Beans, Sun, Jellyfish and Hope

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My neurotic fear of food poisoning has lessened in the last few days, as I’ve been here in Bagamoyo, TZ. A year ago, I was horizontal for 3 days with a nice case of typhoid, and amoebiasis. So far, my system feels ok. It costs only $1.00 for a plate of beans, beef potato stew in red sauce, and coconut flavored rice. Not bad, huh? But you get much more than what you’ve paid for at Baga Point, an outdoor / indoor eatery where the staff will join you for some pleasantries or even to bum a smoke. It was a lovely night, that was a bit stressed from counting every last Tanzanian shilling I had, since the exchange of money was not as easy as I would have thought, however, after the beer (Kilimanjaro brand, to be exact) and after the food came, the worries lessened, and as the stories were told, my own problems seemed somewhat less of a problem.

What caught my attention for the night was a story told by a new friend of mine, which involved the retrieval of a missing car in 1994 from Burundi, a country thousands of miles from his home on the coast of Tanzania, which took him through the path of bandits, goat accidents, the Rwandan Genocide, monkeys, lions, and the occasional flat. It’s been a while since a story had me at the edge of my seat!

I was definitely floored at every detail of this man’s story which actually had a few lessons:

1. If you love something, you have to fight for it, even if death may come your way.
2. Never carry a weapon, it shows you fear people.
3. If your life is in danger, don’t share your plans, just move.
4. Do good to others, because when you need it most, the same will be done for you.

I managed to find a routine here in Bagamoyo, each day starting with an early half hour swim in the Indian ocean, along with the Dows (fishing boats), crabs, jellyfish, seaweed, and the occasional great white shark. Afterwards, my swim is followed by some tea at Baga Point, then some food and getting ready for my day.

Fresh eggs, fresh everything! We call it organic, but they just call it food and it’s much more affordable.

Why Bagamoyo?

Many months ago, a colleague of mine said “Hey Paul, since you go to Africa, you should talk to my friend, he is involved there, too”. I was then introduced to the Josef and Anne Kottler, a couple from Massachusetts, whose daughter volunteers at an orphanage / youth center in Bagamoyo called IMUMA, and they themselves have been there, and have since been committed to supporting the work that’s being done there.

Little did I know that meeting the Kottlers would result in me being here, under the stars, in a small guest house where the power is in and out, and relishing the vibrance of the surrounding community, their songs, stories, faces, and wisdom.

Because Seeds For Hope, an NGO that I’m on the board for, partners with African-run development organizations, IMUMA’s story seemed very much in line with our own mission statement, so I had to check it out for myself.

Day 2 of my trip brought me from Dar Es Salaam to Bagamoyo. I’m surprised I’d never heard of Bagamoyo before this, being that it has such historical significance in Africa’s past. Bagamoyo (literally “Bwaga Moyo”, or “Lay down your heart”) was called this, because Africans would have to leave their heart there, as they would never see their homeland again, for you see, Bagamoyo was the first and also one of the major ports in the East African slave trade.

The remnants of the old missions, and European influence are very much hidden, but there is a section of town, where the ruins of colonial Bagamoyo remain, which I did not see until my last day there. Bagamoyo town is developing, I only noticed one or two paved roads, where the mode of transport is on foot, by bike, motorcycle, and the occasional car. I felt completely off the grid, and I could not have been happier.

It’s the kind of town where you can walk around, and have a conversation with practically anyone, of course people looked at me like “who the hell is this guy?”, not many non-Tanzanians in Bagamoyo, but I did my best to hold my own. Greeting the elders, laughing with kids, giving the tough nod to the tough guys, you know, as I would in Manhattan. I also learned that while language was a huge barrier, and my Swahili, as good enough as it is for Nairobi, was not good enough for Bagamoyo it helped me at least break the ice.

Besides language, humor goes a long way. A smile, and a clever remark, translates well into any language.

But for real, I became that guy, who, when I don’t know how to respond, i just responded with “cool”

Luckily there are like 10 different ways to say cool in Swahili:

Safi
Poa
Mzuri
Shwari
Fiti
Freshi
Salama
Simbaya

And if you add the word “kabisa” at the end of any of these, and you have even more permutations.

I’ve had 5 minute conversations with people where we just go back and forth asking each other “how are you” in the zillion different ways, as if we were going through the phrasebook line by line. And this happened with more than one person

Habari? Mzuri
Mambo? Poa
Uko freshi? Kabisa
Habari ya asubuhi? Mzuri
(Repeat for 5 minutes)

I wonder if this is acceptable for foreigners, because if someone did that to me in the states I’d probably be like “enough.”

But, back to IMUMA.

IMUMA, is the orphanage / youth center I became acquainted with. I met Sharrif as soon as I arrived at the Moyo Mmoja guest house in Bagamoyo. Sharrif is the founder and director of IMUMA, and has dedicated his time and his life to serving the underserved youth in his community. 

IMUMA is the combination of 3 Swahili words: Imani (faith), Upendo (love) and Matumaini (hope). The mission of IMUMA is to help children (ages 3-16), who have either been orphaned, abused, neglected, or have some situation that puts them at a disadvantage in regards to their peers. Their goal is to improve the lives of the children of Bagamoyo town, and to give them a chance at fulfilling the dreams of their future. They do this by creating a safe haven for the young people who are not in school during the day, where they are engaged in many activities from reading, writing, dancing, drumming, and craft making. IMUMA also offers a pre-school, and has provided a way for 33 children to attend primary school (while primary school is free, miscellaneous fees will determine who will be able to attend primary school, or not). In addition, 6 of IMUMA’s students are on the verge of beginning secondary school. 

The stories of these kids were heartbreaking (this is what you expected?), but it’s different when there is a face, and voice, to a story, it is real. It is us.

When I arrived at the IMUMA compound in the small neighborhood of Nia Njema, I knew something special was happening here. The place was just alive with kids, doing all sorts of activities, and plenty of community members and volunteers around, either supervising, or teaching, or feeding the kids.

During this time Sharrif and I spoke about many things, and we got to know each other. I was definitely glad to have met him, and his drive, sincerity and leadership was a huge inspiration for me. He introduced me also to his wife and his two beautiful children.

I also met a fellow musician at IMUMA named Major Drummer (Major D) and another volunteer named Hedi, who was on holiday from Japan.

These guys were practicing an East African traditional song and dance, with the kids 



Under a mango tree, Major Drummer (Major D),  Hedike, and I met to solve the worlds problems. I have found real kinship with these guys and glad our paths have crossed. MD has given me a few things to think about:

1. The mountain never moves, it is people who are moving, eventually, if you have lost someone, you will find them again.

2.The big fish eat the small fish (but this, I already knew)

3. At the end of the day, things will work itself out

There is a treasure of East African culture that you can find in a small town like this. The stories, the songs, the dances, and the wisdom from elders. Life in a town or village is much slower and more predictable than highways we drive on, but the relationships, and occasional power outage, keeps things interesting.

I’ve travelled many places, and I believe there’s nothing new under the sun. 

I feel my time here was way too short, and I wished I had more time to invest, but I feel I will return for sure. Bagamoyo will find me again.

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What doesn’t kill you…

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Been silent for some time, thinking that I had almost wasted another week, mainly because of my smart-ass tendencies. 

Tuesday night, a I recognized few visitors from the U.S., they a group of friends and acquaintances. Many of them were sick with various illnesses. So I reached down into that empathetic heart of mine… and made fun of them. I called them weak and soft, mainly in jest, but I reminded them that I had never gotten really sick while being in Kenya outside of maybe travelers diarrhea. 

Of course, karma is merciless with the merciless.

I woke up on Wednesday with a packed schedule ahead of me. In fact, Wednesday through Saturday were packed with activities and plans. Documentary footage for Seeds For Hope campaigns, follow up with many of our students in various locations, and a visit to MaBoyz were all on the agenda.

I woke up feeling kind of ill, and then “kind of ill” became “kind of achey”. Eventually  “kind of achey” became “kind of nauseous”.  Soon enough there was no more need for the use of the word “kind of”, because “really” and “totally” took its place. And before i knew it, within an hour of waking up, I was lying down on the couch, curled up, telling my sister “I don’t think I can go out today”, to which she responded with something along the lines of “suck it up.”

She can be sweet sometimes.

I took a deep breath, and went to take a shower. And with the advice I was given, I decided to try to “suck it up.”

If the symptoms I was experiencing were measured on a speedometer, suddenly things went from 20mph to about 100mph in seconds, and I knew if I were to travel like I had planned, I would really regret it. We went to the hospital and took a bunch of tests.

I had tested positive for two tropical illnesses: Typhoid Fever and Amoebiasis! Oh boy. Karma is a bitch.

The lady at the lab told me “You will never get rid of this, you will be fighting it for a long time” I asked the doctor if that was true, and he reassured me that she was joking.

‘How is that funny exactly?

He told me he thinks I might have malaria as well, but I think he’s just being slightly dramatic. I got back from the hospital, and my body basically gave up on me, and I was pretty much unable to move, I had a fever of over 102, shaking, dizzy, sweating, freezing, the whole 9. And I remained this way, until Thursday afternoon when things started to clear up.

Friday I woke up surprisingly well. I was on 4 medications after all. I decided to hit the town and run a few errands.  I should note that the medication for treating amoebiasis, involves a chemical that will turn into formaldehyde if the patient drinks alcohol of any kind. Pleasant, no?

So, I went out to run errands on foot in Nairobi. One of which was to deliver a laptop to a school, that was donated by my employer, Optaros. I wasn’t as coherent as I should have been when I got on the public transportation, as the rule is, the buses don’t stop, you kinda have to jump off running. I wasn’t strong nor coordinated enough to do this on Friday.  So that’s how I fell out of a moving vehicle with about 30 pounds of equipment on my back.

But I landed on my feet (after a backwards somersault on the pavement). Working out helps, let me tell you. No injuries, no scratches, no blood! Just some glass in my hand.

No biggie.

After a hellish few days, I was able to wrap up the week solving the worlds problems with a buddy over half-eaten Italian food, and it brought a lot into perspective, and I felt ready to continue on with this journey, because for a moment, I had that moment of “why am I here?”

Which takes us to today.

A Trip to Subukia


6:30 am wake up call, we are on our way to Subukia. Subukia is a town outside of Nakuru, on the other side of the Equator from Nairobi, to visit some students.

But these aren’t just any students, mind you. These are the dudes, that I first started working with when I began my work here back in 2006. They call themselves Maboyz.

For those who haven’t read, it’s too much to go into right now, but imagine an unlikely scenario involving a bunch of dudes from Kibera, 2 hours of free time once a week, and a copy of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Two years ago, these guys had a dream to accomplish something, and they went back to school, Jordan Polytechnic, to study Mechanics, Electric, Masonry, Carpentry, and be good to themselves. To learn and grow, and be apart from their friends and families to invest in something that did not come by every day.

We went today to see them, a month before their graduation, and I cannot begin to tell you how proud I am of these guys. The pride and joy they had in their eyes as they told me what they can DO, what they’re able to make with their hands, the ideas they have in their minds, and this hope they have for their future that they didn’t know was possible before.

I stood in gratitude as one of them, my man who we lovingly call “Jamaica”, pointed out the building that he built with his own hands. Such fine workmanship I must say, for someone to have built without machinery. Stone, cement, brick, he knows his stuff. He will play an important role in the development of his community, one that is much needed, I have a feeling.

And the rest, each of them, I’ve known for so long now, and the ups and downs we’d been through over the years, and the pain of having been apart, and not knowing where they’d end up next. One of them, had left the school, and ended up getting killed, as I’d mentioned in a previous note. These guys chose wisely, to stick it out, and here they are at the finish line.

It was pretty kick-ass!

I’ll have some photos and video soon. It was an awesome trip, and my stomach behaved well the entire time. The next few days are gonna be ridiculous, but heck, that’s why I’m here, I guess.

Missing home, but not too much at the moment. Haven’t eaten a meal outside of a few bites since Tuesday. I’ll be back soon.

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Going East But Thinking of 14th Street

(Changes marked in Red)

Arrests: 0
Police Searches: 1
Near Death Experiences: 1
Stomach Issues: 3
Bandwidth: 0.9 KB/sec
Kilometers Ran Without Injury: 5km

Violence, But The Work Continues


Busy day today. I went to Yaya (the mall here) to look for some of the guys I know who live behind there. I really hope I can find them; it’s been over a year since I’ve seen one of them. Glad to know they’re alive, I saw one of them as we drove by last night. Gonna try again in a few hours.

It’s been a bit unnerving here, even though all the violence and stuff is happening on the other side of town. This is the first time I’ve ever felt unsafe here, but I’m continuing on as normal.

Horrible Missionary


Last night we hit up a restaurant called Pavement, where I actually had Thanksgiving Dinner last november. We left before the live Salsa music started, we were all really tired. They make a great Dawa (Vodka + honey + lime). Tonight we’re on our way to Mombasa for a few days of relaxation!! I can’t wait, really, I haven’t really had time off to relax in a long time. I am bringing my work with me of course. I don’t know how to sit still, honestly. I’ll try to read a book or something ;)

Going to salsa clubs, going to the beach; many people I know would say , “Paul, you’re a horrible missionary.” I remember telling some one at a gathering where I gave a talk about my experience here last year, how I had been to the coast a few times, and he just looked at me in shock and said “wow, you’re some missionary, goin to the beach and stuff”  It’s funny but are you kidding me? The truth is, they’re 100% right! I’m not a missionary; far from it. Being a missionary against my religion. wink

Stay Focused


It makes it tricky though when I work at a mission part-time while I’m here, but for me it’s all about the goal, to help people who are living with HIV. I’m working with a few different organizations here, but sometimes there’s a certain expectation to conform to a certain set of beliefs, but I’m definitely comfortable and at peace focusing on the end result and just being myself. I value what a lot of these orgs bring, even if I won’t always agree with the tenants, at the end of the day we all want the same thing.

The work is going well, been very busy, the goal next week:

  • Update our data model to sync with an SPSS legacy database
  • Help solve a bunch of network issues. (hopefully that can be done by Wednesday)
  • Continue learning Flex 2.0
  • Finish up the Joomla CMS for Seeds For Hope

We’re actually gonna start a campaign I’m very excited about, so keep an eye out for that. We’re planning to go out into mix, and talk to people about education, and see what an education brings, and what a lack of education can prevent. I’ve got the chance to see many sides of this spectrum, so hopefully we can get a solid learning out of this. Basically we wanna raise awareness of how inaccessible a basic education can be for some, and with a few dollars here and there, but mostly with respect, truly a life can be changed.

With that, I’m gonna pack and get ready. Until then, I’ll leave you with the words of my man, Rufus Wainwright:

You’ve got my lost brother’s soul
My dear mother’s eyes
A brown horse’s mane
And my uncles name
You walked me down 14th street
For the doctor to meet after thoughts of the grave
In the home of the brave and the weak

I’d love to sit and watch you drink
With the reins of the world gripping a smoke
Vaguely missing link
Don’t ever change you hungry little bashful hound
I got the sheep poor little bo peep
Has lost and filed for grounds

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Mini-Sabbatical 2007: First Weekend Back in Kenya

Last Wednesday evening, I left New York with my dear Catherine to embark on a very special voyage back to the African continent. It’s Monday, 4pm East Africa Time (EAT) and I’m sitting in the apartment reflecting on the last few days before I begin my first day of work tomorrow. Divine bliss, profound joy, mischievous laughter, and deep sadness have filled the space of the last few days, to the brim and very much over-flowing.

How I arrive to where I am in this moment is a journey in and of itself, which I will of course share, and accompany with some photos, and even a video, so sit back, relax, grab some joe, and read on.

But first, some statistics:

Arrests: 0
Police Searches: 1
Near Death Experiences: 1
Stomach Issues: 1

Also: A link to all my photos so far is here:

http://flickr.com/photos/paulkist/collections/72157600308001704/

Let’s continue on…

24 Hours in London


There’s not much that can be said about London without revealing a little too much, so I will suffice to say that these are the 24 hours that a human being lives for, and what a gift it was to have lived it with the special someone that I know and love.

Of course, getting buzzed on the flight to London and laughing at just about everything imaginable was a treat in and of itself, and it just got better.

Arrival In Nairobi


Friday evening we arrived at Jomo Kenyatta Int’l Airport (JKIA) only to be instantly smacked across the nose with the air, the sweet smelling, almost like incense, air that exists here in Kenya, finding its way through the ventilation systems, and into the hallways of the terminal.

After retrieving our baggage, we of course were greeted by the crew: Nadia (my sis) and our dear friends Mena and Grace; equipped with signs and all, causing the usual scene, and it wouldn’t be complete without it.

I’m here staying with Mena at his place. I can’t thank this guy enough for taking me in, this month. Shout out to Mena Attwa!!

The next morning we started relatively early, around 10am, to get some breakfast at Java, and then make our way over to the Giraffe Sanctuary.

The Giraffe Sanctuary


The Rothschild Giraffe, a species near extinction because of their use as “target practice” by the Ugandan Army, has been saved through the work of the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife (AFEW), who created a Giraffe Park and Sanctuary in the district of Langata in Nairobi. The woman who checked us in at JFK happened to be a member of the Board of the organization, and told us this when we told her we were going to Nairobi. Her name was Arlene, and she made us promise to go to the park and visit Arlene, a giraffe named after her, if she bumped us up to World Traveller Plus. We couldn’t refuse her!

So Catherine, Nadia, and I made our way to the park, and spent a good 30 minutes, feeding and yes, kissing the giraffes ( a tradition I started a year ago ).

Arlene (the giraffe) was a runt and was very ill and had to be kept separate from the rest of the giraffes, but one of the park workers named Samuel took us to some back trails that lead us to the area where Arlene lives.

As we took this short hike through a not-so-dense forest, every so often we would stop, and Samuel would tell us about the plant life around us.

Samuel took Catherine’s hand and cut a long green stem, and said “This plant produces a milk” and started letting it drip all over Catherine’s palm. She looked rather pleased at the coolness of a milk producing plant as he squeezed drops of this sap on her hand. Samuel then said “It causes blindness when in contact with the eyes.” The look on Catherine’s face was actually priceless. After about 10 seconds of awkward silence, Samuel stated “The only antidote is breast milk.”

Being that there were no lactating women around that we knew of, Catherine made sure not to touch her eyes with that hand.

We found Arlene, took a few snaps, and made our way back to the car, almost being trampled by a dominant male Giraffe that we crossed paths with.

The Dowry Ceremony


We went on our way to Bulbul, a district of Nairobi to the home of Grace’s family, where her sister Mary and her fiancé were celebrating a dowry ceremony for their wedding. The celebration also coincided with Mary’s daughter Njeri’s first birthday.

Basically from what I understand, Elders of the man’s community and Elders from the woman’s community negotiate, and deliberate, until they come up with a fair sum of money that the groom will pay to the bride’s family. This process may not always be an easy one, and in fact, a dowry can cost quite a sum of money. The elders arent necessarily relatives of the man or woman, but just people in the community who have gained the trust and respect of the people of that tribe within that community. The importance of elders on a community level does not hold the same weight in the USA as it does here in Kenya.

It was pretty friggin cool, to have been invited to such an event, as we got immersed real quick in a traditional Kikuyu celebration. We entered the borders of the home, to a big yard where many people were sitting around, chatting, eating. The smell of beef and cooked vegetables filled the air, and our stomachs were looking for some attention.

Of course every eye was on Nadia, Catherine and I. Everyone knows Mena, because he too will be joining this tradition, as he and Grace are gonna be married soon as well. We were the Mzungus (white-folk), and I guess not many mzungus normally attend a gathering like this. I definitely felt a sense of pride and privilege that we were there, and that we weren’t like those “other tourists”, but as history shows us, the gods will cut down those who are prideful, which soon followed.

Grace is always known to be playing tricks on me, and while I’m not usually a gullible person, she seems to succeed. As if it weren’t bad enough that she had me ask a waiter if they had “my ass” on the menu, a few years back.

Grace told me that the group of elders inside wanted a portrait taken of them, since Mary, her sister, did tell me she would like it if I could photograph the event. For some reason, I believed her. Not knowing I was about to enter a closed-door debate that not even members of the family were allowed to listen in on.

So after barging in and making a complete ass of myself in a very respected discussion amongst the most respected people of the community, they actually INVITED me back, and wanted the negotiation captured on film (digital, whatever) So, I stuck around, had some conversation with these men and women, and took a few snaps.

The combined wisdom, age, and experience in that room was enough to fill libraries. It was dark, and all you saw was shadows. I took a few non-flash photos, but then I took a few with flash, so they could have some clear shots as well.

The rest of the day was spent just meeting people, talking to both young an old, learning about the culture, eating some kick-ass food.

I did ask someone, where’s the drinks? To which they told me, that the drinks aren’t allowed to be served until after the dowry has been settled on. In the room with the elders were crates of beer and soda, ready to be opened upon a successful agreement. Once the dowry was settled, the bottles were cracked open. Fanta, Coke, and Tusker were passed around the entire party, and the music started, and the “Mamas” as they are called, the older women of the group, got up and started dancing to the Kikuyu music, doing the Mughithi, a kind of dance, I believe.

I was chatting with a new friend named Nick, Grace’s nephew, when I heard some cheering and clapping, to turn around to find Catherine had gotten up and started dancing (extremely well, I might add) with one of the Mamas. I was like WHOA! Quickly I went and took a few snaps, and everyone was just loving it. She picked up the moves in an instant, to the point where everyone naturally believed that she was familiar and had been practicing the Mughithi at the local pubs, when in reality, this was her first DAY in Sub-Saharan Africa. She’s a gifted dancer by nature, and she wowed everyone in the place. I couldn’t help but feel special myself, just knowing her.

In the meantime, Nadia was being flirted with by a man who I was not allowed to take a picture of, because of some military problem or something, he was in hiding. Apparently I blew her cover, with the fake name she gave him, when I walked over and said “Nadia!” To which she replied with an uncomfortable smile “My name is not Nadia” hahahahha oops? ☺

Since Mena had to drive a few people home, Grace, Catherine, and I walked through BulBul to the main road, at sunset, and just talked about how much fun we had.

The next day, we were driving home after church, when on the corner of the Yaya Center, a local mall, I saw a familiar face. It was Alex, one of the boys who lived on the streets who I befriended back in 2006. When he saw us approaching, he quickly put out a cigarette (like he even needs to hide that from ME, of all people). He took my hand and said he thought I wasn’t ever gonna come back again. He looked old. He was 17 years old, and had the face of a 30 year old. It had been 6 months since I saw him, but he carried a lot of weight with him…

He and 2 of his friends who had lived on the street were all given the opportunity to start anew, one of them took it, and is now in school up in Naivasha, getting ready to rebuild his life, but the other two refused. To leave the streets is to give up a sort of freedom that one gains by having no boundaries, but at the same time, it is a prison. The amount of young men, between the ages of 5 and 18, who have no homes, or families, is unfathomable. Many are beaten by cops, they’re shunned by society as druggies and wastes of life… yet they’re honestly no different than you or I. My heart goes out to these guys, and whenever I return here, mainly because they serve as a mirror to myself in some way. I find myself working with them in one way or another. I plan to find Alex again in these next few days…. I just wanna understand more, why he didn’t take the chance when he had it. Either way, I love the guy, and wish him the best, I just hope he will live to see another year.

A few hours later, my heart and conscious were to be tried even more.

Invisible Children


Catherine is on her way to Uganda at the moment, to work as a Teacher with Invisible Children, an organization to help the children of Northern Uganda, whose lives are threatened daily by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

Brief History: In the 1980s, a woman named Alice Lakwena felt overcome by a “spirit” which she called the Holy Spirit, that spoke through her, telling her the need for the overthrowing of the Ugandan government. One of her protiges, a man named Joseph Koney, began the LRA as a pseudo-spiritual military force whose purpose was to overthrow the government. The LRA is using some very sick and carelessly calculated strategies in order to accomplish this, and one of the most horrific means to their goal, is the kidnapping of BOYS from their homes in the villages of Northern Uganda, and forcing them into combat. The children are brainwashed, and taught to kill from a very young age. They are desensitized from violence, by being forced to beat, kill, and even eat one another. Families are ripped apart and these nameless children become killing machines on behalf of Kony. One ex-combatant said he suffers headaches until he sees blood. These children are victims of this twisted campaign, and their story was pretty much ignored by the global community until a group of 3 young men ventured into Sudan to do a documentary, and ended up in Northern Uganda, and happened upon the situation. They made a documentary called “The Invisible Children” which sparked a movement and an organization meant to help these kids who have escaped the LRA, as well as those who are hiding every night from being abducted themselves. Those who have not yet been abducted, can no longer sleep in their own homes as it is unsafe, so they commute every night, into the city of Gulu, where they hide in hospitals and empty buildings and verandas.

We watched the documentary last night, and were just horrified at the reality of something like this actually happening in our world, without a flinch from our world leaders, because more important issues are at hand. A Genocide is happening on our planet… Do we have to wait until this becomes another African Genocide like the killings in Rwanda, before something is done?

I was so proud of Catherine, as she is on her way to Gulu right now, to be part of the relief effort in helping to rebuild the lives of these kids.

Once the tremdous guilt passed on, I felt a sense of responsibility of my own in light of three men with a video camera that sparked a global movement that is impacting humanity. Catherine and I spoke this morning over breakfast, at the very fact that if we made an effort, we COULD impact lives. It seems there are infinite paths to take, as there are an infinite amount of problems that need solving, which is my calling? Which is yours?

I come here to Kenya so I don’t have to sit back and think and wonder, but I hope that by DOING, I will learn where I need to be, and what my role is.

This morning I said bye to Catherine, and wished her farewell on her journey. Knowing the next 5 weeks are going to impact her in tremendous ways, as she will impact the lives of many, as she usually does with those she comes in contact with.

Best of luck, ya Caty.

Which brings me to tonight, kinda sitting here, unwinding, thinking about the last few days and gearing up for tomorrow, where I’ll begin work at the Hope Center, working on a web-application with my friend Junae, who will eventually take over the project.

A solemn evening. I’ll probably sleep early. The net is down, so I’m writing all this in Word, hoping I can post it soon.

Net is back up! I’ll leave you with a video… Chau locos.

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Driving on the Right Side of the Road: Life is Possible

Hey everyone, It’s 9am, Monday morning, and I just got back to NY last night. I’m incredibly jet-lagged, sore, and tired. It was quite a few weeks.

The last few days especially were incredible.

Friday, Dec 1 2006, was World AIDS Day, and the Hope Centre held three simultaneous marches in Kenya. Two in Nairobi, and one in Maseno. Henry and I spent the few days beforehand making the posters that were to be set up by the candle table, where people can light a candle in memory of a loved one who died or who is living with living with living with, not dying from disease.”

The day itself was wonderful. We woke up bright and early and headed out in busloads to Kibera, where the march started. There were a few speeches of inspiration, and Maboyz got a special shout out.

The first 10 minutes were rather slow. We just walked. When after a few minutes a few of the ladies began singing, and it ended up with us singing for the entire march, through the streets of Nairobi. Many of the people didn’t know each other, but there was such a sense of camaraderie. Some in the march were people from the Hope Centre’s HIV support group, some were local youth groups, and organizations that refer people to the Hope Centre.We marched through Kibera, onto Ngong Road, people were directing traffic around us, the guys from Maboyz were handing out fliers to oncoming vehicles, reaching their hand over to the hands of passengers in buses and matatus who wanted a pamphlet, to know more about World AIDS day, and about getting tested and knowing your status. We drew quite a crowd by the end of the march:

We marched from Kibera all the way back to the Hope Centre. Nadia addressed the crowd and introduced a woman named Rachel, a member of the HIV Support group, who gave her heart, and shared how because of ARV meds, she was able to live long enough to see her grandchildren be born. It was such an inspiring speech. There was such solidarity in that gathering, to know that everywhere around the world, similar marches were being held. Just to know that there are victims of this terrible disease who are no longer labelling themselves as victims, who are standing up, to get people educated, inspired, and hopeful.

I lit a candle for Massimo. He has been adopted by a family in Rome. He is my hero. He is living, not just surviving.

After the march, we had some eggs, sandwiches, and Abouna put us to work :) By us, I mean, the whole group of Maboyz. We worked cleaning up a bunch of storehouses. There were about 15 of us altogether, working at what seemed to be an impossible job, organizing heavy medical machinery, donated by people in the US and Egypt. Much of it was unusable, but could be made to good use with some repairs. We cleaned up 3 storehouses in 3 hours. You should have seen these rooms before we began, it looked like days of work, but with 15 of us. These guys are amazing. Some of them had no problem jumping up balancing themselves on mounds of metal, knowing that one wrong shift in weight would cause them tumbling into what would be a painful visit to the ER, or worse, stacking things in high places. Me, the American, I’m all thinking about “hey be careful!!” But we worked, and worked, and worked, and by the end – we were exhausted but proud of a good days work. Here we are basking in the glory of a job well done:

But now I’m home, back in the USA.

I did leave out one important detail, however. Remember Tony, the young man I mentioned in the last post? He got accepted by the school! I am so proud of him, and I am so honored to have been his witness at the school, where he got accepted.

His whole life, from this point onwards, is going to be different. Please send him your prayers! Change is possible. Life is possible!

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A Glimmer of Hope for One Young Man

My last trip here, working with Maboyz, I made mention of 3 younger guys, who were basically kids, living on the street. Of the three has gotten off the streets, while the other two are still not ready. I saw one of the ones who still lives behind the local mall and he looked terrible. He’s running away from people and I don’t blame him, can he really trust anyone to help him? After all the abuse and neglect he’s suffered through in his life. As he explains it, he’s just more comfortable where he is.

It’s so hard to see those who aren’t ready to make that step out; it’s all in time.

The one that made it out is shining. He is shining bright like the sun!  We spent the last two days working on some posters for this big AIDS Day rally tomorrow. Such a sweet spirit that kid has, and such a determination. When he speaks about what he wants for his life, there is power and fierceness in his eyes. It will not be easy, but I believe he can make it, if he stays his course.

They say the likelihood of a youth in a developing nation to get off the streets is close to impossible, but my friend Chris told me on my first trip, that when working with these kids, the only thing that can limit them is our expectation of them. That we have to dream big and hope for the best, I’ve stuck by his words, and I’m not quitting.

The young man shines today, and on Saturday, we’ll take him for his first school interview, in the nearby lake town of Naivasha.  Say a prayer, send positive energy, and transmit some good vibrations towards this part of the world. I saw another old friend today, he also stays with the other one, behind the mall and he didn’t look so good either.

I guess we can’t make changes unless we’re ready to.

That goes with everything. The first time I quit smoking, it lasted maybe 7 days? I knew deep down that it wasn’t the time, yet, even though part of me wanted to quit, it just wasn’t happening.

And the days continue on, and we’ll see what happens.

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The journey with Maboyz

Jamboni marafiki wangu! Hello my friends. It is interesting how my language changes when I am overseas. Certain nuances in the way we talk in the states are different than the English spoken here, and it takes a few days to get acculturated to these differences, but its great when I return, and I throw in a few Swahili words by accident when I talk to people ☺ If I speak to you in the week after, expect an accidental “sawa” or “sindyo” thrown in the conversation. I’ll tell you right now sawa means “OK”, and sindyo means “Yes, No?” or the best equivalent is “Ya know?”

Sawa, let me continue this journal of my time overseas. Sawa? Sawa!

Quick recap: meeting with Maboyz again here in Nairobi has made a huge change in my plans here. I basically talked a lot of smack before I left. Many of you heard me say “Yea, I’m gonna climb mount Kenya!” or “Hey! Gonna climb the highest mountain in Kenya” but really – things change when you get here. And being here and seeing Maboyz again, I realize I’d rather spend more time with them, so, instead of taking a 4 day trek into the wilderness, I’m gonna be spending one night in Nakuru, which is a lake town and game park, north of Nairobi. I hope to see some Rhinos and Leopards, sindiyo?

Sawa.

As I wrote before, I have felt kinda torn being here. I have so much attachment to the guys I’ve been working with since my last visit, earlier this year, and seeing how much they’ve changed and how much their group has grown in numbers, maturity, and consistency, makes me want to be a part of it so much more, but it is sad because I know I have to leave.

But it’s been both difficult, wonderful, painful, and rewarding. Last night they had at the church , what they call, a Kesha, or an all night vigil of prayer, singing, skits, games, movie, etc. As for me, I’m not one who can pray for 8 hours straight, most of my prayer, I like to spend alone, I guess. But its good with the masses every so often. A few of the guys showed up, and as they were arriving, I was upstairs in my flat, getting ready to play some guitar and leading the group in some songs. It’s been a long (very long) time since I’ve done that sorta thing, and so I was nervous. Plus the guitar I was to use, had a broken string. And I get very particular about sound, and if I’m missing a string, I get worked up. So I was lucky to have a friend downstairs named Tim who had a guitar and was generous enough to let me borrow it for the evening.

Once the gathering started, one of the guys walked in, and let’s just say he wasn’t doing too well. We told him he should go home, get sobered up and then come back. I wasn’t sure if it was the right thing to do, but it did make sense at the time. Maybe it’s about building discipline, if he can control himself one day a week? I dunno, I have no idea how these things work, but as far as addiction goes, I can sympathize. I think we all can. There’s always something that has us kinda bound: big things, small things. It’s all the same at the end, just some have bigger consequences than others.

He ended up leaving and the night continued. But with a sort of bittersweet note, for me.  I was spending most of the time worried about this kid. As I started playing Tim’s guitar… the most amazing thing happened, the strap broke. Then, a string popped, then another string snapped! And my one hour gig, turned into 15 minutes of clumsy, yet very musical, playing and singing, and for those 15 minutes, everyone was feeling it. Well, at least I was for sure ☺

It was also special because it was the first time Nadia and I sang and played together in such a long time and it was kick-ass for sure.

I’m writing this in MS Word (for Mac) (since I have no net connection right now), and I’m surprised to find that “kickass” is not recognized by the spell checker, and is telling me that I’ve misspelled it. I guess it’s time to add “kickass” to the correct spelling list ☺

OBAMA 2008!

Sawa.

At around 1:30am, in the middle of an intense game of Bible trivia, boys vs. girls, I’m told that the boy from earlier, was passed out on the street right outside the gate, and had been sleeping there in the cold for bout 2 hours.

Mena and I tried to wake him up, but he would not budge, so the guards kept an eye on him and we went back at 2:30 to get him.

Mena and Junae and Kimani, three brothers who are living here in Kenya. I’m just so amazed by them, and their love for the guys, and how much work they’ve put into their group in the last 7 months. I’m happy to know that they are here as I don’t think anyone else could do the job, sindiyo?

We brought him in, and spent until 4:30 with him keeping him company, trying to get him to stay alert. We got him food and tea, it was hard. This guy was a really amazing person, yet, covered by so much crap. You see the potential, yet you know he doesn’t really want help, or maybe he doesn’t think there’s a way out. At the end of the day, it’s a challenge in letting go, but loving and pursuing, and staying dedicated unconditionally. But how that balance is achieved is very hard.

He couldn’t even hold the tea, because he was shaking so much.

At the end, I feel just so inadequate. Inadequate to help, and inadequate to have any answers to why this is the way it is. But you have to keep on going, because it isn’t about me. But you can’t do this kinda work without seeing yourself in these guys. You have to relate to  your own struggles, and your own challenges. These guys serve me, I think more than I serve them.

Couldn’t sleep at all, but finally passed out around 6am, waking up at 10. Not much sleep.

We had the Maboyz meeting a few hours ago, and we tried a few new exercises with them, challenging them to go deeper. What a lovely time it was though. To see these guys open up, and learn to trust each other more. It is really something magical to just witness.

One of the guys in particular, told me how sad he was that I was gonna leave in a week.

“What have you decided about Maboyz, Paul? Will you come stay with us?”

How do you answer such a question?

It feels good to be loved. It humbles me. I know for sure that for now I am supposed to be in New York. What the future has, I have no idea, but one thing is for sure, being in Kenya is part of my yearly plan.

Earlier that day,I was thinking about how the new guys I really don’t connect as well as the older ones because we didn’t have time to spend one on one like I had with the others.
But fate has it, that today, the new guys all showed up earlier, and the rest showed up an hour later, and it really gave us a good chance to bond.

We had fun though, one of the guys taught me some Kempo Karate. I told some of the guys the story of Che Guevarra, Che’s image is an icon all over Kenya, yet no one really knows who he is, where he came from, or what he did. Matatu vehicles all over the country have his icon branded on the rear window, and as they drive by, and you hear the muffled sound of what is to the passengers, piercing Ragga (not reggae) music, vibrating down the sometimes rocky, sometimes smooth roads of Nairobi.

But I digress.

I am here now at the Java house, unwinding with a cup of coffee, and writing these things out. I’m an introvert, actually, and I need these times every day in order to stay sane ☺

I have a lot to think about, but I look forward to a few relaxing days in the countryside amongst the rivers, the mountains, hyenas and flamingos.

More to come, and more photos as well – - Give my best to my city, and my country, and I miss you all so much. CHAU LOCOS!!

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Only A Brief Moment

Seems that when we’re younger we believe life will be as static as we’ve seen it all those years, until unforeseen tragedies happen that catch us off guard, and they force us to grow up. While the last few weeks have been extremely difficult, I can’t say I was totally unprepared.

It started only a few weeks back, when my buddy Craig, his friend Paul (yes another Paul), and myself, all took a road trip up to the Berkshires (Massachusetts for those who don’ know). Craig is an deep and intriguing fellow, and a great friend who I met as an RA, whom I reunited with on 9/11/01, on AOL Instant Messenger; but that’s another story.

I don’t know anyone who loves Star Wars as much as he does (and if you don’t believe me, just check out the tattoo of the Rebel Alliance on his bicep), and we’ve got the chance to check out some large events in cinematic history such as Opening Night of SWE3ROTS, Jaws on the big screen at Bryant Park, and finally what brought us to the Berkshires in the first place: The Boston Pops Orchestra, Conducted by John Williams, Narrated by James Earl Jones, Solo by YoYo Ma, and enjoyed by Stephen Spielberg, and the rest of us.

The highlight of course, was not necessarily the experience of seeing some of my favorite film music performed live by the people who created the legend in the first place, but it was rather something that caught me off guard. You see, an elderly woman who had the same aura of Lucille Bluth from FOX’s Arrested Development, was passed out, head tilted back, mouth wide open, riding that thin line between heavy breathing and snoring, during one of Yoyo Ma’s solos. And while the rest of the audience was hushed to a deafening silence, I took one look at the glistening of drool on her overly made-up lips that was being pulled towards the floor, as gravity so dictated, and I bust out into uncontrollable laughter that was not only mildly disruptive, it was also contagious.

Later on that evening as I was driving to Boston, I had this strange thought as I made my way towards Springfield, MA at around 1AM. A sudden thought occurred to me “I don’t deal with loss very well.” Huh? Who said that? The thought popped into my mind like the flash of a camera-phone, awkward but somehow effective. “Paul, loss is the one thing you don’t deal well with at all. What’s going to happen if you lose a loved one? It may happen someday.” After wrestling with these facts and trying to push them out of my mind for 30 minutes, I gave up, and surrendered and sat with myself and accepted the fact that, yes, loss is something I don’t take gracefully, especially involving people I love; for you see, I’ve been at too many funerals for someone my age, and have never gotten used to them.

I figured I might as well admit this fact, because, acceptance is the first step towards growth? I think Dr. Phil said that.

Not 20 minutes after this long dialogue with my inner-consciousness had come to a conclusion, I received an email from my Uncle Mak, letting me know that he’d been diagnosed with cancer of the liver. I closed the email, then the words took a few minutes to actually sink in. Tears, swig of beer, Kleenex, email. You have to understand the relationship between me and my Uncle. He is one of my heroes in life. He’s taught me so much about life, and about loving others, and standing up for what is true. I have a feeling my big mouth is somewhat owed to him. I didn’t quite understand what was happening, and why my Uncle, the man who I considered a saint, had to go through something like this. He is the head of our extended family on my mom’s side, here in the States and overseas. The voice of reason, the mediator, the one who will travel thousands of miles to offer his guidance during times of trouble. He is also someone who I’ve definitely taken for granted at times. I guess we all do it. We think our loved ones will be here forever.

The next day an email clarified by him let me know that, while it looks like it is cancer, they will do a biopsy to know for sure. We spoke soon after, and I was amazed at what he told me. Even in a moment where no one would even think twice about feeling bad for someone, his only concern was everyone else around him. “Paul, the further away I am from my body, the closer I am to the Lord.” He went on to explain to me how this urges him on even more, to live every day to fulfill the purpose he believes that God put him on this earth to do. In illness, even, he shines like the brightest star.

A week later, he goes on to volunteer with my Aunt Barbara as physicians at a Young Life camp, and life goes on as usual. He just got the biopsy done today, and we’re all waiting for the results. I know in my heart that he’s gonna be ok, no matter what happens, and I can’t help but feel grateful that I was, even briefly, somehow prepared for receiving the news. While I want things to stay the same, and be as static as I’ve known them to be, I am learning to just accept, and be thankful for what I have. And maybe even what I don’t have control over.

But sometimes it’s just difficult.

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“What Would Jesus Do?”: An answer to the politically religious

Every time I see a man in the pulpit telling his congregation how to vote, I would feel the bile rise up my esophagus. I would rationalize this feeling as a mere testimony to my lack of conviction or devotion in my faith, but the more I’ve lived, and the more I’ve read and studied, the less and less I can stand by a President who plays religion into his campaign, or a religion that aligns itself to a certain political party.

I find myself always at odds with family and some friends, because I’m perfectly fine with the removal of the 10 Commandments from an Alabama courthouse, and I refuse to align myself politically based on how well a politicians social platform aligns itself with a certain religious moral base.

Much energy in this country is wasted in fighting minuscule moral battles, when there is a world falling apart around us. Those who claim righteousness should focus their energy where the need is great.

And I always thought I stood alone, being a Christian but not of the theocratic sorts, until I picked up the Times.  Here’s a piece that resonated with me:

Christ Among the Partisans

By GARRY WILLS (NYT) 1210 words
Published: April 9, 2006

Chicago – THERE is no such thing as a ‘’Christian politics.’’ If it is a politics, it cannot be Christian. Jesus told Pilate: ‘’My reign is not of this present order. If my reign were of this present order, my supporters would have fought against my being turned over to the Jews. But my reign is not here’’ (John 18:36). Jesus brought no political message or program.

This is a truth that needs emphasis at a time when some Democrats, fearing that the Republicans have advanced over them by the use of religion, want to respond with a claim that Jesus is really on their side. He is not. He avoided those who would trap him into taking sides for or against the Roman occupation of Judea. He paid his taxes to the occupying power but said only, ‘’Let Caesar have what belongs to him, and God have what belongs to him’’ (Matthew 22:21). He was the original proponent of a separation of church and state.

Those who want the state to engage in public worship, or even to have prayer in schools, are defying his injunction: ‘’When you pray, be not like the pretenders, who prefer to pray in the synagogues and in the public square, in the sight of others. In truth I tell you, that is all the profit they will have. But you, when you pray, go into your inner chamber and, locking the door, pray there in hiding to your Father, and your Father who sees you in hiding will reward you’’ (Matthew 6:5-6). He shocked people by his repeated violation of the external holiness code of his time, emphasizing that his religion was an internal matter of the heart.

But doesn’t Jesus say to care for the poor? Repeatedly and insistently, but what he says goes far beyond politics and is of a different order. He declares that only one test will determine who will come into his reign: whether one has treated the poor, the hungry, the homeless and the imprisoned as one would Jesus himself. ‘’Whenever you did these things to the lowliest of my brothers, you were doing it to me’’ (Matthew 25:40). No government can propose that as its program. Theocracy itself never went so far, nor could it.

The state cannot indulge in self-sacrifice. If it is to treat the poor well, it must do so on grounds of justice, appealing to arguments that will convince people who are not followers of Jesus or of any other religion. The norms of justice will fall short of the demands of love that Jesus imposes. A Christian may adopt just political measures from his or her own motive of love, but that is not the argument that will define justice for state purposes.

To claim that the state’s burden of justice, which falls short of the supreme test Jesus imposes, is actually what he wills—that would be to substitute some lesser and false religion for what Jesus brought from the Father. Of course, Christians who do not meet the lower standard of state justice to the poor will, a fortiori, fail to pass the higher test.

The Romans did not believe Jesus when he said he had no political ambitions. That is why the soldiers mocked him as a failed king, giving him a robe and scepter and bowing in fake obedience (John 19:1-3). Those who today say that they are creating or following a ‘’Christian politics’’ continue the work of those soldiers, disregarding the words of Jesus that his reign is not of this order.

Some people want to display and honor the Ten Commandments as a political commitment enjoined by the religion of Jesus. That very act is a violation of the First and Second Commandments. By erecting a false religion—imposing a reign of Jesus in this order—they are worshiping a false god. They commit idolatry. They also take the Lord’s name in vain.

Some may think that removing Jesus from politics would mean removing morality from politics. They think we would all be better off if we took up the slogan ‘’What would Jesus do?’’

That is not a question his disciples ask in the Gospels. They never knew what Jesus was going to do next. He could round on Peter and call him ‘’Satan.’’ He could refuse to receive his mother when she asked to see him. He might tell his followers that they are unworthy of him if they do not hate their mother and their father. He might kill pigs by the hundreds. He might whip people out of church precincts.

The Jesus of the Gospels is not a great ethical teacher like Socrates, our leading humanitarian. He is an apocalyptic figure who steps outside the boundaries of normal morality to signal that the Father’s judgment is breaking into history. His miracles were not acts of charity but eschatological signs—accepting the unclean, promising heavenly rewards, making last things first.

He is more a higher Nietzsche, beyond good and evil, than a higher Socrates. No politician is going to tell the lustful that they must pluck out their right eye. We cannot do what Jesus would do because we are not divine.

It was blasphemous to say, as the deputy under secretary of defense, Lt. Gen. William Boykin, repeatedly did, that God made George Bush president in 2000, when a majority of Americans did not vote for him. It would not remove the blasphemy for Democrats to imply that God wants Bush not to be president. Jesus should not be recruited as a campaign aide. To trivialize the mystery of Jesus is not to serve the Gospels.

The Gospels are scary, dark and demanding. It is not surprising that people want to tame them, dilute them, make them into generic encouragements to be loving and peaceful and fair. If that is all they are, then we may as well make Socrates our redeemer.

It is true that the tamed Gospels can be put to humanitarian purposes, and religious institutions have long done this, in defiance of what Jesus said in the Gospels.

Jesus was the victim of every institutional authority in his life and death. He said: ‘’Do not be called Rabbi, since you have only one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no one on earth your father, since you have only one Father, the one in heaven. And do not be called leaders, since you have only one leader, the Messiah’’ (Matthew 23:8-10).

If Democrats want to fight Republicans for the support of an institutional Jesus, they will have to give up the person who said those words. They will have to turn away from what Flannery O’Connor described as ‘’the bleeding stinking mad shadow of Jesus’’ and ‘’a wild ragged figure’’ who flits ‘’from tree to tree in the back’’ of the mind.

He was never that thing that all politicians wish to be esteemed—respectable. At various times in the Gospels, Jesus is called a devil, the devil’s agent, irreligious, unclean, a mocker of Jewish law, a drunkard, a glutton, a promoter of immorality.

The institutional Jesus of the Republicans has no similarity to the Gospel figure. Neither will any institutional Jesus of the Democrats.

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Two turn-tables and a microphone

“I’m planning on spending the next few months in East Africa, until my new job starts up this spring. I’m looking forward to the change, though i do admit there’s much fear involved. Fear of being in an unknown place. I’ve never lived that long away from home, away from people who I knew … it’s funny how the idea of backpacking across europe seems a bit more inviting. Maybe its the fact that I’ll have very little control over where I move, where I go, what I do . . . for three months . . .it has to be a humbling experience for sure, but can I handle it? I guess time will tell. The door has been open for a while, and I’ve said “Nu-uh” many times, but it’s become very clear . . . i must do this.”

Last December, this was my opinion about coming to this place. I was very hesitant, extremely nervous. It was the fear of the unknown, and the fear of losing the control over ones own life that one usually has living in a place like New York, or anywhere else in the States. When I visited here last summer, part of me couldn’t wait to get back, but this trip has been quite different.

Orthodox Christians celebrate Holy Week on a different calendar than the Western Church, every so often it lands on the same week, but this year, it was a week later. Coptic Holy Week in a Kenyan church is not much different than what you’d find in the USA or in Egypt, except for the language. Even though I was working like a madman, I managed to take a few hours every day and attend service, to just clear my heart and mind. Instead of singing the entire long psalm, only the first stanza of the “solemn” psalm tune is used. Much of Coptic hymnology is based on tunes, and not on actual hymns. The same tune can be applied to different words, depending on the time of year. Easter, however, was a little different. For the most part it was pretty much like a regular Coptic Easter: you’ve got the incense, the offering, the thanksgiving, the readings, the processional, the Qama Haqqan, the cymbals, the Faray7ee tune. Then communion happens, and it’s a whole different story. It was one of the most celebratory, joyful Easters I’ve ever experienced!

So, we were talking about Symbols, eh? Well, the guys came up with their logo for their group. Two hands coming out of the map of Kenya with a cross in the middle. Sharing, Brotherhood, and Spirit.. that’s what it signifies… on the bottom reads “Lift Up Your Brother”, a quote from a song by Culture, one of the more popular reggae artists that people like down here. Last night I was back in Kibera with Father Moses, in the same set-up as the first time we went to Kibera many months ago. The people running towards the car, the little hotel where we met, although this time it was a little different.

You can tell this time, the guys had more ownership over their meeting. They would stand up, and say something, give their opinions bout certain matters, and to be honest, this is the way it should be. The habit of people always asking for a hand out needs to end soon. There were a few things here and there, asking for this thing or that thing, but overall, the mood was different.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t a happy gathering. The brother of one of our guys was killed the day before in a gang-related incident, no one really knows why it happened.

Just the day before, we were all together and everything was ok. We had a last pow-wow of sorts, played some games, had a little talk, had some breakfast, and I gave em each a framed photo of our trip in Kiambu so they can remember.

We got together for a few pics, and you can see in the back. Our banner being held high. These guys are the reason I want to return to Kenya. I believe something can happen from them. I don’t believe one bit that a life of addiction is their fate!

If you can recall one of the comments that was left, my boy Chris said something along the lines of, I can only be limited by my expectation of them, that I gotta have big dreams for these guys. He said it a lot more eloquently, I’m sure.

And you know, when I first started this work, i was told to expect nothing, and i’m seeing quite the opposite happening:


So i’m packing up the last of my things, saying bye to people and stuff. I finished a program, handed it off to a new programmer, and found myself within a family over here.

I’m gonna miss Nadia, especially. I know she’ll visit us soon. I am so proud of her work.

Well, I better get going. There is much to do before I leave, but I’ll leave you guys with this clip from Easter. Wow – i’m kinda sad. I didn’t expect this wave of emotion to hit me. I’ll be back soon, I’m pretty sure of that. But i’m excited to see my friends and family again. It’s been a long time since that night in the city, in early February.

Good times are ahead, I’m sure. Tunachekiana badai.

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