Greetings from Kenya! What a whirlwind the past few weeks have been. In just the past couple of weeks we packed our 27 pieces of luggage, closed on our house, sold our furnishings and our last remaining vehicle, traveled via U-haul to Atlanta, said goodbye to family, flew to Kenya, and started language school. We arrived to Nairobi feeling relieved to finally be here and grateful for how God has prepared the way.
Our journey to Kenya began in Atlanta. As we pulled up to the departure zone in a U-Haul loaded down with all of our luggage, we were greeted with wide-eyed stares from the baggage attendants who were waiting curbside. “27 bags? How many people? Four?! Hey man (yelling to his buddy), these people have 27 bags for 4 people!” This remark was repeated in astonishment to each person we encountered. Gradually, we proceeded through the check-in process, watched our bags and foot lockers be checked, and then made our way toward the gate. We travelled through Chicago, London, and then ultimately to Nairobi over the course of the next 24 hours. When we arrived in Nairobi, it was after 9:00 pm, so we quickly got our visas and went on to collect our luggage. Again, baggage attendants (this time Kenyans) asked us how many bags we had and whether we needed help. “You have how many bags? 27? How many people? Four?!” He then yelled to his buddy in Swahili, that I suspect if translated would sound something like, “These crazy four people have 27 bags!!” After collecting our luggage we made it through customs, and then hauled our things on 6 carts out into a rainy African night. Thankfully, our field directors met us outside and helped shepherd us to 2 vans which took us to a guest house where we all crashed and burned.
Over the next couple of days, we did some shopping in Nairobi for essentials and then travelled to the town where we will be staying for the next 2 months of language training. At this point we have a grand total of 10 days’ worth of Swahili-learning under our belts, so we know just enough to be very amusing to our Kenyan friends. Our girls are taking Swahili classes in the morning, and Rees in particular soaks up vocabulary knowledge like a sponge. Ahhh… to have a young brain! Overall, our time thus far has had both challenges and rewards:
Challenges: We were once highly efficient people…but not anymore. Almost everything we do takes more time, more work, and more brain power than expected. From preparing meals, to doing emails, to brushing our teeth, things are just different. Fortunately, many aspects of our life are much simpler. For example, we spend less time doing things like driving a car to work (we walk to class just around the corner) or watching TV (there is no TV). One of the more interesting challenges has been the temperature. Typically, the lows are in the upper 40’s to mid-50’s. Highs sometimes get up to the upper 60’s, but only if the sun is out. Doesn’t sound too bad except that there is no indoor heating. Even if the temperature in the house is in the upper 50’s, it feels really cold and we bury ourselves under piles of blankets to stay warm at night. In our short time here, we have also had a number of interesting encounters with bugs in our house. Part of the problem is that we have no idea which bugs are harmless and which ones are not. I (Heath) found a really cool looking black and red bug crawling on the wall the other day which I flicked off the wall with my finger. Someone explained to me later that it was a Nairobi Eye and that when squashed it releases some type of acid which causes burns on the skin. What!? Angela (who would never describe any bug as “cool”) closed the curtain one night to be met by a very large and hairy spider just hanging out on our curtain. Not cool!
Rewards: Despite expected and unexpected challenges we are blessed with many rewards. Kenyans are very hospitable people who laugh easily and are a joy to be around. Our Swahili instructors are all Kenyan, so classes (despite being a challenge due to the large volume of material) are full of laughs. Kenya itself is beautiful. Over the weekend, we journeyed across the Great Rift Valley on our way to Tenwek for a quick visit. It had been 14 years since our last trip through the valley and I had forgotten how big and amazing it was. Mary Taylor would say that all of the chameleons have been a big reward. Typically she has 2 or 3 of these slow moving lizards crawling on her at any one time. She names them all and calls them her “pets” although so far we are not letting her keep them inside. Yesterday, while hiking, she carried one on her head. Kenyans really do not like chameleons, so when they passed us on the trail, we were met with wide-eyed stares of horror. Overall the rewards far outweigh the challenges, and we feel privileged to be able to serve in this place.
For the next 2 months we will remain at language school, and then in mid-August we will transition several hours west to Tenwek. Please continue to pray for our transition to our new culture as well as for “young”, absorbent brains so that we learn Swahili effectively. Please also pray for our daughters. They are clearly in a period of adjustment and our move has been challenging for them as well. Finally, continue to lift up the surgical residents at Tenwek Hospital. These young doctors are the future of Africa and it is our prayer that through them, with the Lord’s guidance, the kingdom will grow in the region.