Not Quite What I Thought It Would Be Like

Yesterday we moved our belongings into an apartment. For the past 6 months we’ve been living out of suitcases while we went on a fundraising tour. Pretty much we were in a different bed every second night, so we got into a routine and where everything went. We had our ‘speaking clothes’, ‘casual wear’ and ‘travel clothes’. We knew where our toiletries would be and most importantly, where to find the hair brush.

Of course, after 6 months it did get a bit tedious but we were there for work so we made it the easiest for us.

So when we decided to return I was really looking forward to settling down and having a home to ourselves.

However, it hasn’t turned out so wonderful as I thought.

I thought finding an apartment would be easy. What I didn’t take into account was how prices for rent had risen since we’d been away. We were pretty specific on what we wanted. We needed a balcony for our BBQ (and I love sitting out there) and I wanted somewhere for my washing machine. I also wanted to drop how much we would pay per month because we hadn’t raised our personal income enough to spend more.

To find a place here you decide on the area you want to live in, then go from gate to gate and ask the guards if there is anything available. After a couple of fruitless days we employed the skills of two agents. I’d had other agents call me after I made some enquiries online but they all wanted $50 upfront for a commitment fee. At least these two guys wanted nothing (they got paid by the landlady).

We ended up with two options, none we were 100% happy about but we needed to find something this week. On the Friday we signed for the apartment and then discovered that the President announced a public holiday on Monday. Thankfully, the guy we’ve used before was able to bring together a team to work on the Monday anyway.

I’m used to moving so it was no big deal to do it for the umpteenth time.

What got me was when we started unpacking the 30 something boxes. I got so overwhelmed by the amount of stuff we had accumulated over 4 years. I was used to just a few clothes and here I was looking at more clothes than I ever saw. Then when I went to unpack the kitchenware I got annoyed with myself in how many plastic containers we had. Seriously, did we need that many containers? Did we need that many clothes and shoes?

I know after a few weeks I’ll adjust but right now I’m staring at my wardrobe and already deciding that if I don’t wear them in the next few months, I’ll pass them on to someone who actually needs them.

We do have to ask ourselves if we really NEED the amount of belongings we own. While travelling I’ve seen some people who have a whole room dedicated to just their shoes. Isn’t there a better investment in life than that?

Stuff disintegrates, but the investment we can make into the lives of people is what continues forever.

That’s where I’ll be making more of an investment in. What about you?

We’re Not In Kansas Any More Toto

The enormity of what we are undertaking this year is really sinking in now. Who in their right mind would spend 6 months away from Kenya and try and raise $50,000 for projects as well as double their own personal income? The itinerary is always evolving and there are lots of variables to work with that complicate it. It’s an insane plan and I sure hope it pays off.

So here we are, in our country of birth (New Zealand), total strangers to the system, language, food and culture. Google maps confuses me as it says the names of the roads in an odd accent and isn’t helping me pronounce Maori words.

You would think that after 6 weeks I would’ve become accustomed to things here. Actually, I’m better than Pete and Liz who’ve only just arrived. I feel sorry for them because I understand what a head spin it is being here.  nz

The Driving

People indicate! Wow, what an experience. Everyone here complains about how bad the traffic is. Ha, if they only knew what it could really be like. I have to admit that it gets frustrating having to wait for the traffic lights to change, it seems like forever. I don’t like driving at night but here I’ve done it a few times and because of the overhead lights and reflector lights on the roads, it is no effort.

 

Food

The variety of food here is AMAZING! I can even get gluten free food wherever I go. However, there is lots of food we shouldn’t be eating because of the sugar levels. Fruit is fairly expensive and when you pay 10 times the amount for a smaller avocado, it does your head in. For the first time in about 6 years we’ve had fejoas, which is phenomenal. The problem is that we are here for a few months and because of the good food, we’ve all put on weight already.

 

Language

I’ve never heard so many ‘sweet as’ and ‘sure bro’ in one conversation. Even coming from people serving at a counter, the answer always seems to be ‘sweet as’. I suppose it’s better than saying ‘cool’ after every conversation. Kiwis say a lot of ‘aye’ at the end of their sentences. Pete’s picked it up so that just about every sentence finishes with ‘aye’ and it drives me up the wall. I hope it’s something he can wean off when we leave.

 

Shopping

The sales here are phenomenal. Whenever we come out of Kenya, we always have a shopping list ready to go. Things in Kenya are very expensive and we know that places like NZ and Aussie have great sales. In Kenya it’s a sale if there is 1 or 2 percent discount. I picked up a frying pan that had 50% off, now that’s a sale. Unfortunately we couldn’t find many summer clothes to take home because it’s all about winter here now. However, after a few weeks I’m a bit tired of trailing the malls for a good deal. All we seem to have done is see the inside of the car, the inside of a meeting room and the inside of a mall.

 

The Reverse Culture Shock will pass, but it might take some time. How did you cope when moving to another country?

When We Return Home

It feels weird to say I’m going home, because Kenya is home for us and the thought of leaving it for 6 months just breaks my heart. I definitely want to be with our daughter Hannah for the arrival of our first grandbaby but leaving Nairobi, everyone close to us and the familiarity of home weighs heavy on me.

han

Hannah is ready to go!

I thought I would write about how YOU can help others like me who return to their home land, even though it is foreign for us. You see we often don’t understand the language, culture, politics and general day to day procedures in our homeland

To me, home is where my heart is at that time and especially where I am with my husband. While were living in Australia that was definitely home. I’ve returned a few times since being on assignment in Kenya and now I feel uncomfortable there. I’ve had several friends move back permanently to their homelands and I’ve asked them how long it took for them to adjust and they all say at least 8 weeks. I can identify with this as we spent 6 weeks in the States last year and it got quite comfortable by the end of the trip.

 

Sharon’s Tips:

  1. Give us time.

Homecomers (HC) usually travel a long way to get back. For me it was more than 30 hours in transit, that’s a really long time. I have done longer but on my ticket I had to be back in New Zealand by a certain date. It can take up to a week to get over jetlag.

Besides that though there are often things HC have to deal with. Organising bank accounts, health checks, drivers licenses and buying appropriate clothes for the local scene. And of course, you have to figure out how to get from A to B to do those things. We only hold Kenyan drivers licenses but it looks like we have to re-sit everything to get our New Zealand ones. That means I have to spend time studying, making sure I get my crazy driving ways out of my system and get to obey the laws here.

While it’s great to catch up with everyone, we come with a priority. For me, it was our daughter. For others it may be relocating back permanently or sorting out family issues. I had lots of people sending me messages and requests for catch ups and I’d only been in the country for 24 hours. It was all a bit much when what I really wanted to do was to just sit down after more than 3 years and watch a movie with my daughter.

flight

Just after landing

 

  1. Don’t assume.

A really hard things is that people assume that you know people, politics, current affairs and where to go for something. While we get a lot of news online, it’s just one of many things our brains are taking in. Our main focus is on the foreign country where we are based, not our homeland. Yes we attend events at embassies but that is to catch up with people of the same nationality and relax for a night. We know who our ambassador or high commissioner are but we don’t know who the MP is in the suburb we used to live in.

 

I haven’t lived in NZ for 15 years, it’s pretty much ALL foreign to me.

 

  1. Realise we are in two minds/hearts.

While we want to be with our families in times of need, we also have a new family in our foreign country. We have a new set of friends there, a new way of living, a new reality. We adjust.

When we return to our homeland we are torn in two. While we try to adjust here, our thoughts are with what is happening in the country we’ve just left. Today is the 2nd birthday of Alisa, our friends daughter. Tomorrow a group of friends will be going to their house for her party. We gave a gift to be unwrapped then but we will miss out on all of the fun. You can’t help but think about it, yet you wouldn’t be anywhere else right now.

Some people are forced to come back to their homeland as their visa might have run out, or there are family matters to attend to. Some have HAD to return for their kids. It’s very expensive to fly your whole family back so many have to decide who gets to return every now and then to the foreign country.

 

kids

At the beach for the first time in over a year

  1. Invite us home.

We find that people like to meet up for coffee or take us out for meals. While that’s great try and see it from our viewpoint. It costs at least double to go to a restaurant and we often think in our minds ‘I could take that extra $70 and put a kid through school for a couple of months’. Do that 20 times and you see a number of children’s faces or the local street children who could actually be getting educated rather than begging, or worse.

We come out for a couple of months at a time but hardly ever get invited into peoples homes. When you’re out speaking/fundraising you get tired of seeing the inside of buildings, offices and meeting rooms. You’re presenting non-stop about your cause, which you are passionate about, and you don’t get ‘down time’. Last time I was on tour I just got my feet wet in the ocean and my daughter said “Mum, your next appointment is early”. 30 seconds is all I got – our ocean is a 9 hour drive away.

 

Give us an option of where to meet.

 

  1. Support us.

It’s VERY expensive to travel to our homeland. It’s the number one reason we don’t return more often. Many of us rely on personal donors to keep us in the field. Some people just stop supporting because they think that the money isn’t needed any more. Often it’s the opposite. Many times things like eating out are cheaper overseas but that’s about it. If you’re going to stop financially supporting someone, at least write them an email explaining it.

 

  1. We still have a job to do.

When we are in New Zealand and Australia this year we are travelling to schools and Rotary clubs to try and raise project funds. It’s certainly no holiday when you return, even though people think so. There’s lots of emails, contacting your team back in the foreign country, making sure there’s funds for projects, visiting people here, grant writing, setting up legal entities and more. You are also working across time zones to balance everything out.

Work does not stop just because you’re in a different geographical place. It’s hard because you want to spend time with everyone but need to keep working. My brother asked what I’m up to while here and I really couldn’t be bothered trying to explain that I’m working because he just wouldn’t get it.

To me a holiday is hanging at the beach with the family, everyone off their phones and out playing games. This trip is so not a holiday. We need to quadruple our personal support level to be able to return to the work we do. Money does not automatically come in and it takes a lot of arm twisting to convince people to part with their hard earned dollars.

me

 

 

 

It’s Going To Be An Interesting Year

2016 is in full swing. The schools are back here, Nairobi traffic has returned to its normal snail pace and for those who got away, their holiday is a mere memory.

Our Christmas was a non-event, we just ended up at a restaurant. Pete’s been  helping a mate, which means he was away from 6.30am until 8pm EVERY DAY, with the car. It has meant very long and lonely days when there’s nowhere to go and no car to get there.

Me – my computer and I spent lots of hours together getting ready for the year. Exciting, not.

I know I shouldn’t be complaining because it’s the only time in the whole year that I’ve had down time. But down time by yourself and all of your friends are out of town can be downright boring.

Now that Christmas and New Years is over I thought I would share on why this will be a very interesting year for us.

Our youngest daughter and her husband are expecting their first child (a girl) in March, however because she has gestational diabetes they may induce her early. I’ve been really honoured that she wants me in the delivery room with them. We’ve managed to scrap the funds together by selling off some old items and a friend gave us some money which meant I could get a ticket to New Zealand.

han

Liz has to return to Australia to keep getting her disability pension, but that’s not till the end of March. There’s no point in Pete staying behind by himself for months on end. We did that in 2014 for 7 weeks and it’s not much fun.

So we have a plan.

Pete will fly back with Liz and spend a week in Australia to meet up with some donors and help out an elderly couple of friends. If we can’t rent our apartment out we’ll put  our stuff in storage at our friends warehouse.

Because we’ll be gone until September.

What we’re going to do is take an absolute break in April. Usually when we go back we see our family for about one night. It’s shameful really but trying to catch up with everyone is near impossible.

For the next 8 weeks we will then be on the road speaking at schools, churches and Rotary Clubs. It’s also a great opportunity to meet with our personal supporters and try to raise more funds.

After NZ we pretty much do the same throughout Australia. At least New Zealand is small to get around, Australia takes a long time to get from A to B.

suitcase

I hope to be able to set up a charity in New Zealand and start a team there. We have lots of Kiwi connections and I believe we can really get something going well there.

We have a great team here in Nairobi. It’s all set up for them to take up the opportunity to show us what they’ve got.

I’m sure after 4 months on the road we’ll be glad to throw away the suitcases and head home to Kenya. I’m certainly not looking forward to our first winter in 4 years. But I am looking forward to raising funds for our projects.

Most of all I’m looking forward to seeing my daughter for the first time in 14 months and of course, cuddling our grand daughter.

I look forward to sharing our weekly updates with you. I hope if you are one of my readers that you’ll want to meet up with us while we’re in Australasia.

It will be weird though. When we went to the US last year everything was so foreign and I have a feeling that it will be the same when we head back home. So much has changed and so have we.

You can find our video announcement HERE

 

 

Why we chose to move to Africa

I’ve heard some real doozies about why people think we moved to Kenya, here are some samples:

  • To be a missionary
  • To go and drill wells
  • To live somewhere hot
  • You like Africa more than Australia
  • To get away from issues
  • To prove something
  • To go on a working holiday

 

These are just some of the weird things people have said to our faces.

globe

We stated from the start that we felt we had skills that could help people help themselves. We also could keep a closer eye on our projects as all the people we had dealt with in the past we had known, but herein it was new territory. Everyone we had contact with was told why we were moving but I guess some people just don’t get it. And to be honest,

Pete has a long history in the building/farming/construction/business area. If you need something practical done, Pete’s the man to get onto it. He has valuable practical knowledge that most people don’t. He’s able to take a problem and work it through to make sure it works.

Originally he volunteered with an organization that works with streetboys. After a few years though he couldn’t see himself as more than a fixer-upper. In his words, he might as well move back to Australia and make some money and at least have job satisfaction. So, he moved on.

kili 9

I was unsure where I would fit volunteering so joined the same organization as Pete. I ended up working in an office. I was looking forward to being part of a team. While it was good for a while I was trying to split myself between them and BeyondWater, which we had started in Australia.

So while we came here for one thing, we’ve ended up doing something quite different. Now, both Pete and I are developing a team here in Kenya. We’re on the ground living life as Kenyans do, learning every day about how we can be more effective and building networks.

DSCF1362

So here’s my short answers to people’s perceptions:

To be a missionary – every person of faith is a missionary (one who is sent out) to make a difference wherever they are. Our intention here is not to ‘convert’ people but to befriend them.

To go and drill wells – I have not, nor probably never will drill a well. That’s why we employ people to do it.

To live somewhere hot – think about that one. It’s much hotter in Australia, here in Nairobi our temperature goes from around 13 and sometimes hits 30. That’s not hot.

You like Africa more than Australia – not sure why people think like this. I don’t love a country, I love my family and we could probably live anywhere. We happen to be in Kenya for a purpose.

To get away from issues – everybody has issues and they follow you wherever you go.

To prove something – people with ego’s don’t last long here. The romantic notion of living in a developing country wears off pretty fast – and we’re not young so there’s not a lot to prove.

To go on a working holiday – Pete’s dad always asks how our holiday is going. I don’t know many people who go on a holiday for 3+ years. This definition would mean you work for a few months then go on holiday. We work and are able to stay because we have friends and family who give us money each month. Our visa allows us to volunteer only – as in you work but don’t get paid.

So now you know. Why did you move to where you are living?

truck up hill

Raising a Special Needs Child

I thought for something quite different I’d give an insight on what it’s been like for us to raise a child with special needs. We are very blessed because Liz has a mild disability so I don’t know what it’s like to have a child in the severe category but I figure we all go through the same emotions and similar challenges.

When Liz was born on December 31st 1989 we had no idea of the journey ahead of us. She was your typical baby and loved being handled by people. She crawled at 11 months, walked at 12. She got out of day and night nappies when she was just over 3, thanks to her Aunty Celline who had her for that week. But she didn’t speak. As she got older she didn’t like physical touch.

At 3 when the adventures begin.

At 3 when the adventures begin.

I always had this dream of walking with my daughter, holding her hand and enjoying hanging out. I had to wait 16 years for that to happen.

Liz was just over the age of 3 and I noticed there was something ‘different’ about her. Her speech hadn’t developed beyond one word answers. Her younger sister was more advanced than her in many ways and she is 16 months younger. Liz didn’t want to be cuddled and was happy just to go through life at a slower pace. I tried to give Pete hints that I thought something might be not right and he just shook it off. When he was young Pete struggled academically, had some home challenges and is severely dyslexic. No way did his daughter have any issues!

Pete and I went to India for 3 weeks while the girls stayed with my sister. Unfortunately they both got chickenpox so she was very happy to hand them back at the end of it all! It was then that our pastors approached us and said we should get Liz checked out as she wasn’t at the same level as her peers. So off to our GP we went.

One of my most favourite shots of Liz.

One of my most favourite shots of Liz.

He put us on to Jeanette Van Der Wal, a speech therapist. She was at the same therapy centre that Pete went to when he was a kid.

Liz started speech therapy with Jeanette pretty much straight after visiting our doctor. Her first goal was to put 2 words together.

Two.

Our lives have never been the same since.

For the next few years there were visits to child psychologists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, blood tests, tests for her mental status and surgery. There’s the interdisciplinary report, Fragile X testing, the CELF-3 test, the non-verbal assessment etc. Every time you walk away feeling drained and that it’s your fault. There’s a whole new language you have to learn to be in synch with what the specialists are saying.

This kid has traveled the world.

This kid has traveled the world.

We were always being asked for descriptions of the pregnancy, the birth, her milestones and her sleeping patterns. Liz went through so many tests over the years she knew how to do them by rote. I remember once she said she had already done a particular one and wasn’t prepared to do it again.

She’s one smart cookie.

No one ever labeled Liz, especially Jeanette. She didn’t want Liz to be put into a box because we would lower our expectations. It was the best thing she ever did and we are forever grateful. If we knew of Lizzies label earlier we probably would’ve gone soft on her. Instead we treated her as normal as her sister.

In some ways she got extras like going to Riding For The Disabled. It is a brilliant setup and Lyn who still runs it to this day helped build confidence in Liz. She taught Liz sign language and didn’t let her cut corners. To this day, Liz is great with horses.

She might live in the city but she's a country kid at heart. And has no fashion sense.

She might live in the city but she’s a country kid at heart. And has no fashion sense.

One day a specialist just let it roll off his tongue that Liz was considered mentally disabled but in the mild region. We were devastated as we’d never thought of her in that way. We had a disabled child.

So – we went back to Jeanette. I remember her saying that was the reason why she never labeled Liz, because we would see her differently.

But Liz is different.

She can’t spell for peanuts, her speech gets unclear, her co-ordination leaves a lot to be desired and she just doesn’t get social cues, which are so embarassing. There’s things she had to learn to do – like buttons. Liz was 16 before she could do up her laces.

Don McDonell, one of Lizzies heroes. He always sees the best in her.

Don McDonell, one of Lizzies heroes. He always sees the best in her.

People made huge judgment calls as to why she was the way she was.

That’s a hard one. Super spiritual people tried to cast demons out of her, some said it was because we were ‘too busy serving the Lord’, others were just jerks. In the Church the answer was ‘just pray and God would fix it’. What if God doesn’t see anything wrong with someone having a few extra needs, after all, we’ve all got them?

Being different is okay, that is until you realize you’re different.

It wasn’t until she was in her late teens she understood how different she was. Her sister had lots of friends, was a main vocalist at youth group and held an after school job. Liz felt she was a nobody – invisible. And she was right, because nobody wants to give someone different a chance. They make us feel uncomfortable because they’re not ‘normal’. There was a time that I could see a bit of her dying on the inside day by day. She started emotionally shutting down, actually I saw her getting depressed.

On the day Liz became a deacon at church.

On the day Liz became a deacon at church.

And then there was the change.

Pete talked with Kerry Robertson, one of the youth pastors and explained the situation. Just one person can make a change and it was Kerry who did it for Liz. He asked her to be a photographer at their events. Liz became a new person. She wanted to go to youth group, she became very good at taking photos. Even now she gets unique perspectives when photographing.

Remember, this is a kid who was told of all the things she couldn’t do. Couldn’t play sport – she plays hockey and soccer. She couldn’t do anything with fine motor skills – she loves to play the drums. She shouldn’t be able to hold a camera long enough to get good photos – yet she does. She couldn’t hold a fulltime job – but she does. Okay, she volunteers at a preschool, but it still counts.

She joined the serving team at church and was the youngest deacon ever to be allowed. She found her place of belonging. She inherited a small team of people that treated her as a human being.

At her farewell. Liz served on this team for 10 years.

At her farewell. Liz served on this team for 10 years.

Yes, Liz has a mild mental disability. She is dyslexic and her speech is not clear. Liz exhibits all the signs of having Apsergers Syndrome, so that’s what we say to people. We never say ‘she has a mental disability’. Considering we only use a small portion of our brains, I figure we all have a way to go to getting to our potential.

But she is a great kid with the best personality.

Both our girls graduated from high school - something their parents didn't do.

Both our girls graduated from high school – something their parents didn’t do.

I’m the first to admit that it hasn’t been an easy journey. Did I do something wrong during pregnancy, is it genetic? The nagging questions don’t go away because sometimes there isn’t any easy answer.

Looking back now I wish I had handled Lizzies schooling better. She wasn’t ready to learn at 5, 6 or 7. Liz was ready at about 8 years of age, but of course I felt pressured by society to ‘make this girl learn’. Liz doesn’t learn from a book, she learns from experience. It takes her a long time to get the information from short term to the long term memory, unless it’s an experience. We call her our human GPS.

Liz is so generous, she paid our flights to the US for our final family holiday.

Liz is so generous, she paid our flights to the US for our final family holiday.

Liz likes having a routine, she struggles when there are changes – big time. Now, she can fly back to Australia but she HAS to have an excel sheet with every detail of her trip. Every day her routine is pretty much the same.

And yet, she’s up for an adventure. Every day she goes to work on a motorbike (as a passenger). When we talked about going to South Sudan or spending a year driving around Africa – she was in for it.

Liz is now 25. I can’t imagine what she would be like if she were ‘normal’ because she is the way we’ve always known her. Liz will always be dependent on someone to help her through life. We don’t think she’ll ever live independently, she will always need support. We’ve had to make backup plans if something happens to us here in Africa. We’ve got friends that will oversee the selling of things and getting her back to my sister in New Zealand. Liz is hopeless with money and doesn’t understand the value of it. That’s why I control her bank account. Although she’s 25 in many ways she behaves like a person in their early teens.

Our children, the best investment we've ever made.

Our children, the best investment we’ve ever made.

Life is not easy for Liz, but her amazing attitude gets her a long way. Most people know ‘there’s something not right’ about her but can’t quite put their finger on it.

Liz is different and I’m glad she is who she is.

I’m also glad she got to grow up in New Zealand with the great services they have there. Unfortunately, here in Kenya there’s not a lot for special needs kids, unless you have a lot of money. I’ve taken what we’ve learned with Liz and will help as many kids as possible over here. Kenya has a long way to go in its services for disabled people and I would say it’s the same across East Africa.

I hope I can help kids and their families in the same way we were helped and with the same compassion and grace we were given.

Here is Lizzies first speech therapy workbook.

Here is Lizzies first speech therapy workbook.

Thank you to the people who have done life with us and Liz – you’re amazing.

And thank you Liz for teaching us patience, forgiveness, grace, long suffering but most of all how to rejoice. I remember the day you first said the three most important words ‘I love you’. I was hanging out the laundry and you were playing in your garden. It’s burned in my memory forever.

Now that’s priceless.

3 creanies

A Visit To The Aberdares

The Aberdare Ranges is a 160km long mountain range north of Nairobi. It’s only 135km from our place and was easily driven in 3 hours. We’ve wanted to go there for ages but never made the time for it.

Hills everywhere

Hills everywhere

This weekend we had the opportunity because there was a group that needed some advice on growing crops, greenhouse s and irrigation. That’s Pete’s department, as a farmer, he’s pretty good at it. He has a whole lot of knowledge that can help community groups improve their agricultural situation.

You can hear the river from your room.

You can hear the river from your room.

Our host Zack, from the Aberdare Cottages and Fishing Lodge. Invited us up for the night so we could spend as much time as possible talking with his team. We’ve never stayed at a lodge before because it’s way out of our budget.

Zack explaining about the region

Zack explaining about the region

We were quite impressed with the road getting there. It’s the last 12 kilometres that is a bit of a challenge. It’s murram road, most of us would call it a dirt road, but it’s actually murram. It’s not horrendous, but you want to take it slowly. There’s quite a bit of building going on up the road so there’s plenty of machinery and people to contend with. Zack had emailed directions, and they were easy to follow – and correct!

bedroom

One of the bedrooms in the self catered cottages

Zack wasn’t there when we arrived as he was in Nairobi for a meeting. I thought ‘here we go, we’ve just wasted 3 hours driving and he’s not going to turn up’. Moses, the staff member in charge made sure we had cold juice and hot face cloths to refresh while he checked on Zack’s progress. He would turn up later, meantime, Moses took us up to the greenhouse area so Pete could have a preliminary assessment of the situation.

Everything in this area is on a hill. There are very few flat parts, so be prepared to get those legs working. People who live there are amazing how they have terraced out their properties to grow crops.

Self catered cottages, right beside the river.

Self catered cottages, right beside the river.

I have to say, the staff have been trained really well at hospitality. Our bags were taken to our room, which was partly a tent backing onto a bathroom. There was a king sized bed as well as a single (for Liz). I couldn’t believe how many blankets were on the bed, I hadn’t seen that for 15 years when we lived in New Zealand. I knew it could get cold at night, but that cold?

While Pete did some homework on the place, Liz and I crashed or an hour before lunch. I was really pleased that the bed was comfortable but I was worried about the road noise we might experience at night as there was the only road in the village outside our room. I didn’t hear one vehicle that night, and I am the world’s lightest sleeper.

Lunch was a small buffet outside under the umbrellas. Apparently there were two other couple staying that weekend but at that stage it was just us.

The first time we've had an indoor fire for about 15 years.

The first time we’ve had an indoor fire for about 15 years.

It didn’t take long to get a feel of the place. It’s not where you rush – you’re taking a breather out from the hectic life in Nairobi. You can do as little or as much as you want. The ideal is just to sit there, talk and enjoy your surroundings. The internet is on ‘E’ for enough so don’t expect to be uploading lots of videos. We found out afterwards that there is complimentary wifi but I think it’s a good opportunity to get off the Net and get connected with life again.

The cottages have a small verandah with chairs and a table to sit out on and relax. There are some cottages that are more like cabins but I quite like the idea of being in a tent – and in comfort. There’s no shortage of electricity and rooms have a couple of power points. I was really pleased to see there were hot water showers. I wish I’d taken my hair dryer but I didn’t know what we were walking into.

You certainly don’t come away from a lodge hungry. There was afternoon tea in one of the many community rooms on the property. There we got to meet the other couples and a nice verandah overlooking the valley. Zack had returned from Nairobi and the first thing he did was to greet all of his guests. To him, the lodge is an extension of himself. The property has been in his family for a number of generations. The rustic look comes from the trees that his grandfather planted. This is the only lodge in the area. There you can bring your own tent, use a cabin or just down the road they’ve built some self-serviced rooms right next to the river.

Looking at the river. The water was cold.

Looking at the river. The water was cold.

What I did like about Zack is that he’s a visionary. He wants to be able to use his property to teach the local community about different ways of farming, crops, business and education. He hires trained staff and gets them to work alongside locals to train.

I wouldn’t want the place to be packed out. With 11 cottages, when it’s full there would be at least 22 people. When we were there it was very intimate and peaceful. That’s the beauty of the place. It’s not an institution, it’s an invitation to tranquility.

Looking from the verandah where we had breakfast.

Looking from the verandah where we had breakfast.

That night the fires were lit, but it wasn’t as cold as I thought it would be. Who turns down a good fire while eating dinner? The meals were pretty good. Not over the top flash, but a buffet style, so you could eat as much as you wanted. I’m a coeliac and I was at peace knowing there was food from the garden I could eat. I don’t know if they serve alcoholic drinks because none of us there were into it, but the drinks came out cold and ice was on offer. Pete was happy as he could get a real coffee there.

When we returned to our cottage at night I was shocked (in a good way) that there were hot water bottles in our beds. I was a bit concerned because I had left our laptops and wallets on the bed. Of course, I checked the wallets and found all of the money there. Whew, that doesn’t happen everywhere.

The hills are alive with the view of tea

The hills are alive with the view of tea

In Nairobi I am attacked by mosquitoes at night – constantly. We have to use plug in mossie repellent things to keep them away. Due to the height of where we were staying, I could even walk outside at night and not get eaten. I really thought the 5 layers of blankets would be too hot – but it wasn’t. Liz said she was a bit warm but I’m a hot bod and it didn’t worry me. I did have to throw out the hot water bottle during the night – Pete kept his.

Breakfast was held outside on the verandah. I always take gluten free cereal with me because most restaurants can’t cater for my needs. I needn’t have worried. There was a full cooked breakfast available as well as cereals, juice, hot drinks, toast and fruit. Again, it was a chance just to relax. We were there at 9am, and the first to turn up. Again, don’t come here and be in a hurry.

Liz on the steps of our cottage

Liz on the steps of our cottage

Afterwards Zack invited us all for a guided hike. Too bad I was wearing black jeans, a black tee shirt, no sunscreen nor a hat. It had really warmed up and of course, I took no water. Fool! Zack gave us the history on the place and all he knew about tea. He showed us the self contained rooms which are literally metres away from the river.

Back for lunch (yes, we ate our way through the weekend) it was then time to head home.

My likes:

  • The staff went out of their way to make us comfortable
  • The quiet, relaxed atmosphere
  • Lots or little activities that could be done
  • Comfy beds

My dislikes:

  • We didn’t get to stay longer

We can’t wait to get back in a few months. Maybe you should take time out and spend a weekend at the Aberdares Cottages and Fishing Lodge. You won’t regret it.

You don't see a lot of wildlife here.

Wildlife includes lambs, eagles and rainbow trout.

Check them out HERE

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