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I have some fun little stories for you.

On Valentine’s Day I went to a Maasai wedding for two adventurous Americans. I got to watch the bride have milk spit on her feet and grass tucked into her sandals, and I listened to the debate over how many cows the groom owes her family. (Isn’t that a fun question – how many cows are YOU worth?) Here they are in their wedding attire:

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To prepare for the wedding feast, I watched a sheep be slaughtered and helped skin a goat. Seriously. I have evidence, but I don’t want to make anyone vomit, so here is the least gross picture I have of that.

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Its only not gross because the critter was still alive. You’re welcome.

Let’s talk about something cute for a second. I entertained this kid with selfies. It was a pretty adorable.

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What is not so adorable is learning that kids here, at least the ones in the slums and in the bush, don’t exactly wear diapers. The boy above was soaked all over. I held him for about an hour and just mentally told myself it was water. A cute 4 month old near the Mara peed while sitting on my lap. There is literally baby urine on every pair of pants I brought right now. I’m waiting for a sunny day so I can wash them. You’re jealous, aren’t you? It is what I get for always wanting to hold the munchkins. You would think I would learn my lesson.

See the guy on the far right in the wedding photo? His name is Victor, and he came back from the Maasai Mara to Nairobi with us. Yesterday we went shopping at a fancy mall. It felt like America, and I was a little in awe. So was Victor, but for very different reasons. We went up an escalator, me first and Victor behind. I turned around when I got off the top to see him LEAPING over the last few steps. His eyes were huge, and he asked me if those things ever eat peoples’ legs. After that reaction, I took him in a glass elevator just for fun. He was very brave, but when we got home he told me it was a very long and tiring day full of things that could kill him. It’s pretty ironic since he grew up with lions, leopards, cheetas, buffalo, and black mambas. It’s all about perspective I guess.

I felt a little guilty for how scared he was, so I bought us an American lunch. It was my first pizza in a month! It’s even from Pizza Inn. It definitely didn’t taste as good as it does at home, but any pizza is delicious after a month without it.

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That is Pato with Victor in the photo. Pato has had pizza before because he is almost always with the white people in Nairobi, and at some point those white people usually want pizza. He says we can eat a lot of it. It’s true. I am unashamed to say I ate more than either of the guys. They thought it was good but very heavy on the stomach and were still not hungry at dinner last night. They said if they ate like that every day they would be very fat. I said welcome to America.

I have two more weeks of adventures to go!

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Hello from Kenya!

I have been here for over two weeks, and I have lots to share. This post is going to be a bundle of random. Enjoy!

So far I have been mostly staying in Kibera, a slum in Nairobi. The house is decent – high living with a toilet and a shower – but we are in the slums. It’s like walking around in one of those commercials where they show sad kids playing in trash and tell you that you can feed them for less than a dollar a day. The difference is those kids always have puppy eyes. The kids here are always laughing and playing happily.

The first time I walked through the slums, I fell in a hole. I won’t tell you what was in the hole. Honestly I didn’t want to investigate that too thoroughly myself. I’ll let you use your imagination. The hole was lined with metal sheeting, so I bruised my knee really bad and got a nice scratch on my leg. Evidence:

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Basically I am an idiot. The bruise is still there, but the scratch is finally healed. There was a moment where it got puffy and red, and I got a little panicky about what bacteria was making its new home in my leg… but all is well now.

To me, the most interesting part of the story is the reaction of those around me. I was with a local outside of a house I had just visited. I was just embarrassed for being so clumsy, but they all sprang into action to take care of me. One guy fished my shoe out of the, uh, muck and took it to a woman washing clothes to be cleaned. Another brought me a wet rag to clean off my leg. Someone else stood there to help me stand on one foot. I was so well taken care of. Maybe it was just because i’m white, and they were frightened. I don’t know. I would love to know what they secretly thought of this idiot white girl who doesn’t know to look at the ground when she walks!

I went to the Maasai Mara for just a few days, which is officially one of my new favorite places. It is gorgeous. Evidence:

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I saw some awesome birds, a poisonous lizard, a dikdik, and some zebras, but you’ll have to wait on photos of that. What I can show you know is this – bones!

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I felt like Simba exploring an elephant graveyard, only instead of being chased by hyenas I had a little crowd of Maasai kids running after me. They loved my camera and really wanted
to touch my skin, but they wouldn't do it when I was looking at them even if I held out my hand. They would only do it when I wasn't looking because, you know, obviously I can't feel that. It was cute. This is some of them.

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For those wondering what work I’m actually doing, one of the things I did was play photographer a bit for these photos to protest the trophy hunt for the black rhino in Namibia. I think they look pretty awesome. Example:

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And I have another story for you about work I tried to do. I am a little nervous about telling it because I don’t want to offend anyone, but it’s important to me. Listen openly, please.

I went to a room in the slums yesterday where a woman runs a daycare. She calls it an orphanage, but in the Western sense of the word that’s not true. She takes care of children during the day so their mothers can work. Daycare. The room was about the size of maybe two cubicle offices. When I was there she had 15 kids that were from baby to toddler range – too young to be in school. They were dirty and adorable and at first I was really excited to be there.

I sat down and the bravest kid, a little boy about two, climbed onto my lap. I was trying to play with him, but she wouldn’t stop talking to me about all the wonderful things she’s done. She wanted me to see photos of kids she’s helped over the years that are now at university. She wanted me to look at how many names were in a notebook of children she helps. She wanted me to see how she uses her purse as an office. She wanted to complain about their tiny space and tell the story of how she has no money for a bigger one. She wanted me to praise her and feel sorry for her and open up my wallet.

Maybe she deserves those things, but while I was there, that boy I was holding got bored and got down out of my lap. And he fell on that concrete floor and bumped his head. And when I tried to get to him to love on him (walking in a tiny room with 15 toddlers takes some navigational skills), she stopped me and got frustrated that I wasn’t paying attention to her photos! She physically tuned me away from him – a child crying in pain – to look at her.

Before I left, I was told a story about how on Judgement Day everyone will be asked what they’ve done with their life and God will need an answer. I was told to consider my legacy and what I wanted it to be if I died tomorrow. I was literally told to remember Mother Theresa and try to be like her. I can not fully describe how much it sickened me. I want to help kids, but telling me to help you so God will love me is a really ineffective way to gain my trust.

I left there feeling so nauseous. When I got home I ate some of my cracker stash meant for when I’m carsick to get the bad taste out of my mouth and read Harry Potter (my comfort object for homesick days) to escape my angry thoughts.

Here’s the thing: I have been in a few slum houses now, and although they DO make me sad, it does not occur to their owners that it would be weird for me to be in a little room with four sets of bunk beds with walls of sticks and mud and metal sheeting for the roof. That’s how they live. They aren’t expecting my sympathy. This woman, though, has learned to play the pity card, and it felt inauthentic, rude, and annoying.

There are other places I can go, and I will. I hope that’s the last time I get that kind of attention. It probably won’t be, but let a girl dream.

Thanks for listening. Most of my experiences here have been so positive, but that was the one I needed to get off my chest!

It is officially mid-January, and I can not believe the Spending Freeze is over!

I can’t believe it so much, it took me seven days into January before I could talk myself into buying anything. I even went shopping, but I left the stores (MULTIPLE stores) empty-handed. In the end, the first thing I purchased was a delicious breakfast for myself and a friend starting her own spending freeze. I could not have planned that to be more perfect.

Since then, I’ve let myself eat out a whole whole lot compared to all of last year, mostly because January involved a trip home where all my favorite restaurants are located. Mid City, Amigos, and Pal’s are all required, even if that means eating more than three meals a day. Other than food, though, I really have not spent much in 2014, and I find myself walking away from so many items in stores that I would have bought without question a year ago. It is weird and wonderful.

I spent a lot of time this past year thinking about money, learning how to make use of budgeting software, reading finance books, and searching for ways to cut corners in my expenses. The biggest thing I noticed is that we have a giant taboo over talking about money. The first time I tallied my total savings for the whole year, I was really proud of myself. Shortly afterward, I started to wonder how much other people manage to save in a year. Had I done enough? Should I justify my total savings by showing how much I made last year? (Trust me, it wasn’t much.) They were silly thoughts, I know. I finally came to my senses. But I stand by my point.  We should not be so hesitant to talk about money and learn from each other.

In November, I had a few car setbacks, but managed to save $250.

In December, I only put one person on my Christmas list, and combining that with some extra holiday pay, I saved $424.

That means that my total savings for the year (even including that one month I had to dip into savings) is: $4,441.

I am blown away. I did not know it was possible to put back that much money in one year on my income. This year is going to be full of excitement and adventure, but it will still be full of savings too. I may not do a full out spending freeze, but I will never spend money the same way again.

I am leaving for Kenya today – TODAY! – and I am leaving you with this selfie I took while giving blood in order to get two free movie tickets, sticking to my Spending Freeze ways.

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I mentioned last time that I’ve started a second job, and I believe I told you it was the best job in the world.

It is.

I get to spend my mornings hanging out with this little stud, and he’s awesome.

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Did you see those dimples? Swoon. It is legitimately difficult to tell him goodbye when he smiles like that.

One thing this job means, though, is that four days a week I am working with that adorable bundle of awesomeness for five hours, then going to my regular job where I hang out with more kids, for a grand total of 15 hours out of the house. Working that much requires a lot of preparation. My off days now HAVE to involve cleaning the house, running any necessary errands, laundry, and all that stuff I would rather pretend didn’t exist. I’ve told you how I don’t buy any fast food (or any food/drinks) out and about. Well, I now pack breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks in advance on Sunday. I also pick out my outfits and have them ready to go for the week. If that’s normal for you, I stand in awe of your amazing organization. It is not normal for me, but I am doing it. Every time I do, I feel like I deserve a gold medal. Seriously, where’s my medal?

Can this schedule be really tiring? Heck yes. However, so is being a mom 24 hours a day, and I like to think of this these few months as my ultra training for motherhood. I should be magnificent by the time I have my own little ones, right? That’s what I tell myself. Don’t correct me.

I have forgotten my Dr.Pepper pick-me-up once though, and that was a loooong day. I’ve also forgotten salad dressing and had a really disappointing dinner of mostly spinach. I’ve left my breakfast sitting on the counter twice. I’m not perfect, but I’m trying!

The hardest part of the Spending Freeze the whole time has been deciding what is a need and what is a want. Sometimes I get it wrong, like when I felt I should buy the $15 bottle of shampoo over the $3 one. Sometimes it’s hard to convince yourself to stick to the principles of not buying drinks at a gas station when you work a 15 hour day and forgot your Dr.Pepper at home. And then sometimes you have the time to drive to Pensacola for an important night in a friend’s life, and you decide to go because it will be relatively cheap, the only “vacation” you’ve had all year, and fun. Maybe it shouldn’t be considered a need, but you do it anyway. You don’t regret it. You have a blast, and you get a picture of your best tourist self:

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So that trip ate into my September savings a little, but I do not regret that decision. It was so much fun.

I’ve been asking people for help on how to reign in my spending even more, and my darling sister told me I should limit my shower time. Standing in a hot shower, especially on a cold morning, is one of life’s little luxuries that I do not take for granted. I appreciate it daily by standing in the shower for as long as possible. My cue to get out of the shower is when the hot water starts to run out. I’m only partially exaggerating.

I looked it up, and (according to a site with absolutely no scientific credibility) the average American showers for 7.5 minutes. I started recording my shower times, and my average for the week was 7min 8s. Logan beat me easily with an average of 5min 16s. My goal now is to get my showers down to 5 minutes and beat Logan. Competition makes torturing myself with shorter showers almost worth it. Almost.

I’m also looking into getting one of those blankets for the hot water heater to save on the electric bill. I need to figure out if there’s a way to turn down the temperature on that thing, too. I would be more enthusiastic about these tasks if the laundry room didn’t have a cave cricket infestation. It’s a terrifying place, people. Do you know what cave crickets are? Demon crickets. Jiminy Cricket’s evil twin. I would post a picture here to educate you, but frankly I don’t want to creep myself out by googling their image. I’ll let you do that yourself.

We also need to take the time asap to winterize this ancient house. Have you ever put that cling wrap stuff on windows? I have not, but I’ll be learning soon. Anything else we should be doing to save money?

I’m going to go ahead and make a little holiday announcement: please, please, please, PLEASE, do not get me a birthday/Christmas gift. I would love to hang out with you! I’d love to drink hot chocolate with you in my living room. I’d love to go on a walk with you. We could drive around and look at Christmas lights! If you’re far away, write me a letter! Call me! Can we pretty please make a little quality time our gifts to each other instead? Definitely for this year, and perhaps every year? I assure you, one thing I have learned this year is that I have everything I need.

Now for the savings!
In September, which included a quick trip to Florida, I managed to save: $522
And in October: $838

Even more exciting than the savings, I finally have a plane ticket!
I leave for Kenya on January 20th for six weeks.

Wish me luck!
And if you’re feeling generous, help me get there! That would be way better than any gift.