So, at 7pm London time, we boarded our final eight hour flight for Kenya.  If you’re keeping track, that is 38 hours total travel time, and two nights sleep in those wonderful airline seats.  (On the trip from Chicago to London our seats were upgraded to economy plus, which gave you extra leg space, and that was extremely wonderful, even for a short person like me!)  I have to say that the whole travel thing went extraordinarily smoothly.  Every single flight was on time, or even a little early.  There was never any prolonged time sitting in the plane waiting to take off. And our tour leader was extremely proficient at moving 17 people through all the different check in points–that was very comforting to not have to worry about any of that.  Security in some places was pretty lax, while in others they were extremely thorough.  I never had to be searched, though, thank goodness.  Someone had told me to not wear loose clothing.  So I had a comfortable outfit that was fitted–black cords and a black cotton turtleneck sweater, along with my fuzzy white jacket and a black and white silk scarf that I had woven years ago.  It was the perfect traveling outfit, I have to say.  I take dramamine for motion sickness when I fly, and even though it is labeled ‘less drowsy formula,’ I cannot stay awake on a plane!  Another plus on a long trip!

Eight and a half hours later we arrived in Nairobi, Kenya, at 8:30 in the morning.  During our orientation, our leader had explained that the Kenyan people are extremely relational, and time is not extremely important to them.  Just as he described, we were greeted by about 8 (extremely good looking) young men, and every single one of them greeted every single one of us with a handshake and a smile, and exchanging names.  Doing the multiplication, that is about 136 handshakes!

In general, the Kenyan people are very beautiful.  I saw so many young men and women that I thought “they could be models” if someone ‘discovered’ them.  I was particularly impressed with their beautiful teeth and smiles.  The woman (from the couple that was my age) was a microbiologist, and she explained that for tooth decay you need bacteria AND sugar.  They eat very little sugar.  Which was a good thing for me!

Let me backtrack here and explain again about the organization that I traveled with.  Their name is Vapor Sports Ministries, and their goal is to provide humanitarian aid and sustainable life change, alongside sports and teaching people what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.  Like I have said several times, I am not much interested in sports.  But I decided to support this group because it seemed more personal to send money to a smaller organization, to people that I actually knew and trusted.  I know that there are many other organizations that are doing the same thing, and doing it well.  Actually, that was one of my takeaway thoughts–the enormity of the problem of extreme poverty in this world.  You could allow it to paralyze you into apathy or inactivity.  But we can’t allow that to happen.

In the orientation, they talked about how traditional ‘missions trips’ are not actually helpful.  To just swoop in and paint a building or hand out some food and clothing does not solve the problem.  So one of their goals is to empower the local people to use their resources(!) and to build leadership from within.  This was really one of the great things that I saw.  But I am getting ahead of myself.

Back to the airport.  We were all tired, of course, but the goal was to keep us up, so we would get on Kenyan time and be able to sleep that night.  So we got all loaded up–17 people and 34 giant bags–that’s a lot of loading up!  Each person took one large bag for themselves, and one large bag loaded with sports equipment for the soccer teams there.

Driving through Nairobi I was struck with the, well, with how dirty and unfinished everything was.  I’m not talking about the slums.  Just in general they do not have the resources or money or whatever it is that we have to ‘make things nice.’  And then, how there was nice housing like right next door to slums.

I’ll try to describe the road to the guesthouse that we stayed at.  So you turn off the main road (OMGOSH, I’ll have to talk about the traffic and the driving later.  I just chose to trust that our drivers were extremely skilled and competent…) and on the corner there was a very large, very nice brick catholic church.  But the road in front of it was just a rutted dirt and rock road leading straight into a slum area.  The slum areas all had multiple little shacks that were businesses of various sorts–food for sale, shoe repair, hair ‘salons’, which seemed to consist of a chair out front with a woman braiding her customer’s hair, etc.  Multiple goats and chickens running around, and tons of darling little kids waving and saying “howareyou howareyou howareyou?” in singsong voices.  The driver explained that that is the first thing they learn in school and are waiting for us to say “fine.”  So we continue down this rutted dirt road, past more goats and chickens and kids, make a couple of sharp turns, and come to this guest house, kind of like a little apartment house (which I imagine is similar to what we would find in America in ‘the projects’ or such.  VERY basic facilities.  There was a shower, no stall.  You had to turn the hot water heater on each time you wanted to take a shower, and the showers were usually lukewarm, with the occasional blast of ice cold or scalding hot water.  Not complaining, just describing.  Next door to where we stayed were our hosts for the trip.  An EXTREMELY charming and gracious couple who served a great breakfast every morning.  Let’s just say my resolve to not eat much wheat went out the window on this trip.  Toast, french toast, pancakes, sandwiches…you name it, I ate it.  They did also serve good eggs, even made omelets sometimes.  Not a lot of fruit, and not as many veggies as I am used to.  Very little dairy.  Because there is not much refrigeration  available.  They did serve FANTASTIC coffee every morning.  My friends had kindly allowed me to borrow their little coffee maker, but I really didn’t need it most mornings.  Because we started every day at 7am!

Anyway, we arrived and this pretty vine was growing on the outside of the building.  I was still in the ‘its impolite to take too many pictures mode’ so unfortunately I don’t have any other pics of where we stayed.

Then back in  the bus and on to the center in Kawangware. Now.  I had looked at all the pictures on the Vapor website.  And had seen videos when they came to our church to speak.  But as with anything, pictures are not the same as in person.  So the sights were not surprising to me.  The enormity of the space and problem was a bit overwhelming.  Coupled with the fact that the whole time I am thinking, this is just one slum in one city.  Actually this is not even the biggest slum in THIS city.  And then of course the other senses are bombarded.  Specifically the sense of smell.  And actually, for whatever reason, the smell was not as offensive to me as even our own American dumps.  I don’t know why.  Maybe because it was the ever present smell of burning coals. They always have little coal ovens going.  Sometimes there were piles of garbage burning, but more often it was cooking something or other.  They are very industrious, and even in the slums there were lines and lines of little stalls offering food and other stuff for sale.

We had been told during our orientation to be sensitive and to not take pictures in the slums, which was disappointing to me because I wanted to take pictures to share and for inspiration for possible quilts.  So I didn’t take many pictures, but I do have some that were taken by Drew VanFossen, who does volunteer work for Vapor.  His pictures show exactly what I saw.  I think they are beautiful and artistic despite the poverty that they show.

This scene was so typical.  These ducks were ever present, along with the goats and the chickens.

They split us into smaller groups and the Kenyan guys who work for Vapor took us on a tour of the slums.  Kids were everywhere, the piles of garbage were everywhere, and little streams of sewage were running down the middle of the street.  I wonder if my years of raising dogs and cleaning out dog kennels made this less horrific to me??



We went by this stall and I was completely fascinated.  I told Lawrence, my guide about my fascination with quilting and all.  So on the way back he brought me back by these ladies, and I had him ask if they minded me taking a picture because I loved to sew too.  It looks like maybe they had a business repairing or even making work clothes for people.  Probably they did whatever was needed.  I didn’t see anything that looked like quilting. But again I was struck that not much is needed in way of space or materials to try to be creative.


The second day at Kawangware they again divided us into small groups and had each leader take us to his home (which was in the slum) for lunch.  Oh, adventure!  By this time we had already had one Kenyan lunch, so I was only a little nervous.  I wish I could have taken a picture of their home.  Two rooms.  The room that we ate in was maybe 8 feet by 8 feet.  Maybe.  Lawrence’s wife had done her best to make it beautiful.  There was a narrow bench in the middle that served as the table, with a narrow bench along one wall, and little chairs against the other wall.  Somehow eight of us fit in there to eat.  There were clean pretty cloths on the bench, and draped over the entrance into the other room.  Lawrence disappeared and came back with warm sodas for everyone.  Eventually (Kenya time was a common  phrase on the trip,) a bowl and a pitcher of warm water was presented–they poured the warm water over our hands to wash them, which I thought was a very sweet thing to do.  I don’t know if that is a custom, or if that was special for us Americans.  The meal that Lydia presented was really very good–gumbala, rice, some kind of stew, and these delicious tortilla-like things called chapati.  All of this was cooked outside on her little charcoal cooker.  I’ll tell you, I was humbled by their hospitality.  I think I can’t entertain because my house is too small and messy for people….

Here is a picture of Lydia.  Isn’t she a beautiful woman?

Now then.  There was a LOT of soccer playing going on on this trip.  I’m not complaining.  After all, the name of the group is Vapor Sports.  I’m just saying.  For this NON-sports loving woman, there was a LOT of soccer.  The little guy in the yellow shirt is Freddy.  He is one of the first kids they ‘rescued’ at Vapor.  His mom had died, and he was living with his alcoholic dad who did not take care of him at all.  Freddy is quite a character, and very confident.  He is so typical of the kids (and adults) around there.  VERY slim.  My microbiologist friend was more inquisitive than I was, and asked one of the guys how often they ate, and they said matter-of-factly, “oh, once a day.”  There you go, girls.  The simple answer to all our problems with losing weight and keeping it off.

Being my usual shy, insecure self, I found myself sitting on the sidelines observing many times, while others in the group talked and played with the kids.  This little girl, who was shy herself, picked a  blade of grass and began tickling me!

We had fun talking and tickling, and she was quite intrigued with my camera and took quite a few pictures for me. Here’s the picture she took of me (remember, I am ‘puffy’ from travel LOL)  The brick building in the background is the bathroom…Oh my, the bathrooms were also a challenge.  Most of them were just a hole in the floor.  But I have to say that I was patient, and only once during the whole trip did I have to use the hole in the floor.  I did, however, always have my own tissue paper in my purse.)

Nanci and I together.  The buildings in the background here are nice apartment buildings that have been built directly on the edge of the slum!

Wow.  If you have made it this far, thank you.  Come back tomorrow for continuing adventures in Africa!


The Right Equipment

I guess this is something everybody already knows, but thought I’d put it out there for those just starting out on this fitness journey who might not be as inclined to treat themselves to ‘the right equipment.’  Whew.  That sentence was a little too long.  But you probably get my drift.

I’m actually one of those people prone to just make do and not invest a lot of money in the right equipment.  But because of the encouragement of certain bloggettes, I happen to have  a nice collection of running gear.   Dietgirl talked a lot about the right sports bra, and while I didn’t get the one she recommended, I did get a darn good one.  And then Vickie told me about the wonders of wearing two pairs of socks.  Lori and Shelley have talked quite a bit about their running clothes, and so when I was at Marshall’s one day, I shelled out a few more dollars than normal for a really nice pair of running pants.  And of course, due to Shelley’s generosity, I have a Nike Plus that I can use (don’t tell Shelley, but I haven ‘t quite figured out how to use it yet…)  And I have my beloved Saucony running shoes, which I do replace pretty regularly, since I walk (and run ) so much.

So almost every day…well, on my best days…I put on all the right equipment and head out for my walk with Noah.  Even when there was an extended period of time there when my knees and my back were hurting too much to want to run.  But I was READY if everything felt right.  And eventually I just started back running, and challenging myself to go a little farther and to run a bit more UP the hills.  And having all the right equipment on made a tremendous difference in how far and how hard I would try to keep going.  And now, I’M RUUU-NNNING (said in a Forrest Gump voice.)  This morning after practicing Noah’s obedience lessons with him, we ran for practically the whole three miles.  And tonight, after listening to the Two Fit Chicks podcast (I LOOOOVVVE THESE PODCASTS SOOO MUCH!!!) I WANTED to go out and run again!  So I put Noah in the car (he loves the car ride) and drove to the end of the road so we could run where it was a little flatter. That was fun.  Not too far, probably a mile or so.  But a cool breeze was blowing, I had taken the time to put the right equipment on again, and it just makes me feel good about myself.  The bra–well you know what that does, and the pants–they just stay in place, don’t bunch up , and they kind of move with me.  And the two pairs of socks–I hate it when my socks get wrinkled inside my shoes.  Wearing two pairs not only gives my feet extra cushioning, they just stay in place so nicely.  And to quote Forrest again,  That’s all I want to say about that.

Wildflowers along the road tonight.

Today my food choices were SUPERB (gotta say that in a French accent.)   PLEN-TY of veggies.  A modicum of fruit, a little dairy, a little protein, and not too many dessert type foods.  (But enough to make me satisfied.)  I made two batches of yogurt and strained one so I have plenty of regular AND Greek yogurt for the week. I did some ‘grown-up chores’ (good grief how old do I have to be before I stop thinking of boring maintenance stuff as  grown-up chores?)  And when I came home from that, the day was about gone, but I put some beets in to roast for a salad, and then I washed ALL THREE DOGS!   Don’t Sophie and Mr. Monk look fluffy LOL?  (The first shot is on my ‘auto’ setting, and after that I experimented and figured out how to set the camera to night time shots–what a difference, huh?)

Okay, this last shot of Noah is a bit too much of a ‘self-portrait.’  A little too much of my clutter showing up in this pic.  That rope thing is one of his beloved ‘childhood’ toys that he has recently rediscovered.  He still has that funny puppy ‘halo’ of fluffy hair on top of his head.

Lots to Talk About

And gee.  Just this morning I thought I’d never blog again…

Man, that was a tough four days.  Thanks for all the nice thoughts.  I mostly was trying to say that if you will re-frame (ooh, a W.W. term) your thinking and your expectations of ‘a good day,’ that just a moment or two is enough to refresh.

However, that is not how I felt this morning.  More like I’d been run over by a mack truck.  Adding to the mix of the last few days was some kind of ominous malfunction in my car.  Every light on the dashboard would light up, and it would almost lose power.  We will be limping down to the auto repair shop tomorrow.

That turned out to be a blessing in disguise, though.  It forced me to stay home.  I skipped church, cancelled another evening meeting, and skipped going to the gym, the grocery store, and Walmart.  Noah got a TON of attention, and as a result (I think?) he was quiet a whole hour before it got dark!  First dinner I’ve eaten in peace in quite a while.  Really, the last time I ate at home I had him on leash next to me, and I would take one bite and then correct him.  Take another bite and then correct him.  I know.  I’m making you more sorry for Noah than you are for me LOL.  [which reminds me of June’s hilarious post about how she HATES LOL.  I like it because when Monk (the detective, not the famous dog) was trying to be cool he said “LOL out loud.”  LOL.  I can’t help myself]  Now, where was I?  Oh, I guess I want to tell you about all the wondrous relaxing(?) things I did today.

Started the day with one of my blueberry scones and some greek yogurt (used as clotted cream.)  This is really really an excellent use of greek yogurt.  Yummmm!!!  (I think that’s another thing that annoys June (adding extra letters.)

Then to a project that I keep forgetting about because I was dreading it.  It involved figuring out how to do something new on the computer.  Aaaarrrgh.  But, to make a long story short, I DID IT!  And the pictures are miraculously already waiting for me at Costco.  11″X14″ enlargements for $2.99.  I can hardly believe it.  They are the pictures of the litte kids in the slums in Kawangware (the place I am going to visit in Africa) and I will use them when I display the ‘Africa’ quilt at church next month.  I want to share these pictures with you–waiting for permission from the photographer.

Noah is trying to figure out what the fascination is with the big white screen that Mom stares at all the time…

Then, finally, I set out on a long walk with Noah.  I took a backpack with a GIANT apple, a homemade protein bar, a bottle of water, and a book.  I was hopeful that Noah might let me sit for a minute and read and eat. (I used to do this with Oliver all the time.)  We went down to the little stream and waterfall.  Well, he didn’t really relax, but it was FUN!  I ate my big apple and read a little bit, and he explored, as much as you can explore on a 6-foot lead.  Then he noticed all the STICKS!  It kind of looked like a little beaver dam, but I think it was just a bunch of branches that got caught on the rocks in the stream.  STICK HEAVEN!  Once he got his feet wet, he really had fun splashing around.  I hurried to finish my apple, and tried to get some pictures of him in the stream.

And a couple of shots of the little waterfall.

On the way home I noticed some beautiful wild flowers.

And finally, we ended our walk with Noah’s perfect ‘Stick of the Day.’

I love that look of happy satisfaction when he finds just the right stick and gets it perfectly arranged in his mouth.  There’s a lot of tossing around and picking up and putting down that goes on.  I think its actually because his teeth still hurt.

Well, a wee bit of quilting, a little reading, and some weeding ensued.  I had some of that tofu edemame salad for a late lunch.  And when dinner time rolled around, I wanted something quick and easy and light.  Had one more of those little puffy tortilla thingies in the frig, and made a real quick, but DELIGHTFUL meal.  I realized that these things fulfill my love of cheese enchiladas.  And do you know enchilada sauce only has 15 calories in 1/4 cup???  So I chopped some romaine lettuce, a couple of little tomatoes, and one slice of onion.  I put the lettuce, tomatoes and half the onion on the plate and sprinkled a little garlic salt and pepper.  I put the rest of the onion in the pan with the pupusa (that’s what these things are called) to cook.  When the pupusa was good and hot, I plated it, and then put 1/4 cup of enchilada sauce in the pan with the onions, just to heat it through, and poured that on top of the pupusa.  Yum.  Yum. Yum.  Because when I have a cheese enchilada, my favorite thing is to eat a bit of the lettuce garnish with each bite of enchilada.  I love these things so much, I checked the label so I could tell you what they were in case you ever see them.

AND…drum roll please… I made my first batch of frozen yogurt tonight.  I’ve been eyeing this yogurt maker for over a year, and I finally ordered it.

It arrived a few days ago, and this was my first chance to use it.  And surprise, I had a fresh batch of homemade yogurt to use in it.  I looked at a couple of recipes, and then just used these three ingredients:  one pound of strawberries, 1/4 cup of sugar, and 2 cups of yogurt.  I didn’t want it too sweet, since I seem to crave the ‘tart’ flavors at the frozen yogurt shops.  I am going to have a cup with a few walnuts and chocolate chips on top.  Oh, wait.  I’ll take a picture of it for you!

The verdict?  Yummy.  Tart, but sweet enough.  A little icy, I think because of the high ratio of fruit.  No doubt many more frozen yogurt recipes will follow.  I will make smaller batches so more opportunity for experimenting!

Habanada, everbody!

Happy Friday to All

Happy Friday evening to everyone!  Work has been pretty good this week, and today was a great day off.  I’m getting in some nice long walks with Noah, and had a challenging circuit training session with Vicky at the gym.  I lapsed into a little of that negative thought pattern this morning–“what’s the use of running, hard workouts, waiting til I’m hungry to eat?  I’m still the same size.  I’m never going to lose any more.”  And then I remembered that the ‘use’ is that I am doing what needs to be done just to maintain my current weight.  That’s the use.  Oh.  Okay.

Regarding my trial of Intuitive Eating, I’m doing pretty good.  Weight seems to be staying the same.  I am definitely not in a ‘losing weight’ mindset this week.  Just enjoying the good food a little too much!  Good food, as in lots of fresh fruit, veggies, Vicky’s concoctions, fresh dairy, walnuts, oatmeal, scones, protein pancakes…the usual suspects.  Tonight I made a new version of something I’ve tried before.  It came out so good I wrote it down this time–Fried Rice.  It came about because of some new products I got at Costco.  Organic Brown Rice bowls–90 seconds in the microwave, 2 servings per bowl.  And, BTW, only 5mg sodium per serving.  The beauty of a recipe like this is that you can vary it a lot of different ways, depending on what you have on hand, and/or what kind of veggies you like.  I really like the texture of the carrots and zucchini that have been grated on the mandolin.  Combines really well with the rice.  I didn’t take a picture–sorry about that.

I do have some gorgeous pictures to share with you, though.  More garden shots.  I’m enjoying my new camera.

Sweet Woodruff--I love this groudcover.

It has tiny little white flowers and the faintest sweet smell.

Camellias are frustrating.  I practically had to stand on my head to take a picture of this gorgeous flower.

One of my Japanese maples named 'lemon lime. Appropriate name, don't you think?

First tulip of the year.

Sweet little blue flowers, almost hidden beneath the bigger daffodils.