Saturday, December 27, 2014

new url

Starting in 2015, I will be posting from I know how annoying it is to have to update your readers -- pole sana (very sorry)! I've been using this as our identity on this blog for a long time, now and I want to reflect it in the url. This blog will stay open, so that any links to old posts won't be lost, but all new posts will be over there. I'm importing parts of this blog over there, from about the time we started getting ready to move to Kenya, as well as some older posts about Kenya and being a mixed family.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The (Kenyan) Christmas Song

If The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire) had been written in Kenya:
Cashews roasting on an open fire
Hot sun scorching all the rest
Christian songs being sung by a choir
And folks dressed up in Sunday best

Ev'rybody knows some freshly made treats
Help to start the day off right
Tiny tots with their tummies full of meat
Will all sleep in peace tonight

Because the pilau is on its way
Baked with a goat slaughtered today
And ev'ry mother's child is gonna try
To sneak some extra bites on the sly

And so I'm offering this simple phrase
To kids from 1 to 92
Although it's been said many times, many ways
Merry Christmas to you!

And Merry Christmas from the MKKs:

Tuesday, December 23, 2014



Nate turned 4 in January, and we pondered over how it was possible that 4
years had passed since that very eventful day when he came into the world.
My parents also made their second trip to Kenya in January. We took them
several new places, including Arabuko-Sokoke forest and Sabaki River.
And of course, we took some trips to the beach!


The highlight of February was Nate's half-term break.
We headed to Malindi for a long weekend. We spent our time in the pool,
on the beach, and at ice cream and pizza parlors, per Nate and Ben's request.


March is hot. While coping with the heat, we got ready for our trip to the US!


We went to Texas! It was a longer visit this time than the last time we went,
with break time worked in throughout the weeks we were there.
We started our trip with a real vacation - fun family time with no work on the side!


It seems (from the outside) that our time in the US should betotally relaxing -
after all, we aren't home cleaning our house, cooking for ourselves, keeping up
with the daily grind, and we're in the most comfortable place on earth (the US).
But, we are on the go all the time. We took a few days off here
and there, but it was still a tiring month of travel and visits.
Nate and Ben really, really love Texas.


The end of our US trip. At one point I calculated the number
of miles we traveled, excluding trips within the towns we were staying in
at different times, just from one stop to another around the state.
I don't remember what it was anymore. Thousands. Texas is big,
and we didn't even make it to west Texas, the panhandle, the valley...
Nate got back to school almost as soon as we were home. He missed it so much!


We got back in to the swing of life here.
The Maisha Kamili Transition Home became fully functional,
eventually housing 4 transitioners.


Kenya's school breaks are in April, August, and November-December.
While Nate was on break, we took a family trip to Nairobi to
renew his passport. We stayed an extra day or two to take
advantage of time in the Big City.


This was the beginning of the last school term in which
Ben would not be in school yet. We also celebrated him turning 3!


We started going to church in Malindi this year. It is quite a drive to make
(several times a week), but we feel it is a place we can
serve usefully. We are all making new friends, which is
something we really needed (especially me!).


We celebrated Thanksgiving with great friends!
It was the best Thanksgiving I've ever had outside of the US.


With schools closed and many people on leave, December has
brought a lot of visits with friends!
We will spend Christmas with Rodgers' family, followed by a
Skype with my family during their Christmas celebration. 

It's hot, we haven't had running water for weeks,
Nate and Ben have spent way too much time with each other since schools
let out last month and they are getting on each other's (and my) nerves,
people disappoint us, we disappoint ourselves, but God is here.
He has brought us a long way this year, and he continues to
mold and shape us into the likeness of Jesus.
The year was good because God is. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Santa is not that critical

Rodgers grew up without Santa Claus at all - he doesn't come to Kenya. I grew up with a fictional Santa, but we didn't believe in him - my parents' choice. Rodgers and I saw no reason to have our kids believe in Santa. We both feel Christmas is full without him. Not surprisingly, complete strangers have Very Important Opinions about this. And you know what? If you are on the other side, other complete strangers have Very Important Opinions about that. It's not unlike...well everything else that goes along with using social media as a parent. Sure some people will say these things to you in person, but with social media, you get read complete strangers' opinions about how you're ruining your children's lives from the comfort of your own sofa, at any hour of the day or night.

My sister posted this on Facebook yesterday, which I felt is one of the most well-thought-out pieces on why not to believe in Santa. The post itself is not judgmental, but there are always judgmental comments on posts like this. For what it's worth, I love that post and agree with all of her points, especially numbers 1 and 4 (and even more the first one since we live in a country where there is no Santa - I mean, can you imagine the American kids not only getting more Christmas gifts from their parents but also being the only kids in town visited by Santa?!).

(the whole bit in gifs here on imgur)
Later yesterday, Christianity Today posted this one, which is a bit more inflammatory (tactic to ensure more people will click on it). The title says that your kids should believe in Santa, whereas the previous one just said that their kids don't. While I agree with the conclusion on that post (that Jesus communicated truth using parables to appeal to the imagination through fiction, and other fiction can be used the same way), I don't agree that believing fiction is real is necessary.

There are a zillion other posts, from both sides. Some simply state the practice of the particular family, like the first post I linked to. Others tell you why you (and, more importantly, your kids) would be better off adopting their viewpoint. Regardless, the comments are predictable:

"Your kid is going to ruin Christmas for all the other kids!"
"Your kids only behave because of that creepy elf? How sad."
"There's enough reality when you're an adult. Let the kids have some fun."
"Well, I grew up not believing in Santa, and I'm just fine."
"Well, I grew up believing in Santa, and I'm just fine."

Let's focus a little on the last two comments.

While there are people who feel deprived to not have experienced believing in Santa, and there are people who felt betrayed when they found out their parents had lied about Santa, for the most part, it just doesn't matter much. It's not that critical.

And if people comment to you in ALL CAPS that it is that critical, that what you're doing will Ruin Christmas or Deprive Your Kids, just imagine them like Little John because this is what they're fighting over.

Monday, December 8, 2014


Lamu from a boatLiz and me in a boat taxi
Since becoming parents, I have done many an overnight with the kids without Rodgers. I have spent some nights away from the kids, with Rodgers. But I have never left them with him overnight. It's not that I didn't want to, I just had no reason to - nowhere to go without them. Until...

My friend said she wanted to take me to Lamu, where she grew up, and we actually put it on the calendar and started planning it. And did it! My very first ladies' getaway for 4 days and 3 nights, and it was everything I dreamed it would be. The boys called me at least twice a day, and Rodgers and I texted pictures back and forth to each other. I did miss them, but the break was extremely welcome!

boatsdonkeys hauling sand from the Indian Ocean side of the
island to a construction site in town

We took a bus. It takes about 7 hours from Kilifi. The road is not paved the whole way, but actually the unpaved part of the road is smoother than some of the "paved" part! The bus takes you all the way to Mokowe. Then, you hop on a boat to cross to Lamu Island.

Lamu's biggest industry has been tourism, but recently, that industry has been suffering tremendously. Until two weeks ago, they had been under a 6 pm curfew enforcement. No one wants to go on vacation and be stuck in their hotel room for the night starting at 6 pm. The curfew has now been pushed back to 10 pm.

empty mkokoteni on the seaside roadaround 4 o'clock every day, they roll out the mats and play bao

Everyone told me how happy they were to see a tourist in Lamu again. Restaurants have only been keeping the basics stocked so that they don't waste money on ingredients that won't be used. Artisans are selling other things in their shops because there aren't any tourists to buy souvenirs. The economy is really suffering from the lack of tourists. We did our part to stimulate the economy: stayed in a hotel, ate in restaurants, shopped, went to the museum, used boat taxis, and shopped some more.

Lamu is famous for having no cars on the island. The only way to get to the island is by boat. There are no bridges. There is only one road that can accommodate a car, anyway (we saw 2 cars and a tractor using it). The other streets are narrow corridors between buildings. This trait, probably more than anything else, has caused ancient culture to be preserved. They say Mombasa and Zanzibar started much like Lamu, but because they've made way for roads and cars, much of the old culture of the town is lost. Walking the streets of Lamu today is not much different than walking the streets of Lamu 400 years ago. The main differences being that now there are power lines overhead and everyone carries a cell phone. Also, within the main part of town, all of the streets are paved and there is a drainage system in place.

This one's actually not so narrow.

The main method for getting around town is walking. If you have a load, there are mkokotenis (the cart in the picture above), but they don't navigate the streets quite as smoothly as the donkeys. Lamu claims the highest number of donkeys per capita in the world. They use them to transport loads of sand or whatever else they need carried, including themselves! It's not uncommon to see donkeys roaming around unattended when they are off-duty.

off-duty donkeysdonkeys bringing the sand through town
The street wasn't wide enough for us and them, so we hopped
up on someone's front stoop. They all have benches outside
their front doors, where they sit in the evenings.

There are 3 cities on the island, all along the coast. The center of the island is orchards of mangoes and coconuts. You might be able to walk through the orchards to get from one town to the next, but why do that when you can get a boat taxi? This is the fastest mode of transport on the island. My friend's parents live on the outskirts of town, and we were staying in a hotel right in the middle of town. We walked to and from a couple of times, but it is far. Our last visit with them, we were so tired when we left, we just walked to the beach and got a boat taxi to take us back to town center. Much better!

our captain for the time we stayed
We called him any time we needed a ride.

My cultural experiences included: labania (a sort of cardamom praline made in Witu, on the road to Lamu), kahawa tamu (local spiced coffee that has more sugar than coffee in it) mixed with kahawa tungu (unsweetened local coffee, which they didn't think I could handle, but which I had the following day without the tamu mixed in because good gracious! the sugar!), and henna. Also we walked all over town one day, with a guide who pointed out some of the old architectural traits like door carvings and coral facades. He took us to some of the historic homes that have been converted to guest houses and past an old, but still-functioning water well (the kind you draw with a bucket, rope, and pulley).

henna in progressposing in the street/corridor

Rodgers is a little jealous because this is part of his own country he has never visited. I have an invitation from our friend's parents to bring my family to visit them. The dad actually asked me to bring my family for Christmas this year, which is not possible. Maybe we can try for a family visit to Lamu next year.