Archive for March 2010

Walking in Rotterdam

March 17, 2010

On Tuesday, I had the opportunity to go for a walk in Rotterdam.  Joop had meetings at his college all afternoon.  We went shopping together in the morning.  Margo and Joop are hosting a family reunion this weekend and so Joop was getting food for that.   We walked to the market.  It was a small open air market, situated in a square not too far from their home.  This market only occurred on Tuesdays.  The five vendors all stated that they sold organic goods only.  Joop brought his own cloth bags, and we carried his purchases back to the house.

Later, I went out.  I walked to the train station and took a tram south to the water front.  I walked along the water front and into a large park next to the Euromast.  I traveled by tram west to Delshaven.  This area is quite old, one of the few areas not destroyed in the war.  It was from here that the Pilgrims left the Netherlands in the early 1600s in the Speedwell to go back to England to board the Mayflower and make off for the New World.  I had lunch in an old cafe on the water.  After lunch, I walked back to the house.

Before dinner, Bregje and I had a conversation about her work and how she was feeling.  I was surprised when her brother, Hidde, appeared to tell us it was time for dinner.  Hidde is an artist/musician.  He has been a very interesting person to visit with on my previous visits.  Over a dinner of leftovers, we had a very spirited discussion about the meetings Joop had at his college.  I discovered that his college is considered a Christian college.  Our discussion centered on how Christianity has been coopted as a political concept for the purpose of competing with Islam or for marketing purposes.

I felt quite comfortable in joining this conversation, which at times turned into a quite heated discussion.  Hidde was representing the position of a tolerant free-thinking Durchman who is disappointed that his culture is being changed by new immigrants who have brought intolerant ways with them and also by a newly emerging and in his view, strident Christianity, which seeks to be as discriminating in its public and moral life as Islam.  Joop’s position was one of a pragmatic, nominal Christian, who argued that the college, if considered Christian should display certain behaviors consistent with the standards implied by the foundation made claim to.

My primary point was to discuss the role of relationships in the life of a Christ-follower, attempting to distinguish the life and thought of a follower of Christ from the political system named Christianity in Hidde’s worldview.  I contrasted the commitment and working of George Fox University in that we seek to only employ those persons who can clearly acknowledge and demonstrate their relationship with the Living Christ; with Joop’s Albeda College, which is a different animal altogether.

After Hidde and Bregje departed, Joop and I finished the evening by reviewing my Parallel Role and Function Theory of Higher Education.  Joop listened as I presented this model which I hope to use as a basis for an upcoming conference presentation.

Delft and Den Hague

March 17, 2010

On Monday, Joop took me to Delft and The Hague by car.  Both of these cities are much older than Rotterdam in their layout and architecture.  Rotterdam was very heavily bombed during World War Two and the core city was mostly rebuilt after that.  In these other two cities, I saw many old buildings.  In Delft, we went to visit two very old churches.  Both now have small gift shops and seem to be primarily tourist attractions.  In the newer church, many members of the Dutch royal family are buried.  I received a mini-lesson today from Joop on Dutch history as we visited the churches.  From Delft, we traveled to The Hague, which is the location of the Dutch Parliment and ministerial offices.  The government buildings were grouped together around a very old central building which was the original chamber.  We had a cup of coffee in a cafe on the main town square and later had chips and croquettes in a lunch place in the commercial district.

This commercial district was mostly accessible to pedestrians only, with street after street of shops and many people walking to and fro.  I suppose in some regard, American planners copy this look when they build some shopping centers in the United States, if you have been to a center with “quaint” shops, and winding, narrow lanes made with blocks or bricks, you will be in a place that has been developed with the European feel.

On Sunday night, Bregje joined us for dinner.  I gave her the Gap hoodie that I had found for her and she was very pleased.  She shared with me her film work in art school.  Both of her parents told me that she was making good progress.  On Monday night, it was only Margo and Joop and I.  We had a sourkraut and potato pie dish which was quite good.  Joop and I discussed his work and our mutual interest in the use of computing technologies in education.

Amsterdam Friends

March 16, 2010

On Sunday, I met with Friends in Amsterdam.  About two years ago, while in the Netherlands, I traveled to Amsterdam to attend the Friends Meeting for Worship.  I arrived in Amsterdam at 5:00 am this past Sunday, and so I decided to return to this meeting.  I stowed by suitcase in a locker at the airport and made my way to the Meeting House.  I had the address and a vague memory of where the meeting house was located.  The service person at the train station was able to tell me to take a certain tram from the Amsterdam Central train station to get me to the museum district, where the meeting house is.

At about 8:00, I arrived in the museum district.  I walked to the meeting house and discovered that the meeting started at 10:30. I had time to walk around the district.  It was very quiet.  I spent time in Vandel Park, a very large park that was adjacent to the street that the Friends meeting house was located on.  I went by the Van Gogh museum and the Rijks Museum.  I searched for a cafe, but on Sunday morning, nothing was open.

I returned to the meeting house shortly after 10:00.  There were several people there.  I was greeted by a gentleman who had been at the meeting I attended in 2008.  While another fellow prepared coffee, I went into the meeting room and found a seat.  About 15 people were in attendance at the meeting.  There was no introduction, no greeting and no centering remarks.  We sat in silence.  One man gave vocal ministry in Dutch.  After the meeting closed with the traditional handshake, the clerk asked us if anyone had additional thoughts to share.  Marianne, a woman who I had met two years ago spoke, first in Dutch and then shared with me in English what she had said.  She spoke of that fact that the Quaker tree has many branches and we are all different birds in those branches.

I had a chance to introduce myself and everyone actually introducted themself to me at the conclusion of the meeting.  I was pleased to speak with several Friends after the meeting.  I was also invited to lunch.  We walked from the meeting house to a cafe that was situated within the building that contained the film museum in Amsterdam.  This was the Vertigo Cafe.  We had a nice lunch and a nice visit.  Paul, who grew up in India, offered to give me a ride to the train station.  I gladly accepted, and after a ride of about 40 minutes, I arrived in Rotterdam.

As luck would have it, Joop and Margo were not home, although I met them on the street as I was walking to a local cafe to wait for them.  they were riding their bikes home from the opening of their son-in-law’s photorgraphic exhibition.  It was very good to see my friends, and the Rotterdam segment of my visit was now in full swing.

Eldoret was out, Chevakali was burned, Kisumu was the Place

March 16, 2010

While still in Newberg, I reserved a ticket with Jetlink, a Kenyan regional airline, to carry me from Eldoret to Nairobi to get me back on the path toward home. Once we got to Kenya and conversed with John, it became clear that to fly out of Kisumu was a better option.  At the conclusion of our workshop in Bungoma, we needed, then, to return to Kisumu.  We drove back to the Golf Hotel in Kakemega that evening.  Yes, there is a golf course there, and indeed I saw three courses in Kenya, one in Kisumu, one in Nairobi and the one next to our hotel in Kakemega.

I woke early on Saturday.  While sitting in the backyard of the hotel, I prayed and reflected on the past several days.  It was a peaceful place and a peaceful time.  A large Maribu Stork walked over near where I was sitting and we watched each other for a few minutes until a hotel employee walked by and the large bird took to the air and flew off to the east.  I had a very light breakfast with John and Eloise.  John asked us if we wanted to go to the forest and Eloise said yes and so off we went.  The Kakemega Forest is a Kenyan reserve of tropical rain forest.  The drive itself was lovely.  We arrived at a resort within the boundaries of the park.  John arranged a guided tour for us and our guide, a young woman named Caroline, took us off into the forest.

Along the way we saw monkeys and birds and a lot of butterflies.  The forest reminded me quite a bit of the Pacific Northwest rain forest.  Moss and ferns was plentiful, and the foliage was dense.  It was dry in the forest and we made good progress along a well-established trail.  We came to a steep area in the trail, as we were ascending a volcanic outcropping.  About halfway up the hill, we stopped at a cave that had been made in the side of the hill by people looking for gold a number of years ago.  I became very light headed and could not go on.  I sat for awhile as my colleagues proceeded up the hill.  Caroline told me to go down the hill, returning to the place where the trail re-entered the forest and wait for them.  I figured I was dehydrated and weak from having eaten little at breakfast, but for whatever reason, I was not willing to chance the ascent and so I went back to the forest and waited.

The forest was quiet and lovely.  The Kenyan government protects it from loggers, poachers and other activities that would encroach on the natural beauty of the rain forest.  The organization that our guide worked with is a group that trains the guides, and then profits by their earnings in returning a portion of what tourists pay to a conservation fund.  This fund provides opportunity for local people to receive seedlings of the native trees to plant in their own areas, among other activities.

While at the resort area, after our walk, we met an American couple that was just leaving to return to their home in Paris, France.  They had spent several days in the forest at the end of a Kenyan trip, supporting several schools which provided for the education of orphans.  We also met two people from the Friends Theological College in   Kaimosi, Kenya.

On our way back to Kisumu, we stopped in Chevakali.  We had spent several days here last August as part of our curriculum development workshops trip.  During that trip, my wife Debbie had made friends with a couple who owned a small shop and also served as pastors in the community.  Debbie asked me if I might be able to find Lawrence and Zippy.  I was not sure if we would even pass through that area, but we did.  John was glad to help me attempt to find them.  We asked around and someone directed us to a burned out building across the street.  Debbie had shared with me that the Omega’s had had a fire in their shop, but I was not expecting this.

The building was completely destroyed.  Nothing remained of the shops and homes that had been there.  The front walls were charred and many of the blocks from the stucture were littering the ground.  A neighboring merchant told John that Lawrence and Zippy had returned with nothing to their home region.  Everything they had was destroyed in the fire.  I asked if their home area was nearby and John told me no.  With somewhat of a heavy heart, I returned to the truck and we proceeded southward, toward Kisumu.

The Friends Secondary Educators Workshop

March 15, 2010

John Muhanji planned a great workshop for the educators. Over three days, we interacted with about 60 educators. Eloise and I were responsible for four sessions out of a total of nine. John had the Provincial Director of the Ministry of Education as the keynote speaker, an Educational Co missioner as the closing speaker, as well as a quality assurance officer from the Ministry of Education. In addition, a professor from a local university addressed strategic planning and a school finance expert dealt with the principal’s role in school budget management. Eloise presented two sessions on conflict resolution along with a review of the peace and reconciliation curriculum project. I presented a session on trust as a key component of leadership, along with a session on a model for vision and action in leadership. I also facilitated a conversation on academic creaming which turned into a very important element, as John was very interested in getting feedback from the principals and other leaders on his plan to develop a network of support for helping each school improve in their academic output.

Throughout the three day conference, there was a lot of conservation among the participants and a good atmosphere of congeniality. Our hosts at the Bungoma Tourist Hotel did a fine job of keeping us supplied with water, and with food and drinks during the meal and break times. We had Kenyan tea at breakfast, and with tea, in the late afternoon. We had chicken, ugali and vegetables for lunch and dinner, served with bottled soda (Coke products). Also, during break times, and during several lengthy debriefing sessions with John, Eloise and I discussed with him next steps.

I would say that this workshop was a strong success. With the quality of presentations, the great interaction, and the general sense of resolve and enthusiasm, John deemed this to be the best workshop that he had organized to date. He believes that gradually he is earning the trust of the Ministry of Education, as well as building the strength of the relationships among the Friends schools. It is apparent to me that John’s vision far exceeds his grasp. I am now reflecting on how we might be of further service to him. It does seem that a key piece of the puzzle is to help John fund an education director position working out of his office. We discussed how much would be needed to do this (not much according to American standards) and what the scope of responsibilities would be for the person who would eventually occupy this position. Finally, we discussed the possibility of seeking external funding to help further the project along.

On a parallel track, Eloise and John spoke about what type of tasks might be accomplished by an additional visit by Eloise in July. I reviewed with John my requests for data on the Friends Schools’ test results. We sketched out a research project that would seek to identify high performing schools (based on growth in student achievement, not final output). Overall, this was a tremendous blessing for me and well worth the effort of those participating.

The Best Laid Plans

March 15, 2010

On Wednesday, we arrived at the Bungoma Tourist Hotel in Bungoma Western Province at about 4:00 pm, after spending most of the day at the Mabenga Agricultural Technical Center (MATC). We left the Golf Hotel in Kakemega about 9 am and drove a terrible road for awhile until we joined the main east-west highway running between Mombasa and Kampala. Mombasa is the key port of eastern Africa and therefore many large trucks move westward from the coast, through Nairobi and Eldoret, and on to the Ugandan border and to Kampala. From there, points to the south and west in Rwanda and Burundi are also destinations. This highway was much better than the lesser road we had been on. Interestingly, the left hand side of the road was somewhat depressed and rutted as all the heavy traffic was westbound. The trucks coming back were usually empty, as there wasn’t too much in Uganda or the smaller nations that was being trucked back to the coast. We passed numerous fuel, cargo and container trucks on this road.

On Tuesday, the day we left Kisumu to come to the Western Province, John had been contacted by the Principal of the MATC. She told John that she had overbooked space at her Center and would not have room to accommodate the 100 people that John expected to be there. She suggested that John relocate his event (on one day’s notice). John told her that was unacceptable and that we were coming and therefore she better be ready for us. We arrived at the lovely site of the MATC in mid morning on Wednesday (10-March). This is an agricultural training center where farmers come in for short courses in a variety of techniques and enterprises. The Center also serves as a meeting site for numerous other groups. John and Eloise and I met with the Principal, Madame X (we were never introduced to one another). While Eloise and I sat, John and the Principal engaged in a polite game of subtle negotiation. John inquired about what was happening at the Center, when would our meeting room be established and how many people could be accommodated there. I was not quite sure after the meeting as to our status. John seemed to think that we would be moving into a meeting room at lunch that was being used by another group.

As a result of this meeting, we were given a small meeting area to use as a registration center. Eloise and I assisted Judy (John’s assistant) and Henry (a Yearly Meeting Education Secretary) in the preparation of registration packets. After the set up was complete, I went for a walk on the grounds. I met Dick Filippo, the Farm Manager. He told me about the operation of the Center and how they worked the ground, cared for demonstration animals and offered training for the farmers. I enjoyed my visit and told Dick that I would come back for a tour later in the week.

AT 11:00, we took tea in the dining hall. About five participants had shown up. We sat around, and one by one, additional participants had shown up. At about 1 pm, it was apparent to John that space was not going to open up. I sat in on a strategy session he had with Henry and James, another Educational Secretary. John told James and Henry to manage the participants while he made other arrangements. John knew a professor whose husband owned a hotel in Bungoma, about 20 minutes away from us by car. John spoke with this man, the owner of the Bungoma Tourist Hotel and he agreed that he had conference space and accommodations for 75 people. John conferred with the participants, who by now numbered about 35.

Once the decision was made to move the workshop, John and James and Henry worked at organizing rides. We posted signs, I informed the security guard, the office and kitchen staff that we were moving. I remained behind with a group of about one dozen. John would come back for us after everyone was situated in the new locale and the luggage was removed from the back of the truck. Our group of twelve moved to the highway and waited. While standing there, our group grew by several as a couple of more participants were hailed by ones in our group. One of these was a woman who had arrived on the back of a bicycle taxi. They joined us in waiting. One lady came by in a big Mercedes sedan and took four of our party. That left about 10 of us waiting for John to return. He finally came. Henry and I got in the back, along with another man, and all the rest were able to get in the front of the truck.

So, upon arriving at the Bungoma Tourist Hotel, with our numbers growing to about 40, we had lunch at 4:00 pm and began our workshop. I received this day another lesson in being fluid and making adjustments in plans.

Baling Wire and Duct Tape, Kenyan Style

March 15, 2010

My good friend and our host, John Muhanji, is the Director for Africa Ministries for the Friends United Meeting (F.U.M.). John is a rare and incredible man. He has the integrity of a Quaker, heart of a pastor, the vision of an artist or prophet, the practical sense of a successful entrepreneur, the handy skills of a farmer and the good humor of a man who loves life and loves people. It is my joy and a great blessing to know him and to work with him. I have learned much from John and I hope to continue to work with him.

On the eve of our workshop in the Bungoma area, John had us spend the night at a nice place in Kakemega called the Golf Hotel. This hotel is close to western resort standards. The accommodations were nice and the food in the restaurant was superb. I had goat curry and ugali for dinner. It was very good.

As we traveled in the blue truck, a very old and worn Toyota, John detected an issue and pulled over. A minute later he came back and got some baling wire out of the glove box. I got out to take a look at what he was doing. It seems that the mounts that held the radiator in place had broken off and the radiator was sort of hanging in place. Due to this situation, the radiator was pushing back on the fan and causing it to chip and stall. John made the repair by tying the radiator back to the frame of the engine compartment with the baling wire. Mission accomplished. We heard many similar stories about this truck and the need to repair it. Fortunately, John is very close to getting a new truck. Through the efforts of F.U.M., a new truck is waiting for him at the port of Mombassa and he will be going there soon to pick it up. As the director for Africa ministries, John has two pieces of equipment which are essential, his hand-held phone/computer and his vehicle. Communications and transportation technologies are helping John serve Friends in Kenya most effectively.