Birthday Celebrations

Today I attended a birthday for Chara (one of the doctors kids) and I brought the Cream Puffs mentioned in my previous post. They were quite the hit! The party today was such a wonderful way to spend the morning. (And not because of the cream puffs or the cake and ICE CREAM!!! Yes I did say ice cream.)

The Birthday Girl:

Ajack and the Birthday Girl:
What made the party so wonderful was that there was both local kids and "western" kids. (We feel so blessed to be working at a place where the missionaries interact with the locals. We know it is not like this everywhere and it is such a great experience to see the local kids playing alongside the visitors.) Seeing the local kids so included and how much they enjoyed the party was such a treat. The best part of the party for me was seeing the Kenyan kids throwing water balloons at a target and hearing their squeals of delight and seeing their faces light up when their balloons exploded. Joy transcends language! (It was also very amusing when they went after the birthday girls dad with the water balloons and soaked his backside.)

Water balloons:

Three party girls (and a boy!)
On the left Natalie (pre-med student from the US), Carrie (nurse from the US) and of course moi!

Let them eat cake!
All in all an excellent party!


Not a flop!

I have attempted to make bread products here twice and both times they were a flop. I had a wonderful idea the first week we were here to make bread sticks and dip them in tomato sauce, (voila pizza sticks!) but sadly they did not rise properly. I asked around for advice and was told to make sure I put the dough in the oven to rise and cover it with a damp cloth. The next week I decided to attempt pizza dough (do you sense a theme here?) and followed all the advice I was given to a T. Unfortunately the dough did not rise. Our guests raved about our “thin crust pizza” but still I was perplexed. I still am not sure what I did wrong.

Today I decided to make something that needed to rise. It however did not have yeast (which I think may be part of the rising problem, it is quick rise yeast that I have.) Our neighbour girl is having her fourth birthday party tomorrow and I said I would bring some fingerfood. Last night we had mango crisp (mmm delicious) and I made some dreamwhip to go with it. We had an excess of dreamwhip left over and I wanted to use it for the party. What goes great with dreamwhip you say?? CREAM PUFFS! And I am happy to report that they rose to perfection! Here they are in all their glory.

Fresh out of the oven: (No, that is not a hole from my finger in one of them.)

Cream puffs by kerosene light:

In other news we received our first package (with lots of baking goods, pictures, slippers and a newspaper article!) from Marc’s parents. I love getting packages. We also got a letter in the mail today from our friend in Uganda. We are hoping to get out there sometime in the Fall to visit the people that we met when we were there in 2003. Well off to stuff some cream puffs. Have a great weekend all, we miss you!


Little Snippets

•We now have a bed! When we first got here the bed they had put in our room was a single bed. We tried to sleep on it for two nights but did not enjoy the “closeness.” We have been married for 6 years ;) and definitely like our own space. We resorted to putting two matresses on the floor and liked that much more. Here is our new bed that came on the weekend and Marc put together last night. (After quite the Scavenger hunt for nuts and bolts we ended up taking them from the old bed so we have to remember to put them back before we have guests, i.e. my mom, otherwise she might be in for a fun sleep!)

•Speaking of definitely I just learned how to spell it correctly. I always thought it was definately but in an e-mail I sent the other day it kept underlining it so I had to figure it out for myself. No right clicking in gmail.

•I really miss Subway sandwiches. I really don’t eat them that often in Canada but since this weekend I have had quite the craving for an Italian BMT. Mmmm

•We went for a walk down to the river the other day and there was a little girl who we could see on the bridge from where we were sitting. She kept watching us but as soon as we would wave she would turn and run. We were very surprised when she came down to say hello. We had a very short conversation with her and her sister in broken Swahili.
•As you can see the kids here are so cute. Today when I was walking home a group of about four five year olds saw me coming and all of a sudden were all laying down about five feet apart from eachother on the path I was walking on. As I walked by they all stuck their hand up and said, “Habari?” (How are you?) It was so amusing, I have no idea how they all managed to get the idea together so quickly. I tickled the last little boy and he let out the biggest laugh.

•I must apologize to all of you whose blogs we used to comment on. We have signed up for bloglines and are unable to comment on the program. Any ideas?

•Lastly, I hear that Joanna is having an ugly picture contest so I thought I would add ours. Marc doesn’t know I added his but I couldn’t add mine without showing one of him. Hee hee. Enjoy!

**I must admit that Marc's picture is much less ugly than mine and in fact a bit more silly. Sadly there are a multitude of ugly pictures of me and just not that many of Marc. I will attribute it to the fact that he takes the majority of the pictures!


ridge walk

josh and kendra's visit was short but oh so sweet. it was fantastic (and a little surreal) to see friends from canada here in kenya. after taking a bus from nairobi to eldoret they caught a ride with an SP vehicle to kapsowar on friday evening. after catching up over mexican pasta bake, fresh grown sprouts (more on that later!) and fresh supplies from nairobi late into the night we got up the next morning with the intention of walking along a ridge to the north of kapsowar that runs along the great rift valley.

here is a picture of our route. our hike took a little over 7 hours with several breaks to take in the views and relax over soda and chapati in a nearby town. the dotted lines denote portions of the route that lie behind the pictured scene. the trail is not particularly to scale, as the first portion of our hike (the first dotted line starting at the white dot) to the base of the peak in the distance took us over 2 hours. we started from our house and headed down to the river, then slowly climbed up a steady grade (on a road built by italian POWs) until we reached a large church that apparently has been under construction for over 7 years. at this point we ventured off the road and onto the cattle trails in order to attain the peak pictured waaay in the distance.

at the top we were rewarded with spectacular panoramic views of the great rift valley.

we were also an attraction for the local kids. we had a great time with them and enjoyed taking their picture and then showing them their own faces on the camera display.

at one point i was trying to determine if the path ahead would lead us to the next village we wanted to walk through. i was speaking slowly and in broken simple english and gesticulating wildly trying to get my points across.

finally the young man i was questioning grew tired of the silly white man's antics and spoke quite clearly in excellent english for the first time, "i am not understanding you well sir. what is it exactly that you want to know?" whoops! i suppose just because you happen to live in rural africa on a mountain peak with incredible views in all directions does not mean that you are not educated.

after the peak we made our way down the ridge with amazing scenery on both sides. the lightly worn trails we were following led us right through many personal properties and we received a friendly and heartfelt welcome from everyone we met, even if we couldn't communicate very well. we were amazed at how well kept all the households were, with immaculate yellow walled huts, cleanly swept small courtyards and beautiful flowers planted throughout in regular well kept plots. at one point the game trail we were following disappeared and i asked directions from a nearby curious lady in broken swahili. she responded by sending her daughter scurrying to escort us through the maze of minor service trails and back to the main one.

after descending the peak we continued along the road which offered incredible vistas all the way home.

here are some pictures of the local wildlife. we even saw some monkeys up on the ridge!

today we said goodbye to josh and kendra, as kendra has a flight out of nairobi tomorrow morning. it was a short visit, but hopefully they will return as they are both working in the sudan for the next year or so. josh has actually started a blog as well to let other's follow his adventures working for SP in the nuba mountains of central sudan. check out his blog for the arc of his journey thus far and then check it again in a few days for his perspective on our little house and lovely ridge walk.


Update from the Bug Killer!

Marc has been hogging this blog lately posting embarrassing videos of me so I feel that I need to redeem myself with a post. I must say that even though you cannot SEE the bug that I am trying to kill let me assure you it was VERY gross. I do not know that technical name of these bugs but I call them “wormy ugly things.” They have a body like a worm with wings and they fly around like they are having a seizure. I took a picture of one when it landed.
It is large but not as large as the moth that landed on our window last night. Yes that is Marc’s hand and yes it is stretched out. Thank goodness it was not inside. I would be doing a lot more than squealing.

I have been involved in quite the variety of projects here. In fact yesterday I was even busier than Marc! I started the morning out playing parachute games at the local primary school then went to the hospital and started to organize the secretary’s office. (A very large job!) After lunch I headed to one of the other doctor’s houses and gave his daughter a piano lesson. I have not taught piano in at least five years and felt a bit leery that I would not remember how to do it (where is Middle C again?) but as soon as I started it came very naturally. It was on a small keyboard and all the music was printed off from the internet but she was a very eager learner and I quite enjoyed myself.

In the last bit of news we had a great video (yes that’s right I said video) chat with our friend Fraser last night. We have been having a lot of internet problems here this week so we did not think chatting (let along video chatting) would work. We gave him a tour of our house and had a great time reconnecting.

I will leave you with a picture of the beautiful rainbow that we saw out our backdoor yesterday. (This one also shows our worn brick patio where we have been enjoying coffee in the morning.) Have a great day everyone, keep the comments and the e-mails coming, we love them!



sorry for the sideways nature of this video, i was trying to be sneaky and now i cant flip it upright. for your viewing pleasure you may either turn your monitor on its side or lie down while watching.

first visitors!

we have just confirmed that our friends josh and kendra are coming to visit us for the weekend! our inaugural guests will recieve a very warm welcome complete with private bedrooms, fresh eggs for breakfast and lovely candlelit dinners when the power goes out.

here is a picture of our living room during said power outage.

and here is our kitchen with the power working.

last weekend we hitched a ride with a hospital vehicle to eldoret, the nearest major center. the roads are currently in excellent condition because this area hasnt seen rain for a few months, but a surprise 15min downpour yesterday signalled the beginning of the rainy season, so we are getting ready for some serious mud!

this is a mobile shop we saw on the way to eldoret.

on the way home we stopped briefly at a nice viewpoint overlooking the rift valley. we havent done much hiking here yet, but most of the trails around here will look down on a view like this.

the hospital is still moving pretty slowly, which is giving me time to read and to prepare tutorials for the medical students and the sudanese interns that kylie mentioned in our last post. the teaching aspect of my job here has kept me on my toes. we are excited about developing connections with jacob and ajack, the sudanese interns, as well as the regular rotation of medical students from europe, north america and australia.


It's a Small World After All . . .

Hello, this is Julie (Marc's sister) here. Marc and Kylie haven't had internet access for 4 days now, but Kylie had already written this up as a draft, so they asked me (via the phone) to post it. Scads of pictures aren't included, but they will post them when their internet is up again (sporadic though it is).

Evidence . . .
1. Our next door neighbour here in Kapsowar is from Calgary (she has been here for 20 years) and some of her biggest supporters are friends of Marc’s from Pioneer Ranch Camps in Sundre. Apparently they even e-mailed Marc last year that he should go to Kapsowar but we weren’t seriously looking at where we wanted to go yet so we don’t remember the e-mail. Marc’s parents connected with them last weekend in Sundre and they were shocked to find out we made it to Kapsowar through another route. (Marc’s cousin Rob who was here two years ago.)

2. I can still participate in March Madness from Kenya. I absolutely love NCAA basketball and even though I can’t watch it from here (this is really the only TV I am missing) I still entered the pool at my dad’s school. We don’t have a printer here so I copied the brackets onto a piece of cardboard. I picked Kansas to win based on my highly researched information. (Which consisted of me asking Marc – Kansas or Ohio?) Go Kansas Go!
3. Someone gave me a Canadian apron here. I am not completely sure yet where it is from (I wish my Swahili was better) but I love it. A little piece of home here.

4. There are a lot of bugs here that are really gross. This is not evidence that it is a small world because we don’t have these bugs in Canada but they are small and live in the world so I will show you some pictures of what I have been having to kill in the last couple days. Yuck!

5. Lastly, the best example of how small the world is . . . Last night we attended a birthday party for a man named Ajack.

He is from the Sudan and is working here in Kapsowar with Samaritan’s Purse under the Sudanese Doctor Re-integration Project. (Marc will post more about this later, he will be teaching some of the students as they come through and is very excited about this.) Ajack was born in the Sudan, then was in Cuba for much of his life and came to Canada in 2001. He lived in Edmonton until 2005 when he became involved in this project. Marc and I were talking with him last night and when we found out he had lived in Edmonton Marc asked if he attended church there. Turns out he did and he attended Central Baptist Church where my former youth pastor and his wife (Doug and Roxy) are now pastors. I asked if he knew Doug and he popped up and left his party. He came back with a picture of him and Doug and some of his fellow classmates. What a small world!!!!
Here is a picture of Ajack (on the left) and Doug (second from the right.) We had a wonderful conversation about Edmonton after and the winters in Canada. Ajack gave a speech afterwards about how he came to Kapsowar. What an amazing story he has and what a privilege it was to attend his birthday party!

Off to observe an English class at the girl’s high school and then I start this afternoon as the secretary for the hospital. (!!!???!!!) Wish me luck. (Sorry for the small pictures that's all I can upload right now.)



our house is beside the red roof between the tall trees in the top right of this picture

as previously mentioned we have arrived safely in kapsowar, kenya. it is a small village on the western edge of kenya, just past the great rift valley and 60 km from the ugandan border. the local people are called the marakwet, a part of a larger cultural group that speaks kalenjin. swahili is the local trade tongue and people who have completed high school can usually speak some english. the marakwet are an agricultural people and the hills around kapsowar are lined with terraced fields of maize and millet. kapsowar is ~8000 feet elevation which provides a very mild climate. so far it has been ~27 C every day and 12-15 C every night. it is extremely sunny but we have not been burnt yet.

our house here is much nicer than we expected and even more than we had hoped for. it is a very simple, small, brick and cement house with 3 small bedrooms, a nice little kitchen, an indoor toilet and a shower that actually has hot water! as posted previously, the view is amazing. the kitchen windows and the back door look out onto a steep valley that runs all the way to the rift valley. right now the walls are bare, but our fridge (yes we even have a small fridge!) and our wardrobe door are covered with pictures from home. many of those who read this blog are represented there. we are planning to pick up some wall hangings soon and then we will feel more moved in.

i started working for real in the hospital today after a 1 day orientation (read - a brief but comprehensive tour followed by me wandering around talking to whoever i ran into). it is a little overwhelming learning a new medical system, different drugs, different illness and presentations and 2 languages (kalenjin and swahili) all at the same time, but the hospital moves quite slowly compared to the ERs i have become used to, so i feel like i will have had time to grapple with things. some things really scare me, such as obstetrics (if a woman actually comes to the hospital there is most likely a problem) and peds (same deal, the kids are usually brought in after they have been sick for a week and are comatose or close to it) but i will not have to deal with those until i am on call for the first time next week. there are 3 other general practitioners here and one surgeon but a different one of the GPs (or medical officers in the case of the 2 kenyan docs) will be almost always be on holidays while we are here so i will be doing 1 in 3 call and working every 3rd weekend. the other western doc is a missionary from the US who is here with his wife and 2 fantastic daughters (5 + 3). they had us over for supper last night and i think we will become very good friends. the other 2 docs are both kenyan, 1 male and 1 female... i have just started to get to know them but they are both very friendly and quite knowledgable. the medical director of the hospital is also from the US and his family has been quite welcoming as well.

kylie has been busy already setting up our house and getting to know our surroundings. today she walked an hour to visit an orphanage outside the village. it seems that she will have lots to keep her busy; she has already volunteered to run a day program for the local primary school kids out of the local library (i have not yet seen it, but kylie was impressed with their small collection) and has established several connections with local schools and is looking at doing some much needed organization at the hospital. if she is not careful she will be busier than me!

i suppose that is enough news for now. there is much more to tell but i know how intimidating big blocks of text can be to the multimedia generation. other than really missing niko we are doing about as well as could be expected. i will try to put up some pics of the hospital and surrounding area soon, but our internet connection has been almost nonexistent thus far. there has been one time since we have arrived that we got speeds in the kB/sec range, but often it does not work at all and if it does the data trickles in at 50-500 B/sec. aargh! often our mail program will identify 4 new emails but disconnect after downloading half of the first one. apparently this is currently a nationwide problem, so hopefully it gets fixed soon!


we're here!

the view out our back door


soest to nairobi

we have now arrived in nairobi safely with all our luggage intact and accounted for. after being set up for possible failure i was quite happy when we got our 3 month visas with no problem and got our boxes of medications and supplies through customs with almost no hassle. but perhaps i should start from the beginning, or if not the beginning then at least where we left off last time.

after our quick tour of friesland we headed to soest near amersfoort where we stayed 2 nights with our friend arjan's parents, rob and esther.

we had a great time visiting with them and enjoying their hospitality. rob picked us up off the street when we were wandering around soest after getting off at the wrong train stop and i had some serious deja vu. at one point i mentioned to rob that i was looking for computer speakers and 15 min later he came to me with the results of his internet searchs and a couple flyers and a tip about a discount computer retailer in the area. that is not all though, he also ferried us around in our search for both speakers and chocolate chips. we have learned that chocolate chips are very difficult to find in holland b/c nobody bakes. most people like cookies but they are always storebought. i did however buy some more dark chocolate to add to my stash.

we also had some great talks with esther over meals and in the evenings. she is a night owl like me.
those of you who where friends with arjan at UofL will be happy to know that he is doing well. we visited his flat which was tastefully decorated in an international theme with pieces of art from yemen and from his year in israel working in a home for handicapped children. canadians will be gratified to know that a haida painting and a haida paddle were central pieces in his collection. we had a great time looking at pictures and hearing stories of his travels through the middleast. he is still commuting 1 hour each way to rotterdam, but can handle it b/c of his swanky new renault. see anything missing in this picture?

wait for it...

wait for it...

that's right, no ignition... just a funky little black card for sliding into a little plastic invagination. it also unlocks the doors if you walk within 10 feet of the car.

we would have loved to stay much longer but our schedule was tight so rob drove us to the train station and off we went to schipol to reclaim our lost luggage, pack our bags and head to nairobi. everything proceeded quite smoothly and soon we found ourselves exiting the airport through customs.

when the customs agent found out that our big white boxes were full of medications she gave me a stern look and said something like "i am sorry sir, but only physicians are allowed to bring medications into the country." with a grin i produced my licentiate of the medical council of canada card, impressively embossed with an authoritative gold coat of arms and fancy signatures and the like. i remember thinking when i got it in the mail, "that's a waste of money, what will i ever do with a fancy card that says i'm a doctor?" when the agent called her superior over i produced the rest of our paperwork and we were ushered through the gate with nary a search and not a piece of luggage unpacked. we were met at the airport by a driver from SP, which made things a lot easier than the last time we were in africa and even easier than navigating the public transport of holland.

now we are safely in nairobi and will hop on a plane tomorrow morning to take us to eldoret where we will drive the last leg of our journey to kapsowar. yesterday we went with the medical director of kapsowar hospital to purchase a cell phone and modem and other supplies for our move. we had a good intro to africa while waiting over 3 hours to get our modem's card activated. we now have internet access wherever we can get cell phone reception. it is slow and expensive and apparently unreliable but still pretty amazing. maybe when we get to kapsowar i will try posting to our blog from the top of a mountain.

today we had a leisurely walk around nairobi picking up some last minute items. here are some local signs that exemplify truth in advertising, kenya style:

everything in africa is late, at least these guys are honest.

truth in advertising gone too far?

and finally my personal favourite (note the volvo wagon!); perhaps they are such good mechanics that they render themselves unnecessary?


tzum tzum

kylie left it to me to describe our time in friesland but unfortunately we are quickly running out of time here in holland with a free fast internet connection. i will just put up some pictures for now and a brief description and hopefully talk about it more later.

as kylie mentioned we stayed in a beautiful little hotel above a bustling square in franeker, friesland. my family is from this area and many of them came from a small town a few km outside of franeker called Tzum (pronounced "Choom" with a little bit of Z sound in the beginning - i dont think we ever got it right). my favourite part of our trip thus far was walking around this tiny town and seeing where my grandfather grew up. you could walk around the whole town in 5 minutes and for businesses it had only a bakery and a gas station which were both closed, but it had this amazing centuries old protestant church with an absurdly tall spire which disappeared into the mist. my family name is not a common one outside friesland but in Tzum's cemetary about a fifth of all the graves were related to me. we found my great grandparents as well as great uncles and aunts and other semirelations. walking around this old cemetary in the myst and seeing my name on all sides (as well as on license plates on parked cars) and seeing the fields my grandfather worked and the paths he walked as a child had a big impact on me and it was difficult to leave the town as we walked to another nearby town which was also populated by relatives.

in franeker we found a street named after one of my academic ancestors. not a particularly important straat, but a straat nonetheless.

after touring tzum and hitzum we walked back to franeker on a path through the fields and pastures and then took the train to haarlingen, a coastal town in friesland (btw amber, dont be fooled by all that german/paraguay nonsense, this province is where your husband is REALLY from). friesland is a beautiful area and the towns are amazing... all old bricks, lovely bridges and ancient churches. also very clean and super friendly. we felt very at home. a good grounding experience before going on to new things.