Monthly Archives: July 2015

Corrections and Additions to the First “Our Working Group” Post

(Original post: Today we visited our Working Group!)

At the time of our trip, the exchange rate was approximately $1 for 100 Kenyan shillings (abbreviated KES, or Ksh).

The business shops or stalls are more like 6×8, not 8×12.

When you go on one of these trips, you really need to bring a notebook.  There are a LOT of facts and figures and names thrown around, and you can’t remember them all.

Bad grammar when I said “nursing them” (vague antecedent, or whatever it’s called).  I was referring to the orphans’ necessity to nurse their dying parents, not their siblings.

The kids we met were older but: they are the heads of their families, which may include other orphans who are too young to be treated as the head of their own family.  I think the typical ZOE family has a head who is 16-19 years old and maybe three younger siblings of younger ages, sometimes down to 3-5 years old.  We only met the family heads; not the entire families.  ZOE working group meetings consist of only the family heads, not the entire families.  These meetings are places where decisions are made, such as what group project to work on, which family (or families) to help over the next week or two, whether to repossess a family’s IGA equipment, whether to loan a family enough money to start an Income-Generating Activity, etc.

Relief vs. development: I had earlier said that ZOE does not provide food to starving children, only training and seed money for them to pull themselves up by the own bootstraps.  That was wrong.  In an emergency, ZOE will provide food for a family.

Utensil-drying racks: “Utensils” refers to all their cooking and eating utensils.  The racks are made of scrap material they scrounge up, and can be as simple as four stout sticks stuck in the ground with chicken wire on top.  The compost-sweeping-up-and-burning and the utensil-rack-building both serve as evidence that they are making efforts to better their circumstances, and helps determine whether they receive future assistance from their working group.

Speaking of effort: I have mentioned that the working groups work together on a group plot of land, to grow crops; and that they also undertake a group project.  This is great for building community, and to have meetings (ZOE actually strongly encourages them to hold their meetings WHILE working, instead of while sitting down, because (a) they get stuff done, and (b) sitting down can negatively affect attitudes and energy levels). However, any student of history knows that relying entirely on collective action can lead to problems with slackers, which is why there are also individual plots of lands, for which individual families are responsible.

What About The Weather?

So, it was deathly blazing hot in Chapel Hill when we left.  Africa’s even worse, right?

Nope.  Cool and dry.  Our smoking-hot-solstice-sun-at-23.5-degrees-latitude season is actually Kenya’s winter (we were pretty much on the equator), such as it is.  Plus, we were on the side of Mt. Kenya, which is one of the largest (in diameter) mountains in the world, and whose peak is above 17,000 feet..  One night, the temperature went down to 59 degrees.  We all had fleeces and sweaters and we used them.  Even during the day (when it did get hotter), there was always a breeze blowing and when we were in the shade, it was the perfect temperature (and who can object to the sound of wind in trees?).  Our elevation in Maua was right about 5,000 feet.

Eat your hearts out, Chapel Hill. :)

More pictures and videos uploaded

I have now uploaded, captioned and organized (in Picasa) all the pictures and videos I took with the exception of individual presentations.  I’ll upload them later, when I find a way to blank out last names, since this is a public link.  Also, as time goes by, I’ll add pictures taken by other people.

They are here: Pictures.

What Will You Eat? Part II

Morning meal:

* Sweet potato chunks, peeled and boiled or baked. I don’t really know whether they were boiled or baked.  These are not the orange ones we know, but a yellow sweet potato that has the same taste).

* Arrowroot chunks, boiled.  This is a very dry and starchy root and has kind a of mottled look that most thought looked like sausage.

* A cut of pork that’s a cross between ham and bacon, called “bacon”.

* Fried eggs.

* Hardboiled eggs.

* Cereal, in the form of pressed cereal cakes that fall apart in contact with milk and soak it up.

* Sausage links

* Coffee or tea (but not the Kenyan tea which I had the pleasure of drinking once (in the airport in Nairobi, of all places), and tastes like the chai you get in Chapel Hill coffee shops).

* Fresh fruit, including bananas and papayas.  There were always bananas, at every meal.  Good thing I like bananas. And these were very flavorful.


The working groups usually provided soda, bananas and white bread.

Evening meal:

* Frequently, squash soup.

* Usually some kind of savory meat in sauce, chicken or beef.  Once, goat. 

* Always fish. 

* Steamed vegetables. 

* Mashed potatoes and/or rice. 

* Hard biscuits.

* Coffee or tea.

Once, we had “green grams” (or “green grahams”, I don’t know how to spell it) that the third year group had given us as a gift.  They are a tiny, bright green bean, and are the most expensive bean the orphans can produce. They were utterly delicious, kind of like green lentils or black-eyed peas.

We definitely did not go hungry.

Today: Visited a First-Year Group

Today (Tuesday) we visited a first-year group (and experienced a tremendous hassle trying to exchange $20 for Kenyan shillings at a Barclay’s in town).  The group lives in a fairly dry and dusty area about 30 minutes from Maua.  The area is just beautiful, but it’s the terrible beauty of inhospitable land.  The soil is a dramatic red and VERY rocky with igneous rocks embedded in it.  The group didn’t get enough rain in the last growing season, and I think they were discouraged.  They certainly weren’t as vibrant as the others we met.  Their stories were sad, partly because they are still ongoing.

Continue reading Today: Visited a First-Year Group

Tomorrow: Safari! (And possibly no wi-fi at all)

Today was the last day of our outreach to the working groups.  Tomorrow is an “us” day.  We’re going on a safari.  There’s no telling what the wi-fi situation will be, but I can’t imagine it being much better than here at the hotel (and that wasn’t quite as good as I’d hoped).

I have just uploaded another longish half-baked blog post which I will have to expand on later.  Between the availability of wi-fi, jet lag and just plain being busy here, I have not been able to blog as much as I’d hoped, BUT there will be more posts, either as I travel or when we get home.

(Oh, this is fun: as I type this, sitting in the courtyard of the guest house, under an umbrella, it’s starting to rain a little bit, in spite of the fact that this a dry season.  Hopefully it won’t drive me indoors.)

Today we visited our Working Group!

(Blogging fast before supper while chatting w/co-missioneers.  I’ll probably have to clean this up/amend it later.)

We met our group today, and I took some videos and a photosphere of their church.  Unfortunately, the hotel wi-fi is idiosyncratic and I’ll have to upload the pictures tomorrow.

These kids have experienced Bad Stuff, and this is their second year (of a three-year program), but the speed at which they have taken off is incredible.  All they needed was a lift, and they have this to say to us, our congregation:

Thank you, University UMC, for your support and your prayers.  Please know that we are so grateful and we have been praying and will continue to pray for you.

(I’m paraphrasing a bit.)

Continue reading Today we visited our Working Group!