Local Time in Korr, Kenya

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Indable Teaches Class 5 English

Indable is one of my former Tirrim Secondary School English students with whom I always had a wonderful working relationship and good rapport. His English is delightfully advanced as well, which allowed him to communicate very well with me, sharing details about Rendille culture, acting as my translator, and even writing out his autobiography for me to read!

Indable is now in the midst of the ambiguous year following graduation from secondary school. During this year the Form Four graduates must wait around for months for their national exam results to come in. Many of these students use this time to take computer or driving classes in more modern towns, while some choose instead to stay around home doing odd jobs. Indable was originally planning to attend a Christian discipleship program with another AIM missionary in a Northern Kenya town, but when that fell through, he was offered a position as the Class 4 and 5 English teacher at Tirrim Primary School.

I walked up to the primary school this morning to observe my protégé at work. (Just kidding! I only taught the kid for a year…) I was immediately impressed with Indable’s classroom management skills! His students were so calm, attentive, and respectful, which is a shocker if you’ve been in hearing distance of a Kenyan primary school classroom. Indable was also very attune to involving his pupils in the lesson, inviting them up to the board to put quotation marks around direct speech and asking them to stand and give a sentence that used an adverb of manner. I was so proud of “my” student now working with his own. He is not only in an honorable position, but he is doing honorable work in that position.

I asked Indable later what he now thinks about being a teacher instead of a student and he said, “Madame, it is very different,” with a slightly exasperated smile on his face. Good man. J

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


What the what?! Somebody had avocados shipped in to Korr! Mr. Wanga showed up at school during lunchtime with an avocado he reported to have purchased in town, so in the afternoon I roamed Main Street seeking out the scent of elusive fruit. Two shops and one very helpful church momma later and I had my pick from two boxes worth! Here are the “fruits” of my labor. (I also found tomatoes.)

Prayers Answered and Pending

It was an answer to prayer to have such a massive “Claire’s To Do” list from Laura Propst when I arrived in Korr. I knew that I would have no trouble being social (I never do), but I desperately wanted to be able to really serve and be useful as well. The Lord created me with an insatiable desire to be doing and He has been good to provide an outlet for this desire during my time with the kids at Tirrim Secondary School.  So, right now I’m working to balance all the registration fees from the beginning of the school term. These records are an absolute disaster. For some reason students were let into school without paying their full tuition, so our expected and actual fee collections are lopsided. Then, some of the teachers started to pay school bills out of the registration money pot without waiting for the records to be balanced, wreaking havoc with my numbers. I’m not complaining, I’m just saying it’s a big job to get this all sorted out, but I’m delighted at the prospect of presenting Laura with perfectly sorted Kenyan shillings and spreadsheets by tomorrow!
My accountant work.

However, there is a situation at school with which I am not delighted. A year and a half ago I had a student named Diba who gave me lots of grief in and out of class. Sass-mouthing, not getting work done, being out rightly defiant… He has never had a father (I believe that the father passed away) and he’s not from a Christian home, so this kid carries bags of hurt and anger around on his shoulders wherever he goes. In his attempt to cope with a burden only Jesus can carry, Diba tries to protect himself by lashing out at those in his path and never forgetting a perceived offense. I have been in his path and I have been perceived as offensive, so I am on Diba’s “list.” It breaks my heart, but the kid won’t even look at me. There have been three times in the past few days when our paths have directly crossed, and Diba has put on a frown a mile wide and cut a path around me just as large.

This morning I prayed about my relationship with this boy, asking how I might proactively pursue even a simple greeting with him. I thought my chance had come this afternoon when I was invited to sit with a certain group of boys during lunch. As my student Meshak led the way around the corner, I saw Diba sitting in the shade with the gang I was to join. He hesitated only for a moment, perhaps wondering if his bad luck would continue and I would actually sit down, before abruptly standing and taking his food, and our chance for civility, with him. Blast. I do wonder what I should now pray for regarding Diba himself and our relationship… Do I tackle the kid in the schoolyard and say, “Hi”? Should I slip him a note? Would it send him over the edge if I sat in on one of his classes and conveniently chose the seat right next to him?

Monday, May 27, 2013


Conversations I've Been Having

Just after church on Sunday I spoke with my precious student, Peter Gudere. Well, he’s not actually one of my kids, as he was only at the primary school in Class 8 (8th grade) the year I left Kenya, but somehow he was very much a part of my life. He and my Rendille brother, Somo, are best friends, so the two boys would come over together for Sunday lunch every week and I always found Peter’s face in the crowd at school or church events. Last year Peter entered Form 1 at Tirrim Secondary School and was immediately elected as class prefect, which is essentially a class president. The class prefect is the ambassador between teacher and class students, the code enforcer, and generally a role model of behavior and attitude for the rest of the class. It’s quite an honor, but a weighty responsibility. And, as you might imagine, such a leadership position amongst one’s peers often incurs the outpourings of teenage angst. This was, unfortunately, the case for Peter last year; he was too good at his job. Heaven forbid he actually enforce the class rules and report offenders to the teachers! There was an uprising amongst the Form 1s, and Peter was unceremoniously voted out of his position by teens perpetually offended by justice.

For many teenage boys, the social rejection of such a situation and the humbling fall from leadership would be a disaster. But not for Peter. During our discussion on Sunday, he told me that he is not saddened by his demotion because he believes that he was always doing the right thing. He said something to the effect of, “Madame, you know, these students (the Form 1 class), they just wanted to not be serious and I wanted to be serious, so I told them ‘If you don’t want me as your leader, fine. Vote me out. But if I am your leader, then I will continue to enforce class rules.’ So they voted for another guy, and that is fine. I did the right thing.” What a positive attitude! I then mentioned to him that it is a very hard task to go against one’s peers to do what is right and what the Lord would have one do, and Peter whole-heartedly agreed. I think the Lord has honored Peter’s faithfulness because he is now been elected as the Scouts Prefect (like the honor guard at school.)

Then today I had lunch with my favorite female student at TSS, Naiseku. Over our typical rice and beans we started to talk about marriage, also typical of our lunch times. I wouldn’t say that the girls are obsessed with the idea of marriage, but it certainly is a more prevalent reality in their life stage of secondary school than it ever was for me. It is around the high school years that Rendille girls typically decide between the marriage and schooling paths, a decision which causes a benign disconnect between peer girls. They still care for and spend time with each other, but they lead incredible different existences. So, when Naiseku asked about the “other Madames” and I said that Tamara and Emily were engaged, it led to a conversation about Naiseku not wanting to get married until she is 32. How she chose that age is beyond me, but she has determined that she is going to be a mobile, self-ruling, professional woman throughout her young adulthood. “Madame,” she said, “no, no, I don’t want a husband. I want to be free and happy!” (Haha!) This girl has potential and if she wants to spend her 20s pursuing her career and traveling and having adventures, good for her! It’s exactly what I did, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

How Much For The Swimsuit?

   One of my jobs this week has been to sort through bags of clothing that were donated to the Rendille by some Christian Kenyans down-country (in the Nairobi area.) The students' Christian Union here in Korr is planning to sell the clothing at a yard sale in order to raise money for their group, so I've had the task of organizing the various articles in preparation.

   I think the woman's swimsuit, seen above, is going to be the hottest item on the table. It's just so practical for a traditional people group in the desert, don't you think? The Rendille would only love it more if it had beads sewn along the edges.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

It All Changes and It All Stays The Same

As we descended into the Kaisut Desert in our 12-seater bush plane, I could feel it; the vibrating life of my Kenyan home. Intense heat radiated off the white sand and black volcanic rock while the equatorial sun itself pulsed through the carbon fiber fuselage. Ruthie and I had our noses squished up against the windows trying to rush ahead of the plane to the “life” that we already recognized as home.

 Another staple that warms my heart are the early morning moonscapes in Korr. They are stunners.
Stepping outside, we were then hit with the wonderful wave of scents that we so fondly remember: acrid smoke, goats and camels, the Rendille’s leathery skin heavily marinated in red ochre, tea, and milk… And then there are the sounds I love. Rustling camel bells, warriors chanting somewhere off in the distance (the Rendille are currently celebrating “Il Muket”, a ceremony in which the male age groups are graduated on to the next social level), and a heavy desert wind punctuated by high pitched shouts of Rendille mommas make me feel like I haven’t been gone a day.

However, I have been gone. More than a day. Little things remind me of this. The curtains on the Propst’s windows have now been tattered and torn by sunlight and wind. There has been a new bird screen installed around the entire church to keep the pesky pigeons (and their excrement) off the pews. Tirrim Secondary School is now the proud owner of two all-wheel-drive school buses, prominently parked in the yard. Trees I remember as saplings are now a couple feet taller.

More noticeable aspects of change confront me as well, like the fact that my students all suddenly look like adults! The boys tower above me and the girls have trimmed their hair into incredible short pixie cuts. Their smiles are the same, as are their voices, but they’ve grown up in both stature and attitude. Some students are totally missing, having moved on to different schools or graduated. Furthermore, there are now four new short-termer missionary ladies living in “my” house. I do love what they’ve done with the place, though. I’m especially happy that they have kept my maps pinned to the wall with the star stickers indicating the homes of all short-termers, past and present. “Waakh Keene from San Francisco” still sticks! Nick and Lynne Swanepoel, with whom I lived for 6 months in 2011 and was generally close to throughout my service, are no longer living in Korr full time, preferring rather to spend some months in the southern town of Nanyuki, helping transfer leadership over to the church in Korr. I am also thrown-off by the fact that I have no marking or lesson plans to do in the afternoons! What?!

As I sit here in my kanga (a ladies’ skirt-wrap gifted to me by my beloved student Catherine) and drink my “iced” coffee (lukewarm, in all honesty), I fight against my nature to admit that change can be good. Trouble comes in life, whether it’s our spiritual life or our daily comings and goings, when we stagnate. Stagnation, I’ve learned, drains you of a crucial quality that God intends for human existence: growth. So, in the deepest part of my soul, I am happy that the Rendille, my students, and the Korr missionaries have been developing and changing in their various ways. But, I must admit that these changes will take time for me to process and set aside the twinge of disappointment for not being here to see the growth firsthand.


One major thing that has not changed – my relationship with my Rendille momma, Nareyo. We were so happy to see each other for the first time in a year and a half that she literally picked me up off the ground while we were hugging! Here we are with the blanket I gifted her. It’s a fleece blanket, but she swore it wasn’t too hot to wear in the middle of the day… Sweet lady.