For those of you who may have missed Part One of this two part series written by my father-in-law, its worth a read.
We will pick up today with his continued first impressions of RVA, Chai, Kijabe & Nairobi.
On the campus of RVA
RVA has a very beautiful campus. There are all kinds of flowers in bloom all over the campus. Lots of beautiful colors, much like Florida. The campus is located on the side of the Rift Valley in Kenya. It is on the top side of the Rift Valley and the views looking over the valley are impressive. RVA is located on the equator but the elevation is about 7,400 feet above sea level so the climate is very enjoyable. It is presently entering its spring-summer season. It is getting warmer each day with lots of sunshine. Temperature during the day is 75 degrees and higher. At night it gets down to around 60 degrees.
It is basically a 100 acre fenced compound on the side of the Rift Valley. It has many school buildings, cafeteria, gym, athletic fields, many dorms for students, etc. (Much like a college campus) It also has 20 or so individual houses for various faculty members to rent when they come to teach, etc. Thus all the individual yards, though separate, are really all one common ground and the families and kids and students who live here all walk the various foot paths that go through one’s yard. You can pretty much walk or play in anybody’s yard because they all belong to the campus.
Dan + Courtney’s two boys are always in the yard next door - they have a trampoline built right into the ground so you can’t fall off it - you just hit the ground. Older kids from all over might be over there from 3 – 5pm with Ethan who is five and Nate who is three years old. They get along well. The older ones are very responsible with the younger ones. (Kind of like the neighborhood of “Leave It To Beaver” - that old TV show from the 1950’s.)
In some ways life is a lot safer. My little grandkids can pretty much go anywhere in the compound. Everybody looks out for the little ones. The older boys and girls are really good with the young children - they probably miss their younger siblings back in other African countries serving with their parents. My grandkids are outside each day with plenty of playmates of all sizes and ages. The RVA community is like one large family. From what I have observed thus far, the kids in middle school and high school are much closer to each other than in a typical American public school system. I am beginning to see many blessings (benefits) to growing up as a missionary child. It is hard to get all my impressions down on paper accurately.
The Kenyans like tea. (Part of the British Empire historically) The school at RVA also stops in the late morning each school day for tea time. It is called “Chai Time”. On Monday Paulette, Courtney, and I went with Dan to Chapel for the school at 10 AM and then for Chai Time at 10:20. Students have Chai Time outside of the cafeteria and the faculty has Chai Time in a different location. It was fun and also impressive to see the faculty spend some time in prayer for the school and students during their Chai Time. We then went and sat in on one of Dan’s algebra classes. The fall term is coming to an end this week and Dan is getting his classes ready for term finals.
Paulette and I walked out into downtown Kijabe yesterday. Outside of the RVA compound is not much of a town. One main street with a few store fronts – about one half mile long. A rough dirt-paved road full of potholes, no sidewalks, not even the size of Cowlesville. Chickens and animals walking around. Lots of small huts (houses) on both sides of the town. There is a pretty modern hospital in Kijabe - a number of missionaries working there. Some of the babies of RVA teachers and staff are delivered at this hospital.
I took a walk up the mountain road on a Friday afternoon. It is probably 2.5 miles one way. It is the very rough, steep, and curvy road we drove in on the night we arrived here. It takes you to the main road that goes into Nairobi. It was a hard climb but very interesting in the day time. Many mountain-side homes (farms), beautiful views, and lots of people walking up or down the road. I walked both ways by myself. The people are friendly and most speak English. It is much safer walking around here than it was on a short missions trip I took to Haiti a few years ago.
On Shopping in Nairobi:
On the other hand, the lack of a car of my own is starting to get to me. It kind of feels like I am trapped here. Much different from regular American culture. In America you can come and go as you please. Here you need to get a ride with somebody. I want my own wheels! Many long term missionaries here at RVA do have their own car/vehicle, but to own a car here is very expensive so most do not make that purchase until they’re sure they will be here for a while.
On Thursday (Dec. 6th) six of us guys here at RVA decided we should go into the city (Nairobi) to buy Christmas gifts for our wives. When was the last time in America you went shopping with 5 men? It is not done that way in America. We would each drive separately. Guys don’t go shopping together. Here at RVA you have to. There are fewer vehicles on campus than people. You can rent an RVA vehicle or find one of the missionaries here that may own a car. Expensive gas, rough roads, few vehicles - you have no choice. A (would-be) two hour shopping experience in Nairobi will take you all day. The male bonding was okay and we had a nice lunch at a good restaurant in the city but you only do that in America for a sporting event. Police are everywhere. Armed guards with metal detectors let you into the malls and into the restaurants.
The main road into Nairobi (after the 20 minute climb up the poor mountain road to the top) is paved and pretty good but not an easy or pleasant experience. Kenyan driving is bad. Many vehicles are poor (and old) and cannot go up hills or steep grades without really slowing down. You cannot maintain a steady 55 miles per hour. You speed up, you brake, you weave in and out of your lane to pass. Driving and talking is a challenge. You need all your concentration to have a safe and successful drive into the city. And then you have the occasional cow or donkey that may wander onto the highway. Walkers and bicycles on the sides of the road also make it interesting. And of course you have the big trucks to deal with, black smoke, diesel fumes, and vehicles on the road with breakdowns. Getting into the city and driving around in the city - not fun.
I made some mistakes when I packed for Kenya. I heard it is the summer season here in December. RVA is located on the equator and it will be hot. Therefore I packed 3 pair of short pants and sandals to wear. Bad move. Men here in Kenya do not wear short pants. It is pretty warm but everyone is still wearing sweaters and jackets and hats. In our shopping trip into Nairobi yesterday I was probably the only man in a city of 3 million residents to be wearing shorts. (The 5 guys I went with did not send me the memo!) I am also white - so I felt a little out of place. I stuck out! There was no place to hide. The women of Nairobi also do not wear shorts. Long dresses for women and long pants for men - and not too many blue jeans either are the norm.
We have certainly had a great time with our son and his family. It will be very hard to leave them. But we now know so much more about the setting they are living in, what they have and what they don’t have. We will be able to pray more specifically.
In many ways we will be able to sleep more soundly. They are in a very good, safe environment. They have a great number of very fine people and children around them to live with and work through the many challenges of family life. They are answering a call on their life and responding faithfully and effectively. Dan is really well liked and appreciated by his students and the staff. Courtney is handling the challenge of mothering three demanding children 5 years of age and younger and also taking an various assignments in the school community.
They are becoming more adept at speaking Swahili and establishing relationships with the local people of Kijabe. They have also developed some really close friendships with many of the residents of RVA. We were invited into the homes of three different families for meals in the short time we have been here. Neat people, all obedient to God’s call on their life.
Paulette and I have learned and experienced a lot. A number of things about missionary life here at RVA would really be nice to experience. Some things would really be tough for me. (I wonder what I would see, perceive, and understand, if I would stay here for more than three weeks?)
Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy, and Joy-filled New Year!
Blessings from the “Dark Continent” (It’s not as dark as it once was),