Rachel and I have spent our anniversary probably in a different state every year, and they have been wonderful, and this year is our first international anniversary.

"I'm home anywhere, if you are where I am." (Rich) Unashamedly, I once again abuse this quasi-public forum to thank my wife for being with me these last 4 years, that she has made so lovely.


Pumpkin Tale

One of the nice parts about living at Tenwek is the availability of fresh produce. We may not be able to drive to the grocery store, but there are plenty of little wooden fruit and vegetable stands near the hospital, and even people walking up to our doors on a fairly regular basis, selling stuff. I've been making Maggie's baby food since she started on solids several months ago, and now figuring out what to feed her has gotten a bit more challenging. We decided to see if she liked pumpkin (as she was already a fan of butternut squash, which is not very accessible here). One of the first days after our arrival, our house helper Ruth took us to the market and we mentioned that we wanted to buy a pumpkin. She walked us by a few shops and deemed their pumpkins, priced around 120 shillings (or $1.5), too expensive. She assured us she could find us one for 50 shillings instead. But she had no luck at the market the next week either, and so told us she was going to buy a pumpkin at a shop near her house, around an hour away.

The next day she arrived at our house, pumpkin-less. "I have bought you a very nice pumpkin! Very big!" she announced. However, it was so big that she could not carry it to our house. So she said she would keep it at her house until she could find a car to bring it. What? We were wondering if this was some sort of pumpkin scam. :) But lo and behold, on Christmas Eve, she brought the pumpkin. She wasn't working for us that day, she was working for another family, who didn't need her until 9am (we have her come at 8) so she could "walk slower" and carry the pumpkin. She was right, it was very big. And very tasty. It's now all baked and pureed and waiting to be either eaten by Maggie or turned into bread, muffins, stew... All for the low low price of 75 cents.



Behold, the Kenyan shilling, which is currently running around 75 to the US Dollar. We're starting to get used to thinking in shillings, which definitely wasn't the case during our Nairobi shopping spree, which was followed by a good week of pouring over receipts, doing conversions, and thinking "We spent that much for that?" (or that little...)

The interesting thing about this picture is that all three of the coins are 1 shilling each. So why the variety in color, size, and print? No idea.


Requested Photos (of Maggie)

Thought we'd share some cuteness here from our first days at Tenwek. Here's a new Moby wrap hold: Africa style.
This is Rose, Maggie's new Kenyan nanny. She's a very sweet lady, and Maggie seems to really enjoy her, which is a relief for Mommy.
Mags and Mommy sporting 1/2 pint shirts courtesy of Aunt Jena and Chunkle Brian (Clumpie's Ice Cream, yeah!)
Daddy gets to read to 2 little girls now! Maggie seems more interested in Anna than the book (and vice versa!).
Christmas morning, we skyped Grandma and Maggie got to open some presents while Grandma watched, still on Christmas Eve, in Arizona.
Maggie and Abi, in their Christmas finery. The matching colors were not planned.
Maggie, enjoying her new toys (a block set, a puzzle, and 2 books)


Merry Christmas (from Maggie)

We pour our hearts out on this blog and still, all anyone wants is more pictures of Maggie. Sigh. Well, I understand...she is cute. :) So here's Maggie in all her Christmas festivity-ware (the dress was mine for my first Christmas, and we dressed her in it Thanksgiving weekend for pictures). Merry Christmas to all! Thank you Lord for your amazing gift.


A Chapter Closes

A very long time ago, it seems, we wrote that 2009 would be a banner year for us--having a baby, graduating from residency, selling the house, moving to Africa. Along the way, we've learned some tough but good lessons that God's timing is not our timing. Nothing really happened on our timetable. Maggie was late (OK, only 2 days, but I thought for sure she'd be early!) but a perfect arrival, coming on the day my and Eric's vacation time started. We graduated. At least that happened on time. And the months went by, and no house sale. We prayed. We cried. We made Plan B, and C, and D. We wondered if we had heard God wrong. We wondered why something seemingly so insignificant was delaying our departure to Africa. We moved to the middle of nowhere, New Mexico. We wrote many blogs. (See here, here, and here). And then, stepping out in faith, we bought our tickets to Nairobi without selling the house.

So, in November, we received an offer on our house. We didn't share the news with many people, because the sale was contingent on the bank accepting our short sale, which is basically loan forgiveness to the non-real estate folks. We asked them to ignore the difference between what we owed the bank and what the offer on the home was for. It was exciting to have an offer, but we didn't want to get our hopes up, and were told the process could take up to six months.

Ten days before our departure to Kenya, we received word that the bank had accepted our offer, and all the terms, in record time. We signed the papers the day before we left. Our house closed today. We are speechless with gratitude for God's most perfect provision.

"Bless the Lord, oh my soul, and forget not all his benefits." --Psalm 103:2
"The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy." --Psalm 126:3


Home Tour Part 3

Part The Third and Final

Home Tour Part 2

Part The Second

Home Tour Part 1

This was initially a single 3-minute video tour of our new home but we couldn't get it loaded, so now it's in three parts. We'll get the other 2 up as soon as internet here allows.


Shopping Escapades

We wanted to share a unique experience we've had recently which is sort of African and yet has nothing to do with Africa, really. It's being a Westerner, shopping for food in Nairobi. Some of you may have seen my facebook comment about spending $700 on groceries and thought, those extravagant missionaries! They must have been buying peanut butter and ice cream and kobe beef steak! But believe me, for someone whose food budget over the last several years ran between $150 and $200 per month, the realization of the cost of our groceries nearly gave me heart failure. Especially because I don't think it's that extravagant of a collection.

Let me go through the grocery shopping process with you. We arrived in Nairobi on a Thursday night and on Friday morning another missionary family picked us up and took us to what looked like a very fancy shopping mall. Inside was what I could basically describe as a Super WalMart. Remember now that Eric and I had been in country for about 12 hours, and had just completed a 24 hour journey, and we had been up most of the night with our jet-lagged daughter. We're shown the microwaves (you need one of these), the toasters, the hot pots. Maggie needs to eat. Eric goes to the cellphone counter, where he is still standing 30 minutes later when I come looking for him. The missionary wife grabs me to start food shopping. We start with the spices, the nuts, the “granola ingredients.” She's throwing stuff in her cart with abandon. I'm standing there wondering which black pepper is the cheapest and which spices I need to get by. She turns to me. “You should be putting stuff in your cart—you need this!” Right. Never bought dried papaya before, but I've never made granola. Do I need peanuts? Well, I never buy them in the States, but...into the cart they go. Up and down the aisles we go, a constant commentary about availability and good brands and eating carbs for weeks at Tenwek if I'm not careful to plan ahead with my shopping. Cans of peaches (was that really $3.50? oh well), boxes of milk (you can buy it straight from the cow if you want at Tenwek but I'd recommend getting some of these), molasses (for cookies?), canned cream of mushroom soup (get a lot of those, we never see these!), enchilada sauce (if you see something you might want, get it now because it might not be here next time), ketchup (the Kenyan brands are disgusting), a can of Ragu spaghetti sauce for $5 (for emergencies)....whew. Three hours later we were done. Sort of. We had still not bought and perishables—no dairy, no meat, no produce. Those were at different stores.

The next day we headed to the ABC Center, home of Gilani's Butchery, Chandarama Supermarket, and Zucchini's Greengrocer. The meat was the kicker--$5/lb for chicken breast and $10/lb for cheese (although, it was New Zealand cheddar, which was the cheapest, and a terrific find for us). We saw a jar of monkey gland on the shelves amongst the other spice jars. What? Eric almost bought it out of curiosity but we had already spent more than I felt comfortable with. We had been given a list of things we should buy at the butcher, but really. I've never made a pork roast in my life and we don't eat bacon. The list got modified somewhat. Then to Chandarama. The problem with Kenyan grocery shopping is that stores aren't guaranteed to have certain items. For example, the Nakumatt store didn't have baking soda or powdered sugar, so we had to go elsewhere. Finally, at Zucchini's, we got some good deals, like fresh green beans for about 30 cents a pound, and snow peas for the same.

Now to Tenwek. We arrived at our apartment to find a bill for another $120 and 50 pounds of flour, 10 pounds of sugar, a gallon of sunflower oil, a giant tub of Crisco-like stuff, and multiple insect-killing products, among other things. So I'm settling into my house, hoping the food I bought makes enough meals to feed us for six to eight weeks until we go back to Nairobi. Fortunately, produce can be bought here (during the rainy season) at very cheap prices. Maybe next time will be cheaper, as we figure out what we do and don't need, what items are better deals than others, etc. I think we had imagined that yes, certain foods would be expensive, but there would be some budget options as well. Why not eat like Kenyans? Well, apparently Kenyans eat a cornmeal mush or porridge for every meal, with very little else. More to come on the adventures of eating in Africa. Maybe for our next trip to Nairobi, we'll splurge on the monkey gland.


Maggie Says Hello to Simba

For months now, we've been trying to teach Maggie that "Simba" is "lion" in Swahili, not just a Disney character. Then, at the guest house in Nairobi where we stayed, she met her first simba, which was a Disney character. Hmm...


The State Race Revisited

It remains to be seen, now that we live in a foreign country, how our longstanding state race will proceed, but we must revisit it once more, before moving on to international life, since there has recently been a significant advance (and also we can't post any pictures of Kenya, given a current internet snafu).

In our sundry travels these last five months, Maggie has clocked a total of 20 states in her young life, and her parents have made some slow advance, but on our way back to Tennessee, Rachel surged forward at a rate unthinkable for this late in the race, namely getting 2 new states in one day, bringing her to a grand total of 49, including all of the contiguous states.

We drove through the state of Louisiana, and actually found it really fun. The best part was the bridge through the wetlands that went on for about 20 miles, exactly like the picture in our minds. Then we cruised across Mississippi (less impressive, but oh well) and stayed there for the night, before proceeding on to Alabama.

Will Eric ever catch up? It looks unlikely at this point, but who knows how long Alaska might take? Below is Rachel's map. Here is our updated maps.


Kenya Arrival

Posted here.


No Keys

There is much to say. We leave for Kenya in the morning. We have said goodbye to almost all our family and friends. Sometimes the big picture is a little too hard to grasp, but maybe an instructive small picture would work instead.

I have no keys. For the first time since I was about 14 years old. Our house keys and garage door opener have been mailed to Michigan. Our last car is sold. Our work keys were turned back in. The only thing left on the ring is a Kroger tag, and a bike lock key to a lock that we can't remember.

There will be new keys, but for now, nothing. What is it that's said? We empty ourselves so that we can be filled. We die so that we can be born again. "Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies..." It is the undressing before the redressing. All of the locked places of the world are now barred to us.

Maybe this is over dramatic, but the moment feels very dramatic. I've heard it said that early Christians were baptized in rivers, and that as they went under the water, they shed their old garments, and a new clean garment was placed on the surface of the water. As they rose from their baptism, they were clothed again.

And so I return to the newness that is all in all. The life and light of men that draws us to do strange things, but strange things that lead to life and light. Amen.


Day #2: Still in Texas

Yesterday was a day of epic driving. Maggie did amazingly well, and was much happier than mom and dad at the end of it.

We awoke, and on checking out from the hotel, we found that I-10 was closed for snow maintenance. The whole thing, and the sheriff's people said it would be 3 hours at least before it was opened. Now, in west Texas, there are not exactly lots of secondary streets. So we took a 2-hr detour through some awful snowy roads, but it paid off when we got in front of the storm front, back on I-10, before the road had even opened back where we started.

We had a few good hours, and then the combination of heavy rain and rush hour in San Antonio and Austin made the conditions slow once again. We finally arrived at Temple, TX, home of Peter and Sarah Bast, where we were welcomed to a cozy home, good friends, cute kiddos (pictures later), and a yummy dinner.

It's been a great time, and we're thankful that today we're only driving 3 hours to Houston...


Day 1: Phoenix to West Texas

What in the world? Who would expect to run into a winter storm in El Paso and even south of there? Not us, and yet it has happened.

This morning, we said our goodbyes in Scottsdale, and got out to a very early start. Some rain starting around Tucson, but no problem. We had been trying to arrange a meet-up with Eric's old college friend, Melissa (Betts) Gonzalez, and her husband Alfredo and their son Matias. But with the holiday busyness, no definite plans had been made, until Eric got a call just as they were passing through downtown El Paso. After a wee 10 minutes of back-tracking, they arrived at the Gonzalez home, where we had a great time catching up, learning about hip-hop music production, and drinking some really awesome Mexican cocoa. Maggie and Matias hit it off really well.

However, from the time that we left El Paso to where we are now, a Motel 6 in the small town of Van Horn, it was all snow and sleet. A difficult end, but Maggie held out. We'll see how the next full day of driving goes, as we make our way out to Temple, TX, to visit the Bast clan.