Kenya never ceases to make me catch my breath. Beauty overwhelms my senses. The cool morning air and lush greenery. The tea. This is where I first fell in love with tea, 18 years ago.
As you know, we had a bit of a rough time getting here. Dad was able to get his passport Friday and get all the tickets switched, but I was on pins and needles all weekend waiting for them to get their visas. Monday morning Dad’s came through, but Steven’s came back with an error message because he’d put a date in wrong. Cue panic.
Because of time zone differences, the Kenyan office was already closed. I was very stressed for about an hour, and then Steven checked it again, and it had miraculously gone through! We were good to go!
And so the next morning, on Tuesday, November 30, Mom drove Dad, Steven, and I to the airport. We checked our bags and showed the check-in lady our paperwork, and it was all good. Hallelujah!
(Thanks, by the way, to everyone who was praying.)
I managed to dash off a Patreon Post in the Portland airport before our flight left, and then we had a short flight to Salt Lake City, a short layover, and then a massive 10-hour flight to Amsterdam. By some stroke of luck the airplane was not that full, and there was an empty seat next to me where I curled up and got a nap. Also I was right near the back, with easy access to the bathrooms, and sometimes I snitched snacks off the flight attendant’s cart that was just sitting back there.
During our 4 hour layover in Amsterdam we met up with most of the rest of the Open Hands team we were traveling with. This included Jason and Gloria Croutch who do the east coast PR for Open Hands (Dad is going to be doing the west coast PR), Verlin and Bethany Torkelson who are planning to move to Kenya shortly as reginal directors for east Africa, and Lyndon Swarey who came to evaluate the program. The only missing person was Joe Kuepfer, who is in the process of becoming the new executive director. He flew through Paris instead of Amsterdam and, though he managed to arrive a few hours ahead of us, unfortunately lost his luggage along the way.
Joe scolded me for linking to the Open Hands website in my last post because he was embarrassed about how bad and outdated it is. But basically, Open Hands is an organization that facilitates savings groups around the world. A lot of missions throughout history have given aid to people in need, and unintentionally created systems of poverty where people feel hopeless without foreign aid. This creates a host of problems, including giving foreigners too much influence and power.
People in poor countries have the skills and resources to improve life for themselves and their community, although it is incredibly difficult in some circumstances. But there is a huge power in coming together as a group instead of waiting for foreign help.
Savings groups provide a way for local people to support each other and help each other out financially. Open Hands provides financial training materials, and also trains local facilitators who in turn train local savings groups. The goal is for the savings groups to be independent, electing their own leadership, etc.
Anyway, I’ll probably say more about the organization and savings groups later, but that’s the basic gist.
As a team, we were all a little out of it when we met, as we’d already been traveling basically an entire day. Now we had another 8-hour flight. Steven sat beside a lively young Kenyan woman and her mother who also had not been back to Kenya in about 10 years, and I enjoyed overhearing snippets of their conversation from my seat behind them.
Also, we flew over the alps, and they were breathtaking. I want to go visit the alps next.
Then we landed in Kenya! We stood in lines for what felt like ages, first getting our Covid tests checked, and then the regular Visa check line. Finally we burst outside into the cool evening air and ripped off our masks. I must say, I don’t particularly mind wearing a mask, but it got old after 30 hours, especially as I’d never really had time to brush my teeth. Nasty.
By this time it was late Wednesday evening, thanks to time zone shifts and such. We piled into taxis and went to a place called the Hampton House, which is a sort of guest house/hotel. I went straight to bed but, despite my fatigue, I still woke up at 6 am. Jet lag, you know.
Still, I took a long, luxurious shower and then made some tea and sat around enjoying the whole world.
It was just a little paper tea bag, but I could immediately taste the difference. Kenyan tea is next level.
It was now Thursday morning, December 2. At 8 am we got in a van and drove to Nakuru, where the Open Hands headquarters is located. That’s where I am now, and where I will remain until Tuesday December 7. That’s when I was originally scheduled to fly back to Oregon, but since we got started late, we decided to stay in Kenya a little longer, and will be returning the following Sunday instead.
So far I’ve had very little time to write updates, but I’m dashing this one off now so you know I made it safe and sound and am having a wonderful time. But don’t worry, there are still many updates to come!
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