Sundays are the best.

I should really get more work done on Saturdays, but lately I've woken up so tired that I get little done, and if anything its pressing, immediate matters (a months overdue haircut, refilling the drinking water bottles when there's none left, etc.). So the only bad part of Sunday is that I'm behind on work and I always tell myself that I'll get it done in the afternoon since I really took a day of rest on Saturday. So I feel a bit guilty when I end up on the couch sleeping or playing video games or something.

But besides that nagging in the back of my mind - Sundays are the best. Here's why:

1. I love the church I've found here. Its medium sized (for some reason I've only ever been in large and small sized, it feels like) and vibrant and it just feels real. The people are real about it, they're really joyful and it shows. Its very local, some of the songs are in Kiswahili (a fun way to learn), and I'm not the only Mzungu in the building, so I don't stick out like a sore thumb. Also, there's an 8 o'clock service that I usually try to force myself to get up for, because its just nice to have your whole day in front of you still when you get finished.

2. I miss a lot of foods, but one thing that has (almost) really stood up to the scrutiny is the brunch options. Brunch is the meal where they really pull the stops out - there's tons of great options for places to go, lots of them with nice outdoor gardens to relax in, and there's tons of great things to choose from, both on the food and drink side. My latest indulgence is these fried potato pancake type things called...I can't remember...but they're awesome. It starts with an F I think. What are they called? Hmm. Anyway, they're made up of shreded potato then fried in cakes and you have great topping choices like blue cheese and pear, bacon and cherry tomatoes, or lox and cream cheese. Oh man are they good. Its great to just chill with friends and talk about anything and everything.

3. My leather couch, which I sink into for the early afternoon hours, to zone out until daysleep finally comes, if the stars are aligned. I never sleep very long but its one of the best kinds of sleep. This reminds me that I need to get out the camera and document the new apartment for a photoessayic tour which I shall blog if I ever I get around to it.

4. The part I look forward to the most about is church, but it only edges out Ultimate by a nose, because Ultimate is where I'm really plugging in with my community right now (even guys from church go to it, so, yeah). Ultimate is where I've met most of my expat friends here in Nairobi, and its a great group of awesome people, and just a ton of fun. I haven't played Ultimate in any seriousness since intramurals in college, and I forgot how fun it is. Especially when you play it well, like these guys to - set positions, set plays, focus on technique. I'm even improving my forehand throws to the level of usually decent. We usually play 2 simultaneous games at once team size anywhere from 5-7, darks vs. whites, coed. The first game goes for 45 minutes or so with no one keeping score, and then we try to start a game to 5 or 7 at the same time that the other field is, so that we end about the same time, have a big water break, and then either the darks or the whites switch fields, so that you're playing a new team. That game usually goes for a bit until we play another game to 5 or 7, then a shorter water break for the die-hards and a long water break for those who need to rest, while the last game is started for whomever are the first 7 players of either color to get back on the line in the field.

That game goes until dark, and then we clean up and meander off to find food and do our Sunday night routine (mine: a shower, a skype call home, and dinner with an episode of Band of Brothers). Which reminds me, I need to show off my new TV when I photo-op the new apartment.

Ultimate has been a huge part of me feeling "settled" here in Nairobi - its where I've made most of my friends - the people who you have over for dinner, or meet out, or run into when you're out with others, or go on weekend trips with, even. I'm very thankful for it.


It was at a church service in Munich that I saw him, the former S.S. man who had stood guard at the shower room door in the processing center at Ravensbruck. He was the first of our actual jailers that I had seen since that time. And suddenly it was all there – the roomful of mocking men, the heaps of clothing, Betsie’s pain-blanched face.

He came up to me as the church was emptying, beaming and bowing. “How grateful I am for your message, Fraulein.” he said. “To think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away!”

His hand was thrust out to shake mine. And I, who had preached so often to the people in Bloemendaal the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side.

Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him.

I tried to smile, I struggled to raise my hand. I could not. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again I breathed a silent prayer. Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me Your forgiveness.

As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me.

And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself. - Corrie Ten Boom, The Hiding Place


Well. Today was interesting.

I went to Kibera, the biggest slum in all of Africa.

For a court date, where I was found guilty in a real live Kenyan court. Of driving with a break-light out, for which I was apprehended yesterday.

Here's the thing: in Africa, when it comes to dealing with law enforcement, there is the easy way, and there is the hard way. The easy way is to give them money and leave, and this is the one you are taught early on and are supposed to stick with. The hard way is refusing to pay their bribe, and forcing them to actually do their job.

When I was living in South Africa, I was new and didn't know much. The first time I got waved over for speeding, it took me a while to figure out "the process" - which is tantamount to lots of prolonged conversation about the difficulties of having to drive all the way to the station to process the international license and this that and the other thing, and then comes the part where you're supposed to give them money. I didn't catch that the first time and finally the "officer" uncomfortably said something along the lines of "Perhaps we can just sort this out here somehow?" Ooooh. Right. You want cash. OK. So I give him like 10 times as much as I should have, not knowing any better, and thinking I was making off like a fiend compared to fines in the US. After a while I got the hang of it and could handle the whole interaction in a couple of minutes with the right attitude, words, and small amount of cash ready to change hands.

You never really think of it as something wrong, so much as just the way you have to deal with things here. Its just the system of corruption that's been in place for who knows how long. And its everywhere - Kenya's no different. You complain about their greedy, extortionate ways as you drive off, you silently thank God you're not the matatu driver who's day they're really destroying, and you do the same thing the next time you run into the police. Here's some cash, leave me alone.

Because that's what everyone does. That's all everyone expects. Nobody ever asks them to actually do their job.


Yesterday morning I'm driving to our office on the other side of town from the one I usually work in (I'm in Westlands, the distant one is Karen). Of course, at one of the major intersections, instead of guiding traffic (there's exactly 4 intersections in Nairobi that I know of with working lights), they are strolling through the stopped traffic, looking for people to exploit.

"Oh crap," I thought as the officer passed me, "Brandon told me on Sunday that I had a break light out, and I haven't gotten it fixed yet."

Tap tap tap on the window. Yeah, I have a break light out. Pull the car over there on the other side of the road.

So I wait while he walks around the intersection hassling some more people, all the while holding my driver's license. Then he goes and talks to someone else he's pulled over for a bit. Then he gets on his cell phone to take a personal call. Then I go wave him down and tell him he's making me late for my meeting, which he pretends to care about for about 2 seconds before he goes to start hassling a bus they've pulled over. So I pull the "I want to talk to your supervisor" and he starts to pay attention to me and says we'll have to go to the station to write the ticket, and what a hassle that will be and so forth.

And stupidly, I finally had rash of furious resistance to this endless corruption, and I say "FINE, let's go." His jaw drops but I'm already getting into the car. So he too hops in my car and I drive him to the station while he's laughing away on the cell phone. He makes sure to get off in time to suggest it would be easier for me just to pay him, before we drive all the way there, and I don't even respond to him, I just drive the rest of the way with my jaw clenched. He asks me why I appear annoyed.

Of course, they haven't seen a mzungu in the station in who knows how long, so his supervisor is a bit off-put at the idea of actually writing a ticket, but they eventually do it, and I post my bail of 5000 schillings, with a court date set for 8am this (Thursday) morning.


The magistrate I'm sent to is in Kibera, as mentioned. Its one of the parts of Nairobi I've not been to yet because I'm not allowed to go there without WV security, who I had with me. It dawned on me in retrospect that I should have taken a camera, who knows when or why I'd be back there again anytime soon. Anyway, it was of course the same other-worldly feel that I've gotten in slums in other countries, but the sheer size of it was oppressive. There are no realistically accurate estimates for the number of people who live there, but its commonly accepted to be above a million.

We bounce through the stalls of chickens and bananas and sewing shops and family houses and as we dodge puddles I'm wondering what its like there when it rains (it will rain all afternoon in Nairobi today). We find our way to the courthouse - I'm supposed to be there at 8am but at 8:30 the building isn't even open yet. We stand outside with a hundred or so other people. I'm the only mzungu, again, and everyone's looking at me and talking about me and they all assume I don't know it. At 9, they open the gate, and everyone pours into the various court rooms, we find the traffic one.

We sit there, waiting for the judge to show up, for an hour and a half. The cops, the lawyers, the court admins, everyone's reading newspapers or chatting and I realize rather early on that this happens every single day. I work on emails on the blackberry, thinking about how much I'm not going to get done today, because I had to insist on pursuing justice, for a change.

They start reading names, and lo and behold - for once - the system actually worked, somehow my paperwork had made it from the police station to the courthouse in good order (funny how that happens when there's cash at stake). "David Charles" the court admin calls, he doesn't even try with my surname, which is actually my second middle name on the paper, they never even wrote my actual last name on the bail receipt from yesterday.

I walk up to the box, wait as they read my infraction in terse English, nod and mutter "sawa," and the judge announces my fine, and that's it. Some bills trade hands and I wait 10 minutes outside for a receipt.

We find our way back out of Kibera, and I spend the drive back to the office wondering whether or not its a better use of time / resources / etc. - for myself, for the organization, for the beneficiaries at the end of the day - to just pay the cop a few hundred schillings cash and be done with it on the spot.

I don't reach an answer.

Something spurred me to look something up on my blog yesterday and that made me realize how long its been since I last wrote - it hasn't been often since I started this thing that I actually missed a whole month, but I managed to do it again.

It has been straight crazy - non-stop - since I hit the ground here in January. I've worked in 5 countries so far (including here in Kenya), 2 of which - Rwanda and Malawi - were new additions to my passport. I've been working minimum 60 hour weeks just trying to keep up, and not doing a very good job of it. I've done a good job of forcing myself to take weekend breaks thanks to out-of-town trips and lots of fun with my (mostly) new friends here - Ultimate on Friday evening and Sunday afternoon/evening, softball on Saturdays, and the random BBQ, poker night, dinner out, dinner in, movie night, church on Sunday morning and looooong brunch after, what have you. (Whew, long sentence) I need to be writing about this stuff, but with the weekends full of all of that and the weeks chock full o work...my reading / writing time has plummeted.

So there's a whole slew of things in that last paragraph that I need to write about and maybe I'll actually try to get back on it this week (hah, yeah right). In the meantime, I thought it would be fun to take a spin back through the to-do list I made back before I last left the states:

- get a medical screening done for WV
check. only had one parasite - blastocytis, a pretty common one. probably got it in ghana or maybe tanz. had it all fall and didn't know it.

- see a travel clinic to update any of my immunizations
nope. i don't think i really needed to do this anyway, but don't worry mom, i promise i'll (try to) get around to doing it real soon.

- meet with my financial guy and sort all the 401k rollovers out
half-check. we met, i still haven't gotten any of the rollovers done. or my taxes! you get 2 extra months if you're out of the US but I'm fast burning through that.

- interview potential sub-letters for my place
half-check. had a couple people look at it but never got it rented. this was a major bummer but here i was way too busy to do much about it.

- host the NYE party at Lincoln center
check. i knew all of 3-4 people (Erin, Amber, other hosts) out of the 300 or so, most of my crew were at other events so it was mostly the other hosts' friends. i guess that's what you get for up and moving to Africa.

- schedule an appointment with the derma doc
not a chance. its fine though, hands are back to normal now that i'm back to the land of perpetual no-winter. its like the opposite of the start of Narnia.

- figure out how to transfer all my personal stuff from Outlook and OneNote to the home computer
check of super awesomeness. how i cleaned that bad boy out and actually backed up both those programs and all the user data locally is beyond me, but i made it happen, cappen.

- back up the home computer
dangerous no-check. it suffered some internal jostling on the way over and i've been having issues getting it running but the memory's still in decent shape so hopefully i have it up and running by friday and can spend my weekend doing my taxes. yay.

- get new headphones, an external hard drive, a projector to serve as my TV in Africa, and potentially a DSLR (woot)
check, no-check, check, check. got the newest shure SCL4 headphones and they're great, just like the e4c's were. didn't get the small external drive i wanted but i still have my 1.5tb here with me to backup everything. got the projector (albeit late, via a friend bringing it from the US, along with the headphones) - let me just say its the best consumer decision i've made in years, probably since i built the home computer. it is hours of endless movie awesomeness. oh and i used all my amex points from the accenture card to get the DSLR and some lenses, i've got about 8gb of pictures from the last 5 months waiting to be DL'd, edited, and flickr'd.

- find my old receipts and submit them for work expenses
check. no idea how i did it, but i got my monies.

- finish all the administration around leaving the company
same as above. i need to write about the feeling of walking out of that building for the last time. wasn't great - more like "did i just do that?"

- send some thank-you cards
no-check. i am a bad person.

- pay my parking ticket
no-check. THANKS MOM.

- find a new bank account that won't screw me on withdrawal charges in Africa
no-check. i still hate you BoA.

- figure out where I'm going to store my stuff
check! it now fits in a 5x10 instead of a 10x10. its sitting quietly in a unit across the river from the UWS. i'm hoping next time i get it all out i can find a way to reduce it to 5x5, i love reducing the amount of stuff i have. its the books that are an issue. they keep growing.

- start packing
check. holy cow was that a nightmarish last 72 hours of no-sleep insanity.

- find some jeans sample sales
nope. maybe in August when i'm back briefly?

- get a living will drafted
nope. arg.

- send my (late) holiday cards
the great thing about the cards i picked out for Christmas 08 (the first time i think i ever was going to try to send holiday cards, mainly with a "oh and btw i'm leaving the country letter" as the underlying motivation) is that they will work great for cards sent from Africa for this year's Christmas. its like i was planning ahead (maybe i'll even put an "oh hey i've been out of the country all year in case you were wondering" note).

- finish all the on-boarding paperwork for WV
nope. still haven't sent them my W2 or my personnel form. oh well.

- see Grand Torino
check. fun times with hol, man that was an unexpected ending.

- switch all the bills over to Dave's name
half-check. gas and electric yes, cable and internet no. need to shut off cable.

- figure out how to get out of my Sprint plan without having to pay
quarter-check. did it, but a few months late.

- eat slightly healthier and perhaps even get a few runs in
can't remember for the life of me. i think i was running. i know i was getting rides in with Kuz too.

Also, I have decided that I will be acquiring a pair of dogs once I get settled (so to speak) in Kenya. This makes me happy.
awwww man this one is a bummer. i saw all crap apartments, one of which would allow a small "house dog" (i don't think they had 2 rotties in mind). then i found the place i'm in now, which is super awesome, but no dogs. i'm going to keep an eye out for other places that might work in the meantime, but no dogs in the immediate future. given my work schedule right now its probably for the best. sigh.