Superlatives Fail Me.
Yesterday was the BIG day for the safari at the camp. It began pre-dawn as we trundled out to the launch site for the balloon. The balloon was already laid out on the ground but un-inflated and a group of workers were poised to begin the process.
We met our pilot, Riz, who was very obviously of Indian descent but claimed not only to be 3rd generation Kenyan but to also be from Chogaria. He said we were the first travelers he had met that had heard of it, much less been there.
The balloon was filled and all 16 of us, those of us in our group that chose to go and another small group, climbed in the basket.
We launched in time to see the sun rise over the mountains. Glorious. Immediately we were traveling low over zebra, giraffe, and a million plus wildebeest. Because there is no power lines here we could go very low and almost feel like you were running with the herd. No one wanted it to end when it was time to touch down. Definitely a highlight for all of us.
At the landing zone there was a formal breakfast set up that was better, by far, than any meal we had experienced. Delicate Swedish pancakes, champagne, omelets to order, hot chocolate, linen tablecloths and even a “Loo with a View”; a bathroom- with a seat no less- that was private but with a window that faced out over the Savannah.
Then we got into our vehicles and proceeded on a safari to see everyone’s bucket list animals. About the only thing we didn’t see were Madison’s octopus, and Kim’s unicorn. We saw lions, cheetah, elephants, crocodile, and beautiful birds that defy description.
One thing I found very interesting was the amount of skulls, bones, and carcasses we saw. The circle of life was very evident because of all of the apex predators that were present.
At lunchtime we realized that we had wondered a few kilometers into Tanzania and we ended up having lunch under a tree watching tens of thousands of wildebeest migrate across the Serengeti Plain. It was pretty surreal.
Our day was more than 12 hours long and we saw countless wildlife, it was all spectacular, but by the end of the day we were exhausted from the dust and the jostle.
I know beauty exists everywhere and I’m a firm believer that you should look for it everyday, but having the opportunity to be here and see Gods handiwork in this place is both inspiring and humbling.
I wholeheartedly encourage you to look for Gods beauty everywhere, even in the mundane, but if you ever get the chance, don’t miss this. It’s worth it.
It was another early morning but no one was lingering to day because we were headed to the Mara Leisure Camp. A longish five hour, no wait, six, no wait, seven hour drive, the last 2 hours were on brutally bumpy roads. It was explained by the driver that the faster you go the more it smoothed out the bumps.
I guess having all my teeth rattled out at once is better than having them rattled out one at a time.
We sensed we were getting close when we were told we were going to take a shortcut. I have seen films of vehicles going across the Australian outback that looked more civilized than where we were.
I kept asking the driver if he was sure we were going the right way as we were weaving around cattle.
Alas we got to the camp, and to be honest our tent was substantially nicer than either of the hotel rooms we stayed in. In fact if the tents were like this when I was scouting, I might not have left. Teak floors, tiled bathrooms with very nice working showers a nice bed with a non-holey mosquito net. Yes, much nicer indeed.
All of the hard travel looked like it was worth it.
After having a tasty lunch we went on our first game drive. Almost as soon as we entered the park we were greeted with lots of wart hogs as well as multitudinous wildebeest.
We traveled for about 30 – 40 min in the park and noticed a clump of safari vehicles
Which usually means something interesting is there. As we rolled up we spied a beautiful female cheetah. She was kind enough to pose for us for a while showing indifference to the gawking tourists.
More driving and we saw giraffes as well as untold other animals. But the coupé de la résistance was the sight of several male lions including a pair, fresh after a kill. They were lounging but alert. Several of the women were very much wanting to hear a lion roar but the experienced driver said he had heard it but never seen it.
So they prayed, and of course both lions began roaring. It was an incredible sight and sound. God even cares about stuff like that.
Tomorrow should be another amazing day as a majority of the team will head up in a hot air balloon over the animals. It’s supposed to be spectacular.
It seems a little guilty pleasure to be doing these things after being submersed in the poverty where we were working, but I believe that God created all of this amazing beauty for us to enjoy as long as it is done in balance.
|So Goes Kenya
Even though we were dragging anchor, we got up with the knowledge that today was the last day of the official mission part of the trip. It gave us what we needed for the day.
Well, the Fountains of Hope team needed all the strength they could muster. When they arrived at the Bishops church they realized what was not apparent yesterday; our professional mason had neglected to level our cement base for the tanks. This means our 2.5X larger tanks that we had filled last night were severely listing to the point we were worried that they would collapse.
So out comes the water- all 5000 liters- so we could remove the tanks from the pad so the mason can level it.
So goes Kenya.
You just don’t know sometimes if instructions are going to translate, regardless of how well we think we explain it in our minds. We certainly will encourage the use of a level in our instructions from now on.
The training will get done today. This one is special to me as my sister, Nita,who died earlier this year donated a good portion of money before she passed to this installation and we put a sign on it to honor her for many years.
As it is, one of the things we can plan on is that a project will not go as planned, usually we know it before we are about to begin training.
Today, to our surprise, the children from the Kayole Academy did the second half of their presentation from yesterday. This was quite fun because we got to see some of the youngest singing for us at the top of their lungs. Heartwarming.
After that I had the opportunity to meet one on one with Augry from the school and Moses from the church and was very interested to hear how consistently and completely they have been working together since last year.
The way they described their relationship prior to last year it is that they were back to back turning looking everywhere but next door for the answer to their problems. When the Holy Spirit planted the idea with me about the physical and spiritual bridge, they both instantly grabbed the idea.
Since then they have formed a bond that seems to be getting stronger and stronger, even with some looming challenges.
This idea of partnership is a fairly new concept here in Kenya. Everyone seems to be only looking out for their own interests or the interests of their organization. Moses and Augry are learning first hand the incredible advantage that working together brings.
Maybe this can be the new “So goes Kenya”.
Tomorrow we leave bright and early for Maasai Mara, a 6 hour bus ride from Nairobi. Prayers for travel mercies would be most appreciated.
A crooked little pad
I know my posts can be a little bucolic at times; I paint a rosier picture by choosing to focus on the lighter side and fascinating differences and mostly poking fun at the annoying inconveniences.
The reality is that a harder life occasionally encroaches. Such were the days yesterday and today. Our plan to go to the museum and the reptile park were derailed yesterday when someone stole Cynthia’s backpack from the restaurant.
Security was able to identify on video that she had it when she entered the restaurant but not when we left. Unfortunately there was a blind spot in there and we were unable to see the specific spot we were all sitting. Stacy had a photo of the backpack wedged safely between Cynthia’s chair and another one. The place was crowded and she had to shift her chair a number of times. Apparently someone saw the opportunity and lifted the pack while 15 people were seated around the table.
The reality is that there are bold and professional thieves lurking and waiting for an opportunity. The frustrating part is our guard wasn’t even down.
Fortunately her cash was in her purse, but she did loose here phone as well as copies of credit cards, license and passport, all the notes for the seminar today, as well as her journal and cherished Bible.
Then this morning, Jane, our friend from Zimbabwe, who is along to learn and take the Restore message back to her home country, received word that her 13-year-old niece had passed unexpectedly. They were close. Words cannot describe how sad this is, even more so as it was a vibrant child, and all we could do is say a prayer and give her a hug.
It struck me at how quickly we needed to move on. I looked out the window and of course no one outside knows what’s going on and the training at the church was about to begin. So unfortunately she had zero time to grieve and our day had to press forward.
Please keep her in your prayers.
After the water team is dropped off at the Bishops Church today John will take me to the Dorothy Home and I will start laying out the plan for the series of ponds to deal with the poop from the cows on the relatively small property. We will plant a type of grass around the ponds which seems to thrive on the effluent produced by the animals.
Right now it all runs down hill from behind the house to the front, right next to where the children attend school, a decidedly poor situation.
So as a “glass half full” kind of guy I like to focus on the positives, but sometimes there just is not a cheery way to approach life’s harsh realities and it is a reminder that no matter how carefully you plan and try to stay safe, poop happens.
250 Strong From the Academy
A poem thanking us for a water system last year
|The End is in Sight
Last night we arrived back at the Stardom Hotel and it was amazing to me how good this hotel looked after complaining about it when we first arrived. The Four Seasons might not have looked better to us after our stay in Chogoria.
The second half of our trip began this morning when we went to the service at the Kings Gospel Church. Fortunately experience has taught me that they will usually have the visiting group leader give the sermon. The pastor suggested that I try to keep it under and hour. 😐 I assured him that it would not be a problem.
I figured if I talked slow and deliberately I could stretch it to 15 min then double it because of the translation, that could get me to ½ an hour. I preached on Esther and the theme of “For Such a Time as This” which resonates with me as I am on these trips.
Later today we will enjoy a more American lunch at the Java Café then we will go to downtown Nairobi and go through the history museum as well as the reptile park. I have neglected to mention this to the women yet. That should be fun.
This week marks the second half of the trip, which hopefully will be somewhat less exhausting. We will be dropping the women’s team off at KGC then head off to the bishops school to do the final water purification installation.
We are weary but know the end I in sight. It is a short week as Wednesday we will head to Maasai Mara for our safari time to end the trip.
We’re not in Kansas anymore
Right now I am sitting on the parked bus feeling the nice breeze, a welcome change from the dust and bumps and noise of moving from place to place.
The water team is working to put together tanks at the second location, a boys public high school. The women are well into their second day of the teaching at the church and our hygiene trainers are waiting for permission to teach the boys about clean water and hygiene in general. This might or might not happen, as it has to go through several layers of approval.
We have had a great couple of days installing systems and at the church. The enthusiasm with which all of the team came back with last night after a long day was heartwarming. Each person had a different perspective and experience but all of them were good.
My job has been to go out and procure tanks and other supplies for the water team; everyone else has a real job and is doing great, I’m settling nicely into my supervisory role!
There is a time in every trip to a third world country when people have that “We’re not in Kansas anymore” moment. I would have to say that came when we got to the recommended hotel in Chogoria Tuesday night. It was late and dark, we were tired, and hungry, we had had a full day of moving around and when we got to our rooms it became immediately apparent that our idea of comfort and amenities was very different than the management at the hotels.
For instance the hot water in the shower constitutes flipping a switch on the wall outside the bathroom and having electricity basically short out the pipe above the head and create heat, it is NOT a good idea to touch that pipe while you are standing in the water. Furthermore at least half of them didn’t work for one reason or another, there was no curtain and the water splashed everywhere including the toilet seat. Our bathroom in the plane on the way over might have been more spacious.
The included dinner consisted of roasted chicken that had so little meat on the bone it made me wonder how the poor thing walked around. And I know my mosquito net is going to heaven because it was so holey.
Then yesterday we got thumped in the head with a perspective check. The principal, Stella, at the grade school where our first installation is, was very excited to take Toni and Cindy to see her house, about a 10min walk from the school. As they entered her home they realized the entire home was smaller than our “roughing it” bedroom at the hotel. She cooked on a hotplate next to the couch and you could reach out your arm and touch the bathroom and the bed from the couch.
Mind you this woman was as dynamic and funny and driven as anyone I have encountered here. She has transformed the school in 7 short months making incredible improvements in buildings and education.
In our society where she lives would be seen as a reason someone can’t succeed, for her it was her home which she was proud of and the place from which she is able to do great things for the kids.