Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Check out my Slide Show!

Pictures will be coming soon!! For now, if you have the stamina, you can read about the trip.


Day 1 – December 26
We woke up at about 5:30 in order to get to the bus station by 6:30. I was pleased to see that the ride from Nairobi to Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) was going to be a comfortable one. The bus was similar to the motor coaches I used to ride when I gave tours in Alaska. 16 hours later I was no longer marveling at the comfort of the bus, but it was a good start to the journey. Those aboard the bus with me are as follows: Kayla (roommate and close friend), Criag (Kayla’s fiancĂ©), Becca (art and French teacher), and Steven (math, computer, Bible teacher). It was a great group to travel with.

As we drove through southern Kenya, the terrain gradually changed into rolling, green hills. Women wrapped in scarves and blankets carried their babies on their backs, and soon our bus came to a stop. The driver didn’t say anything, but someone in the back of the bus, sensing our confusion said, “Border.” So we went on our wild goose chase to enter the country of Tanzania. After shoving our way through the chaotic lines, we finally got our visas to enter the country. Then we hopped back on the bus for the rest of our really long bus ride.

The rest of the ride was beautiful. We even saw the base of Kilimanjaro when we were in the town of Moshi. One day I hope to see the top of that mountain! We arrived in Dar es Salaam at about 10:00 that night. One of the families who went to our school last year now lives in Dar, so we waited for Mr. Kim to come pick us up from the bus station. Because of English-Korean language barriers, it was quite an ordeal to communicate to Mr. Kim exactly where we were. Eventually we made it to their house, slept a few hours, and then…

Day 2 – December 27
Went to the ferry terminal to get our tickets to Zanzibar. The ferry ride was about 2 hours, and then we were in Stonetown, on the island of Zanzibar. Our next task was to find a ride to Nungwi, a beach on the northern part of the island where some other friends were staying. Through a series of complicated transactions, we finally made it to the Nungwi Guest House, where we would be staying for the next 2 nights. The five of us weary travelers met our friends Brad and Grant there. And finally we were at the beach and could rest. Ah…

The beach was amazing. Bright turquoise blue as far as the eye could see with old, rugged fishing boats scattered throughout the expanse of water. There were plenty of people lying out and swimming, and this being my second trip to the Indian Ocean (I went to Mombasa in Kenya last Christmas), I knew that the water would be warm and pleasant to swim in. Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I have vivid memories of dedicating my first 10 minutes of swimming to getting numb. Once that point was reached I had a great time in the water! Needless to say, the Indian Ocean is nice.

Days 3-7 (December 28 – January 1)

We spent these days in Nungwi hanging out on the beach. Here are some highlights.
*the beach (obviously)
*breakfast with mango, pineapple, banana, chapati, tea
*going for walks in the morning, discovering hermit crabs
*watching the beautiful people of Zanzibar fishing, swimming
*dinners that lasted for hours
*moving to a new, cleaner hotel
*feeding sea turtles
*homemade mango ice cream
*walking back to our hotel along the beach by the light of the moon
*getting stung by a jelly fish
*riding on the back of my friend’s motorcycle at sunset
*practicing my Kiswahili and failing miserably
*talking to interesting people from around the world
*sunscreen applied at least thrice a day
*the slow pace of things
*the Tanzanian shilling to U.S. dollar exchange rate: 1,150 to 1
*Kayla, Craig, Becca, Steven, Brad, Grant
*huddling with above company inside the little, air-conditioned liquor store drinking cold Coke in a glass bottle
*ushering in the New Year on the beach

Day 7 – January 1
Things grew a little tricky once we heard about the election results in Kenya. Since Kibaki was elected, those opposing Kibaki got upset and started rioting around the country. This made it unsafe to travel to Kenya, making us refugees in Tanzania. Now, life on the beach certainly isn’t rough, but we were getting worried about when we should head back to our home in Nairobi. Today we packed up our stuff and headed to Stonetown, the place we would ride the ferry from. We took a daladala, which is like a big truck with a roof and benches in the back for people to ride on. It was a beautiful, fun ride, but my back end was definitely ready to stand up once we arrived.

By this time, Grant had already left to go back to Sudan, where he works for Samaritan’s Purse, and Brad showed us to the hostel where we would be staying. The hostel was an old Anglican church, and it was an interesting place to stay. It had a lot of character and also a lot of mosquitoes. We walked around town for a bit, looking at the shops and all the little souvenirs that strongly resembled the ones we can buy in Kenya. Stonetown has narrow roads and high buildings rising up along the sides. Walking along the roads is like walking through a maze, and it definitely has a really neat, historical feeling to it, almost like I would imagine small towns in Italy. On these narrow roads, vehicles don’t exactly watch out for you, and I had a couple close encounters.

Day 8 – January 2
Awoken at about 4:45 A.M. by the call to prayer right outside my window, I managed to fall back asleep for a couple more hours. This was our day to hang out in Stonetown. Becca and I spent the day walking around and exploring. We found an old castle that used to be a fort, and when we climbed the stairs we found an art gallery. There were men painting and men trying to sell their paintings, which were all beautifully done. After exploring there, we went to the museum and learned a little of the history of the island. In the evening vendors line the streets selling all kinds of local food, fresh seafood, and drinks. The smells are fantastic, and Becca and I enjoyed eating as we watched the sunset over the water. One more night of sleeping, then on to Dar es Salaam.

Day 9 – January 3

We woke up early to get a start on the madness of our morning, but even then travel was a bit of a scramble. Because of the turmoil in Kenya, the buses from Dar es Salaam to Nairobi were no longer running, which meant that we needed to fly. When we went to the travel agent, we found out that we could only pay in cash for our plane tickets. I mentioned the exchange rater earlier, and I’m sure you can only imagine how much money I had to carry to pay for a plane ticket that cost roughly 300,000 Tanzanian shillings, paid in 5,000 bills. It was crazy. But God is gracious, even to those who are pressed for time, and we made it to the ferry with plenty of time to hop on board.

Arriving in Dar es Salaam about 2 hours later, we once again had no idea where we were going. I knew the Safari Inn was a cheap place to stay, so I stopped in at the Chamber of Commerce to enquire about directions. I’ve found that when people in East Africa do not know where something is, instead of saying “I don’t know”, they will give you directions anyway. I could tell this lady didn’t know where the Safari Inn was, so I thanked her for the directions and followed the sign that said “Tourist Information”. The lady there drew me a map, and after navigating through the unfamiliar streets, we found the Safari Inn.

The first and last thing we did at this cheap hotel was watch the news. Things weren’t looking good, but we also knew that the media could be over-dramatizing things. We found a grocery store and stocked up on rice, beans, bread, and other essentials in case grocery stores in Kenya were still closed. We headed back to the hotel for our last sleep in Tanzania.

Day 4 – January 10

We found a couple taxi drivers to give us a ride to the airport. Everything was fine until I heard metal scraping on the road and noticed our driver pulling off to the side. Instead of telling us we had a flat tire, he got out, opened my door for me, and pointed. I squinted into the distance and realized he was pointing at the airport. I thought to myself, of course we got a flat tire! Of course we get to walk the rest of the way! It made me laugh. I should have expected something like this to happen. Fortunately, it was only about a 10 minute walk to the airport, so Felix (our driver) did get us pretty close.

The flight was nice because it got us to Nairobi in an hour instead of 16 hours. Despite the extra cost, flying instead of taking the bus was a huge blessing. After asking around at the airport, everyone said the roads were clear and we would be fine to go home. We got a ride from a taxi, and as we drove past Uhuru Park (the location of the alleged rally), we saw at least 100 police men, lying around looking bored. The rally had been cancelled, but the police were still out in full force. We got home and found everything pretty much back to normal. The roads were calm, people were walking around, and we were all glad to be home.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Hello everyone.

Thanks again for your prayers. After spending the last 10 days in Tanzania, my friends and I are finally “safe” in Nairobi. We had an amazing time in Zanzibar, an island off of Tanzania, but our last few days were a little harrowing as we watched the news and the growing tension in Kenya following the elections. It was hard for us to decide when we should go back to Nairobi, so we bought tickets to fly today, January 4th, with the intention of spending the night in the Nairobi airport if things were too dangerous on the roads. Plus, after traveling around and staying in various hotels and hostels, a night in the Nairobi airport sounded ok because it was free of cost and mosquitoes. Upon our arrival in Nairobi this afternoon, the report was that the roads were clear and we would be safe to go home. We took a taxi and found things to be surprisingly calm. As we drove past Uhuru Park, the location of the alleged rally that has not happened yet, we saw at least 100 police men if not more. It was an eerie sight, but I was glad to see them sitting around, looking bored. I would love it if they remained bored for the next few days, but there are still threats of rallies and violence in the city.

I live in an apartment complex that is tucked way back in the city. It is quite a distance from Kibera, the slum where a lot of violence is taking place, and I know that my roommates and I will be safe here. As with most people in Nairobi, we live behind a gate, and we have guards during all hours of the day. You can thank the Lord that my friends and I arrived here safely. He has provided safety in all our travels, and that is quite a miracle when you are white people traveling around Africa. Please continue to pray for the situation in Kenya. The violence continues in many areas, and we are all just holding our breath until both sides are willing to meet peacefully and find some sort of compromise. School is supposed to start on January 15th, and we are all hoping things will have calmed down by then. Thank you so much for all your encouraging words and prayers. It means so much to me knowing that you are praying for this situation.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Hello everyone.

Many of you may have been following the news and hearing about all the violence following the presidential elections in Kenya. I just wanted to let you all know that up until this point I have been safe. I have been in Zanzibar, which is an island off the coast of Tanzania. It is beautiful and amazing here, but now my friends and I are wondering when we should go back to Nairobi, our home. We picked a perfect time to leave the country, and now we are wondering what the perfect time would be to go back. As of today, we are thinking of leaving on Jan. 4th. We are taking a bus from Dar es Salaam to Nairobi, which is about a 14 hour trip. Please continue to pray for us as we travel and especially for the nation of Kenya and its people. Politics are very tribal in Kenya. The presidential candidate who was re-elected, Kibaki, is a Kikuyu, and the candidate who was defeated, Odinga, is Luo (I'm not sure how to spell it). I won't go into all the details, but BBC is a good source for news. Please continue to pray. I will let you know when I get back to Nairobi, that is, if the internet is working there!