Happy Thanksgiving


I will be spending my American Thanksgiving with a non-American friend in Nairobi, before boarding the red eye to Joburg for a long layover. I am reposting Granny McCarley’s sweet potato pie recipe, found here. Finding it brought up other posts from past Thanksgivings. I had to laugh at the poor waitress who worked on the holiday and ate pie standing up in the employee kitchen and then the poor missionary who sat on the filthy floor of the cozinha with 1000 Mozambicans and ate the feast with her hands. 

This Thanksgiving I will spend some of it with my new friend the taxi driver, Kim and may re-attempt to visit the Karen Blixen museum or have coffee with my friend at the Nairobi Java House at The Junction or attempt to fill my over stuffed carry on with Kenyan coffee from Nakumatt. There will be no sweet potato pie but there will be thankfulness. 

A day in the slums of Mombasa, a week of cold showers and hot sleeps, three months traveling the continent of Africa, all make me thankful. We Americans haven’t a clue and I won’t preach. But if you have parents and know your birthday and it is celebrated in any way by anybody in your life, be thankful. If you don’t have to get up in the night and change your pajamas because you are soaked from sweat, be thankful.  If you own pajamas, be thankful. If you worship Jesus Christ, Buddha or Muhammed without persecution or fear of losing your life, be thankful. If you ate berries in any variety or any form of dairy in the last two weeks, be thankful. If you drove on paved roads, put on a seatbelt, or drove the speed limit today, be thankful. If you walked outside at night, unarmed and unafraid, be thankful. If you ate three meals today, be thankful. If you drove to work instead of walking for an hour, be thankful. If stupid stuff like malaria, malnutrition, or diarrhea haven’t killed you or a family member, be thankful. If you have clean drinking water, be thankful. If you voted in a presidential election and you are fairly certain your vote was properly counted, be thankful. 

This has been, and continues to be, a beautiful journey. It was an honor to see and play a tiny part in all that is being done in Cameroon, South Africa and Kenya. I was welcomed with open arms and I have changed and been inspired and humbled and impressed.

I am thankful for all of you, who pray for me and cheer me on and give of what you have. 

Gratefully,  
Grace

Rapha House of Prayer- Mombasa, Kenya

Kijabe hike

Kijabe Sunset


We left picturesque Kijabe for Nairobi last week. I wanted to see a few sites before leaving the next day. We put the Giraffe Park, Elephant Orphanage and the Karen Blixen museum on our list. A Kenyan surgeon friend of Carola's offered to drive us. I hated to make him and his small son traipse through the Karen Blixen museum, so we saw animals instead. Unfortunately, I don't recommend it. Stick to the Nashville or Atlanta Zoo. It was full of tourists and simply staring at a few elephants wallowing in mud and feeding two really long tongued giraffes. We followed the same set of tourists to each destination and I knew they were all headed to the Karen Blixen museum so I opted to read about it and we found our hotel instead. 








Giraffe Manor



We left early the next morning to beat Nairobi traffic and took Kenyan Airways on a one hour flight to Mombasa. We had no idea what we would discover there and camels on the beach were only a tiny bit of a grand discovery. 





Since Kenya isn't the safest place in the world, the resorts are empty and don't mind if you stop by for a dip. 

We got to know these boys. The Rapha House boys. I knew when I was planning to come back to Africa that I must come to Kenya. It was clear in my head as my final destination. I knew coming to visit Carola was part of it, but I also knew I could not leave the country without seeing the Rapha House of Prayer. Carly Cerak started it in 2007. She was young and fearless and moved right into the heart of the city and extreme poverty of Mombasa. She lived among the poor and befriended street boys. I have never seen street boys like this. I had heard stories. Terra joined her on their first adventure and she had told me all about it. But nothing compares to standing in front of them. Scrawny boys hold cut off plastic water bottles, the bottom filled with glue. They hold the clear homemade cup in between their teeth and inhale. Tiny boys swaggered up to us smoking cigarettes. Even though the thought of my 6 year old nephew, Natty, lighting up a cigarette is not far from his regular antics (he was recently bitten by a mouse and maced himself all in the same week), I cannot imagine it. The filth of this slum is like nothing I have ever seen. Pemba villages were poor and Cape Town townships are harsh, but this cannot compare. 


We were met by a tiny barefooted boy running along in front to show us the way, along a long muddy path of broken glass. The mentally ill and physically challenged sat along a wall and greeted us with huge smiles. They all know Carly. She is a celebrity. 


We stopped to talk to people sitting outside their tiny lean-to corrugated tin houses. Along the mud path we approached an area that was thick with smoke and a heavy smell of urine and poo and even though I could handle the stench, the smell and the smoke entered my nostrils and choked me. I hoped no one noticed. We prayed for a lady who was having trouble walking who Carola later surmised had TB and AIDS and the TB had caused spinal issues that caused neuropathy in her legs. A few days later Carly and Carola took her to hospital. Small children followed me and held my hand and offered me their pee soaked baby brothers and sisters to hold. We sat in a large field and gave out small portions of beans and roti. Then we came home, to these boys.
Gipson and Felix invited me to go to church with them. Honored.


My first African Mega Church Experience. I think they counted Bibles. They served Kool-Aid with Communion.


Christine sent me fake mustaches from the dollar store to take with me. Can you tell?




Full of Joy Lucas


Adamo. Thank you for the Finger Flashlights Weez!



These precious, adorable, kind, loving, trustworthy, respectful young men who all once lived in that very village. They lived there completely abandoned, not knowing where their next meals would come from. They spent their days getting high. None of them know when their birthday is or exactly how old they are. They have been abused in ways I cannot imagine, repeatedly. Yet, they stand up and offer me their seat and fix my plate for me at dinner and serve me first. At dinner they laugh over what it was like to once eat from the buckets of scraps that restaurants would give them. They said sometimes if you were lucky, not only would you get to eat but you would find a toothpick or half of one in your food. And this was a good thing. Over 20 of them live in this house, all together. They represent different nations, Kenyan tribes and faiths and they haven't killed each other. I was completely, utterly, totally amazed. How does this happen? How do you bring such broken children into a place of such peace? "Prayer and love.", Carly told me emphatically.


It took us all a whole entire day to share our stories, for Carly to start from 2007 and catch me up to speed. She tells me how she never intended to live with them. But she had befriend a few of them and decided to take them to a Christian youth conference in Nairobi and how crazy it was to put all these street boys on a bus and take them to a conference. But they bonded and coming home they didn't want to leave them. As they got home that night one boy asked if they could go into Carly's house for tea. And the rest is history. They made space for these boys and now in their third house, boys sleep in bunk beds and the sofa and the floor and one even on the roof. The rules have changed as they grow and mature. They still have their issues and she says "seriously bad" stuff has happened. But their life in this family has changed them. They know they are loved and they no longer live like orphans. They all rise early to do their chores and help with meals. Many of them have sponsors from the West for really good schools in which they are achieving, often #1 or #2 in their class. One rule is to be home on time and most usually are. The other rule is to come to church on Sunday, and most do. They love each other like brothers, they gather naturally after dinner for music and worship and prayer time together. I asked Carly over and over, "HOW?". She told me that for one hour every day she prayed for each boy and did that over and over and over and over and still does. There is one right now who is struggling. I can tell he is heavy on her heart. Their wounds are so deep. Completely rejected by their own parents if they have any, physically abused beyond belief, fighters from birth. But here they are happy, wanting to show me their church or place of work, with such pride. I am humbled that God would bring me here to show me this and give me a chance to love such diamonds. All the time I wonder what good I am really doing at the end of the day. I wonder if poverty can really be eradicated and if people can really change. And then I come here and I see it all happening right before my eyes. All because a 23 year old made a promise to a God she often struggled to understand, but simply believed. 


This was a trip I pray I never forget. The motto of Thistle Farms is Love Heals. It is true. The love of the Rapha House boys healed my hopelessness, doubt and unbelief. 

Traveling Mombasa Style




Kijabe

I am staying in Kijabe on the grounds of this hospital. Carola serves as a pediatrician here. I've been going over with her in the evenings to check on her patients. Last night there was a wee one in ICU, Alexander. He is intubated with a collapsed lung. He is better this morning. Down in the pediatric ward we saw three more last night, a teeny tiny newborn with an enlarged heart, a dehydrated lethargic baby with meningitis and the prettiest little girl you ever did see with long lashes and perfect lips sound asleep after having unexplained seizures. Carola danced among them all, taking care to listen and to read charts and to order and administrate meds and insert IV's. I just sat there and prayed for each one, for healing and that no one would not throw up, myself included. 

While she is at work I sit on her veranda with the Karen Blixen view of Africa and watch the pesky baboons. We have a dog, Emma, a St. Bernard. She mostly keeps the baboons away, but they come close when she naps in the sun. I make countless cups of tea and sit under itchy plaid Masai blankets and sip. I perform my usual flips between books, one chapter here another there, mixing modern Christianity with the Rhodesian war. 

We are about to go to the shops. It is shops plural because there are two of them, but only two. One with mostly fruit and vegetables and stunning roses and the other with packaged items; boxed milk, spaghetti, biscuits, chocolate, tinned vegetables and eggs. 

Sunday we leave for Nairobi and we fly to Mombasa Monday morning. 
XO, 
G




Two Weeks in Cape Town

For quite some time I have been saying that Cape Town is my favorite place on earth, besides Pemba beaches and The Cabin in winter. Yet, I had never been able to prove it’s amazingness, until now. Wendy was the skeptic and I got to prove to her, a lover of London and the American South, that Cape Town is where it’s at. Cape Town preserves all things well. They cherish the beauty of the world around them and protect her. They grow food and grapes with pride and make them into tastes of wonder. They are polite and friendly, earth loving and artistic. She is my best kept secret. I struggle to find the words to describe her. 

I arrived two days before, a little tired from an overnight stay on an airplane from a one month stay in beautiful foggy Cameroon, but grabbed a rental car and positioned myself on the right side of the car and in the left lane and sped off to the nearest Woolworth’s for groceries. I loaded up the tiny Chevy Spark and drove the stunning trek to paradise, otherwise known as Simon’s Town. It is a sleepy little coastal town and home of the South African navy. The house is pale blue and trimmed in white and sits on the side of the mountain and overlooks the sea. I could never leave the porch. There is a lighthouse in the bay and purple mountains in the distance. The sky is vibrant blue. It is mesmerizing. 

My first morning there I wake up early, determined to go and see and do all that I can so as not to waste a perfectly good Chevy Spark. I have an appointment at 9am for a hair cut at the darling little vintage salon, Fringe. So I dress quickly and peel out of the garage for a long overdue hair cut and lunch in Stellenbosch, one the the most beautiful places on earth. It’s beauty is in all that surrounds her and all that she is. The drive to Stellenbosch is breathtaking sea and white sands and waves and majestic mountains. Then suddenly she turns into farmland and vineyards and groves and takes on a different beauty, rustic and grand. I go to the nearest vineyard, Spier. They offer picnics on the grounds where you can buy sandwiches in baskets and take onto the expansive lawn. I opt for a table and chair and have my all time favorite salad; beetroot, rocket and goat cheese. The Rand is weak per usual and my salad is cheap. I walk the gardens and even pop in on an exclusive little wine festival going on in their conference center. I drive back toward Simon’s Town to hit up the mall for the Pick n Pay for wine and cheese and the little health food store for my favorite line of hair products

Carly came for dinner and to stay the night and we sat on the porch and talked till our eyelids drooped. I got up early the next morning and drove to the airport to greet Wendy from her overnight flight from London. We went home to drop off luggage and then hit up the Earth Fair Food Market at Tokai. I watched Wendy fall in love with one of my favorite bits of this region, the food. We were immediately greeted by locally made olive oils free for the tasting and buy a bottle. We sampled and purchased four types of cheeses and smoked snoek pate. I bought raw beets and fresh eggs. We each selected a quiche from a very Greek looking man who warmed them up for us and we took them on paper plates to the picnic tables in the center of the market, devoured them, and chased with beer. 

On Sunday we got up early to go to the Kirstenbosch Market. Only open once a month, it is a must do if you are in the area, even for the food stalls alone. It is just outside the Kirstenbosch Gardens and boasts venders of all sorts, including food. Our favorite finds were these sweet girls at 37 Sandals. We celebrated our finds with a toast of homemade ginger beers and skipped off to our lunch date with Carly at Bistro 1682. It is a beautiful restaurant on the grounds of a large vineyard. I like this place because the prices are good, the atmosphere is breathtaking and the people watching is first rate. It’s loaded with interestingly dressed posh Western Capers of all ages. 


On Monday we walked into Simon’s Town. I bought a cotton pillowcase with antique lace and buttons at a sweet little antique store. Wendy bought dainty floral handkerchiefs. We went to the drugstore to stock up on Olbas oil and Paracetamol (my mild to moderate pain killer of choice) and other non-American pharmaceuticals. We then drove to Noordhoek for lunch at probably my all time favorite place to dine, The Foodbarn. It is an absolute must. In October they offer half price ala carte menu items. I had cob tartare (a delicious white fish farmed by friends in Mozambique) with lime, basil,and avocado. Wendy had goat cheese fritters with mint and sugar snaps and balsamic syrup and then we switched! I had fish with rocket and peppers and smoked paprika cream. Wendy ate meat. Barely a word was spoken, sauces were sopped up with crusty French bread, fingers were licked, I am certain I moaned a little. It was that good. And half off. We paired this with a crisp white wine and it was perfection in a meal. Before we left, we made reservations for their next available seating, a week later. We then walked around Nordhoek Farm Village. Itchy & Stitchy was our favorite shop, with beautiful affordable artwork, Christmas ornaments, Africa themed cards and multi-colored suede handbags and clutches. 

Tuesday morning we got up early to drive downtown to the V&A Waterfront to catch the boat to Robben Island. I am not a huge fan of the V&A Waterfront. I am not a fan of downtown Cape Town nor downtown Atlanta nor downtown Nashville. I don’t do downtown cities. The V&A is pretty and worth going to, once. Last time I went I enjoyed the little market full of stalls of good, fresh food. I like Cape Union Mart and my K-Way Jacket I purchased there but I don’t need another. There is a Zara and a Jo Malone in the mall, but I needed to avoid mall shopping at all costs and we have those in Atlanta. Woolworth’s brands, Trenery and Country Road, are nice but it is Summer now in Cape Town and I am entering my first Tennessee Christmas and decided summer clothes should not be on the agenda. Robben Island was a disappointment, covered with obnoxious foreign tourists, horribly unorganized and $25 each. We left there and went downtown for lunch at The Kitchen. It was nice but still downtown and I don’t do downtown. We then snuck into Jambo, a wholesale warehouse in Woodstock and bought the place out. It was absolutely thrilling. We got jewelry, baskets, textiles and housewares for ridiculously cheap prices. We came home and sat them out and looked and them and grinned over our bargains. We sat back satisfied that we were done with our shopping for the trip, little did we know.

On Wednesday we had reservations for a day at Babylonstoren. This had been on the books for months, part of the trip itself, a spa day. I had been saving up for this one since May. It was wonderful, it was relaxing, it was perfect. The grounds alone of Babylonstoren are a must see. The restaurant there, Babel requires reservations three months in advance. At the spa, I had a massage followed by a tiny, raw lunch. We spent the day in robes with hair soaked in massage oils, completely utterly relaxed. I read a magazine and bobbled in the hot tub. It was perfection in a day and all a girl could ever ask for. But the day got even better. After the rabbit food for lunch we were hungry. We drove back through Stellenbosch to the nearest of my favorite vineyards, Tokara, to find it closed and were forced to go to the really posh place across the street, Delaire Graff. Owned by Mr. Graff of Graff Diamonds, who has spared no expenses on this grand place. It is artistic and architecturally brilliant, surrounded by lush landscapes and hilly vineyards. Chandeliers and carpets and sculpture and art await. We rock up with no make up and our jojoba oil hair and request a table, they give us one. We are forced to wait in the wine tasting room until our table is ready. I sip cab from the biggest wine glass I have ever seen and am so relaxed, I have trouble staying upright on my plush velvet chair.  The view, the room, the wine, the gardens, Africa and food. All too much for me to even take in. A poor missionary sitting in the lap of luxury in awe of how this even happened and still astounded by how He spreads my little dollars and my little lunch and feeds me over and over and over and such feasts they can be. We ate with huge grins on our faces and often our eyes shut tight, taking in every single bite. I had French fries with parmesan and truffle oil, flaky lovely fish, green peas with mint and hands down the best oysters in the whole wide world.


On Thursday we went back into Simon’s Town for internet and fish and chips. We met Lisa (an Iris friend who works in prison ministry) for a wine tasting at Beau Constantia. The Constantia region is located close to Cape Town proper and is a much closer alternative to Stellenbosch/Paarl/Franschhoek for wine tastings. Beau Constantia, Groot Constantia and Steenberg Farm offer great views and nice wines and are worth the visit if you are in the area. Groot Constantia and Steenberg Farm have nice restaurants (Jonkerhuis Restaurant and Bistro 1682) with good food at good prices and beautiful views. Yet, I still prefer the vineyards and delicacies of  the Stellenbosch region. 

On Friday, I was exhausted and fighting a head cold and despite really wanting to go and see and do, I stayed on the sofa. Mozambican missionary friends Nick and Cate Lear came to visit along with their daughters, Lilly and Willow. They just so happened to be on a break and staying in Fish Hoek, the little town next door, just minutes away. It was wonderful to see them and meet Little Willow for the first time. I am amazed how the future paths of my friends from around the world continue to cross and we are forever bound together by our pasts. They are my forever family. That evening we met Carly at the V&A Mall for delicious Best in the City sushi at Willoughby & Co. Go early, there was a queue. 

On Saturday we got up early to experience the Neighbourgoods Market. It is another Cape Town must. You actually need to also plan extra time and money to walk around and shop within the Old Biscuit Mill in addition to shopping the market. The Market is quite unlike anything I have ever experienced. It is loaded with very impressive stalls of a huge variety of foods, sweet and savory. We arrived early and watched them set up. We stopped first for coffee and then circled round and round deciding where to land. Wendy chose raw oysters and champagne and I chose a mozzarella, basil, tomato, olive oil and balsamic vinegar sandwich. The choices were unlimited, loads of pies and pastries and breads and jams and honey and meats, dim sum and then some.  We purchased three readymade salads for takeaway. We picked up Carly from her flat downtown and drove to the Stellenbosch Slow Market. It’s a good one. Here, everything has been raised, harvested, grown or made by the producers themselves. It is hard to know where to start. Come hungry. It seemed this market offered less savory and more sweet items. It didn’t offer a ton of hot food for lunch but I had a glass of chenin blanc from a local vineyard and vegetable dumplings from the Asian food stand. In retrospect, I didn't choose well. I should have had pale pink macarons for lunch. I also bought a charcoal grey cable knit beanie from this local clothing company. We then drove to Tokara and had wine, bread, cheese, olives and, so I was told, a superb charcuterie at the delicatessen where we sipped and people watched. 

On Sunday we drove to Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope which was once believed to be the tip of Africa but it’s not quite. It was horribly windy and loaded with tourists but the views were astounding. We saw ostrich and baboons. It would have been more lovely on a less windy day and I recommend going and packing a lunch so as to stay the day and sit a spell. The sea views are lovely with cliffs and shore birds and I am sure you can find a spot to lounge. Free hiking tours are offered. 

On Monday we spent the morning in Manenberg, a township in the Cape Flats, visiting Pete Portal, a new friend who Wendy and I both happened to know through separate mutual friends. He and his wife have moved into the roughest neighborhood in town and are loving the gang members there and opening up their home to these men in need of a place of restoration and love. So brave. So impressive. He drove us through the streets of this extremely dangerous neighborhood showing us the homes of various gang leaders. Two days after this tour over our car radio we learned three gang members had been killed in their front lawn the night after we were there. On the way home we stopped for coffee that turned into poached eggs and toast with nutella at Knead, a great brunch spot in Muizenberg, and watched the surfers. That afternoon we went back to The Foodbarn for a repeat of our lunch from the week before. It was just as grand. That evening we met friends Ana, a doctor in the township, Khayelitsha and Hilary, a missionary from England, for dinner at The Olympia Cafe in Kalk Bay and ate mussels in cream sauce and caught up on the past year of living continents apart. 

Tuesday we drove Chapman’s Peak Drive, a stunning, breathtaking drive around the mountain overlooking the sea. We stopped at a local dive for fish and chips and then went to Llundudno Beach to watch the surfers.  That evening we got to sit for the Lear children. It was wonderful for me to spend time with these sweet girls. 

Wednesday brought the realization that our time in paradise was coming to an end. We went to Boulder’s Beach to say farewell to the penguins. We voted on our favorite place to go and decided upon a trip back to wine country and drove to Stellenbosch for lunch at Spier, chosen mostly for the views and convenient location. From there we went to the glorious Kamers Market. Once a year for six days suppliers from all over come and bring their stunning handmade artistic wares to sell and we just so happened to be there for the event. We had no idea just how wonderful it would be.  It was massive and full of awe and wonder. Textiles, linens, handmade fashions, handbags, shoes, jewelry, artwork, food, ceramics and wine. Some of our favorites were fashions from August that included soft colorful tunics and linen handbags with leather straps and blouses from Margot Molyneux. We also loved the jewelry of Famke whose work reminded me a lot of Georgia’s Cumberland Island jeweler Gogo Ferguson. We quenched our thirst with fresh strawberry and mint lightly sweetened coolers over ice and plopped under a large white tent speechless from the magnificent view. 


We had those quiches for breakfast Friday morning!


On Thursday we finally got to meet with Barry. His is the project I went to Cape Town to see. UBU stands for Ubuhle Bakha Ubule Xhosa for “beauty builds beauty” and is a community development project, offering incremental building for those in need of housing. I wanted to see what they were doing in the township of Sweet Home Farm more closely. We went to their little office in the township and to see the model house on display downtown as they compete in the 2014 Better Living Challenge Showcase. My friend Nick made this video that helps explain the concept. We walked from the station downtown to Bree Street to dine at Chef’s Warehouse and Canteen, a yummy little lunch spot offering street food and flavorful tapas. The cold cauliflower soup with truffle oil was like nothing I had ever tasted and was wonderful. 

We had big plans to go to Twelve Apostles for the view and sundowners, but we were spent, done, beat. Sweet Carly came to us and we roasted vegetables and enjoyed our view and beautiful friend one last night. 

Although there are no words to describe the beauty of Cape Town, I tried. 



Kenya

All is well. More than well. It feels good to be back with Carola and here in Kenya. Africa became my norm and Carola was my sidekick in the midst of the turmoil so it feels good to have her back in my world again. The flight was a welcomed one. Wendy and I had been going non stop and it was kinda nice just to sit on a plane for 4.5 hours and snack and nap. Landing in Nairobi was actually quite easy, all things considered. I didn’t have a visa so I had to do that. It can always be harrowing but it went smoothly. A lady in a white lab coat stood inside the door and insisted on taking my temperature before allowing me in. It was unofficial and unorganized and ridiculous. I grabbed the right paperwork and filled it out to the best of my ability and felt sorry for the poor middle Eastern couple and the group of Italians who were struggling with the English form. But I jumped in line looking out for no one but yours truly. I paid the $50 required and got yet another page of my passport taken up with a huge visa sticker. I can stay a month. I found a cart and my bags came out right away. I pushed through all the people offering me help and found an ATM and took out as much money as they would allow, 40,000 shillings I think. I got stopped at customs by a nice looking older man with a sweet face who asked what was in my bags. I told him clothes and "girl stuff" like make up and shampoo and hair brushes. He laughed and welcomed me to Kenya. I pushed through more people and found sweet Kim the young taxi driver with a cardboard sign with my name scribbled in block letters in blue ballpoint pin.


So relieved to see that sign and his smiling face. The driving in Kenya is absolutely insane, complete and utter craziness. The bus drivers are mad. They make two lanes seven. The buses drive along medians with tires hanging off the edges of little cliffs and large curbs. They weave in and out as if they are motorbikes but they are 50 passenger buses. Nuts. Unfortunately we were in horrible traffic for two hours in hot sun. It was pretty miserable. We stopped at a grocery store per my request but it was more trouble than it was worth. I had to take in my backpack that was already heavy and full of way too many valuable items and found my way in the midst of this massive store with no clue what to buy. I bought cheese, coffee, spinach, chocolate and a coke zero and some granola. Then I pushed and sweated my way back to the car, happy to find Kim there waiting. My shirt, drenched in sweat. We finally got out of traffic after what seemed like ages and to a point where I was getting a little miserable. But then we started to ascend and drive along the Rift Valley with loads of sheep and donkey pulled carriages and I began to relax and rest easy and feel at home again. Carola had told me I would love it here. I had no idea. We passed shacks and I started to sweat it a little. But then I know Carola and I knew her home would be perfection and it is. I am perched on the edge of a hill over looking yet another volcano and the Rift Valley. I arrived just in time for the sunset. It is all lush and green and lovely and her back veranda off her bedroom overlooks it all. There really are no words and pictures don’t do it justice. 

We immediately walked up to the hospital, just right next door to check on her patient. A premature baby boy born yesterday who during childbirth breathed in fecal matter, became asphyxiated, has a collapsed lung and is not breathing properly on his on. So he is intubated. But breathing over the machine some which is good. She did an ultrasound on his heart to make sure it is closing and opening properly and to view the veins around his heart. Poor little fella. She increased his meds to sedate him more. She was up with him during the night. But this morning he is much better.

Life here is lovely. We had colleagues over for dinner last night after a little mid morning hike to view the rift. We leave for the Rapha House in Mombasa next week and will spend the weekend in Nairobi. For now it just feels good to be reunited with Carola and be able to do small parts in taking care of her, loving her and encouraging her. I am still not sure why I am here, if it is for the Rapha House boys, Carola or myself. But there is no where else I would rather be. I needed this. More soon. Love, Grace

Our hike
Carola performing an ultrasound on her wee patient.
The backyard
The Great Rift Valley

Nairobi Bound


Visiting the Township Sweet Home Farm and the UBU Housing Program
Spending the morning with the Penguins

Stellenbosch Slow Market with Wendy Ann

It is 7am and I am drinking my Via, still blurry eyed in the guest house in Joburg. Leaving in 45 minutes for the airport, paying bills online. Loads to say about Cape Town and all that we got to see and do. One of the many highlights was this brilliant market. They certainly know how to put on a show of lovely goods and delicious food. 
I leave for Nairobi at 10am and arrive mid afternoon. Carola is sending a taxi to collect me for the two hour drive to Kijabe. We will spend a week there before going to Mombasa. I am excited for the next bit of the adventure. 
Love, 
Grace

my last week in cameroon

I
Typical home on the way to school. Laundry Day.
Sweet Boris
Rainy Season is Still Here
Waiting for a Taxi


My time here will soon be coming to an end. By far my greatest treasure and take away from my time here has been getting to meet Sherri's students and spend time with them. I remain blown away by their passion, dedication, and intellect. They are such superior young men and women. Just look at Boris above. What's not to love about this young man and his radiant smile? Each of them glow just like this. I am honored to have been able to meet them. 

Life here remains gloriously African. We had classes and took in little orphan girls for the weekend and have done a bit of training here and there. I've seen the Atlantic Ocean from this side, twice. I had tailor-made clothes made which is always fun. Oh! I had a $24 ultrasound on my kidney. That was also fun. It took longer because the power kept going on and off. But it beats full power and the $500 I paid for the last one I had. So I walk away a huge fan of this place. I still have three more days to soak it all in. More to come! Love, Grace

hope for a nation

It rains every day. The apartment sits at the base of Mount Cameroon which more often than not, is hidden in a dense fog. The rains come suddenly and powerfully, a shower on full blast. It’s loud and competes with our conversation inside the house. It smells like fresh cilantro. As suddenly as it arrives, it departs. The sun comes out and the fog lifts and blue skies appear. But an hour later the rain can come back with a vengeance. It is a symphony. I love it. Sherri hates it. I love it because rainy days for a Georgia girl mean stay in bed and read books and put the kettle on. She hates it because this is her constant and for her it means wet, rain boots, mud, puddles, made in China umbrellas, laundry that never gets dry and black mold. 

Old yellow taxis hoot throughout the city and carry everyone where they need to go. They must be busier in the rainy season. They play music just loud enough to be intrusive to an American passenger. The insides are decorated like the taxis in India, red and yellow fringe hangs from the rearview mirror, Mary and Jesus take the place of Ganesh on the windows and dashboards. Drivers need not speak but only hoot to relay the affirmative and will stop with a passengers command to “drop” at their destination. 

I taught three days this week. My students called me Aunty Grace. They listen intently to every word. They seem to fully understand my Southern accent and my sense of humor. We laugh together. My lessons are based on cross-cultural relations to prepare them for opening an international guest house. I give examples of African vs American mindsets and ways of thinking. My years in Mozambique have taught me something. We laugh some more. Part of the lesson defines hot vs cold climate cultures and the ways they vary. American Southerners ironically fit, in part, into hot climate culture definitions, Africans are the poster child. Southerns don’t say what they mean. My Dutch friend finds my constant use of the phrase, “Kinda, sorta, not really” hysterical. But one can’t simply say, “No”. That’s rude. My Cameroonian friends agree. At the end of my first day they ask me about my life and how I came to know Jesus. I watched their faces as I spoke and gave them the play by play. They cheered at the good bits and shook their heads and groaned at the sad parts. They joined in with me in my history and when I finished they all said they wanted what I had. Each one came for prayer and I was able to give to them grace, favor and the love of the Father. That one hour of my life was worth the past year of working and the thousands of dollars it took to fly half way across the world. I got to share my reality, the tangible love of God, and the testimony of His goodness. They are not alone, they are not forsaken, they are the answer and the hope for a nation. He has the answers and wants them to join Him. 

We met twice more to plan and prepare for the opening of a guest house to be able to host international visitors, teams and guests. The guest house can serve as a business for these students, hiring guides, chefs and housekeepers, and can be a place for volunteers to come and stay for weeks at a time. My teachings included what to prepare for in hosting Western guests but also encouraged them to dream big about what a partnership with the West could bring. What problems in this area do they want to solve? Who do they want to come and what can they bring or teach? What can your Western family bring that you need the most? If Bill and Melinda were to come here (a place where unemployment is 75%) and bring their resources, what problems would we want to eradicate? They are mulling that one over. So am I. 


The rains are here now. So loud they seem to want to pound in the door. They entertain me. Poor Sherri. I like to go to the front door in my bare feet and watch with my hands on my hips. Sometimes there is heavy fog with the rains and sometimes not. The fog will often come right into the house, into the hall and even cut the corner into my room, just like Sandburg’s cat. The rains make everything green, more shades than the Tennessee hills. When it stops the birds gurgle and trill and tweet in the most pleasant euphonious chorus. It’s lovely. 

A day at the orphanage

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Fruit stand with guava and bananas
Yesterday we went to the orphanage. It is down a long muddy hill and sits on a stunning little piece of property overlooking lush, green, tropical foliage and banana trees and narrow glistening inlets. But it is hard to notice this expansive view with seven children on your back, hips, hanging on your waist and climbing and your shoulders and four on each arm. I generally avoid photo-ops with orphaned children, for reasons too long and controversial to address here. However, I had to show you Martinique "Martini". And this beautiful photo of Sherri being styled by Marvelous and Lauren Bless. 

I could reflect for a lifetime on going to this one place. It is poverty. It is rejection and injustice. There are solutions to their poverty and their way of life. There could be more for these children. They live in filth, are constantly ill, are uneducated. We sat on the floor and played jacks with stones. They are content to their simple games of hop scotch and clapping games and that is okay, I guess. But not really because it is not 1940, it's 2014 and these children deserve much more. And these are just the outward, physical observances. The emotional damage, rejection and isolation and it's impact on these children is huge.

Sherri and I sat in silence on the ride back, both just sad from the injustice and our minds racing as to what we can do. What is my part and my role in this and how I can I not simply just walk away from this place but do something to help these no longer nameless, faceless children? To me, money from the West is not the answer. But I don't know precisely what is. I think it is a culmination of a lot of solutions to a lot of problems. One thing that I noticed right away in being here in Cameroon is how bright and articulate the people are. Sherri's students shine with intellect and passion. They are part of the solution to the problem. Sherri is on to something powerful as she is here equipping this generation to take on these issues and bring real change. It is part of the reason I am here. For us all to sit down and dialogue about solutions. We don't have to reinvent the wheel, creative solutions to poverty are happening all over the place. We just need to discover what best fits this place at this time. 

I love being here because I see the passion and intellect and drive on this young generation of Sherri's students. They are living, breathing hope to the hopeless. They are the answer and I get to hang out with them. It is an honor. 

Cameroon

Yes He is and you, Little Man are brave!


The view from Sherri's front porch



I made it. The journey was long. The flight to Doula stopped unbeknownst to me in Libreville, Dakar. I was crawling out of my skin by the time this almost 8 hour flight was over after having just gotten off a 17.5 hour flight. Way too may hours of sitting and staring. Odd how so much sitting will wear you slap out. The airport in Doula took me home with that familiar first whiff of Africa. The airport air smelled of urine, breath, sweat and fuel. It was sultry to say the least. I kept having to wipe my face at baggage claim, where a sign boasted "Home of Coca Cola". It took me way to long to notice that I was the only white girl. I gathered my luggage on a rickety cart and pushed it out to find Sherri waiting for me. Porters were trying to grab my bags as we were trying to hug necks but we fought them off like pros. Well, okay Sherri fought them off while I stood there flabbergasted and bewildered. I have done all of this before but all the transition from one world to the other takes more than a moment. 

It was an hour and a half drive from Doula to Buea. It was dark and I could not see much other than lots of green. Rainy season is coming to an end but what I saw was all so vibrant  lush and tropical, even in the dark. The boys who collected us pulled over on the side of the road at one point to let a car behind us take over. They were doing it as a trick so that the lead car would be the first to be stopped at the police checkpoint and we would be able to proceed. Sure enough, it worked. At the first checkpoint the police was peeing on the side of the road, lucky for us. And at the second, the car who had over taken us was stopped and we were allowed to sail right through. I am usually the foreigner in this situation and only see it from my point of view. It was interesting to see that even the locals struggle with police issues and government bureaucracy and it is not just a plot against me alone. 

We parked the car at the bottom of the road to Sherri's house and walked up hill the final bit of the journey home. At that point I did wonder if I would EVER arrive. I had left on Saturday, it was almost Wednesday. We hiked up the wet, steep, rocky hill and Sherri's beautiful oasis was a beacon on a hill. It looks as if it were made for a princess, a little African castle with iron gate. We tumbled inside and sat in silence as there were no words. I had a million questions and we have four years of catching up to do but my language portion of my brain wouldn't work so we just looked at each other and laughed. 

I slept 10 hours thanks to the major fatigue and Melatonin. This afternoon we went into town to attempt to buy a SIM card for my phone but something is wrong with their computers and they cannot activate them. I exchanged money and bought coffee. The town of Buea is busy and hopping. It is so different than Pemba. The women here are smartly dressed and people are busy and going places and professional. Apparently 80% of Cameroon is French speaking and the other English. We are in the English speaking region. You have no idea how wonderful this is. Half of my major frustrations in traveling internationally and working in Africa has been because of language barriers. You never know if someone is saying, "Good morning, how do you do?" or "Good afternoon, if you don't give me your bag, I am going to kill you." You have to be incredibly attentive to tone of voice and body language and all of your surroundings. You feel as if you have lost one of your senses and all the others step up to fill in the gap that is left by you essentially being deaf. But on the streets of Buea, I could have found my own way and enjoyed being able to greet and understand others. 

Sherri lost a very close friend this week to cancer. She is at the home of her friend now. I can feel her loss among the community of Sherri's Cameroonian family in my short time being here. I am amazed at God's timing and am glad I can be here for Sherri in this very moment and in these days ahead. He knew she needed a friend and I am honored He sent me. 

We have loads on the calendar, a course I will be teaching, planning sessions for future projects, and staff meeting tomorrow. But for now I am re-entering, breathing in Cameroon and it feels so good. 

Athens to Nashville to Chicago to Washington, DC to Dakar to Johannesburg to Doula, Cameroon


I am in Johannesburg. I took for granted all that lifetime of living close to Hartsfield International. I could be there in 10 minutes, door to door. I got on an international non-stop flight, from the new terminal which is a cinch and settled down to movies and melatonin and I woke up in Africa. It wasn't the case this time. This journey began as far back as last week when I took a tiny Cessna from Athens to Nashville. I mention this because I recommend it. It is a 1hr 50 minute flight on what I have only been on to island hop. But instead you get to coast over trees and subdivisions and sit right up front and text and use all your electronic devices. No flight attendants, no loo, no peanuts. Just a very easy, convenient and tiny bit thrilling flight right to the back door of the Nashville International Airport. It is quite private and the service was top notch. www.seaportair.com

I unpacked and repacked in Nashville and slept two whole nights in my own bed. I ate Mexican and fish tacos and ran in Target for last minute necessities and got a pedicure. I then took a Southwest flight from Nashville to Washington, DC. I chose DC because I have been hearing for quite some time about South African Airways offering cheaper flights than Delta to Joburg but you have to fly out of New York or Dulles. Laura just moved quite close to Dulles and the fact that this trip took me all over the African continent, I chose SAA for all those inter-continental flights and I really, really, really wanted time with Laura. I've flown SAA intraAfrica several times, but after this international experience I must warn you: there is no comparison to Delta. I felt sorry for those who paid all that money for a first class ticket when I saw their seats that did offer loads of leg room but that's about it. No snuggly private pods like Delta. No champagne. We stopped in Dakar although my itinerary said nothing about this. The food was below average. Service was intermittent, food was served before beverages leaving us all to swallow hard. My TV set didn't work. My neighbors audio was inaudible. My 17.5 hour entertainment shut off 30 minutes into Invictus and left me and my tired soul to a paperback book. I slept upright as much as possible thanks to Melatonin and sheer determination. Being 5'4" helps in times like this. But alas I am here and although collecting my bags took ages, I retrieved them and went to Woolworth's to peruse their Spring fashions and buy dinner, breakfast and lunch for tomorrow- sushi, spinach, yogurt and popcorn. I also picked up body wash and facial moisturizer in efforts to travel light and get what I can en route. I leave once again on SAA for Cameroon tomorrow afternoon. 
In and out of Chicago. Southwest let's you change your flight without fees. I like them.


I am staying overnight at the home of gracious friends of Iris Global who always allow me to stay.  They pick me up at the airport and everything. I have stayed here so often now that it has become routine and familiar. Oddly enough the house doesn't have running water at the moment, preparation for the month to come. I am trying my best to stay awake. I am grateful it isn't cold. I usually travel through SA when it is winter and it is brutally cold and quite miserable for a spoiled American used to central heat but I have learned and have my hot water bottle nearby. I can almost hear the African crow that will be waking me from the roof at sunrise. Typing this to keep my eyes open and force myself into their time zone. Safe and sound and excited to soon land in Cameroon! More soon! XO, Grace

seeds and such

“We wanderers, ever seeking the lonelier way, begin no day where we have ended another day; and no sunrise finds us where sunset left us. Even while the earth sleeps we travel. We are the seeds of the tenacious plant, and it is in our ripeness and our fullness of heart that we are given to the wind and are scattered.” 

It is almost time! I leave Nashville on the 9th to spend a little time with family in Georgia and South Carolina and speak to a few groups about the project in Cameroon. I fly back to Nashville on the 17th with SeaPort Airlines from Athens, GA, grateful for cheap, short one hour flights. I leave Nashville on the 20th and will fly to DC and spend one night with Laura and family and depart on the 21st on a very long, really expensive flight to Johannesburg. I stay over night on the 22nd and leave on the 23 for Douala, Cameroon. I got my visa in the mail yesterday! God's timing is perfect and it is time to go back and to see what Cameroon brings. The plan is to teach a course on cross cultural relations, based on the genius studies of David Maranz' African Friends and Money Matters and Georgia native Sarah Lanier's Foreign to Familiar. The project in Cameroon has massive potential to grow into a beautiful development model, working alongside the West to bring education, healthcare and food to an area where these are scarce. This course will lay a little foundation for this to grow. 

Years ago I would want to know every detail so that I could see the future of the entire project and would have been fearful to step out into unknown territory and subjects way above my head. But now I have seen the miraculous happen by my just stepping out, completely into the dark and the unknown and in such deep water. I know He holds solutions and answers and has commissioned us to join Him. I see the vision for how development projects can work and bring tangible, sustainable solutions to poverty. I am going to Cameroon to lay groundwork. I am going to teach what I know and see what happens and drink tea with Sherri and dream with God and eat good food and shop the local markets and squeeze babies and attempt to sing amongst the Africans in their powerful, sweet harmony.

I will then go to South Africa for two weeks to view this project. And see their penguins and hike their mountains and eat their food. I will then go to Kenya to stay with Dr. Carola for a week or so in Nairobi. I want to check on her, be with her, spend a little time together, see her face. I will then go volunteer with friends in Mombasa on the coast of Kenya. They started a home for boys in 2007, taking boys off the street and giving them food, shelter and love. I can't believe I actually get to see this project in action. I watched the young girls who started it get in a tiny dusty dilapidated taxi cab with the trunk tied shut in Pemba, Mozambique and drive to Tanzania and later to Kenya to start this ministry. I am honored to be able to meet the boys of Rapha House and to learn from Carly. She is one of my heroes. She has stuck it out. She stayed. She has lasted and done well. I am massively impressed and I want to know her secret. 

On the way home I will spend a few days in DC with Laura before returning home to Nashville. After that I have no clue. Sherri has told me that she throws seed out her back door in Cameroon and it takes root.  I have had multiple confirmations that each destination is strategic. I am going to each place to throw out my seed. It's funny how just our presence in a place changes things. It has nothing to do with me or us but our willingness to act and to move. I often felt the reason I was in Mozambique was to play cards with the other missionaries and make them laugh. I know that I am going to Africa to open doors and windows and create opportunities not just for myself but for others. A missionary friend wrote me this week and told me she had no clue what she was doing. I felt her pain. But I also had to smile as I read her words as know how this position of cluelessness is where I most often see God show up. He swoops down and rescues us and shows us how and we know that it can only be Him, orchestrating it all and whispering His goodness and His secrets in our ears. 

xo, 
Grace


Marcelina

Today we have an interview with our lovely Marcelina!  She is beautiful and such a joy to have working at Galeria Dos Sonhos.  We think her story is a valuable glimpse into everyday life of Mozambicans and are happy to share with you.


How old are you?
-I am 23 years old

Where did you grow up?
-I grew up about 45 minutes from Pemba with my two parents, one brother, and one sister.

What was it like growing up?
-I remember going hungry.  There was not enough money coming in from the farming.  We didn't have enough clothes either

What was your house like? Was it safe?
-I grew up in a mud house. The village I lived in didn't feel safe because there were banditos.  One lady who was with my sister got attacked by banditos.

Before working with Iris what did you do?
-I did nothing before working here.  I lived in the barracas.  I have worked here for a year now and have learned how to sew.

What have you learned working here?
-I didn't know how to sew before coming to work here.  Now I make bags and bandanas.  I also make table runners.  I know how to use the sewing machine and how to pattern cut.

What do you like about working at Galeria Dos Sonhos?
-Working here is different than what other women in the village do.  Also, I know I will actually get paid working here. Now when I get paid I can buy the things I need for my children like clothes and food. The people are kind and patient here. I like working with them.

How do you feel working here?
-I feel the presence of God and more hope working here. I feel more honored and respected now that I come here.

How long have you been a Christian?
-I have known Jesus for two years now.  It also good to get disciples and get to know God more deeply.

How has your life changed?
-I used to have problems with people.  I did not seem them as people, I didn't like people. Jesus has taught me that I can make friendships.  I get along well with the people who work here (at Galeria Dos Sonhos) and better with the people in the village now.

What are some of your dreams?
-I would love to own a house one day because right now I live in a room in a baraca. 

 baraca- a small store typically made of bamboo, usually only selling a few varieties of items; beer, soda, washing powder etc.