Thursday, 27 December 2012

Christmas in Kenya: Days 10, 11, 12, 13, and 14

This is Part 3 in a series. You might want to checkout the previous post, or start at the beginning.

Lazy Holidays

Day 10 was a Sunday, so naturally we went to church. However, the church that we went to was one that was down in the valley, in the IDP camp. This Internally Displaced People camp was formed four years ago, in the wake of the most recent elections. There had been much violence that had broken out because of the election, so many people had lost their homes. They were then placed in these IDP camps, originally in emergency tents. However, a couple of years back, Habitat for Humanity had come into this particular camp and had built the residents actual brick and mortar houses to permanently live in.

However, the community is still very poor. Everyone is wearing cast away clothing, there are people without shoes... that sort of thing. Because of their great need, one of the Kenyan men from the community around RVA, John, has taken it upon himself to help these people. Apparently, he usually boils ~150 hardboiled eggs and takes them to the children in the camp. This week, seeing as it was Christmas Sunday, he brought a huge bag of plumbs and a massive box filled with individual treat bags for the children. I don't know how he managed to get all those bags, but it was impressive. When we went down to the camp, we gave John a ride too. It was a bit of a cramped ride with the six of us plus John and his treats all in the Pajero, but we fit.

After we reached the church in the camp, I got to see how poor this community was. You see, they had been raising funds for a new church building. And by "new building" I mean "any building." The current church building is a rectangle plot of land with a tree in the middle of it, where benches are brought out and placed in the shade of the tree for the service. We arrived at ~10am, and when the service ended at ~1pm, every bench had had its turn in the sun and its turn in the shade. That tree is the same tree that they have been meeting under since their first service four years ago.

The people gathered under the tree to have church in an empty lot in the IDP camp.
The Church and Tree
When the service started, I realized just how different of a culture I was in. Dagger's family and I were the only white people there, so although they occasionally they would use English for our benefit, most of the time the service was in either Swahili or Kikuyu, the local tribal language. Obviously I couldn't understand what was being said or sung, but what was obvious was their love of Jesus. The faith of these people was truly amazing to see. I could feel their passion exploding outwards through their prayers and songs. This was genuine worship of the almighty God, just as He deserves.

The message was given by Dagger's father who, being a potter, artist, and teacher, was very good at giving his sermon. He doesn't know the native languages of the people, so he had John translate for him. It was very amusing and engaging to watch John try to translate the meaning of his words and to deliver the same passion and actions as Dagger's father. He spoke on Philippians 2:1-11, about how we need to have unity in the church and not let arguments over petty things get in the way of reaching our ultimate goal, as well as the importance of communication. It was a very well delivered sermon and he was good at using examples. He actually called Dagger, Dagger's brother, and me up to the front to be used as props several times. It was fun being useful.

At one point during the service, a bunch of the little boys came over by me and were immensely interested in my watch. They all reached out and touched it, and pushed buttons, and poked it. It was fairly amusing, but I put it away after a while to keep them from changing any settings on me. However, after I put it away, they decided that my arm was just as interesting without the watch as with it. They all started grabbing my hands and my arm hair, and even running their hands through the hair on my head. It was pretty cute, if also very awkward. They were eventually shooed away by one of the adults, but it lasted for several minutes where I wasn't sure what to do.

One of the elders came over to Dagger during a song and asked him to get up and introduce himself and me. When the time came, Dagger's father got up and gave us a nice introduction. Dagger said his bit, and then it was my turn. I had no idea what to say, but thankfully Dagger's father coached me through the procedure. I hello, and that I brought greetings from Canada. I then asked if I could take their greetings back to Canada with me, and they all said to do so. Therefore, to any Canadians reading this, greetings from Kenya! Kenya loves you! (If you're an American and you want greetings from Kenya, go talk to Dagger. That's his job.)

After the service ended, we headed back to RVA. The road is really bumpy, and sitting in the back of the Pajero is kind of painful due to the constant hitting of your head on the ceiling, which is why I was hanging off of the back on the way up the mountain. Aside from being fun, it also gave me the ability to actually see the road, and it's the reason that I was able to spot a dung beetle. We stopped the car to get out and watch it for a while, just because they're such interesting creatures. They push their ball of dung with their back legs, crawling backwards the whole time. He eventually got to the side of the road in the soft mud, and started digging a hole underneath his dung ball. I'm not sure what his goal was, but he ended up buried underneath it. Maybe he wanted a nap.

That evening we watched the movie The Pirates: Band of Misfits. I had already seen it once, but it was worth a second viewing. I believe that it is from the studio that makes the Wallace and Grommet series, and it was a Claymation movie as well. It has its own special brand of humour (i.e. British humour), but that's the sort of humour that I appreciate anyway. I recommend it.

That was pretty much all that happened that day. The next day was Christmas Eve, but not much happened all day (which is not a bad thing at all). It was pretty much a catch-up day from the busyness of the past week. We did some chores around the house like sweeping and cleaning bathrooms, but not much else. The big event of the day was playing BZFlags. BZFlags is a free computer game where you play as a tank and you have to shoot other tanks. The catch is that there are flags that you can pick up that give you special abilities, such as invisibility or rapid fire.
The four of us young'ns wanted to play with each other on the four computers that we had available. However, that task turned out to be much bigger than we thought. The complications were that three computers were Macs and one was a Windows PC and one of the Macs was from ~2002. To get all of the computers to play nice with each other was a feat, let me tell you. It took about an hour and a half, but we eventually got the other three computers to connect to the host computer through three separate ways (Wi-Fi, Ethernet, and Firewire), and we could play the game. It was a blast, and totally worth the time that it took to set up.

Christmas Day! I actually woke up reasonably early, in time so that I could actually have a quick chat on Facebook with my dad and brother before they went to bed for the night. Time zones are weird. Dagger's dad had made cinnamon rolls for breakfast, and they were amazing. Crispy in parts, gooey in others, just the right consistency. Most of the morning was just spent lazing around, killing time, waiting for people to wake up.

And how did we kill time, you say? In possibly the most nerdy way ever: reading the Handbook of Chemistry and Physics, 31st edition from 1949. Dagger found it lying around the house, and no one wanted it, so we started reading it. Its ~2730 pages long filled to the brim with charts, tables, figures, and equations. I should probably feel lame for enjoying it so much, but it's way too fantastic for that. It's from an age before calculators, so the first section is one on math. There are pages and pages and pages of tables to tell you the square roots of numbers, or what the sin, cos, or tan of angles are... There are hundreds of indefinite integrals listed, and general formulas for finding the area of shapes (did you know that the area of any quadrilateral is simply the length of the two diagonals multiplied together divided by 2?)... Yeah, that book's awesome.

We eventually got around to doing presents and had a fun time with that. Afterwards, the PE teacher for the school came over for our lunch. We had a great time visiting with her. She's not as young as you would expect a PE teacher to be, but she has more energy than most of the people that I know. We played some Phase 10 Twist after dinner, which was quite fun. It's Phase 10 (which is a card game where you have to get specific streaks and runs), but with a game board. Enjoyable, but we didn't finish the game before our guest excused herself. After she had left, the family decided to follow one of their Christmas traditions: watching A Muppet Christmas Carol. I had never seen it before, so I was quite excited. I liked it a lot, and it was quite funny, but I still like the 80's version more. I do plan to watch Scrooged with Bill Murray eventually though.

That was pretty much the day. I ended it all by having a three party Skype call with all six members of my family from all of our respective locations. The miracle of the internet allowed us all to spend Christmas together, even from different sides of the world, for an hour at least. It may not have been prefect quality (and hard to hear each other at times), but it was the perfect way to end Christmas Day.

For all you Americans who may not be aware, the day after Christmas is called Boxing Day, and in the Commonwealth, it's a holiday too. It was another day that was nice and lazy, because Dagger was feeling sick all day, so we decided to stay at home and play board games and watch movies. We watched The Ghost and the Darkness, which is about the construction of the railroad that passes behind the house I am staying at. In the 1890s, they were trying to build a bridge across the Tsavo river, but kept running into difficulties. As a side note, Tsavo is where one of the missions in Halo 3 takes place. Anyway, there were two man-eating lions, called The Ghost and The Darkness, who kept killing off the workers. According to the man who was in charge of building the bridge (and ended up killing the lions), they killed over 140 people, most of which were just for sport, not food. Val Kilmer and Michael Douglas were the stars, and the movie wasn't bad. I can see why it won the Best Sound Editing award at the Oscars.

We then played the board game Ticket to Ride, which is a game where you have to build a train line across America. You are given several pairs of cities, and you must make sure that your train line connects them all. It was actually quite a bit of fun. We didn't really fight over any sections of rail road, and were fairly cooperative the whole game. It's definitely the most interesting board game that I've played in a while. After lazing around some more, we watched Captain America, which several members of the family had not yet seen. Still a very fun movie, especially if the people that you watch it with had seen a heavily censored version before. Makes for some interesting reactions.

The next day was another slow one. Nothing really happened until well after lunch, when Roswell came over, which was pretty awesome. Roswell is a graduate of RVA who is also at LeTourneau, who happens to be visiting his family this Christmas too. I actually already knew him from LETU, so it was neat to see him here. We were going to throw some pottery, but the building was locked, so instead we headed back to Dagger's place and found his bow and arrows. We made a cardboard box into a target and took turns shooting. The cool thing about the bow that we used was that it is a wooden carved grip with two fiberglass arms extending to the top and bottom of it, which are what makes the actual spring of the bow. We also used a blowgun that Dagger had made in grade 12, using straightened paperclips with masking tape as darts. Roswell stayed for supper, and afterwards we played Monopoly, which, as per usual, we didn't finish. Those games never end.

Tomorrow, we're going to visit a busy market in Nairobi called Masai Market I think. It should be fun.

Full Series

Part 3: Lazy Holidays
Part 4Masai Market


  1. The story of your church, Terry, reminds me very much of the church Tim and Deanna took us to in the Philippines. I hope you're getting lots of pictures!

  2. What did Papa Dagger have you do? How did they do singing? Was it an interactive sort of sermon? I feel like the computer linking would be an exciting enough challenge to be entertaining not even counting the game. In your math paragraph, "diagonals" mean? The two pairs of sides? Heehee, i like your typo in the Skype paragraph, "prefect quality". I may not have heard of the Tsavo bridge incident, but i instantly thought "Tsavo Highway"! Man, that is a hard level on Legendary. How did the Dagger family find a heavily censored version of Captain America? Man, i can imagine going with ya'll. Sounds fun. I'm surprised you watched so many movies. No Christmas presents?
    -Ominous Nonymous

    1. Diagonals meaning if you draw a line from one corner to the opposite corner and you do that twice so that all four corners are included. The length of those lines.

      During the sermon we were just props, so Dagger's dad had us stand there and he would basically pose us and explain why he was doing that. The sermon wasn't really interactive because it was translated, so that's kind of hard to do.

      As for Captain 'Merica, they had seen a Clear Play version, so scenes like when the Hydra soldier falls into the spinning blades and turns to a puff of red were mysteriously missing.