Crescent Island

Crescent Island

Saturday, March 26, 2016

A Trial Run in Parenthood

Three days into vacation, and I am lazy. I have not run at all. I have not cleaned my house. I have not not taken a nap each day (double negative for the win). When I talk to people back home, they are all amazed and surprised that we get a whole month off in between terms. But when you are going non-stop, full time-plus working schedule, a month off is critical to the well-being of the staff and students.

This term was especially crazy, as I have already mentioned, because of choir tour and because of Interim. Interim is a week-long trip required for all juniors and seniors as a part of their social studies grade which are led by staff members. They go on different trips around the continent of Africa exploring different cultures. This year there were Interims to Egypt, Northern Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Tanzania, the Kenyan Coast, Zanzibar, and many others. So while the Juniors and Seniors and part of the school Staff are on these trips, the rest of the staff cover classes, and jobs, other duties for the week. Interim happened the last week before vacation, and I helped out covering a few different things for other staff members. I took care of Monte, the great dane puppy, for my dear friend Cassandra while she went to the coast. While Steve, the band director, was leading the Tanzania interim, I was in charge of the music department, helping direct a brass quintet for offering during Sunday church. And I took care of three adorable kids for my friends, Amy and Kevin, while they led a trip to Ethiopia. What an adventure that was.

I was a little overwhelmed the first few days as what I had committed to with a large dog and three small children, plus my normal full schedule, plus a little extra. But I settled into a rhythm and relied on at least three cups of coffee a day to keep my energy up. It was a busy, but very good week, and I was so happy to help out my friends while they were on their trips.

The three kids, two girls and a boy - kindergarten, first grade and third grade - were bundles of energy who were so excited to help out with Monte. And throughout the week, I kept up a list of the hilarious things that they said to me. So I present to you Missionary Kids Say the Darndest Things Part III:

1. "I love to pick up Monte's poop" - said by the oldest, and she meant it. Seriously. Every day she would ask me if we could "pick up the poop now?"

2. "Miss Stephanie, you look so beautiful with glasses" - said by the youngest. "I think you look beautiful with or without glasses" - said by the oldest. "Mrs. Wiley, I think you would look beautiful even if you didn't have any skin" - said by the middle child. #makingmeblush

3. [The youngest patting my stomach] "When are going to have a baby?" "Well I'm not married yet, so I can't have a baby yet." "When are you going to get married?" "I have to get a boyfriend before I can get married." "OH! My daddy can be your boyfriend!" "Oh no honey, he's already married to your mommy." - After this conversation, I was almost on the floor laughing. The logic of kids.

It was an overwhelming but good week because the kids are fantastic and so fun. I did learn that I hope (God willing) that I will never be a single parent, because it is super hard and exhausting. Now it is vacation, and I have a month before my last term here at RVA. Time is flying by and I want to savor what's left of my year here. I want to spend time with the wonderful people that I have met and become friends with, and have a few more adventures to fill up my memory of this fantastic country.

I would love prayers for:

  • Good rest and relaxation this vacation. It was a crazy term, and I want to be fully rejuvenated for third term. 
  • Safe travels. I am going to the coast for a week at the end of the vac with two friends, and would love prayers that all our travel and time on the coast is safe and fun. 
  • Preparations for coming home in July. Heading into my last term, I have started planning ahead for my transition back to the States. It is a lot to plan, and prepare for mentally, and I want it to go smoothly.  

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Choir Tour

Hello All! I'm so sorry I've been so terrible at blogging throughout Term 2. Not to make excuses, but this term has been absolute bananas for me. Term 2 has been busier, with much more on my plate, and I've had very little energy at the end of the day to do anything but eat, sleep and zone out.

One of the reasons that this term was so busy for me, was Choir Tour. That's right, this term I planned a two-night, three day choir tour in Nairobi for 36 students and 4 adults (including myself - though I still have a hard time thinking of myself as an adult).

From the start of the term, I was on the phone and emailing with schools almost every day, to get concert into place. I was also teaching my choir a program of 10 songs to be performed on tour, along with scripture readings and testimonies. This was quite the challenge. There were moments I didn't think that I could get it done, and I was learning about the culture of Kenya at the same time.

While the process of planning was overwhelming and frustrating at times, the outcome was completely worth it all. We performed six concerts, at four schools and one church, and had such incredible experiences at each place.

Throughout the weekend, there were fantastic learning moments for me, as well as for the students. The weight of being in charge of the weekend really drained me of energy, but I took time to be alone and to pray and spend some quiet time with God. If I hadn't already gotten into the habit of having daily quiet time, I'm sure I would have gone completely crazy that weekend.

Looking back on my time in choir, in both high school and college, the tours we went on were the most meaningful times I had. This tour will also be an incredibly memorable time with this choir this year. I am immensely proud of the choir, and so thankful for the weekend that we had.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Safari pictures galore!

While my sister and uncle were in Kenya visiting me for Christmas, we adventured to the Masaai Mara for safari. It was one of the most incredible trips I have ever been on, and it made me fall more in love with this beautiful county I get to live in. We stayed at the Fairmont Mara Safari Club, which I would recommend for any non-residents to stay at for safari, because you go in the conservancy and not the main park, which means you don't pay the exorbitant Mara fees for each ride. It was also just an incredible resort to stay at. It's a tented resort, right next to the river, with amazing staff and fantastic service.

Each day we had two rides into the park, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Each one of our rides lasted two and a half to three hours. And it was simply gorgeous each ride, even when it poured rain on us. We saw so many animals on our rides: elephants, giraffes, zebras, buffalo, lions, dik-diks, Thompson Gazelles, wildebeest, Topi, rhinos, hyenas, hippo, warthogs, impalas, ostriches, and so many more. 

All three of us wished that we had more time, but at least we have hundreds (if not thousands) of pictures to keep the memories alive. Without further ado, happy scrolling through the few photos I chose to share!

sister and uncle at the Fairmont main entrance

My sister and I shared this luxurious tent. #glamping

Our view from our deck

A lion couple resting on their "honeymoon"

We visited a Masaai village one afternoon

A tower of Giraffes

One of the two hyenas we spotted

Stuck and waiting to be towed out of the creek

Another day, another chance to interrupt the lion honeymoon

Buffalo country

Elephant sighting!

A gorgeous backdrop for the ostriches

White Rhinos - Queen Elizabeth and Kofi Annan

My favorite shot

Add caption

Sometimes you get a flat tire while on safari 
I spotted this hippo on one morning drive.


A lioness hunting in the rain

She was not fazed by our truck

Queen Elizabeth

The ever elusive safari paparazzi

The end. 

Friday, January 15, 2016

2 Months Later...

Hello All! I am SO sorry for the two months I let go by without posting anything on my blog. I have many drafts of many different posts saved, but for some reason did not finish any of them. Being on a break from school gave me the chance to take a break from everything, including the blog. So I'll do a quick recap for each month that went by!


  •  Our Christmas concert - this went so amazingly well. All of the ensembles did a fantastic job, and I am so proud of my students in string ensemble and choir.
  • Finals and American Thanksgiving - yes, our finals week fell on Thanksgiving. I got to have two thanksgiving meals that weekend. They were delicious, and it was so nice of the staff here making sure that all the singles had places to go.
  • Kuimba Pamoja - I took 8 students to a music festival in Nairobi at one of the high schools. There they had the chance to sing with 50 students from other schools and work with an amazing conductor from England - Dominic Peckham.

  • AIM Eastern Region Conference - the day that students left for their December vacation, AIM missionaries from around Kenya and Tanzania arrived for the yearly conference. It was great to spend time with people from other teams and hear about what AIM is doing in different parts of Kenya and Tanzania.
  • Many goodbyes - once conference ended, I said goodbye to three of my very good friends from the first 4 months living in Kijabe. Emily, Katie and Liz were all here just for 1st Term. I am so thankful for the time I had getting to know them and I am excited to see where God leads each one of them.
  • A new friend and zombies - in November Cassandra introduced me to her friend Courtney Joy, who is a part of the Samburu TIMO (Training in Ministry Outreach) team. She was on her way to Jordan to explore a new ministry and area to serve in once her team is done in March. On her way back, she injured her neck, and had to stay in Kijabe for all of December to recover. While it was not great for her, it was awesome to have someone to spend time with during the month. And we may or may not have become hooked on a certain show about zombies, and binge-watched 5 seasons in three weeks.
  • FAMILY VISIT! - The greatest part of my December vacation was having my big sister and my uncle come to visit. It was so fun showing them my life here in Kenya, and getting to spend time with them. The highlight of their trip was going on safari in the Masaai Mara. We saw 4 of the Big 5 - unfortunately there were no leopard sightings - and really felt relaxed and pampered at the Fairmont Mara Safari Club. I am planning to do a big post with pictures I took on safari.

  • Choir Tour - this term - in March - we have our choir tour. It is a three-day tour, over a weekend, to different schools and churches around Nairobi. We have a lot of music to learn and there are a lot of details I need to coordinate.
  • Interim - the last week of term all Juniors and Seniors go on a interim trip to explore cultures and communities around Africa. I am not going but will be taking care of a very large great Dane puppy and three elementary-aged kids.
  • My birthday! Next Wednesday is my 27th birthday. A year ago, I would not have guessed that I would be celebrating it in Kenya, but I am so thankful that I am. Who knows where and with whom I'll be celebrating my birthday next year!
Whew! That was a lot to catch you up on...and those were just highlights! I promise to be more regular about posting and updating you on my life here. Look for a large post with tons of safari pictures coming soon!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Grade Level: Adulthood

Since moving to Kenya in August, I have learned many things, some very surprising and some less so. I have learned about living in Africa, what missionary kids are like, what it takes to be a teacher, and many other things. Being an adult can be really hard, and I am learning so much more than I expected when I was a kid. But I think I currently have a solid B/B+ in Adulthood. Warning - it's a hard course. If I'm going to do part of it anywhere, it may as well be in an awesome place like Kenya.

Here are a few of the things that I have learned:
-You can get beautiful roses for incredibly cheap here because there are many flower farms in the area.
- Ugandan pineapples are the most delicious.
- Rugby is a big deal.
- Missionary kids generally don't understand sarcasm.
- It takes a really long time for your lungs to adjust to living at almost 8,000ft above sea level.
- Living alone is not so terrible.
- Keep windows closed or you could have bugs, monkeys or stray cats coming into your house.
- Working, living and worshipping all in the same community can be overwhelming and great at the same time.
- Elementary students really love their teachers.
- Watch out for Safari Ants: they bite.
- You have to get really creative while working on decorations for a Christmas Concert when you can't just run to Michael's.
- Cooking from scratch isn't as hard as I thought it would be, it just takes a lot of time.
- Remembering how to play a viola is like remembering how to ride a bike, there is a brief period of shaky and awkward, and then you are back to your old skill level.
- Kenyan cars have a backfire mechanism that reminds you to slow down if you are driving faster than 80 miles an hour, and it will make you jump every time.
- If your name is Stephanie (or Steve), a Kenyan will give you the nickname "Stevo".
- Sometimes God moves you all the way to Africa to show you His calling in your life.
- Teaching is a lot of work, but incredibly rewarding.
- God is faithful.

Yes, God is teaching me many things here at RVA. It's exciting, and a little overwhelming, that it's already November. Three months have gone by, and I have already learned so much. I can't wait to see what else I learn during my time here. Our Christmas concert is coming up, November 20th, and we have a lot of work to do, but the students are definitely up to it.

Please pray for good rest, continued health, and a strong finish to this term.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Giraffes, tortoises, and monkeys...Oh my!

For this midterm break, I decided not to do a big trip, but instead take a couple day trips with other women here on staff. On Saturday five of us single ladies and one mom and her son went to the area of Karen, which is west of Nairobi. The area of Karen is named for Karen Blixon, who wrote the book Out of Africa about her life. In Karen, we went first to the Giraffe Center. At the Giraffe Center, you get the opportunity to be right up close to giraffes and feed them. It was so fun to see these animals up close, and I became friends with the littlest giraffe who could just barely reach his head up to the platform to get the pellets. Giraffes are such beautiful animals and so gentle. Near Giraffe Center is the Giraffe Manor Hotel, where you can stay and the giraffes come right up to your hotel room. Can you say Bucket List?!

There are also tortoises at the Giraffe Center
After going to the Giraffe Center, we decided to go to the Karen Blixon Museum. This is at her house, and the place that the movie "Out of Africa" was filmed. It was so interesting to hear more about her life and the history of the house and the land. It is my favorite kind of museum to visit - a place where historical figures actually worked and lived their lives. And I would move into that house immediately. It is beautiful. 

After visiting the house, it was time for lunch and we headed over to Tamambo, which is the restaurant on the Karen Blixon property. It was a little more pricey, but absolutely delicious and beautiful to sit in the garden. I also purchased a painting from an artist selling his work there in the garden. We also got a free dessert from the manager because his niece attends RVA! 

Our last stop on our trip was to Kazuri Beads. While we missed seeing the women work, because they only work half days on Saturdays, we did get a tour of the factory/workshop. It was really interesting to see where the beads are made and what the process is. We then went into the shop to spend good money in supporting the women who are employed there. And while we were at Kazuri, we happened upon a little monkey taking a nap. I thought he was dead at first, but he was just resting. We all took turns petting the monkey - he is a Sikes monkey - and taking pictures. 


It was a fantastic day, and Karen is such a beautiful area to spend time in. So far, I have not been disappointed at all with what Kenya has to offer and experience. Now, back to term tomorrow and six more weeks until vacation time. 

I would love prayers for confidence in my abilities and that God is using me exactly as He needs, as well as energy and excitement for the rest of 1st term. 

A view of the Rift Valley on the drive to Kijabe, Mount Longonot and Kijabe Hill in the background.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Unofficially Sponsored by Skype

At the beginning of choir a few weeks ago I passed out notecards to each of my students. I told them they could each write down one question they wanted me to answer, in order to let them get to know me a bit. They asked questions like "What is your favorite memory from college?", "What is your favorite band?", "Where do you get your cute clothes?", "What brand of lipstick do you wear?", and "What is your middle name?" - I was asked that question by three different students. A few different kids wanted to know about my dating history, which I declined answering.

There were also several cards asking more serious questions. One of the cards asked me for advice to girls about being a single female on the mission field. This question required a more thoughtful answer, and one that I tried to answer in the context of my life.

At this point, I do not feel called to be on the mission field long-term, but I am called to be here at RVA for the next year, or so. I told the students that following Christ means listening for His call in your life and stepping out in faith in that call. I have been blessed to hear God's call several different times in my life - attending Whitworth for college, moving to the Bay Area in California, and coming to serve at Rift Valley Academy as the choir director. Every time I have been called and taken that step of faith, God has provided and blessed me.

Hebrews 11:6 "And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him."
The other advice I gave them was to make use of Skype as much as possible. The hardest part about being out here is that I miss out on daily life with my family and friends back home in the states. For friends and family back home, their daily lives have not changed too much, it's just that I am not there. But my life has changed so drastically that I do feel that distance with people back home. Skyping (mainly with my family so far) has been such a fantastic way to keep in touch and not feel as homesick. I can see their faces and talk to them about life here and life there. I have even Skyped with (almost) my entire family a couple of times - my brother wasn't able to squeeze onto the couch with everyone else.
Skyping with the crew!

I have also used Skype to connect with some friends. This last week I have skyped with one of my best friends, and two other couples who I have been friends with since college. I love being here and being a part of this community, but I have had moments of feeling so disconnected from my life back home. Skype calls have really been wonderful in keeping me connected with those important people.
Skyping with one of my besties - Kurt!
As I said to my choir students, Skype is an amazing way to keep in touch with people when you are alone on the mission field. Emails and messages are also fantastic. So if you ever feel like emailing or skyping or having a Google hang out with me - just let me know! I would love to talk with you and hear what's going on in your life and tell you about mine.