Out of Africa (July 24)

Final day in Africa was outstanding. First stop was the Elephant orphanage, established about twenty years ago to rescue baby elephants who had been orphaned when their parents were killed by poachers for their tusks. They currently have 25 in the preserve, ranging in age from 3 months to 5 years. Each elephants stays there from seven to twelve years, and every one returns to the wild. So far, 150 have been rescued and returned to their native habitat. Incredible place, and we watched them from less than ten yards away.

 

 

After a quick lunch at the Java House and a disappointing walks around a Nairobi “mall” we went to the Kizuri bead and pottery factory. There we saw the amazing work of single moms who make absolutely beautiful bead and pottery creations to support their families. Yes, we shopped.

We met with Pastor Trump, the director of missions in Kenya and Tanzania, and debriefed out medical mission. We had suggestions, he had encouragement, and it was good to be with Shara and Catherine, our coordinators one last time.

After a quick supper at the mission house we headed for the airport. Always a hassle, we made it through many levels emigration and security, arriving at our gate with time to relax before boarding the first leg of our flight home.

Some of the team are having stomach problems and I'm losing my voice after battling a sore throat these last few days. We are plenty tired, so sleep should come easily and I am already working on my sermon for Sunday.

Farewell, Kenya, for now.

 

Kenya (July 23 back to Nairobi)

We got to sleep in a little later today and stopped at a Maasai village on the way back to Nairobi. They showed us around their homes, let us take pictures and of course offered to sell us an endless array of carved animals, masks, bowls and jewelry. Traditional Maasai dress, lifestyle and customs meets the traditional tourist stop.

We then drove to Nairobi, about five hours on unpaved and then paved highway. We stopped for lunch at another souvenir-type place, and got back to the Scripture Mission Center around 5.

We went out for supper at Tamambo Karen Blixen Restaurant in Nairobi. Awesome meal. Karen Blixen is the woman who was played by Merrill Streep in the movie “Out of Africa.”

Tomorrow: Elephant orphanage, more shopping and we begin our flight home.

 

 

 

 

Kenya (July 22 Maasai Mara safari part 2)

Happy birthday to me!

The day started out pretty much the same as yesterday: up early to fight our way to the breakfast table, and a 7:30 departure back into the park. We took a different route through the park this time, in search of some more big cats and larger herds of elephants.

We did see a couple more lions eating the last of a wildebeest before beginning their “honeymoon,” an intense week of mating. I think there were more zebra and wildebeest on the hillsides than yesterday, as far as the eye can see.

 

We rode and rode and rode, not really finding much. We did come across a lone bull elephant and got very close for pictures. Then we drove all the way out to a place where the borders of Kenya and Tanzania come together and we all stood in both countries simultaneously.

 

Driving just a little ways into Tanzania, we did a short walking tour down to the Mara river where we could see two large families of hippos. Hippos are very dangerous animals, coming out of the water at night to feed, so you only go to see them in the afternoon, when they stay in the water to keep cool. A armed guide took us down the river to see them and assure our safety. The closer we got, the more the hippos bellowed, letting us know we were close enough. Walking the other way up the river we saw a few crocodiles sleeping on the bank and some monkeys playing in the trees. Great sightings!

 

 

Back in the vans, we drove and drove and drove, stopping periodically to view some vultures, giraffes and wildebeest. Finally, just toward the end of the day, we saw three elephants with a baby who was nursing. It was a nice way to end the day.

 

 

 

Kenya (July 21: Maasai Mara safari)

Today was safari day number one. Breakfast was served at 6:30 am. It was tough fighting our way through a group of very rude Italians to try and get some food. On lady took almost a whole loaf of toast from the serving table.

We left for safari with our two drivers, Simon and Edwin, about 7:30. We rode in converted Toyota Land Cruisers that had pop-up tops so we could stand up and see out. As we waited to enter the park, Maasai women pushed their wares on us – bracelets, woven shawls and wooden carvings.

We rode around the park in search of animals all day, with just a short break for lunch. We saw zebra, Cape buffalo, giraffes, elephants, gazelle, elian, topi, zebu, hippos, crocodiles, lions, baboons and thousands of wildebeests. We tried to catch the wildebeests crossing the river, but the presence of too many safari vans scared them off. The lions we saw were mating, which made them very docile and easy to photograph.

The park and views were amazing, but the day was grueling. I wish we could have gotten out and walked around more, but that was impossible.

Tomorrow, a different route through Maasi Mara.

 

Kenya (July 20 at Mountain Rock Safari Camp, Kenya)

We said our goodbyes and left Kisii about 9:30 am, driving as far as Norok, where we met our safari guides/drivers. They then took us to the safari camp, about a two hour drive, mostly off road.

It was much different than what we expected. We are sleeping in permanent tents on concrete slabs, each with a regular bathroom attached. These are the upgraded accommodations. There are other tents on the ground with out door bathrooms, and still other tent sites. Not fancy, but softer beds, better showers, and better food than the hotel in Kisii.

We've already seen some animals on the way here: gazelle, zebras, giraffes, wildebeests, and cebus. This part of Africa looks like what you would expect. Dry, expansive plains, Masai huts here and there, acacia trees and mountains off in the distance.

Supper was beef stew, mashed potatoes, green beans and carrots, pasta, cabbage and fruit. The fruit wasn't as good as Kisii, but there's hardly any agriculture where we are. Oh, and most importantly, half liter bottles of Tusker beer, which tasted great.

Rule number one here: zip up your tent. We already saw monkeys stealing stuff from a tent that someone hadn't zipped up all the way.

We are out of here bright and early tomorrow morning for an all day outing. Others we talked to today said they saw a herd of over 80 elephants and countless wildebeest, which are running right now.

 

Kenya (July 19 in Kisii)

The day started in an unusual way, to the sound of someone power washing the outside walls and the noisy talk and clattering tubs of the laundry people, all about 5:30 am. When we went down to the dining room, it was dark, and no one was around. I guess the staff was pretty tired this morning, too. Our team was dragging.

It was a pleasant ride to the church because the road had been graded. The people waiting with numbers from last night were orderly, at least to start. I could tell we were in trouble, though. Even though we worked hard to cap today's number, there were just too many there already. And people started calling in favors. The bishop's friends from Tanzania. Students from the boarding school next door. A mother with a sick child. And of course, all of them are “not well.”

Forgive my cynicism, but most of the people were perfectly fine, suffering a few aches and pains that I would consider normal. But because white American “doctors” had come, everyone was ill and needed to see them. So much so that they started arriving at 5 am to get in line.

The people in line quickly devised ways to hack the system. Single adults from the day before suddenly had four children in tow. Others forged numbers to try and get a place in line. A promise of only ten students grew to sixteen. Yes, my compassion lagged and my annoyance grew.

Members of the team had brought toothbrushes and toothpaste, with the hopes of doing a little dental education. Didn't happen. As the day drew to a close, I decided to just give them away to those watching. The first batch I gave out went fine. The second bag of toothbrushes was torn from my hand as a mob literally fought to get their hands on them. I doubt if some even knew what they were grabbing. The dental clinic was over. No way I was going back in there.

We got to see some ver interesting conditions again today. I prayed with several moms whose children were very, very sick. I wish we could have filtered out the ” not feeling well” people to spend time with those who really needed some extraordinary care. But how do you do that?

At the end of the day, we saw those from the church who had helped us during the week, so we didn't get done and packed up till nearly 7 pm. After supper, we saw the hotel staff before we finally called the clinic “closed.”

Tomorrow we head to Nairobi, and some of us will split off for a safari, while a few head home. Time to relax a little now and decompress.