Monday, October 15, 2012


     It has been a while since we have been able to update everyone, but we have a good reason.  WE HAVE BEEN BUSY.  In the weeks before flying out, there was scarcely a minute that was not being put to good use.  We were making daily trips to the dump and Goodwill trying to get our house ready for departure, and those trips were accompanied by the also daily trips to Wal-mart, BJ’s Wholesale and the Dollar Store in order to supply ourselves.  In the previous 40 years of my life I never thought I would have to try and figure out how much deodorant I would need for two years.

      At this point I will also offer a bit of advice, in case any of you are thinking of leaving your home for two years: do not try and have your house exterior painted the last week you are in town.  The people working on our home did a wonderful job, but it was an added amount of chaos we didn’t need.  I really wish we had pulled the trigger on that home improvement job about two months earlier. 

      Right now all of you are probably thinking: ‘Joy and Bill are organized professionals, I am sure they were packed and ready to go at least a week ahead of time.’  Oh were it so.  The night before we flew out, we were up to the wee hours of the morning trying to pack our 13 bags plus carry ons.  The interesting thing was there was plenty of space in all the bags, but we kept running up against the weight allowances. In the end, we managed to get most everything packed, and we were ready to go when our ride to Dulles arrived.

     While international flights are never fun (and on a side note, why do they make you troop past the people who get to stretch out on those nice comfy reclining chairs/beds on the way to your cattle car?) our flights went well.  We arrived in the Nairobi airport about 28 hours after we left our home in Richmond.  We were met by one of our neighbors in Tenwek, Dino Crognale,  along with two drivers who were needed to get our stuff and us to the guest house.  Needless to say, we were exhausted.

      The following day, with the help of the Crognales, we went shopping at the Nakamat.  The Nakamat is Kenya’s version of Walmart.  It was an interesting experience shopping to equip a home from scratch, especially a home we had never seen.  In the end, we broke our shopping up into a morning session and an afternoon session, and we probably filled up close to six shopping carts.  We should have tried to get a few pictures of this, but the truth is we were dead on our feet.  After our first day in Nairobi, I think shopping to set up a new home with jet lag and extreme exhaustion should now be considered for status as an Olympic sport, and we never would have medaled without the help of our new friends.

     After another sleepless night in the guest house, it was time to travel to Tenwek.  The last time Joy and I made this trip, it took about five hours over very poorly maintained roads.  I am happy to say that the roads are in much better shape, and the trip only took about 3 ½ hours.  It is a beautiful drive through the Escarpment - think Simba being introduced to all the other animals in the Lion King - and the Rift Valley.  When we last made this trip we saw giraffes walking beside the highway, but this time we only saw a few baboons. Upon our arrival in Tenwek, we were greeted by many of our neighbors, and we had lots of help unloading our new and old possessions.  We were also invited over to various homes for the first several days for meals.  The Tenwek community has truly welcomed us with open arms.

     We have a very nice apartment that we are working hard to make a home.  We have brought lots of pictures of our friends and family that we are going to be hanging everywhere.  It is also nice to be surrounded by our new friends.  It reminds me very much of being back on the Hampden-Sydney campus, where no one was a stranger.  When we walk out of our home, we have two banana trees on either side of the walk, and we look out over the mountain ranges in which Tenwek is nestled.   We are currently in one of the area’s rainy seasons, and there is usually a thunderstorm every afternoon.  However, we have yet to wake up to anything but a beautiful morning.

     Our first full week has gone extremely well.  Joy has been busy at the Hospital.  The OB/GYN service is incredibly busy with all types of cases.  However, she has been blessed with an exceptional Kenyan doctor who has helped her to get her footing and several family doctors, one from New Zealand, who have helped to cover this exceptionally busy service.  The good news is that Joy has been able to come home everyday for lunch to spend time with the family, and she has not been held up at the hospital too late any night.  We would ask you to continue praying for the women of Kenya who Joy is treating, and also to pray that additional doctors will come to provide for these women and their babies.

      In the coming weeks, we will return to Nairobi to obtain our work permits.  Please pray that this does not result in an entire day spent in a government office.  We will also pick up a few things that we only realized we needed after we arrived.  That will be our only excitement for the near future.  We would ask you to pray that Tenwek continues to become more and more like a home to us.  Also pray that we can be good neighbors to those who have already been so good to us, and we can be a good witnesses to each person we encounter along our way.  We have been very blessed by the Lord upon our arrival, and we hope that He is as present in each of your lives.

Until next time,
The Irwins