2016 – Embrace Life

An array of thoughts and emotions

My intention in December was to make my first 2016 post exciting, especially considering it has been so long since my last post! I was going to talk about how life and the new exciting experiences that life in Kenya has brought before me. I will save that for another day.

We all start a year with New Year’s resolutions. You may have not have declared it to the world on some form of social media but don’t lie to yourself, you made at least one!

I’ll be kinder.
I’ll lose weight.
I’ll work out more.
I’ll eat healthier.
I’ll talk to my family more.
I’ll play less video games.
I’ll watch less TV.

The list goes on.

The New Year tends to start with joy and excitement, counting down until the clock strikes midnight. We scream and shout and are joyous to start a new year! 2016… WOOO! I celebrated on the beach while watching incredible fireworks and was in the company of close friends.

A NEW Year!
A NEW beginning!
A time to live in love, live life to the fullest and embrace life!

It is a new year, there is reason to celebrate. Bring on 2016!

In the past 2 weeks I have been reminded through too many tragic events and many joyous occasions that as the New Year is upon us we need to remember that life is only here once and how we live it impacts everyone around us. Life needs to lived with purpose, not as a grouping of resolutions.

We don’t know what each month, week, day, hour, minute and even second holds for us.

I celebrate with those in 2016 that welcome a new baby into the world, who are now engaged and those who are simply rejoicing.  Embrace each moment that is the first of 2016 or the first as a mother, father, brother, sister, wife and husband. Embrace life and all that comes with it.

However, I also mourn with too many who have experienced tragedy in 2015 and 2016. In a moment many have lost family members, young and old, will experience this whole year as the first without someone, trying to remember the good times and finding joy and laughter in the memories. Comfort those around you who simply need a listening ear, a hug, an over abundance of prayer and love.

I don’t understand tragedy, and it is hard to make sense of any of it let alone explain it. What is the hardest for me to explain is sadness and joy happening at the same time.

How and why does all of this happen at the same time? I don’t know. But God has a peace that passes all understanding and our finite eyes and mind cannot make sense in the midst of it all.

Weep for those who weep and shout with joy for those who celebrate.

Let go of the resolutions. Instead live a meaningful life. Embrace life, and actually embrace it. Don’t make that a resolution but make it a habit. I don’t care if any of this is cliché, what is even new anymore? Don’t think you have to impact the whole world but impact the world around you. Live life. Use the 86,400 seconds per day with purpose.

Every second counts.

I look to the hills. Where is my help coming from? I’ll tell you where it comes from! It comes from the Lord the maker of heaven and earth!!
Psalm 121:1-2

The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.
Zephaniah 3:17

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CFS: Tsavo

CFS: Cultural Field Studies

I apologize for such a long blog. I hope you enjoy it!

Camp Tsavo: Where we spent our time. You can read more about Camp’s International and our site here: http://www.campsinternational.com/volunteer-camps/camp-tsavo

Epic: particularly impressive or remarkable. (as an informal adjective)

CFS is an incredible program that Rosslyn Academy puts on for the students. From September 4th – 9th around 230 students and 36 adult chaperons spent time in 16 different sites across Kenya for 6 days of community service, cultural learning and some incredible experiences. I was lucky to spend my time with a phenomenal group of grade 10’s in Tsavo. There were 16 students from different cultures, countries and friend groups that came together and worked together so cohesively.

Day 1: 8 hour hot and sweaty drive. The Mombasa highway was good, the other drivers… not so much. For those of you who know the 6F theory to bad or crazy drivers. Take what you are thinking and multiply it by… well at least 50! Thankfully we had an amazing driver, Wilson. I constantly had to refrain from yelling… “WILSON!!!” whenever I saw him, well even when I couldn’t find him. Maybe I should watch Cast Away this week.

Arrival at Tsavo Camps International. Beautiful. We arrived just before sunset and it was absolutely breathtaking. It’s moments like these that it is hard to not appreciate the beauty of Creation. The beauty of the world around us. Those hills, the enormous rocks and everything in our view has been there for thousands of years. It wasn’t made by man. It is as God created it. It is as it was supposed to be.

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Day 2: Drive in an overlander to a Primary school. I had never driven in a vehicle quite like this but I want to be in one again. We blasted music while driving through the country and what a contrast! This huge vehicle carrying 25 people trudging through dirt roads passing humble homes filled with people who are struggling to even send their children to school. Our group worked together to help lay part of a cement floor. I have such a better understanding and appreciation for those who work in construction. Exhausting work! It do feel great to know we were able to help this school.

I have to share a moment that I found quite humorous. Try to imagine this:

It’s the end of long work day everyone is cleaning up cement covered tools and containers then a student take a container filled with water and a bit of cement goes to empty it out when all of a sudden a thirsty goat comes charging into the picture. This goat is thirsty and means business. But wait… there is cement in the water! The student grabs the goats horns with both hands and starts to pull with all her strength! As she is doing it this is trying to explain to the goat… well yell at the goat how if the goat drinks this water it will die! In walks another student who yells at the goat in Swahili (because the goat will understand that better than English… right?) they just want to save the goats life! After the goat was kicked a few times the whole ordeal was over but it was quite amusing!

Then we went home and made paper made out of elephant poo. Pooper! Yes. I played with disinfected boiled down elephant poo. Apparently the poo is only good to use from between 3 days – 3 weeks. Before the 3 days the poo is too fresh and after it has spoiled. Fun fact!

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Day 3: The whole team dressed up and went to a small church in the community. It was the first time I spoke in a church with a translator, I think it went pretty well. The one part of church that I had never experienced happened as part of the offering. People brought up fruit, veggies, and other items and we had an auction! A legitimate auction… going once, twice… SOLD! It was crazy but a great idea and very interesting! In the afternoon we spent time with Mama Mercy and her crew! They empower women in the community! The work they are doing in their community is incredible. After we did some bead work with the ladies we had a full on dance party! That’s right I shook my booty with the whole crew! It was such a fun time to simply celebrate and dance with these incredible ladies who are working hard to support their community!

Classic Ashley Moment: I was the only member on my team to really get injured. Shocker I know! Yup. I cut my leg on a nasty rusty metal box. When do I not get injured!

Day 4: Epic. Amazing. I LOVE HIKING! We hiked through the hills of Tsavo and the view. My goodness. I’ll share some photos but in reality they do not do the justice to the beauty of this incredible land that I am so blessed to live in! We climbed up and up and up! I loved it and really want to climb Mt. Kenya now! We ate lunch in a cave, used a bow and arrow, and made lil’ huts! I am so proud of all the students that were on my team.

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Day 5: Another long, sweaty drive back to the city… well just outside the city where all the groups came back together to talk about our time away, debrief and spend an incredible time in worship.

I really do love the work that I am doing here. It comes with challenges but challenges that I am willing to experience and embrace. I can definitely say that moving across the world away from some of the closest friends I have ever had in my life and away from my incredible family is one of the most challenging things I have ever done. But, I know that I am supposed to be here. I know without a shadow of a doubt. I know the cycle of culture shock has set in but I am and will embrace each moment, good or bad. I refuse to live a life of fear and sadness. I choose to life a life of Trust and Joy.

Proverbs 3:5 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding”

Rediscovery.

I know who I think I am, but who am I? How do I describe myself? Who am I to those around me, who am I to myself? I don’t have split personalities trying to figure out who all the other personalities are, I am simply in a moment of rediscovery.

Who am I?

I have moved across the world to a place where almost nobody knows me and am introducing myself to a new world, community, colleagues and friend group.

People don’t know my past, my experiences or my idiosyncrasies; they don’t know how weird I really am! People don’t know my strengths or my weaknesses (thankfully… however these will be revealed in time). When they see me they simply see… a tall red head from Canada, ‘the new girl’, a person they have only heard about and don’t actually know.

Entering an already existing community is difficult when questions keep flying through my thoughts.

Who do I trust?
Who is my friend?
Who do I go to when I don’t know how to use my oven? (#thestruggleisreal … I don’t know how to use my oven right now…)
Am I living up to what they think about me?
What preconceived thoughts to they have about me and me about them?

Who am I? Who are they? When will I become them?

All of these questions are specifically to my work/living environment/community and they are all questions that will be answered in good time, but some I just want answered sooner than later!

I do know one thing and that is what is tattooed on my foot. I am a child of God and am proud of it! (John 1:12)

This is all part of transition and part of the process of entering a new community and country. Nevertheless I do feel like I’m back in High School trying to make new friends and establish my role in the community!

Geckos.

Why do so many of my experiences living in Africa for 3 weeks – 3 years have something to do with Geckos?

Why are there so many stories surrounding the washroom (toilet or restroom for my American friends)? If I learnt anything from PFO (Pre-Field Orientation), missions trips and mothers, it’s normal to talk about our… well bowel movements and things surround the washroom.

I wasn’t expecting my first blog to be about Geckos and the washroom but perhaps it is suiting to life in transition.

Last night I had a wonderful evening of laughing, telling stories (including ones about how I don’t really like geckos!) and learning more about some new friends on campus. I came home and it was time to get ready for bed, I really had to pee at this point in time and went into the washroom to use the toilet, which I think is quite logical! As I look into the toilet bowl what do I see staring back at me… a gecko.

At this point I jump back dancing back and forth on my toes doing a little “pee dance” and exclaim… “noooooo” in a somewhat whinny voice. I know I have to deal with this but am so close to calling someone to ask if I can use their washroom and have them come retrieve the Gecko from my toilet. No. I have to deal with this myself. I am adaptable. I live here. I can do this.

So I do what I think is most logical, I flush the toilet to flush my little gecko friend away! Does he flush away…. No! The stupid thing crawls up into the toilet bowl where the water comes down to re-fill the bowl. WHAT! The stupid thing tries to hide from me! I am not losing this battle.

This has now become a fight. Ashley vs Mr. Gecko and I am competitive. I may have left your little friend wandering around the apartment because I know you kill bugs… but you Mr. Gecko hiding in my toilet; you are not going to stay there because… well… I just don’t trust you.

I flush the toilet again… Mr. Gecko doesn’t move. One more time, still nothing.

How long has Mr. Gecko been living in my toilet? Has he been there the whole time I have been using it!? I don’t want to think about it.

Flushing isn’t working and I think about giving up, but then I start dancing again… I really have to go!

I grab a hanger, which is now in the garbage, because it was small enough to try and knock the Gecko out of his hiding place but big enough to keep me at a distance. I poked around and couldn’t find the stupid thing. I danced and complained and again thought of called someone, all of a sudden I SEE THE TAIL!

I push on the tip of Mr. Geckos tail with my hanger and it breaks off… fail. All of the sudden I see Mr. Gecko I push him with his beady little eyes looking at me into the water bowl and FLUSH!!!! The water settles and the tip of his the Gecko’s tail is floating there, trying to cause me remorse for the awful thing I just did.

I flushed the toilet again.

Away goes Mr. Gecko and the tip of his tail somewhere into a septic system, I hope he survived this traumatic experience is enjoying life somewhere away from my toilet.

Relief.

So how is transition and settling in going for me? All in all I think as good as can be expected!

I just don’t like Gecko’s.

life, experiences and thoughts.

Andrew K. Gabriel

Pentecostal-Charismatic Theologian

Jeromey Martini's blog

A blog about Christian leadership, the New Testament - and anything else that comes to mind