Monday, September 30, 2013

what do you eat?

I have to start this post with what every meal starts with here in the village... washing of your hands. This is basically what I do before every meal except we use a basin to catch the water. Rub your hands together for about 3 seconds and you have clean hands... :) All our water comes from a spigot just outside of our house. We have a bunch of the yellow buckets in the picture below that are filled up. That's what I sometimes have to carry back to the bathroom so I have "clean water" to shower with!

Breakfast usually consists of a few slices of bread, a banana and a cup of chai. There have been mornings where we've enjoyed left overs from the night before.

For lunch and dinner we pretty much have the same six or so meals over and over again. Sukuma (a type of greens) is the only thing I'm not a fan of but will eat. Mchicha (another type of greens) is my favorite for sure. It's so sweet and delicious! Chapati (fried tortilla) is my favorite carb. It's quite a process to make it but we still get to enjoy it at least twice a week. Here are some pictures... are you drooling like I am?? :)

Another breakfast meal of nhogo, ndizi(bananas) cooked together with a chapati. This is an interesting meal which can be served for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Because nhogo is grown in our shamba it's free and therefore we have it pretty regularly. It's not sweet but it's not plain either. During the cooking process a paste sort of texture is created. Both the nhogo and ndizi are soft but not mushy. It's an interesting meal for sure, probably not something I would crave but it's definitely edible and filling!
close up from the picture above.
What the kids drink as well as us teachers during break while at school. It's called uge (porridge) and it's made with corn flour and water (and sometimes sugar). It tastes a lot like malt-o-meal if you've ever had that in the states. I like it, especially when they have sugar. I'm usually sweating pretty good after I finish my cup because it's already warm outside and then I'm drinking something hot... and I'm not complaining, I just don't understand why the Kenyans are affected!
I love helping prepare dinner! This is always my task now. I chop and fry the onion, bell pepper & garlic. I peel and dice the tomatoes and add it to the fried mixture when it's ready. Once this mixture is cooked it is then added to whatever the main meal is... nhogo & ndizi mixture, green grams, boiled meat (goat or chicken), or beans and maize.
Tomato mixture has just been added to the boiled chicken. Let simmer for about 15 minutes (about the same amount of time it takes to make the chai) and then dinner is served.
Tomato mixture mixed with boiled goat. Ugali and mchicha are the sides that night. Ugali is simply corn flour and water cooked just like the porridge except its cooked longer and there is less water to ugali combination. The water and corn flour has to consistently boil during the entire cooking process or else it won't hold together which makes for a messy preparation! I'm not sure how to describe mchicha other than simply delicious! It's not as mushy as cooked spinach and has a much better taste than sukuma does. With garlic and it is out of this world! I could just eat mchicha and I would be very content. The meat here is always boil unless it's a special occasions and then it may be roasted. Most of the time the meat comes right off the bone and it's not chewy but not like medium rare steak either. It has a interesting flavor to it and I would definitely prefer chicken but it's not bad. 
Green grams (mdengu) before they are cooked. I was helping my Kenyan Mama to pick out any bad ones and also any small branches or anything else you may not desire to eat.
Yum! Cooked green grams with wali (rice). I cooked these (almost by myself here in Nairobi, our house help helped me a bit to know when they were done) and really enjoy them. They kinda have the texture and taste of peas but not as mushy. If fresh garlic is used in the tomato sauce, these green grams are definitely delicious!
**This is not my picture** This is called githeri (beans and maize) cooked together. We eat it often because it's my Kenyan family's favorite meal (not necessarily mine) so I'm surprised I don't have my own picture... but this one will suffice. The means usually turn out perfect and they often mix in different types of beans which add good flavor. I have a hard time loving this meal because the corn isn't always cooked all the way and therefore there is still a crunch and when I can taste the oil too much I get kinda grossed out and eat very little.
We've only had dessert twice and due to not having an oven I haven't ventured out in trying to bake yet. Thank goodness I have a few sweets I keep in my room to satisfy my sugar cravings! I look forward to baking a bit more in the near future as I get a bit more comfortable with their cooking techniques and capabilities.

Making donuts! They turned out okay. They were considered "very sweet" and were made for "kids" but I didn't think they were that sweet at all however they satisfied my long awaited craving for something baked! My Kenyan mom used a cook book she had received when she was at missionary training in the mid-70's and taught by a mzungu (white person). Pretty simple ingredients but quite a process to make. Make the dough, let it rise, role out, use a cup to make the big circle and a pepsi bottle to make the middle hole. Drop in hot oil, wait for it to turn a light brown, flip over, wait for the brown again, and then remove. (At this point i would have dropped them in cinnamon sugar but we didn't this time). I did learn that lime zest is a natural preservative which she added but I wasn't a fan because I could taste it.
Here's another dessert being prepared? Any guesses what's inside that sufuria (cooking pan)? The jeko holds the hot coals underneath the tin that is shown in the mixture. On top of the tip is sand which she preheated before she put the sufuria on top. A tin lid is used and then more hot coals are piled onto to create a "oven". I think the sand is suppose to help the insides not to burn but it didn't work this time... It was edible but a little too dry for me.
Kenyan cake! Thanks to Marco & Laura I now have funfetti cake mix to make back in the village. I had to convince them to let me have a few bites after dinner. Mama prepared the cake with the intention of eating it for breakfast! It's just mean! When I make the funfetti cake I may have to eat most of it myself... they aren't a big fan of sugar or dessert in general. However they will put two to three heaping spoonfuls of sugar in their chai and don't question it at all... some things I haven't figured out yet!
Chai is ready! Through the sifter it goes and it's ready to be served. We use milk straight from our cow which is collected just minutes before it is heated up to make the chai. I really like chai and enjoy drinking it (which is good because we have it at every meal). I however was having a hard time drinking it at lunch, it's just too hot out to drink something hot. And the first few times I said I didn't want chai she asked me if she could heat up some water for me... they really don't drink cold water or even room temperature water for that matter! I now take my malaria medicine during lunch (which can't be combined with dairy) so they don't even ask me anymore if I want chai or hot water, praise the Lord!
While visiting my Kenyan parent's home outside of Kitui I was treated with millet porridge when we visited a family. It's made with some part of the cob of a corn. It looked like watered down dirt but it actually tasted good! Because in this part of the country they live off of the corn that is grown they really don't waste any part of the corn. When you visit a home they treat you better than they would ever treat themselves and this is what I was served. That tells you something about the people in this part of Kenya... breaks my heart, especially when I see all the kids there.

And that's it! I hope you've enjoyed! I enjoy it which I guess is what's really important. For the last 4-5 weeks, this is the only food I've seen except for a few day trips to Malindi where I've enjoyed some good American cooking for a meal or two. I'm enjoying the food and don't have too many cravings for "American" food. It is very Kenyan to eat a lot. I seriously think their stomachs are never ending. Since I realized I was putting on a few pounds, over the course of this last week I've been eating close to half of the serving size they give me. They aren't always happy (especially when I refuse seconds) but I'm trying to slowly teach them about obesity and the fact that I want to be healthy. When I come back to the states I will definitely be sharing some of these meals with you all... make note of your favorites :)

Saturday, September 28, 2013

meet some of my friends

Over the last weeks since I've arrived in the village, I've tried my best to accumulate portraits of the kids. Here is my collection so far. Those at the bottom in green attire are the kids who attend the nursery school I teach at. My goal is to have "picture day" soon after I get back and then I will post all of the kids at our school. Thanks for your prayers for these sweet faces that I call friends. Their personalities shine through their smiles and I love that I can call them by name when I see them. This list is definitely not complete. In the small village where I live there are about 150 kids. I would say about 1/4 of them are orphans (living with people other than their parents) and more than 1/2 (maybe closer to 3/4) come from a M*lm family.

I cannot put into words how hard it was to get these smiles. Kenyans love to smile but for pictures they like serious faces. I learned the word "cheka" -smile very quickly! A few of these kids took a bit of tickling to get a smile out of them but I think for the most part I was successful. The camera became a tool I used to build relationships and learn names. God is so good!

He lives very close to me and is one of the kiddos who will meet me at the street when I get off the matatu and walk me home. He should be in my class at school but his parents won't pay school fees. :( As soon as school is out you will find him wondering onto our property to spend the afternoon. Unfortunately he's one of the few kids  (yes it's happened more than once) who has relieved himself on me after he fell asleep on my lap. They don't know what diapers are and I haven't figured out how they potty train yet. Unless I know for sure they are potty trained, I do not let them sit on my lap anymore- lesson learned! :)
Joseph "Luganje"
Luganje is a student in my class so I get to see this smile on a daily basis. He's a hardworking 4 year old who really enjoys to please his teachers. When given an assignment on the chalk board to complete in his book, I regularly have to encourage him "unajaribu" -you try before I will help him with dot letters to trace, etc. And when he does it himself I love responding with "vizuri sana!" -it is good!
He has the best laugh! He is one of the kiddos who is very interested in the food we eat in America. He asks me, "unakula...?" -do you eat _____? It's a fun game to play and keeps my swahili strong with foods as well.
Can you see his personality in this picture? He is a super sweet boy and is one of the boys you will find playing soccer everyday!
Silas is another young boy who you will find outside on our property every afternoon. He's also hardworking in our Shamba (garden). You can tell he wants to learn and loves to help out in any way he can. 
Tumaeni (in swahili means "trust")
I love saying his name! Tumaeni doesn't seem to have much confidence in me remembering his name because he asks me every time I see him if I know and 99% of the time I do remember. He's older so his school days are pretty long (sometimes he doesn't get out til 4) so I don't see him everyday but when I do he is really fun to joke with.
Kazungu is one of my favorite language helpers. He's normally out playing soccer and is very good and quick. When he's not playing I try to talk sentences to him, he corrects me but is very patient with me as well.
Hellen and many of the other older kids I don't have a lot to say because they go to school all day and by the time they are done it's time for them to go home and help prepare dinner. During the holiday months I will see them a lot more, like I did the last week of August.
Athumin is my best language helper! I've learned that he learns English in school but is very hesitant to speak it around me. However he is one of the young boys who wants me to be able to communicate in Swahili so right now I'm not pushing his English but taking in whatever I can in Swahili.
I call her sweet Jessica. For some reason there is no way I can just say Jessica to her. I think this picture is perfect in showing her personality. She has a quiet little voice and won't talk over the other kids but if I ask her a question she will answer.
Leah is spunky! I think she must have a lot of brothers at home but she isn't the girliest of girls (not that any of them really are but still). That smile melts my heart and she is always giggling; she has a lot of joy to share!
Prescar is a little cutie pie! She doesn't live close so I haven't seen her lately but when she does come by she loves to just sit next to me or hang on me depending on if I'm sitting or standing :)
This was the best picture I could get of Gladdys. The older girls really don't like to smile. When I showed them the picture of themselves they hid their faces. I wonder how many of them had never seen themselves before...

Joyce and the following four kids all belong to the teacher I team teach with, Salena. I just learned within the last few days before I left the village that all of these kiddos were hers! I'm not surprised, they are all so well behaved, sweet and fun to be around.

Katana and Mercy(below) attend the school that their mom and I teach at. Katana is in the older class and Mercy is in our class. I seriously love these two kiddos!

Mercy is in my class but half the time she isn't paying attention. But when I give her a task she completes it with the such intent and loves to show me when she accomplishes it (picture above). She sat there and worked for over 15 minutes and did a great job!
Edison is around almost every afternoon and is another great soccer player. I love seeing that smile when he see's me. He'll be in the middle of the intense game and as soon as the ball is not near him, he'll come over and greet me. He also loves to have his picture taken and make goofy faces! I'm so thankful I got this good smile!

Margaret "Pili" 
Pili is also in my class so I see her in a daily basis. She has a fun personality but a hard time focusing. I often catch her peeking into the classroom behind us. When I tell her, "Pili angalia juu" -look up front, as a command, she quickly turns around and sits up straight and looks's quite cute!
Emily is another sweet young girl with the quietest voice. She's another one who will fight off the other kids to get a seat next to me and whenever we make eye contact I get the biggest smile! She lives close and is also a great companion for my walks from the street to my home. 
I think I can say, for his age, Davis is easily the best soccer player we have. The older boys debate over who gets Davis on their team and yet he is one of the most humble kids I've met. He is so respectful towards me and a great language helper as well.
You see that smirk? It's on Arnold's face all the time! He loves to entertain me by hanging on the posts in the school house or do some fancy move with a ball. He's always trying to educate me on foods in Kenya which is fun. He has the hardest time understanding that I live here, even though he see's me everyday come in and out of the house, I think he's just playing with me haha
Rehema loves to play ball with me. She's maybe 8 or 9 years old and rarely shows up at our property without her baby sister on her back. She will spend all afternoon with us and that baby will be either asleep tied to her back or down on the ground laying on the lesso (skirt, blanket...whatever you can find a use for it for). If the baby fuses, she will quickly tie her back on her back and resume running around like there isn't a 15 lb baby on her back... it seriously amazes me!
Amani means "peace" in swahili and I think that describes him quite well. He's a hard worker whether that be on the soccer field or helping with the shamba. He's another respectful young boy who makes sure he greets me whenever and wherever he see's me. 
I love this picture! I may print it out and post it up in my room. Saidi I know comes from a hard family life and I'm sure has many responsibilities at home and yet he comes over often and is just the most joyous young man I know. I love hanging out and having random swahili conversations with him.
Wine (pronounced we-ne)
She's probably 6 or 7 years old but is in my nursery class. She's very smart and can read and write well so I'm not completely sure why she's in there but age is not a factor in the school systems here in village schools. You start school when your parents or guardians can afford school fees. She's a hard worker though and when she finishes her own work she will help the younger kids.
Evelyn (and her sister Faith pictured a few pictures below) just started school this semester. Both cried and would try to chase their mom back home the first few days but by the end of the first week came with smiles and easily greeted us as teachers. They are the only two kids who are brought to school by a parent. The others, even the really young one's, just show up around 7:30am.
Dama has a twin and a sister who is less than a year older than her...
it took me forever to be able to tell them all apart!

Left is Dama's twin sister and for the life of me I can't remember her name! Ah it's driving me crazy! Their older sister who can't be more than a year older, Nyevu is pictured on the right. If I've gotten the story right, the three all started school together. They are all sweet girls who share one pencil. They aren't the smartest in the class but will be the first to bring their books up to us as teachers to help get their lesson written in their books. I got the twin's books mixed up so many times at the beginning, Salena (the other teacher and I) had to just laugh!
Am I allowed to have favorites? She's definitely one of them even though she has the hardest time talking to me! Whenever we may eye contact she gets the biggest smile on her face while hiding it under her hands. I'm not really sure why she does it but it's become a game we play. She's a very smart girl who loves to lead our two classes in one of children's Kenyan chorus's for us at the beginning of each school day. This is most likely her last semester in our school and you can tell she's probably worn that same dress for the last 3-5 years or whenver she started school.
Adam is another one of the older kids in my class and when I challenge him, he does really well. He's probably about 6 years old but just started school. Our class teaches at a about a 2-3 year old level when compared to the Western world and he fits in just fine.
Definitely another favorite of mine. She's the other one who will lead us in a children's chorus. She is a very smart girl and I just pray her family has the finances to put her through school. Like wine, she also likes to help out the younger kids when she finishes. You can tell there is a lot of maturity in her and I'm so thankful to have her in class as a good example to the others!
I love this picture of Prudence. She can be very shy, which I think this picture portrays, yet very smart and hardworking. She's usually one of the first kids to finish the activity on the chalk board and I often give her more to challenge her. She has the best smile and is easily one of the best behaved kids in our class.
Faith is Evelyn's sister (mentioned above) and is a little bit more reserved than her sister. However she loves to sit next to me and can understand my Swahili quite well. She's starting to get the routine of school down but will often not start on the assignment until directly asked, "kitabu wapi?" -where is your book?
Another favorite! So sweet, kind, respectful and just fun to be around. She's more reserved than others and easily gets lost in the choruses of the other kids yelling "meme meme!" When I do choose her to go upfront and show me she understands the lesson, she always gets it right. Her book work is excellent and she's just a good kid!
Oh Jimmy! There aren't very many boys in our class, the girls definitely out number, but somehow Jimmy makes his presence known. And not in a bad way, you just know Jimmy's in class. He's a sweet boy who tries hard but definitely needs a extra bit of encouragement and guidance with each task given. 
Wow! There's a lot of kids for ya! If you've actually got to this point without skipping ahead, I'm impressed. It took me a few sit-downs to work on this post before I'm actually posting it! These kids have made me feel at home since I've arrived and I have some great relationships with so many of them. I can't wait to see what the Lord is going to do with the next year and a half!
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