To Africa and back . . . (part the fifth)


Tuesday, June 19

We were up by 6:30, to breakfast at 7 and work at 8. Each group, after breakfast, gathered around the previously assigned MCF staff member and set off to work on the assigned tasks: projects, teaching, or interacting with the children. My team, Mike and I, was joined by Isaac, one of Charles and Esther’s biological sons. The computer team headed to work!A bit of history of Africa and the internet, then our task: major cities often have a reliable power grid, traditional phones, and most other conveniences we would consider modern, picture Tokyo or NYC, with more trees. Outlying regions rely on generators for power, cellular phones for communication, and satellite for consistent, quality internet. The brighter side of this is much of Africa will bypass slow speeds may of us have endured using arcane cables laid before I was born and dial-up modems that some of us still use. It will most likely go straight to fiber or something faster if it exists when cables are finally laid. Due to several constraints, including time, skill levels, and budgets we felt that satellite was not practical. The more research I did, the more I realized that it would be tens of thousands of dollars to just install it. Then there would be monthly access fees and maintenance of equipment and training in satellite technology, none of which our team brought, had or could teach. We, however, didn’t come empty handed. Dial-up modems were out of the questions as there are no phone lines. Cellular network access card would not necessarily accomplish everything with the fastest speeds, but it would be easy to obtain technical support, replacement equipment should something fail and it was slightly portable. It could be shared between the campuses.
After installing whatever internet service we found while in the States, my team was to help MCF with any computer requests/needs.In addition to “bringing internet access,” we also collected and brought as many things off their wishlist as possible. Each time a team goes to MCF, supplies are brought with the team. Most of the supplies teams bring are too expensive to buy in Kenya or not available. Our team brought several hard drives, cd-rom/dvd drives, blank media, memory, old laptops with minor flakey problems (on-board wireless or wried nic not working, motherboard not charging the battery, things that make it hard to use as a laptop, but wonderful to use at MCF) motherboards, software, toolkits and other parts we hoped could be put to good use. Before we could hand off our goodies, MCF requires that all gifts be documented so that there is no question as to where supplies came from and how supplies are dispersed. After completing an inventory and signing off on it, we headed to work. We walked up to the greenhouse to install the internet and upgrade some hardware in one of the computers already there. This would be my first trip of the day to the greenhouse, but by no means the last.We settled on a USB cellular network card for internet access, so that it could be utilized by both desktops and latptops as long as it could find a signal. We installed it on the laptop we brought for the greenhouse. The idea behind that was a new computer, never used would probably function to optimal specifications and allow them to take it to any campus and not worry about installing the network card on other machines. We tried to set it up on another computer as well, but for some reason that one was not behaving well. I was confident that Isaac could install it later after troubleshooting the errors, so we decided to move on to upgrade the machines in the greenhouse area. We needed some parts left at the room, so I volunteered to retrieve them while the guys worked on the computers. After I returned, took some pictures and realized they were happily working along, I headed back to the printers to document some things for Isaac. We worked with Isaac until lunch, then he had some other tasks to finish. We tried to schedule some time to take a complete inventory of computers-location, purpose, specs, software, needed upgrades. Unfortunately, we were not able to settle on a time because of other activities planned for our large team on subsequent. We had hoped to spend time at Yatta helping with the computer program there. They teach the girls how to use computers, how they work, etc. Ndalani will be starting that as soon as the library is ready, I believe.After lunch, Mike and I joined the arts and games team for an afternoon of absolute fun with a smidge of confusion. We set up stations inside for arts and crafts, while games were played outside. We split the groups as best we could and set about to have fun. The activities varied with the age group but generally consisted of decorating a t-shirt with markers or tie-dye, drawing or coloring pictures, getting a picture taken, making an animal out of pony beads or blowing bubbles. Most importantly of all was to spend time with the kids, hear their story, listen to their hearts. By the time Mike and I joined the fun, roles were assigned and filled, so we floated as needed. Mike went to the games area; it needed a guy’s touch. I was a floater-see what needs to be done and made myself available to each of the activity leaders.My first assigned task was with the little ones, and was it ever difficult! I had to blow bubbles with them. We set up inside, even though I asked if we could go outside. The cement floor soon became extremely slippery. The bubbles were supposed to keep the children occupied when they finished getting their picture taken, but it didn’t work well. We had difficulties keeping children at the correct station and helping the children with free time understand that it wasn’t their turn yet. After a good amount of confusion, I decided to take the bubbles outside, we found a way to manage the little ones inside. The huge benefit to me staying outside was that it kept the other children from trying to sneak into the arts and crafts area until it was their turn. I had so many little ones all around trying to catch and pop the bubbles. We shared the wands and made glorious messes giggled and enjoyed. I even convinced a team member passing by that he needed to blow bubbles. He looked at me as if I had suggested he jump of an extremely tall building or play in the middle of a busy highway. He returned much later and thanked me for inviting him to blow bubbles. One of the little ones managed to avoid the picture process; I had taken a liking to her and her to me. She was very unsure of having her picture taken; she had to sit by herself on a large bench. I sat with her first, then next to her, just out of the picture. I was supposed to get a copy of that picture, but I don’t think I did.beadsWhen we worked with the older children, I assisted with the pony beads. We had diagrams for them to use, but the threading is difficult to get the hang of, luckily, I like to bead. We had fun and learned a lot about managing a lot of children in a small space with a small amount of time. I won’t write in specifics, I will just say that children are children, no matter where they are and there are always opportunities for growth and learning for all involved.As activities wound down and we transitioned back to our dining area, we talked with many of the MCF workers. My heart broke to hear some of the stories of other groups. No specifics were ever given, nor names, just generalities. Some groups come with an agenda they push on MCF, some are upset when plans change and they are unable to complete tasks, some are unwilling to pitch in and help. I was so grateful that those descriptions did not apply to us. Each of our teams understood when some projects were put on hold, others canceled. We rolled with the flow and asked what we could do, how we could help. We asked many specifics on day-to-day operations, needs, and goals; and MCF graciously answered.One of the girls on our team was sick, probably a cold of some sort. It began to go around the room, I went to bed not feeling very well-runny nose, scratchy throat, and extremely tired, but I knew that I had done 100% of my day with God. On my own, I would not have made it through that day.

The Chronicles of the Socks

sock

I realized hopelessly, that the two balls of pumpkin colored wool I purchased a month or so ago were not enough for the socks. In my defense, I figured I would maybe make a hat out of this yarn, not socks. Because I want both socks to look more similar than dissimilar, I stopped knitting when I was mostly out of yarn, moved the sock to another set of needles, and cast on the second sock sometime on Saturday. Tonight, I started the heel! The second sock is going much more quickly than the first. Neither sock is perfect, but I had hoped to make different mistakes with each sock. So far I have managed to make much the same mistake on both, the learning curve comes in more on the second sock. I can spot the mistakes much quicker and sometimes unknit to fix them. Some of the mistakes are staying in so the socks match each other and with that said, back to the yarn shortage. I read somewhere that if you are almost out of yarn and are unable to get the same dye lot, leave enough of the old yarn to knit 2-3 rows. Then, with the new yarn in hand, begin knitting every other row old and new yarn, then leave off the old and knit just the new. So I stopped the first one with enough to knit about 4 rows, knowing that I will be able to purchase more yarn on Wednesday.

I have been listening to knitting podcasts while knitting or driving or any extra time I find. And before you ask, no, most podcasts don’t attempt to teach knitting through the spoken word. Most podcasters share book or magazine reviews, new yarn, projects they are working on, new patterns discovered, new contests, and random other knitting information. While listening to one today, I learned about the Master Knitter Certification. I promptly surfed to find more information as well as find bloggers who are currently working on or have completed at least one level toward Master Knitter. I am unsure about it, how can I be after only a few hours of contemplation. It sounds like the equivalent of National Boards for teachers, only different. An advantage, my knitting skill set will vastly improve over the duration of the program because I will learn not to silly mistakes and care enough when I do to fix it. A disadvantage, every blog I read indicated that it was extremely intensive and many had a tendency to put it off for a long time because each project must be perfect. Knowing that I sometimes procrastinate projects that I cannot completely analyze and finish easily.

I am trying to more organized from the start, rather than cleaning up later, much later. To further this cause, here is a link to some fun pictures I found on my camera.

Family, juicing, & bowling

Jason went out to the farm today with Nate in the hopes of “catching a deer,” though he would argue that he’s planning on shooting it, not catching it. After Nate left, we received a call from Josh and we invited both him and Julie over to the house. After Jason made a yummy breakfast involving onion tater-tots and ram bratwurst, we had some quality entertainment watching D’ojie and Daisy frolic in the living room. We made some quality fruit juice-apple, grape and a little citrus made up of grapefruit, tangelo and possible orange. Josh suggested bowling and we all agreed it had been much too long since bowling. We ended up at BRB and bowled three fantastic games. Words will not do it justice, so I will link to pictures once they are in the gallery. My fantastic scores were 89, 121, & 99, not bad as far as I’m concerned considering the first game nearly demolished my arm. By the second game, I had figured out how to throw again so as not to aggravate my arm. I left my camera home on the coffee table, the one time I leave the house without it we do something worth preserving in photos. Luckily, Julie had hers.

A week or so ago, Julie went to Boston with her mom and she very graciously brought me (us) back some squished pennies. Our collection now has three from Boston, the skyline, a momma duck and ducklings, and a penguin from the New England Aquarium. She also gave me one from Jeff and Jeanne from Six Flags Illinois (or whatever it’s actually called). They squished a penny, Marvin the Martian, and gave us their penny because we were home sick. I am part of a very caring family 🙂 There are no pictures yet, they are downloading from the camera to the computer. After I perform some minor edits, I will post them to the “Squished Pennies Collection” album.

As I type, photos are uploading to the gallery from Jeff & Jeanne of our wonderful wedding day 🙂 I’ve had them for several weeks, just haven’t gotten to putting them up. I’m not editing any of them as of yet, I may pull one or two when I see them all again, but probably not. You may find them here.

To Africa and back . . . (part the fourth)


Monday, June 18

As the leader of the computer team, I was passionate about the tasks set before me (us) to accomplish once we arrived at MCF. All of the teams spent time preparing tasks, activities, materials and people to best accomplish what we would be sent to do. My (our) main task was to “bring the internet” to MCF, the task was not as easy as it sounds when one realizes that there is no infrastructure outside of large cities. With the understanding that our computer tasks may not take up an entire week, my team partnered with the arts and games team. Our plan was to help the arts and games team any time our services weren’t needed for computer tasks.Our two teams began meeting once a month beginning in February which afforded us the opportunity to build relationships between the teams and an understanding of the arts & crafts to make and games teach/play. We had a tentative schedule before we left for MCF, with a general idea of how much each team would be able to dedicate to the given tasks. Well, life is what happens when you plan. While planning for MCF and gathering materials, I had weekly meetings with our big team leader. He was my supervisor at work as well as the big team leader, though in the beginning, he was unsure if he would go with us. In God’s wisdom, he knew I would need to hear the following on a nearly weekly basis, “Be flexible, we are going there to serve.” After a month or two of hearing it, I would let him know that I was trying to take his advice to heart and say it to him before he said it to me.Because of the advice to be flexible, it made my experience at MCF more profitable than it would have been had I decided that things needed to follow the outlined paper schedule. Each night after dinner, one of the MCF representatives would outline a proposed schedule for the following day. I decided to listen at night to the proposed schedule, prepare what I needed and wake up as if no plans had been laid, it was easier for me to remain flexible by not attaching myself to a set schedule. While God and I worked on keeping a smile on my face, I was flexible, if bit confused. My understanding was that I had tasks to accomplish and relationships to build, but so far neither of those appeared on the schedule. It was a lot of sitting and listening, touring the campus, hearing stories of how things work or came to be as they are. All the while, I wanted to go work immediately. After all, I am a task-based person who happens to enjoy talking to others while “tasking”. With these things in mind we began Monday, as a combined team for devotions in Charles’ “office”. He has an area near the river where he works, outside, which we saw on Sunday. There are several chairs and sometimes a bench where he works, did I mention it was outside without a roof or walls? He and Esther meet with each child, usually in a small group of three or so children. They talk about how things are going, they talk with God, and plan for the future. Charles also works alone in his office, he writes, talks with God, meets with others and I suppose what ever else needs to be done he does there. On Monday, we, the combined team, didn’t have much time for devotions, I internally questioned the value of it if we weren’t going to have much time. According to the paper schedule, we were to have devotions each day, each team member to contribute thoughts for one assigned day. Monday was the first day we had any time in the morning. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not questioning the value of talking about God, just the effort to find a quiet place, walk there, leave enough time to return to the large group etc. It turns out I’m rather inflexible, but I’m teachable. Our prayer time was incredible. I can’t tell you what we prayed, I don’t remember. I just know that I (we) talked with God, soaking in his incredible creation in a place where he works so powerfully. Even today, four months later, it still moves me. I felt like I was in God’s presence, which is what I am supposed to feel every time I talk with God, which according to Paul, the author of 1 Thessalonians, is a continuous experience.At the appointed time, we joined the other teams for the continuation of the campus tour. Believe it or not, we were unable to see the campus in a day.caravahs No, it’s not that large, we could have walked it in an hour or two. But spreading it out over several days allowed us time to learn and process the story, it allowed us to relate each new place to the ones we already knew, it allowed us to hear Charles and Esther’s heart. We walked through fields, they showed us caravahs, the root of a plant. When the tree grows to 2-3 meters, the root is harvested. Esther pulled an almost mature root and pealed back the rough exterior to show us the meat. We saw mango trees not quite ripe. Charles gave us several minutes to just walk through the field, looking at the plants, touching, smelling, understanding.
On our way to from the dispensary, we observed some of the teachers sitting under the trees outside of the school building preparing themselves for the upcoming lessons. Charles took us to watch and talk with several of the male beneficiaries1 completing the finish work on the dispensary. One was finishing the stone work on the outside and another was doing on carpentry work on an inside room. It will house a place for dentists, doctors, nurses and other health care providers to help the children and surrounding community members.We entered the greenhouse with Charles and two of the male workers. They explained the entire operation from start to end. At their current level of operation, MCF would be able to fund itself financially 99-100% with ten greenhouses. I giggled to myself because at this point I began to understand Charles and his heart. With ten greenhouses, he will have greenhouseresources to rescue more children, then he will need more greenhouses and I love it, I hope for it, I pray for it. There are too many children who need God’s love and he’s one who understands what that looks like for these children. He teaches them how to live-they have learned life is difficult, he does not dissuade that belief. Charles teaches reality, he teaches the children that they have a future, they can learn, excel, and live. MCF workers (never children) can harvest five crops a year at one hectare of growable space. They plant in rotation, so the workers don’t have the feast or famine plight. Each worker is paid out of the profits from the sale of the crop of beans to the European Union. There are strict guidelines: no children, workers must be healthy, everything documented (names, fields, crop yield vs. loss, fertilizer type, who worked which area, etc). The operation is impressive. After we toured the greenhouse, the sorting room, the refrigeration building, but not the refrigerator (we could have contaminated the area), the offices, and the computer controls for the greenhouses. Did I say the setup was impressive? It was. All of this, the greenhouse, the controls, was a donation from a company in Australia. I hesitate to tell the entire story, it is not mine to tell, it will have to suffice for me to say that I believe God provided the greenhouse because Charles and his family demonstrate God’s love in action, not just words without follow-through.

Charles gathered us under a tree, as anyone native to Kenya would do. The sun, even in the cold season, is wtree talkarm and only foreigners stand in the sun. We managed to gather 42 of us under the tree to listen to Charles tell us the story of how the greenhouse came to be. He took a phone call at some point, then explained that he had just sent out another grant request for two more greenhouses to go in to Yatta. He explained that the soil at Ndalani is fertile and it would not make sense to cover soil that can already grow food with a greenhouse to grow food. At some point in this, a team member was brave enough to suggest what many of us were already doing; he suggested we stop talking with each other immediately and begin talking with God about the new greenhouses. When we finished, we asked Charles when he would hear back about the grant. He was hopeful that we would know before we left MCF. I believe he received the grant for at least one new greenhouse, but I am unsure about the second.

We spent time each month during team meeting preparing to share our stories. I worried about how to tell my story to children, many things in my life are difficult to explain to children. It turned out to be a needless worry. The children would have understood, but I only shared my story with a team mate. I don’t mean to downplay the significance of that. It was good to share, to put words to things. It was great to hear a story. Maybe mine was not unique enough for the children to need to hear it. I did ask many children about their stories, again, I am not sure about the appropriateness of sharing a story that isn’t mine. I will just say that many shared their heart. Some had been at MCF for a long time, some only a few months. Some were on the verge of graduating, some just arrived and had many years in front of them. Some understand they now have a future, some are just learning.

Esther opened up her gift shop to us. Some of the things are handmade there, some are purchased at other markets. I wish I had understood what would have been available elsewhere. I would have purchased things differently, but either way, I was able to bring home trinkets for friends and family. When I see them with it, I remember my time at MCF.


footnotes:
1. A beneficiary is an adult who as a child was at MCF for a period of time.

The Sock Saga Continues

Sunday, we had family Thanksgiving with Jason’s family, it was wonderful. Granny hosted Thanksgiving again, Mom made smashed potatoes, and my contribution was to eat too much. Since I’m on a deadline, I worked on the sock in spare moments when my help was not needed and I surmised that it wouldn’t be too rude. I was able to add a few rows, these socks will have quite a story. I added a few more rows on the way home and decided against my better judgment to leave a partial row on the needles. I attempted to tuck it carefully in my bag so I would not lose any precious stitches. Somewhere between the car and Daisy, though not her fault at all, my sock began to fall out of the bag. Luckily, the tension on the yarn caused it to dangle in mid-air rather than drag on the ground. Unluckily, the tension on the yarn caused 10 or so stitches to fall off the needles as it dangled. Fortunately, I had just finished reading a charming book with a rhyming title written by Debbie Stoller. I borrowed the book, entitled Stitch ‘N BWitch1, from the library. While the title suggests that the book may be a little over the top and I won’t be purchasing it for my grandmother, it is an extremely informative book. I knew the theory of picking up dropped stitches, but usually I avoid it by frogging2 enough rows to eliminate the problem, sometimes to the point of casting on again. However, after reading this book, I felt confident enough to attempt to fix 10 or so stitches, five of which only lost the row I had knit in the car. Two or three stitches slipped two rows and four or five stitches slipped several rows, including some purled stitches and one decrease. I have to say that I almost let one of the stitches unravel several rows to fix a previous mistake, but my brain was unable to process the command and shut down instead, so I proceeded to fix only the dropped stitches. After fixing it, I tried to knit two more rows, however, I didn’t look at the pattern. I had done enough rows that I felt I knew what to do. It turns out I did it correctly, but thought I had done it correctly, so made a few rows that are well, unique. I don’t think too many people will examine his socks closely. I am fixing part of the error on the current row and will learn from the mistakes made. Number one, finish a row and push the stitches back or cap the tips. Number two, keep better track of where the decrease belongs, even if you just dropped 10 or 12 stitches and had to perform minor surgery.

Julie suggested a fantastic title for the sock series, she is rather creative when it comes to writing. I, however, have since forgotten what it was and so will continue with my only slightly creative titles that pale in comparison.

Before beginning this sock, I would have said I was a descent knitter, with my knitting ability located somewhere between advanced beginner and intermediate level knitting. However, since tackling the task of sock making, I would reclassify myself currently as intermediate, but a beginner-beginner before the sock. Yes, yes, the scarves are pretty, but they are the same stitch over and over and over and over with really fancy looking yarns that cover a multitude of errors. My goal is to finish Jason’s socks as quickly as I can. I allowed the dropped stitches to scare me, well, scare is not correct, discourage is probably better. I was tired after picking up the stitches, so I put it up for the evening and didn’t touch it at all Monday until late in the evening. This is unfortunate for many reasons, not the least of which is that I STILL owe someone a present from last year’s family Christmas, I will soon owe this year’s person a gift and need to finish Jason’s socks first so that I can make some socks for me, but after I finish some Christmas gifts. If the pair for me goes well, I may want to try knitting socks for others, but it’s a safe bet I won’t cross-stitch for too many others, at least not projects that take over a year to complete. Oh, and there is the shawl for the wedding, but that was not my fault, the yarn didn’t come in until three weeks after the wedding. Maybe I will try to have that done by our first anniversary.

Footnotes:
1. In an effort not to offend anyone and bypass any content filters in place, the name had been changed, but I know you are all smart enough to either a) figure it out based on the given clues or b) use amazon.com to find a book by that author.

2. Knitters will ocassional rip out stitches to correct a mistake. Say “rip it” to yourself several times quickly.

To Africa and back . . . (part the third)


Again, posted with apologies as this post should have been up sometime in July or August, Sept may have been accepted, possibly understood. October would have made this post long over due, now I am turning in the post to receive credit and remove the “I” for incomplete from my record. I can’t help but wonder if I have been avoiding the post to avoid thinking about how I had every intention of not forgetting the life changing experiences God prepared for me in Kenya once I returned stateside. Due to the length, I tend to chronicle a day per post, so after this post there should be 4 or 5 more posts unless I stop rambling.


Sunday, June 17


Church at MCF, worshiping1 with the family, 43 of us from western Michigan, Esther and Charles, some of their biological children and a whole bunch of adopted children, as well as helpertheir friends and community members. Everyone who can make it is invited to attend, lunch is provided for those who travel as is lodging if travel home is not feasible. There is something incredibly moving when you hear hundreds of voices lifted in praise with a strong accent but a loving heart. There were many different children’s choirs, I think they were divided by age. We sang a song for them as well. We listened to the sermon in Swahili and English, scripture was read in both as well. I took some movie footage of some of the preaching as well as many of the children’s choirs. If you needed a Bible, one was provided 🙂

church

Following church, we were instructed to form a line outside and all of the children greeted us. Most of the children said, “hello, what is your name” to all of us. Many stopped for longer conversations. I spoke with a few girls in twos for several minutes and held out hope that I would see them later in the week, Lucy and Victoria, Stella and Priscilla. I don’t remember being instructed last night, but I can only assume that somewhere in the explanation of how things work we were told to ask for both names, that is how you find a specific child again, the children don’t readily share their given Swahili name and not all take an English one at baptism. If you had a picture, you may find the same child twice. Both names are their English name and their Swahili name, some of the older children would share both names without being asked.

I wish I remembered whether the tour was before or after lunch, but alas, that tidbit escapes me. If I had to guess, I would say they fed us before we went for a very long walk. At first, the campus/compound seemed daunting and confusing. After a day or two of roaming alone and remembering the stops in order, I eventually understood it was a gigantic circle and there were shortcuts around every bend.

We toured the farm, which included a tree nursery, French bean2 fields, potatoes, tomatoes, onions, and the outside of the greenhouse. The inside tour would come later. The French bean field is near the river and consequently, has a problem with the occasional hippo wandering through to graze. We did not see it, but it left tracks through in the field both with footprints and damaged crops. They hang sheets of metal in the trees so that when a hippo brushes the trees or the wind hits them, the loud clatter sends it back to the river. If they see the hippo, MCF can call the authorities, who will come and kill it, leaving the meat for MCF.

Many of the villagers that work at the MCF farm are widows. Our thought-true religion is this that you care for the widows and orphans, James 1.27. The children do not work on the farm, besides the laws that prevent it, Charles and Esther want them to learn as much as they can while they can. If the students take agriculture classes, they are assigned a plot of land to practice with white beans and other things. They learn to let plants to go seed, to harvest and replant.

bridge From the fields, we stood on the bridge overlooking the river, then went under to beat the heat while Charles explained that the dirt river we were looking at is the sole water supply for most of the villages. His heart for the people has moved him to begin a water filteration system so that he can filter and store water to share with the village people. This bridge will connect two parts of MCF so that it can be traversed more quickly.

At the taking of this picture, he was waiting for the river to go down so the last supports could be placed and the bridge finished. If you look closely, you can see the bridge exists on the other bank already. One woman in our group asked Charles how he knew how to build the bridge, I’m sure we were all curious. He replied that he had tried several different ways to build the bridge, they didn’t stay standing, so he talked to God about the need for a bridge.

As soon as Charles said it, it clicked, I didn’t need any further explanation, but she was not getting it. She asked more pointedly, how did you know how to build a bridge, did you take classes, did you hire someone, did an engineer help with this? He told her he couldn’t answer and “no comment” to her persistent questions. He knew she wasn’t going to believe him. I feel a bit crazy sitting in my warm living room on a cold November night saying that it made sense then and it makes sense now and it will make sense for the rest of my life. When we trust God, he shapes our hearts to be more like his.

When our hearts are more like his we naturally begin to ask for things that he provides because they are in his plan. I have tears in my eyes as I type this because I refuse to trust God, we refuse to trust God. I had hoped to retain the awestruck feeling of that moment of crystal clear understanding that I had vastly underestimated the commitment I made when I accepted God’s gift. It didn’t stick the first time, but now that I have it in my mind again, maybe it will stay, maybe I will allow it to stay. I do not believe that most of us are hostile in our disobedience, I think we are ignorant. We disobey when we don’t trust God to provide for our needs. He provides miraculously and we explain every possible God-thing away with science or we find a product or a person with more knowledge to provide the necessary skills or device or worse, we decide he’s not listening to us because he refused to provide and we had to solve it on our own. We don’t ask him about his desire for our lives as often as we should. I don’t mean this to sound like the typical, “I’ve been to a poverty stricken country and we are spoiled” speech, it is bigger than that. It’s trusting God purposefully each moment of each minute of each hour of each day of each week each month of each year of my entire life. It’s complete dependence on him for life, breath, guidance in each decision. His gift to me, to us was so great how can we do anything but thank him by asking how to live for him.

We looked at the water filtration system that was already started. They had progressed to the point of having dug the hold and poured cement walls into forms to make walls. Part of group was part of the construction team, whose goal was to implement a new filtration system. I will admit, it confused me to see a hole in the ground for something I thought our team was building, but this wasn’t the time. The filtration and reservoir were close to the river, which meant that while Charles explained the system, I had a wonderful view of the mountains. Mountains in Africa, at least the part of Kenya where we were, are not like here. They seem to appear out of no where and are huge solitary masses with gigantic boulders dotting the surface.

From the water system, we toured the dorm rooms and library. The funds for the library were donated by the children and parents from the church that sent us on the trip. The library was nearly complete, all the funds were there, with enough left over to provide for books to stock the shelves. Computers were sitting in a dry place awaiting the necessary timing and labor to finish the building. Each building is made by MCF workers, usually graduate students from the building trade program. They chisel and shape the stone from a slab. They forge the metal grates to go over the windows, paint the walls, roof the building, and install the windows. All of the buildings at MCF are built as if they are going up in Nairobi, which is not the safest place to be, hence the bars, stone walls, etc. This gives the workers a lot of practice.

We saw Jacob’s Well, the fresh water well that Charles asked God to provide. Several children were sick when they first began using N’dalani for children. Charles was burdened by the fact that there was no fresh water, he went to bed one night and talked with God about it. In the middle of the night, Charles was awakened and he walked a little ways from where he had been sleeping. He had the children help him dig and they named the fresh water well “Jacob’s Well.” Before we left for this trip, we were required to read Charles’ biography, Father to the Fatherless. It was awesome to see in person the well that God had provided after reading the story half a world away.

We were able to meet with the children again in front of their living and eating area. We didn’t share meals with the children. I’m not sure if it’s the menu or the health issues. The children invited us into their rooms and showed us all of their wonderful possessions that fit into one footlocker that would easily fit inside one of the two that I took to college with me. Each footlocker is decorated and personalized. Each child has a bed of his or her own, responsible for keeping it neat and made. The funniest thing I saw was the piles of shoes in the rooms, we asked if they were community shoes or did each know which were theirs. They are not community shoes, some piles were neater than others, some children kept their shoes at their beds on a shelf. The younger children slept 24 to a room, 12 bunkbeds with a dorm mom/dad, the older children looked after the younger ones. The older ones have the same size building, but the rooms are subdivided so that there are 8 or 4 per room. Not all of the children had a footlocker, some of the younger ones seemed to have designated space on an unused bed to store their clothes. I assumed that was so they were able to reach their things. Each child has their own clothes, shoes, personal hygiene products, eating plates and drinking cups.


Footnotes:
1. Did you know that it is acceptable to spell it as worshipping or worshiping?
2. French bean is a variety of green bean.Photos from Sunday, June 17

The Adventures of a Struggling Sock

So maybe it’s not the sock that’s struggling, it’s me. Or maybe the yarn is struggling to become a sock even though it is an inanimate object incapable of doing much of anything on its own. I wish my pattern had said at this point, “We know these instructions make absolutely no sense. We further understand that what we are asking you to do seems to be impossible, please trust us, we’ve actually made a sock before using this method, you have not.” If that statement seems to harsh and uncaring, maybe this one, “Up to this point you have knit in the round with no need to distinguish between front and back or left and right. At this stage, we are adding the heel, you will now have a distinct front and back of your sock. Once you finish the heel, we will rotate the stitches on the needles so that you view the sock in profile. We will divide the sock down the center and position the left side of the sock in profile on one needle and the right side in profile on the other.” However, if space was an issue and we needed to condense, something like, “We will now slide stitches around the needles and rotate the sock one quarter turn. From now on, you will view the sock from the side, rather than front or back.”

Had I any of the above statements, I would have said to myself, “Self, this pattern makes sense, let’s keep going, we can finish tonight!” Alas, it did not offer any of the aforementioned encouragement to persevere in the task. Instead, the pattern (yes, yes, an inanimate object) made me crazy for the better part of an evening.

As the furry maos began to help, so set the sock down and began searching on the ‘net for an hour or so. After a day of hunting, today is opening rifle season, Mom had offered to make chili for anyone who was game, so we went over to the folks’ place for dinner, with the brothers. (I have brothers!) I tried not to puzzle out what to do about the sock and enjoy dinner, at least I did something right 🙂

helper

After returning home, we watched some of our favorite Thursday night shows, then I did some more hunting of my own. I must have read 20 or 30 different pages on sock construction with two circular needles, I even found a video or two to watch. Unfortunately, the videos were sock construction on dpns (double pointed needles) as were several of the pages, the authors only indicated that socks could be formed on circs. Fortunately, I was able to see how to move the stitches and yarn around in a circular manner on dpns to pick up all the necessary stitches. I found several other lovely women, they seemed lovely but I didn’t probe too deeply, who struggled with the same step in the same pattern and book. Several pleas for help went unanswered, but I found an explanation or two, that while not answering the direct question, answered how that particular individual handled that specific step. All the sudden I felt that if I looked at my struggling sock and read the directions one more time while looking at struggling sock it would finally make all sense in the world. It was as if the heavens parted and angels sang. Ok, so it was more like a cat yawning and a dog snoring, but it was no less amazing. It made sense, I understood that I was putting two sets of stitches on the same needle even though a third set needed to be in between those. It’s like the logic games, move the boxes or the sliders. Sometimes you move them out of order so you can maneuver all of them into proper order later. I wish I could credit one author or a set of authors, regrettably was not one distinct source. I am now ready to pick up the stitches on the left side of the struggling sock and knit. My numbers don’t quite work out according to what the pattern indicates I should have, but I’ll fudge it later. I picked up extra stitches to prevent gaps and holes, as recommended by some of the lovely women I encountered in posts while researching. At this point, my struggling sock looks like an upside down miniature ski mask. I wonder if I could make a ski mask that way . . .

finally, a sock
the ski mask

My truly random thought, because the ski mask wasn’t, does anyone need a researcher? I’m not going to get my master’s in library science, but I’m a really good researcher. I spend many, many hours searching for an exhausting answer to my lack of sock construction understanding. I am fairly confident that I can now say I have seen it all.

On a completely different knitting note, I have learned so much on this one sock. I used to knit by counting and following the instructions extremely closely. In an effort to learn how to knit socks, I have checked out many, many random knitting books from the library. I have learned to knit stitches rather than counting, knit the knit, purl the purls. I found a small hole on each side of the sock, right where it isn’t supposed to be, I didn’t pick up enough stitches. On this knitting round, I knit to the old and armed with a crochet needle, I created a few new stitches and poof! no more hole. I have ripped stitches, recreated stitches. I believe I owe these brilliant discoveries to Douglas Adams. I have been watching the older BBC Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy episodes. I love the local library!

Jason’s Socks part 2

I have made some progress in the last two days. I have just a bit over 6 1/2 inches knitted for the leg of the sock.

6 1/2 inches knit

Now comes the fun part, knitting the heel, picking up stitches, the gusset and toe. Then I will start all over again. I will definitely learn how to knit two at a time the next time, whether toe up or toe down is not relevant at this point, though toe up is attractive due to the amount of yarn purchased. I can knit until I run out of yarn, with little to none to put back in the stash.

Debra’s Grandparents

My grandfather strained/sprained his shoulder about two weeks ago doing some electrical work. Because he felt poorly, he was sleeping a lot. He takes care of my grandmother and her meds, so while he wasn’t feeling well, my grandmother wasn’t getting consistent doses. Grandma called my mom and she went out to see what to do about it. Everyone received appropriate doses of meds and seemed to be on the mend. Last week, my grandmother’s sugar levels went wacky and she was hospitalized again. She has been in and out of the hospital many times over the last year. My uncle came up to my grandparents house as well, after Grandma was released, they all packed up and went to LI with my uncle and family.

My mom called tonight with an update on my grandparents. My uncle came home and found my grandfather in a poor state, pale and not as responsive. He was taken to the hospital and kept. His meds are out of wack, too much ibuprofen. Last week my mom said that Grandpa was directed to talk to his pharmacist about what to take for shoulder pain, the prescription was causing upset stomach, dehydration due to not keeping enough down. I wish I had said something immediately. I’m still not use to listening to the instinct that I have ignored since I was a child. I was concerned as soon as Mom said the doctor told Grandpa to consult with an individual who by law is not supposed to tell you what to take and is only supposed to answer questions about how things interact. I remember being younger and asking a pharmacist about what to take when I had a cold and I was told to ask about specific meds and how they treat symptoms, not what to take. That said, Grandpa may have an infection of some sort as his shoulder still hurts as well as the ibuprofen problem.

Please pray.

Socks!

Jason had class on Saturday, so I decided to spend the day with Patty. I drove to GR with a basket full of yarn and several knitting books. We planned to knit the day away. After a lunch that included Mt. Dew, we went back to her house and commenced crafting. I was a bit hung up on a volunteer quandary. The application process requires me to answer questions that seem a bit invasive, extremely callous and not at all applicable to the activities I would have participated in while at the organization. I eventually decided that I was not going participate in that particular project, overall commitment is yet to be determined.

After some mental processing, I was ready to begin my first sock construction. I had hoped to do my first pair toe-up two at a time, but after searching for a while, I failed to find a suitable pattern for my first sock endeavor. I wimped out and went for one sock at a time on two needles. I may try magic loop next time. Mostly, I’m concerned about not wanting to do the second sock and learning sock anatomy with too complicated a pattern. I cast on my stitches, frogged, cast on and frogged. All said and done, I was afraid I was going to have to cut some yarn due to over knitting. Here’s what I hope is the final cast on.

cast on

When I asked Jason if he wanted any homemade socks, he seemed hesitant at first, but I found some fun dark pumpkin orange wool to try this with. If I’m lucky, I’ll have them finished by Thursday, but I’ll have to do nothing but knit. This picture shows about 2 1/2 inches of cuff.

socks at 2