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.

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This Is No Holiday

We’ve been on the road for a month now and the biggest thing people say to us is ‘How’s your holiday going?’

This is no holiday, trust me.

Sure, we’re away from home for 8 weeks, so yes, it counts as an extended period of time. The recreation side of things is another thing all together.

The reason we came to New Zealand - the wedding of Hannah and Luke.

The reason we came to New Zealand – the wedding of Hannah and Luke.

The great thing is to catch up with many of the partners in our work, family and friends. We hadn’t planned to come away this year but our youngest daughter is about to be married, so we were coming.

If you’re spending $6,000 on flights, you certainly wouldn’t come for a couple of weeks.

Each weekend, we are in Auckland with our daughter and during the week we are visiting around the country. December is the worst time of year to fundraise so booking in group meetings is not just going to happen.

Ross & Beryl Shadbolt - Pete lived with them before we got married.

Ross & Beryl Shadbolt – Pete lived with them before we got married.

Weekends are full of shopping for clothes for the wedding, decorations for the wedding, going through the ceremony ideas for the wedding. Now we are getting closer it’s shopping for the household stuff and moving furniture into the apartment.

Since we are living off people’s donations, we have very little that we can financially contribute. However, we can offer practical help and advice.

As soon as Monday comes around we jump into the little Toyata we’ve been generously lent by the in-laws. Thankfully, we’ve been lent a fuel card for the month, so our petrol has been covered.

Pohutakawa trees. NZ is the only place you can see them.

Pohutakawa trees. NZ is the only place you can see them.

In some places we have back to back meetings, up to three a day. On Thursday we’ve squashed in 4. Today was the only day we haven’t had meetups with people or travelled.

No wonder we are tired, really tired.

Sleep when/where you can.

Sleep when/where you can.

What most people don’t realise is that this is part of work. Sure, we get to sleep in later but each day you’re telling people about what is happening in your part of the world. There’s still blogs to write, websites to update, fundraising campaigns to get going, emails to answer.

This is what they call ‘furlough’.

Liz with Don McDonell, someone who we've known for 20 years.

Liz with Don McDonell, someone who we’ve known for 20 years.

It’s not a holiday it’s a necessary part of keeping in touch with donors and putting a face to where their money goes. It reminds them that you are more than someone on a social networking site. You are human and you are grateful for their sacrifice.

Pete getting to see his ailing father.

Pete getting to see his ailing father.

It’s quite hard to let them know of the ever growing financial needs and the shrinking budget. You don’t want to seem ungrateful and that you need more. But that is the reality. The cost of living in East Africa is skyrocketing, while the income diminishes. Donors move to other countries, some just stop, others forget.

You also have to buy clothes and tools for the next 2 years. Pretty much everything is twice the price in Kenya so you have to outlay for what you will need. There are some things you just can’t get back home. For example, I bought a wooden clock for teaching time to kids – it cost a whopping $5. I’ve also got counters for using with a bingo game and Pete has picked up some chainsaw files. No point in having a chainsaw if you can’t sharpen it!

Speaking at the Tokoroa Elim Church about our work.

Speaking at the Tokoroa Elim Church about our work.

On the flip side though, catching up with people we haven’t seen, some for 15 years, is fantastic. We’ve eaten way too much food, stayed up too late too often and had time to hear what others have been up to.

Kevin & Jan Ahern shouting us out to a BIG breakfast.

Kevin & Jan Ahern shouting us out to a BIG breakfast.

So although it’s not a holiday – it’s still been lots of fun.

A Coeliac in Kenya

In October 2007 I travelled for 9 days to Kenya, then returned back to Sydney. Three weeks later I travelled via the UK to Ghana for a whopping 3 days. Then in January 2008 I started getting night sweats and not feeling 100%. In February I got pain from what I thought was appendicitis, which abruptly stopped at 2pm. Nothing much for the remainder of the year except this sharp pain in my right side.

The doctor couldn’t put it down to anything in particular.

About a year later I was eating a chocolate Tim Tam biscuit and my belly swelled up to what made me look 6 months pregnant. Pete thought it was hilarious. After having tubes put in both ends of my body the doctors told me I was a coeliac. I didn’t even know what it was. It was a harsh blow to find out that I wasn’t allowed to eat anything with wheat in it. There went 50% of my diet.

timA few months later the ‘could it be appendicitis’ pain struck at 6 in the morning. Pete took me to hospital, they took the appendix out and then told me the pain wasn’t because of that. The appendix was fine. However, since then the pain in my right side which dogged me for years disappeared. It was the caecum that was causing all the problem, which was connected to me being allergic to gluten.

So here I am in Kenya, a coeliac, with about zero people knowing about it.

I’ve had an interesting 19 months trying to figure out what I can eat and what to avoid. The food labelling here is useless. It might say vinegar but not which type (I can’t have malt/brown vinegar). You ask someone at a restaurant about whether it has flour or gluten in it and you get a blank look.

One of the hardest things is when you go to someones house. The last thing I want to do is offend someone who has gone out of their way to prepare a meal for you to tell them that you can’t eat it. Once I ate a couple of sandwiches and it made me sick for 2 weeks. Bread is a big thing here, usually what someone has for breakfast. A few weeks ago we went to a co-workers house for ‘tea’, but it’s never just a cup of tea here, it’s a full meal. People go out of their way to make your stay nice. These guys had even borrowed from their neighbours a table and couch for us to sit on.

I’ve smartened up a lot and now take a ziplock bag of goodies with me. I also tell Pete to eat ‘for me’ so that it looks good. On Thursdays we travel an hour to a training farm for former streetboys. We have a staffroom and I usually make scrambled eggs for lunch.

Like I said, the hardest thing is the lack of labelling. Even herbs and spices have gluten in them. You only find out when you have to spend a lot of time on the toilet or have intense pain in your stomach to figure out not to get that brand.

We do have some health food shops in Nairobi called HealthyU. Because everything is imported, it’s really expensive. While today they might have gluten free bread mix, tomorrow there might be none. So, I buy multiples of what I need to get. Liz travels back to Australia every few months so she brings me back things I can’t get here.

The big one is chocolate. There is absolutely no chocolate here in the supermarket that doesn’t have gluten in it, not a bar. It’s a tragedy.

Not all chocolate has the same recipe

Not all chocolate has the same recipe

I get to miss out on chapatis (divine taste), bread, sweets, chocolate and mandazis. However, there is lots of fruit, veges, rice and meat I do get to eat. Yes, it’s hard when people in the office are cooking toast and that lovely baked bread smell goes through the room. However, I get to bring in home baked goodies that our guys have never seen.

Chapati before it is cooked.

Chapati before it is cooked.

I do a lot of home baking. When someone from Aussie comes to visit I always ask them to bring me gluten free flour. I use that for everything instead of normal flour. I just have to add Xanthum Gum and sometimes an extra egg to give it the fluffiness. I can buy gluten free cornflour here so use that for thickening things. And I always, always have a packet of Edmonds Custard Powder in the cupboard.

custardWhile it’s tough, it’s not life threatening. Much nicer to be healthy and feeling great.

My Butt is Numb

We’ve been slowly selling off our belongings, most for only a few dollars. It’s quite depressing to know that you’re virtually getting nothing for something you slaved your guts out to save for.
Tonight, someone bought our 2 and 3 seater couch for $30. After sitting on the floor for the last 20 minutes my butt is numb already. The next 5 days before we move out will be a bit uncomfortable, especially since I’m still doing all my admin work from home.

 

It kind of reminds me of how we have got used to being comfortable in Sydney and how cruisey it can get. Not that there’s anything wrong with comfort, I highly recommend it! We live a 4 minute walk from the beach, a 30 minute bus ride to the city, a supermarket 2 minutes from our house and stacks of cafes to choose from should we want a quick caffeine fix.

Living in Nairobi, while we will have a great place to live and the mall just up the road, will be uncomfortable in some ways. If locals want to rip us off, all they have to do is speak in Swahili and we wouldn’t know any different. We can’t earn money on our particular visa, so will be living frugally as possible. While there are eftpos machines, at most places you can’t use a credit card. A majority of the roads are unsealed so you often feel like you’re in a milkshake machine. We have to make a whole lot of new friends because we only know about 5 people in total.

 

So, we can either shrink back and say it’s all a bit much, or we can take the challenge head on and see what happens. As Pete just said ‘If it all fails, what have we got to lose?’

 

But what happens if we succeed?