Where do I even begin talking about Kenya?
My time here is already more than halfway over.
I haven’t blogged yet for a few reasons: one, Internet is rare (and slow). Two, typing and uploading a blog from my iPod touch is a great exercise in patience, of which I have little. And three: I don’t know where to start or really how to put any of this into words.
So let’s start with the facts: on July 1, I flew to Atlanta for a night of training. After a few hours in the atrium where I played spot-the-missionary (dead giveaway: camping backpack) and chatted with my fellow Exposure students, we were picked up by AIM staffers and taken to a hotel where we would spend the night.
Most AIM trips involve training camp. For Passport trips, it’s four days; for the World Race, a week. For us, it was a few discussions of how the Race worked, general expectations, living in community, and feedback. Tuesday, we were taken to the airport, handed a post-2005 $50 bill for our visas in Kenya, and waved goodbye to as we headed through security for our flight to Amsterdam.
11 of us were heading to Kenya, while the other 10 were off to Uganda. Getting here was an adventure – our flight to Amsterdam delayed on the runway for two hours (with no a/c), our flight from Amsterdam to Nairobi delayed an hour and a half. After 18 hours on airplanes, four plane meals, seven movies, and one lost (and found) shoe, we finally reached Nairobi on Wednesday night, where we took our jet-lagged, sleep-deprived, excited, nervous selves through immigrations and customs. We were supposed to meet the squad leaders at the airport, and harbored some fears about finding them – but they found us, quite easily. I guess a group of lost-looking white people with huge backpacks sticks out. We piled ourselves and our bags into vans and drove to a hostel where the squad was staying. Luckily, the drive was only an hour – despite the fact that one of the leaders told us we had an eight-hour drive that night. Apparently, messing with the newbies is a Racer’s idea of fun.
When we pulled into the hostel yard around midnight Kenya time, we were greeted by a small sea of tents and a yelling mass of headlamp-wearing people that swarmed the vans. Slighty overwhelmed, I managed to grab my bags and was found by a member of my team who helped me set up my tent in the dark and showed me where the bathroom was, while she introduced me to what seemed like a million people whose names I promptly forgot and whose faces I could barely even see. Once my tent was up and my teeth brushed, I crawled into my sleeping bag without even bothering to change, staying awake only long enough to scribble in my journal, God, what am I doing here?
We spent two nights at the hostel, camping out in our tents, eating whenever the food was ready (which was at 11 pm one night), and meeting lots of people. Also, I killed a spider which had found it’s way into my tent. This is a big deal, guys.
Before we even left Nairobi, I was blown away by the intense community among the Racers. Standing outside the bathroom, one girl asked me what some of my fears about the trip were. Sitting on the couch, one of my teammates asked about my love languages. Curled up on the floor alongside two other Exposure students, feeling slightly out of place in a room full of Racers that had known each other for six months, I was surprised when one of the guys held up his ipad, displaying a timer set for two minutes, and said “Testimonies from you three. Go.”
People don’t just do that. But apparently, they do.
On Friday, we packed up our gear and crammed onto a bus for the eight-hour ride to our ministry locations, where we’ve been for the past two weeks. It’s been an adventure, to say the least. So far, I’ve petted a baby elephant, learned to make chapati and shave cabbage like a Kenyan woman, held the hands of a hundred children, taken four bucket showers by the light of a headlamp, watched a teammate kill and eviscerate a chicken (which was later served at dinner), ridden on the back of a motorbike over bumpy dirt roads, crammed eight people into a five-person vehicle, lived in ankle-length skirts and chacos, taught at a cell group outside in a maize field, eaten a ton of avocado, spoke in church, prayed for strangers who are brothers and sisters in Christ, been called muzungu more times than I can count, went to a 50th wedding anniversary and vow renewal, and became slightly more comfortable with using a squatty potty. But only slightly. (Talk about out of your comfort zone.)
I’m with the O Squad, on Team Overflow. You can find their blogs on the AIM website if you want to stalk my teammates. Lindi, my exit buddy (aka the other Exposure student assigned to O-flow) blogs at lindibowman.wordpress.com. Lindi, Brent, Jordan, Daniel, Andi, Karilyn, and Christine are already family. You get pretty close pretty quick when you’re spending 24/7 with the same 7 people and packing so many people into a car that you are in physical contact with five people at once.
Six days a week, we do ministry – visiting schools and orphanages, teaching, playing with children, visiting church members to pray with them, attending and teaching at cell groups (small groups), preaching at church. We’re living with Pastor Simon, who has been an incredibly wonderful host. We’re blessed with beds, electricity, a toilet (in an outhoue that you flush with a pitcher – but it’s not a squatty!) and the most delicious food ever. Elizabeth, Simon’s wife, and her daughters Joanna and Sharon have been preparing fabulous food for us, leading me to develop a slightly unhealthy addiction to chapati.
I’ll try to blog as often as I can, but for now I have a prayer request. Some of my team members have been hit with sickness, myself included. My cold seems to have cleared up after a day spent sleeping, but Andi isn’t so lucky. Lindi is even less lucky, having gotten malaria, which I can assure you is absolutely no fun at all. Please be prayer for the health of my team and especially for healing for Lindi, who is one of the most loving and kind-hearted people I’ve met.
As always, thank you for your support and prayers. Asante!