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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Little Too Pushy

I just spent three very entertaining days in Mombasa. An island city full of adventure. Yesterday I had two super fun SCUBA dives, but they weren't very deep. The deepest was 9 metres, but I saw octopus, trumpet fish, leave fish, sting rays, boxfish, huge clownfish, starfish, and much more. God's creation is so awesome.
Then today I booked a trip with a tuk-tuk driver to take me around the city. Abuu showed me all the wonderful sites - Old Town, Fort Jesus, the train station, fancy resorts, Market, and much more. We also got a tour of a Hindu temple. And we ended up having some very good religious discussions. In Mombasa the religions are 20% Hindu, 20% Christian, and 60% Muslim. Abuu later invited me to come have lunch with his wife and son. I ended up spending the afternoon with this young, beautiful muslim family. Now I am awaiting my bus back to Chuka.
You are probably wondering why I labelled this post "A little too pushy", well, I think that Mombasa men are too forward with their words and when they are drunk it's even worse. It doesn't matter what time of the day it is or who is around, men will say "Hey, you girl are my type. I like fat women." Or they would say, "Where are you walking so fast. Stay and we could become very good friends." Even the staff at my small hotel were incredibly open. They said, "Hey, how can a girl like you go to her room alone at night?... Don't you know that it's very hot in Mombasa and that makes people's blood boil, and you need some ways to release your energies." Are you kidding me? I ended up having a long talk with these two kitchen staff - because the power was out and I was eating my supper at the outdoor cafeteria. They were absolutely stunned to here that there is a 33 year old virgin in the world. I just can't imagine how many foreigners come to Mombasa and fall for those lines though.
And then there are those who decide to become your tour guide the minute you show up at a place. Even when the signs are very clear or you already know your way through a place, they stick to you and then ask you for 50 - 100 shillings at the end. I hate paying it, but sometimes they will grab your vehicle or make a huge scene. It really frustrates me because it wasn't money planned in my budget. Even Abuu was upset at the end of the day that I didn't give him a tip, even though I know I paid him very well.
But there are saving graces everywhere. This morning I was researching cheap hotels in Nairobi before I fly back home on the 7th of January. A man at the next computer saw me with my map out and asked what I was looking for. He ended up being a tour representative and within five minutes he had booked me a cheap hotel in the right location. And he said, "I don't want any commission, please"... if only I would go on to the hotel's website and say that he helped me book the room. It's promotion for him. I was peaceful about having the next leg of my journey organized. Eight more days folks and I'll be home.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Mishaps in Mombassa

This morning, after getting off the bus at 6:30 am I found my way to a Glory Holiday Resort, thanks to my tuk-tuk driver. Yes, those three wheeled motorcycle taxis are not only in India, but also in Mombasa. I checked in, bought a few groceries, especially liquids because it is so hot and humid on the coast. Then I went for a super long walk to explore the city. Many matatus were trying to flag me down, but I didn't want to take a squishy van taxi today, I wanted some serious exercise. So I walked and walked and walked til I reached my limit.
While walking a matatu pulled over and a muslim woman in full garb was trying to climb out of the vehicle. Her black dress caught on the seat inside the van and she came tumbling out. I was there to help pick up her bag and see if she was okay. She shook it off and walked away.
I found the Bus Booking Office in downtown Mombasa to buy my return ticket for Wednesday and then flagged down another tuk-tuk. And I scored much better on the price. I still forget that everything needs to be discussed. (Even my hotel room I got for less than half price :) ) As we were coming back there were some people selling plums and they looked so good. One man was trying to sell them to me, but I was having a hard time finding my money. We had been stopped at an intersection, but when the light turned green, the vendor jumped on to the side of the tuk-tuk. As we rounded the corner, the tuk-tuk driver started to pull over to let the guy off, but the vendor was a little anxious and jumped from a moving vehicle. But his fruit got caught in the backseat bars, and he ended up being thrown to the ground, under the wheel. The driver had to back up so the guy could stand up. He too just shook it off like it was all in a days work, but the driver thought the young guy was crazy.
But when I got back to the resort and washed the plums, it was totally worth it.
This afternoon I went out for another long walk and finally found a SCUBA dive shop. I signed up for two dives tomorrow afternoon. After some practice time in the pool, since it has been three years since I got my license. Woo Hoo!! I am so pumped!

Sunday, December 27, 2009


I have just arrived in Mombasa on the overnight bus. My friends in Chuka blessed me with this little getaway and I am glad to have reached the coast. Staying in Chuka has been a wonderful experience. Very relaxing (unless you count the hours of preparing food from scratch after going to the garden to get the ingredients, hauling water, bucket baths, and washing clothes by hand) and truly friendly. I have been spending a lot of time with Zima and her family, talking by the light of the lantern or visiting with neighbours.

Now I am in Mombasa for three full days. I hope to Scuba Dive tomorrow. Yeah! I wish that I could find my USB so I could upload pics, but alas... you are put on hold until I can find a computer that will read my camera's memory card.

I am doing great, but looking forward to coming home in less than two weeks.

Monday, December 21, 2009

In Chuka, Kenya

On Friday night, Zima and I boarded an over-night bus and headed home to Chuka, at the Eastern base of Mt. Kenya. Crossing the border was a fun experience - we had to walk half a km to catch up to the bus because it was already parked in Kenya while we went through Uganda and Kenya immigrations. My visa was half price. Yeah! So excited. We arrived in Nairobi at 4 in the morning and took another bus at 7 to Chuka.

There I found a village town home, filled with wonderful people, ready to welcome me for Christmas. A family with 6 children. 4 of them are in their 20's and then two boys, 9 and 10. They have all become family to me. No electricity. Dirt floors. Bucket baths. Lots of milk tea. Great fellowship. And so much more. It's the experience of a lifetime and I am looking forward to spending Christmas here. On the day we arrived we attended a wedding. On Sunday, Zima and I hiked through a steep valley with her two youngest brothers to attend a traditional presbyterian church service.

Today papa took us to the Shamba... his garden, in a remote place. We hopped in a matatu (or van/taxi) and took it 14 km out of town to explore his crops and have a picnic lunch. On the way back, while waiting for a taxi, a distant relative arrived with a car and decided to take 7 of us in to town. We got pulled over by the police on the way back, but thankfully papa talked to them and we continued on our journey. The driver was so happy to have a respected teacher in the car with him!

Now we are shopping in the market and I am getting some leather safari boots made! Ha HA!! I have finally made it to East Africa!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Pure Heaven

This morning I biked to town to finish paying bills and say goodbye to a few shop keepers. I went back to OM Supermarket, a mother to MY supermarket. :) The owners of the store invited me into their home with smiles on their faces. These wonderful Indians have become fun friends to me. Viba and I drank chai together and watched a video of her brother's wedding in India. These friends will certainly have a special place in my heart. When I was leaving they gave me a gift of chocolate and Pure Heaven, a non-alcoholic bubbly. So kind and thoughtful!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Pamba Party

On Sunday morning I say a song of Benediction to the congregation and thought I was saying my final farewell, but they decided to throw a spontaneous party for Monday night. So at 4:30pm on Monday I arrived in Pamba for an exciting evening of fellowship.
The women were very busy in the kitchen, preparing a simple supper for us all!
I sang with many of the kids and young people. Praise and worship went on for almost an hour before a more formal program began.
The Teso culture loves to sing... and even repeats songs many times throughout the evening. I thought I loved music, but these people out do me.
During the program there were also a few fun musical numbers.
The whole church is sad to see me go, even if they say that with big smiles on their faces. Some of the children gave speeches about how grateful they are that I taught them so many Bible stories. And the young people said that even though the Sunday School program wouldn't be the same without me, it would not die. They have learned a lot about Children's Ministry and they will keep it going no matter what! Stories will be told in creative ways and the children will be visited in their home.
I really see some potential leaders in the kids of Pamba, so I truly pray these kids will be raised under the Godly leadership of some great young people.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Teachable Moments

Two days ago I was asked if I would teach a small group about children's ministry. We quickly lined up the talk for this afternoon because my time is running out. And wow, what a great experience. I think my team-mate Josh would be proud, because he has such a heart for the children also, and it was his material that I used to teach most of the session. (Thanks Josh!) Seven of us adults and two children met in a decent sized hut to share and learn about children's ministry. I got excited when I talked about drama, expression, passion, creativity, music, and much more when it comes to the kids. The other adults present were grateful for the insight. They said they often would just stand in front of the kids and read to them straight from the Bible, and not only were the children bored, but so were the teachers. I hope that this little session will bring some new joy to a few groups of children. "For the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."

A Christmas Wish

I just got home from town, and as I was unloading my purse and photocopying, a man called from the printing shop... I had forgotten my groceries. I had left them in the store while my papers were being photocopied. Oops, silly me. I will bike back to town and get them. :) Earlier today I was biking around town, handing out a few Christmas cards. I brought one over to MY Supermarket and was glad to see my two new Indian friends working there. Inside the home-made card I had also placed two bookmarks that describe who we are in Christ. I was so excited to see one of the guys studying the bookmarks and reading them diligently. I explained to him that Christ is the reason we have Christmas. He seemed very open to listening, and he shook my hand, and whole-heartedly wished me a very Merry Christmas. It is my Christmas wish that he will come to know Christ as his personal Lord and Saviour.

Friday, December 11, 2009

A Lovely Luncheon

Over the past couple of months I have met a lot of people during my stay in Uganda. Some quickly became best friends and others were always cheerful aquaintances. Well, this week I ran into a man I have met only a few times. He is a former child soldier escapee, and he wanted to invite me over for lunch. He actually said, "Please come at 1 pm sharp." Wow, that is never heard of here, but I made sure to honour his request as his wife was coming home from the village especially to cook for me. It turned in to a lovely afternoon. We sat in what little shade we could find beside their simple hut, at the edge of the IDP (Internally Displaced People) camp. The wife, little girl, and I all shelled peanuts / gnuts, while the guys sat around and talked. Two pastors ended up joining us for a lunch of atap, rice, and yummy chicken. I didn't eat any of the atap because the sorgum millet mush just isn't my idea of delicious.
After lunch the conversation flowed to all that I have been a part of this year and the pastors said, "Karen, you need to come back. And we want you to come to Abim with us to preach the gospel and plant a church." They had no idea that I had even been considering Abim. It is a very small town about two and a half hours north of Soroti, on the edge of Karamoja region. Their suggestion definitely got my heart racing. I continue to pray about what my future looks like. But in the meantime, I enjoyed a luncheon with my casual friends. The wife even added a bag of mangos to the basket of my bike before I left at 3:40pm.

And then tonight, I was surprised to hear that another friend took the bus from a neighbouring city just so that she could come and say good-bye. She just left with her husband, as they came by for a short evening visit. I should not have been surprised to see the tears in her eyes as they left on a motorcycle, but I was. I rarely see this dear friend and she didn't want me to leave Uganda yet. This week could prove to be interesting as I say good-bye to many people. One week from today I board a bus to Kenya.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Little Brothers

Yesturday morning I biked around Soroti with Moses, one of my Sunday school helpers. We are trying to put together a fun presentation for the kids on Sunday, and so we went out to take photos around Soroti. I enjoyed biking through some parts of town I have never been in, following sandy paths and using the huge Soroti Rock as reminder as to what part of town I was in. First stop: the Pamba market. Here is a man making gnut paste. Ground nut = peanut butter.
Tables of dried fish.
Sweet potatoes.
There is a fairly large second hand clothing market here. I can often find clothing with Value Village or Salvation Army tags on them. And they sometimes cost more to purchase here then at the second hand stores back home. Crazy.
Then over to a hardware store where Benjamin works. Can you find him in the woodpile? He is Moses' brother, and also one of my wonderful Sunday school helpers and translaters.
Then over to the bicycle repair street. Not only do they fix bikes there, but you can also buy tire shoes and tire rope.
In the afternoon I went over to visit at my Ugandan parents. There is a couple here who have the same names as my parents, so they adopted me as their daughter. They had harvested a field of simsim last week (simsim = sesame seeds) and this week the ladies shook out all the seeds and then were winnowing the extra plants, dust, bugs, etc away.
I had decided two days ago to take my little brothers out for a special treat. So on Tuesday I spent a few hours with Solomon. He is three. We went out for sodas and he rode on the back of my bike to town to run a few errands. I don't think Solomon gets to town very often (and it's only a 10 minute bike ride away) because he was super afraid of going in to the shops. :)
Then on Wednesday Gordie went with me to town and out for sodas. Mama was so glad that I took my brothers out. It's a very rare treat for them.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Auntie Karen video

These two girls are in my Sunday school class. Today was my second last day of teaching. They wrote a song for me:

"We love Karen... she is a good auntie. (2x)

She taught us about Daniel.

She taught us about King David."

Short but sweet!


Does anyone else find this billboard humourous?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Pamba Drama

This afternoon I biked out to Pamba to begin capturing the "Hard Life in Africa" with my Sunday school class. I'm not sure how it's a hard life, because it turned out to be a two hour blast!
The girls played a version of dodgeball / monkey in the middle.
Everyone played a variety of song games.

The kids led me down a path to the bore hole, aka, water source. Buckets are carried on the head... I can't believe how strong the necks are around here... especially on the ladies.
Everyone hoisted their bucket, or pretended to. :)
Then we hiked back to the house.
More games and songs and dramatic ideas.
The boys even brought their rags to change into... to show the difficult life.
And they played in these extra clothes the whole time. I'm not sure if they actually wear them at home, or if they are just rags they brought, but it sure was an added comedy. (Although, I must admit I have seen some very sad outfits during my time here.)
The boys played with balls made out of plastic bags or old stuffed socks.

And an old-fashioned game of marbles.

What little kid doesn't try on shoes that are too big for him?

And to finish off the afternoon, we all went out for a bottle of soda.

In Soroti Town

Occasionally I hang out with some friends who work above the market street in Soroti.
I get a bird's view of all the bargain shopping that goes on down below.

The market is very near to Soroti rock, the geographical feature that allows Soroti to be seen from 20 miles away.
Can you find a speedy piki-piki driver?
And just for fun I thought I would add this shot. This is dear Teddy. A young girl who loves to be standing up front with me the whole time I teach Sunday school.