Little Miracles Always Add Up to Big Miracles

So, anyone who knows me knows that I have my eyes set on going to Kenya not once with 100 Humanitarians, but twice this year. That last trip to Kenya had a “wow” factor that I simply didn’t expect. Well, okay … I kinda expected, but not to that level. It was *big*. BIG big big.

 

Obviously, I want to go back. However, I want to bring my wife. She *needs* this. She has to see this with her own eyes to understand why I’m so invested. The number crunching and payment dates begin …

 

As many are aware, I was laid off for 11 months. No real income, no solid money coming in … it was kind of a bad thing. Except we were totally taken care of. It’s humbling. Little contracts here and there, Ubering, some unemployment assistance … somehow, we managed to make it. On December 5th, I started a new contract. 6 months with a *really* strong chance of extensions. I’m excited about that because that helps fund our trip to Kenya! And, of course, pay our bills. 🙂 Come on, people. PRIORITIES!

 

However, there are some bills we need to catch up on. And last week, I didn’t get to work because no one else was in, and most of my job is interviewing people for information that I put into our manuals. If they’re not here, as a contractor, it makes no sense for me to be there. So one whole week of no money. That’s a big chunk of cash that we didn’t get today. That makes me sad. AND next week will be a small check because I couldn’t work this past Monday, either. For those of you tallying at home, that’s *A LOT* of money we’re not making.

 

So how do I come up with the deposits for my wife and me to go to Kenya? Why, simply manifest the need and watch the miracles unfold. Case in point: last night.

 

I was asked to help format an upcoming book for Kindle. I’ve done this before. It isn’t hard work at all. In fact, if you know how to use Word with any kind of proficiency, it’s super easy. Now … I’m friends with a few of the collaborators/authors for this effort, and some of the proceeds of this book are going help our 100 Humanitarians group. The author/compiler of the book came to me and asked what I would charge for my services. I simply asked, “Would you be okay covering my wife’s and my deposit fees for the trip in June?”

 

“That … that would be perfectly okay! Should I pay the director directly? Or should I send you the money and you can pay her?”

 

“Oh, just pay her directly. That eliminates the middle man.”

 

“Ok. Thank you SO MUCH!” And so on and so forth.

 

This opportunity popped up last night AFTER my wife and I were discussing how we’d pay for the deposits. We were already on grace time, and January was looking pretty bleak to be able to make the deposit payments. Nope! Miracle manifested!

 

Miracle number dos. That’s “two” for all you non-Spanish speakers.

 

Remembering that the editor said that she had sent me the manuscript last night, I took some time during a break this morning to look at the Word file. I downloaded it from my mail server and looked over it. Clearly the editor had already formatted it rather well. There are some things that will need tweaking, but nothing very time consuming. It should be fairly easy.

 

Except I deleted the email from my server. Why? Because I’m tired and clearly not thinking straight.

 

See … the author called me this morning. She has additional pages that need to be included. “No big deal. Just send me the extra material, I’ll paste it in, and we’ll go from there.”

 

“Ok. I also need to send you the front and back covers. They’re pictures in a pdf.”

 

“Awesome! Send all of that to [email address].”

 

“Okay!! Thanks!”

 

A few minutes go by. I get a text from her. “Hey, so … is this the right email address? [email address]”

 

“Yah, ohhhhhhhh … except it’s probably getting bounced because my email server is almost full and not accepting large files. Could you send it to [other email address]?”

 

“Okay.”

 

That prompted me to go in and delete all emails over 100kb so that nothing else gets bounced back. I selected all the large-attachment emails, deleted them, cleared them from the trash, and stared at my handy-work in now having a near-clean email server.

 

Small problem: I had just deleted the email with the manuscript. Insert sad trombone sound here because it would be very, very appropriate.

 

I panicked! I freaked! I broke a sweat! I CANNOT call this lady and ask her to resend it. No way, no how. Not happening.

 

Guess what was still open on my desktop. Guess what I saved to my local documents folder.

 

So now I had a copy of the manuscript, but it’s a big file. I couldn’t email it to myself. I desperately needed a thumb drive.

 

I messaged my friend and told her that I needed a thumb drive. I did not say why, I just told her. I … manifested that I needed one.

 

Two hours went by. I sat at my desk, working on a project that involved (and will for the foreseeable future) editing horrifically written manuals. We’re talking incomplete sentences, lack of punctuation, punctuation where it has no business being, spelling errors galore … these manuals are currently in our customers’ hands. I cannot imagine how these made it past any kind of review. Ohhhhhhh, that’s right–former writer didn’t ALLOW reviews! Seriously … that’s jaw-dropping to me. Anyway, I digress. As I’m working on this manual, up to my cube walks this guy. “Hey, maybe you remember me. I spoke with you about a month ago about some documents we need help formatting. Could you take a look at these?”

 

AND HE HANDS ME A THUMB DRIVE.

 

“Just empty the contents on your desktop. You can keep the thumb drive. I’m sure you need it more than I do.”

 

Little miracles, people. Little miracles.

New Year, New Post

Well, it’s January–that magical time of year where blogs come alive again after months (if not years) of dormancy. Such is not *my* case, of course.

 

I’ve set some goals for this year. Not resolutions–those tend to be so vague and nebulous. “I’m going to be a better person!” Oh yah? In what areas? How? What are your short-term goals? Your long-term goals? No … not me. I’m setting actual goals, like “fix the landing in the front room.” Plan: remove the tile and carpet, sand the wood flooring underneath, and stain.

 

Another goal I had was to replace the sliding glass door rollers on our back door. Guess what? ALREADY DONE! And my wife and kids sing my praises every time we let the dogs in or out. No more wrestling with the door to get it to slide on its track. Gone are the days of having to lift THE ENTIRE DOOR by the handle (note to self: tighten door handle …) to get it to move even a few inches. No no … that door slides like Michael Jackson doing the moonwalk. That’s right–my door is the 80s dance moves of slide. And I made that happen.

 

Other goals: replace the leaking garbage disposal. It only leaks when we run it. There’s no reason *why* it leaks … it just does. It’s stupid, yet our reality. For now, we have a bowl placed under the sink to catch any dripping water. It’s a stop-gap until I can replace it. A very weak stop-gap, but a stop-gap nonetheless.

 

There’s also the *tiny* goal of finding funds to get both me AND my wife to Kenya with 100 Humanitarians this time around. June should be an interesting month. I don’t know how it’s all gonna work out, but I just know that it is. I have an idea how it’s gonna work, but we’ll see. There will be much ubering and lyfting in my future in addition to the regular 40-hour work week. There will be photo packages available. There will be tie-dyed shirts available (to that one ginger in New England, I *swear* your shirts are coming!!)

 

On the hilarious side, I just learned that I can go through my entire driving history with Uber and challenge any cancelled rides. So far, I’ve made an extra $70. Ha ha ha ha!!! That’s gas money for the month almost! I’ll take that.

Post-Kenya Blues

So, I’ve been back from Kenya about a month. It’s definitely a hard re-entry, going from the US to Kenya and back to the US. The lifestyle over there is almost nothing like it is over here.

 

I believe that there’s a difference between poverty and destitution. When you’re destitute, you have *nothing*–no money, no hope, no happiness. Poverty is an absence of money. And while many of the Kenyans I met live in the poorest of poverty-ridden areas I’ve ever seen, they are by no means destitute. Their smiles and warmth prove that. There was not one village that we visited where we weren’t greeted with kindness, immediate love and acceptance, generosity, and open arms.

 

My favorite constellation is Orion. In our neck of the woods, Orion begins to rise in the late summer with his right shoulder poking above the horizon in the early morning hours. As time marches on into winter, he features prominently in the southern sky, standing straight up with his sword held high. As winter turns to spring, Orion goes to bed in the early evenings of late April/early May, resting on his right shoulder.

 

Interestingly, Kenya sits on the equator, which means the position of the constellations shift dramatically from our perspective. In Kenya, Orion rises similarly to how he rises in my area, but things change once he gets about 10 degrees above the eastern horizon: his position doesn’t shift. He continues to march straight north. If you want to see Orion in late November/early December, you have to crane your neck and look straight up. And I mean STRAIGHT up.

 

In my analytical yet symbolic mind, I see this as Orion guarding the entire Kenyan sky–not just the southern portion, as he does from our position. From his position of 90 degrees off the horizon, he can protect the whole night sky. At least from mid-November through late December. 🙂

 

It’s an interesting parallel, I think. There’s much to protect in Kenya. There are the obvious endangered species, such as the elephant, rhino, or cheetah, but then there’s the not-at-all obvious to the typical, western-cultured mind. The Maasai culture is eroding quickly. Their culture is beautiful. Their dancing, their jewelry, their singing, their warrior mentality … there’s almost nothing about their culture that isn’t incredibly wonderful. There are a couple of horrific aspects (See: FGM. See also: early marriage.), but those points are quickly being eradicated by the newest generations of Maasai.

 

It’s the wonderful aspects of the culture that need to be preserved, and they need to be preserved quickly before they’re nothing but a faded memory. As it stands, their elders adhere to strict, orthodox Maasai ways. One generation younger, and they’re dressing in jeans, running their own businesses, making music (See: Lemarti, Jeff Ole Kishau, Thee Stargal). Not that there is anything wrong with dressing in jeans, running your own business or making music … but that’s not what their culture is about. Their culture is about males defending their villages from predators. Their culture is about dress. Their culture is about harvesting. Their culture is squarely *not* western, but it’s quickly becoming westernized, and for the elders, I’m sure it’s disorienting. And that’s just within one generation. Give it another 50 years, and what will be left?! WILL it be here?

 

One of 100 Humanitarian‘s goals is to build a cultural center that will help preserve the Maasai culture through video, audio, spoken language, interviewing elders, and archiving all this culture for their posterity. And ours, if we’re being honest! It’s an incredibly rich history, and we need to capture it. We have 5 acres dedicated for the cultural center. We have a director. We have an architect. What we *don’t* have is the money. Yet. We’re feverishly working to raise funds.

 

Right now, our group has over 1000 members on Facebook. If everyone contributed $100, we could have that cultural center built within one year. At least the first phase of the cultural center would be complete.

 

My wife and I are going over in June. I will probably be going back in November 2017 as well. That’s when we hope to have the ribbon cutting ceremony for phase 1 of the cultural center.

 

I have to go back. There is a feeling over there that you just don’t get over here. I can’t explain it. There’s an actual pull to go back. I’m not going to ignore it. There must be more trips.

 

There *will* be more trips.

SO Many Happenings!

This has been one emotional, crazy ride. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I’ve seen things here that I have  never seen elsewhere. Take, for example, the riot we encountered on our way to meet a family to deliver a cow. There was an incident with a police officer, and a local ended up dying because of it. We’re talking burning tires, screaming and marching, banging machetes on boulders in the middle of the road … traffic stopped cold. We couldn’t move forward, and we couldn’t back up. Moses, thankfully, was pretty laid back with it all. He just asked some people to move their cars so we could go way around. “What? Oh! Yah … sure.” And move them they did. We still had to go down through the tiny village, but we made it.
David’s jeep crew, by way of comparison, did not. They were stuck there for hours. Literally. One of the ladies in our jeep had a daughter in the other jeep. She was freaking out, and it’s well understood why. One wrong move, one weird twist, and and that whole thing could have spiraled out of control. It didn’t. Angels attended them.

But we delivered the cow!! It was one of the most moving experiences of my life. The whole village walked out to greet us.

Well … hmm. Let me back up. When I say that we delivered the cow, I mean we walked it a solid mile down a dirt road, through fields, jumped ditches, and THEN delivered the cow. When we were probably a block or so away, I could hear singing. The villagers walked out to greet us in song of the most gratitude and thanks I’ve ever witnessed. Just thinking about it right now brings tears to my eyes all over again. We met them, they turned around, and we kept walking back to the village. we circled around, formed a horseshoe type line, and then the cow was brought into the center. Pastor Ben said a few words, as did one of the girls from the family (I think …)from whom we bought the cow said some words, and then we celebrated.

I’m telling you right now, you cannot come here, witness these types of events, and not be moved. It just isn’t possible. The human condition forbids it. The joy on that family’s face–knowing that complete strangers took them into their hearts and made sacrifices on their behalf to raise money for us to present them a cow so that they could be a little more independent than they were the day before … it was so overwhelming.

That was our Monday. Yesterday was spent training another village on how to use reusable feminine hygiene products. If you aren’t familiar with the Days for Girls program, I suggest you become such.
Imagine that you’re a little girl, eager to learn and go to school. You’re fervently studying your favorite subjects (and not-so-favorite subjects). You feel smart. You feel EMPOWERED. You feel like you could conquer the world!!

Now imagine that you start to get your period, but because there’s no way to stop the flow, you have to sit at home one week a MONTH on a cardboard box because your school won’t let you come. Because you’re bleeding. From your God-given and -made body part. You can’t do anything about it, and you want to go to school … but you’re not permitted. Because you’re a girl with a period.

You fall further and further behind. You struggle mightily to catch up after every cycle. Inevitably, the work just becomes ovewwhelming, and you end up dropping out. You realize that your dreams are dying. All the thoughts you had of becoming an engineer, or a marine biologist, or a doctor–gone.
Days for Girls provides girls in these exact types of circumstances the means to continue their education. No longer do they have to miss an entire week of school a month. They can stay caught up and get their assignments done. THEY GET TO GO TO SCHOOL EVERY SINGLE DAY because Days for Girls provides them reusable, washable pads. Such a simple concept, yet such a miracle for these girls.

So yah. Part of our day was spent training the girls of this village on how to use these kits.

Now … I did not participate in the training. It’s already an awkward enough discussion and situation; these poor girls did not need some random American guy coming to their village to discuss their newly-minted womanhood. And personally, I was grateful that I didn’t have to. The awkwardness goes both ways, sister. 🙂
While most of the others were training, Becci, Sarah, and Sherry  played all kinds of games with  the little kids: Red Rover, Duck Duck Goose, and Red Light Green Light. I got a bunch of really great pictures.

I also laid down in more poop than you can possibly imagine to try to get some toddlers and a baby to smile. It didn’t happen. In fact, the exact opposite happened. Lots of scared looks, lots of tears, lots of clinging to each other. Meanwhile, I just laid there with a coloring book, colored pencils, and lots of smiles. eventually, the older toddler started smearing his pencil all over the paper, which … you know … kind of how  they do things at that age.

Lesson learned: ALWAYS have candy on hand.
Aaaand because we’re rolling out in a bit, probably ought to wrap this up. THERE WILL BE MORE.

Budding Photographer 

Yesterday, we traveled from Nairobi to Suswa–a little town about two hours west of where we were staying. As we were driving, we passed a variety of locales–aflluent neighborhoods, slums, industry, commercial … there’s a diversity, alright, as one one expect.
The surprising thing for me isn’t even how far the pendulum swings–it’s in how close together the rich are to the poor. It didn’t seem like morn than maybe half a mile from the sprawling landscape of tin shacks barely being supported and crammed in like so many little cans of humanity to the half-to one acre plots of land where upon sit mansions. For me, that was rather jarring.
Once we got to our hotel and got settled in, we headed out to visit a family. They don’t live far from our hotel, but the travel … the first 1/3 of the drive is on paved road, while the other 2/3 is over really bumpy dirt roads, filled with ruts, deep puddles, and rocks. On more than a few occasion, I could feel my lower back and neck wrench, sometimes on the same bump.
We arrived at the family’s home. Acres and acres of sprawling land. I don’t know what they do with the land, but it isn’t farmed, from what I could see, so I don’t know how they support themselves. And maybe the reality is that they *don’t* support themselves, and that’s why we’re here. Heidi is already talking about a business box for them, so it makes sense that they may have fallen in hard times, even by their meager standards in comparison to our typical American way of life.
Silence is awkward. There are no two ways about it. Meeting a foreign family who speaks so little to no English at all can cause a lot of odd tension. I don’t mean hostile tension, obviously, but … well, okay. For example, I just wanted to run up to these ladies and give them a big hug and show them that we already love them. Can’t do that. Cultural faux pas. So we stood there, smiling, but at the same time, goofily trying to communicate with them on ANY level. Thankfully, we had Moses and David with us to translate, but even that seemed awkward and strange. At one point, I watched Moses ask Jennifer to ask them what their names are. It was comedic, but in a sad, I-wish-everyone-could-have-a-universal-translator way. To Jenn’s credit, she did not give up until she had it right.
At some point, we broke out bubbles to play with the kids. That was the ice-breaker we needed to get the ball rolling. Those kids LOVED them. I have a bunch of absolutely adorable pictures of these kids playing with them, trying to pop them … and the looks are pure joy.
Eunice (I believe) offered all of us some form of tea. I’m not a tea drinker, soI was a little hesitant to accept some, but having lived in a culture where knowing that this kind of sharing is potentially back-breaking for the family, I gratefully accepted their mug of charity and bridge-building. It was *delicious*. And piping hot! Many “ashe oleng”s (“thank you”!) were offered. Probably too many … but since it’s one of the only phrases I know and I was so desperate to communicate with her, I might have gone a tad overboard.
I remember few names out of the dozen or so people that were there, but one little boy stood out. Clinton is 9 years old, if I remember right. He and I had a pretty good bonding moment. I’ll get to that in a bit.
One question I have is how much technology this family has seen. I ask that because Clinton either has a secret camera stashed away somewhere that he’s been practicing with, or he’s just a natural photographer. I don’t know which.
in the course of trying to open up to this family, we tried a lot of different things. What I found that worked best for me was showing the kids the pictures I took of them. They REALLY enjoyed that. A LOT. They recognized Sami from the pictures. One little boy saw her picture as we were scrolling through what we had taken, looked over at her, and stuck his tongue out at her with a big, happy smile. I don’t know what the significance of sticking the tongue out is; it could be how their culture points. In the Philippines, people point using puckered lips. In Portugal, people indicate direction with an upward nod of the head. In the US, people point similarly, but with a downward nod. Sticking out a tongue to point wouldn’t surprise me in the least.
In showing Clinton the picture, he wanted to scroll through them on his own. I very hesitantly handed him the camera, and he looked at every picture. Every. Single. One. There were over 400 at that point, and he looked enthralled with all of them … even the boring ones from the airport.
I asked earlier about how much technology they have seen. Here’s why: Clinton discovered rather quickly how to get into the live view on the camera. He moved it around and could see that the picture on the LCD was where the camera was pointing. Then he started trying to push random buttons–like he wanted to take a picture. I hovered over him, put his little right index finger on the shutter button, and gently pressed down. After that, he was hooked. He took over 120 pictures (in burst mode, so … take that into consideration when applying a jaw drop factor). Lots of waists, sides of structures, keep bumpers … but some of them are downright awesome. We may just have started the newest Ansel Adams down the path of photography. Maybe …
I need to remember to get in touch with Pastor Ben to get names of these people so that I can remember them. I’ll always remember Clinton     That’s an easy one. But the ladies and guys of the family … no idea. I do remember Abigail and Janet. Janet speaks some English. She’s  21, and her daughter–Abigail–is about 14 months.
Emotions. Boy … I can tell you this: I was not prepared. I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude for having met them, played with them, gotten to know them for just the briefest of moments … but the reality is that I may never see them again, and that hurt. The smiles on their faces when we played with the bubbles, the sheer joy of the suckers and candy, Clinton and the camera … I cannot get enough of this.
It’s 6:03 Monday morning. I have no internet connection at all. I don’t know when I’ll get to post this, but I hope it’s soon.

Feet on the Ground With My Head in the Clouds

We have been in Kenya for a little less than 24 hours, and I already want to move here. Friendly, beautiful, serene (see, Lori?! WE COULD TOTALLY LIVE HERE! IT’S SERENE!!) … there’s nothing to dislike.
We went shopping for picnic stuff. Their prices here on most food items are insane. And I mean that in a *really* good way. Loaf of freshly baked bread? $1.00. Bottle of Coke? 50 cents. Stuff here just doesn’t cost much.
Tonight, we are going to a concert for a guy named Lemarti. Check him out on Youtube. He’s a seriously big deal here in Kenya. The reason we’re going is because he invited us. So … of course there’s a story. 🙂
One of our partners over here is a guy named David Senchura. He is a Maasai warrior from a tiny area southwest of Narok. He built a house. He had a house warming party. Lamarti put on a concert for the party. He met Heidi Totten. And that, as they say, was that.
Lamarti owns a construction company. He’s going to help us build the cultural center that we’re trying to get funded. He wants to work with 100 Humanitarians as closely as he can. This is basically another miracle that keeps those of us in 100 Humanitarians in constant shock.
I can’t even tell you how excited I am to be a  part of this. It’s an honor and a privilege that still baffles me as to how I managed to become attached to such a great organization.
I’ll have more to say later. Right now, I really need a nap … 🙂

Our Cruising Altitude Will Be 35,000 Feet

Phase One: board plane to JFK.

Status: Complete

It’s still nerve-wrackingly surreal to me that I am going to KENYA. Yes–nerve-wrackingly. For some reason, I have been *so* on edge the last few days. I’ve been looking forward to this since the beginning of May, so … what? 6 months of unfettered, kid-like giddiness. countless hours of exploring west of Nairobi on Google Earth. Reading articles about Kenya.
As my family was dropping me off at the airport, it became increasingly apparent that my younger daughter was *supremely* distressed. And I mean STRESSED. I felt so horrible for abandoning her. I gave her an extra long hug, told her that I *will* come back to her, her sister, and mommy. So God, if You read this, kinda need You to have my back on this one. 🙂
One thing has become painfully apparent: I miss my family already. I miss my one daughter’s random hugs. I miss my other daughter’s awesome singing. I miss my wife’s smile, touch, hugs, kisses …
And weee not even in the air yet.
But I’m off. This experience is going to be jaw-dropping. And I. Cannot. Wait.

Weird happenings before the trip 

So here I sit outside the Farmington Utah Apple store, waiting to get in for a genius bar emergency appointment. The camera all but stopped functioning in its entirety. It would open, but a) I couldn’t take a picture, b) I couldn’t even see what was on the screen. It just froze out of focus. Weirdest thing I’ve ever seen my phone do.

So I came to the store in a fit of panic. On my way to the store, I set my phone on the dash rather than my normal hands-free cradle. Some guy cut me off, and then he immediately slammed on his brakes. I, of course, followed suit. My car stopped, but my phone didn’t. It went sailing st about 80MPH into the windshield.

You should see this screen …

Yet somehow, the touch screen is still  usable. No idea how this is happening, but whatever.

So now, instead of possibly getting the phone replaced for free, I may have to pay for a refurb … unless they play it super nice as they are often wont to do at the Apple Store.

Of all the times in the world for the camera to stop working, it would be just before I go to. Kenya.

Interestingly, the camera works now. I restarted the phone a couple different times, and now it keeps taking pictures. Figures …

So I guess I’m just gonna scrap the WordPress app. It doesn’t auto-post anything, so what’s the point?

Speaking of Kenya, I need to start packing! GAAAAH!! SO much to do … so little energy to do any of it.

At least I have the blog posting thing figured out. One check box I can mark. 🙂

Test: Getting ready for Kenya!!

This is just a test to see how the plugin I just added posts to FB.

Talk about blugh … holy crap. I had to update my hosting plan to a whole new server, update .php hosting from 5.2 to 5.4, install the plugin, create a whole new app in FB JUST to allow the plugin to work, and now I’m testing it.

In 3 … 2 … 1 ………

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