A year in review.

365 days ago I turned 30, on my own, in Ghana.

Then in August, I climbed Kilimanjaro, also on my own (kinda). And then I met up with my church's youth group for our missions trip to an AIDS orphanage in Jinja, Uganda. Then I was back in NYC finding an apartment with Dave.

The fall was somewhat uneventful - I went back to Cali for Margy's wedding, and spent the rest of it mostly in the city, sometimes working, sometimes not so much. It was a time of limbo as WV and I were flirting with job offers and whatnot.

In November I voted, and I lost my friend Lexi. I sure do miss her.

In December I resigned from Accenture and accepted a job with World Vision. In January I moved to Nairobi.

In February, March, April, and May I worked a lot. In Uganda, Rwanda, Senegal, Malawi, and maybe somewhere else I can't remember just right now. I also plugged into a great church and expat community here in Nairobi and played a lot of ultimate.

In June, Jonny visited, which I still haven't found time to write about (although I did get the pictures online). Also I worked in South Africa for a bit and it was nice to be back, albeit briefly.

And that brings us full circle to July, in which I threw a 4th of July party complete with fireworks here in Kenya, finally got my car (which I also need to write about), and spent a little time working in Mozambique again, where it was also nice to be back to, briefly. And I'll be leaving for Ethiopia tomorrow night, for the first time.

And, for this birthday, I wasn't on my own, I was with great friends here in Nairobi and had a really good day. My 31st trip around the sun has been bittersweet, but more sweet than bitter.

(Oh, and I was only in a hospital twice this year - I think, which was on par with the last couple of years, but overall still low compared to most of my twenties. So that's good.)


Fourth party was off the hook, and despite our shenanigans I somehow didn't end up in jail. Fireworks are readily available in Nairobi because there's a large Indian population that has at least one holiday per year that they celebrate with fireworks (apparently there's another one where they throw paint at each other). So Saturday morning, after a quick brunch, Aaron and I hit up the fireworks shop in the local Indian market (Diamond Plaza), and it was like kids at Christmas, while Aaron's wife patiently waited.

We went pretty moderate - sparklers for everyone, some spinning cherry bomb type things, plenty of bottle rockets, some stationary rocket launchers, some small useless firecrackers that didn't hardly work, and the massive shower fountain thing, for our grand finale.

Of course, after the first bottle rocket, while it was still light out, the groundskeeper was warning me that the cops might come, etc.. So I hid the bottle rockets from Aaron for a while and we stuck to the occasional firework that didn't shoot loudly into the sky. Of course, 3 or 4 beers/hours later was a different story, the party was in full swing and we started lighting things up.

I had the brilliant idea to float fireworks out on paper plates into the middle of the pool - kind of a Cape Canaveral launch pad, if you will, and everyone enjoyed that effect. Pretty soon we were nearing the end of our stash, and we set up the grand finale - the massive shower fountain thing, and about 4 stationary rocket launchers on either side. Matt and Aaron and Brandon and I and a couple kids from the neighbor's apartments all got our lighters ready and did a fairly decent job of lighting everything at once, so all of a sudden the sky was ablaze with loud exploding rocket shells, and the massive shower fountain thing was flaming a good 15 feet into the air, in all its sparkly glory.

Which is when Matt had the awesome idea that someone should jump through it (it was sitting on the edge of the pool, thus jumping through it meant a necessary dive into the pool).

What followed was an extremely brief, heated debate about who was best qualified for this task, which turned out to be myself, given that it was my apartment and I could change clothes and whatnot. So I handed Matt my hat, emptied my pockets into the hat, and then without much thought ran and jumped through the flaming sparkly glory. The crowd was on the other side of the pool from us, so they pretty much didn't see anything until my body came flying head-first through the flames and into the (freezing cold) water.

Next year we're going to really have to up the ante. (Although, it later surfaced that Chad's boss lit off some fireworks - in particular the Osama Bin Laden rocket, which Aaron and I had been closely eyeing - at their own celebration, and had a couple dozen uniformed cops show up at their party, but no one was arrested in the end.)

(tomorrow: recap of Jonny's visit and our Mara self-drive. sans pictures, still haven't uploaded a single one this year)


I clearly derive far too much enjoyment out of writing party-invite emails:

My fellow Frisbeetarians, Countrymen, et. al. -

(please note you can read the important parts of this invitation in fast-forward by simply reading only the bold parts.)

Please note that we far-flung Americans will be celebrating our liberation from our erstwhile tyrannical British overlords, this Saturday in my modest back yard. It has a pool so if you'd like to bring boxes of tea to dump in there, that would be very patriotic of you.

There will be fire and various bitings provided (really, can you have a party in Kenya without bitings? it would seem a bit pilloch). Please BYO preferred type of meat for grilling, along with any sides and/or drinks you might care to contribute/consume. No July 4th should pass without fireworks - I'm not saying we'll be setting them off, but if they're there, and there's open flame nearby, you know...we will see where things go...see what happens...

Festivities to commence around 5pm-ish. I'm at Urban Earth Apartments on Brookside Drive off Lower Kabete (Westlands), as you come up the hill (from Lower Kabete) towards the left-hand turn, its a grey steel / red wood gate on the right, just before the street on the left. Crude map attached. Parking inside for the early comers - I am in Apartment 6 but as stated we'll be in the yard. 0735444730 for questions.


Knowles (aka bandana, oven mitt, etc.)

p.s. please forward on to anyone I may have missed.


I was driving with my children to my wife's funeral where I was to preach the sermon. As we came into one small town there strode down in front of us a truck that came to stop before a red light. It was the biggest truck I ever saw in my life, and the sun was shining on it at just the right angle that took its shadow and spread it across the snow on the field beside it.

As the shadow covered that field, I said, "Look children at that truck, and look at its shadow. If you had to be run over, which would you rather be run over by? Would you rather be run over by the truck or by the shadow?"

My youngest child said, "The shadow couldn't hurt anybody."

"That's right," I continued, "and death is a truck, but the shadow is all that ever touches the Christian. The truck ran over the Lord Jesus. Only the shadow is gone over mother." - Donald Grey Barnhouse


It is now time to talk about the bad day.

The best worst day of my life (so far, I think) happened in college. I remember it pretty clearly. In fact, most of the stories I remember pretty clearly happened in college. I don't remember a lot before that very clearly, for various reasons, but that's a story for another time, or perhaps not.

It was the second half of my junior year and I was rooming with both Dave and Steve (brothers) and one other guy that I won't get into just yet. He wasn't around much anyway. Dave was my year, Steve was 2 years behind us. Dave dated all kinds of cute girls, I wasn't dating anyone at the moment (though that would soon change for the worse), and Steve was dating this girl who I think was a sophomore at the time. Her name was Carrie.

Carrie was awesome, which was only enhanced by the fact that her family lived on a boat, which I think is cool and would totally consider doing myself someday. Why invest in real estate when you can make the world your oyster? So yeah, Carrie had that I-grew-up-around-the-ocean coolness that I think is hard for people to recognize for what it is unless they know it for themselves. Plus, she was just a really nice person (Steve later married her, smart boy that he was).

I only ever flunked one test in college, it was my second Accounting 201 test. I studied just like normal but my brain must have been turned off that day. I remember taking it, like any other test, and thinking I probably did fine, like any other test. I remember getting it back, too. The teacher looked at me kind of odd. I looked at it and the first thing I did was check the name because I didn't believe it was mine. I had literally flunked the test (I got A's on every other test in that class, and the rat fink of a man STILL wouldn't give me a re-take on that section).

So that set me up to just have a really nasty day. I was dead set on it. There I was, angrily riding my BMX bike way too fast to my job (background investigations for high security positions, pretty sweet job for a college kid, but landing that is another story for another time), and next thing I know I'm in mid air, the bike somewhere back behind and below me. My return to Terra firma netted me exactly one torn-up left hand, one ruined pear of jeans, and one knee bleeding through a fresh hole in said pair of jeans.

So I show up at work all angry and bloody and fuming. I wash myself off, tape up with what's left in the shabby first aid kit, and spend the afternoon scowling at my workstation. I didn't touch a case file that day, which was probably for the best as I'm fairly certain I would have made some stranger's life that much worse, in my foul mood.

Later that evening I'm back in Map cafeteria having dinner. I always ate in Map, I hated Hicks because it was out of the way, and all the Greeks ate there. Plus Map always had more girls, which made the food taste better, somehow. Anyway, I'm in Map and I'm pissed off at the world and sitting there by myself entertaining thoughts about setting things on fire. I had noted on my way in that they had Rice Krispies treats on the dessert table and had a distinct pause to appreciate the fact that at least something had gone right in my day of days.

So I finish my less-than-mediocre dinner, and I sulk over to the dessert table.

Somewhere, fate chuckled.

They're gone - cleaned out. The lunch lady is packing up the remains of cookies and whatnot.

"Where...are...the...Rice Krispies treats...?"

"All gone!"


"Nope! None!" she was happy to tell me.

I storm back to my tray and sit down and stare blankly across the cafeteria waiting for lightning to strike me right through the roof. Then Carrie walks up and just sits across from me with her tray and doesn't say anything (I think maybe she wisely perceived a problem). She just smiles at me in that "What's up?" kinda way, so I launch right into my tirade about the Worst Day Ever. I give her all the terrible details, complete with a show-and-tell of my bloody stump of a hand, and then wrap it up with the topper - no Rice Krispies treats. TOP. THAT.

Carrie sits there the whole time without saying a word, and then she just gets up and leaves. She left her tray there so I figured she must have forgot something. I wasn't really expecting her to say anything in return, I was just happy to have someone to unload on. I sat there feeling only slightly better. It dawned on me at that point that I didn't want to go anywhere or talk to anyone for the rest of the day for fear of things getting worse.

And then, the next thing I know, Carrie comes back holding a bowl, and she's stirring something in it.

She sits down, nonchalantly slides said bowl across the table, and I look at it.

Its freshly microwaved Rice Krispies, butter, and marshmallows, shining up into my face from that bowl in all its warm, gooey glory, and it was the best thing I had ever tasted. (I previously had no idea you could do that. In retrospect it seems pretty simple but on that day it was nothing short of a mystery of the universe, unravelled before my greedy eyes.)

We ate the rest of the meal in silence.

And that was pretty much my best worst day.