March 19, 2002Dear loved ones,
We were out of range for some time there, with our computer and our cell phone both disfunctioning; but we have now recovered both avenues of communication, with Fielden fixing our computer himself and with the purchase of a new cell phone. So we're back on-line. However, we got the report from one of our kids that we had given out the wrong number in a previous newsletter. So check to see if you have the right phone number for us. It's 254-72-830155.
It's been almost a month since my last newsletter, so I'll just hit the highlights. Fielden was gone for much of two weeks in a row in February, to teach a course in Sotik and to attend the missionary men's retreat. I don't sleep well when he's gone--just missing him. I don't fear at all. But I was having a rough time getting through the days, because of lack of sleep before he finally came back. On the Saturday between trips, he'd scheduled a day out for us. We drove to Eldoret, ate at an Indian restaurant, then did some shopping for both the primary school and the high school. Then I went to talk to a pharmacist about medicine for one of my teachers' son. He'd had some problems with his legs and his father was told at the clinic there close to us that he needed a certain medicine, and it would cost him 2000/, which is almost his whole salary for a month. I told him I would find out what alternative he has; and the pharmacist I talked to in Eldoret told me that the medicine he'd been told to get was too strong for a child, and he recommended something else which cost only 200/. Since then, the boy has recovered and is back at school.
On that Sunday, we walked to Chebyuk for the monthly church fellowship of area churches. It's about a four-mile walk one way. Thankfully, it's a gradual incline up further on our ridge and not so much the up and down steep hillsides route we often have to do. The next day, the day Fielden left for the retreat, they had the official opening for the secondary school. I missed lunch to attend that. Then I went to our neighbor's to counsel them about some marital problems. Alice has been working for us for several years, but her husband is not a Christian. After he heard some rumors about her and our field hand, he wouldn't let her come work. After some counselling, he's released her to continue working. But in the meantime, we got the door open for counselling, and he's been quite cooperative.
The home alone routine isn't so bad in the daytime, as I keep so busy with school, church meetings and neighbor visits. But the nights sure are long. On Wednesday, on my lunch break, I walked down to Terem for a ladies' meeting. This place is about three miles, at the foot of the mountain, and it was a very hot day. I arrived with sweat pouring off me, but fortunately, I had remembered to take some water with me that time. We had a good meeting.
On Thursday, I had to walk to the Education Office to get registration papers for our Standard Eight students. After the eighth grade, they have to take a standardized test to determine if they will be invited to join a high school or not. It is a major process to get them registered every year. For children who have never even seen a computer, we have to teach them to fill out a form to be read by a computer--you know, the pencil in the letters kind for all their personal information. Then they have to select six different schools in the country, in order of preference, that they would like to be invited to. What makes it doubly difficult is that the teacher who is helping me doesn't even know how, and is giving wrong directions, because he doesn't understand the English instructions. Anyway, with a lot of backtracking, we finally got most of them done. Unfortunately, they didn't send enough forms for our students, so we are still waiting for some more to be brought to us.
On Friday, 1 March, I did a short seminar for Std. 1 English teachers. I've had to turn it over to other teachers, since we'll be leaving soon. I had developed my own book and method of teaching, as the Kenya system doesn't incorporate phonics in their English reading program. I believe in phonics, so I am briefing my teachers on how to use the material. When I finished that, I walked about a mile to the Friday afternoon church meeting. Then I heated spaghetti sauce and made an avocado salad for supper. It is so dry this time of year that we don't have any garden vegetables to speak of. Fielden got home from Roromo at 7:00.
On Saturday, after doing chores and housecleaning, Fielden and I went to Masaek to work with a Christian there who has taken a second wife. He was a strong young leader in the church, until he did that. Now we're trying to help him untangle the mess. We met with Peter's whole family that day and his first wife, and learned that there were major problems between the family and the daughter-in-law from nearly the beginning of their marriage. They had encouraged Peter to take a second wife. Satan is cunning, and is trying to neutralize the vibrant church that had grown up in that village. The mother fed us tea and bread when we first got there, then ugali and mursik (clabbered milk) after our session. Then we went to visit my librarian and her husband. They had invited us some time ago. So we stuffed ourselves that night with rice, meat sauce and chapatis (a flat bread) trying to be polite.
I used every spare minute over the weekend to work on grading compositions from the last test for Standard Eight. Their work is so poor, that it takes me about twenty minutes to grade one paper many times, and I have 50 students. On Monday, I got away from school about 4:00, and my songbook committee came over to work on some more songs. We worked until 6:30, then I cooked a supper of mashed potatoes, fried chicken livers, biscuits and gravy for supper. Fielden didn't get home from Kitalale until 8:00
On Wednesday, I went down to the ladies' meeting, when I could get away from school. I was late, but enjoyed the fellowship and a cup of tea with the ladies. We barbequed steaks that night for Agatha and Jenny. They are going to use our house occasionally while we're gone, and we needed to show them some things. They have moved to Kitale, as they had gotten very frustrated living on the mountain under the local Bible translation director. They can do a lot of their work from Kitale, then they'll stay in our house about one week every month.
On Thursday we drove to Nairobi with four Kenyan Christians to attend some meetings about the constitution issue. The missionaries met on Friday, then missionaries and nationals met on Saturday. On Thursday night, we took the Hackett's out for dinner for a time of reminiscing and catching up on kids, etc. On Friday, we were told that the '94 constitution was still in the registrar's office, and they'd directed us to go back to it and leave the new one, as it was illegally submitted. Some of our Kenyan brothers had been working behind the scenes in the government offices and got that sorted out. When that information was released in our meeting on Friday, the issue of the trustees was settled, because they were told by the government that they have to step down, as they are operating illegally according to the '94 constitution. The national/missionary meeting was also congenial for the most part. The real battle will come in early April when the church has an AGM to decide the issue once and for all. Keep the matter in prayer. The meeting is on 5-6 April.
On Sunday we attended worship at the Eastleigh congregation, as they have an early service. Then we came on home. On Monday afternoon, we had a committee meeting at school. It went well, thankfully. On Tuesday afternoon, Fielden and I went again to counsel Peter and his first wife at Masaek. We're urging him strongly to send back the second one. I'm not sure what will happen if he doesn't. It's a definite blow to the church.
On Wednesday, we counselled Alice and Benson again, then I went to the ladies' meeting across on the next ridge. Additional forms have still not come for registration, so that is still pending. And games were going on all week. On Monday and Tuesday, we had base games--soccer, volleyball, and netball (a game similar to basketball for girls). On Wednesday we had zonal games, then on Friday, divisional games. Thursday afternoon we had a staff meeting. I was relieved that we were able to divide up the subjects amicably and leave on a note of optimism. We have a new teacher assigned to us, though she hasn't reported for work yet.
One morning that week, we got a special phone call from our kids. Martha and Jeremy called to tell us that they are expecting our fourth grandchild. (Jeff and his wife Gretchen are expecting our third, and the third son for them.) That was wonderful news, and I was on cloud nine all day, telling teachers and students at school, even though it is very improper in this culture to announce it. In my Standard Eight class we had an exercise with a sentence to finish which started, "I have some good news for you;" so as my example for them, I told them my daughter called that morning to tell me she is pregnant. They really laughed at that!
I met with my deputies Friday morning. I have two, and I'm putting one of them in as acting head in my absence; and I have appointed another teacher to be an acting deputy to help carry the work load. I'm having to orient them on all the record keeping and office procedures. After a quick lunch and finishing grading all my papers, I hiked the four miles up and down hills to the divisional games at Kebee. I was absolutely exhausted after walking in the hot sun. I think the strain I've been under contributed some to my exhaustion.
Saturday morning, we tried to get off early to go to RVA, where Chris is in school. However, we discovered that a rat had invaded our kitchen and pantry; so we had to have a rat-killing before we could leave for the week. We pulled everything out of the pantry until we got him to run out, then he ran into the living room and disappeared. We hope he ran up the chimney, but set out a rat trap just in case he's hiding out somewhere. No telling what we'll find when we get back home.
We finally got away about 9:00 and drove to Kijabe. Chris had arranged for us to stay with Paul and Monica Bilak. Paul is working at the infirmary, and Monica is a special ed teacher. We enjoyed getting to know them. Then that night we attended a band and choir program. Chris sings in the choir. We were to return Wednesday night for a jazz band concert, in which Chris plays the drums and sometimes sings; but we learned that it had been called off. However, Chris is going to try to get some of his buddies to perform informally for us when we get back.
Some time ago we'd scheduled a marriage seminar at Yatoi for the weekend; but when we learned that Chris' choir concert was then, we tried to reschedule it for Sunday through Tuesday. We went there on Sunday for worship and Fielden preached on God's plan for marriages. Then we met for a couple of hours after lunch. But they could not continue through Monday and Tuesday, as school is still open, and mothers have to tend to home affairs and prepare lunches for their kids. Many of them lived so far away that even an afternoon session would not be feasible. So we spent the night there with a good Keiyo friend, then left yesterday morning. That left us with two open days. I had already handed things over to my deputies for the week, and Fielden didn't have any appointments, and since we didn't think it was worth driving back home for one day, we decided to come to a quiet get-away spot here in the Rift Valley, Lake Bogoria Lodge. Lake Bogoria is a lake with hot geysers all around it, and this lodge has piped in hot water for a spa. We'd never come here before, just heard about it recently, so decided to give it a try. We're enjoying the warm swims late at night and early in the morning (it's too hot here to swim in warm water in the middle of the day) and relaxing with a good book and a laptop computer.
Tomorrow we go back to RVA, then on Thursday we have an appointment with the chief immigration officer, who happens to be a Sabaot, to settle our work permit problem. We aren't overly concerned about it, but need to tend to it. Then on Friday we pick up Chris and Caleb Bell to take them home for the end of term break. We'll go to Eldoret to spend the night, as we're having a going away party for the Tankerslys on Saturday. After this unusual week, we should get back into our normal routine, except that Chris will be with us.
By Fielden and Janet Allison | AFRICA | Kenya