das wandern

let me continue in peace, and (stop) wander(ing)!

birthday

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Ei. It turns out that I’m getting old.

As strange as it seems to me, last week I celebrated my third birthday in Africa. And this year, I decided to celebrate Rebecca-style. My sweet friend Rebecca began a tradition a few years ago of celebrating her birthday by having a party–for all the neighborhood kids. The first year was a party at CiCi’s pizza, when Tay-tay was only a baby, and the last one was a sleepover, complete with a dance party, pillow-fight and movies.

So on my birthday, my friend Eunice and I woke at 5:00 a.m., sleepwalked our way to a matatu, and bought a soccer ball at the 24-hour supermarket downtown. When we arrived at Riverside, the boys had already had one round of chai with Fred. They saw the soccer ball and freaked out a small bit, screaming and dancing in the streets.  But I told them first, we (I) needed chai: so we all went in the hoteli for a second round with mandazi. After a second breakfast (hobbits, perhaps?), we began walking to the nearest field. But, it turned out there was a girls’ tournament that day. So, we decided to go to city park–ten kilometers away.

I’m assuming we were quite a sight: sixteen dirty rambunctious street boys, Eunice and I traipsing across Nairobi town–chasing a ball across busy roundabouts,  dancing and chasing and  shouting and laughing all the way. As we passed, people would stare, occasionally stopping whatever they were doing to turn their heads as we went.

We took a shortcut through the back of city park, and as we are entering, Kevin (whose nickname is “black cat”) turns to me and says in an ominous growl, “Are you ready to meet the monkeys?”

He wasn’t kidding. We entered a dense forest in the middle of the city to find hundred of monkeys. Monkeys chasing one another, monkeys jumping from tree to tree, monkeys terrifying me, the muzungu. I used the smallest child, Freddie, to shield myself. The rest of the day, I was threatened by the boys, “If you don’t listen to me, I’ll call the monkeys!”

We arrived at the field, picked teams, and played soccer for a couple of hours glorious hours. It was good, genuinely good, just to see the boys running and laughing and just being children for a few hours.

I have to say, the last twenty-six years have been pretty good.

Written by knsayres

May 2, 2011 at 8:38 pm

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rainy day woman

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Saturday morning, 7 a.m., I was still in bed. My roommate, Emily, and I were discussing whether or not we really wanted to attempt running in the muddy, rocky roads surrounding our house.

My phone began vibrating again, and I reached for it with decided hatred. But, it was not my alarm. It was Jack, calling at 7 a.m. And his voice was very cheery.

“Good morning, Kristen! How are you this morning?”

He informed me that he was already downtown, and heading to visit the Riverside boys. I assured him that it “couldn’t take long” for me to reach there, and I rolled out of bed, dressed in yesterday’s clothes, and ran to the matatu stop. I got to town fairly quickly, and caught the next matatu for Riverside. As I alighted, a little less than a mile from Riverside, it began to rain. And then it began to pour.

So I ran to Riverside, without a coat, and without an umbrella. As I stepped into the street, I found myself ankle-deep in a brownish shade of water. Just then, a semi sped past, drenching me with more water. When I arrived at the usual hotel, I found no one. The waitress said, “Jack, he’s across the street, at the base by the river!” So I ran back across the river-street. I found a couple boys, but no Jack.

So I stood in the rain, shouting across the river, “JACK, YUKO WAPI?” One of the boys said, “In the hotel!” Of course.

“HAPANA!” I yelled. So one of them climbed over the bridge and held my hand as we ran-swam back across the street back to the hotel. We found three or four boys waiting for us, and they escorted us to a different hotel, about 20 meters away.

By then, we were all soaking wet, but happy. When I entered, it felt a bit like coming home. More than 30 street boys sat together in the warm tin shack, drinking chai out of plastic mugs and eating chapati and mandazi. “KRISTINE!” some of them shouted, smiling, and made way for me to sit down by the stove.

It’s a small, small thing, but these are boys that know me now. They forgive me for not showing up when I told them I would. They order chai for me, and make sure I’m not being ripped off when I pay. They are patient with my Swahili, and quick to help me stay out of trouble. They will walk with me in the streets, and hold my hand. These boys are slowly, slowly becoming my family, here.

Please, now, pray with me that things begin to come together quickly at Ridgeways. That we can begin finding a way off of the street for these boys, and that God will provide the means and the plans.

Written by knsayres

April 18, 2011 at 8:43 am

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small, small miracles

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Let me preface this story: The latest statistics estimate 250,000 – 300,000 street children in Nairobi, Kenya.  I know approximately 15 of them — the 15 or so who stay at Riverside.

A couple weeks ago, I visited Koinonia Kenya. Koinonia is a lay Catholic organization in Kenya. By chance, I found their website on the interwebs, and was really excited about the work that they are doing with street children. They’ve been working with street kids here for more than 20 years, and they know what they’re doing. When I visited, I explained that I felt God had called me to Nairobi to do work with the street children, and I wanted to volunteer with Koinonia, and learn from them, if it was possible. The community met together and decided that they would be happy to let me walk alongside them.

So, today, I met up with a someone there, and was dropped off at one of their rescue centers in Kibera. I instantly felt at home there. Narnia was playing on the television, and everyone was cooking lunch together.  I had a meal of cabbage and rice with a Koinonia social worker (Jack), a couple of students from Italy, and a few boys from the streets. After lunch we washed dishes together (one of my very favorite things) and Jack and I went for a walk around Kibera.

As we were walking, he began to explain to me the process of building relationships, rescuing children from the streets, and eventually reconciling them with their families (you can read in detail here.) He told me about some of the children they work with, and some of the lessons they have learned.

I shared with Jack a little about my own journey, the story I did in 2009, and how I felt God calling me back to the boys at Riverside. As I began to explain where they stay, Jack stopped.

“Wait. Do the boys stay by some matatu mechanics?”
“Yes…”

“Do they sleep next to the river?”
“Yes…”

“Did you try to buy them lunch last week?”
“Yes!”

“At Kamau’s place?”
“Yes!”

“Did they order meat?”

So there you go.
Those very same-same boys. Things began to fall beautifully into place. After my sorry attempt to buy them lunch last week, some of the boys had gone complaining the next day to Jack, telling him that their sister (Kristine-Eunice-Muzungu from China/India) had tried to buy them food but that some of them had ordered meat when I tried to tell them not to. He had no idea who they were talking about.

Also, the boys had tried to tell me about a friend of theirs, a sponsor, last week, whose numer  they insisted I should have. Between my lack of understanding in Kiswahili, and their proficient use of sheng slang, I had no idea what they were talking about. But, as I typed Jack’s number into my phone this afternoon, I realized I already had it.

As Jack and I boarded the matatu back to Shalom House (the Koinonia headquarters), we laughed about what a miracle it was, and about the perfect and strange ways that God orders things. So, another day, another ebenezer that I can look back on with joy, and remember that God is, in fact, faithful and good and kind and concerned. And that I am not at all walking alone here.

In the words of Jack, “Mama mia!”


Written by knsayres

March 30, 2011 at 9:39 pm

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crazy two-year-old talk

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by the way, things are better. much better, in fact.
i’m occasionally surprised to realize i  feel mostly happy and at home here.
i eat a  fresh mango every morning, and even run at 5,450 feet some mornings.
my weekdays are still mostly filled with learning swahili, and making up stories about a lost frog, and reading too much. my weekends are still filled with good friends and good music, city exploration and the occasional giraffe kiss (“this one, she is a passionate french kisser,” we were told.)

also, God has been doing everything good the last week. (not that he’s ever not doing good things, but sometimes it’s more obvious from this perspective than other times.)

so, good things God has done:
1. there has been an approval written for the street kids ministry. i feel pretty sure the spirit had some part of it, and all of the team unified in the writing.
2. the pastor of the church we are working with approved the document. this gives us the freedom to begin work with the boys.
3. the catholic organization, koinonia, has agreed for me to volunteer with them, learning about their ministry and (hopefully) paving the way for a potential partnership. these guys have been doing street kids ministry in nairobi for 10 years, and they know things.
4. my future housing situation is looking positive.  i’m hoping eventually to move in town, and be within walking distance of the boys. i want to have as much opportunity as possible for community with them, and for hospitality and simplicity.
5. i’ve gotten to spend time with the boys!

i’ve been a few times to riverside, and found the boys. they are still calling me eunice, or mzungu, and have decided maybe i’m not from china after all, but from india. who knew?
today i found james, who i’ve met with a few times, and we went for chai. after awhile, he brought about 9 more friends, and we sat in the hoteli (tin-shack restaurant). one of the boys who could read took my swahili notebook and quizzed me until we had the attention of the whole restaurant, and everyone was helping me along, shouting out the swahili when i faltered, and cheering enthusiastically when i knew the word for “man” or “big, deer-like creature.” i decided we should all take some lunch. i tried to explain to them that i was happy to buy them all some lunch, but they needed to all order the ugali mix, and not the meat, because it turns out i’m not exactly rich.

my guess is, i sounded something akin to a two-year-old.  or a crazy person.

“you, no meat! too many you!
don’t…no…meat buy here.
me no money for you has meat.
so many. you and you and you.
please! no meat you buy today!
vegetables, yes. meat, no.
money lots to..with..for meat.
no money i has!”

almost needless to say, none of them paid any attention to me. i began to notice meat in front of them, along with lots of grabbing and yelling. and i paid quickly, and explained to the owner that from now on, i myself will do the ordering (in my two-year-old crazy talk). and these boys will maybe get chai only until we can establish some semblance of mutual respect. or communication. or something.

mostly, i’m so thankful for these days, and these struggles. and these boys.

Written by knsayres

March 24, 2011 at 7:34 pm

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Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

by Wendell Berry


Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.

So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.

Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion – put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Written by knsayres

February 19, 2011 at 10:25 pm

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a verylong week

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on monday, i started language school. every day, i sit in a tiny orange room for three hours, with three other students, as our teacher points to every sort of plastic doll and animal, kitchen utensil and household object.

(in swahili, pointing.)
“this is a bird. this is a bird.”
“this is a girl. this is a girl.”
“where is the cutting board? where is the cutting board?”

its a bit tedious, but i’m very thankful for the opportunity to learn language.

on saturday, i went with eunice and john downtown, to see the riverside boys. massai spotted us first, and came running, grinning. its the first time i’ve seen that boy since i took this photo of him in july 2009. since then, he’s been in jail for at least a year, but has escaped.  i’m amazed at how tall he’s grown, and how much more mature he seems. he ran to gather some other boys, and soon there were 9 of them there, talking excitedly to eunice, and holding my hands in turn.

she told me later that several of them were arguing over whether or not i was the same mzungu who “sat in the dirt with them and took all the pictures.” apparently, i can’t be that girl, because my hair is now short.

it was sweet to see the boys, but broke my heart as they asked eunice if we had forgotten about them, if we didn’t love them anymore.

there has been a lot of difficulty and discouragement in the ministry lately, and no one is now visiting the boys, or sharing any food with them. in fact, its been almost a half of a year since ministry there has stopped.

i’m eager to learn swahili, and to meet with others whom God has given similar hearts, to see how we might move forward.

as john and eunice and i were on the way to visit some other friends, a car in front of us stopped suddenly, and we also stopped. unfortunately, the matatu behind us did not stop, and read-ended our car. we spent the next few hours going from police station to police station, explaining what had happened.

i won’t lie: tonight i’m feeling discouraged. living on a compound is difficult for me. even more difficult is the absence of community. of those people whom i know, and who know me. whom i trust deeply, and who trust me. people who desire to live lives not of quiet desperation, nor of selfish comfort, but of sacrificial love and deep  communion.

i know our lord said  “fear not,” but i’m afraid here. afraid that these struggles are in vain, and afraid somewhere along the way i’ve made some wrong decision that he can’t or won’t redeem and make good. afraid that i will lose whatever it is that drives my heart, and that my heart will become hard.

i believe; help my unbelief!

Written by knsayres

January 24, 2011 at 12:20 am

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the last nine months, in short.

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(an attempt at journaling)

mambo?

i arrived back in kenya, three days ago. so far, it’s been a surreal sort of walking along roads i still vaguely know.

but, before all of that:

i left johannesburg last may, and took a (long) layover in greatham, england. there, i spent two glorious months at l’abri, resting and seeking and cooking brazilian foods and drinking tea, and loving and singing and late-night fairy-taling in fields, and hurting and learning and worshipping and reading and walking and generally living. living well.

i realize thats not really a fair summary, but i’m not sure there is one. it was an incredible time and gave me great hope for a new earth.

i learned a lot in those two month, not the least of which was the increasing importance of home, and of being human, and the decreasing importance of journalism in my life.

i left l’abri singing “swing low, sweet chariot” and crying a thousand (surprise).

i arrive back home, memphis, in july. there, i settled into six months of life. life, in the fullest sense i know it. my time was filled with sweet moments: holding tay-tay at the hospital, dria running (every time!) to greet me from down the street, scrabble with my mother, early morning coffee with william and jamin, sitting on the front porch with kay-kay, illegal christmas lights, camping with my sister, coffee with richard, seeing a workshop built from the foundation up, the birth of two babies,  (basically, there is too much. too much happiness to recall.)

there were moments pulling into my driveway that i felt so happy that i thought my heart would burst. moments when i felt such love, that i couldn’t help but tell whomever was in the room, “i love EVERYONE.” and in those moments, i did.

toward the end of my time in memphis, we invited everyone over to the cove for a time of fellowship and prayer. i was able to share some stories about the street kids in nairobi, and how i felt god was calling me there. most everyone i loved gathered together in a room and bore witness to what god has been doing. the children in memphis got to learn about the children in nairobi, and we prayed. we prayed, and we remembered that there will be a day soon when we will not miss one another. when we will be gathered together, forever, and know what love is. when community will be eternal, and illuminated by jesus. and when we will all sit on the shore together, and eat fish.

now, as i mentioned, i’m back in nairobi.  leaving memphis was certainly the hardest thing i’ve done in my life thus far. i’m praying muchly for the faith to believe that i’m not leaving what i love forever. faith to believe that there is, in fact a new earth (or a 5d, if you prefer) where friendships will be forever, and everything will be in the light of Christ’s love.

so, here. here i’m thankful to be reunited with friends i love. here, also, the weather is a perfect 80 every day, and 50 each night. i spent the day yesterday braving public transportation (matatus) for the first time, and catching up, eating sukuma with eunice.

this morning i walked down my street to christ church, where i was sad to find that the rev. tom is no longer vicar. but, that small chapel still feels like home, in a way that few places do. i was reminded that sometimes god works once we step out in belief, and that those who sow in tear shall reap with shouts of joy. i heard the gospel, and i sang hallelujah.

as i’m trying to make this place home, i see reminders that god has, in fact, the whole world in his hands. riding home in a hot, crowded matatu today,  the song “wavin’ flag” comes on. intstantly my mind is filled with beautiful images: rebecca’s harka children singing the song, beloved memphis children dancing in the apartment at a birthday party. and i’m reminded that our lord is lord of all of these places. and all of these people. and he is kind, and loving. and i feel it.

oh, and on a less serious note: i have a sunburn from an afternoon of swimming at the ymca. take that, north america!

Written by knsayres

January 16, 2011 at 8:34 pm

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islamic fashion show

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Models prepare for the Islamic Fashion show in Istanbul.

(11 April 2010)

Written by knsayres

April 11, 2010 at 7:46 pm

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old man

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Man on the street of Istanbul.

(8 April 2010)

Written by knsayres

April 8, 2010 at 10:49 pm

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height

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He is too tall for Turkey.

(5 April 2010)

Written by knsayres

April 7, 2010 at 9:33 pm

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