A farewell at the Centre usually means a tea party planned by the staff.  In the past this involved light food:  boiled eggs, biscuits, queen cakes and chai.  Ian and I decided about a month before leaving that we would like to throw the staff and residents a nice lunch for our farewell….with good food…..so we arranged to have a caterer for the party.  It was a win-win.  The Centre was able to not spend money on the party, we had wonderful food, and no one had to worry about set up or clean up!

But it’s easier to explain the farewell in pictures: 

Upon entering the party you must go through a tunnel of singing people

As guests of honor you sit up at the front while everyone sings & dances to their places

After announcements by the MC Hillary, the food line opens

Beef stew, irio, rice pilau, sukuma, and kachumbari. Anne's favorite is the green irio, Ian's is kachumbari (looks like slaw on the top)

After lunch the singing and dancing begins...complete with heaving us up on the shoulders

Ameena gets into the dancing too as Esther carries her around

I think it's safe to say Eli enjoyed the dancing

Esther with Ameena in her African party dress which came via Naomi's friend at St. Patrick's Catholic Church

Receiving the gifts...it's a really big deal to take a picture of the gift and giver!

Eli and Lucy thought presents on a non holiday were fantastic!

A special song prepared and sung by the day program teaching staff

Ian and I had to give "speeches" to the staff. I talked about how God has a plan written for each one of them & how much each one had contributed to the success of the Centre

It took Ian a moment to find the right words to express all that we had experienced in our 15 months in Kenya with this staff.

We tried to keep the end of the party light with a "guess the $ in the jar giveaway" & the promise of shopping at Momma Eli's duka (shop)

At the end of our party we took about 30 of this same shot, with a different staff member or resident inserted. We then printed copies for the staff as photos are a very treasured and special gift.

The staff & residents of Karibu Centre. In 15 months, we went from 4 staff and 0 residents to about 27 staff, 27 resident girls, babies and abandoned babies and about 120 children in the day program! We felt so blessed to be with these people day after day!

And that was our formal farewell.  More in the next few days of my “garage sale” aka Momma Eli’s duka & of our push by staff/friends to the airport.

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Goodbyes are a big deal in Kenya.

Through out the 15 months that we were in Kenya our family was able to learn about the importance of a proper farewell to Kenyans.

Of course we’re talking about a going away aka tea party.

Of course there will be presents.

Of course a ridiculous amount of photographs will be taken.

That’s normal even for Americans.

But what was new and an adjustment for our family was:

The flood of unexpected visitors to our home throughout the day and evening the  entire week before our departure.

The unexpected amount of gifts ranging from bunches of fresh bananas cut from the tree to hand knit baby sweaters for Ameena and offers of a goat to take home with us (declined of course because we were traveling by air not a matatu!)–mostly given by people with barely enough to eat themselves.

The ways in which staff began to pull back from us emotionally in preparation for our departure.

Allowing for (and planning/paying for) an airport escort by 38 staff, residents and friends because you’re not a true Kenyan if you don’t escort someone fully to either the bus, the train, the airplane etc.   I guess the 2 vanloads (yes 38+ people) of Kenyans at the airport made an impression because a fellow airplane passenger I met in Dubai said he thought we had the whole town saying goodbye to us when he saw us all at the Nairobi airport.  Perhaps not a town, but a whole Centre community!

And hopefully tomorrow, pictures of the event……

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I’ve posted in the past about my love of kangas & how Kenyans use them to tie babies on their backs. 

Because some of you asked to see what it looked like to balance the baby on the back, I took a few pictures about a week before we were due to come back home to the states. 

Lillian, one of the house-mothers in the abandoned infant care center was kind enough to demonstrate with Ameena. 

Moving Ameena onto her back

Positioning Ameena on her back with the elbow up to catch her if she slips

 

Balancing Ameena as she readies the kanga to pull over her

 

Adjusting the kanga up under the bum

  

Finished, with a kanga as a baby carrier

I’ve tried this a few times now, always with someone there to catch Ameena as I’m not the most comfortable in my ability to balance her on my back.  Ameena has lasted on my back for about 5 minutes, breaking out into a squawk before long.  I got some interesting stares walking down my street in Portland, Oregon with her on my back.  You’d think this hippy town would be used to this kind of thing by now!

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Habari ya siku mingi!  Do you remember me posting in the past of the Kenyan saying, “You’ve been lost” when you haven’t visited someone for a long time?

Well, I know that I haven’t visited my blog much in the last few weeks, but rest assured, I am not lost from it.

Life has been chaotic.

Moving three kids under 5 years half way across the world, quite literally, took a lot out of this momma & poor Ian who had his back go out just as he sat down on the plane for our awesome 16 HOUR flight from Dubai to San Fran.   Can you imagine anything more torturous?  How bout the fact that the airline seated us separately, so Ian had both kids while I was seated alone with the baby.  Not ideal for either of us.

Saying a difficult goodbye to my dear Kenyan friends whom I have seen day, after day, after day was and still is hard.  While the work was hard, I still do miss that knock on our door at 9pm, the girls coming to beg some sweets from Ian, seeing Ruben love on my flower garden, having Patrick give me a hearty wave to say Habari Asubuhi, and all of the rest of the sweet ways the staff and residents loved on our family.

Moving back home to a crazy, rushed and chaotic world is taxing on the system and the soul.  Poor Ian had to soothe himself with some rice and beans right away.  Eli says Asante Sana to the checker at New Seasons and wonders why she doesn’t appreciate that he’s thanked her for the sticker she gave him, Lucy tries to navigate coming  into what pretty much is a 2nd culture for her…..we left for Kenya when she was just TWO years old!  Poor thing can’t figure why we aren’t paying the police, putting trash in pits in the yard or waiting for the water to heat before it comes out of the tap.

And then there is sweet baby Ameena.  My wonderful Kenyan gift.  A daily reminder of our amazing midlife adventure.

I’ll post soon.  I have so many thoughts swirling in my mind.  So many things I want to share.

I’m processing.

Recuperating.

Recharging.

Mourning.

Rejoicing.

Breathing.

Praying that I’ll have the faith and wisdom  to listen to what God has in store for our family, and that I’ll be obedient in my answer.

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