What This Tours’ All About

One thing I’ve discovered in life is that fundraising is flippin’ hard work. You have to fight every other charity for the same dollar and the loudest voice is the one that gets heard. When you have a zero marketing budget and no paid staff it takes a lot longer to get anything done.

Looking at several organisations who have work in East Africa I’ve seen there’s two ways to keep afloat:

  1. Have a team in your home country that are fundraising while you on foreign soil are implementing the project
  2. You spend a third of your time fundraising.

I would love to employ a team in Australia, New Zealand, Kenya and the US who would spread the word about our projects in East Africa. That means we could focus on developing working team here and increase our projects.

However, it’s not about to happen overnight.

nonprofits-fundraising

So, this Sunday, we head for six weeks to the US. It’s definitely not going to be a holiday. To me a holiday is finding a beach, sitting in cafes, going to the movies, staying up late and sleeping in.

For six weeks we will be speaking in schools, universities and churches telling our story. On top of that we have one on one meetings with old friends as well as connecting with people who run projects over here to see how we can partner together.

To be honest, I think we’re all looking forward to the change in scenery.

They say ‘a change is as good as a holiday’. This year has had quite a few challenges and it will be nice to have a different focus for a few weeks.

I’ve done 7 weeks of a speaking tour before and know that after talking about the work for so long all you want to do is get back into it. Lugging suitcases, laptops, camera gear and items for sale is never fun. We often travel by buses and trains, planes only when the budget allows it.

shaz

This trip has been funded by our daughter. We get the privilege of staying at friends houses on their sofas, mattress on the floor or if we’re really lucky, in a bed. A few cities we are going to we will be staying in 2 star hotels. While I always check out the reviews, many times they scare me. I worry we’ll end up in some dive of a place that is absolutely horrific. So far we haven’t had too dodgy a deal. I figure that we are only there to sleep so how bad can it get?

Years ago some people had booked a hotel for me in New York City. Unfortunately it was directly across the road from a 24 hour mechanics bay which mainly dealt in taxis. Getting sleep was not an option.

One thing I am looking forward to is getting out and walking at night. Even after three years of being here in Nairobi I still miss the chance in getting out at night because of security. I know no place is totally safe but the thought of getting the opportunity is just awesome.

However, I’m not looking forward to the temperature drop that we will experience from 10 – 20 degrees celcius below what we are currently getting!

IMG_1900

What I do know is that the future is in the hands of our youth. If we can inform them and then empower them to bring about positive change.

hand game

Here’s the itinerary so you can send us messages, happy thoughts and prayers. We’re leaving our work in Kenya in the hands of our very capable team and look forward to hering from them on some of the very cool things they’ve done while we’re away.

Next time you hear from us, we’ll be wazungu (foreigners) in a slightly different country.

ITINERARY

OCTOBER

18th    Fly out of JKIA at 10.50am

19th    Arrive in NYC at 2.15pm

20th    Day to sort out our resources, phones and catch up on some sleep

21st    Nord Anglia International School

22nd   Academy of St Joseph

23rd   Elizabeth Irwin High School

24th   One on one meetings

25th   Bridge Community Church

26th   Travel by bus from NYC to Toronto, Canada

27th   Meet with Canadian friends

28th   Meet with Canadian friends

29th   Meet with Canadian friends

30th  Travel by bus from Toronto to Columbus, Ohio

31st   Day off

NOVEMBER

1st    Meetings

2nd   Connect with partners

3rd    Connect with future partners

4th    Travel by plane from Columbus to Dallas, Texas

5th    Individual meetings

6th    White North Rock School

7th    Travel by bus from Dallas, to Houston, Texas

8th    Lakewood Church

9th    Individual meetings

10th   Individual meetings

11th   Veterans Day

12th   St. John’s School

13th    Individual meetings

14th   Day off

15th    Individual meetings

16th   Travel by plane from Houston to Washington D.C

17th   Blessed Sacrament School

18th   Individual meetings

19th   Howard University School of Law

20th   Bus from Washington D.C. to NYC

21st   Metro Ministries

22nd   Day off

23rd    Bus from NYC to Philidelphia

24th    Individual meetings

25th    Ride back to NYC

26th    Thanksgiving day

27th    Individual meetings

28th    Depart NYC at 4.30pm

Things I only wish I could say on Facebook

Half the world are involved daily on social media sites. If I put these comments up on Facebook I think I might be persecuted and seen as small minded. People would think I’m picking on them, when all I’m doing is having a viewpoint. I thought I’d put my points on the blog just to get it out of my system.

So here goes.

  1. Girls – please cover up more!!

It’s not just because I’m a mother and I’m 46. Females don’t have to go around with a paper bag over themselves but seriously the amount of skin could be reduced somewhat.

Remember, once it’s out there on social media – it’s out there for good. Potential employers check out your page. The amount of skin and lack of clothing does nothing for the advancement of women, it actually cheapens our worth.

Modesty seems like a swear word these days. Objectification of women isn’t helped by the very same females that give men the feeling of ‘taste and see’.

Girls, it’s time to embrace your womanhood, but do it with style. We don’t need to see pretty much all of your skin except your nipples and downstairs. Have some respect for yourself.

  1. A like doesn’t actually change anything.

Just because you hit the ‘like’ button doesn’t mean you change anything, it’s just your opinion. What brings change is money to a cause that is already making a difference. It amazed me how Australians get up in arms about taking in more refugees but I wonder how many would personally open their homes to a total stranger?

In 1993, photographer Kevin Carter made a trip to Sudan, where he took a photo of a vulture preying upon an emaciated Sudanese toddler near the village of Ayod. Carter said he waited about 20 minutes, hoping that the vulture would spread its wings. It didn’t. Carter snapped the haunting photograph and chased the vulture away. Journalists in the Sudan were told not to touch the famine victims, because of the risk of transmitting disease, but Carter came under criticism for not helping the girl.

Carter eventually won the Pulitzer Prize for this photo, but he couldn’t enjoy it. “I’m really, really sorry I didn’t pick the child up,” he confided in a friend. Consumed with the violence he’d witnessed, and haunted by the questions as to the little girl’s fate, he committed suicide three months later.

kevin-carter-vulture

We need to get out of our ‘liking’ to doing something that brings about change.

  1. Those videos with ‘wow, I can’t believe this happened – are the most boring and annoying posts ever.

I know the words are used to get people to actually watch the videos, but how annoying are they? You go onto the video and they’re usually less than spectacular. It’s worse than being ‘poked’ and you know how bad that is! Maybe I’m a bit hard hearted but I probably only enjoy one in ten of those videos.

  1. Stop posting your hate for Muslims – that’s not the way to show your own faith of ‘love’.

People accuse Muslims of being radicals but from what I’ve seen on Facebook, the haters are just as radical. I have lots of Muslim neighbours, there are 5 Muslim girls at our project in Kenya, in the past my boss was a Muslim, albeit a bad one except when his father was around.

I despise it when people put up dumb posts that cheer when something happens to a person of another faith (e.g. the death of a Dubai prince) –  as if their race, religion or gender is superior. Or the super spiros who think that if a crane falls on a mosque killing people that it’s God’s judgment.

I thought there was going to be one Judgment Day, and we wouldn’t be the judge.

Just because we belong to another faith stream does not give us the right to spit out our hate towards another. I remember reading when Jesus said to ‘love your enemies’.

If you want to win people over, you don’t do it by pouring out hate on them.

  1. When people use others photos and claim them as their own

Grrr. I’ve had my own photos used without my permission and it’s infuriating. Today I was reading a post on an expat site here in Nairobi about a trip to the Amboseli National Park. The photos they used weren’t their own – they had the photographers watermark on them. Of course when I queried this they stopped responding to me and then they were cheeky enough to crop the photo and take the watermark off it. At least give credit where it’s due.

  1. Irresponsible Reporting

The job of the media is not to tell the truth but to sell a story. Often the initial ‘facts’ are then changed because it’s about getting out a story before anyone else does.

Here’s a video from the Huffington Post about the wrong information getting out about the tragedy of the Boston Bombing .

It’s also the wording that is used to attract the reader – like this story about suicide.

There is nothing beautiful about suicide at all. It is one of the leading causes of death for Australian men aged below 44, with men being four times more likely to die by suicide than women, and men use more violent means to end their lives.

The news is about sales and that is all.

  1. The stupid facials

In twenty years time imagine when people look at this generation and see all the stupid poses and facials. They’ll probably be thinking – man, what drugs were they on? Seriously, can’t we get photos of people with tongues in their mouths and not bending half way over? It’s like there’s a whole generation of people with injured backs.

  1. When ignorant judgement calls are made

Ebola happened in West Africa, we live in the East. People we knew were freaking out because they thought we might get it. People decide not to come to Kenya because of what they’ve heard or think they heard in the media. There’s an attack at the coast, a 9 hour drive from our place and we get inundated with messages to see if we’re okay.

In 2013 one Australian died in Kenya. In Bali – 48. In fact an Australian dies every 9 days in Bali, yet we in Kenya are accused of it being a dangerous place to visit.

Most people think that Africa is one country and is all about war, poverty and famine. Every single person that comes here says the same thing ‘I never knew how good it would be’.

When people put up photos of a child outside a mud hut, there’s the assumption that it’s like that all over.

I know, because I get comments about it all of the time.

  1. Fuzzy photographs

This is one of the most annoying things I see on social media. In this day and age surely people can be putting up photos that are in focus. As a photographer it’s really annoying. You might as well not bother.

  1. Breakdown of the English language

My top peeve would be how people shorten a whole sentence with a new form of English that to me is just gross. Mainly it’s the Kiwis who are the worst at it.

Examples (from some of my favourite people):

  • you fullas lit up that syd I’m sure lolol was that the t rythms too sis
  • Nek minnit
  • you fellas vamoosed somewhere,it was good see youse
  • Hard owt at what he does best kuzzie
  • Should of sent sam to urz or uz could of come here lol
  • apologies in advanced for being dat guy
  • come and get your cuzzie to the gym to do some work aye
  • Love us all in rotoz
  • every1 breeze forgot to put family pass for 2adults and 4 kids its 60bux 4 debretts
  • churr bro

So there it goes, my top 10 things I’ve really wanted to say on Facebook but can’t. I use social media A LOT so it probably annoys me more than the normal person. I probably annoy you, feel free to share.

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

Overcoming Trauma

It’s coming up 6 months since Liz and I were held up in our home, during the day by 3 armed men and their boss – a woman.

It’s not the worst thing that can happen in life because we came out alive. I’ve got friends over here who have lost a child, that would be the ultimate nightmare. A terminal illness, that’s certainly no fun. A messy divorce – that sucks big time.

I thought I’d share how I’ve dealt/am still dealing with this trauma.

When it happened, it was only 2 days after Liz and I had gone on a 10km fun run for the First Lady (of Kenya). I’ve always enjoyed running since I was young and for someone who can spend 12 hours a day on a computer, it keeps me fit (kind of). I tend to call it more of a granny shuffle than a run, but it gets my heart racing. On that run, we had some special purple tee shirts that entrants received. It was a great day and I was proud it be a part of it with Liz.

That was the Sunday.

By Tuesday at 3pm our lives were changed forever.

Gone was the feeling of safety in our own home. What was weird is that I didn’t mind being home afterwards. I just didn’t want to sit in the particular seat I was in when a guy shoved a gun in my face. I certainly didn’t want to watch any cop shows. The blanket that they covered us with when they tied us up – I wanted to throw away. Whatever they touched I wanted to get rid of.

What really compounded it, was having to deal with the police over the next 3 days. I think it was almost as bad. In most countries you go to the police for help, not here.

The biggest help we got was actually from a friend in South Africa who we haven’t seen for years. Rod was really good support for us, especially for Pete as he felt guilty that he wasn’t home, because it wouldn’t have happened. Rod put us in touch with some other Aussies who we only knew through Facebook, and when we were ready, we would spend some time with and talk through how we were going.

What I really hated was for people to be shoving it down our throats the next day “YOU MUST GET COUNSELLING”. Forget counseling, I was just trying to make sure Lizzie was okay and get through dealing with the police.

While I didn’t mind being at home, I couldn’t deal with being at home by myself. Pete had a meeting on about 2 days after the armed holdup and we had workmen coming in to do some repairs. I had an all out panic attack, the first ever in my life. It was awful. It happened a couple of times after that. I immediately jumped online to a pastor friend of ours in Australia who gave me some practical tips. By then I had calmed down, but man was it not good!

The guys in our church and the Australian High Commission were helpful, but at the end of the day you just have to get on with life.

But I stopped running.

I no longer felt safe to go out our compound gate by myself. I made triple sure that all the doors to our apartment and car were locked. I jumped at sudden noises.

Even now, 6 months down the line, while things have improved, I’ve still got some ground to take back. There’s certainly nothing wrong with making sure you’re safe but I don’t like to leave the apartment door unlocked even for one second. I think it drives Pete nutty but I don’t care, I was the one who was held up.

For the last couple of weeks I’ve wanted to go back to running again, but I didn’t want to do it by myself. I started with walking up an area that Pete found. It’s safe (well safer than dodging traffic), just up the road and it’s peaceful. You don’t even feel like you’re in Nairobi when you’re there.

I dragged Pete out of bed a few times to walk the route, but I wasn’t ready to do it by myself. And I certainly didn’t want to wear my purple tee shirt – it was still too fresh.

Well, last week, I’m proud to say I actually went on a granny shuffle run all by myself. Today, I even wore my purple tee shirt.

There’s no sense of victory or getting back what ground was stolen from me. There’s no air punch declaring it’s all gone.

I’m just doing it because I know I have to.

I’m using our speaking tour in the US in October as my motivator. I want to be physically and mentally prepared for 6 weeks on the road as possible.

I’ve heard that it takes a good 12 months to get over a trauma. Personally, I think it’s different for everyone. Both Pete and I have decided that it would only take one more ‘big thing’ to happen and we would probably pack up and return home.

I don’t dwell on the fact that the intruders could’ve shot us instead of the policeman. But it doesn’t take much to go back to that day. I’ve purposely chosen not to even remember what date it was. I know it was the first Tuesday in March at 3pm. That I’ll never forget.

I know God saved us on that day. We weren’t raped, beaten or killed and I am very grateful for that.

Next March we anticipate the arrival of our first grand child. I know that March will be better than this one.

I’ll eventually get to the point where the pain of the event will be wiped away but I hope I don’t ever forget some things that came out of it. The close friends, being better at our personal security, learning not to say some dumb things like others said at the time, the love of family and compassion for others who go through tough times.

I’m not glad that it happened to us, but I’ve come to accept that we live in a broken and hurting world where it happens every day to someone. I hope I can be the symbol of compassion to someone else in a better way, because of it.

And I hope I keep running.

5 Reasons why you SHOULD visit Africa

I often see these posts on Facebook of which country ranks as the best to visit and why, even in Kenya. Many of them are fabricated and one-sided, so I thought I’d give a more realistic list of reasons you should give it a go:

No Regrets

The reason we decided to relocate here was because we didn’t want to get to 70 years of age and go “If only”. We all have some regrets throughout our lives so why add more to it.

kids with raq 1

Bigger World View

The world is not all white, middle-class and English speaking. When our girls finished high school we all went off to East Africa for 2 months. We caught public transport, stayed at $2 backpackers, ate what the locals ate and had a blast. It helped them to see that the world is an adventure playground and there’s some really nice people in it.

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Crap Happens Everywhere

I often hear people say ‘don’t go to Africa, it’s too dangerous’. Here’s some news ‘bad stuff happens all over the world, every hour, every minute’. You have no guarantees that if you stay in your home country that you’re going to be safe. I often get people asking me if it’s okay when there’s an Ebola outbreak (wrong side of the continent), a bombing (if we’re alive it’s a good) or a fellow Kiwi or Aussie is injured (did we know them). Remember, bombs go off in Indonesia, London, Middle East and the US. A café was held up by a crazy dude in Sydney and the whole country went on alert. Schools in the US are often reported to have gunmen going through them. It wasn’t that long ago that people were up in arms about 2 Aussies executed in Bali – but people still go there.

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There’s Things You’ll Only Experience Here

We live about 30 minutes from the Nairobi National Park where there is pretty much every wild animal except elephants (need a bigger place than that). We drove around for 8 hours last week and saw some exceptional groups of animals. Kenya has 25 national parks, 14 national reserves and 7 marine parks. And that’s just in Kenya alone. Imagine with 53 other countries what your experience could be. There’s also the adventure sports, culture and unique food to this part of the world. Not many can say they went white water rafting on the Nile.

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Travel On The Ground Is Cheap

Getting here would probably be the most expensive part of your trip. Once you’re here though, local travel, food and entertainment is pretty cheap compared to other places in the world. I can catch a bus to Uganda from Kenya for around $25, a private shuttle to Tanzania for around the same. You can get beef stew and rice for $2.50. Of course, there’s the other end of the spectrum where you can pay through the nose for services and entertainment, it all depends on your budget.

elephant crossing

Sure, I could go on about the wonderful friendships you’ll make, the unique encounters you’ve had or the different cultural practices you’ve discovered but it’s much more than that. It’s something you can’t explain in proper words to your friends when you return home. There are wonderful memories and experiences that only people who’ve been to this part of the world will understand.

The question is – what is really stopping you from visiting?

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Just Get Lost!

We’ve been very blessed to be able to do a lot of travel as individuals, a family and in a group. Every trip has its challenges and triumphs. Living in Kenya enables us to see amazing wildlife and scenery within a few hours.

Travelling with a large group complicates things and I thought I’d share a few pointers on it.

Most of our first team to Africa. It was fun/interesting.

Most of our first team to Africa. It was fun/interesting

Group dynamics become evident in a very short time. There’s the loud person who is sure they know the way (but not really) and enforces their viewpoint. There’s the quiet one who goes with the flow. In between you’ll have a whole range of people who try to be heard, get frustrated when they feel no one listens to them, and those that verbally let everyone what they think. The more people you have, the more variables in behavior.

I remember when the four of us and one extra went to Hawaii for a conference. The plan afterwards was to go to the volcano national park. It was the one thing I insisted on as I’ve a weird fascination with volcanoes, natural disasters such as tsunamis and the like. This trip was doable because we had sold our house in New Zealand and I thought we might not get this opportunity ever again. What I hadn’t counted on was 5 sleepless nights because one of the crew snored loudly, and I mean earth shaking snoring. I even threw pillows at her and told her to shut up. She didn’t notice a thing.

I did get to see the volcanoes and 10 years later we're still married.

I did get to see the volcanoes and 10 years later we’re still married

By the time the conference had finished we were really tired. It had been a full on week and the five of us were ready for a break. First, we missed our connecting flight to one of the islands. Then, I lost the plot and nearly divorced my husband because I wanted things done my way to get going on our ‘holiday’. I got so cranky that I walked out of the pancake place and was heading for my passport at the hotel. It all came down to tiredness. Three teenage girls and tired adults don’t always mix either.

Building memories

Building memories

Mixed ages can cause other problems too. If you have a group that might have pre-schoolers, teenagers and adults from different families, it can bring conflict. Teenagers are likely to want to just shop, adults hang by the pool and pre-schoolers just want to play on the outside equipment. Phones don’t always work in other countries, people don’t listen when it comes to meetup points and little kids can’t handle the long hours often required.

We went to Disneyland in LA one year. One of the family (who will remain nameless) was prepared to stand in line for 3 hours just to go on the Cars ride. The rest of us weren’t and wanted to go on other rides. It was his turn to lose the plot. Again, a mixture of jetlag, tiredness and disappointment.

Liz building a car at Disneyland

Liz building a car at Disneyland

To go in a large group, you really have to be selfless.

I guess we’re not there yet.

We wanted to spend a year travelling around Australia just for the heck of it. Our youngest daughter gets car sick and she was prepared to divorce us for even considering it. She’s married now, so we’re going to drive around Africa instead.

I’m a Type A person. I like to cross my T’s and dot my I’s, but living in Kenya I’ve had to learn to be much more flexible. I’ve learnt that when you’re on the road you may just have to give up trying to do everything and enjoy what you can see/do. Too many times we also try and fit too many things into a schedule and when we don’t get to do them, we get disappointed.

Sometimes, it’s also good just to get lost. That way you end up having adventures you would never had encountered.

Pete broke his leg on Mt Kilimanjaro. This is in Dubai on the way home. It's 43 degrees. Not planned, but it made thing interesting.

Pete broke his leg on Mt Kilimanjaro. This is in Dubai on the way home. It’s 43 degrees. Not planned, but it made things interesting.

In 2009 I did my first trip to New York City. I was by myself and for the most part it was for work. However, I always try and fit in some fun things to do. The people I was with weren’t very hospitable and pretty much left me to my own devices. One night I caught a train from Queens into Manhattan to meet a board member and his son for dinner. It was quite late when we finished and they insisted I get a taxi back to Queens. I was just thinking of the few dollars in my pocket and was very vocal about catching the train back. They were insistent and so was I. Remember, I was jetlagged and in a new city. I went to the train station to find the gate locked. I couldn’t find another entrance and then had to walk lots of blocks to find the right line. I jumped on a train but it became obvious I was heading in the wrong direction. Meantime I’m getting text messages from our board member wondering if I was in Queens yet. I get off the Harlem bound train and a nice old lady pointed me to the right one. I get off at Queens but then can’t remember how to get to the house. I start praying madly (it’s amazing how spiritual we get during a crisis) and looking for a familiar building. Thankfully, I eventually found it and of course never told anyone about by short visit to Harlem in the middle of the night.

Our plan was to go to New Zealand in 2015. Instead we went for our daughters wedding in 2014. Some things are out of your control, but you can have lots of fun anyway.

Our plan was to go to New Zealand in 2015. Instead we went for our daughters wedding in 2014. Some things are out of your control, but you can have lots of fun anyway. We did!

With all the crappola that goes on in our world, I’ve found people are pretty good at helping out in a time of need. The problem when you’re lost is that they’re not and they know how to get there but don’t always have the ability to communicate it. By the time you’ve got to the 5th turn, you’ll be lost all over again. Getting lost is okay until that goes on for hours on end.

When we first moved to Sydney, Australia, we had to meet up on the other side of the city with some friends to pick up a suitcase. Evan insisted on coming to our place, but we really wanted to see what their part of the world looked like. This was pre-GPS days. I don’t know how many hours later we got there, because Ev came and got us, but 13 years later he still gives us stick about it.

Golden Rules of Travel:

  1. Don’t book anything on the day you arrive – we’ve missed lots of appointments by breaking this rule
  2. Do one thing in a day – it should be fun not a marathon to get around
  3. Mix things up in your schedule – one day sight seeing, one day shopping, something in the morning, another day something at night
  4. Before you go, ask the group what one thing they want to do/see and make it happen (I’ve never got to the Statue of Liberty because of the weather, but one day…)
  5. Remember the world is big place – it takes more than 5 minutes to get from A to B
  6. Know where the toilets are
  7. Know and obey the local laws
  8. Make happy memories not disastrous ones.

So go ahead, travel and get lost. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t pan out like you thought – isn’t that life? You will meet incredible people, see amazing things and experience life changing events. You’re not going to get that while at home

Our 2012 guide to Kilimanjaro was the same as 2011. We wouldn't have known how good he was if Pete didn't have his accident. We are lifelong friends now.

Our 2012 guide to Kilimanjaro was the same as 2011. We wouldn’t have known how good he was if Pete didn’t have his accident. We are lifelong friends now.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. Mark Twain

The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page. Augustine of Hippo

Go see the world, your adventures await you!

Go see the world, your adventures await you!

Q&A With The Creans

This week I’ve produced five 2 minute videos answering some questions about life in Africa.

1. Does everyone live in mud huts?

2. Isn’t it always hot there?

3. Everything is cheap there isn’t it?

4. Isn’t it dangerous being there?

5. Are there beggars everywhere?

Hopefully you feel better informed and see that Kenya is just like your place – just a bit different!

boy praying

Solomon’s Choice

When people think of labels like ‘Third World’ or ‘Developing Country’ there’s this automatic picture we get in our mind of streets lined with beggars.

I can only speak on what I’ve seen here in Kenya – there aren’t that many beggars. Pete tells me that he was shocked when he went to Ethiopia and saw so many people begging on the streets. We see some regulars at their normal spot. A mother with a child, a legless man, an elderly bearded man and a bunch of kids (on the weekend). They’re all situated by shopping malls where traffic slows down or there’s an intersection. During the holidays there’s a whole stack of primary school boys who have a ‘pimp’ telling them how to get more money.

We’ve made it a general rule not to give out money to kids begging on the street. It’s a hard one because you know that these kids are from families that live on $2 a day. They wouldn’t be doing it if they didn’t have to. Most people here will find a way to make money, usually by selling some goods, clothing or services.

The reason we generally don’t give out money is that we don’t want to encourage the practice. There’s a huge assumption that because you’re a foreigner you have lots of money. It’s true, foreigners generally do have more money than a local. However, if you look at whose driving the BMW’s, Mercedes and Prados, many of them are driven by Kenyans.

Last Sunday our stance was challenged. Liz had stayed to hang with her mates at an after church event so Pete and I snuck out to a great Chinese restaurant by our house. The food there is ridiculously cheap and tastes fantastic. Sundays are the only time you can drive around the city and not get stuck in a traffic jam.

This is not the boy I saw begging

This is not the boy I saw begging

As we’re driving into the restaurant I notice a boy aged around 4 dressed in rags and looking like he hadn’t bathed in days. He was by himself which is unusual because they normally work in groups. He wasn’t actively begging, running up to cars and tapping on the window. He was simply standing as close as possible to the road with a vacant look in his eyes.

He was four.

Two hours later we drove out of the restaurant and he was still there, in the same spot.

As we refueled the car I just kept staring at this boy. Here, we had just spent hours eating, having a Coke and planning out the next few months. This boy had no future, he didn’t even have today. I had to make a choice – stick with the plan or give this kid a chance.

As we drove past I told Pete to slow down, wound down the window and handed the boy fifty shillings (around 50 cents). I said to him “Go buy yourself some food”. He probably hadn’t started school so didn’t know what I was saying but I’m sure he got the gist.

The reason I only gave him that amount is that he was by himself and if I gave him more someone would’ve snatched it out of his hand. If I had something like some fruit in the car I would’ve given him that. At least then there would be food in his stomach.

This is why I hate poverty. It makes people do things they normally wouldn’t. It stops them from having a life where they can go to school, find employment and have a future.

All I did was help for one minute. Imagine how many more we can help long term.

Would I do it again? Maybe. I’m not planning on making a habit out it but I am planning on helping a whole bunch more who can help themselves.

Want to help me achieve that?

http://makingadifference.gofundraise.com.au/page/TheGirlsProject

Dentists and Rats

Admittedly, I haven’t been to the dentist for 15 years, but I was surprised to find parts of my left back molar in my hand as I was eating popcorn at the movies. I love their popcorn, it’s caramel coated. I didn’t love feeling a giant gap in my tooth.

The last time I went to the dentist I had 3 wisdom teeth out – no wonder I make the decisions I do! It was one of the most painful experiences in my life.

I’ve never liked going to the dentist. At primary school we used to call it ‘the murder house’. As an adult I figured out that dentists were most likely bullied at school and this was their revenge, and to make lots of money doing it.

I mean, who wants to look inside the mouths of people every day?

I was thinking of a quick fix, even getting it pulled out. Not going to happen to this chick. It was a crown or nothing, and I had a few other holes, another cracked tooth and the final wisdom tooth that had grown sideways which had to come out.

The drill is a horrible but effective tool.

The drill is a horrible but effective tool.

I got depressed. Where was I, a missionary, going to find the $1,000 to get this done, even some of it? We’d just spent $400 on Pete’s broken arm and we’ve got to find a few thousand to get our visas renewed next month. Pete was really good about it, probably the same support I’ve given him over the last 3 years and the numerous hospital visits he’s undertaken.

I hate going to the dentist the same as I do with rats. I hate rats. Snakes, spiders, even getting robbed at gunpoint, fade into comparison to visiting the dentist or having a rat in my house.

Whenever I get unwell I will do ANYTHING not to go to a doctor here. Pete and others assure me there are some good guys, but I don’t want to find out any day soon.

At least the chair was comfy.

At least the chair was comfy.

I’d heard of a dentist about a 5 minute drive from our place, on the 4th floor of the mall. The place is called Skye Dental. The night my tooth broke I went up there but they had closed. I returned the next morning for the verdict.

It was bad.

Just to get a consultation, x-ray and clean it was $120. Dr. Yakub told me that dentists like to do mouths in quadrants, which meant I have to get one filling, a tooth out and a temporary filling in one go. The next visit $284. The last part, for just one tooth – a whooping $710. No one can even see where that money is going!

But what choice do I have?

Today I got the first part done. Pete insisted on walking me all the way there in case I chickened out. What was I going to do, he had the car keys.

I came prepared this time. I had my playlist ready to go, headphones on.

Dr. Yakub promised me that it wouldn’t hurt. Who ever believes a dentist?

I guess dentistry has come a long way in 15 years. I remember the needle being the absolute worse, but it wasn’t. I had 3 injections and only felt one (slightly). This is because he put this numbing dawa (medicine) on the site first. Even when he pulled out the back tooth I felt nothing.

When it came to the broken tooth, he had to get off the old filling first. The drilling sound is still as awful as ever, but I turned up the music loud. What I really struggle with is the gagging reflex. You feel like you’re drowning even though you’re not. Then they put that sucking thing in and it’s a shocker. It was made worse because I’d drank lots of water when exercising that morning and really needed to go to the toilet.

Straight after an hour at the dentists. Pretty bad shot, no makeup, numb face and the dentist looks interesting too!

Straight after an hour at the dentists. Pretty bad shot, no makeup, numb face and the dentist looks interesting too!

The other horrible thing about my visit was the metal ring they put around what’s left of your tooth. It’s not pleasant. He had three goes at building the tooth and the ring kept slipping. So I spent my time not drowning in saliva, trying to ignore the sucking thing and letting go of the pain as the metal ring was shoved up into my gum. The only pleasant thought was ‘at least I’m making him work for his money’.

I’ve given birth twice, climbed the world’s second highest free standing mountain (Kilimanjaro) twice, moved countries twice, been robbed at gunpoint and watched as our oldest daughter has taken on the challenges of being disabled. But for me, going to the dentist and rats top it all off of the things I hate most.

I’m impressed with how professional and compassionate the staff of Skye Dentists are. I had verbal diarrhea because I was not happy with going, but they let me rant on. The equipment is excellent and the after care is good. Dr Yakub explained what he was about to do and never rolled his eyes when I gagged.

I’m still not sure where we will find the money from for the next part as it’s about half of what we get from our supporters each month. But, for the next 2 weeks I will focus on work and see what happens.

Meantime, I’m really enjoying the numbness in my face.

If you would like to help the Creans get insured while they are volunteering in East Africa, feel free to make a safe, online donation HERE.