Alas! An update is long overdue. I wrote an update last week but never published it because I had promised pictures in my previous post and I hadn’t uploaded any pictures from my camera to my computer. Also, it wasn’t perfect, and I didn’t feel like I had anything exciting to share. Looking back now, I should have just posted it. I need to get over myself and just keep y’all up to date… so here I go!
We are here and still getting settled. Up until now, we have been staying in the volunteer house while we have been waiting for our new house to be totally finished. They decided at the last minute that the house needed some more windows for ventilation. There is no A/C here, so in the warmer months, we will be very thankful for this. Now, the windows are done and it is mostly ready for us to move in! We have taken most of our things down and we plan to sleep in our new house for the first time tonight!! [Update: We slept in our house for the first time last night! Woo hoo!]
We won’t have our whole new crew together right at first. Neema has decided to split the boys and girls up and we will have the boys in our house. Right now, there are only six boys who are old enough to be in our house. So it’s not the original eight we were expecting, but it may not be a bad thing to only have nine children to parent instead of eleven! When we originally saw the opportunity to be house parents, we were under the impression that these children were truly unadoptable and were also unable to be returned to their homes in the village. So we envisioned staying here until our eight were legal adults and then we would look toward the next chapter. But, the reality is that many of these boys will eventually be reunited with their families in the village. In most cases, it is just up to Social Welfare to determine when it is suitable for these children to go home. So it seems there will be more of an ebb and flow of boys in and out of our house. It’s not exactly the cookie cutter picture of a family of thirteen (ha!) that I expected, but we are just going to love and serve whoever we can for as long as we can.
Many of you have expressed concern for us having so much change at once and so many children under one roof. Neema has assured us that if at any point being house parents does not work for our family, we have the freedom to continue working with Neema without the role of house parents. We are taking our marriage very seriously and the well-being of our biological children very seriously, and we assure you that if at any point our living situation is hurting us more than it is helping these boys, we will do what is necessary to correct it. That being said, they have suggested reevaluating the situation after six months to be sure we are still doing well. We are totally optimistic that we will be okay, but we are happy to have this outlet of open communication already in place, just in case.
Until our boys move in, we have been diving into Kiswahili. We are so thankful for my dad who has been watching all three all day every day. I know how hard that job is and he is rocking it. Every tantrum, every poopy diaper (and hear you me my friends, there have been a lot of those), every meal–Papa O (also known here as Babu Jeff) is there to wipe away the tears (or poop) and keep their little worlds turning. He is the best grandpa I could imagine for my kids and I know my mom would be so proud of how he has stepped in to fill this role she’s had to miss.
Anyway, Swahili school has been a big adventure of cramming as much as possible into our brains at once. I am glad we are doing this because I feel like it will give us a huge head start. But it is also particularly challenging because, with three little ones at home, we just don’t have the time or energy to study in the evenings like we really need to. I’m trying to remember all of the advice from others who have learned a new language before me. Knowing Swahili will be the key to forming relationships here and we are trying to remember that when studying begins to feel like a chore.
One quick story before I go to bed. Last week, Jonathan was sick and had to miss a day of school. But here was the problem for me–Jonny is our driver! I had never driven in Africa before. School is 45 minutes away! What was I going to do?!? So I did what anyone would do and opened the door on the right side of the car and climbed behind that wheel! I prayed the whole time, God you’re the boss. Please keep me safe. Please don’t let me kill anyone. Please don’t let this car break down. Please don’t let me get a ticket. Y’all, driving in East Africa is nothing like driving in the USA.
Y’all, driving in East Africa is nothing like driving in the USA. Besides the fact that the steering wheel is on the opposite side of the car and everyone drives on the opposite side of the road–that would be the easy part! Basically, the rules are there ain’t no rules. Dala Dalas (taxi buses) cut you off and swerve and are totally nuts. Piki pikis (motorcycle taxis) drive on any side of the road that is convenient for them and pretty much do whatever they want (Different story: One piki piki ran into Jonathan when he was turning last week, nobody was hurt, it’s approximately normal). And then there are the rest of the drivers who are just trying to keep you on your toes and tailgate enough that they can’t be pulled over by the pedestrian police officers who step out in front of your car to stop you.
Anyway, here goes little Whitney down the dirt roads on the foothills of Meru trying to survive until I get to the paved road. The dirt roads have much less traffic, but they are in such terrible condition that every day my Fitbit tells me I have walked thousands of extra steps and dozens of flights of stairs. This particular day when I was driving, my heart was racing because of my nerves and my watch told me it auto-recognized my workout!
I eventually made it to the paved road and that is when I went against everything I’ve ever been taught about driving. I was trying to turn right on a road that was two lanes wide. I knew what lane I needed to be in, but the problem was that traffic was only flowing one way. I saw two dala dalas headed straight for me and I knew the correct thing to do was just turn and one of them would surely get out of my way. I didn’t have a choice. That’s what I had to do. Turn directly into oncoming traffic and just expect them to get out of my way. So, still praying, that’s what I did. And sure enough they got out of my way and no one died! Thank you, Lord.
More stories later. We have class again in the morning and I need some sleep!