Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Photos are up

Check my flickr page for my favourite pictures.

Also Dad has created a slide show from my pictures.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Home Sweet Home

Well I'm home now. I arrived late on Saturday night. Our flight from Cairo, with the exception of some turbulence, was uneventful. When we arrived at JFK we made our way through customs and claimed our baggage to recheck it for the flight to Toronto. I don't know why we couldn't check it straight through to Toronto. Then we transfered from Terminal 4 to Terminal 2. Were we checked in for our flight. We were concerned that two hours wouldn't be enough time to make the transfer, it turns out that due to difficulties on Friday (a power outage over a large area of the east coast of the states?) the airport was dealing with a back log of passengers some of whom had been there 48hrs only to see their flights canceled. We felt very lucky that our flight was only delayed by a couple of hours. Once on the plane we waited for another hour or so before we could take off due to a large line up for runway. We got to Toronto an hour later, flew through customs, claimed our bags and headed for the greeting area. As I came out the door, I searched for a familiar face. I couldn't see him at first, but then I looked up and saw my baby with a big smile on his face. A quick hug and a kiss and then I asked him to help my mom with her bags. Then my Dad insisted that I give Austin a big hug, so of course I did. He picked me up and swung me around, then asked if I had lost weight. :D Then we pulled out the ring box and asked if I wanted the ring back. "Of course I do!"

We looked around for my brother Jason who was suppose to drive my parents home. He had forgotten the flight number and neglected to check the flight status before coming, so he'd left about an hour and half earlier. We squeezed all our luggage, and ourselves into my neon and dropped my parents off at home. With that done, we headed for Austin's house. His parents and Cousin were there, already asleep, by the time we arrived so we quietly slipped in. I collapsed on the futon sofa before Austin had a chance to lay it flat and put a pillow and comforter on it, so I got up and brushed my teeth. When I came back the futon looked mighty inviting, so I slipped under the covers and started to drift off. When Austin came down he tried to get me to use his bed and he would take the futon, but I could not be moved by this time. Thus 26 hours after my 5am wake-up call in Cairo, I fell asleep about 1am in Thornhill.

I spent Sunday with Austin, his parents and his cousin. Then drove home to finally sleep in my own bed for the first time in 4 weeks. I fell asleep immediately, but found myself wide awake around 2am. In order to get over the jet lag I thought it would be better for me to sleep through the night so I took a sleeping aid and slept through till 9 this morning. I got up had some breakfast, and started some laundry. Then I made a list and went to the grocery store. As I walked through the isles of fresh produce and frozen prepared foods, I couldn't help but wonder what the kids at Anajali or Sheepcare would have thought if they were there beside me.

One last thought. On our last day in Nairobi before going to Masai Mara, we had a meeting of all the Nairobi Team members. We were each asked to share what we had learned about ourselves from the mission. I have always known that I can be a bit of a perfectionist, and I can hard on myself when I don't make the goals I've set for myself. I learned from this mission, that God sets goals for me that I can accomplish, and I should be working towards those goals and not my own. I wondered when I left what possible good will I do by going into schools and doing crafts with the children? Will that put food in their stomachs? Will it ensure they get to go to University? These weren't God's goals for my trip. His goals were much more personal. I was to bond with my brothers and sisters in Christ and to learn from their hopes and dreams to place greater faith in God and His grace.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Walking like an Egyptian

We arrived at Cairo airport about 9am and ended up leaving around 12:30pm. We headed straight for the Pyramids and stopped in front of the Great Pyramid. Some people had made arrangements to go in, but when the tour guide said it was hotter inside than outside I was glad I hadn't. Instead we walked around the pyramid. It wasn't as big as I had imaged it to me. Impressive none the less though. We also got a crash course in touring monuments in Egypt. You can't even trust the Tourism Police to do something nice without expecting a tip. I didn't bring any money with me so I couldn't oblige them. After returning to the bus we went to the second pyramid, having seen it on our walk about I stayed in the air-conditioned bus. Then we went to a look out point where we had a panoramic view of all three pyramids. The Sphinx was next. Again smaller than I expected. It was pretty cool though. I took some pictures with Clifford and my parents there. We examined the masonry of the temple at the foot of the Sphinx. It was impressive.

Not having had an opportunity to eat lunch and with breakfast being served at 6am the bus passengers were starting to get a little serly. Our tour guide took us back to the hotel to check in, and clean up for dinner. Check-in was made more complicated than it need to be since the hotel didn't really pay much attention to the room-mate list they were provided. My room-mate got her key and left without introducing herself to me so I waited around for 30 minutes until a master list was found. Much room-swapping "fun" ensued, but I won't focus on the negative here. Dinner was at a restaurant in a palace, very impressive, lots of meat not much veggies. I got bitten by some bugs but only from the knees down! We arrived at the Hotel past mid-night. I was locked out of my room, only to find that the hotel had decided I belonged in a different room again. A porter came to help me into the old room to get my bags, but when I tried to explain my own personal towel was missing he left without a word. I dragged my cases to the reception and when they tried to take my luggage held on and demanded a room first. I then burst into tears. Keep in mind we left the Methodist guest house at 2am in the morning and thus I had been up for over 24hrs. I got to my room and took a while to calm down before I fell asleep. At breakfast I saw the man who had been in charge at reception. He showed me to a table. My parents were at another table that was full, so he went over and invited them to join me. He even carried my dad's bible from the old table to the new table for him. He then showed me how to make a real Egyptian breakfast. I got the royal treatment.

Thursday we visited old Cairo. We saw a cave church, which is to say it was an amphitheatre carved into the side of the rock. It was huge! Its congregation are the "garbage people" the people who scour the dumps to find recyclables and reusable items. Despite their living conditions our guide assured us it was a good living. Their community had schools and hospitals. It is due to the nature of their work that the area looks like it's covered with garbage.

Friday we went to mass at an Anglican cathedral, and then spent three hours at the National Museum.

Saturday we drove to Alexandria and stopped at a monastery along the way. Before arriving in Alexandria we drove for what seemed like 45 minutes past hundreds of condominium style resort villages.

I'm looking forward to coming home soon. Less than one week to go!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Final Days

Well the safari weekend was great. The roads were a little bumpy, but the view was worth it. On the way to our hotel we came across zebras, giraffes and gazelles. We arrived at the hotel about 1:30 in the afternoon and had some time to rest. Then about 4 we went out for our first mini drive (about two hours). We saw a family of Elephants almost as soon as we left the compound gates, and our drivers took us in for a closer look. We even got to see one take a dump! After that we saw more gazelle, wildebeest, zebras, bush bucks, impalas and many other animals the names of which escape me. We also startled some Masai doing their laundry. Then we went back to the Hotel for dinner. Oh to have meat that's cooked properly! To feel safe eating salad! Chocolate cake for dessert!

Sunday was our day long safari, some of the buses opted to visit a Masai village for $20 a head. Our bus did not. Instead, while we waited for them, we came across a cheetah eating his breakfast. We saw many zebras, gazelle, bush bucks, water bucks, impalas and elephants. Just before lunch we managed to find a lion sleeping in the shade. We also saw hyenas, and giraffes. We saw some Ostriches from a distance but only one at a time. For some reason I imaged they would be in bigger groups. We drove out to the far side of the park to see the hippos in the Masai river; there were crocodiles there also. On our last day we went out in search of a leopard but could not find it. Then it was time to head back to Nairobi. Three straight days of bumpy roads took a toll, but I had a good long sleep last night and feel much better today. We went to a giraffe orphanage and feed the baby giraffes. Then we went to the Carnivore restaurant; supposedly one of the top 50 restaurants in the world. I was a little disappointed in the selection of meat. The only exotic meat they had was ostrich. After lunch we went to the market. I went to support mom, as she needed to pick up something for my brother. It was an experience. They started out asking for $205 US and we talked them down to $25. I think we could have done better, but mom had a hard time walking away.

My next adventure will be in Egypt. We'll be leaving the Guest House at 2 tomorrow morning. Looking forward to seeing you all very soon.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Last days,

Well it was been an experience teaching the kids at Sheepcare. I felt at times like I was talking to myself and that they must not be understanding or absorbing anything I was saying. The Class 5 science class was learning about modern food preservation techniques and all I could do was to read straight from the text book and make notes on the board. When I tried to get the class to interact and repeat what I had just said they all looked at me in stunned silence. I think maybe they are not use to that kind of interactive education. Their teach Jonas said I must be a very good teach because I covered so much material and they understood it all! In math they were learning about circles, but no one had a compass so I used a piece of string with chalk and had each student come up to the board to draw a circle with the string. My class with the Form 1's went better in my own mind. We covered capacity and unit conversion between volume and capacity. It took me about three attempts at one of the homework questions to realize that 1 decimetre^3 is equal to 1 litre. Duh! (slaps forehead).

Today one of our team members was sick so I took on one of her classes today with the Class 3s. It was an English class. I read a story from the textbook and went over the comprehension questions with them. That felt like pulling teeth! Only three students wanted to answer the questions. I didn't have time to fit in a class for the Form 1s, so I sat in on their history class. They were all giggling when I came in. I asked why they didn't giggle in my math classes. They had no answer. We had a pretty emotional good-bye though.

On the way back to the Hotel we stopped at the Yaya centre. It's just like a mall you'd find back home. I picked up some Jelly Baby's in the supper market there. Real JELLY BABIES too! Not those new fangled ones that you have to pay $5 for at the specialty candy stores but the real ones! Hmmmmmmm. Ahem. Sorry about that.

Tomorrow we set out for our safari trip. The day starts with our 7am departure followed by a five-hour drive on Kenyan "roads". Can't wait! We will get to see many African animals though, so really I am looking forward to it.

I'm running low on internet time so you may not hear from me for a while. I'll have to see what the access is like from where I stay in Egypt. Two more weeks and I'll be home! Ready to start wedding plans!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Days 7,8 and 9 at Sheepcare Centre.

This week we have been going out to the other side of the city to the Kayole slums. Sheepcare Community Centre has classes for children ranging in ages from 3yrs in the pre-primary classes to 16 in form 1 (grade 9). When we arrived we were unsure of what they would like us to do. We had come prepared to do crafts like we did with the children from Anajali, however they didn't seem receptive to this idea at first. We had a meeting with the volunteer staff and it was decided that each day we would sit in with a particular class. If each of our team covered two classes then each class would get two visits over the week. Instead of doing crafts however we would assist the teachers in teaching the regular curriculum. This was a little scary for some of us, since half of our team are not trained teachers, but then many of the volunteer teachers aren't trained either. I chose to split my time between the form 1 class, teaching math and physics and class 6 teaching math and science.


Tuesday was my day to spend with the form 1 class. We covered volume in math class. I went over examples of how to compute the volume of cubes, cuboids and cylinders. I also covered how to convert cubic units, i.e. how many cubic meters are in a cubic centimetre. Then I assigned them 5 examples to work out for themselves. I marked each question as the finished them. They really like to see the check mark on their paper. I stepped aside to let the business & economics teacher do his class and then came back after lunch (12:50 to 2:00) to explain how force pumps and siphons work for their physics lesson.


Wednesday was my day to spend with Class 6. When I first came to their class they had a free period, so the head teacher asked if I would do a craft with them. Once she saw all the craft supplies we brought she seemed more eager for us to do crafts with the children. So I pulled out a bag of yarn and popsicle sticks and showed them how to make "God's eyes". So of my other team members have been able to fit the crafts in with the themes of their classes. I haven't managed to do that yet. After crafts it was time for math class, so the math teacher handed me the math text and said they were covering percentages. The students told me which exercise they had left off at and we started from there. I did two on the board as examples and then gave them a four part question to work on for themselves. I marked each part as the completed them because they really seemed to like seeing the check mark. Some even asked me to write "Good" next to their answer. They really seem hungry for approval. I left them with their Christen Education teacher for the next period and had some time to rest my voice before science class. The classrooms are so tightly packed and the noise level so loud it's hard to make yourself heard.


At lunch break I took one of the Form 1 girls aside and showed her how to make the friendship bracelet. I gave her some extra thread so she could use it to teach some others in their class. I feel bad that they don't have any free classes to do crafts so I'm trying to show a few how to make the bracelets and then I'll leave a pile of thread for the whole class to use in their spare time.


I tracked down the Class 6 science teacher and he gave me their text book. They were learning about food preservation and I was to cover modern techniques such as storing food at low temperatures (using evaporation to cool produce), deep freezing, and canning. When I returned to the class I gave each child a sticker to put in their note books as a reward for doing so well in their math class. Then it was time to leave.


The rest of the week is a bit up in the air. I may have an opportunity to return to Anajali to teach Wellington how to use his computer. I'm not sure if that'll be tomorrow or the next day. I explained to Class 6 that I would only have one more day at Sheepcare and that I would share that day between them and Form 1.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Days 3-6

Day 3 Anajali

Today another team joined us at Anajali to help build a new latrine. Wellington the headmaster was busy all day helping them sort out their supply issues, so I spent the whole day helping with the crafts. In the afternoon, I took on a little more than I could handle. I tried to teach 12 class 7 girls how to make friendship bracelets. I had a couple of helpers, one of whom knew how to make the bracelets. However, an hour was just not enough time to show all 12 girls how to get started. Some of them picked up quickly but others did not. I felt like I had let them down and was quite upset with myself. The rest of my team pointed out to me that before we left the girls all wanted to have their picture taken with me and their unfinished bracelets. That made me realize that I had not been a failure, I had just been focusing on the wrong goal. I exchanged mailing address with one of the girls Lillian, and hope to keep in contact with her.

Day 4 Anajali

Today there were two teams with us the team building the latrine and the medical team. Once again Wellington was busy. So we were unable to find time for me to show him how to use his new laptop. I may be able to go back on July 17, but if another team is going I doubt he’d be free the either. I will just have to wait and see. If I can’t I’m sure God will send somebody else. I ended up in three classes in the morning because Tony and I finished our two classes before Mom and Helen started their second. In the afternoon I got my second chance with class 7. We made paper beads, and paper planes. I was happy that they finally had something finished they could take home. Once finished they all took their paper planes outside in an attempt to fly to Canada. Then it was time to say good-bye. We went to each class and gave them a Canada pin. The 7&8 classes got crosses as well. We gave each teach a bag of usefully things for their classrooms. After we finished saying good-bye we returned to the central portion of the school to find that the older classes were preparing a farewell concert. They sang and danced for us, and at one point we were all up and dancing with them. It was hard to finally say good-bye. The primary teacher told us that when she explained to her students that it was time for us to leave, they all wanted to know what craft they would be doing on Monday. She didn’t have the heart to explain we weren’t coming back on Monday.

Day 5 Kitui

We set out about 8:30am for a 3hr drive out into the Kenyan country side. This was my first real experience with typical Kenyan roads. Um, how can I describe them? BUMPY! And driving on a two lane highway was like a combination of leap-frog and chicken. There were several pot holes that sent my mom and I, a few inches off our seats, each time we tightened our seatbelts a little more. Once there we were greeted by about 70 smiling children about to have their midday snack of porridge. We flew kites, played soccer and skip rope. We also had a large parachute with balls to play with the smaller ones. They had a blast with that. This was the first day we had seen the sun and it was quite warm, it didn’t take long for the adults to seek refuge in the shade. The children went on for another hour or so. When it was almost time to leave we were ushered to a table and chairs set up behind the main house. The children marched out and sang for us. What I love about their concerts is all the songs have movements that go along and it’s fun to dance along with them.

On the way back to the hotel we stopped at a handy craft co-operative. We all picked up some beautiful carved wood items.

Day 6 Church

This morning I was up bright and early ready to attend the Nairobi Baptist Church. I was looking forward to an upbeat worship service. Unfortunately there was a misunderstanding and we ended up at the more sedate service. We still had a wonderful time of worship though. The topic was about how Christians should behave in the business world.

Many people went to the Yaya market do some shopping, but I went back to bed to rest. I’ve come down with a cold and don’t want to miss any work days to it.