no room in the inn

Posted by pamela on Dec. 28, 11 | 3 COMMENTS

On my last trip to Northern Kenya, I spent one night out in the desert and it changed my understanding of a story I have heard since I was a young child. We arrived at a small village not too far south of the Ethiopian border in the afternoon. In the local language, the town’s name means ‘windy’, and it could not have been more accurate. It was flat in all directions, volcanic rocks and thorny shrubs littered the landscape, and the wind was a constant presence.

After our meetings were done, we checked in at our hotel – one of two in this town on the main (though still dirt) road from the south to the north. The hotel was six simple rooms in a line, a latrine, and a shower room, all surrounded by a wire fence beyond the generous rock yard. Each room had two simple twin beds, each with a pillow, a towel, a bar of soap, and a portion of toilet paper. Simple, but clean and thoughtfully laid out. That night a feast of goat (100% free range and organic) was roasted over the open fire, which we shared from common plates with our hands. And then I turned in for the night, placing the stone behind my door to keep it closed since there was no latch.

Half of my hotel room. And this is with the wide-angle lens.

At 3:15 am, I suddenly awoke to the sound of voices and a rock scrapping on concrete. My door was being opened. Groggy but suddenly wide-eyed, I called out to the person pushing my door open.

“We heard there was a bed available in a room with a woman. There are two women who have just arrived and both hotels are full.”

Well, yes, there was a bed available. Not knowing quite what to do, I said as much and promptly cleared the bed of my things (I had been using as a make-shift dresser), and crawled back into my bed to await the arrival of my new roommates.

My groggy mind was filled with random thoughts. Did I not pay for this room? They must have come in on one of the cars that travels through the night – much cooler than during the day. Where had they come from and where were they going? Does the whole village know that there is exactly one mzungu (white person) woman and the exact room where she is staying?  If it was me, I would be so grateful to share a room with a stranger too. And, mostly, I was just stunned.

Twenty minutes later the two women arrived, closed the little window, curled up in the twin bed, and promptly fell asleep. The next morning I left before they woke, so I never actually met the women that were my roommates for four hours, but I doubt I will ever forget them.

Since I was a child, I have heard the stories of Mary, Joseph, and the birth of baby Jesus. When Mary was pregnant, they traveled to Bethlehem and there was no room in the inn. An innkeeper made room for them in the stables. By squeezing them in where there was a bit of space, he provided for a woman who labored and gave birth to a child. Although I have shared my home with many (beds and floors), I have never been woken by strangers in a hotel room. I cannot help but wonder if this was more like the story of Christmas than I had ever before imagined.

Strangers helping. Shared spaces. Confused thoughts. Unknown roommates. Midnight awakenings. Star-filled nights. 

This year, the Christmas story came alive for me, and as I await Epiphany, I keep wondering what it would have been like if I had stayed longer in that windy town in my shared room.

dancing grandma

Posted by pamela on Dec. 15, 11 | 1 COMMENT

Earlier this week I was out in a village where people living with  HIV/AIDS and orphan caregivers were gathered. They come together to encourage one another, to learn, and to stand together. There was one particular woman, a grandma, who just loved to sing and dance her heart out. When I asked to take her photo, she smiled and laughed and made merry. Later, I caught her as she stood inside. Two sides of a woman. I love the second photo, but I wish you could have seen her dance.

a blessing of rain

Posted by pamela on Dec. 13, 11 | 0 COMMENTS

Right now I am in a place that was experiencing a horrible drought. It had been dry for so long. Then the rains came and I keep hearing about blessings. Where there was loose soil, there is grass a foot high. Trees that looked like sticks in the sky are full of leaves. Tanks that were dry are full, and reservoirs that were nearly empty are full to overflowing. The sky is blue; there is not an ever-present haze from dust in the air. As we drove on Saturday, one of the staff from this region, looking out the window, quietly said, “We are so blessed.” On Sunday I visited a Game Park that is on top of the Marsabit mountain, which includes the water source for the town and a crater lake. Everywhere I looked, here were small butterflies in the thousands. They rarely stood still, but instead seemed as if they were dancing in a grand declaration of the blessing, the wonder of rain after drought.

 

This week it seems like the rains have stopped and everyone is holding their breath – will the rains come in April or will this year again skip the long rains? No one knows. So even as the people I am working with plan projects to help protect against future drought, we sit and marvel at today’s blessing of water. It seems perfect that the rains were here before Thanksgiving and that the land speaks of blessing as we prepare for Christmas. As I long for signs of Christmas, I think I have found it here in the green desert.

families of water tanks

Posted by pamthenomad on Dec. 09, 11 | 0 COMMENTS

This blog post was written for Blood:Water Mission. The original post is found here.

On Friday I had the joy of visitings a water tank in Northern Rwanda that was just finished. It is now collecting water for 10 families to use during the dry season that is just about a month away. After talking with a few of the people this tank will serve, we began to walk down the path to our car (our little 4WD could not make it up the final bits of the mountain road/path). As we walked, there was happy talk that was eventually translated for me.

“That tank over there is the grandmother tank.”

“And that one is the mother tank.”

In this community, the tanks have been given family trees. When the first tanks were built, many families shared one tank, carefully rationing the water and hoping to make it through a dry season. As more tanks were built, fewer families shared a tank. And the community, in which children are prized, calls this process one tank giving birth to another. So, on Friday, I saw the grandmother, the mother, and the baby tank. Along with it, a lot of smiling women and children who no longer walk down a mountain to get water from a lake.

The goal for this project is to have each tank serve 10 families, and the last tanks are being built right now to make that possible -  a process that has taken several years. The community provides all the local materials – the stones and wood and labor – to make the project possible. But, they need a lot of cement for each tank – about 54 bags. Would you think about partnering with communities like these? Match their resources with yours to make water projects possible. In doing so, you will change lives this Christmas season. To take part in this campaign, go here.

 

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