One part of traveling that I enjoy is trying new food.  While I was in El Salvador, I tried a traditional Salvadorian dish called pupusas–yummy.  It’s like a stuffed corn tortilla.  From what I saw it comes in three varieties: cheese (queso fresco); cheese and beans; and cheese, beans and beef.  The last one was my favorite.

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We went out for them twice, and the first time we ate them was at a Mister Donut.  It was the fanciest Mister Donut I’ve seen with a multiple page menu that included not only doughnuts but also breakfast, lunch and dinner meals including a selection of traditional Salvadorian foods.


The pupusas and theSalvadorian horchata I had there were great.

Towards the end of my time in El Salvador, we took a trip to a pupuseria.  Take a look at the video below to see how pupusas are made.

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3238 Miles

…that’s the distance, according to Google, between where we lived in Nairobi to the town where we live now.  Oh, and that’s the precise distance…if you walked the whole way.  According to Google, it would take 43 days (24 hours straight) and 15 hours to walk the whole distance.  Their directions include a caution that there may be areas without sidewalks…and there could be some tolls :).

We contemplated driving this several times before we made our move.  At first, it seemed like an easier way to transport our luggage.  In the end, it just got too complicated with boarder crossings, multiple transit visas, car insurance for every country, and the possibility that we wouldn’t be able to import our Kenyan car into South Africa.  Alas, it was such an interesting idea in our minds, and I had a whole plan for visiting projects the whole way down and blogging about them.  Instead we just pasted over by air–faster but not nearly as interesting.

Bantu_expansionMap of the Bantu expansion – created by Mark Dingemanse

This journey has been done, and it was done before the age of airplanes and cars. The Bantu peoples of Africa moved from the areas of modern-day Nigeria and Cameroon east and south to modern-day Kenya and down to South Africa.  The Bantu migration took about 1000 years.  Their language and cultures changed along the way, creating a large group of related Bantu languages and a collection of distinct peoples with some similar and shared cultural characteristics.

Today, there are more than 500 different Bantu languages spoken by more than 200 million Africans in 17 African countries spanning from the equator to South Africa.  About 250 of these languages have no scripture representing about 14 million people.  Most of the Bantu languages without scripture have not been written down.  Many remaining without scripture are located in Tanzania and Uganda.  Learn more about Bantu language projects in Tanzania and Uganda.

The needs for scripture translation into Bantu languages extend beyond Tanzania and Uganda into Kenya, Congo, Angola, Mozambique as well as other countries.  A team has been working on tools to help scripture translation projects in all these languages.  One tool, the Bantu Orthography Manual, seeks to provide some standardization to alphabet creation in Bantu languages that have not been written. A Bantu literacy tool assists with the creation of Bantu literacy primers.  Another tool, PTEST, was developed to assist with the analysis of the sounds in Bantu languages. Each of these tools is increasing the speed at which scripture translations can be made available to Bantu languages.

This macro approach to scripture translation and language development was spurred in part by Vision 2025a vision to see a Bible translation program in progress in every language still needing one by the year 2025.

View the Bantu language family tree.

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Translating measurements

We both learned the metric system in school.  I remember my science teachers telling us that sooner or later the American measurement system would be no more…so we’d better pay attention and learn this better, er superior, system of measurement.  I’d dutifully go home and tell my parents how we needed to get prepared for metric.  I’d repeat my teachers’ rants on how inefficient our American measurement system was using my own generated passion.  They would mostly just listen, smile.

My dad would take the opportunity to jokingly lecture me on how if we changed to metric, our song lyrics would get messed up.   He’d say, “How lyrical is kilometer in comparison to miles?”  Then he’d tool through his mind’s filing cabinet, find a song in his head with the word miles in it, and start singing out a tune replacing miles with kilometers laughing hysterically to himself even if I was not completely humored at that moment.

I learned it. I know how it works.  Yeah, yeah, base 10 and all that–so much more scientific, supposedly easier, more efficient, blah, blah, blah.  I didn’t listen well enough; now, I’m suffering.  It’s not that I don’t know that 0 degrees Celsius is the freezing point, and it’s not that I don’t think things like that are oh so practical.  I just still can’t quite feel how far 20 kilometers is, or feel how hot 40 degrees Celsius is…or feel how heavy 50 kg is. So, what do I do instead?  I translate it in my head…or use my handy-dandy converter on my cell phone.  Still!  I thought I’d catch on during this year in Kenya.  Nearly everyone we work with speaks of measurements in metric.  I wish I got it.  I even spent time studying the conversions trying to make myself get it!  I’m only at sorta get it and not at feel it, yet.

The US is the only industrialized nation in the world that still uses a measurement system other than the metric system for most of it’s measurements.  Pretty much everyone else uses metric most of the time.

Here in Kenya everything is metric:
* I buy 500 g of beef mince (translation: about 1 lb of hamburger).
* I set the cooker to 175 C to bake a cake (translation: oven on 350 F).
* We travel 13 km from our home to our church (translation: about 8 miles).

I never realized how ingrained the American measurement system was — in my psyche!  My teachers didn’t do enough to keep me from being emotionally attached.  I’ll get it, maybe even feel it… eventually. But, I agree with my dad–metric isn’t very lyrical.

From I’m Gonna Be by the Proclaimers
Translated into metric for your singing pleasure

But I would walk 804.67 kilometers
And I would walk 804.67 more
Just to be the man who walked 1609.344 kilometers
To fall down at your door

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Glory to God in the Highest

Christmas is not commercialized here like it is at home.  Christmas lights just went up in the shopping malls here about 2 weeks ago. Last weekend I heard a church choir singing Christmas carols in one of the malls.  It was a nice reminder that Jesus is remembered at Christmas.  Christianity has a long history in Africa, and Christmas has also been celebrated for centuries.  Learn about Christmas traditions in Africa.

Nairobi has begun to clear out as Kenyans head “up-country,” that is back to the homes of their parents or other extended family for the holidays. Our offices will be closed for about one week.  We’re anticipating a quiet Christmas at home with maybe an excursion to a nearby national park to see some African animals.  Our gifts are already wrapped and under the artificial Christmas tree that we purchased from some Americans that were leaving Nairobi.


This is one of several ornaments hand-crafted in Kenya that we have on our Christmas tree this year.  This one reminds us of the angels announcement of Christ’s birth to the shepherds in the field.  I wonder what language the angels gave their announcement in: Aramaic, Greek, Hebrew? …it wasn’t English.  An English translation of the Bible was first available at the end of the 1300s–more than 1000 years after Christ’s birth.

From the Bible, the book of Luke, Chapter 2, Verses 8-14, New International Version (an English translation)

8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

IMG_6500-smA shepherd from one of our Kenyan Nativities.

From the Bible, the book of Luke, Chapter 2, Verses 8-14, Swahili New Testament
KiSwahili is spoken by more than 131,000 people in Kenya and 350,000 people in Tanzania.  It is also spoken in several other countries in Africa.

8 Usiku ule walikuwako wachungaji wakilinda kondoo zao nje ya mji. 9 Ghafla malaika wa Bwana akawatokea, na utukufu wa Mungu ukawang’azia pande zote. Wakajawa na hofu kuu. 10 Lakini malaika akawatuliza akisema: “Msiogope! Nawaletea habari njema ya furaha kubwa, na habari hii ni kwa faida ya watu wote! 11 Kwa maana leo katika mji wa Bethlehemu, amezaliwa Mwokozi ambaye ndiye Kristo Bwana. 12 Na hivi ndivyo mtakavyomtambua: mtamkuta mtoto mchanga amefunikwa vinguo na kulazwa horini.”

13 Mara jeshi kubwa la malaika wa mbinguni likatokea na pamoja wakamsifu Mungu wakiimba: 14 “Atukuzwe Mungu juu mbin guni, na duniani iwepo amani kwa watu ambao amependezwa nao.”

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