22 February 2013

And we're walking...and making tea

This has been an exciting week in the Otieno household, because Wesley has started walking!  He's been getting closer and closer for weeks, taking one or two faltering steps between pieces of furniture, but this week he just took off!  We'll be celebrating his first birthday in two weeks, so it's fun that he's conquered this development milestone ahead of his birthday.

We have a group of Canadians in Shirati right now, being led by a couple who have come to Shirati every year for several years.  The husband has a background in hospital administration in Africa, so he helps out at Shirati Hospital and his wife teaches English classes to the nursing school students and hospital staff.  This year they brought a small team with them, and Wednesday night Fred gave a presentation about a pet project: a technical high school.  The Bishop and Fred have been working on this for ages, and they've received pledges of support from the Dutch and German Mennonite Churches.  They're hoping these Canadians will also pledge some support.  It will be a school that teaches mechanical and technological skills in addition to the core subject curriculum, so that students leave with marketable skills.

I've been a bit under the weather this week with especially bad allergies, but I had a visitor on Monday who got me excited about an idea.  Our friend Ben and his wife are both living with HIV, and the wife came to greet me and see Wesley while she was picking her medication for the treatment of HIV from the hospital.  I was just making Fred's tea when she came, and I noticed her glances at the food on the table, but she left for the hospital before I could offer her anything.  Unless one gets there pretty early, the queue gets really long.  After leaving home without tea in the morning, walking several miles, waiting in a long line, then returning home to prepare food, anyone would be exhausted and hungry.

The head of the HIV Care and Treatment Center, a man named Peter, has been trying to think of a way to provide some kind of refreshment for the clients when they visit.  He's a very busy man, however, and he hasn't been able to coordinate it.  These people living with HIV are too poor to afford taking tea, let alone lunch, in a cafe in town.  There are several funders interested in Shirati HIV care who would likely be favorable toward this proposal if someone is willing to write it and follow up.  I think I might be the person to do that.

My idea is that with the clients' help we could provide tea and bread with peanut butter (a little protein boost) once a week initially, then expanding to offer it every day, possibly even adding fresh fruit and hard-boiled eggs, as funding permits.

There's loads of potential, even to expand to income-generating activities like catering and baking.  I really believe that the clients themselves can run the program, so it's just a matter of writing the proposal, getting funding, then doing the reporting as things go on!

Anyway, that's what we're excited about right now.  On Sunday, Wesley and I will travel to Shinyanga and Dodoma for a week to visit our Tanzanian partners, while Fred goes up to Kenya to see his grandmother and Innocent, so my next post will likely be from Dodoma!

11 February 2013

Themes for 2013 and Our Home According to Innocent

This past week of settling back into life in Shirati has been wonderful.  Coming home has encouraged me to use the fresh start of a new season to work on some bad habits that have developed in my life.  I have three themes (not really resolutions, more like slogans) for 2013: No excuses.  Work hard.  Energy.  I am essentially trying to get rid of the weed of laziness in my life by tackling three different "roots" at once.  Here's what these themes mean to me:

No Excuses:  My dad used to say "Excuses are like armpits: everybody has two of them and they both stink."  A major obstacle in my life is trying to live up to others' expectations, or perceived expectations, of me.  When I fall short of what others expect from me, I am very quick to come up with a reason I have failed or disappointed.  These excuses have heavily tinged my professional, personal and family life, and they're just plain ugly.  Enough of them!  Either I live up to standards (mine and/or others') or I don't and I live with that without blaming other people or circumstances.

Work Hard:  This one is a little obvious, perhaps, but I keep reminding myself to apply myself to the tasks that need to be done, rather than Pinterest or television.  I treat myself to a nap or an hour of reading or 15 minutes of online browsing, but those are exceptions.  I'm trying to cut back on multi-tasking, aside from the essential multi-tasking of keeping an eye on my kids while working, so that I can dedicate as much as possible of my time and attention to getting things done.

Energy:  One of the best books I've read in several years is Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin.  One of the things she talks about in her book is how acting in an energetic way (jumping up and down or other activity) makes one feel more energetic.  I'm trying to incorporate this into my life, not through jumping, per se, but by choosing to be active even when I feel tired.  I engage in a task that I enjoy, like organizing photos, when I find my energy flagging, rather than giving up because I don't feel like working anymore.

I'm interested in feedback you might have on these themes.  Also, what themes do you have for 2013?

We had picked Innocent up from school on our way through Kenya, so he was with us all week, and has mastered the use of our new camera, a gift from a family on our support team.  Here are a few of the pictures he took around our house:
Front Door

Living Room

Front Yard

Fred and Wesley on Back Porch

Back Yard

Side of the House


Wesley *almost* Walking

05 February 2013

Peace at Last! ...almost

Well, we're back to normal life again!  After four months in America, our family reached our home in Shirati on Saturday afternoon, and we were pretty much asleep on our feet!  It's become a little tradition for me to write a recap of our travel adventures, and they are some of people's favorite posts, apparently, so here's the story of this most recent journey.

Wednesday, 30 January
I am big on making plans, but regardless of my best-laid plans, I always seem to spend the last hours of my time in America rushing around trying to get things done.  This time was no exception.  Tuesday night our whole family helped with last minute packing (extra thanks to Bryan and Nancy for coming through with a vacuum sealer and an extra carry-on suitcase!), so Wednesday morning was just me trying to organize our left-behind items and do a little cleaning.  Around 11am we left my parents house to pick up my mom at work in Woodburn and meet my dad at the airport.  We had four checked bags weighing 200 lbs total, two carry-on suitcases weighing about 35 lbs each, our "personal items" each weighed a bunch also, plus the diaper bag.  Checking in, security and goodbyes all went smoothly, and we shuffled ourselves and our things aboard a two hour flight to Long Beach.  A five-hour layover (and $9 burrito!) later, we boarded a five-hour overnight flight to Washington, DC.

Thursday, 1 February
We arrived at Dulles in a rather poor state of mind.  Fred and I hadn't slept much, even though Wesley was doing well on the flights.  We had to pick up our luggage, wait for the Emirates counter to open, then check in all over again.  This time we ran into difficulties because a.) one of our trunks had been broken between Portland and DC, and b.) Emirates has begun enforcing a weight limit on carry-on luggage and was weighing each piece!  We were far, far beyond the weight capacity on three of our pieces, and there was obviously no weight to spare in our checked bags.  I was despairing what to do, because we certainly hadn't planned on paying $50 each for three additional bags!  This is where your prayers for travel mercies were answered in ways we wouldn't have known to ask for.  The trunk with a broken latch was easily repaired with a roll of heavy tape that happened to be on the very top in that trunk.  The check-in attendant reminded me that we had an additional free piece of checked luggage for Wesley, and then she waived the fees for two other bags to be checked in!  Relieved of an immense burden, both psychological and physical, we breezed through further security and parked at the gate.  Thanks to Dan for a $15 Starbucks card, on which we feasted while waiting for our plane.

I have already raved about the way Emirates treats families, and our 12-hour flight to Dubai just confirmed that.  They like to put all the families together in the bulkhead row, if possible, so that we can benefit from the increased leg room--a huge asset in navigating on board child care.  Wesley continued his pattern of being relaxed and charming everyone around us, but I still didn't get much sleep, sadly.

Friday, 2 February
We arrived in the Dubai Airport, which has one of the greatest things ever: complimentary strollers for use in the airport!  We took full advantage of that, since we had to go through transfer security and cross the whole airport.  So grateful that we didn't have our three heavy carry-on bags!  Our last American dollars bought some drinks while we waited to board our flight to Nairobi.  That flight went smoothly, and, to our surprise and delight, Kenyan immigration and customs were a breeze!  Fred's cousin, Francis, was waiting to help us transfer ten bags and a baby to a taxi.  Fred, Francis and our other friend Francis arranged the bags and bus tickets and some grocery shopping while Wesley and I visited some friends in Nairobi.  Then, after a two hour delay, our overnight bus to the Tanzanian border departed.  Wesley and I got some good sleep on the bus, and as the sun rose, Fred got off the bus near Innocent's school and we rode all the way to the border with the bags.  While Fred picked up Innocent from school, our friends Eric and Liz Soard picked the baby and me up at the border.  Liz and I got to have some great conversation while our babies played together on the floor.  Finally, Fred and Innocent arrived, we got a public car, loaded our luggage and left for our last leg of the trip home.  By early afternoon Saturday (around 2am PST), we had reached home.  After a bit of unpacking and dinner, we all collapsed into bed.

Whew!  Not our most adventurous trip, to be sure, but thank the Lord for that!  We found our home in great condition, thanks to our friend Rebecca who stayed here while we were gone, and Rick will be glad to hear that our fence did come under attack while we were gone, but the man who does our yard work kept it in good repair.  Wesley, after winning the traveler-of-the-year award, is now suffering jet lag which makes him cranky.  We found Innocent in poor health, because he was apparently not eating well at school.  Fred and I have allergies, and we're looking for a new school for Innocent, so we've had to hit the ground running, but it's good.  Life is good.