Saturday, April 14, 2007

I am back from Mt. Kenya and thought you might like to see some pictures and hear a few stories…

We left on Monday, April 9th early in the morning. There were six of us on the trip. Bill and Jan Bevins are a married couple who organized the whole trip. Kayla is my bosom friend and fellow teacher who was brave enough to come along. We were also joined by a couple other friends, Simon and Megan. We loaded all our things into the Bevins’ Land Cruiser and headed for the town of Chagoria. The drive was gorgeous, and this picture is of some of the tea fields we saw along the way.

The first night we stayed in the Bandas, which are these buildings that we are standing in front of. They had beds, toilets, a kitchen area, and a fireplace. It was quite nice. After eating dinner, Kayla, Megan, Simon, and I played speed Scrabble and then headed to bed. The next morning we packed up our things and began our journey up Mt. Kenya. This picture is me, Kayla, and Megan just before we began to hike. Notice how dry and happy we look!

The hike on the first day (Tuesday) was only 2 or 3 hours long and fairly gradual. It began to pour down rain part way through, and this trend continued throughout the day. When we made it to our camp, we frantically pitched our tents in the rain. This picture is Kayla and me trying to get dry inside our tent. Three girls trying to get dry in a 2-man tent was quite the endeavor! The Lord was gracious, however, and gave us some sunshine later in the afternoon.

Our guides were wonderful and started a fire for us. When they saw us trying to dry our wet clothes, they made these little stick-clothes lines for us. One of them even sat in front of the fire with Megan’s socks for an hour to try and get them dry. It rained again while we slept, but the Lord gave us just enough dry weather to get things reasonable dry.

The next morning (Wednesday) things were wet again, and none of us girls had slept very well. We were a little squished in the 2-man tent, and we also had to cram all our gear under the rain fly to keep it dry. We ate a wet breakfast and were really looking forward to hiking so that we could warm up. The hike this day was incredible. At some points we all felt like we were on the set of Lord of the Rings. This picture is Kayla and me in front of this amazing waterfall. Of course, since the weather changes every 7 minutes, you can’t see the waterfall. Had we waited 7 minutes to take the picture, you may have been able to see it.

This is me, Kayla, and Simon. We are so happy that we are climbing!

As we continued our hike, it began to pour down rain once again. I started to feel that cold dampness again and dreaded the cold temperatures we would have to face at our next camp. After the rain, it started to hail. After the hail it started to snow. We hiked for a while in these conditions and then came to the place we would camp, called Minto’s. The only sort of building here was what Lonely Planet calls “a nasty hut”. This hut is for the guides, porters, and cooks to cook and sleep in. We were soaking wet. And cold. We stood in the hut probably for 30 minutes in our wet, cold misery, trying to figure out what we should do. There were probably about 20 people crammed in this tiny building, and eventually Kayla, Megan and I decided we would try to change into dry clothes. We created a sort of changing room, surrounded by 20 men in a dark, damp room. It wasn’t exactly the high point of the trip. Eventually it stopped snowing, and we went out and pitched out tent. Once again, God gave us a small window of sunshine so that we could put our wet clothes out for about an hour. The clouds rolled back in, and we were happy to have clothes that were damp rather than soaked.

This is me, Kayla, Simon, and Megan at Minto’s. That night we hardly slept at all. The altitude was affecting all of us, and we were all very uncomfortable in our tents. We were supposed to get up at 2:30 so that we would be on top of the mountain for sunrise. I thought 2:30 couldn’t come soon enough as I lay there with little hope of sleeping. At 2:30 (on Thursday) we all got ready to begin our hike up to the summit of Mt. Kenya. This summit is called Point Lenana, and it is about 16,000 feet high. We put on our warmest clothes, headlamps, and began our journey in the dark. The beginning wasn’t bad, but as we got higher, many of us began to feel nauseous. When our guide said we still had 2 hours left to hike, it was only will power that kept me going. I felt light-headed and weak, and as the comedian Brain Regan says, “I felt like everything on my inside wanted to be on my outside.” It was one of the hardest things I have ever done, but I made it.

Here are Kayla and me at the top. The smiles are completely fake because we were sick, freezing cold, and completely miserable. But it was totally worth it – the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. I forgot to mention that as we hiked, we watched the sunrise above the clouds. The cool part was that we were above the clouds already, so we got to see the sun rise to meet us. I have never seen such rich shades of pink and orange, and the reflection off the snow on the mountain was indescribable.

After admiring the view, we hiked back down the mountain. When we got to level ground and turned around to see the peak we had just summitted, we couldn’t believe how far away it was! I’m so glad we were hiking in the dark and had no idea how far we needed to go. The peak in the center of this picture is the peak we summitted, called Point Lenana.

The rest of this day was spent hiking all the way back to the Bandas where we started from. It was a loooonnnnggg day. We spent probably 10 or 11 hours hiking, and though it was incredibly beautiful once again, we couldn’t wait to be done. Pounding feet going downhill is hard on the joints after a while. Here is a picture of Jeff, our guide, and some others as we hiked down.

This is the forest we hiked through. You can see Bill Bevins on the left.

There was elephant and buffalo poop everywhere at the Bandas, and this sign explains why. Apparently on our first night (Monday), a guy got chased by an elephant. We saw both elephants and buffalo, but we were fortunate to see them from a distance. When we finished hiking, we were able to take hot showers and sit by the fireplace in the Bandas. It was so nice to hear the rain outside and know that we would be completely dry and completely warm.
The next morning (Friday), we ate breakfast and headed for home. This is Dunston tying our bags to the top of the land rover. We fit 12 people inside! Pretty amazing. The hike was probably one of the hardest things I have ever done, but as I look back on it, I would do it again in a heartbeat. I hope you all get the opportunity to do something like this one day.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

After our trip to New Life Home, the orphanage for abandoned babies, my class took a field trip to a larger orphanage called Dagoretti Children's Home (or something like that). This place takes in kids from infancy all the way up through age 18. Many children with disabilities come here. We spent the afternoon touring the beautiful facility and playing with the children there. Here are a few pictures.

Last week at school was busy as usual, and I found myself left with little energy for the grading of papers, the planning of lessons, and the typing of blogs and e-mails. When Saturday rolled around, I faced the reality of going to school on a Saturday. Again. So as Megan and I drove the ever-familiar Miotoni Road towards West Nairobi School, I managed to see beyond my fatigue into a world of beauty.

When we leave our apartment in Nairobi (I know you may be disappointed that I don’t live in a hut. Sometimes I am too.) and drive toward Karen, where our school is located, the traffic and exhaust fumes are horrendous. As are the drivers. And the potholes... We spend about 15 minutes navigating around these aforementioned obstacles, and then we turn onto Miotoni Road. This is where the drive becomes utter bliss. The road is calm, almost deserted, and the brilliant, green trees form a sort of canopy, framing the strikingly blue sky. It is a beautiful sight, only to become more beautiful as we head toward the campus of West Nairobi School. Seated atop a hill, overlooking the Ngong Forest, the campus is absolutely serene, the prettiest place in Nairobi, if you ask me.

As Megan and I pulled into the parking lot of school on that Saturday afternoon, my eyes that sometimes have trouble seeing beyond the end of my nose, were open. The birds were singing, the light breeze was blowing the acacia trees ever so delicately, and I was thankful. Thankful that I can come to such a place on a Saturday, thankful that I can work in an environment where God’s glory is so evident, thankful that the sound of the leaves rustling in the wind brings such reassurance. Reassurance of God’s sovereignty, of His beauty, of His ability to make a magnificent tree grow out of a pile of dirt. With the satisfaction that can only come when the Lord’s voice is heard and heeded, I got to work in my classroom.