Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Kenya Trip - Post 2: Early days (June 1-3)

As a team leader, I'm not supposed to choose favorites amongst
the team...but I clearly had one on this trip.
We actually had two EMI teams arriving on the same flights, and to my knowledge, this is the first time that’s happened. Another team led by Gary and Kevin from our office in Colorado are working at another orphanage starting up in Western Kenya. So, in the arrival hall at Jomo Kenyatta airport in Nairobi, we had 21 EMI’ers in all.

Fortunately for our team, the orphanage we’re working with (‘Into Abbas Arms’) is located only about 1-1/2 hours from Nairobi, unlike the other team’s site, which is around 7-8 hours drive from the capital. Nairobi sits up at just over 5000 ft elevation, so it was a steady climb on the drive out to reach our site, which is at an elevation of nearly 8800 ft.
The IAA site from above - the building next to the red marker
is where the EMI team stayed during the trip.
The civil engineers walking the site. You'll notice the rain boots
and even an umbrella - not the typical Africa trip that's for sure!
As I’ve done on many projects, I’m doing the survey for this trip. Alisha and a couple others from the team helped, as did a small group of 5 Kenyan university engineering students. One of the boys from the orphanage, Nelson, is now at university and is studying civil engineering. We asked the ministry to invite some local engineers to come spend time with our team, so Nelson invited 4 friends from his college to come hang out with us for a couple days. It was great having them with us, and it gave us a chance to talk to them and show them what we do and also learn from them and their knowledge of local building practices.
The crackpot survey crew - well, at least the lead surveyor was
a crackpot. The rest of the team seemed to get on well enough.

Fashioning a rod for my hand level -
it's important that the equipment quality
always matches the skill level of the surveyor.
Working with the Kenyan university students.
Not sure why I need equipment to see what Nelson apparently
sees better with his naked eyes.
I’ve probably mentioned it before, but one of the biggest initiatives we’re pursuing at EMI is the inclusion of local engineers and architects in the organization. We’re striving to be ‘all people serving all people’, instead of the ‘West to the rest’ mentality so many mission organizations (including ours, if we’re honest) have tended towards in the past. To begin with, we’re trying to achieve a goal of 25% involvement by local engineers/architects for all levels of engagement with EMI – volunteers, interns and even staff – within the next 5 years. As of the beginning of 2015, we had achieved a level of approximately 10%, organization-wide.
The students even got a crash course in photography from EMI
photographer (and spouse to Kevin, one of the co-leaders
of the other EMI team in Kenya) Jenni Keiter.
Jordan in a sea of kids at the nearby school where the IAA
children attend. The blonde woman is Jane Gravis, the Founder
and Director of the IAA children's home.
Alisha became a magnet for the kids during the week, especially
after she started teaching every morning in the pre-school on
the IAA campus (both IAA kids and village kids alike attend
the pre-school, Monday through Friday mornings).

Kenya Trip - Post 1: Something new (May 30-31)

EMI'ers from two teams, ready to depart from DIA
This trip had a different feel from the outset. Having Alisha join me isn’t just a nice perk, but rather, more of a realization of a long desire to do this work together. It’s not that I can’t do these trips without her – I’ve proved that 19 other times! But I really don’t *want* to do them without her. Of course we don’t always get the things we want, but oftentimes if we’re patient, God does give us a few of those perks eventually.

So the normal pre-trip depression and anxiety that has become a very predictable part of our lives (i.e. dad starts getting very irritable leading up to project trips!) didn’t happen. In fact, it was almost the opposite feeling this time, as I seemed more and more calm as the trip approached.

Dropping the boys off at their gate at the Denver airport was another ‘new’ feeling. Brodie is 14 now, and though we still see a lot of the ‘little boy’ in him, we know that he (like every other little boy that’s ever lived) is not going to move towards manhood without either some gentle pushes from us or some opportunities for him to grow. This was one of those, as we made a point of putting him in charge between the time when we dropped them off until they met up with their grandparents in Oakland. Needless to say, Jonah and Graysen were dissenting votes on the matter!

They did great, and as soon as we saw the plane taxi out of sight, we could begin to think about what lay ahead…
One last hug from mom...
Down the jetway they went...
And pulling out from the gate for 15 days of being spolied by
their grandparents in California and Oregon!
Denver to Chicago, Chicago to London, and London to Nairobi…and for the first time since 2010, Alisha was back in Africa! After landing and getting through immigration and baggage retrieval (funny how easy that sounds, but it actually took over 3 hours!), we had a short drive to our hotel and we all finally enjoyed what the first class passengers had enjoyed on the flight – the privilege of laying down! I hope that doesn’t sound too bitter ;).
Alisha and Jordan, our 'adopted' niece. Jordan was an intern with
us in the UK and is now a long term volunteer architect in the
office in Colorado. She made it possible for me to lead this trip
as she's taking over finishing the project after we return home.
Interns Shannon and Marisa, on the ground in Nairobi
In case you never make it to Kenya, this is what Jomo Kenyatta
Int'l Airport looks like outside the arrivals hall, at night.
Me with longtime EMI'er and friend Gary MacPhee.
Gary was co-leading the other EMI trip in Kenya,
and we all stayed at the same hotel the first night.
Outside our hotel room in Nairobi - it's always interesting to see
the mix of city and village life side by side in most African cities.

Arriving on our site, about 1 1/2 hours from Nairobi.

The IAA site - where children homes, ag land, farm animals, a
small church and a playground all co-exist.