I was going to be away from my husband for 7 weeks and that was way too long so I wasn’t going to make that happen. However, thanks to a Kiwi friend we have a week together in Dubai at the end of the trip.

 

7. Take a trip buddy with you

I had our daughter Liz travelling with me for the entire time. It was a great idea for both of us. I got to see what it was like for her travelling 50 hours just to get to Australia. We got things down to a tee. Liz would set up the audio visual equipment, I would do the talk and she would pack down. Liz only missed one meeting because a colleague from BeyondWater came to a Rotary meeting instead. Liz was stellar and I couldn’t have done this trip without her. I would’ve got really lonely without her and often we talked on how we could improve on our trip. Liz would often keep me in line and remind me about what needed to get done. I highly suggest having a travel buddy. You need someone to not only laugh with but also someone to cheer up. Having a travel buddy is a must.

 

Snippets to remember:

–        Zip lock bags (avoid toothpaste throughout your bag)

–        Pack a pen with your passport

–        Put your passport and phone in the same place every time

–        Get money transferred into US dollars on this side of the world (best rate)

–        Don’t be afraid to ask people for help

The Trial of Getting a Visa

Pete puts it nicely – It’s not difficult to live in Kenya, it’s just complicated.

With 5 days out before we started out 52 journey home I remembered I didn’t have a visa for our 15 hour stay in Mumbai, India. Great for someone who has put together a 7 week itinerary through a few countries, schools, churches, clubs and business meetings – I totally forgot  about this.

No worries, after a couple of phone calls and checking out the website which stated that a transit visa could be done in one day and only $27 each. It’s kind of weird, India just announced that you can finally get a visa at the airport, just not a transit one. Liz has travelled through Mumbai airport a few times, me I haven’t been there for over 20 years. Most people say to stay clear of this airport but we had no choice. BeyondWater generously paid for my ticket but Liz was a different story. She has to be back in Aussie anyway as part of her pension agreement and she had no spare money.

So the trip has ended up Nairobi to Dubai, to Mumbai, to Singapore to Sydney. Sure it is painfully long but cut the price down by $1,000, so it will be worth it.

I convinced Joy, one of my co-workers to take Liz and I into town on a matatu as he was taking the car out to the farm. His motorbike won’t be ready for a few more days. Joy says she will be at our place the next morning at 6.30am, as she says, it’s better to be there early than to wait forever, and you never know what the traffic will be like.

First though we had to get new passport photos as the India visa requires a different size. Pete’s out late working so we walk up to the mall (only 15 minutes) and get our new photos at a price of $10. They look good, but we also had some normal size ones sitting in our draw at home.

Joy arrives on time as promised. She had to convince her parents that she wasn’t chucking a sickie from work and walks a distance to our apartment. Pete drops us off at Lavington, a 10 minute drive away and we manage to get straight into a matatu, which is rare. It’s normal practise to wait until the matatu fills up before it leaves and we filled the last seats.

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This is what a matatu may look like.

 

Now this is not a nice flash new 10 seater van. This is a beatup looking thing with Kenny Rogers and Lionel Richie blaring out over the speakers. The great thing about catching a matatu is that they go where no one else dares and at a speed that is crazy for around here. If I were to drive not only would the parking be a nightmare, it would take 2 hours in the morning. We were moving along nicely until all of a sudden the traffic came to a standstill. This didn’t deter our thrifty driver, he swerved to the right and headed on the wrong side of the road, side swiping a cyclist with a passenger (they were fine) and he headed to the front of the line. While there is an insane driver there is also the conductor who collects the money (50 cents for a one way ride). He may or may not have a seat and when someone wants to get off he whacks the side of the van to tell the driver to pull over. He is also happy to yell out the one window that work ‘’Town, town’ in case someone needs a lift.

All is well until we near the CBD where we don’t move for 20 minutes. We decide to walk, a much better option. As soon as we get out a drunk elderly man walks past Liz and says ‘Nice hat’ – she wasn’t wearing one.

Right on 8.30 we get to a building that a security officer says is the high commission office. No signs, just another guard who tells us to leave our bag at the entrance. As in every other public place the security wand is waved over us. We proceed to a room that looks like an ancient library. Still no signs, no staff, just a couple of people who tell us that the line is the seating. So we sit for an hour. Slowly the crowd builds up, but no staff.

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A view of the Nairobi CBD

 

Dead on 9.30am a man walks in with his stamp, get’s it on the correct date and yells ‘next’. That my friend is but step one in the process. This nice gentleman says to go to the opposite room (no signs yet) where we take a seat. Our number (3) is called. The lady goes through the stamped papers and tells us we need to see her manager – the man seated next to her. We return to our seats to see the manager telling a woman that he ‘won’t process her visa and why did she leave it till now to get it’. No worries I thought, we’ve called, checked out the website. Liz and I approach the desk. He asks if these are the tickets (they say they are), we give all the forms. He knows what date we fly out, he knows we need a transit visa. He brings out another form which we duly fill in. He gets out his receipt book and starts with adding about another $15 to the fee.

At this point, I ask again for the umpteenth time ‘So, we will get a visa by the time we fly out on Friday’. He stops, puts his pen down and asks what time our flight is. His simple answer is ‘No, it won’t happen’. No, you can pay more and get it done faster, no reason why, just that he won’t do it. He’s the manager and it was his choice.

Stuff it I think to myself. How many times do you have to ask about time frames, will something get done, is it possible? I’m not asking to be in the country forever, just 15 hours.

‘I will have to withdraw my application’ I say. No reaction from him except ‘That’s your choice’.

What a dude.

So after a drink we catch an even more dodgy matatu back to work. Liz, she loses her phone.

No visa = changing tickets to be in India for only 6 hours + $100USD. I think it was worth it.

Today at 11.35pm we head for home.

On Safari to Tanzania

 Last week we took the journey (safari) to Tanzania, one of Kenya’s neighbouring countries. The plan was to look at one of our completed projects and then have a look at some potential new ones. It was also a good chance to see our Aussie mates the Pocknall’s. Last year we bumped into them at our local mall and have kept in contact ever since. The Pocknall family are amazing (Andrew, Jenny, Maddie, Lauren and Oliver).

Arusha has about the same population as Christchurch but no where near the facilities as Nairobi. It’s a bit like a big country town. On the upside there is a whole lot less traffic than Nairobi. It’s also about 3 degrees warmer in Arusha.

Apparently you’re meant to enjoy the journey and not just the destination.

Traveling by road from one country to another in Africa is not as easy as it sounds. A few months ago when we got our car we were meant to get our transfer papers done but ‘someone’ in the office didn’t get it done. Hence, the papers were still in the name of the car dealership.

Because of this the insurance company would not insure us for Tanzania. It’s only about $50 for a couple of months insurance but we were forced to get it at the border and hope we got it with a legitimate company. Africa is one place you don’t want to end up insurance-less.

We were to leave on Thursday but everything fell apart on Wednesday. Pete was out at the farm and everything was left to me (just the way the cookie crumbled) to organise and Monday was a public holiday so it was a super short week anyway. For the whole morning we got conflicting reports ‘yes you can get through the border’, 30 minutes later ‘no, it’s impossible’. What an emotional rollercoaster. By 11am I was ready to throw in the towel but my brave husband jumped on his motorbike and came to my rescue.

Image           Shuttles waiting at the border.

First to hit AA who said it was no problem. Go to the car dealership to see the boss – he’s out of town. Insurance guy says we’re too much of a risk.

Thursday morning we head out. I had thrown my hands up in the air and decided that if we drove the 2 hours to the border and they turned us back we would come home, pick up our tent and get out of Dodge for the weekend.

The road to the border is 176km’s and it’s been built really well. Most of the time getting out of Nairobi is a real drag and can take an hour. It took us 20 minutes. The road we took is the same one that trucks use to get to the port in Mombasa and it has endless trucks.

ImageNot sure how long the trucks were parked at the border but it would’ve been ages.

Just before the border is a place called Paradise Gallery. It has flush toilets (always a bonus) and a large shop with allsorts of Kenyan artwork. There, Pete asked the owner if she knew of someone who could help us at the border (a 2 minute drive). Of course she did! So, we ended up with Sitoki, a Masai man who for $30 got our car through the border. We waited while he found some friends who he could negotiate with. Normally if the car isn’t in your name you can’t get insurance or through the border.

We wanted to take the Pocknall’s some food goodies from Nairobi but every blog I read said how things are stolen at the border or confiscated. We had neither and kicked ourselves for not taking more through. Who knows where the Kenyan Police were. We just drove through.

Of course you have to go through all the rigmarole of completing departure and arrival forms, paying $50 each for visas and then an American $20 for a car which wasn’t in our name.

ImageSigning in and out of immigration

After about an hour at the border we simply kept driving. The hardest thing was dodging all of the trucks lined up that were waiting. Then there were the multiple ‘diversion’ signs which were a waste of time. Before we knew it we were on our way for the 2 hour drive on the Tanzanian side.

ImageSo many trucks it was hard to find a parking spot.

The hilarious thing about the Tanzanian road is that it was only completed a couple of years ago. Now some intelligent person has decided to build in new culverts AFTER the new road was built. So every few kilometres we were diverted onto a dirt patch where they were building.

 

TIA – this is Africa

Yes I am filthy rich!

Last week one of our co-workers made a statement ‘it’s okay for you guys, you’re rich’. They didn’t say it to me (which is just as well) but to Pete. It really bugged me. There’s always the assumption that just because you’re white, you must have loads of money.

I suppose, when you live in a country where the majority work for $5 a day or less, then what we make does make us magnificently rich.

Richness goes far beyond the money you earn.

I know of people who live a lavish lifestyle, drive the best cars, fly first class all the time and where cash is never in short supply. In this sector there are those who are the most miserable and there are those who are happy as anything.

I also know people who have absolutely nothing, live in a shack, looking for work and struggle to survive from day to day. In this sector there are those who are the most miserable and there are those who are happy as anything.

Pete went back and asked our co-worker what she meant. I mean, here we as missionaries in Kenya, totally reliant on the generosity of our friends and family to put food on the table. But people let you down, their business goes down the toilet or they change their minds and go on holiday instead. Ultimately, our reliance is upon God, we just pray that He will touch peoples hearts to partner with Him, via us.

We don’t have a car, our own place to live in and our stuff is still in boxes 4 months later. Thankfully some friends bought us a motorbike, and we are house sitting for our team members for a few months.

I wonder whether this HIV + grandma in Kibera will see her grand daughter grow up?

I wonder whether this HIV + grandma in Kibera will see her grand daughter grow up?

So, I’ve re-evaluated the statement on being rich and I can tell you I’m filthy rich!

  1. I’m married – we’ve just celebrated 25 years of being together. Amazingly we haven’t killed each other yet, in fact we love each other more than ever before!
  2. We have the best kids – okay, there were times I wanted to give them away, but they are awesome. I wouldn’t swap them for anything.
  3. I’m in a job I love – heck, daily I’m involved in bringing positive change to young people, able to help our diverse team reach their potential, and I even have my own desk!
  4. I’ve travelled the world – okay, not to Europe or South America and Antarctica is still on my bucket list. But I’ve been all over the place from backpacking in Tanzania, palace hunting in India and in one of the best hotels in Dubai just to mention a few. I’ve lived in one of the most beautiful countries in the world (New Zealand), lived and loved Aussie and now live in Kenya.
  5. I know who I am – I had the privilege of coming to know Christ when I was 14. Man, I’d be a mess without Him. I know I’m a child of God, I know I’m Heaven bound one day but until then, there’s the adventure of life. So even though it sucks sometimes, I know He will never leave me nor forsake me.

Sure, I’d love to have an endless cash supply to increase the effectiveness of what we do here in Kenya. I’d love not have to scrap together a few dollars so our teachers have better resources. I’d love to be able to take a long weekend off and travel 9 hours to the beach.

All those things will come eventually, but if we are always looking at what we don’t have, then it blinds us to all the magnificent things we have right in front of us.

Things come and go. Our faith, our friends and family, they are the real things that make us rich.

Okay, I’m Ready To Go Home Now

I woke up this morning feeling angry, frustrated and ready to kill the rooster next door who announces EVERY morning that it’s 4am. I was over constantly finding new areas of my body swollen from mosquito bites overnight even though we have the state of the art bug killer system in our room. The fact that I haven’t got malaria yet is a miracle. Both wrists look broken but they’re only swollen. My forehead is a racing track for mossies and they leave not little hills where they’ve been. I have to sleep with a pillow over my head to keep the buggers away (yes, that’s how I feel) but they are so persistent they burrow under. I feel very justified squashing them and are SO happy when I find a dead one on my pillow.

Then I whacked my head on the window because it has a small frame to keep out burglars, even on the second floor. I had to buy a cheap second phone for a system here called MPESA, which enables me to transfer funds to you via a phone if needed. We’ve taken it in twice now and it still won’t work on the system. I’m told that I will get a text message so I can put credit on it. Three days later, still nothing.

We’ve waited 2 ½ months for our visas so we can stay in the country rather than drive 3 hours to the border and visit Tanzania for a day and then come back. On the same day I get a rejection letter from last year I get an approval letter from the lawyer. He tells me it’s costing $100, the Minister of Immigration’s letter says $1,000. Flip, I’m a development worker, we live from day to day, where would I find $1,000 from? Eventually we find out it’s a typo (sack the secretary I say) and I stop having a heart attack.

I realised today that I haven’t been out in the sun in over 8 weeks and I’m lily white. It’s ironic since I live in East Africa and not far from the Equator. All simply because it’s been head down and bum up working 24/7.

To put it in a nutshell, I miss the ease of life in Sydney. Sure, people complain they have to wait 25 minutes to talk to someone on Optus, but at least you can actually talk to someone.  Traffic is bad in any city, but if you get pulled up by a cop he’s not going to threaten to throw you in jail because you indicated to turn then changed your mind. And he won’t demand a $100 on the spot bribe while holding a rifle. If you take your phone in because it’s dodgy then they ask for your passport first, which you want to leave at home because you don’t want it stolen.

What I really wanted to do was put my head back under the covers and ignore the fact that I had to head to the office to answer the never ending stream of emails. I wanted to cry, kick something and pack a pre-school tantrum. Of course, I couldn’t because it changes nothing, and our housemaid (comes with the house sitting) would arrive soon and she would tell me to have more faith and get myself together (got to love her honesty).

Instead I went where I should’ve and that was to the Word of God. I’m reading through Matthew and at the end of chapter 19 the disciples say to Jesus ‘Hey, we’ve given up everything to follow you, what are we going to get out of it’ (my version). Jesus quick reply is that they’ll get back one hundredfold, and eternal life. Nice one Jesus! Put everything in perspective, what really is the thing that matters in life, is the eternity we get to hang with him.

A wise friend once said that when we get to Heaven our life on Earth will be like some vague memory compared to what we’ll have – forever. I quite like that philosophy.

So when I say I’m ready to go home you can be super spiro and think ‘Okay she’s ready to die and go to Heaven’. Not really, while to live is Christ and to die is gain, I’ve got a whole lot more to get in my life before I quit this place.

Am I ready to go back to Sydney? No, but when I do get to go on holiday boy am I going to enjoy it! Kenya doesn’t feel like ‘home’ yet, but we both agree, we aren’t meant to be anywhere else.

So when I say I’m ready to go home I’m talking about having a whole day off tomorrow. Staying in bed and reading, hanging out in my pj’s watching a DVD and then maybe cook something wickedly yummy and full of chocolate.

Until then, I will keep my eyes on where they are meant to be, on Christ who endured everything just for me. That’s when I’m trying NOT to scratch my myriad of mossie bites! Right now, I’m getting a towel, laying it on the ground and taking the next 10 minutes to try and get a tan.