Praying for Christchurch

So many different things have happened over the past week – meetings, convictions, arrests (even one that I helped with!), releases, bitter-sweet celebrations for convictions…

But for now, it makes more sense to pause and reflect on the recent events in Christchurch, New Zealand. The one in September last year was distressing enough and before people can breathe again an even more devastating one has hit.

http://www.stuff.co.nz/

My prayers and thoughts are with the Christchurch residents and families of those who have been affected, hurt, traumatised and who have lost loved ones.

I’m thankful that my family is ok (they’re in Auckland). I’m also grateful that my friends in Christchurch are ok also.  But the strange aching feeling is only a slight shadow compared to what the people at home are going through.

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This is cool…

Here’s an article written about me at home before I left, but appeared a few weeks ago.  I’m pretty stoked how it all came together!  A big thanks to the team at TearFund NZ, especially Alex Carter for inviting me to speak.  Thanks also to everyone who helped get me to Kenya – your prayers, donations and exhortations has been (and continues to be) awesome!

More Impressions

Life is my school…

I was just reflecting the other day, how much learning I have done over the past couple of years outside of school.  Last year, I felt like I was a theology student majoring in missiology and ecclesiology.  This year, it’s like I’m a public relations student majoring in journalism and networking.  Add to the mix a bit of criminal law, social work, anthropology and you get… a VERY interesting melange!

Fun things I’ve noticed…

  • Our local lunch spot is frequented by a mother and quadruplets.  They make a lot of noise, but we don’t take too much notice of them.

Mum & Bubs

  • All the Kenyan people I’ve met so far think I have an American accent.  On the other hand, my American colleagues have trouble understanding me because of my accent.  When I tell people that I’m from NZ, they make some sort of comment about the “Black Cats” or “Blackies”… I think they’re refering to the All Blacks rugby team.

 

  • I’ve just started running with my workmates (who are also my neighbours & room mates).  It’s pretty comparable to off-road running at home.  The track is the same (all rocky and uneven), but instead of dodging trees, we dodge cars. 

Serious Things

  • I’m gaining more confidence in my work as I’m beginning to make sense of my role.  Next week I’ve got a bunch of meetings with some newspapers & TV stations to try and build relationships.  Still feel a little way out of my depth, though!

 

  • It seems that I’ve arrived at a busy time for the office.  Three judgements have come in the past couple of weeks, which gives a real energitic vibe.  We’ve had 2 victories and one loss so far.  Statistically that sounds great and we are SO happy for the our clients who have been vindicated.  The case we lost though was heartbreaking.  For privacy concerns I can’t discuss details, but it was a CSV (Child Sexual Violence) case case.  The family sustained huge personal losses in their pursuit of justice.  Losing the case was like an added kick in the teeth.

 

  • One of the Kenyan staff who I work with, was previously an IDT (Illegal Detention) client of IJM.  His ordeal was horrendous, yet there is NO ATOM of bitterness in him.  When I realised this, I decided to stop complaining…. about everything.

Checking the Boxes

  • Clothes shopping at the second-hand clothing market in Ngara – Check!

Clothese Shopping Nairobi Style

  • Waitangi Day Celebrations in Nairobi with ex-pat Kiwis – check!
  • More Matatu rides – Check!

Alas the list grows, however!

  • Learn Kiswahili – I’m making some progress in that area.  I’ve moved from the “touristy” greeting, to the “local” greeting and I’ve bought a book!

My good intentions to learn Kiswahili

  • Go Up-Country!
  • Visit Amani Ya Juu – www.amaniafrica.orgWord on the street is, I’m going there tomorrow, so that’s pretty easy. 🙂

I realised, I made some claims that I hadn’t backed up with photo evidence – namely my “sweet” apartment and some shots of local food.  Enjoy!

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The Journey Begins in Earnest

I’m part-way through my second week at work and now I can say I have reached my raison être.

The Sunday before my first day at work, I was full of excitement and expectation.  Couldn’t wait to reach the office, looking forward to meet my work mates… This was somewhat bitter-sweet as the jet-lag decided to visit me on Sunday night; leaving me with a night of much thrashing and 2 hours sleep.  My first day was basically spent in a zombie-like trance.  I was present for part of the morning, but my brain literally shut down in the afternoon.  So much for first impressions!  The rest of the week was much better, though.  Thank God!

Nonetheless it was good to finally be in the office, to experience the 5 minute walk from my apartment.  Which, by the way turned into 15 minute hike because:

a) It rained heavily the night before and our main shortcut was flooded and;

b) Where you would normally have a nice smooth footpath at home, you have rocks and dirt – this is Africa.  One should note however – there are patches of brilliance (i.e. flat walking surfaces), jut not many where I live… Hehehe.

Below is a shot of the walk to work.  For the life of me, I cannot understand (yet I do applaud) the women who walk to work in high heels on this terrain.  Even though the weather has been fine since, I still walk to work in sneakers.  🙂

Walk to work on my first day

I spent most of last week reading through previous and on-going cases.  This helped me to get familiar with the work of IJM Kenya and the people they serve.  I am enjoying the process of reading through different cases, follow-up notes and judgements – trying to piece together a story in my head.  I must say, (emphatically so) that the content of the cases is not a joyful read.  Just to re-iterate – our office specialises in cases of child sexual violence and police abuse of power.  It’s heart-breaking to think that of all the cases that reach IJM, there are so many more that go un-reported and thus unresolved.  I respect our local staff who have worked for IJM for a number of years.  It’s not easy to remain hopeful in the face of such pain and frustration.  But I’m thankful that they do remain hopeful and do continue to give themselves to this work, because a change in one individual’s life is never wasted.  Like my parents always told me “little drops of water make a mighty ocean”.

I’m enjoying adjusting to my new surroundings.  The state of the roads and traffic remind me of Nigeria, but the huge elaborate, even old-looking Indian temples are like “huh?!”.  Ok, so I realise that the Indian community have been here two centuries, but it’s still fascinating.

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I’m staying in a sweet 2 bedroom apartment which I’m sharing with my work mate – another intern from US.  It’s very safe and only 5 mins walk (or hike) from work.  The area I live in is the Parklands / Westlands border of Nairobi.  If you head more towards Westlands you can reach the UN and other foreign embassies.  There are 2 shopping malls about 20 minutes walk away which probably rival the size and aesthetics of ones at home.  Haha.

Yesterday I joined a group of expats and one local for a game of ultimate Frisbee.  The previous intern, who I replaced, mentioned that I should join the group.  I’m glad I took her up on it! I met people from various backgrounds – Peace Corps volunteers, World Vision, Social Enterprise organisations, Development specialists…  Interesting mix of people.  Unfortunately, it exposed my lack of ability to catch a Frisbee and my limited fitness.  Um, I’m going to be working on that!

I still have quite a few things yet to experience in Nairobi.  I hope to correct that in the next few weeks:

a)      Catching a matatu by myself.  I caught one on Saturday morning, with my work mate and his wife, so it doesn’t really count.  Matatu’s are beat-up mini vans that hustle their way all over Nairobi.  Slightly sketchy looking, but a cheap and effective way to get around town.

Matatu - the Nairobi Hustler

b)      Visit Kibera – Africa’s largest slum. I was fortunate to be put in contact with a Kiwi lady who has been living as a missionary in Kenya for nearly 15 years.  She lives right beside Kibera as she does work with some schools and clinics in the area.  I hope to connect with her again soon.

c)       Visit a clothing market.  The dumping of nearly 10kg of clothes at Auckland airport has meant that my wardrobe is incredibly limited. 😦

d)      Visit the Eastside of Nairobi.  My roommate’s friend, who is Kenyan remarked that you can’t walk more than 5 metres without making new friends there.  Sounds like a good place to go! 🙂

Of course, I will also venture outside of Nairobi (the coast is calling my name) and hopefully head over to some neighbouring countries around Kenya.  That will all come in time – I’m here for a little while!