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Thursday, July 5, 2012

The price of fame

Dear friends - it has been too long! Life has gotten a bit more complicated now that I'm famous. What's that? You weren't aware of my amazing feature film? It was pretty much a blockbuster...everyone's talking about it ..critical acclaim people. I've got agents and managers hounding me for parts now - I may need to stop this blog and start a new more PR style website since my fans will want new material and often.

If you are the one or two people on this planet that have not seen the CNN Africa video that i was featured in - I have pasted the link here for you. If you just want to cut over (that's director language for "skip to") to my scene, scroll to minute 5:57 and then be ready. It hits you pretty quickly. It's sort of a special surprise at the end.

I am currently taking bookings for other major background acting parts - your people can have lunch with my people and discuss.

You know, this is not the first time I have become famous in a foreign country - Let us NOT forget when i was featured front and center in a Guatemala Tennis magazine when I was living there 6 years ago. I actually had no idea it I was famous until I went to the gym one day and one of the trainers asked me if I had seen my page in the magazine...huge deal. HUGE. Very big deal. It took a while for life to get back to normal after this baby was published :

In other news, yesterday was 4th of July and we celebrated appropriately. My little munchkin friend Candice from South Africa just arrived here on the 3rd and we met up with her and her boyfriend, Phil, or PHULL as she says in her adorable SA accent. There was a big bbq happening to welcome Phull and this other guy Keith back from Afghanistan. Good old time. Serg and I enjoyed ourselves thoroughly.

And then later Sergio and I met up with my mom to go see some fireworks from the park around the Iwo Jima memorial. It's one of the best places to view the fireworks - we've gone there in previous years so it's now a 2nd annual...even though we skipped 2 years while we were in Kenya. So more like 2nd non-consecutive annual fireworks viewing thingy dingy.
Before the sun set - clear view of Wash monument and  Lincoln memorial
After the sunset  - Good times with fireworks. Although it was hotter than hell.  Like super hot, I'm not even sure I had that much fun. Lets just be honest here. It was DAMN  hot, we camped in that spot for 3 hours and then saw 15 min of fireworks. Okay now i'll end it with a positive and just say...i really liked the cube looking ones - those were very geometric and visually appealing. I also like the streamers that sort of stream down for a lasting effect. Those are good. And that's all i have to say about it. It took us 1.5 hours to get 2 miles home when the show was over. Damnit! I didn't want to finish on a negative!

Enjoy the day people

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Those "OH Sh!t" Moments

You know what is awesome? I mean, like just really amazing? It's when you wake up early for work, get all dressed, all ready - run out the door at 8:20, make the bus on time, then the metro shows up right when you arrive at the platform - you even get a seat on the train! Then, you get to like 2 stops away from your office - and realize that YOU FORGOT YOUR LAPTOP AT HOME!!
This is more or less what I felt like trying to be calm in that moment:

I like to think he's just saying "shuit, shuit, shuit" over and over - which I'm guessing is "shit, shit, shit" in English
 So then, you get off the train, cross over to catch the one going BACK, which takes 11 minutes to arrive, then you get to the bus stop to catch the bus BACK home - oh! but it doesn't come for another 20 minutes! so, you decided, TO HELL WITH IT! I"M WALKING THE DAMN 1.5 MILES. So you walk the damn 1.5 miles, fast since it's drizzling, you get all sweaty in your work clothes and finally get home 1 hour and 15 after you left that  morning having contributed $5 to the transit authority and 1:15 hours of time to ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.  Good times over all. Here's how I felt ....by 9:30 IN THE MORNING yesterday:

In other news - So, I was at this Bussboys and Poets coffee joint the other night working on some stuff - when something in their little global fair trade shop area caught my eye. It's MY HAT FROM NAIROBI!!!!

THAT SAYS $59.95.  THAT IS USD PEOPLE, not pesos.
AND It truley is my hat from Nairobi - as you can see in my photo below - it's the exact hat, it even has the little bow thing you just cannot see it - and I just turned the brim down but it normaly goes up like the one in the photo above - MY HAT WAS PURCHASED FOR $6 in a market - They are selling it for $60 here!

Unless they actually bought that hat a seat on a commercial airplane to bring it here, I'm just not sure why the mark-up would be 80%! I mean, I get it if you need to sell the hat for $35 or so..MAYBE even $40. But $60. WOW.

Anyways, the moral of the story here is - take a trip to Kenya! Not only will you have the time of your life, but you'll also be able to buy African things for 10% of the cost you'll pay here ;-)

Friday, June 8, 2012

Your commuter question of the day

Here at Lenna Living Lightly, I get a lot of questions from readers about really important things in life - So many of you (read: 2) rely on me to provide sound advice and suggestions to your everyday trials.  So, I'd like to address one such question here - It's something that I know has been on a lot of people's minds out there and I guess I just wanted to help clear the air and settle it once and for all...so here it is:

Question: Can a couple of raw eggs be thrown into a side pocket of your purse and make it through the DC morning public transport commute without breaking?

The answer: YES THEY CAN!

The eggs made it just fine...the banana however was pretty dirty brown by the time I arrived at the office. Moral of the story - that which appears most fragile is often that which is most strong. say whaaaaaat?

Anywho, things have been super busy since I got back and I've been negligent about updating all you readers (both of you) about my departure celebrations and the amazing wedding of the century we attended in Phili the weekend I got back. You'll want to see photos of this wedding..so stay tuned. Here's your cliffhanger..the groom processed to the wedding site while juggling bowling pins and the reception hall had a giant carosel, elephant and tortoise.

In other news..here's what's been going down this week:
I've been trying to find a decent place to live in the most expensive rental market in all the US - Everything is pretty much $2k plus/month and you get basically a closet for a kitchen and no closets at all , and one tiny little bathroom. Here's a photo of clever space saving tricks that you find in this area:

What the WHAT? Something is off here. If I lived here, I'd end up dishwashing my caserole and baking my coffee mugs. It wouldn't be good.
Then, I got to see my cousin Deena and her sweet little babycakes - Simeon. He's the cutest little thang ever! And so is my uncle - well my half uncle since you can only see half of him here:

Me whispering in Simeon's ear - something along the lines of "If you do a number 2 in your diaper while I'm holding you, it's over between us...i dont care how cute you are".  ;-)

Wednesday night, I met up with my gurl Genie - She's one of my favorite people on this planet. We drank Proseco from THE TAP! and ate peporoni dipping sauce at this joint called Graffiatos down by the Verizon Center - Here's how I feel after taking a bite of peporoni dipping sauce at Graffiato:

THEN, Last night I saw my awesome friend Tara that I met in Nairobi. She is in town visiting her hubbie that lives here for now. It was Tara's birthday and we went to this place that Tara and my friend Scott talk about at least a couple times a day - Dairy Godmother in Del Ray - Alexandria. Um, it was good....reeeal good. I'm happy that I don't live close to this joint.

I look a bit beat up - but it was late and I haven't gotten good sleep since they started late night road construction right outside our apartment.
 Thats all I have for you - but as always, more to come.

oooo (those are hugs only, I do not kiss in public)

Friday, June 1, 2012

She's baaaaaack ....

Well I am definitely back in DC. I got a nice reminder this morning - I went outside to catch the bus to the metro for work (metro = DC subway/underground) and so as the first bus approached I sort of got on and asked the driver "does this go to the metro"..to which she just stared at me with a look on her face like she was about to fall asleep just thinking about my presence. So I asked again as I stood in the entry way of the bus with many annoyed commuters watching on, "DOES THIS BUS GO TO THE METRO?".  And again, blank stare...nothing, no response..no sign of life at all. So, I looked at her and said in a generic foriegn accent "NO talky today?"...thank god there was a man standing there in the bus that sort of laughed and was like "you good"..which I guess meant that it was indeed the bus to the metro.  Then the bus driver lady finally sort of grumbled "i'm not awake yet".  Hm. not awake yet. Bus driver not awake yet. Giant vehicle operator NOT AWAKE.  Okey dokey. 

Other reasons I know I'm back in DC:

The Lobby of my office before, complete with President Kibaki
giving you the googly eyes
The lobby now - marble minimalist

My amazing view before with greens and reds and sunshine
and little birdies and big birdies
The view from my office now - the concrete jungle

Office meal before

Office meal now - Bagel Friday (cannot complain)

And perhaps the piece de resistance (read that again with a french accent people!) ....The flavia coffee system in this office. 24 types of coffee and tea to chose from - made fresh by the cup in 15 seconds. This takes the edge off my repatriation depression by a smidge. It's not Java House..but it will do.
 So, yes, I'm back. I'm working on getting caught up with calls and visits - If you are in the DC area and want to be my friend...I"M RECRUITING ;-)


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Out of Africa

For my 100th blog post, nothing could be more apropos than the fact that I’m writing this from the Amsterdam airport during my layover back to the US – my move home. I’ve had 3 hours of sleep and 2 glasses of wine so emotionally driven content level is high. So much has happened in the past couple of weeks – it was pretty bat shit busy for me getting things packed up, saying goodbye to friends, wrapping up personal business, and still working full time etc. I didn’t have much time to sit and write.

Madness preceded this scene. One of me, 8 suitcases, most of which had broken zippers.

I am having a hard time putting into words how amazing the past 2 years in Kenya has been. I know it’s so overdone to come back from some period of being away and claim to be all changed – BS right?...And pretty annoying to most readers. But honestly, sincerely, I do believe people can be deeply changed by their environment and circumstances – but this is not an “I traveled to Africa and now understand the meaning of life” –This has nothing to do with orphans or poverty or anything of the likes ;-) – What this is, is an, ”I stepped away from my normal routine and environment for a couple years and there are things I have realized because of it and the people I have met” story.

Being away from the expectations and pressures of society at home, being away from all my places of habit and conditioned responses and away from all those predetermined roles that I’ve adopted from childhood experiences – and meeting some amazing people who I got to be very close with - I think it sort of enabled me to iinstinctually just be who I am with no trepidation - like an unadulterated version of myself. I think I realized how much I was trying to adapt to societal expectations and stifle my personal statement to fit in in DC – it’s a breath of fresh air to have some clarity. I do feel somehow a bit more pristine and definitely more content – And I’ll say most of these I can attribute to specific people and I am forever grateful - others I learned from the entity that is Nairobi and others just from myself.

So if you’re still reading after all that jibber jabber (sorry) - None of it is earth shattering but here are the things I’ve picked up about myself (or confirmed) and pray to hold on to as I move back to where I was before:

I love wearing big earrings and cheap market jewelry, I’m not really into pearls or Tiffany’s or anything else someone else is already wearing (ME);

Having fewer material possessions piled around you can bring peace and simplicity (Nairobi)

There is so much crap I don’t need out there and if it wasn’t advertised in my face every day, I wouldn’t buy it and I wouldn’t miss it either (Nairobi).

I like to connect with new people , hear their stories and let them in; and I’m gonna smile at you when we pass, even if you grumble back or act like you didn’t notice me (ME);

Whatever’s in my closet is probably sufficient (Nairobi);

I do not worry about whether I look or act “my age”- I will probably feel 25 forever (Graham, Candice, Megan, byu);

I love my long hair and probably wont be getting it cut any time soon;

I love feeling community with the village that I live in (by village I mean, my physical community, neighbors, etc)(Rebecca ,Ndishu, Wilson, Joel, Sandlewood);

There’s nothing wrong with hanging out on Sunday nights even if you have to work the next day (Nairobi) ;

I need a group of people (not necessarily family) that I can call “home” and vice versa (NES friends) ;

I like having an open house policy regardless of how messy the place is or that it means you won’t get your downtime (Nairobi);

Downtime can also mean friend time (byu);

I am socially awkward but it makes people laugh so it’s good (Scott);

I want to be done doing things out of obligation or guilt – it’s being dishonest anyways;

I will air my dirty laundry to a friend I just met and I want them to do the same (Megan/Emma);

Allow Plan A to change if it needs to, even if plan B is not fully in tact (Emma)

I like hearing people sing from the pit of their soul (Rose);

it’s okay to stay out really late once in a while even in your 30s (byu, Rose, Candice);

It’s okay to constantly be trying to figure out what to do with your life and how to get there (Frannie, Megan, ME);

I want to work really hard for something I have incredible passion for, even if I don’t get paid for it (yet ;-);

I want to be someone that makes others feel good about themselves – in the end they will never forget you for it (Ash)

To hell with the schedule, shit will happen (Nairobi);

I have to be authentic – small talk makes me nervous (ME);

I know that each person is fighting their own battle even if their life appears perfect, so I’m gonna stop judging so damn much and start supporting people more (LIFE, Tara);

I’m not the type that sends cards but it makes people feel damn good so I will, not out of obligation but out of love (Byu)

I LOVE making people laugh cause sharing a joke is the easiest way to bridge differences and make you familiar (ME);

I want to be someone that goes out of my way to give someone a ride (Scott);

I want to learn to go out of your way in general, not out of guilt but out of love (also Scott);

Be exactly who you are (also Scott/Megan);

Say yes to doing more stuff (byu);

I want to live a life filled with stories and have friends everywhere - I don’t want life to just be about professional achievements and my immediate family – (for this to happen to have to say yes more as seen above)(Nairobi);

I love talking to a total stranger that crosses my path because so often it has made my entire day (see above “life filled with stories”.. as in buying a beer for a Congolese Catholic Priest at the Airport a few hours ago)(ME);

I am learning that I am self-fulfilled and whole and adequate just as I am on this planet and I must stay grounded to that so my core isn’t shaken every time life changes or someone casts judgment or hurts me (Daksha)(ok this one is a process..but I guess these are all processes) –

So, that’s it. I mean, that's not it - it's just what I have figured out so far. It was a pleasure sharing my Nairobi experience with you all over the past 2 years on this blog. I'll post some photos later of the past two weeks and the relocation experience.

Thanks to all of you in Nairobi that made it home. I miss you guys.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

My visit to Springs of Hope Children's Home

Okay, back to last Saturday because I really wanted to tell you guys about Springs of Hope Children's Home.

This amazing place is home to 37 orphaned and/or vulnerable children that have no other alternative place to live. There are countless childrens homes/orphanages in Kenya, but I have NEVER seen one that is as nice and well run as this one.  Molly Mitchel Bail, fellow American,  is a missionary and Director of SOHK. She has built this children's home into something that is so inspiring and filled with LOVE. Immediately upon visiting, the joy is almost tangible. The kids were running around playing, some were taking karate lessons, and some were sitting in the grass giggling with each other. What I love about visiting this place is that the kids are completely unphased by muzungu - In many homes, having a visitor means the kids have to line up and do a little introduction thing and like recite things. I hate that. And when you are a whitey - they will flock to you or stare or they get scared. Not at SOHK. Here they could care less if you are visiting - they are too busy doing their thing and I'm pretty sure Molly has let them know that when people come through, they should just keep right on playing and they don't need to stand at attention or anything unnecessary like that. It's just so natural and really feels like a HOME.
Here's some photos:
The drive out there - it's just breathtaking. Really the colors are just vibrant. Greens and blues and Red tile roofs. I will miss these views.

View from Springs of Hope - looking over Nakuru

The house! It's amazing - like a million times better than any children's home I've seen here.
Karate Classes! The instructor is on the Kenyan national team! How cool is that?

The kids were adorable

The dining hall and living room - it looks like a safari lodge. Growing up away from any family sucks, but if you are lucky enough to get placed here, you will get love, 5 meals a day, a beautiful house and good TLC.

Very nice bathrooms - one side for girls and one for boys

And this is little Mike -he's the youngest one there - probably 2, they aren't quite sure. I followed the story about his mom around 3 months ago  - she passed away from complications of HIV - she was pretty young - maybe 15.  There was a big search for any remaining family and they found no one. He is the cutest little thing ever - and it's a sad sad thing, especially how they found him just there next to his mother sort of wasting away in her little mud room - but the fact that he is at SOHK is blessing. He's thriving there. Everyone looks after him - He's the baby. And the good news is he is HIV negative, which is just huge.

Meal Time at SOHK

They have their own PARK! Finding a park anywhere is impossible but these kids have their own park! And  i've heard that kids from that area get to come over and play since a park is a pretty awesome luxury. SOHK also does feeding programs for kids in the area that need assistance.

View from the parking lot of the park.
What I love about this place is that Molly and the staff are more than just feeding and clothing these kids. They are offering them a well rounded childhood - with love, activities, stimulation, nice surroundings they can take pride in, and they are offering them dignity and respect as children. I love it. If you want to help, your contribution is much needed.  Molly is constantly trying to raise funds since sending all these kids to school, feeding them, getting many of them needed medical treatment, and providing activities costs a ton of money. SOHK also does a ton of community outreach in Nakuru for other children that need assistance. If you are looking for a great place to support - THIS IS IT. You can visit too - they like visitors. Here's more info: http://springsofhopekenya.org/

Friday, May 11, 2012

1000 Diapers for Joytown Primary School! SHARE LOVE!!

Hi guys – There has been a brief interruption in my review of last Saturday’s activities because a competing priority has reared its head. About 2 or 3 months ago, I attended a Rotary Club big giant Sunshine Fun day that was held for children with disabilities in Nairobi and in towns around the circumference.  I haven’t written about it because honestly, finding words to describe it to actually transfer the vivid images in my mind from that day over to you –it’s just impossible.I know this blog is long but please try to read through and then watch the 2 min video at the end. This post is about Joytown Primary School for the physically and mentally handicapped and a very very easy way you can make a HUGE difference.

Being disabled in Kenya is whole other thing.  In most cases, you are discriminated against, ostracized from your family/village, and forced to live in a world that has zero accommodations for people like you.  No wheel chair ramps, no sidewalks, no handicap buses, no handicap bathrooms (if you can find a bathroom). Finding a job is close to impossible.  Furthermore, for the most part, people do not have discretion when they see things that are different than them. They stare and they point.  And they do not always accept people with disabilities as being part of main stream society. (okay, this is not just a phenomenon in Kenya – I think we in the US have a ways to go on this too).   And top of it all YOU ARE A CHILD!   Maybe abandoned by your family because of your disability, maybe not, but definitely stared at constantly, made fun of by people that see you, and ostracized in the community. There aren’t enough care facilities or special schools for these kids  or even staff and the conditions in many of the places are crazy substandard – even for Kenya. The cost to take care of kids with disabilities is astronomical and so these places do what they can but it’s often not enough to meet basic needs. Medical treatment is not available for everyone and most can’t afford it anyways. It’s just a sad situation. 

So, on Rotary Fun day various schools for kids with disabilities loaded up their kids on buses and brought them to this stadium place in Nairobi for the day. It was not a big giant fair day by our standards. It was basically just some stands that the kids could sit in and watch a few clowns on the field, see  a guy walking on stilts and hear music being played and get some milk and muffins.  No interaction really – but it was still really fun for the  kids and something new and different than their normal routine and setting.  Kids that could, danced and clapped and there was an MC that had them laughing and singing. Here's some photos of the day:
Setting up

Crazy Sergeant Clown

little cuties waiting for the potties

Machakos School for the Deaf - these guys looked fancy. Very nice uniforms, etc

Entertainment Dancers and drummers

 Busses pulling in

Some schools, like Joytown School, a Salvation Army founded institute,  had more seriously disabled kids that had mobility issues. It was clearly one of the more severely financially challenged schools and the kids had more needs than many of the other schools.  But these kids were amazing. Everyone helped each other get up into the stands – the kids that used crutches helped the ones with wheelchairs and the ones with wheelchairs helped the other ones in wheelchairs..i mean seriously.  These are KIDS!  I mean, they still giggle and have fun and you see they were just happy to be there.  It broke my heart and warmed it at the same time.  Their resilience was just striking.  These are God’s kids you know? I mean, really – it’s incredible what they are born with and go through.
Joytown Kids

The clowns sort of traveled around the stands making the kids laugh..or scaring them half to death depending on how you feel about clowns
Let me get down to the point here. These kids need new equipment and the school needs stuff.  I saw one little girl using a lawn chair with some wheels that had been rigged to it. Other kids had chairs that were just falling apart…kids had pieced together crutches and everything was just old and decrepit.  I didn’t take pictures because I wanted to be discreet but I knew I would need some in order to try and seek some help from the outside.
I spoke to the Director of the school and he says yes, they could use some wheelchairs but one of the main priorities is diapers for the kids.  As you can imagine, a school like Joytown, with over 300 kids, must go through TONS of diapers. So, I have been in contact with the wholesaler of the adult diapers that I am to buy - And I have some funds set aside, my own funds and some other from my family, etc.  But, these diapers cost about $25 for a box of 30.  So, our money doesn't go very far with prices like that. 
Many of you expressed that you would like to help in whatever way after I closed the fundraiser for Mwikali's school fund.  This is a genuine and direct opportunity for you to support these kids. I would like to set a goal of 1000 additional diapers beyond what the money I already have set aside can buy.  At say 4 diapers a day (i dont know) that's pretty much just taking care of one kid for the year..but that's something.

Here's a quick video I found on youtube that someone put together about the school. It really shows you more about the place:

 So, if you want to donate one pack of diapers ($25) or whatever you can do, I have set up the you caring account again, (click on that link) until Tuesday or if you are familiar with paypal you can just send it to my paypal at lenna41678@hotmail.com. That account is only used for this and Mwikali's fund and I know exactly how much is there right now for Mwikali - so anything that goes in over that is for the Joytown kids.

Let's get them 1000 diapers by Tuesday! WE CAN DO IT!! (I'm leaving soon and need to wrap it up quickly!) If you have any questions, just email me.