Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Little Newsy Update & Sushi Night

 Mika says hi!! We affectionately, and potentially offensively, nick-named her 'baby borris' on our last camping trip. She was quite warm, and the mosquitos only had minimum access to he sweet, sweet skin.

Our past week has been a pretty good one - I've been continuing to adjust and come to terms with some of the external changes in my life. I thought I learned about self-sacrifice when I got married, then I thought I learned about self-sacrifice when I had children. Now - having moved around the world, and having given up my career pursuits for the time being, I find myself learning more about self-sacrifice than ever before. I'm learning about humility, and I'm still figuring out how much I can die to myself before 'myself' actually 'dies'. Really would like to avoid ending up as a shell.

All that to say - we've been keeping busy, enjoying time around the house, and getting out and about just a bit. Chris is really enjoying the work he is doing, and while routines are still being set, we see great progress being made and are excited as a family for all the great work he can be a part of with his organization. We had a very nice dinner several weeks ago with several people of varying positions from his organization.  We also attended a work party the following week & had a nice time socializing with some of the organization's personnel from various parts of Africa. So many talented, intelligent, and welcoming people.

Chris's boss also joined us for dinner last night, and despite it being a bit less organized than I would have liked due to scheduling inevitabilites and my kiddos bedtimes, we still enjoyed having her here. The kids especially enjoyed her love and attention.

The kids and I are moving from 'coping' with Chris being gone for the majority of the week to 'thriving'. Ok, maybe 'thriving' is generous but we are definitely 'happily proceeding'. We're working more on fun projects around the house, gardening, painting, etc.

Kai is fantastic - lots of energy, lots of bruises. Scola said today "mama kai, everytime I bring Kai back inside I think he has another scrape on his legs..." I assured her he is just a boy, and it's not a problem. He is learning his shapes and colors, and is overall a very good boy. He bit Mika today as she woke up from her nap, but readily admitted it: "tai bit mita...tai did it...so-wee mita". So, we proceed.

Mika is a gem - just a gem. She continues to laugh, put herself to sleep, eat with the skill of a 6mo old, and entertain herself for extended amounts of time. If I didn't have Kai as my first baby, I would be ready to have 3 more kids with the mistaken assumption all babies are 'mika babies'.

There isn't a whole lot of serious musing to do right now. I thought you'd all just enjoy a brief update (very missionary of me, I know, what can I say? The parents rubbed off on me, I guess). I've also included quite a few pictures for your viewing pleasure, and to the potential dismay of some of those in the photos.

On a side note - you may have noticed, or should notice, a few changes to my overall blog. The content is still the same, I just changed the design of it a bit. I also added links to my twitter & pinterest accounts should you feel so inclined to 'follow' me on either. I also added a link to 'allsarahskitchen' - I have a new segment to the blog that will focus on recipes & things from the kitchen. You can view it either by clicking on the link on this page or by going to www.allsarahskitchen.blogspot.com. There's currently not much there, but it's coming!

By the way, if you have a minute - I'd love to know what types of postings you enjoy the most so I can continue to send them your way :)

Enjoy the pics!

somebody took my pants. I'm sad, and slightly embarrassed...

See? Right there. Can you help me? and please stop taking pictures.

"you think I'm sleeping, mom, but I heard you call me fat."

Cookie? what cookie? I don't have a cookie.

Open up Mika! I've got this one down

Help, I need an adult.

Kai & his new friend, Mika, drinking yogurt. (for some unknown reason, I brought over 6 snack traps)

The sushi rolling squad gets down to business!
Sushi night at the parent's house!

It looks so yummy! We rolled over 40 rolls...

Sake for all - from the biggest bottle of sake I've ever seen. Thank you random Korean market next to my apartment.

High school friends, college friends, co-workers, friends of friends

High school friends, new friends, & friends of friends

high school friends, parent's friends (chaperones?), new friends
 So - there you have it. Obviously, we've met quite a few people, or reconnected with old ones. We're definitely starting to feel more 'at home' here, and are loving the new relationships we're building with some pretty amazing people!

Until next time,

xo - sarah
Perfect  outdoor finish to a fantastic night!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

the joy of the pain

I’ve thought a lot about what my next post should be – especially following the last entry (excluding the one from Kai).

I knew the last post was incredibly honest, and I anticipated the responses I received. Thank you for your encouragement, empathy, and sympathy. And thank you to those of you who challenged me to a new perspective, to increased grace with others, and to humility. I am learning.

I’ve had quite a few conversations over the past week and a half – and as I have told people where my soul finds itself, I have received a common response. To varying effects, people are sorry I am ‘going through’ such a hard time, and know ‘it will pass’ or ‘it’s a part of the process’. While I agree with this, I have begun to concretely think about hardship and pain in another way.

There is a trend in humanity, but largely in western society, to avoid pain. When pain isn’t avoidable, the trend is to immediately begin anticipating its removal or end. Even, possibly especially, among the Church there is a belief that the verse ‘it came to pass’ applies to everything. And while individual causes of pain or difficulty come and go, pain and difficulty themselves are not so transient. Or maybe too transient – they manage to be everywhere all the time. 

There also seems to be a thought among western society, and again largely among the church, that blessings and physical comforts are the same thing. While it may not be discussed as blatantly as it used to be– the Prosperity Gospel is still rampantly supported & the request for the removal of pain is a common prayer.

As I have grown up, I have interacted with a countless number of ‘privileged’ individuals who have been exposed in some direct manner to any one of the billions of the human race who are poor, or who face some insurmountable external challenge. And always, the ‘privileged’ individual (whether 16 or 60) walks away with this statement– “I just can’t believe how much joy they have even though they…(fill in the blank with whatever terrible thing you can think of).” 

This statement is meant to illicit the following response :“wow, I am so ungrateful. I should really change my attitude.” And maybe it does elicit this response – but only for a fleeting moment. When we assume acknowledging our external circumstances will result in an increase or decrease in joy – we minimize our own potential – and we completely miss what joy is meant to be. Joy is not a byproduct of acknowledging our external circumstances.

And those who are joyful in the midst of difficulty are not joyful in spite of the pain – I think they are joyful because they recognize it is possible to simultaneously be triumphant and crushed. It is possible to live & die with each breath, and it is possible to be, as a children’s book so simply put – happy and sad at the same time.

What I’m really trying to say is this – pain does not need to be wished away. Our prayers are foolish if they are uttered only as a request for any pain to be immediately removed. Jesus himself rarely asked for the removal of pain.

Do I wish I wasn’t having such a hard time with this transition? I think so. Do I wish my expectations, and my attitude, weren’t in the middle of such a brutal re-organizing? Yes. Do I wish I wasn’t crying as much as I am? Definitely. But do I wish my pain away?


Instead, I choose to allow my pain to exist as an intrinsic part of me – the cause of the pain may change, but I am fairly confident there will be something causing me pain for the rest of my life. And I would rather not spend the rest of my life wishing pain away. I choose to embrace joy while in the presence of my acknowledged pain.

Any expression of joy is not a denial of pain. It is merely an expression of joy. As Anne Frank said ‘think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy’. She was not denying her pain, she was expressing her joy – there is beauty everywhere. And everywhere there is a need for strength.

Kenya is on a heightened terror alert lately – several warnings have come out over the past month reminding us this is a volatile world, and our physical safety is not a guarantee. While we exercise caution, we do not live in fear or with timidity – we fight terror by continuing on with our daily lives. We fight fear by going to the grocery store, to the cinema, to church. We cheer at a football match, and meet our friends for social events not because we are ignorant or brash, but because though tragedy lurks around the corner, it is still around the corner and we are in the sun.

And if we continue to live, and to embrace the joy & beauty available in each day, tragedy’s stronghold of fear will eventually be beaten.

I cry often, I’ve told you that. But I also laugh often. I see my children, truly see them, not with my eyes but with my soul & heart, and take in their exquisite perfection, several times a day. I love my husband for a new reason every day – he is a good man. I live in a beautiful country just hitting its adolescence and transforming into something great. I have immense joy in my life.

And it is not because of an absence of pain in my life, nor in spite of it. In essence, the only way my joy is related to my pain is that they contrast each other and allow me to truly see. To truly see the pain. To truly see the joy. And to equally absorb both.

A life lived graciously is one lived with the ability to simultaneously, and without tumultuous conflict or tension, embrace both joy and pain. The smile of a person in need (whether physical, spiritual, or emotional need) is not beautiful because the person is only embracing their joy – it is because they choose to embrace joy while embraced by pain – not to remove the pain but to acknowledge the joy. This is a triumph of the human spirit.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Through Kai's Eyes - part 4

 Hi everyone!

It’s been a while since I’ve written, and I have quite a bit to tell you:

I am almost 2 – this is important. Something terrible happens at 2. I’m not sure what it is but everyone talks about it: “terrible twos”, and I am a bit worried. As a result, I find myself a bit more, um, how shall we say, high strung? Defiant? Needy? Opinionated? I’m still waiting to see what terrible thing happens when I turn 2.

In other news, mom is ok. Her last post got a lot of worried responses. I am here to tell you, she is fine. She still cries a lot, but she laughs a lot too. Auntie Rachel once said a day without tears & a day without laughter is a day wasted…mama says she is embracing this. What is embrace? Other perk of mama crying - she looks funny when she does and so I laugh – and then she does too. We’re a good team. She is also still a lot of fun – she sings a lot, she’s teaching me how to count to 10 in 4 different languages, she’s helping me learn the differences between shapes, and she’s letting me help her sew. My job is to push the reverse button – I am very good at it.

We also do a lot of fun things – we go to my grandparents house so I can play with Augustine, we go to my friend Miss Joelle & Miss Julie’s house so I can play in their kiddie pool, and we go to Miss Sierra’s house so I can play with her kitten. People say we are ‘so cute’ (and they always say it in a really high voice. Weird.) We also build towers, have toilet paper roll fights, play hide & seek, watch the trucks, and drink juice. I love juice. And I say it like this: ‘ju eas’  (like eas-ter). That’s how Scola says it, and I think it sounds nice, so I say it that way too – ‘ju-eas’.

Mika is really fun. She started laughing, and she laughs a lot. She and I like to cuddle, and read books together. She is learning that she doesn’t have to always be with mom, and will let me help her when she’s upset. I tell her ‘shh shh Meetah’ and she is ok. She is also very pretty – mama & papa are teaching me to tell her ‘you look pretty’ every day, they say it will build self-confidence. I don’t know what that is, but no one ever tells me I need it, so I must already have it.

I haven’t sustained any major injuries lately, but when the mosquitos bite me, I look like I have measles. That’s what mama said. She calls me measles sometimes, which I don’t think is very nice. But the mosquito bites always go away, and I don’t have malaria. Big yeah.

I go to a weekly play group on Wed mornings with my mom. Me & the other kids sing songs, play with stuffed animals, and instruments, and then play outside while our moms talk. It is so much fun, and I am learning to sing the songs all by myself. Today I sang a song, and mama started to cry because it was ‘so sweet’. She said I sing beautifully. Of course I do – she seemed surprised. Other than Wed, we just do other fun things all week.

Papa is doing fine. He opens the door every morning and walks out, but every night he walks back in so that’s ok with me. We have a lot of fun when he is home, even though he and mama sometimes seem to have a lot to talk about. They still seem to like each other – I am a lucky kid. So is Mika. Papa’s work people are always excited to see me, which is nice and they are very nice to me & Mika. Mama wanted me to tell you we had a few enjoyable social events with work people last week, and she feels very welcomed. So, there’s the message.

I need to go to bed because it’s getting late but here are a few lessons I’ve learned:

·      If you use enough dish soap (aka the whole bottle when mama isn’t looking) you don’t need water to get something clean & you make a lot of bubbles
·Mika’s poo tastes funny. Mama said that was a ‘big oops’ – the place where the rags hang was apparently a temporary dirty cloth diaper drying area. I was told to wipe my face off. Not my fault. For the record - I did not intentionally wipe my sisters poo across my face.
·      Not every person is named Augustine, Scola, or Ndemi – there are also some named Peter.
·      If I puff out my chest, mama thinks my seat belt straps need loosened when she straps me in. Then when she is driving I can get most of the way out of my car seat. Excellent.
·      If I scream “I love you, mama!” she isn’t as mad when I wake up Mika. Which is what I wanted to do in the first place, she’s boring when she’s asleep.
·      Scola will let me do almost anything. I eat so much peanut butter and cereal when mama is gone.
·      Everyone here loves babies and little kids. On several occasions, I have chosen to sit with other people at restaurants when my parents thought I was nearby – these other people are always friendly, and share their food and drinks with me. Mama seems a bit embarrassed when she finds me seated comfortably at a strangers table (what is a stranger?), but I think it is an excellent way for me to learn other languages as I have had dinner with Germans last week, and Ethiopians tonight.
·      Blue tooth headseats are awesome & I look great when I use one. Which I do. I just can’t figure out where it is so I tend to get dizzy when I use them, something about constantly turning one direction to see where the noise is coming from?

I’m sorry I haven’t written in a while. Mama says she is too. We’ll keep doing our best, we’re finding our rhythm.

If you have any questions for me, please leave a comment & mama said she’ll pass them along so I can answer them in my next post! I don’t always know what you guys want to hear about from my perspective, but I’m happy to share!

Sorry there aren’t any pics with this one – mama’s a slacker when it comes to the camera these days. She’ll get better soon.

Til next time! - Kai

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

An Invincible Summer

Sometimes life knocks you down. Sometimes you realize it, sometimes you don’t.

Nairobi reared it’s ugly head these past few weeks. It roared, gnashed it’s teeth, and left it’s mark. From seemingly inoffensive slights to blatant aggression and hostility, Nairobi let me know my transition was not over. Nor is the remainder of my transition going to be easy.

I have spontaneously cried more in the past few weeks than any time since we moved here. Kai stepped on my toe – I cried (he seriously only weighs 25lbs, not heavy). Chris said he would be home late  - I cried. I wanted to call a good friend, any good friend, and realized they were all asleep because it was their night time – I cried. The man who printed my photographs told me I was abnormal and unintelligent when I asked him to reprint my washed out photos – I cried. Mika decided nursing was a sport and not a leisure activity – I cried. My dear friend got married in the US – from here, I cried.

My weeks have been full of fighting the systems at large – traffic jams for 2 hours with screaming babies, allergic reactions to unidentified allergens, doctors offices an hour across town, carpets ordered the day they were meant to be finished, tiles for making coasters only being sold in boxes of 100 (yes, I now have 100 tiles in my house), the bleach needed for cleaning dishes also bleaching a favorite shirt. My table still has bugs. The carpenter who made it must have changed his number and I can't seem to get a hold of him. So, we have dinner with the bugs.

And in the middle of all these things, inundating me, knocking me down, and making me cry (many not worth my tears), I’ve continued to feel this nausea, this sense that I’m not in the right place. A sense that I’m lonely and need a friend who doesn’t have to ask if I need them, but just knows. There hasn’t been a time in my life, at least in my recollection, when the stress I felt on a daily basis was manifest through my physical discomfort – but now it is. I can tell when I am stressed because I want to literally throw up.

I’ve continued pushing through, because that’s what I do when things are hard, and what I encourage others to do. When it all feels overwhelming, the simple fact remains the dishes still need to be done, the children still need to be fed, and my husband will still have some hopes of dinner when he comes home from work. And I firmly believe the best way out of a feeling like the one I’m feeling, is straight through it. And I firmly believe the best way to get through something is to continue walking – sitting, I thought, never accomplished moving past something.

And I’ve made progress. Our home is fairly established. We have made some friends, who are quickly becoming good friends. We have almost settled on a church to attend. We have developed and routinely engage in leisure activities. Kai loves to play with the kids in the apartment complex, and no longer needs me right next to him. Mika is cooing, rolling over, laughing – amazing. Chris and I are enjoying being married – even more than when we first got married.

We have made progress, and we are coming ‘through it’.

But I came to a place today, where the feeling of nausea reappeared, and I again sat with two sleeping babies in my parked car, in front of my apartment, and cried. I cried because I came to a very difficult realization:

Chris and I moved here because we felt led here, because we felt like the passion we have as a couple was met in the job offer Chris was given. And we moved here – Chris didn’t move here, and I didn’t move here – we moved here. And as we made the decision to move here, we expected, largely due to our own misplaced ideas, an easier landing than we've received. 

Chris continues to love his job, and we're really stretching ourselves to adjust our family schedules and personal mindsets so he can thrive in his new position. It's a painful process for us. The craziness of the last 3 years of our lives seemed doable because we anticipated a slowing down after we moved. While our lives have in some ways slowed down, the amount of time we have together as a family has dramatically decreased and that is hard.

I've felt so much sadness, and with my husband gone the majority of our awake hours, I am struggling to find my own purpose in being here. We moved our family here because we do believe in the work 'his' organization is doing, but it's hard for me to feel like my only role is home support & management.

A very wise author (whose name I can’t recall) wrote about the importance of “standing respectfully at the border of another’s pain. Acknowledging its existence and allowing it to be.” I have utilized this concept countless times with those going through difficult times. And today, crying in my car (much to the amusement and concern of those walking past) I came to the realization that sometimes, we must also stand respectfully at the border of our own pain and acknowledge it exists.

I realized how hurt I have been by unmet expectations, and the subsequent loss I feel.  And I realized I needed to respectfully be still, to stop moving forward, and allow myself to experience my own pain. Because ignored pain turns into anger, which turns into bitterness, which ultimately turns into self-destruction.

So that is where I stand today. Mourning the loss of unmet expectations, mourning the ideals of somehow still working alongside my husband rather than 'behind the scenes', and mourning the plans I had for an easier land when I moved away from home to home.

There are already beginnings of plans for me to become involved in other things.  I can already sense that I was the one who misinterpreted the reason for my moving here – and I can already see a light at the end of the tunnel, and know that I will soon be aware of my purpose.

But for today, I stand respectfully at the border of my own pain – and acknowledge it exists. So that tomorrow – I am a better, wiser, and less angry, version of who I am today.

‘In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer’ – Albert Camus

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Way Things Are & Phase 2

Happy New Year! I hope it was ushered in with cheer, ones you love, and hope for the year to come. Kenyans love the New Year - to them it's the start of endless possibilities, and not at all constrained by whatever happened the year before. Their overt optimism, the true belief that maybe, just maybe, this year will be the year when everything finally takes a turn for the better - is noteworthy.  The realist & pessimist in me recognizes our annual recognition of Earth's haphazard spin around the sun has no actual impact on the outcomes & possibilities of the coming year. But still, it's nice to be surrounded by the positivity of an entire country.

I've been amazed at how quickly my eyes have become accustomed to the various shocking factors of life here - how I no longer see all the things or people I pass, how I no longer acknowledge or even consider the 'goodness' of the various aspect of life around me. It's easy to become numb, or complacent, or busy - maybe even just distracted by other more close range things. The grocery list, the budget, the social plans for the day (or the desire to have social plans for the day).

But over the past few days, several things have jumped out to me. Things which cause me to acknowledge that just because things are does not mean they should be.

It's an obvious lesson - a redundant one. Perhaps it builds on the other redundant & obvious lesson I've blogged on before - seeing those in need & when possible helping them. Some things that are, obviously should not be. Other things that are, obviously should be. But then there is this gigantic category of things that are - and whether they should or shouldn't be is an incredibly complex question.

I'll refrain from giving you examples because even in attempting to think of some good examples, I could hear the voices contradicting me - voices which are mainly my own. It's a difficult question & a difficult reality - to recognize that in my daily going abouts, I routinely see things (the circumstances of an individual, the choices of those in power, the inefficiency of a major organization) that make me pause - Those things are. But should they be? I'll let you decide. I'll decide too.

In other, non-musing news, we've started what we're calling Phase 2 of this transition process. Chris went back to work today after a nice holiday break (thanks boss!) & with it came the realization we are no longer brand spankin new. We have an apartment, we have it fully furnished, I know where to go grocery shopping, we have some friends, with the exception of 1 pillow& 1 finishing seam I have successfully sewn all of our couch covers & throw pillow...we are no longer new.

We anticipate Phase 2 will contain a lot of routine setting, friendship making & establishing, & overall feeling more at home here. We are excited for that. We still need to find a car...the good news: Kenya's currency has experienced a 20% increase in strength in the past 2 months. The bad news: we get paid in US dollars - which means our purchasing power has experienced at 20% decrease in strength in the past 2 months. Short of wishing for rapid inflation, we're hoping something comes through! We're both hoping we can find this vehicle for sale...

Keep your fingers crossed for us :)

The kids are doing pretty well - Kai's fighting off some series of bug bites & comes to me a couple times a day, with a very concerned look on his face, saying "mama, mate itchy doe bye bye". Some antihistamine cream is so far doing the trick...

He's made a break through with potty training and is now informing us when he has to go to the bathroom - it's amazing. He is also learning how to cook, count, & measure - we're having a lot of fun together.

Mika has officially rolled over several times, both from front to back & back to front. She's a champ when it comes to solid foods & is sleeping 'through the night' (8 hr stretch for her first part of the night) - she's a doll.

Kenyans love our babies - they think they're incredibly interesting, love to talk to them, hold them, and ask us questions about them. On our way to a camping trip last week, we stopped in a little town outside of Nairobi to get some firewood. A woman was looking in the car at Kai & Mika asleep in their carseats, she turned to me & announced "it's a baby." I smiled, and said "yes, it is." She looked at Kai again, shook her head, then turned to me and said with incredulity in her voice "Is it real?" I'm usually gracious & composed with unexpected questions (or I think I am), but this question was so unexpected. I couldn't stop the laugh, but assured her Kai was real.

I'm looking forward to starting Phase 2 of this transition - people we meet often ask what I do - I tell them I'm developing myself. And it's true - I am developing myself as a person, as a seamstress, as a hobbier, as a cook, as a mother, as a wife, as a friend. I am developing my ideas, beliefs, passions, priorities, and ways of managing life's bumps, bruises, & breaks. There is very little an individual can do or think that is extraordinary - but the sharing of it can be extraordinary, or inspire the extraordinary in others.

I'm off to bed - my children already have a 3 hour head start...

I will post an "Our Apartment!" blog soon - I've received quite a few requests for it, and have held off only because I want it to be more finished than not when I introduce you :) Soon! I promise.

Pic from the week:

The Favorites