Friday, October 29, 2010

Kazuri Beads

On Thursday I had the opportunity to tour a bead factory just south of Nairobi near where we're staying. The factory is called Kazuri Beads and they're a fair trade organization. They sell many beads to America through stores like 10,000 Villages. Kazuri means 'small and beautiful' in Swahili. It all started in 1975 when a British woman (Lady Susan Wood) wanted to help more single mothers to get jobs and be able to support their families. She started with two women back then but the company now employs a large workforce skilled in the manufacture of hand-made jewelry, many of them single mothers. A benefit they provide is free health care to the families of employees. Take a tour with me.

Clay is brought in from the mountains of Kenya but must be broken down and separated from the rocks.

Then it's put into machines that press it down & form it into bricks.

These bricks are taken into the factory where the women transform the clay into shapes. The clay feels like putty at this point.

Each woman has a molding tray and they make different sizes according to the orders for the day. Our guide informed us that the women go to a 3-month training where they learn to do many tasks in the factory so that they're not doing the same thing every day. They get rotated between several jobs.

These women are all molding today.

Other women poke holes through the clay to make it ready to be stringed into a necklace, bracelet or earrings. After this phase, they heat the 'beads' in a kiln to bake them and make them hard.

Next the beads are transferred to a bigger room for painting. Each woman has a bowl of beads and a design that she's assigned to paint for the day.

Then the beads are hung on racks to dry a bit.

At the end of the day, the beads are transferred from the racks into these kilns where they're baked a second time. The kilns run during the night because they get so hot; up to 1000 degrees.

In the kiln, the beads are placed between hot bricks and do not touch each other.

After cooling, the beads are sent to the jewelry-making table. This lady is putting together a necklace. Each lady has a different assignment.

Any extra beads are stored in this room until the next time they're needed. This is my friend, Juanita, who took the tour with me.

One of the most fascinating things to see in the factory was this lady. She is specialized in weaving & making beaded wall-hangings. No two creations are the same. It takes her three weeks to complete one wall hanging and the one we saw in the gift shop was being sold for $1,125.

In another part of the factory, pottery was being made. This man was transforming the clay into animal body parts that would later be formed into a completed animal.

Another man was on a wheel forming bowls.

Other pottery was made by pouring liquid clay into molds.

This lady was smoothing the new creations to perfection.

We left one shop and entered another where the pottery was being painted. This lady was putting spots on a giraffe.

Our guide showed us the oven where the pottery is heated. He was saying something important about pressure in the oven and not opening the door when I zoned out. Not the best time for zoning.

This is a before & after picture. The pottery is light before going into the ovens but it comes out glossy & vibrantly-colored.

And this is the on-site gift shop where many of Kazuri's products get sold.

The pottery section of the store.

I thank God for places like Kazuri who empower the less-fortunate and make a difference in their communities.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Closer Look at Giraffes

Last Sunday we went to a giraffe park where people can get a closer look at these intriguing animals. We went up the stairs to a raised platform where the giraffes could lean over the rail and eat pellets out of our hands. Some daring individuals even put pellets between their lips and let the giraffes lick them off. Ugh! Not exactly my cup of tea and I didn't let Terrill do it either. He had to choose between me & the giraffe. ;)

They have long purplish tongues that can reach 18 inches as an adult. The tongues are made of tough skin in order that they can eat thorns in the wild and be able to digest them properly. Giraffes are herbivores. To properly digest the leaves they usually eat, they swallow once, regurgitate, chew some more then swallow a second time.

Our Ik friend, Philip, has been close to many other wild animals but never a giraffe before.

The giraffes were domestic enough to eat out of our hands but they didn't like to be petted.

There are three types of giraffes in Kenya and they're differentiated by their different markings and colorings. The types are Masai, Reticulated & Rothschild.

They are currently the tallest animals in the world; usually between 16-18 ft. tall. Males weigh about 3000 lbs and females weigh around 2500 lbs. Not an enemy you want to make.

Having fun in Nairobi!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Back to School

On October 9th, we started our journey from Kampala to Nairobi, Kenya. Terrill is attending a six-week tone workshop led by Keith Snider, an SIL expert in the field. We brought our Ik language helper, Longoli Philip, along to help Terrill analyze the tone system. They're collecting words and whistling the tones to find patterns. Eventually, they hope to incorporate tone into the Ik writing system.

The journey from Kampala to Nairobi took about 12 hours of driving. We thank God for the well-maintained tarmac roads that made traveling a pleasure (for a change). The highlight of the journey was seeing the Kenya tea plantations around a place called Kericho. Bright green leaves are picked from the top of the plants and stuffed into sacks. Then the sacks are hauled off to the factory on a near-by hill where the tea is packaged.

We're staying just south of Nairobi in a suburb known as Karen. Our SIL friends, Tom & Juanita Matthews, live here and have graciously allowed us to stay with them for the coming weeks. Already they've blessed us with hospitality and 'old school' missionary wisdom. Every day, we head to the NEGST campus where the workshop is being held.

One thing I've come to love about Karen are the tree-lined roads. Flowers are blooming and emitting sweet smells, a light wind is blowing and a feeling of serenity surrounds me as I walk from the Matthew's house to campus. I get my morning exercise by walking to school...about 5 kilometers. Terrill gets his afternoon exercise by walking home while I take the car.

The workshop starts at 8:15 am and Terrill attends class in the morning. By the afternoon, it's time for eliciting words from Philip and studying the tone. This is the building where they're meeting.

I couldn't leave out the cafeteria because we spend a good deal of time here. At morning break, we enjoy mandazis (doughnuts) or samosas (meat filled pastries) and tea. For lunch, we enjoy the beans, rice, cabbage, chipatis & hot dogs. The cafeteria also helps our social life by providing opportunity to mingle with other students.

We'll be in Karen until November 20th. It's nice to have a break in our routine and be back on a campus. It's provides renewed perspective.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Gift of Experiences

I want to thank all of you who have wished me a happy birthday over the past week. Sometimes you forget how many friends & loved ones you have until you've heard from many of them on special days. Some people have asked how we celebrated and I want to share a tradition we've instituted in our marriage. If you've known us for awhile, you may already know this about us.
...Terrill & I don't often spend money on holiday gifts....instead we spend money on the gift of experiences. Being transient missionaries makes it difficult to accumulate 'stuff'. If we buy it, I know we'll have to eventually pack it up and take it with us. Do I really want to be carrying around a lot of 'stuff'? We decided early in our marriage that we'd rather travel to new places, taste new foods & make memories instead of buying gifts. This year was no exception and Terrill made it quite special. The day of my birthday was fun and out of the ordinary for us. I had chocolate cake & cappuccino for breakfast, we went to see a movie in a theater and we had lunch at a favorite Mexican restaurant. That was that. Celebration complete...or so I thought.

But both Terrill & I turned 30 this year and he wanted to do something a little extra special. On the trip to Nairobi, we stopped for a night in Jinja (close to Kampala). Jinja sits on Lake Victoria and is where the Nile enters Uganda. Terrill's surprise was to take me horseback riding on trails near the Nile. I haven't ridden in years but my family had horses when I was a child and they make me nostalgic of my growing up years. We had a wonderful ride, even with a light rain falling and villagers staring at us. There's nothing like the smell of tropical plants and wet horse hide. ;)

For the night, we were booked into a lodge called the Nile Porch. The river rushed below the escarpment our little guest house was perched upon. As we sat and had our tea while enjoying the surrounding greenery, I couldn't help but breathe a sigh of contentment. Later on that night, I learned why Terrill really wanted to stay at the Nile Porch. They were famed for having some of the best ribs around. So, after some meager & meatless meals, my husband had a proper dinner. I won't tell you how much he ate. The next morning we had our breakfast outside and watched two parrots fly between trees. These are the kind of birthdays I'll never forget. I can't lose these memories and they won't get worn out over the years.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

We're all beggars

Being rich among the very poor puts one in the odd position of being like God, in this way: as God has MORE than all of us, we have MORE than the very poor. Those who have LESS go to those who have MORE, so that they can get MORE of whatever is it they want or need. I wouldn't want to presume to know what God 'feels' like when billions of people ask him for 'goods' or 'services' each day. But, to the degree that I am godlike (made in God's image), a person blessed with abundant resources, is it possible I know a little what God feels like when dozens of people ask me for goods and services each day?

The Ik word wáán means 'beg'. It also means 'pray'. Hmm... Pray tell, what do begging and praying have to do with each other? Do you beg when you pray? Do I? The Ik word for 'visitor' is wáánam, which means 'begging person'. Hmm... Do you beg when you go visiting? The Ik do. Maybe you don't 'beg', but maybe when you visit someone, you are looking for something. Maybe it's just a listening ear.

When the Ik hear of our impending trip to this or that place for a certain amount of time, the letters and lists start coming. As the days dwindle before our departure, the little stack of requests grows. Here's a list like the kind we get:

Please sir, remember for me the following:

-jacket (rainproof)
-money, for the children

Thank you sir for your assistance...

By the end of our stay in Ikland, I'm usually not in much of a mood to consider these lists. I mean, why would I bring you all these things when I barely even know you? You hear I'm going to 'Kampala' or 'my country' and you appear with a list? I don't even have a relationship with you. List goes in the trash bin. Sorry.

The other day I was in the spare bedroom praying my list of requests to God. A nice list, covering most areas of my life, certainly all the points of anxiety. Then it hit me: does God want my list, or does he want my relationship?

A few Ik come by just to greet us or spend a bit of time with us. Another precious few will occasionally confide in us about their problems without asking for anything more than a listening ear. I love that.

I decided that I would try something: instead of reading off my list of requests to God, I would just talk to God about my issues. If he wants to do anything about them, then great! If not, he's free! I know how free I feel when someone shares their concerns with me without asking for a solution or even hinting that I should provide one. Then I am free to offer help as I feel led.

There are many ways to pray, and I am certainly not saying I found the answer to prayer. I only wanted to share the perspective I've gained in recent months on the issue of wáán 'praying/begging'. If our personhood is like God's Personhood, then maybe God prefers our confidence and time to our lists, letters, and enumerations. I pray thee to consider!