White Water Rafting and Bungee Jump

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This past weekend was full of some awesome adventures- perfect to cure end of the semester slowness. We camped at Savage Wilderness Camp in Sagana Town. Saturday morning we had our safety briefing, then loaded up and put in down the road in the Sagana River. The 3 hours of rafting that followed was full of fun, adrenaline, and beautiful scenery! We rafted over class 2-5 rapids, played around in the rafts and rapids, flipped a few times, and got thoroughly soaked. During the calm parts of the river, we enjoyed the blue sky and sunshine, the lush green river banks, and bright yellow river birds. These birds had woven basket-like nests that were hanging from palm fronds and tree branches, like ornaments on a Christmas tree. Absolutely beautiful.

Saturday afternoon, it was time to face fears and jump. Bungee jumping was of course optional, but I figured why not, I mean I already paid off the semester! My stomach was churning and I was pretty shaky when the time came though. I’m not necessarily scared of heights, and climbing doesn’t scare me, but we’re talking 180 feet here! The climb of the tower/crane thing was just an extremely long ladder while attached to a harness, and then we climbed into the basket at the top. There was a gap in the floor, you stand with your toes over the edge, feet on each side of the basket, and the bungee cuffs are wrapped around your feet, with a backup on your shoulder harness. So, not only are you 180 feet in the air, about to jump, but you also have your feet tied together and weighed down. Umm. The view from the top was worth it. Green farmland, hills and peaks, stretching for miles in every direction, and I could even see Mount Kenya pretty clearly. Finally after all the instruction from the guide, and me questioning if anyone ever peed their pants up there (no, and he reminded me which direction I would be hanging if I decided to do so), it was time. The gate was opened. I said a prayer. I stared. And stared. And stared. Every part of your being screams that you are crazy and foolish. Jumping 180 feet, what are you thinking?? My breath shallow, my whole body shaking. After an eternity of 30 seconds I knew i couldn’t make myself jump. So I kindly requested the guide give me a little push. And down I went! Thrill, and sheer terror, screaming all the way, heart in my throat, and then the bungee caught, and I bounced up, and down, and up, and finally slowed down. Then the blood rushed to my head, I spun till I couldn’t tell which direction was up. At this point, a man in a kayak throws you a rope, and they pull you back to shore, where you get unhooked, and come to the realization of what you just did… Crazy!! I’m glad I did it, although I can’t say I will be jumping (haha get it) at the chance to do it again. Adrenaline filled weekend in deed.

10 days!

Lake Naivasha: Fisherman’s Camp + Hell’s Gate

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Our weekend in Lake Naivasha was without a doubt one of my favorites of this whole semester! Classic Kenya, what was supposed to be leaving at 2 turned into confusion, multiple gas station stops, an over packed car, ice cream run, and finally we started the journey out of Nairobi at 4:30. The view of the Rift Valley is breath taking. So green and vibrant, hills and peaks, stretching for miles and miles. Feelings of satisfaction and accomplishment to see Mt. Longonot again and know I climbed it. After parting ways with Jeff, the Semester in Kenya group searched through the darkness to finally pull into Fisherman’s Camp at 7:30. While we couldn’t see anything, we knew we were right on Lake Naivasha. Our first night consisted of dinner at the camp restaurant, which gets an A+ for food and a D+ for customer service, and a fire at the campsite. Kenya is not a place where the customer is always right, Americans are spoiled by our customer service standards! Our tents were small and made me think of old military tents. We had a little mattress and a warm blanket, and I shared with Brittany. Kirk became fire master, and kept the fire up most of the weekend. The stars were brilliant, the air cool, the atmosphere perfect for camping. My kind of adventure weekend!
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Saturday morning, I unzipped my tent and met the gaze of a monkey on the picnic table. Good morning Kenya. The camp is beautiful! It sits on a lagoon of Lake Naivasha, picture the Florida everglades or Louisiana bayou. Many different kinds of birds, in many sizes, some seemingly as big as me, flutter around. We had a lazy morning, got told we didn’t need any more maple syrup at breakfast, and got ready for our outing: Hell’s Gate National Park. I have been looking forward to this trip all semester! The park is just down the road from our camp. We sat outside the gate for about an hour while Tyler bargained, bribed, reasoned, and worked out our entrance fee and bike rental fee. We got our rental bikes, very Kenyan with sketchy brakes, and took off into one of my new favorite places. We rode past rock faces, green hills, rock towers, zebras, antelope, gazelle, wildabest, warthogs, and water buffalo. We took our time, went at our own pace, and enjoyed the ride. Absolutely incredible scenery! This is the national park that inspired the Lion King. You can’t help but praise the Creator and His creativity… I think I got the hang of taking one-handed picture from the back of a bicycle now. After riding about 7km (4ish miles), we came to a paved road, and found the ranger’s station. Next stop, Hell’s Gate Gorge.
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Part of our group joined the park guide to hike down into the gorge, and I am so so glad we did! For about a minute we hiked downhill, and then climbed into the gorge. From there, the rest of the hike took us up and down rocks, past waterfalls, through streams and dry river beds, around twisting and winding rock walls, and past so many incredible things to see. At one point you could turn left to enter a narrow gorge, or continue straight in the wide river bed. We took the left path first. The walls are covered in people’s carvings, ironically all around the “no graffiti” signs. Every so often we saw “emergency exit” signs next to ropes to climb out in case of flash floods. This trail ended at a cavernous wall called the Cathedral. From there we backtracked, and then finished climbing out of the gorge. An amazing adventure, and incredible place to explore! At the beginning, we asked if this was the trek to see Pride Rock, and were told yes. By the time we got to the end, still no Pride Rock. The last few minutes it started to pour, so we hustled back to the ranger’s station. There we were told that you actually have to bike to see Pride Rock. Oh Kenya… those who didn’t hike had already left, and it was pouring pretty hard, so we were able to ditch the bikes and hitch a ride on the convenient Daystar University bus that had a group of students visiting. We arrived back at the entrance to find the other group had got a ride as well. We spent the rest of our evening pigging out on an abundance of food, playing card games, and sitting around the fire making Kenyan style s’mores. At one point during dinner, a man came up to us and told us there were hippos on the edge of the water! The camp had an electric fence between the campsite and water, and we got to watch a momma and baby hippo eating outside the fence! While they are very dangerous, they are also very cute. I feel asleep that night happy and with a heart full of adventure, trying to avoid the wet spot on my mattress.
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Sunday we just hung out, had a lazy breakfast, hung around the fire. We waited out some rain, and then boarded a boat at the camp to go on a hippo safari! The sky was overcast and dark the whole time, but the view was still grand. Mountains, Mt. Lonognot, Hell’s Gate, forests, lake houses, and so much green. There were floating plants everywhere in the lake, and a multitude of water birds. After a bit we saw our first hippo poking his/her head out of the water. A bit further and we saw a group of five hippos bobbing up and down. It took some maneuvering of the camera to catch them with their heads above water. Finally, we came across a group of 12-15 hippos! Now that was a neat sight. At one point one of the hippos heaved have of his massive body out of the water and then sunk. We started to head back, but asked is we could watch the group a while longer. Our guide got us close, very close, like within 20 feet of the hippos. I think we were all beginning to think, “ok, that’s close enough!” Then someone moved to suddenly, and the hippos began snorting and popping up and down in the water. An awesome sight, and one that gave quite the adrenaline rush. We then headed back to camp, huddled in our rain jackets as the rain picked up. It was mid afternoon, and Jeff came to the camp to meet us. We ordered a late lunch, which took seemingly forever with our not too friendly waiter. Finally, with our van crammed and loaded down with us and our stuff, we drove out of the valley and back to Nairobi.
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This was definitely a favorite for me! I love camping and hiking. Biking through the national park was simply amazing. Our whole group got along extremely well this weekend, and we genuinely enjoyed each other’s company. We got to see a handful of animals, got to see some spectacular views, and I came back to campus with a full heart and a sense of an adventure well completed. This is the kind of thing I came to Kenya for, this is the kind of things I love to do, the type of traveling I crave. Now there is 17 days till I fly home. This is the last week of USIU classes. Next week is finals. Then Easter weekend. Then safari. And then a long journey home to a very rewarding sight of the people I love. Thank you Lord for a great weekend and a great adventure.
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Gratitude Lately- Countdown

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One of my favorite blogs to read when I should be doing homework is called Today’s Letters. The author, Emily, like to post “Gratitude Lately” posts every once awhile, so I’m going to borrow a page from her book today. 22 days from today I will be back in the US. Three weeks from tomorrow. I would be lying if I said I haven’t been counting down, because I definitely have. It’s time for me to go home, to be with the people I love again. Kenya has been a challenge for me, but I know I have grown, learned, done awesome things, seen awesome things, met some awesome people, and have grown so much deeper in my relationship with God. I find myself surprised when I realize I wouldn’t trade this semester, despite the hardness of it. I still don’t feel like Kenya is the place for me, but I’m thankful for what I’ve learned, even if it was not at all how I expected. So, in honor this thought process, and in honor of my countdown, I want to talk about 21 things I am thankful for about this semester.
1. Fruit stands! Fresh fruit, and so cheap. Bananas for 10 shillings (less than 10 cents), apples for 30, and watermelon always available.
2. Movie shops- you can get a movie or tv show season for 50 bob (shillings- less than 50 cents). 3. The perfect weather- always warm and sunny, I find myself craving a rainy day
4. USIU’s track- so glad I discovered this hidden treasure- as its literally at the very back of campus behind construction of a new building. It’s usually empty, quiet, and peaceful back here. Perfect for turning my running shoes red from the dirt or for a moment of solitude for some me and God time.
IMG_20140324_101311 5. San Marinos, Cool Breeze, and the mall food court- The first two are inexpensive restaurants right outside the school grounds. We’ve pretty much given up on the cafeteria. And it’s always nice to go to the mall food court for some more options or semi-American food.
6. Hot water- wasn’t expecting a hot shower all semester! Definitely appreciate that one
7. Skype- so thankful for my frequent Skype dates home! One of my favorite pieces of technology no doubt.
8. Stephanie- my lovely roommate. I enjoy our culture conversations and movie swapping
9. Adventures- last weekend we went hiking, rock climbing and four wheeling in Athi River. It was beautiful, and a lot of fun! It’s always grand to get out of the city for a bit. The adventure parts of this trip are definitely some of my favorites, like climbing Mt. Longonot or paintballing.
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10. Travel- Refer back to posts about Korr and Zanzibar. Great experiences!!
11. The fact that I’ve stayed basically healthy. While many of my group have faced some serious sicknesses or injuries throughout the semester, I’ve only had some small stomach problems and a couple colds. Thanks Lord!
12. Kibera- I’ve gotten to tag along to Katie’s favorite place a few times now. I am constantly amazed by the joy, hope, and love of Jesus in that place. Kibera may be poor, dirty, and smelly, but my heart is always full after a day there. The Idagiza’s are incredible examples of Jesus in their community, and have shown me true love and welcome. From meals, to hugs, to a beautiful necklace, I’m confident that we will be “friends forever” as Mama Mary told me today. She also told me I am a part of their family, and tell my family at home that I have a family here too. Thank you Pastor John, Mama Mary, Lydia, and Lillian for your kindness and friendship. May God abundantly bless you for all you do for His kingdom. And thank you Katie for sharing your special heart-place with me, I see how God has used this in your life so clearly.
13. The fact that smiles, hugs, and pictures don’t need the same language. Whether it’s in Kibera, First Love, Korr, Zanzibar, or anywhere in between, I love getting to make a little child smile and giggle by simply playing with or hugging them. Precious.
14. The assurance of Jesus Christ and His grace, truth and love. The other night, our group met at Jeff’s with a handful of his Muslim friends to have an open-forum style discussion about Islam. While it was slightly hectic with so many people, it was interesting to learn from them about their faith. I am so thankful for the freedom I have in Jesus Christ, and the fact that His grace saved me from my sin, set my free from rules and regulations of religion, that His truth reigns in my life, and that He love me always.
15. Movie nights- we have a lot of free time, so we have quite a lot of these. Especially when movies are only 50 bob…
16. The ability and means to go to college. This has been a frustrating semester academically. I’m not very impressed with USIU’s academics. I still can’t understand my economics prof, and I’m not good at economics as it is. But, I am thankful that I even get to go to college and pursue my dream of teaching and working with high school students. I look at Lillian, who dearly loves her Kibera kids, and loves being a teacher, but paused college to stay with them. Thankfully, she is able to start up again! I am thankful that God has provided financially for me to go to school.
17. Camp Judson- Not a day goes by when I don’t think of some aspect of my summer on staff. Judson will forever be in my heart, and one of my best summers. It has followed me here to Kenya! I taught some PE at Karen C, and taught them Elbow Tag, Blob Tag, Run Rabbit Run, and Zoo Keeper. One day I sat with a group of 8th grade girls and taught them a bunch of camp songs. That same day I taught several classes “If I had a Little Red Box” and “He’s my Rock, my Sword, my Shield.” More and more I see myself being involved in camp ministry in the future…
18. Karen C Primary- While my internship/volunteer project didn’t turn out how I hoped, I am still thankful I got to do it. I did get to teach some classes, which was a good in-classroom experience. I helped grade essays. I got to talk with Kenyan teachers and learn about the education system. I met a new friend who was student teaching. And hey, it looks great on my resume
19. Time to read- with our abundant free time this semester, I’ve read a lot of books. I don’t remember the last time I read so much during school!
20. Learning what really matters. Why do we need so much stuff? Why is it we’re the richest country but lack so much joy? Kibera kids could teach us a thing or two. What are we chasing with so much of our time and resources? What is going to matter in the end? I believe its knowing Jesus as your Lord and Savior, loving Him, loving others, and finding His purpose for life. What do you think? 21. Appreciation- Being Kenya has made me appreciate life in the states in ways I haven’t really thought of before. There’s little things like vegetables, washing machines and dryers, ice, real hamburgers, American junk food, country music, being a majority, being able to pet animals that aren’t diseased, not being stared at and approached for being white etc. But then there are serious things like the privilege of going to Cornerstone, having parents who love me, never knowing what it’s like to be hungry or thirsty, never having to be scared of diseases. I am blessed in many ways.
22. Time with God- being here has been hard, I think I’ve been pretty open about that. I’ve faced feelings of failure, loss of self-confidence, loneliness, defeat, weakness. Through it all, God promised to never leave me. He walks with me, whispering His love to me, flooding me with peace, comforting my heart, giving me strength constantly. There’s no way I could’ve done this thing without my amazing God. He has become increasingly real and close to me this semester. I’ve clung to Him, cried out to Him, begged Him, questioned Him, argued with Him, and He remains. He loves me. He’s with me in Kenya, in Kibera, in Zanzibar, Korr, Michigan, Ohio, and every single part of His creation. He’s shown Himself so strong and incredible to me. From sunrise, to sunset, to stars, to zebras, giraffes, ostriches, mountains, oceans, deserts, forests, orphans, slums, cities, and villages. God is with me, and He loves me. I’m amazed by you Lord, thoroughly, absolutely, and completely. Thank you.
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22 days left. There’s still some adventures to come, there’s one more week of classes, and then finals week. Three weeks to wrap up this semester and this adventure. I have my summer job to go back to (fifth summer at Gerber’s already??), and I’m waiting to hear about another job I applied for. Jared and I have some major catching up to do and a summer to-do list to complete. I’ll get to see my family and favorite furry friend (Barkley) again. I have an upcoming trip to Washington state with Trinity’s college group to help a camp get ready for their summer. My fall classes for CU came together. I secured a spot in the on-campus apartments, although who my roommates will be a mystery. Life continues, wherever you are. Father, take us through these last weeks, help me get through economics (please!!!!), keep us safe in our travels, and take us safely home. Lead us all in our next steps. I pray that we would all grow closer to You as a result of this semester, and we would take what You’ve showed us into the next parts of our lives. Amen. Have a wonderful day!

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Dear Jared

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Dear Jared,
Today makes two and a half years together. Woo! Unfortunately we’re still 8,000+ miles apart for another 24 days. But the end is in sight! In growing up in three different places, I’ve met and left behind a lot of people. You will always be the hardest goodbye. And my favorite hello! We’ve had quite the past couple of years huh? I think our story is a pretty good one. Met in youth group, led a missions trip together the summer before senior year, started to get to know each other better, went on our first date to the fair right as senior year started. Senior year had a lot of challenges: school, scholarships, college, future plans, family stuff, yet we became best friends and our relationship grew well. Then just a few weeks after graduation, we said our first goodbye as you went to Montana, Canada and Cambodia for YWAM EDTS. Those months were hard, waiting to hear from you, waiting for college. Patience is certainly a central theme! Finally, after adjusting to college life and Grand Rapids, I got to surprise you at the airport after five months of being a part! We had to get to know each other all over again in a lot of ways after all the change that had happened. You were in Ohio, I in Grand Rapids for most of the time, only getting a few days or weeks together at a time on breaks. You started community college. Finally, summer! Four whole months of being in the same place, just imagine it. And then I got the opportunity to do something I’ve always wanted to do for a large part of the summer, work at a summer camp! In Pennsylvania…

Kentucky missions trip- where we planned and led a VBS. Summer 2011

Kentucky missions trip- where we planned and led a VBS. Summer 2011


First real picture together- December 2011

First real picture together- December 2011


Zoo Lights- Christmas 2011

Zoo Lights- Christmas 2011


Graduation

Graduation

Senior Prom!

Senior Prom!

Spring 2012

Spring 2012


Reunited after 5 months

Reunited after 5 months

It seemed like we’d never be in the same place. You were still figuring what came next, job, college, etc. I remember one particularly hard phone call during my one hour off one day at camp. You knew officially that Cornerstone was not going to work financially. I remember the fear and sadness, the thought that maybe we really never would get to be together… But God is good, and kept us through all of our travels, and brought you to Kuyper, conveniently just four miles down the road from Cornerstone! And so, for the first time since graduating high school, we got to be in the same place for more than three weeks. It wasn’t the easiest, but I know our friendship grew in awesome ways, as did our dating relationship. It’s so awesome to have my best friend just down the road during the stress of college! And then, once again in January, it was time to say goodbye as I followed another dream of mine in studying abroad. Michigan and Kenya are awfully far apart, especially for 16 weeks. But, here we are, the end is in sight. In the past 2.5 years, almost exactly half of that time has been spent in different places. Our story has now spread over four states (Ohio, Michigan, Montana, Pennsylvania), five countries (US, Canada, Cambodia, Kenya, Tanzania), three continents (North America, Asia, Africa) and countless time zones, miles, phone calls, texts, Facebook messages, and the ever-wonderful Skype call.

Hiking 11 miles over Spring Break

Hiking 11 miles over Spring Break

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Alabama

Alabama

We have some pretty great memories J. Countless movie nights and Office marathons, family game nights, Zoo Lights, Prom, missions trips, Cedar Point, family holidays. Walks in the Metroparks, hiking, kayaking, watching meteor showers, bonfires. I’m glad we enjoy the outdoors together! Truck rides, fair trips, getting me to like country music. ArtPrize, trips downtown, coffee shop tours, farmer’s market, antique shops, church hopping, Meijer Gardens, exploring Grand Rapids. Our crazy little free trip to Mobile! Cheap movie tickets, Wendy’s dates, Panera dates, any kind of date! Shoepffle Gardens and ice cream. My necklace, my puppy, the care packages you made for each week of the semester, flowers sent to me while you were in Cambodia. Our truck rides to and from school, getting to just talk without thinking about homework. Hours on the phone or Skype when we’re a part. The way we can talk about anything and everything, the way you can make me smile and laugh. I love dating you, and you truly are my best friend!
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Jared, you have been so patient and understanding in the times I have gone somewhere without you or followed dreams of mine that haven’t been with you. You have been incredibly caring and encouraging, especially during this hard semester. I know that you’re there for me, no matter where I am, as long as we can figure out some way to communicate ;) Again, thank you Lord for Skype! The more I travel and try different adventure, the more my respect and thankfulness for you grows. I constantly think of you, pray for you, and wish you were here to explore with me. You are a hard worker, and have a true servant’s heart. You desire to follow Christ, and always want to find the next way in which you can grow and know Him better. I have watched you grow over these past few years, and especially in the past two semesters. College has challenged you, and grown you in many ways. I know it’s not your favorite thing, and it doesn’t always go how we hoped, but I am so proud of you! You show integrity in the way you live, and have always shown me, and all girls, respect that is rare in guys your age. You have some pretty neat dreams that I sure hope I get to be a part of. I hope this is the end of our adventures a part, and that the majority of adventures from here on out will be side by side! One thing I’ve definitely learned is that it’s not so much where you go, but who you go with. And I most definitely want to go everywhere with you! “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
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24 days my dear! The end is so very much in sight. 3.5 weeks. We have come through 12.5 on opposite sides of the world. It’s time to be together again, to spend time with my best friend, to have fun doing whatever and just enjoy your company. I can’t wait for this summer with you! Though it may not be a grand adventure, I look forward to getting to know you again and making more memories. We have our trip to Washington with the college group to look forward to. And while we’ll both be working to save for college, I know we’ll find and make time to check off as many activities on our list as we can. We’ve come through a lot, and it’s crazy to sit back and think about all God has brought us through. And yet, we’re still together through all the distance, all the change. It’s been hard, don’t ever let anybody tell you being so far from someone you care so deeply for is easy! Because it hurts, immensely and constantly. It has broken my heart to be so far this semester. We have grown up in many ways this semester, and we have learned to appreciate each other more and communicate better. God has used all our hard times for both our individual good, and our relationship’s good. So here’s to the future, to the next couple years of school, and beyond. To classes, jobs, family, friends, and following God’s plan through it all. I believe in us, I believe we have a good thing going. I look forward to things to come, to our future, to our dreams, and to adventures together.
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May the Lord bless you and keep you Jared Keith. May His face shine upon you. May He grant you peace in all things. And may you always love Jesus more than anything, or anyone else, including me. Thank you Jared, for the past 2.5 years of your time, for your patience and care, for the time and effort you put into “us” and for all the wonderful memories. Thank you for being so hard to say goodbye to and be away from. Thank you for making me so anxious to be together again. Thank you for wanting to follow God and do His will, even when you’re unsure exactly what that looks like. I hope you always know how much I care about and for you and how thankful I am for you and our time together. Happy 2.5 years Jared!

Love, me
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Zanzibar: Paje (Part Two)

New Teddy’s is pretty awesome! It’s a local place, inexpensive, perfect for world travelers or backpackers. There are several “bandas”, traditional huts with woven walls and roofs. The floors are sand. The girls all shared a large one with 7 mosquito-netted beds, ceiling fans, and even electric outlets. There was a separate bath house, a bar/restaurant, hammocks, a covered porch with comfy seating, and all just a 20 second walk from the ocean! Sand everywhere, palm trees, salt water in the air, and humidity to the max, it was a pretty great location for Spring Break. The first night we waited for hours for not very tasty food, and met two med students from the UK who will be spending the next 6 weeks working in Tanzania for class credit. It was neat to ask them about different parts of the UK, which has been on my travel list for years. I also got to learn about Aberdeen, Scotland, where my great-grandfather was from before moving to the US when he was a teenager. I love this part of traveling, meeting other travelers from other places, comparing, discussing. We talked about colleges, travel, and differences between the US and UK. At one point in the week, I even talked with Mark and Andrew about what the whole intelligent design movement in academia is about, which I learned a lot about in biology last semester at CU (thanks Gator!). We also met a woman named Sophie, from France, who saved up and has spent an entire year traveling around the world. I love those interactions, hearing stories, meeting people like that!
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Tuesday we woke up to rain, but we didn’t let it ruin our beach day. I was feeling a little funny, I think from something I ate in Stone Town, so I spent a lot of time reading, waiting for the antibiotics to kick in. Sun or not, we played in the sand and water, found shells, relaxed. Ellie and Kirk and I met two women on the beach, one from Germany, one from the US who had actual pet dogs, not the diseased kind we see everywhere. We were pretty darn excited to get to pet some puppies, I think we’ve been having pet withdrawl ;) After disappointment in Teddy’s food, we tried one of the restaurants on the beach. Wednesday, after a lazy morning, we went for a drive to visit a spice farm. Oh, side story, I have to talk about the breakfast crepes, something Teddy’s did do right! For breakfast, you either request sweet or salty. Sweet consists of crepes covered in Hershey’s chocolate syrup and fruit. I had that every day. It’s the little things, like Hershey’s syrup on an island in the Indian Ocean! Anyways, the farm was a demonstration farm, so the guide took us around to various plants and trees to show where common spices come from. We got fresh coconuts, and a meal of local dishes and fruits, while wearing grass woven hats. Then it was another lazy beach afternoon, and dinner on the beach. Thursday, we left at 6am to go swim with wild dolphins. The sunrise was beautiful, orange bands covering the sky. We grabbed snorkeling gear, got on a local boat at a hotel, and the fleet of boats chased the wild dolphins through the water. We would pull up to a spot ahead of the dolphins, jump out and try to see the dolphins as they swam past. I was more content to watch from the boat, which was still plenty close and amazing, as the water was full of little stinging jellyfish. After jumping in the first time, I decided the stings weren’t worth it. Still a cool experience, despite jellyfish stings.
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The tide was extremely low on Thursday. From where we were, the ocean was very calm and shallow, and the white caps and waves don’t start for a solid mile or more off the island. With the tide so low, Ellie and I decided to see how far we could walk, and catch up with a few others who had already gone out. It was one of the best things we did all week! The water never got deeper than chest level, and was mostly at our knees, even a half mile from shore. The farther out, the more amazing it got. The water was clearer than any pool, and we got up close and personal to starfish, fish, sea anemones, coral, and sea urchins. As Tyler said at one point, we were learning so much more on our walk then sitting in most of the classes at USIU. At one point we found a clown fish family living in a sea plant, at another point we found a group of zebra-striped fish. So beautiful! A local guy on a boat then told us to head back, the tide was coming in. I was a bit nervous honestly, swimming isn’t my strength, and deep water like that freaks me out. But, it was still shallow, we had time. Now to navigate the minefield of sea urchins. We hadn’t gone far when poor Anna got sea urchin spines in her foot. I was able to pull two out right away, but two were buried in her heel. I began to panic a little, neither of us knew the severity of stepping on a sea urchin. It was just the two of us, the others were at different paces, so we started to hurry, occasionally swimming, stepping as carefully as possible around the painful urchins. The water was definitely getting deeper, and we hit a few spots over our heads. Anna was a trooper, though in a lot of pain, pushing through! As soon as we got to shore, what seemed like forever later, I went running for tweezers. When I got back to Anna some local guy decided to be a jerk and tell her she was going to die from the sea urchin! The guys at New Teddy’s told her no, they aren’t poisonous, just painful. I got one more of the spines out with tweezers, and then the bar tender put papaya juice on the last one, saying it should work its way out like a splinter tomorrow. Poor Anna endured the pain for a few hours later, and finally just dug it out. So all’s well that ends well! At the time I figured it was better to take it too serious than not serious enough, and I’m glad it wasn’t serious and Anna was alright. She said it was worth the beautiful walk, and I agree. Dinner was a treat, at a cool place called Paje by Night: real hamburgers with Heinz ketchup! Africa does not make good hamburgers, but this one was good. And real ketchup too!! It really is the little things.

Friday was our last full day at the beach, and it started off rainy. But it cleared up, we got more time in the water, and built an epic sandcastle. At one point we convinced some of the Maasai guys who roam the beach trying to sell junk to help us dig the trench to our moat. They asked me what the sandcastle was. I explained the concept of a sandcastle, to which they asked if we were going to pray to it when we were done. Oh dear… We had another good dinner at Paje by Night, and enjoyed our last night on the beach.
Saturday morning I finally forced myself out of bed early enough to watch the sunrise on the beach. No regrets at all. It was incredible. Beautiful. Spectacular. Amazing. Awesome. Just like the God who created it! I’ll let the picture do the descriptive work:
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Amazing huh? I watched, praising God’s handiwork and praying for different people who came to mind. It was perfect.

I see Your face in every sunrise
The colors of the morning are inside Your eyes
The world awakens in the light of the day
I look up to the sky and say
You’re beautiful

So was the end of an amazing Spring Break, and my favorite week of this trip. We had a few more hours to buy some more zanzipants, and left for Nairobi. I am thankful for a comfy mattress again, no humidity, and sand free showers! But it was so so so good to get a break from Nairobi and USIU, one I desperately needed. I got a fantastic tan, relaxed, traveled, explored, met some neat people. 39 days left. I’m excited to come home. But I’m growing in gratitude for my experiences here, despite the frustrations and difficulties. This week reminded me why I love traveling, why I wanted to travel. It’s the seeing, the learning, the exploring, the meeting of people from different places in different age groups. It’s seeing God’s amazing creation as well as amazing and unique cultures. That’s why I came to Kenya, not so much to live in Nairobi with a bunch of college kids and take classes. Lead on Father, I’m still following, needing a lot of grace for my mess ups, but I trust You have a purpose in all of this. Thank you for a wonderful week in Zanzibar, I was most definitely amazed by You!

Zanizbar: Stone Town (Part One)

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One of my favorite things about this whole semester is getting to see so many different corners and types of God’s creation. From the mountains of Mount Kenya, the stars and desert of Korr, the giraffes, ostriches, elephants, to the joy of children in Kibera, I’m witnessing the glory of God everywhere I look. My spring break was definitely not an exception! Semester in Kenya boarded a flight last Saturday, took a quick stop in Mombasa, and then landed on the island of Zanzibar. I got to watch Mt. Kilimanjaro for a while from my window! Amazing! Sadly I didn’t get a picture.. But trust me, it’s spectacular. Now, for those who don’t do geography, Zanzibar is an independent island state of Tanzania in the Indian Ocean. Here’s a map:

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The wall of humidity that hits you as soon as you walk off the plane is intense. I didn’t stop sweating until we got back on the plane a week later! We’re a bit spoiled in Nairobi in getting the sun and warmth without the humidity. We got through customs (yay, another passport stamp!) and into taxis to drive into Stone Town. Stone Town is the main city, right on the ocean. Zanzibar was a wealthy trade center between East Africa and the Middle East for centuries. Famous for trading gold, spice and slaves, Zanzibar has a rich Arabic influence, and is predominately Muslim. The Arabic influence is so evident in Stone Town! Picture tight, narrow cobblestone streets lined with white washed square houses and shops with decorative doors and colored window shutters. The coast is beautiful, as is the Indian Ocean. The ocean is full of dhows, fishing boats, and even mammoth container ships. For the first few nights we stayed in Stone Town at Abuso Inn, once a house. The rooms were awesome, and air conditioned! We had breakfasts on the roof while gazing out at the ocean.

 

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102_2836On our first day after arriving we had a local restaurant for lunch, and then I went exploring with Tyler, Anna, and Asaaska’s cousin who is staying with them. We viewed the ocean, wandered the streets and took lots of pictures. We found art galleries of local artists, and bought the first of many “zanzipants”. Zanzipants (as we dubbed them) are light weight, loose, cotton, super comfy, and come in awesome colors and patterns. New favorites! We stumbled into a historic sight, the baths of Zanzibar, built in the 1840s. The baths ran for near 150 years until Tanzanian independence! We got to see all the different chambers, and got to climb on the roof for an awesome view of the city. After a dip in the ocean and resting in our wonderfully cool rooms, we went out to an open-air food market for dinner. Every night, 50+ or so vendors set up tables on the ocean front park and sell food. Chicken and beef skewers, every type of fish and seafood (shark, lobster, octopus tentacles), breads, vegetables, fruits, sugar cane juice, and it’s all very cheap! The whole ordeal had a festival atmosphere, and the food was delicious. Imagine doing that every night!

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102_3025 Sunday I took off with Ellie, Katie, Kirk and Anna with the intention of visiting the old slave market, which was required by Jeff. We ended up spending the morning browsing all the shops and buying lots of souvenirs, and tasting gelato. Tanzanian shillings are different then Kenyan shillings. Just when I was so used to one money system, we add another zero. For example, 10,000 TS = $6.50, while 1,000 KS=  $11.76. We got the hang of it though. I feel pretty confident in my bartering skills now! Well, except for one instance where I angered a shop keeper. I was looking at some bracelets, and asked how much. As always, he gave a ridiculous price, to which I replied, “I can get them cheaper in Nairobi!” That was not the best tact; he quickly got angry pestering me with question of where I was from and what I was doing here. Finally I walked out, while he told me Chinese people were nicer than me. The shopkeeper also told some other members of the group who went in later that I was mean and not welcome there. Whoops, guess that wasn’t the best way to barter!  

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102_2943After lunch we made it to the slave market. Zanzibar was a major center for slave trade between East Africa and the Middle East. While the numbers are small in proportion to the amount of people sold into slavery from West Africa, slavery was still a big business here. We saw a slave holding chamber, where 75 people would be squished into a chamber with hardly any oxygen, food or water. Anyone taller than me (5’4) couldn’t stand in there. Then we saw a memorial made to remember the horrors of slavery. Finally, we toured the Anglican church that was built on top of the old slave market. Slavery was made illegal in the 1880s, but continued illegally until 1907, and Zanzibar was the last place to get rid of slavery. The church was under construction, but we could see the stained glass and alter. Once a place of despair and evil, now a place to proclaim hope and truth and love… Redemption.

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102_3011Monday, we got into a boat and headed to Prison Island. The prison was built there, but then was used instead as an infirmary for preventing diseases from entering East Africa. The island is now a historical sight with a giant tortoise sanctuary and resort. The water around the island was a brilliant turquoise against the white sands and dark storm clouds. The Indian Ocean is so clear, warm, and calm where we were! We got to visit the tortoises, who have a large territory, but you can walk around and pet them in their habitat. Perfect for turtle selfies, and turtle kisses! We saw the historical sight, and then loaded into the boat for snorkeling. This was my first time snorkeling, and it took me a bit to get the hang of the mask. It was so easy to float in the ocean, taking in the incredible coral reefs and fish below us. Sadly it was overcast, but it was still extremely clear. God’s made a pretty incredible underwater world that I don’t really think about. He’s so creative! After our afternoon on the boat and lunch (I got an actual brownie and it was actually good!!), we got taxis to go to the east side of the island to a town called Paje for the remainder of our week at the beach at New Teddy’s Place.

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An Analogy

“On belay?” “Belay on.” “Ready to climb.” “Climb away!” One of my favorite parts of being a camp counselor last summer at Judson was the weeks I got to teach rock climbing. Learning all the gear and techniques for the rock wall, working with Dave or Jess, getting to climb some myself, definitely a great perk of that job! This opener will make sense in a few paragraphs. As I reach the half-way point of being in Kenya, I’ve been thinking a lot, about why I am here, about expectations, about life, about God, about myself. I’ve realized that I’m not in love with Kenya like I thought I would be. I don’t think Kenya is one of my heart-places. There’s others in my group who have fallen in love with this place, and even see a future here. I thought maybe, potentially, I would find the same feelings. But I haven’t, and though I’m struggling through that, I’m realizing that’s ok.

Coming here was my dream for so long. I wished, hoped, prayed, and dreamed about having this adventure for a full year before officially being able to commit to coming. I’ve dreamed of travel for as long as I can remember. Everyone kept telling me this is the chance of a lifetime, which is true. I don’t take for granted how God provided for me and gave me the spot to come here, and I am thankful for the opportunity to be here. I’m getting to do something a good majority of people will never get to do, getting to see things many will never see. Kenya is beautiful, and you can’t beat the weather, getting out of those Grand Rapid snow storms;) I’ve gotten to meet some really neat and beautiful people. I get to experience more diversity than ever before (Side story: on Sunday, the church I went to was a prime example. The head pastor was Korean. He preached in Korean, followed by a Korean to English translator, and then an English to Swahili translator! To top it off, there was a sign language interpreter on screen. Talk about diversity! Unfortunately, between all the translations, I didn’t get too much out of the sermon, but a unique experience indeed!) I see my faith being affirmed, and how following Christ bring purpose and hope to my life. God is teaching me about Himself and about myself daily. He’s teaching me to rely on Him, showing me how weak I really am and how strong He is. He’s showing me how much I need Him. He reminds me of His love for me daily, with a conversation with a new person, an encouragement note or word from someone at home, through the beauty of this place, through a quiet moment stolen in the midst of so many people. God is being so good to me, and I often need reminded of that.

See on the other hand, though I know God is at work, and teaching me and stretching me, are the doubts. The doubt that coming here was a mistake. That I’m not doing anything worthwhile. That I left Jared and Cornerstone and dumped my bank account into this trip to not have the time of my life. I get tired of Nairobi, so many people, traffic, pollution. I get tired of USIU, so many people, classes I don’t care too much for, little details. I get tired of being in Kenya, and feel the want to come home often. I get tired of how our group has become fractured. I cry, complain, argue with God even, begging Him to make it clearer why I am here. Why I thought this was a good idea. Because when you want something so bad and dream about it so much, and it turns out like this has, you feel like a failure. Like you did it all wrong, like made the wrong choice.

 But then I’m reminded of truth. Maybe I’m not here for some glorious, glamorous purpose. Maybe I’m here for little things that seem insignificant. For meeting random people in class, in the cafeteria, sitting at a table and starting a conversation. Maybe I’m here to learn about the world, about the hurt and brokenness, even if it seems like I can’t do anything about it. Maybe I’m here for a few hours a week at First Love, playing with some adorable, beautiful little girls. They don’t really speak English, I don’t speak Swahili, but we swing, we laugh, we cuddle, I hold them, hold their hands, they do my hair (sort of). Maybe I’m here to learn from other cultures. Maybe I’m here just to teach a class here and there at Karen C Primary School and have some good conversations with the teachers. Maybe I’m here to learn that no place in the world will bring me the satisfaction that only God can give. Maybe I’m here to learn the same things about friendships and relationships. Maybe I’m here to strengthen my prayer life as I’m forced to talk to God constantly as I struggle through this. Maybe, maybe, maybe. Maybe I’ll never know all the little reasons God brought me here. Maybe I’m simply supposed to trust Him every day, see the people around me with open eyes, and act on the love of God where He directs me. Faith and trust are easier said than done.

Now here’s the tie in to my opening. As I lay awake the other night, thinking about everything, ready to go home, I was trying to think of an analogy for what I’m feeling. And I thought of rock climbing. When I would teach, I had a lot of kids who were scared of the wall. I would get all harnessed up and clipped in, and tell them to climb just a few feet up the wall. Then I would tell them to trust me, and lean back and let go so they could see that the rope and I would catch them if they slipped and fell. On many kids this technique worked, and helped comfort their fears and doubts. I remember several campers, like Chloe and Thwee, who climbed all the way to the top by the end of the week after fear at the beginning. I thought of what’s happening in my life right now like that. I’m on the wall, and God is the belayer. I have doubts, worries, and fears of being a failure at my dream. And then God tells me to let go of the wall and lean back, He’ll catch me. Once I know He’ll catch me, I can keep climbing. Once I trust Him and have faith, I can keep moving. To be blunt with you, I am not in love with Kenya; I’m not having the time of my life. I don’t really know why I’m here often. But God is good, and His plan is good. Even when I don’t see it, when I doubt, He’s got me, He tells me to lean back and let go and trust Him. And He’ll catch me every time.

Hebrews 10:23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

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Beautiful Doreen, Roush, and Pando