Kenya dig it?

We spent several weeks in Kenya last month, for various reasons. Some of them good, some hard, some both.

Leaving Burundi seems to always be at leas a partial adventure in and of itself. You never really know what you’re going to get. Cancelled flights, road closures, or like this time, the ‘system’ is down at the airport so they have to do everything by hand, including hand-written boarding passes. (Not the first time we’ve had this)

Serge East Africa Conference

The first thing we had in Kenya was a conference with our mission, Serge, for all the workers that are in this region of the world.

Spending time with dear Kibuye friends – before saying good-bye. 

These conferences/retreats serve multiple purposes, at least for me they do. Firstly, they give us the chance to decompress, to relax, and get out of our normal living and working environment.  It’s very easy to go along with life here, not really noticing the effect of our surroundings, and experiences.  Then, when you get the chance to step out you realize that things are just always a bit stressful. The issues we deal with, the lack of cultural reference, the sense of confusion, the difficulties, and everything else that goes along with living in a place like Kibuye can cause low-level constant stress. Getting physically away from the hospital, the place, the everything  – can do wonders for the soul.

Communion service on the beach all together. 

Also, we get the chance to connect/reconnect with other workers around this region. We have over 100 missionaries in East Africa, and they are doing a huge variety of thing in so many different settings. From water engineering to primary education, to medical training, to community development programs, to soccer outreach, to racial reconciliation-focused churches and so much more. There are people who look at Kibuye and dream of having an airport only 2.5 hours away, as they drive 8 to Kampala, and others who can get to an international hub in 30 minutes.  There are people in massive cities with unbelievable grid-lock traffic, and people who essentially have to fly out of the little hospital station where they live. Quite a varied bunch, all kinds of ages and stages of life, and lots of different church backgrounds. But we all come together with the common understanding that we get to see Grace at the frayed, worn places of this world. Working in various ways to bring Grace and Truth to difficult situations, while we experience it ourselves. 

Our Area Directors arranged to have a fantastic speaker come in and lead a number of sessions for us. It truly was something that fed my soul. Even just being able to gather together and sing in English is a treat. (we do this as a team, and as we get bigger it starts to feel more like a ‘church’ – but it’s still not the same somehow) The speaker for the week was Greg Thompson, who spoke on an understanding of the Wilderness.  What he unpacked was so rich that it deserves its own post, but suffice it to say it was really what I needed to hear. 

Family Time

After the conference, we took a week for a family vacation along the Kenyan coast. While the weather did not cooperate as much as we had planned on – a lot more rain and wind that we had anticipated – it was still great. We were staying in a place where we had access to the Indian ocean near some amazing coral reefs. We did a lot of walking around in tide pools at low tide, and the kids did a lot of body surfing in the waves at high tide.

The boys – getting thrashed about in the waves. Not long after this Jonah came in with a pretty good cut on his chin as a wave up-ended him and slammed him face-first into the coral below.  I’m told it was worth it. 
Micah discovering that as the tide is going out – there is a nice personal-size, bath-warm river to slowly take him out to sea. 

Having a family vacation in a place so beautiful, so ‘tropical’ feels quite strange. A bit like we are sneaking into a club we’re not members of.  We didn’t have to travel super far to get there. It honestly was hard to shake some sense of – not quite ‘guilt’ – but some kind of feeling we like we don’t belong or deserve this beautiful place with ocean, and palm trees and fresh fish every night bought directly from the fishermen each morning. I guess that’s what Grace is. Getting what we don’t deserve.  I’ll take it.

Alma – apparently swimming like a “Burundian mama’ carrying her ‘baby’ on her back. I guess you mimic what you see.   ..er, sort of
Showering off…with a coconut. for some reason.

Back to School Time

After the coast, we headed back to Nairobi to run some errands, and head up to Kijabe.

Of course – one does not pass through a city with actual restaurants, with real milkshakes without stopping in. 

It’s ‘up’ not just because it’s north of the city either. Kijabe is over 2200m above sea level. That’s after you descend several hundred meters down the side of the valley once you turn off the highway. Roughly equivalent to the peaks of some of the ski stations where we lived in France! Nothing makes me feel out of shape like being out of breath from walking around the kids’ school.

On the way to Kijabe we had some car trouble – and were stranded at the side of the road for a few hours. Luckily we had all we needed to stay occupied. A plastic plate that could serve as a frisbee, some dirt, a Calvin & Hobbes book, and a lot of kids more than willing to play with the strangers sitting there.

There we dropped off two of our kids for boarding school. Such a strange, strange thing to say.  Such a stranger thing to do. Jonah and Matea both love it there, so that makes it easier.  Not easy, but easier. The school is great, there is so much support for them, both at the school itself and our extended Serge teammates who live and work in and near to Kijabe.

Moving in
Just moving in….yet, somehow already messy.

There is just so much to say about taking kids to stay away for 3 months at a time at school – that honestly, I won’t even try.  It’s too complicated and honestly just too much. They love it there, and we pray that this experience is not just something they enjoy now, but will help form their character in many ways. 

So that’s our time in Kenya. Beautiful, relaxing, difficult, meeting, leaving, encouraging, and so much more.  Now we’re back home and back into the swing of things here. Looking forward already until the kids come home for their 5-week break at the end of November.

close and far

One of the strange things about living in a place like Kibuye is that so much of our daily lives take place really close. I mean – like measured in several hundreds of meters from our house. The kids’ school is about 30 m away – we can see and hear the kids in their class from our kitchen window. The hospital is about 200m up a dirt road. The space between the residential area, the hospital, and the village around it are where the vast majority of our lives take place.

Other than running on the dirt trails over the hills around us, we really do live, work, play, right here on this hill. Driving to Gitega, a 30 min journey, honestly seems like a bit of a trek, and you better have a good reason for going there.

But then there is the other part of our lives. The parts that mean for most of our family or friends to see us, or us to see them requires several days of travel, thousands of dollars, covering a not insignificant portion of the earth. 

There is no orthodontist in Burundi, not even a dentist in the country. Want or need those services, and you have to cross at least one border. Two of our kids are now attending high school two countries away from home. Travelling seems difficult as visas, border crossings, logistics make things more complicated than one would think they would need to be. When we arrived 3 years ago there were quite a few flights in and out of the capital (we didn’t’ think so at the time but in hindsight…)

The one airline that flies directly from here to Kenya just dropped 3 of their 4 daily flights. That means that the one airport in the country now has about 5 flights a day, with options of 3 or 4 cities in the region, except for Sundays when there is a once-per-week flight to Brussels.  That sometimes makes it feel like things are far.  That we are not really connected. 

Living in France, there was a strong sense of connection to other places. At the small train station at the bottom of the mountain, we could catch a train to Geneva. The airport in Lyon had flights all over the place, the French high-speed train network could get us to Paris in a few hours, and the autoroute system could have us at the Mediterranean in just over 2. You had a feeling like things were close, or at least, accessible.

But part of the charm of living in a place like Kibuye is this kind of isolation, the remoteness. The challenge of driving Land Cruisers over dirt paths to get places. The challenge of washed out roads, police barricades, and border crossings that are always a surprise. The hills covered with small subsistence farms tended to by people who very possibly have never been more than 50km from where they were born. 

We are the connected ones here. We can afford internet access, international phone calls, and plane fares that are unfathomable for almost everyone in this commune. Those luxuries make the far seem a bit closer. And it does teach something about community, about ‘home’ and about real connection.