Trip Blog Posts in Chronological Order

I have now posted all of our “trip blog posts”, in semi-random order. (I still need to post videos, but it’s taking way too long to get back to those.)

Here they are, strung together in chronological order:


Travel to Maua

Day One: Our Working Group

Day Two: Church

Day Three: Tharaka and the Third-Year Group

Day Four: The First-Year Group

End: Safari

A Connection Made in Church

So, here’s the tiny (microscopic) story of our money-changing “adventure”.

(I’ll just put the pro tip here: when you exchange money for Kenyan shillings at the airport in Nairobi, don’t assume you can always exchange more later. You can, but it’s a pretty big inconvenience. Go ahead and get all you’ll think you’ll need plus a little more at the airport.)

On the day we visited the first-year group, three of us realized we hadn’t taken into account the gratuities we’d be paying our drivers and hotel staff, and our plans for some end-of-the-trip shopping. So, we had to cut our visit with the working group short (which I think is sad, actually) and hightail it back to Maua in time to get into a bank (Barclays) by 4:00 pm. We just barely made it.

Once in, we got in line to wait for a teller. (While we were in line, I saw a poster advertising Barclays’s new low interest rate for home loans: 10%.) When we got to a teller, we asked to exchange $20 for Kenyan schillings.

Well. First they asked us for our passports. Then, it seemed like they didn’t exactly know what to do next (although they didn’t say that). So, they asked us to have a seat and wait. We did. And waited. And waited. And waited.

Meanwhile, the bank was closing.

At one point, a man walked over to us and said “I think I can say hello.” He was very friendly. It turns out that he was in church when we stood in front and introduced ourselves. So, he was literally just saying hello. It was very pleasant.

Eventually, we got our Kenyan shillings and our passports back, although the rest of our group, waiting back in the van, had begun to worry about us.

Used T-Shirts in Kenya (Planet Money Podcast)

Planet Money, an economics podcast by NPR, had a really interesting episode on what happens to used T-shirts. It turns out some of them wind up in Kenya and (I’m assuming) worn by the kids in our working group. And, every step of the way (of course), they generate economic activity.

The first stop in Kenya is at the business of a woman who, 15 years ago, was selling used T-shirts one at a time. I don’t know for sure, but I’m imagining a kiosk like the ones our kids run.

Here’s the episode: The Afterlife of a T-shirt.

Reegan’s Long Backgrounder Lecture the First Day

So, the morning after we arrived, before our first visit (to our working groups), Reegan sat us all down in the patio area of the hotel and gave us a long background talk on ZOE, very dense with figures and procedures. It took at least 90 minutes. Here is as much of that as we could capture.

(This turned out to be a monstrous post that took a while to reconstruct from the excellent notes Erika took, with a few of my own sprinkled in. This applies to ZOE in Kenya, as told to us by Reegan and fleshed out with my own impressions and recollections, as hazy as they are.)

Continue reading Reegan’s Long Backgrounder Lecture the First Day

Kenyans use cell phones for everything from buying groceries to paying rent – World News

On cell phones in Kenya. We noticed that more people than we expected have a cell phone in Kenya, including some of the orphans. It turns out that having a cell phone in Kenya is actually pretty cheap,  in addition to being useful for business and for just plain human connection.

Here’s an article on cell phones and the “law of one price:”

The upshot is: we shouldn’t make assumptions that what we pay for cell phone coverage in the U.S. is what the rest of the world pays.

The Rest of Our First-Year Group Visit

After the group did their presentations, and we each spoke, Reegan spoke.  He had strong “you can do it” encouragement for them (hopefully, I got it on video, but if not: it was powerful).  He knows what the orphans face, and he knows they are capable of overcoming it.  I hope to hear from this group (“Barakuro Glory”) to see if they get crops next year, because that landscape looks almost Martian.
Continue reading The Rest of Our First-Year Group Visit

Attended Church in Maua

On Sunday, we didn’t visit anybody, but we did attend church, at the Maua Methodist church (MCK: Methodist Church in Kenya). It was very loud (the PA system was turned up to 11). It was also very well attended. The minister is a former banker. He preached a sermon about “drive”: as a Christian, what drives you? It was quite the exhortation, and at several points, he interrupted his sermon to check to see if we were listening. “Hello? Is there anybody here today?” I think we were all stunned by the PA system, which may have been turned up so loud so that it could be heard out in the street, over the traffic.

He called our little missioneer group up to the front of the church to introduce ourselves and say a little something about our trip. I suppose one must always have an elevator speech, ready to go at the drop of a hat.

After church (between the 2nd and 3rd services), we visited with the minister and several of the church’s leading members, including the church’s chairman. (I probably didn’t get that quite right; head layperson, at any rate.) We had tea and biscuits. It was very pleasant, and, I felt, an honor.

After we left the church, several of us had expressed an interest in walking around the town of Maua, just to see what we could see. Carolyne, the wife of the minister, just happens to work for ZOE, and she agreed to walk us around. It was “interesting”.

Continue reading Attended Church in Maua