Wednesday, July 4, 2012

We Are All Patriots: Strive to Excel

Habari and Happy Fourth of July!

Today we were lucky enough to have a 30 minute sleep in after our long day yesterday. We've all reached the point in our trip that the reality of Kenya has started to set in. As Zach said so well last night during vespers, "it seems that everything here is a lot more in your face. there seems like there is more death, more cripple, more hungry right in your face than in America." It's safe to say we all realize how nice we have it back in the good ol' USA.

We headed up to Moding with our USA-inspired tunes, pulling into the school blasting "Born in the USA." We filed out and waited for some direction on how to continue our "Keep Moding Clean" Litter Bin Project. Caroline and Leo began touching up the green paint on the bins while DAD and I headed inside to figure out the lettering for the bins and practice our lettering with paint. Everyone else headed out the Moding students to gather litter around town. They made a game out of it and, I have been told, were quite successful with their trash collection effort!

Today was quite a "Kenyan" day with a lot of hurry up and wait. Once the big group returned from the first half of trash collecting, we took tea and mingled with the students. Caroline, DAD, Anne, and I tried to figure out a good way of lettering the bins and decided enlisting our Moding peers to make letter stencils (which they are veryyy good at doing) was the best option. After tea (sadly not milk tea, our fav) the trash warriors headed back out to the town of Moding to keep collecting. Meanwhile, the painting crew began stenciling "DUMP LITTER HERE" on the front of the bins while Caroline and I free handed "Sponsered by: The Elewana Project, Episcopal High School, Moding High School, 2012" on the two bins at the High School.

We all recollected ourselves for lunch, yet there was no lunch to be found! We wandered around waiting, and decided to sit in on classes, play with our new friend, Mom, who is a sweet toddler who lives next to Moding High School. Finally lunch arrived and we dinned on fine kale, mystery meat stew, and classic ugali. There was one special perk for our Fourth of July lunch: Will and Annette brought us sodas from town!

Our nerves were begining to build around this time since our afternoon consisted of a formal debate. The whole school was turning out for mock-parliment and mock- debate. The pressing question was: Should the candidates (Ruto and Kenyatta) runnning for president for the upcoming Kenyan election be allowed to vie for office after the terrible post-election violence from 2007-2008 that they caused? (Keep in mind that these two men, along with two other men, are soon to be tried by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.)

Last night the eight of us split in half and picked sides (Zach flipped a coin since the majority wanted to oppose and say Ruto and Kenyatta could not run.) Stuart, Edward, Ryoan, and Caroline landed on the proposing side that agreed that the two men could run while Somer, Mary Robert, Leo, and I opposed.

The big event started out with the "president" giving an address followed by many questions from the audience that were directed at various ministers. From our group, Caroline was Minister of Tourism, Leo was Minister of Transportation and Will was Minister of Defense. They handled their questions well! Leo was, fittingly, asked about a loan from China and how it was being used while Caroline got to grabble with the issue of what to do with the lions that were roaming free.

Once the question session ended, the debate began. We took turns detailing our arguements while overcoming our fears of public speaking. When we, the formal team, had exhusted our ideas the floor was open to everyone. Each side (the room was literally divided down the middle into opposers and proposers) kept going back and forth with students, EHS teachers, Moding teachers, and even Moding's principal speaking.

I will have to admit, that I was quite nervous heading into the debate. My fears were calmed when I found a friend in the debate's president, Timothy. He was in Form 4 (a senior) and we exchanged life stories in whispers and passed notes as the debate went on. Yes, I know, I should have been paying attention to the whole issue at hand. Yet, as Timothy reassured me, this debate was not really that big of a deal. Just for fun. We talked about 3D movies (the Avengers was his favorite), new technology (he was a huge apple fan, as am I) and our dreams and ambitions. He wants to be a computer programmer and is well versed in several programing languages. I was absolutely amazed that this bright student not only had time to be president of the debate parilement, excel in all his studies at Moding, and learn all about programming on his own free time, while also being so well-versed in multicultural and technological topics. He was a huge Obama fan and we had a solid conversation on the pros and cons of his economic strategy during his term. This was one bright and driven kid that reminded me so much of my driven friends at EHS.

Now you might be wondering why I'm including this in our blog. As much as I love retelling our daily schedule, the real thing that has embodied my experience at Moding is conversations like these. The strong similarities that tie us all together are amazing to discover, yet at the same time we are from such different worlds. Exchanging and dreaming together has been, by far, my favorite aspect of getting to know Moding High School.

Well, I'm sure you are curious how we celebrated the fourth. Oh, and the propossers won the debate, by the way (even though our proposser's leader, Stu, admitted she was tempted to take her chair up and join the opposing side at a point in time...). Once we got back to the Mission House, the interns (Will, Dorcas, and mostly Cameron) grilled out hot dogs and hamburgers (which were both quite hard to find around here!) and Mama B made us some coleslaw. We happily chowed down on our Kenyan-American Fourth of July cook out!

We hope all is well at home, especially to anyone who has had to deal with the extreme heat and the power outages. Somer and Gideon are especially happy to note that not only is the EHS pool now open, it had some extended 4th of July hours today!

- Tyler

Disability is Not Inability

Tuesday, July 3

Today the EHS team traveled from place to place, exploring each one of them with excitement. First, the group of Episcopal students divided into groups f two and packed into the Muttatu to pick the Moding students who would be paired with the individual teams. Thereafter, the teams drove to the LWK HAHA market in Uganda. When we arrived, we split up into our groups to shop for groceries. It was an oppurtunity to practice our haggling skills against the Ugandan venders. After traveling through back alleys and searching for the best prices, all the groups met up in the center of the market to show what each team had bought. The group ended driving off with two chickens (one of which my group had bargained for), onions, tomatoes, avocados, and bananas. The experience of the market was a true Kenyan (and Ugandan) experience.


The team of students and our Moding counterparts then traveled to the Kakamer Primary school, a division of which was dedicated to special needs students. Both the EHS and Moding students took a tour around the school, visiting the classrooms and facilities. The tour of the school concluded with the visit to the special needs class. Finally, the group of visiters traveled outside the school to the hopeful site of what the principal says will be a special needs school only. One that will have faculty specially trained and facilities specifically attuned to the needs of special education students. As we returned to the school, the school gathered for formal introductions of our visit. Preceeding the introduction of the teachers was a welcoming speech by the principal. The EHS students and faculty were then invited to intorduce ourselves in front of the whole school. Reverend Zach Drennen (Director of the Elawana Education Project) then put the Episcopal team on the spot for a song preformance in front of the whole school. We sang, much to Zach's comical delight, "One Body" as led by Gideon Pollach. His booming voice and enthusiasm surely saved the song.


Our song was answered by a poem and song by the Kakamer students. The poem talked of disability as not bein an inability, appropriate to the reason of our visit. It was truly heartening and illustrated these students amazing understanding of thier special education classmates. The song that followed was a song of general hapiness and somewhat lightened the mood. However, the poem stil remained in the hearts of the EHS students and faculty. EHS's final response was a children's story read by Mrs. Douglas and assisted by Stuart Agnew on the character puppets. The book was th "Hungry Little Catipillar". The excitement Mrs. Douglas and Stuart read with brought the Kakamer students to laughter and "hurrays". On behalf of Episcopal High Shcool, we then presented the Kakamer students and the Kakamer special education sutdents with gifts. Theses gifts consisted of colored pencils, books, soccer balls, and other various school supplies. We left the school feeling enriched in every sense of the word.


From there, we went back to Moding High School to compete against the Moding students in a typing contest. The program was Mavis Beacon, and after all students who had participated reported thier scores, it was apparent the most skilled typer was Stuar Agnew at 79 words per minute. Although EHS "out-typed" Moding, it was all in the spirit of good fun and a wonderful way to end another great day in Kenya.

Edward Wickham


Monday, July 2, 2012

Holy living and hard work

Greetings Everyone!

We have had yet another wonderful day here in Kenya. It began with a groggy morning; everyone seemed rather slow to get out of bed. Yet another two had succumbed to illnesses, these two being Somer and Stuart. Because of some tire difficulties from the night before, we had to hire a matatu (van) to bring us to Moding High School. This caused some delay, but not to much surprise. After being in Kenya a week, we have realized that you should always expect something or another to make you late.

When we arrived at Moding High School, we met up with our Kenyan friends and had some tea. Tea time is a great time for me, because I can socialize with the Kenyan kids and learn more about them. After some deliberation, we began our service project for the day; installing trash bins.

It began with digging holes, using tools like jembes, shovels, measuring tapes, and giant metal rods. We used the jembes to make the original hole, using the measuring tape to get the diameter set and the distance between the holes correct. We then mixed rocks, dirt, and cement powder together to make a stronger, thicker cement. We used the cement to create a base for the bins, and then to also hold the bin in place. We prepped for six bins, two at Moding High School, one each at the dispensary and Moding Primary School, and two in the Moding market place. Once the holes were prepped, we broke for lunch.

Afterwords, we began the actual setting of bins. Because the bins were not all prepped yet, we only managed to do the first one before we had another break. When the next three arrived, it was already late in the afternoon. We set the second Moding High School bin, and then set up the next two in the dispensary and the Primary School. When we finished, we passed around the soccerball for twenty minutes or so and then called it a day. We all boarded back onto the hired matatu and began the journey back to the mission house. After we got back to the mission house, we all relaxed and went our separate ways.


After a long and tiring day, I head for bed and leave you with a welcomed goodnight!

from Kenya,



Sunday, July 1, 2012

Weekend Update: Forward Ever. Backward Never.

Dear all:

We have had a wonderful restful weekend at the Delta Crescent Game Reserve and the Mt. Elgon National Park.


This morning as we woke up we heard of some violence in North-Eastern Kenya which is quite shocking. But, just to let you know, we are on the opposite side of the country on the Western border with Uganda, we are about 400 miles from that area. We will be nowhere near that border, nor will we ever be. There is no reason for us to be anywhere close, and there is no threat of similar violence here at this time.


If anything changes, expect calls from us.




Weekend Adventure to Mt. Elgon: Aim for the top!


Today we were up a tad earlier than usual, as we were traveling over to the Mt. Elgon area. After about 3 hours of driving, along with a nice pit stop of getting the Land Cruiser out of a mud ditch, our first destination was Mt. Elgon Flowers This company/land /area is a rose farm, and sends about 1 million roses to to Europe (and some to Japan) each month. The company is owed by a Dutch/Swedish (now Kenyan because it is now 3rd generation-operated) family. It's an absolutely huge business and is extremely successful. First, we had a short tour of the rose processing, and got to go into two of their hundreds of greenhouses. Each greenhouse is FILLED with rose buds, and a full rose for each type being grown. They were all so beautiful, and were so colorful. Then we saw the room where they package/cut the roses, which are put on a truck that drives overnight to Nairobi and flown to Europe, arriving with 3-4 days. It's quite the process. Another part of the company, which the family has been able to start and support with the extra earnings from the rose farm, are projects that include a hospital/medical clinic, orphanage, school, and houses for their workers. It's truly amazing work, and the perfect example of practicing corporate, social responsibility. As we toured these facilities, I was floored by how nice and the amazing conditions that all the facilities were in. They're even starting up vocational classes, like carpentry and sewing. This family has doe such good work serving and helping the community.

We then got back into the car for another hour's drive to the Delta Crescent Game Reserve, where we spent the night. It has just started raining when we got the, so we ate lunch and hung around playing games while overlooking a field of grazing zebras and impalas. Finally, the rains subsided and we all went outside for a little walking "safari" on the reserve. We saw "Oscar" the ostrich, then trekked out a bit to see John (we named him Leland) the Eland-who I fed! We walked some more, out to a more distant field where we saw zebras, gazelles, and impalas. We went back to the main hangout area for a great candlelight dinner (thanks, blackout!), and the students played cards until bed. Then, the real fun began. When we went back to our little hallway of rooms, everyone's doors were locked. No worries, though since they all had keys to open...except Somer and I's room. None of the keys worked, a credit card wouldn't click it open, and the window was locked. So, the workers had to break the window to let us in. Problem solved. It was quite the way to ed a day.



Our weekend journey continued as we left the game reserve and went to Mt. Elgon National Park. We drove for a while (and saw waterbucks), before getting out to go visit Kitum Cave, where elephants come in the early mornings to lick the sal off the walls. It was SUCH a dirty hike. Wet, muddy, the whole shebang. But, one we got inside the cave, it was really cool. There were bats everywhere and we walked really far back into it. Ryoan definitely deserves hero/step-in father of the day as he carried Ethan (Annette's 1 year old son) through every step of muddiness and all the places we went-including crossing a stream. This cave, according to DAD and "The Hot Zone," was the origin of the Ebola virus! Pretty neat. Then, we took a long hike across the mountain to another cave, Mackingeny Cave. I have to say, this was probably the best hike of my life. I was walking with Somer and Gideon, and we were separated in the middle of the pack. Twice on our hike we ran into some tricky/super muddy sections, where Gideon decided it would be a great idea to commentate our maneuvering of the parts, making Somer and I fall to pieces laughing while trying to complete the obstacle course. I don't think I have laughed that hard in a long time. We, after a stream crossing and most muddy climbing section, got to the second cave. Again, we walked a little ways into the cave, but quickly turned around to head back down the mountains. We set off again to continue through the park, but were stopped as we discovered the mutatu had a flat tire, and breaked for lunch as it got fixed. We then made a last second decision to go to the elephant lookout instead of another hike. I like to think that everything happens for a reason, and this situation was no different as right as we took the other road, we saw two giraffes strolling along a patch of green overlooking a beautiful view. It was pretty sweet how they just appeared out of nowhere and were so quiet and majestic, looking right at us as we snapped multiple pics. We stopped at the view and spent a while hanging out and soaking in the scenery before moving onward. Just as we were leaving the park, we were graced by the presence of an entire field of baboons and babies, and more waterbucks.

We started heading back to Amagoro, but not before a short pitstop at the local Gigamart (equivalent to Walmart) in Kitale for ice cream/chocolate bars. Back on the road for a little bit before more great luck struck our mutatu-the second flat tire in one day. That's got to be a record. We sat on the side of the road as Zach and Annette went to order a mutatu to take us home as they got the tire fixed and put back on. Perfect timing, that as the van pulled up, the heavens opened up and it poured the whole ride home. We got home safely, with the fixed mutatu following right behind. There really was no other way to end our weekend adventure.





Friday, June 29, 2012

Health and Wellness: Stay Healthy. Stay strong.

This morning when we got to Moding we went up on stage in front of the entire to student body to give a health presentation. We delivered a powerpoint presentation that covered topics including malaria, the importance of clean water, prevention of STDs, and the origin of AIDS. We also discussed abortion and homosexuality. As our powerpoint flew by much quicker than we had planned, there was plenty of time for the students to ask questions. Can you get malaria from the rain? Can you get AIDS by kissing? There were some tough questions and others that seemed to be asked for laughs. Are there any situations in which Christians do not think it is bad to get an abortion? How do Christians in America feel about gay marriage? What are the disadvantages of abstinence? We gave much deliberation and mostly honest answers to each question. One thing that stood out during the discussion was that while the Moding boys were willing to ask questions and even joke, the girls did not feel so comfortable and stayed quiet. Though these were difficult topics for us to talk about in front of hundreds of other teenagers we took them seriously and I hope helped the Moding students to do the same.

We took a tea break and then headed to the laboratory to be taught by some of the Moding students. The first class was on the tools and equipment used in agriculture. Apparently the three students teaching the class had underprepared because they explained the purpose of a hammer to us in great detail and then demonstrated the use of a handsaw to us by cutting a twig. The next class was a physics lab on light refraction. For this we split up into groups with the Moding students to get the data. In this class we saw the Moding students work hard to get the right answers and to understand the lab.

Before the third class we took a break for a lunch of rice and beans. The break also included a hunt among the EHS group for the white chicken that Leo's homestay host had given to him. This proved difficult because there were actually many white chickens strutting their way around the campus. Finally successful, we went back to the laboratory for a chemistry class. Two Moding students taught us how to test food for glucose and carbs. This was interesting because, unlike at EHS where every student would try the experiment, only the two students teaching used the bunsen burner and the other students just watched. After chemistry we went to the faculty room to collect the chicken and to have coffee and eggs before returning to Amagoro.


- Mary Robert

Being a blessing: Arise and Shine

Greetings from Kenya!

I didn't realize what I was getting myself into with my home stay until I arrived at Sylvia's house.


I was kindly greeted by Sylvia' grandfather who was sitting outside waiting for me to arrive as well as her brothers and sisters. Sylvia brought me inside to her main house and seated me at a table in the center of the room surrounded by three chairs. Quickly, I found myself alone in this room as people went off to do their various chores to clean or cook for dinner. Time passed and I continued to find myself alone until Sylvia came in and offered to take me around the area. We toured the house and then the surrounding area. She took me all the way to the local market and back. I was able to greet and talk to many people. These people were all more than willing to listen to me answer their many questions about our life in America.

I struggled to answer the many questions that were asked about the economy, job opportunities, and land in the US. I realized that many of these Kenyan people had these perceptions about how their are so many better opportunities with jobs and land in the US, and I struggled to answer the questions to support these ideas completely. When we arrived back at the main house, I was once again seated alone. But, this time there was a book on the table that I decided to pick up and look at. I looked carefully at it to realize that it was an American Dictionary. Sylvia walked in and recognized what book I was looking at. She quickly told me how her grandfather had been reading it trying to learn more English before my arrival. Finally, I realized how this stay was truly a blessing for this family. It made me aware of just how much my presence meant to them. This made it easier for me to be more comfortable as the night went on even with some of the awkward pauses and struggling conversations. I was served dinner by candlelight along with Sylvia and her uncle, and then we headed off to bed in the girls' hut. I stepped inside to a whole new experience. I slept on the only bed in the room with Sylvia, while her realtives slept on the floor next to us.

The next morning I woke up surrounded by mud walls in the bed I was sleeping in with Sylvia. I remembered quickly that I was living the authentic Kenyan life for the night at Sylvia's hut. I got out of bed and changed quickly to not disturb the other girls sleeping in the hut. Sylvia led me to breakfast in the main house. We sat down together to eat and drink our tea before we headed off on the long treck back to Moding High School. I expressed my grattitude to her grandmother and then we went on our way. After some time had passed on our walk, I realized how long this walk was going to be. We passed by many piki pikis that offered us a ride but seeing as Sylvia is from the tribe that is known for its' Kenyan runners she passed up the offers. Finally after a very long time we reached Moding High School to join the rest of the students.


After waiting a little while for everyone to return to school, we all boarded the Moding High School bus to head to Kolanya School to the see the play, An Enemy of The People. We enjoyed the music filled busride with some of the Moding students. Once we arrived dispersed in different ways with various students as we waited for the play to start. The play began late, because we had to wait for several students to arrive. Before the pay began we were dispersed among Moding Students in the front row. Unfotunately, we had to leave the play earlier than expected due to conflicts. Then we all got in the van and headed back to the mission house for the day. Lunch was served when we arrived. Afterwards we all did various things with our free time until dinner was served.

I began the day living the authentic Kenyan lifestyle, which made me realize how grateful I am for the resources I have available at home.