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Viands Family Journal
May 18, 2017 12:03 pm
Published in: Uncategorized

Before coming to Kenya, our church and our mission agency both had us read a lot of books about living cross-culturally. It was so interesting to see how the nations of the world can be put on a spectrum based on certain attributes such as community, values, sense of time versus relationship, etc. In terms of this spectrum, the US is on one side and Kenya is on the other. Both places have great strengths which we have come to appreciate and enjoy. Still, living cross-culturally can be challenging at times. We have lived in Kenya for nearly five years now, and we feel like we have waded in up to our ankles. There are still so many areas of life that we do not fully understand, and often we respond to situations with a complete western mindset despite having the knowledge that we are to put that aside.

One of the delights in living in Kenya is the time factor. We do try to be on time, but if we aren’t, it is ok. There is an understanding that if you come half an hour or more late to church or a social event, it is not a big deal. I used to chafe at this a bit, especially if we were expecting company and had made the food already, but now I know why every Kenyan woman I know keeps her food in an insulated hot pot. I prepare the meal and then put it aside for future use rather than wring my hands because it is getting cold and the guests are two or three hours late than I expected. There has to be grace given in a society where public transport is the way most people travel, and on top of that there are remarkable traffic jams with nothing to do but wait it out. More than that though, there is a mindset that the relationship is paramount. If you are visiting with someone and have another appointment coming up, you will extend your stay with the person who needs you rather than be on time to the next thing. This is because everyone will understand that the relationship is more important that being on time. We have learned to just relax and enjoy the moment.

One of my discomforts is that of sticking out (Jamie does not struggle with this the way I do, so I think a lot of it is personality-based). When I go to town, I often feel tense the whole time, conscious of every gaze shifted my way, every child or young man who yells out “mzungu!” and every move being duly noted. I am very aware of what I buy, how much I spend, how full my cart is. I have been known to purposely go to two different shopping centers in order to be able to check out with a smaller cart at each one and still get what I need.  Another discomfort would be that of not knowing how to solve a problem. Once, while exiting the underground parking at the local supermarket, the gate guard pointed out to me that I had a flat. He motioned me to the side of the busy road, and I wondered what to do next. There was a feeling of “Oh no! How do I handle this?” Before I could ponder/panic, a crowd of young men gathered around to see if they could help. They soon had the tire off and the axel fitted with a spare. I was so grateful. I gave them a little cash to get some lunch, and I think that made their day as well. There may be people who will take advantage of you in any culture, but we have experienced great kindness from strangers while in Kenya. Sometimes while out and about, I have to force myself to put one foot in front of the other, ignoring the feelings of embarrassment or awkwardness. Sometimes I have to ask myself, “What is the worst-case scenario here? How bad will it be? Maybe I’ll get laughed at, but I’m not likely to undergo physical harm.”  In cases where physicial harm is an issue, I have found bursting into tears and praying for a way out is a great strategy.  A few weeks ago, I knew we needed groceries, but I just didn’t want to go to town. I didn’t want to go. I put it off, scoured the pantry, used up bits of this and that, and finally, when I was out of milk, flour, eggs, bread, and pretty much everything else, I made the trip to town. On the way home, there are dukas (little huts) that sell fruit that is fresher and cheaper than at the supermarket. I don’t like to pull over in our big vehicle, and it’s something I force myself to do. I often mentally say, “You can do it, Kim. Just turn the wheel. Go off the road. Commit.” I’ll buy the fruit, chat with the lady selling it, get back in the car and breath a sigh of relief. I am happy to shop the way so many others do, walking on foot, carrying a small bag out of the store. But because of needing to get enough for the family and also having a short time to do shopping while I leave my crew at home, I drive our big ol’ car, and that is wear my discomfort comes in–feeling like a rich person. I wonder sometimes what it would feel like to be able to really fit in. I found it interesting awhile back when I was in line the supermarket, feeling the usual tense, cringing feel that always comes over me while I am in line. Where do I look? Do I make small talk? That lady behind me is staring at the objects on the belt. Do I smile and say hi or mind my own business. Do I have enough change to give a tip to the man who will no doubt kindly offer to help me carry the groceries to the car down in the parking garage below? The feelings are strong, and I just breathe as I wait for the total to be given. Suddenly the power goes off. It will only be for a minute until the generator kicks in, but in the minute of pitch-black dark I feel something strange come over me. Anonymity. I can feel my heart rate go down, and I suddenly relax and breath normally. It is only a minute, but it makes me realize just how affected I am by being “different.”

Even in the midst of these strong feelings, I delight in interacting with people. I enjoy chatting with the guy who bags the groceries or sells phone credit. I like going to the huge produce market and bargaining a bit or just asking in Swahili. Learning Swahili is just plain old FUN when it so changes the way I interact with people. I still stumble about for words, but everyone I talk to encourages me by laughing with me at my mistakes and telling me I speak fluently (flattery is welcome). If I can get a few words of Kikamba in (the local language), I get even more of a reaction of delight–highly addictive for an attention-seeking person such as myself.

We have learned a lot about hospitality while being here. Here are some simple rules that have made us better hosts: 1. Always invite people in…don’t chat at the door. 2. Assure people that they can leave their shoes on. 3. Always serve chai or a drink of some kind. Don’t ask if they want anything, just serve it. To ask is to put them in the embarrassing position of needing to ask for it. Offer to let them wash their hands if they like. 4. Even if you only have one guest, fill the sugar bowl to the top as if to say, “All I have is yours! Take as much as you like!” 5. Along those lines, fill any glass or mug to the very top. Make it spill a little when they try to stir it or pick it up. If you don’t, you will be considered selfish (I am so chagrined that I didn’t GET this rule until just a few weeks ago when a dear lady pulled me aside and let me know that I hadn’t filled the water glasses full enough–I wonder how many times my filling of glasses has been super stingy!). 6. Always ask about family and friends and give a warm greeting upon meeting someone. Don’t just say “hi” and walk by. If the person is a generation older than you or just someone of great repute, put your left hand on your right elbow as you shake hands to show respect. 7. Don’t be on time. You can make your hosts uncomfortable if they are not prepared. Be respectful and be a few minutes late at least. I especially like abiding by this one. 🙂 8. Share what you have. If someone has a need, the community is their first resource. You don’t have to give an exorbitant amount, but as the Lord leads, do share. When little kids come to ask us to sponser them in a walk-a-thon or something for school, we always give something, as all the other neighbors do. If someone asks for help, we try to give something, even if it is small. That is how the community works together. Sometimes we feel overwhelmed by the needs, and sometimes it can feel like we are targeted by those who see us mostly as their big opportunity, but more often we are just invited into the community of sharing. (This is a huge topic which we wrestle with a lot on  a day-to-day basis, and we don’t have the answers. There are some resources I’d recommend for anyone seeking more on this: When Helping Hurts and African Freinds and Money Matters plus a lot of prayer and asking for the leading of the Holy Spirit.) 9. Allow others to be hospitable to you and enjoy their kindness to you. Eagerly follow up invitations to come for tea or to visit someone’s homeplace or village. You will experience tremendous hospitality when visiting someone’s home. Always bring a gift, usually of food like flour or other staples and fruit. Bring it in a plastic bag and don’t expect the host to open it in front of you. 10. Borrow eggs or flour from your neighbors whenever possible. Giving back the exact things (two eggs or whatever) may make them feel you think they are stingy, so it is better to give back in the form of a special baked item or something or just make sure they know they can borrow from you too. I feel so happy inside when a neighbor feels free to ask for some last-minute cooking items.

One more random delight/discomfort would be about the perception of body image and weight here in Kenya.  It has been a slow and steady revelation to me that since weaning the twins, I no longer can eat for three. How sad! Since coming back to Kenya in January, my sweet friends and aquaintances  (men and women feel free to comment) are continually telling me I have added weight. They will hold out their arms to indicate how wide I have gotten, and they will say things like, “You enjoyed the snacks in the US!” Now, in this culture, gaining weight is considered a good and honorable thing. Jamie is to be congratulated that he is caring for and feeding his wife well. When I received the first few comments, I was dismayed and embarrassed, but after the comments kept coming and were given with such beaming smiles over my good health (haha!), I actually find it is nice that the ideal slim look we so prize in the US is simply not the way body image is valued here. I now refer to myself as a women of “traditional build” (No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency books–so funny and so good!), while working slowly at changing my habits and lifestyle in hopes of being able to wear my old clothes again someday. 🙂

Overall, we have come to really love the culture into which we have been transplanted. There are so many more customs and community interactions that I could write about, and maybe I will someday, but I’ll sign off for now. Kwaheri! (Good bye 🙂

 

May 3, 2017 5:56 pm
Published in: Uncategorized

March 30, 2017 4:01 am
Published in: Uncategorized

Just for fun, a little video of the kiddos and some snapshots from the past month.

 

March 9, 2017 11:20 am
Published in: Uncategorized

We had some fun making this for Eliya’s kindergarten class back in the US. I wish we had caught this little guy changing colors, as it is really spectacular. They truly are an amazing sliver of God’s creation.

February 21, 2017 5:07 pm
Published in: Uncategorized
Today we went to go visit the first grandchild of Mr. David, who works for us a couple of days a week. The kids loved walking up into the hills behind campus and greeting all the school kids on our way. When we arrived at the home of David’s daughter and met Baby Mwendwa, Daniel asked to hold him. He cradled him in his arms and said, “He’s bootiful!” Indeed he is a handsome little man. Thank God for new life and the joy these littles ones bring.

Yesterday I was cooking dinner when our neighbor knocked on the kitchen door. She said, “Do you know that your kids are outside the administration building…without clothes?” Sure enough, they had wandered down there barefoot, Talia only in her underwear, and Daniel without a shirt, playing contentedly with their match box cars in the smooth pebbles outside the admin building (the main thoroughfare for students, visitors and staff). I ran down and found the staff workers gathered around them, and we had a good laugh (me slightly sheepish) at these kids who feel so free.

The pictures below were taken by the Green family who were here for two weeks in January. We made a lot of fun memories with them. Dr. Green was teaching a course to Scott students, and his wife, Dianne, and their three kids, Caleb, Daniel, and Tori, spent a lot of time with our kids. They were so kind!

Kivisi (a child of Scott students Ben and Cathy) and Eliya

Tori and Carys

Ice cream with friends

Shopping at the market

Carys’s pet

Dominion game night with the Greens

Big Daniel and Little Daniel

from left to right: thorny melon, passion fruits, avacado, mango, and papaya

Talia eating ice cream

One day, we went together to the Machakos Rescue Center, where we played games, painted nails, and shared Scripture. It was a joy to be there and to share so much laughter together with them.

Eliya with some new friends at the Machakos Rescue Center

Nail polish party

Balloons are a hit

 

 

February 2, 2017 9:31 am
Published in: Uncategorized

The past month has flown by while we have been settling back into life here. We have greatly enjoyed being back at Scott, and the kids are doing great. We are so grateful for the smooth transition.

Here are some snapshots of life at present.

How many children does it take to hold a giraffe lower leg bone?

This was really cool!

The children putting together a giraffe puzzle

Giraffes being raised to be put back out in the wild. This is a type of giraffe that is becoming endangered.

The staff members were so sweet and took a lot of time with our kids

Exploring the Giraffe Center (and garden/recycling area) just outside Nairobi

Two peas in a pod

Admiring some neighboring chickens

Wandering the campus in a pack

Brad Green and his family came for two weeks for him to teach a block course. They are from TN, and we enjoyed their company while they were here.

Watching the choir members practicing their dancing and music

Talia checking to see if Daddy has a heart

This REALLY made her day

Poor chameleon got a lot of love

Carys was overjoyed when someone came by and gave her this chameleon

Ice cream treat at a Nairobi shopping center

Don’t be misled…this ended in chaos. But it was fun for a few minutes.

Chefs-in-progress

The big girls set this up and were “playing school” one day.

We planted this four years ago and we are so excited that it is loaded with mangoes this year!

First fruits from the little mango tree in our back yard

Kivisi and Ethan and Miriam

Saturday morning fun

Mudding the walls after an unexpected rain shower that created delightful conditions for puddle jumpers (and made for some upset mamas who had to wash our their clothes!)

The kids love Shem, our neighbor

January 26, 2017 5:32 pm
Published in: Uncategorized

Eliya’s kindergarten teacher from Wheaton, Mrs. Young, has been so sweet to keep up with us since we’ve left. She has a board dedicated to facts they are learning about Africa from Eliya. So, today, we sent a little video of these two fruits. We had fun. 🙂

December 6, 2016 4:01 pm
Published in: Uncategorized

I am sitting in the Wheaton Public Library, gazing out over my laptop screen to the winter wonderland of Adam’s Park. It’s one of those brilliantly sunny winter days, puffs of snow dropping from frosted branches and stubborn clumps of unfallen leaves. How I have missed the changing seasons! The past five months have been a time of rest and blessing for our family. Eliya finished up her time at Emerson Elementary School last week, and we have enjoyed family time and some special trips that we couldn’t do while she was in school. We took a trip to the Shedd Aquarium with my sister, Gayle, and her family. We went to the Brookfield Zoo and the Wheaton Historical Society. We also attended a Mom-to-Mom Christmas party yesterday, and have had a wonderful time with family and friends over the past few weeks–filling our tanks as we prepare to head back to Kenya. We have enjoyed joining a small group at church as well as having the chance to visit a few different adult classes. I have been especially blessed by Women’s Bible Study where we have spent the semester in the book of Joshua. I have found myself refreshed and challenged, gaining a renewed respect for the awesome God we serve, the blessing of being forgiven in Christ, and the need to remember and teach our children what the Lord has done. Eliya is finishing up gymnastics class this week, which she has thoroughly enjoyed. She took part in a special music class for children at our church on Sunday evenings.  All the kids have loved their Wednesday Bible study, Kids’ Corner, as well as Sunday school classes. If we were to count up all the people that have invested formally in our kids’ lives this past fall, it would probably total over 40. And that doesn’t even count all the informal times with family and friends who love on our kids.  It has been a joy to see our kids get to know their cousins and aunts and uncles better. We have lived just a couple of blocks from my brother, Brooks, and his family, and what a special joy that has been!  We have seen Daniel go from being our very shy little boy to being very outgoing and passionate about firetrucks and “man boots” and “tacka tackas” (tractors). Eliya has proven herself to be a good student, enjoying the classroom atmosphere. She is looking forward to going back to homeschool in Kenya too, which is the route we will take for now. Carys struggled initally, but seems to have become more comfortable with life here. She is still eager to get back to Kenya and she still wears her Kenyan dresses most days. She often has a kind word for those around her. The other day she said, “Daddy is the best daddy in the whole world!” Then she paused and said with concern, “Do we need to tell all the other kids that their daddy isn’t the best daddy in the whole world?” Talia continues to flit about like a little fairy, still getting into all kinds of mischief, but full of delight and chortles, which makes the cleanup a little easier. 🙂 She and Daniel have enjoyed going to classes together and grocery shopping with Mommy in the double-kid carts at Aldi. I love Aldi. All our kids fight like cats and dogs and drive us crazy sometimes, but they are SO much fun and they DO go to sleep most nights, and we are very grateful for each one of them.

This weekend, we will leave to go spend about a week and a half in New York with Grandma and Grandpa Viands and Jamie’s sister and her family. On the way, we will stop and see my Grandma Porter, and my aunt and uncle and cousins in Morenci, MI, along with a college friend. We are greatly looking forward to this trip and the memories to be made to last for the next couple of years.

We plan to come back for the week of Christmas, pack up and then head out on January 1st for Kenya. Time has flown, and yet it has felt like a good amount of time to be here. Jamie is preparing his classes and is eager to get back to his students. I am looking forward to going back to our life in Kenya as well, although there is an ache that will probably just always be a part of our lives when we have people we love on different sides of the world.

Jamie is giving me time in the library, but it is fleeting, so I think the rest of this post will be in pictures. Thank you to anyone who takes the time to read this, well, Mommy’s blog! 🙂

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I asked Carys what she likes to do with play dough. Her answer? “Play with it!” 🙂

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Special cousin time with Gayle’s girls, Kristina and Kate

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Thanksgiving with all of us under one roof for the first time since we left for Kenya over two years ago! 16 grandchildren, 15 adults, and we had a wonderful time.

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Jamie’s heartstrings are tugged by Trevor and Gayle’s baby Joshua

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Play time with cousins!

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First snow, long-awaited

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Aunt Emily and Baby Joshua and Susanna

October 10, 2016 12:43 am
Published in: Uncategorized

We have had a wonderful time with Jamie’s folks for the past week and a half. So thankful for this time with them!

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The magic of Thomas the Train

The magic of Thomas the Train

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Enjoying Ithaca Apple Fest!

Enjoying Ithaca Apple Fest!

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September 23, 2016 3:45 pm
Published in: Uncategorized

We have been back in the US since mid-July, so it’s about time for a quick recap! First we spent a couple of weeks with my gracious parents, their home stocked with toys, bikes and scooters for the kids to try out (special thanks to a very kind friend, Mary, who garage-saled and gave many of those fun things).

Tractor rides with Grandpa Walker

Tractor rides with Grandpa Walker

Aunt Noey teaches some painting techniques to her enthralled students

Aunt Noey teaches some painting techniques to her enthralled students

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Catching up with our missions pastor, Bruce

Catching up with our missions pastor, Bruce

Big Green

Big Green

Then we spent a week at Gull Lake Ministries in Michigan where we met up with almost all of my mom’s side of the family, including my Grandma Porter whom we surprised with a 90th birthday party. The next seven photos are credited to Kayla Walker, who is an amazing photographer. I forgot to make that important note in the first edition of this post!

The Porter Clan

The Porter Clan

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Le Ann and Talia

Le Ann and Talia

Grandma and Grandpa's homeade ice cream and Emily's chocolate cake...as good as it gets

Grandma and Grandpa’s homeade ice cream and Emily’s chocolate cake…as good as it gets

As good as it gets

Impressionist?

Aunt Wendy and Silly Uncle Brooksie

Cousin Jalen

Cousin Jalen

My sisters and I also met up with college friends, which was a sweet time while we were there. We were to head to northern Wisconsin the following week, but the kids came down with hand-foot-and-mouth disease, Daniel and Carys the worst. Even now, six weeks later, their toenails and fingernails have finally finished falling out. They have certainly handled it better than I would! We ended up not getting to go to visit Wendy and Steve in Wisconsin, which was disappointing for all. We did go the following week to northern Michigan to spend a week with Jamie’s family on a small lake in Traverse City. More pics to come in a later post!

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Sleeping Bear Dunes

Sleeping Bear Dunes

The kids were still dealing with sickness, but we had a good time anyway. We moved from my parents’ home into a rental home in Wheaton on August 1st between trips. It has been a lovely home for us to be in while we are here, and we are so grateful! It is owned by my brother, Brooks, and his wife, Emily, and we are their first renters. It is such a joy to be just a couple of blocks from cousins and family. So many have given or lent items for the home to be furnished while we are here, and each dish, curtain, or bed is a reminder of the kindness and generosity of our loved ones. The neighborhood is full of dogs, and every morning, the kids pull down the drapes and paste their noses to the windows to watch the many doggies that are walked up and down our street. People have been very friendly and welcoming. We made the decision to enroll Eliya in kindergarten at the school two blocks from our house. img_8469

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img_8485Her teacher, Mrs. Young, is so kind and so good with the kids. I was feeling sad though, that Eliya would be missing out on the great “Kids Corner” Bible study on Wednesday at our church. The day before the Bible study started two weeks ago, I finally got up the nerve to ask Eliya’s teacher if we could take her out on Wednesdays to go to Bible study. To my surprise, Mrs. Young was enthusiastic about it and encouraged me to go for it. She said Eliya is doing well and is bright and will be fine to miss one day a week of kindergarten. Thank You,  Lord. I felt so blessed by this and it put my heart at peace a bit since I had been struggling with our decision so much. We have settled into a bit of a routine now, the kids are sleeping well, and we are all pretty healthy again. I did come down with a pretty severe case of mastitis (yes, I do feel like a cow) that knocked me out for two days or so. I have not been that sick in a long time, and I am very thankful to be back on my feet again. I think Jamie is glad too. 🙂 Speaking of Jamie, what a trooper he has been. In our time being back, he has done so much to help with the kids and also take care of the many logistical things that we need to do for Africa Inland Mission, including taxes and insurance paperwork. We both have been meeting up with friends and people who are interested in what we are doing in Kenya. I am enjoying a number of special park dates where I can chat with old and new friends while the children are enjoying themselves. Jamie has been doing research and writing, but a fair amount of his time is taken up with helping with the kids so we can both have time to catch up on things like dentist appointments and things that are harder to do in Kenya. I’m sure it’s always a big question, “What do missionaries do on home assignment?” I guess we wonder the same things, but honestly, our children keep us hopping these days, and between caring for them and meeting with people, there seems to be very little time for much else. We will be traveling to Michigan and New York next week, spending time with family and visiting churches and ministry partners. It is a joy to meet with those who have been praying for us and are eager to hear what the Lord is doing in Kenya. And it is wonderful for us to have the chance to hear what has been going on back home as well.

My time is nearly gone. Actually, I should have left the library five minutes ago. But lest I never post this, I must just include some two-year-old twins pictures as they celebrated their birthday on Labor Day. I’ll end with these for now and try to post again soon!

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