Posts Tagged ‘Running’

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Sunburn, Slums and God’s Children

June 4, 2009

On Monday June 1, Daniel, Lauren and I atteneded the Madaraka Day celebration. Madaraka day is the day Kenya attained self-rule in 1963. Let’s take a look at my fashion choices, can you tell what I’m missing?
I decided to wear a tank-top because it feels like the middle of summer to us, but the Kenyans think it’s cold because it’s winter here! I also donned a baseball cap to protect my face from the “winter” sun. I slipped on my Chacos (which I think I’ve worn every day since I’ve been here), and I also wore capris.. Anyways, now that you know what I’m wearing, notice that I forgot to put on sunscreen. More on that later.
Dr. Emily from LIA picked us up and dropped us off at the stadium. We got there around 10:30 am, and we waited till about 11:45 till anything started. It was pretty neat because we got to sit in the stadium seats, we got there before it was getting super crowded. There was a marching band that played as the Kenyan armed forces marched around the field. Then there were some other groups that walked a lap around the stadium, there was a brief air show, some Masai warriors did a dance performance, and there were circus-type acrobats who did some nifty tricks (doing a handstand on another persons ribcage, anyone?) Then the prime minister came out and talked, and then the President came and spoke for a while.
At one point though, when the Prime Minister was speaking (it was all in Swahili, so we didn’t know what he was saying)- some guy started shouting about 5 sections to our right. The Kenyan guards were all over him immediately, but it got our hearts pumping for a while- especially since we had no idea what was said by the Prime Minister or by the unruly man. We decided to take off around 12:45, the President had started speaking, and we were getting REALLY hot- that’s another thing I’ve noticed, Kenyan’s don’t sweat. We headed out to one of the exits, but it was closed. We decided to stay there because someone told us the doors would open once the President was finished. People kept pouring into the little area where we were, and we stood packed like sardines for close to 30 minutes. It was a little unnerving at points because we were a little scared that someone would get rowdy again, but no one did, the heat didn’t help with the closeness either. When they finally opened the doors, everyone was pushing and shoving toward the exit. If you would have fallen, you may have been trampled. It was like you were standing in this river of moving people, and you just had to follow the current- I’ve never been in that experience before! But we’re safe, nothing bad happened 🙂
Back to my lack of sunscreen, my malaria medicine makes me sensitive to the sun. I got a bit burnt on my shoulders and in my “elbow pits”. My feet, on the other hand, got pretty toasted. I look like I’m wearing white Chacos . It’s more like sun irritation from the malaria med. It doesn’t hurt at all, but boy was it red! Everything has pretty much faded into a tan now though! Lauren has an awesome leathery-feeling forehead due to her extreme sun exposure, and Daniel, the redhead in the group, really didn’t get burnt too badly! See all of that patchyness? Thanks doxycycline.

On Tuesday, I made eggs for breakfast. I’ve had some difficulty with eggs: The first time I made them I added milk, the next time I added water, then this time I didn’t add anything- and go figure, they turned out the best! We headed to LIA and watched a short video about HIV/AIDS, then we read some questions that I think were from students that were published in an HIV/AIDS awareness magazine. Then we met with a missionary man and his wife, Josiah and Sarah, who live in Kijado, which is where we’ll be from Monday-Friday of next week. They live with the Masai tribe people (legit tribe people, the husband is one of them). We’ll be sleeping in tents and living very primitively. We’re all really excited for a “real” African experience! Of course, I asked if we could run while we were there, and Josiah said “sure, you can chase the giraffes”!!! Chasing giraffes!! How awesome!
We had our first slum experience in Kibera. Kibera is the world’s 2nd largest slum, and Kenya’s largest. It covers 7 square kilometers, HUGE. We met 3 pastors from churches there, and they took us to a “school”. There was garbage everywhere, there was dirt everywhere, it was stinky, people were everywhere- you couldn’t really look up while you were walking for fear of tripping over something or stepping in a puddle of who knows what.. I don’t even know how to explain it. The kids all were saying “allo, ow are you?” (They have difficulty saying H’s, it’s adorable). There are a few main roads that run through the entire slum, and there are TONS of mud hut shack things that are tiny businesses. Some sell minutes for cell phones (you load them up, kind of like reloading a pre-paid card), some sell veggies, some sell cooked food. I wasn’t expecting to see so many “businesses” there. And people walk like 5+ miles to town to go into the city to work. Some women make porridge in their homes, and then they carry it around and give it to people throughout the day. It’s such a strange environment; you really do have to see it to believe it.
Anyways, we visited the school, and the classroom was a dark little mud hut room with little benches and “desks” (taller benches) made out of 2×4’s. We said hi to the kids, and they went around the room and told us their names, they were from ages 5-11, but most looked younger. There were about 40 kids in that one tiny room. Then, the kids were given biscuits (cookies) for a snack, and they gave us some Kenyan tea (they boil milk + tea + sugar, it was AMAZING!) The school has a feeding program for the kids- they feed them fortified porridge at 10am, and they give them lunch (usually rice and beans) later in the day, sometimes that’s the only food the kids get 😦

It was definitely a humbling experience. I said a prayer for them all, you could feel the love of the Lord in that place. We were meeting with a woman, and we followed her son, Daniel, home from school to visit with his mom who is HIV positive. It was so strange following this 5 year old boy through the packed mud and garbage alley-ways of the slum. There are “streams” of water and who knows what else running in the walking path, so you kind of have to hop around to avoid them. We arrived at the house, went inside, and saw the sparse furnishings of a wooden couch, some buckets for water, a simple stove (coals in a pot with another pot containing porridge on top), and a bed behind a curtain. The woman’s name was Faith (she’s a Christian), and she has 3 children. She welcomed us into her home (everyone tells us welcome everywhere we go, it’s awesome), and we said a prayer with her. And she was explaining (in English) the stigma about HIV positive people. Faith told her neighbors that she was HIV+, and they basically don’t talk to her anymore. People don’t get tested, because of stigma associated with HIV. BUT, HIV medication is FREE here, but people are just so afraid of what others will think, that they’re never tested, so they never really know their status, and they never can take advantage of free medication. It’s a difficult scenario to wrap your mind around.

A picture of Kibera in the rain from Ben’s camera

When we were returning to our van to head home, it started to rain, and the mud streets turned so very slippery. But, there was a rainbow over the slum, and it was just a really neat moment. God is still present even in this place where poverty, disease and hunger run rampid. I haven’t quite digested the whole visit to the slum yet, but again, it was humbling. I cannot believe that people are living and thriving in that area. It looks like a place where people should just be dying, but people have small businesses, and some people are happy? Then I started thinking, if SOME Americans would live a little less comfortably than they do (smaller house, not as extravagant cars, etc.), and if we sent all of that extra money to build houses/set up people from the slums with money for necessities for life, we could like, eradicate that slum area. That’s almost 2 million people and it really wouldn’t be much sacrifice for us.
On Wednesday, June 3, we met a guy named Julian (who happens to be the brother of the LIA founder, Dr. Florence). He founded an organization called Youth Redemption Africa, they basically start up bible studies/Christian youth leadership training within schools. Julian put together a book called “Aroma”, and it’s basically a year-long bible study for small groups that takes you through “Milk to Meat” types of studies. The first section of the book focuses on understanding what being a Christian means, then later sections talk about evangelism, traditions (prayer, fasting, etc), and then it talks about community/church importance and what each is supposed to look like. That wasn’t a very good description, but it’s basically awesome. It was an all-inclusive bible study that I think tons of people could learn from! I’m planning on bringing a few back home!
After lunch, we visited New Life Home Trust. They take in abandoned children (not orphans, just abandoned). Anyone can bring a child there (aged 1 day to 3 months- that’s the age range they’ll accept, lots of babies!) They were telling us about the program and stuff, and they take pictures of the babies when they are found/dropped off. The pictures were so heartbreaking. Some of the babies were super skinny, someone found a set of twins that had been BURIED under mud by the parents that didn’t want them, and one baby was wrapped in a garbage bag and was found in a dumpster. It was really difficult to look at the pictures. Then, they had pictures of the babies after 2-4 weeks at New life Home, and they looked SO much healthier and happier 🙂 Anyways, they’re running an awesome Christian facility. Courtney, Lauren and I played with some kids for a few. They’re just so cute. This is a quality place for the kids to be raised until they are adopted. We were given a little tour, then we were just allowed to help out with the kids. We played with them, and then we helped them wash their hands before dinnertime, where we got to help feed them. If it’s God’s will, I may be coming back to New Life Home Trust in the future to adopt 🙂 I grabbed plenty of brochures!

We had another authentic Kenyan dinner prepared for us by an LIA volunteer. She made an awesome beef stew, and rice and chapattis (wheat-tortilla like things that everyone loves). Sorry that post was so very long, but I’m just so excited to share what we’ve been doing with you all! God has definitely been opening my eyes to see how he gives people such life even in dire situations. He has also placed a few burdens on my heart, but I haven’t quite put a name to them yet. Keep everyone in your prayers, from my team mates, to our team mates in Poland, to Daniel as he prepares for his summer in California, and to my family and friends.
In Christ,
Holly