Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Hello friends!

I thought I would update you on the Adventure Kenya 2006. Dayn (my brother) and I got back from the coast on Wednesday, Dec. 20th. We had a day in Nairobi to gather ourselves, find enough sleeping bags for everyone, and then we headed out for our safari on Friday, Dec. 22nd. Dayn and I joined up with one of my roommates, Jen, 4 of her family members who are visiting, and another teacher named Esther. We met our driver at a shopping center near our house, and after “settling the bill” we began our journey to the Maasai Mara.

We loaded up in a 10-seater safari van, fully-equipped with rear wheel drive. It was practically a full day’s journey just to get to the Mara. As soon as we got on the dirt road to go to the park, we knew we were in for an adventure. It had been raining for several days prior to our arrival, and the road that was bad to begin with was nearly impossible to drive on. But our driver was amazing. There were countless places where I thought we would need a helicopter to rescue us (and I was pretty sure those weren’t very accessible in Kenya), but somehow, with a lot of jostling of the vehicle, we would get through. It was a amazing. There was one part of the road that had actually been washed away, and we had to drive through the river. We had a great caravan going on. There were about 8 of these safari vans driving the “road” and we would all get through one tough spot, wait for the others to get through, and the move on to the next. When we would stop and wait, all the little Maasai children would come up to us and say, “sweet?” or “pen?” or “picture book?” or “watch?” I’m assuming these are all things that other people have given them in the past. I tried to explain that sweets were bad for them and that they wouldn’t have such nice teeth if they ate them, but for some reason they didn’t understand what I was saying to them. Go figure.

As soon as we got to the park, we went for our first game drive. It was a beautiful landscape with rolling green hills and abundant wildlife. We saw the usual gazelles, antelope, impala, and zebras. And as we proceeded further into the park, we saw our first lion from a distance. It reminded me of a song... Anyway, it was quite thrilling to see it attacking something in the bushes. We didn’t have much time in the park before dark, so after watching the lion for a while, we went back to our campsite. We stayed in canvas tents that had tin roofs over the top. The camp is run by a group of Maasai people, and they cooked delicious food for us. We met a bunch of other young travelers, and it was fun to hear how everyone ended up in Kenya, and how we all ended up camping together. That night there was a thunder storm, and it rained all night.

In the morning, it was still raining. We had to delay our departure time because with the roads that wet, we weren’t going to go much of anywhere. After waiting for an hour or so, the rain let up and we began our drive into the park. We saw many of the same animals we had seen the previous day. On top of those animals, we saw a large herd of elephants. They were so close that we could see all the wrinkles on their thick skin, and I didn’t have to zoom in with the video camera. It was an awesome sight to behold at least 10 of them altogether - some old, some young. Later on we saw the awkwardly beautiful giraffes. They are by far my favorite animals to watch because they are so unique-looking.

After eating lunch, we spotted a male lion fairly close to the road. We drove up close to him, and he got up and moved. So our driver turned the van around and drove up next to him again. The lion got up and moved again, and we proceeded this way for a good 15 minutes. I took video of a lot of it, and there were times where the lion could easily have jumped up and knocked the camera right out of my hands. It was quite a thrilling experience and rivaled my giraffe-chasing adventure. What a beautiful creature!

We spent the entire day in the park, seeing animal after animal. After my two summers of guiding tours in Alaska, I had grown accustomed to seeing a few bears, a moose, some caribou, and considering that a pretty good day. But the wildlife here was just abundant. I could hardly believe it. In Denali, sometimes we just had bad days in the park where we saw practically nothing. I don’t think you could have a bad day in the Mara. We didn’t see leopards, cheetahs, or hippos, but we saw almost everything else. I’m hoping to be able to post some pictures later on, but because I am now working with a computer from the stone age, Dayn and I are having some technical difficulties getting his pictures on here. But we will find a way. For now you just get to imagine all these things I am trying to describe.

Day 3 of our safari (Christmas Eve), we took a short drive into the park and then packed up camp. We left the camp around 10:30 A.M. and got stuck within the first 5 minutes of our drive. We tried pushing, but we were too deep in the mud to get ourselves out. Our driver called someone to come pull us out, and after about 40 minutes we were back on the road again. We got stuck a few other times, which meant we would get out, push, get back in, and then keep going. We went about 24 miles in 2 ½ hours. Eventually we came to a place where about 10 vans were waiting in line to pass through mud that came up to our knees. Some of our fellow campers had left at 8:00 that morning. Our van had left at 10:30, and we caught up with them at this place. Dayn and I helped push our van. We were knee deep in mud, surrounded by other Kenyans and Maasai people, rocking this van, pushing it, rocking it some more. And then its wheels finally started to roll. What a team effort it was! Dayn and I were filthy, and we still had quite a distance ahead of us. Hooray for Charles, our amazing driver.

We finally made it back to Nairobi at 7 P.M. Dayn and I headed back to my house, and I slept like a rock on our first Christmas Eve in Kenya.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Hello Everyone!

I apologize for not updating my blog for so long. These last few weeks have been a whirlwind. I'm sure a lot of you are wondering about the robbery. We now have more bars on our windows and a huge metal wall in our backyard. I'm glad for the safety they provide, and I try my best not to feel like a prisoner. People have been so generous with opening up their homes to us and offering us comfort foods and other nice things like that. We are still so thankful that no one was hurt, and of course, Alison and I miss our things. The Lord always provides, though, and my dear friend Katy Rogers offered to give me my old computer that she had been borrowing. Since my brother Dayn was coming to visit, she gave it to him. It is old and heavy, but it is a computer, and I am thankful for it.

Dayn arrived last Friday, and Kenya Airways did not have his bags. Unfortunately, we were leaving for the coast on Sunday (the 17th), and that wasn't enough time to get his bags. So we got a couple shirts and pairs of shorts at the market, and he made do with what he had. We went to Tiwi Beach for 4 days, which is just south of Mombasa. It was my first time at the Indian Ocean, and it was beautiful. It's nice to be in water that doesn't require a certain degree of numbness before it can be enjoyed. We learned to wind surf one day, and we were able to go to a national wildlife preserve another day. I saw my first wild elephants! That was quite exciting. We got back from the coast yesterday (Wednesday) and today we are relaxing, doing laundry, and e-mailing. Tomorrow we go on safari for three days, and hopefully I will be able to post some pictures after that. Oh, and we did get Dayn's bags yesterday. Hooray!

I want to thank all of you for your prayers and support in everything that has been happening here. I don't have time to write to everyone individually, but please know what a blessing it is to hear from all of you and to see the answers to all your prayers. I am so grateful for them. I wish you all a merry Christmas!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Hello to you all once again!

It has been a great week here in Kenya, except for the incessant rain. The drainage system on the roads is virtually non-existent, so with these heavy rains, the roads are terrible. One of my roommates and I have been house-sitting for a family that is visiting the U.S. for a few months. They have a nice house, but with these heavy rains, the road to their house is like a series of little lakes. One day I was pretty sure I was going to have to get out of the car in my skirt and push. Luckily, we were able to get out of that muddy situation unscathed.

On Thursday my class and I went on a field trip to the New Life Home. It is a home for babies who have been abandoned. We went there to play with the toddlers and hold the babies. It was such a good time! These wee ones are so precious and beautiful. One of the girls in my class said, “How could someone abandon something so cute?” She is so right. It’s hard to imagine leaving such an adorable little bundle of life. The kids were so cute, and I have a hard time deciding who was cuter, the little babies or the 6th graders playing with them. All the kids in my class had so much fun and were really sad when it was time leave. It warmed my heart watching them play with these little ones. I can already see what wonderful moms and dads they are going to be one day. It almost makes me cry! What a sappy teacher I am. But I am just so proud of them.

We have only two more weeks until Christmas break, and that means less than two weeks until my brother, Dayn, comes to visit. We are planning on going to Mombasa, which is on the coast, for a few days. I was finally able to find a place for us to stay. After our visit to the beach, we will go on safari to the Maasai Mara. I can’t wait to see all the animals and have a real African adventure! We might do a little traveling after that, but the big plan on New Year’s is to climb Mt. Kenya. We will be going up with another teacher from my school and also her fiancĂ©, Kungu. He is a Kenyan and has climbed the mountain a few times before. I am so excited about all these plans! And even if I weren’t doing anything exciting, I am so glad my brother will be here with me. He is one of my dearest friends in the whole world. With that, I think I will bid you a fond farewell. May you enjoy whatever form of precipitation that this season brings you. I am trying my best not to dream of a white Christmas. Toodles!