Week 16: Dad’s Second Post

We had a great last week in Kenya.

On Saturday, December 20, we drove with Robert’s host family, Eustance and Priscilla Mbogo, around Nairobi. It was nice to see the city from a vehicle instead of walking, and to have someone who knew the city do the driving.

We went to the Nairobi Safari Walk, which is next to the Nairobi National Park. We were able to see many native African animals. There were quite a few African children visiting the park, and they were very interested in us, since they hadn’t seen that many wazungu (white people).

After the Safari Walk we went to a large grocery store that was located in a large aircraft hanger. There were vendors in the parking lot selling African crafts. Mr. Mbogo was able to barter with them and purchased a red shuka (what the Masai wear) for me, a cloth wrap for Helen to wear around her skirt, and an Obama bracelet for Patrick.

We then went to the Mbogo’s house where we had a traditional African dinner. We found that before you have a meal everyone must wash their hands. We then went to see the school and church the Mr. Mbogo had founded (he built a house for himself and then turned it into a school. He rents a nearby house).

On Sunday we went to church at the St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church. It is a large church that is celebrating its 100th year anniversary. The church has large open windows and doors, so it doesn’t need any air conditioning. The service lasted 2 hours and included a wedding. After the regular service was over and some of the people left, they had communion.

After church we all went to an Ethiopian restaurant. Our party had 14 people. They brought out several large trays of food. To eat the food they supplied rolls of bread. You would break off part of the bread and scoop up what you wanted to eat. It was very good, although we weren’t sure what some of the food was.

That evening we went to a Christmas program at the church. They had a very large crowd. We enjoyed the music, especially one traditional Christmas song that was sung in Swahili. This program lasted 3 hours.

On Monday we started our safari. I thought the safari would involve driving a few hours on good (or pretty good) roads to the animal park. I was VERY wrong.

Our driver Christopher, who has worked as a guide for 40 years, picked us up at 7:30 am. After driving for 5 or 6 hours in a 4 wheel drive Toyota minivan with a pop-up top, we arrived at the Masai Mara Animal Reserve. The roads consisted of paved roads, gravel roads, roads that used to be paved but were mostly potholes now, and very dusty roads. On some of the paved roads with potholes, Christopher would get off the pavement and drive on the gravel side. On the dusty roads we would have to roll the windows up when we encountered another vehicle and then roll the windows down to get ventilation. It was also interesting to pass a vehicle on the 2 lane roads, when you could see another vehicle heading toward you in oncoming lane. But each driver knew the rules of Kenyan roads, and would pull back into their lanes before a collision.

The scenery was fantastic as we headed toward the park. Nairobi is located in the highlands, so we drove down the mountains into the Great Rift Valley. The sky was very blue and you could see for miles. Along the roads to the parks the police had set up several checkpoints, but our driver was able to drive through them without stopping.

Outside the park we started to encounter wildlife. We also drove by Masai villages and Masai herding their livestock.

Inside the park we stayed at the Sopa Lodge. It is located on a hill overlooking the park. The lodge consisted of 50 traditional round buildings with thatched roofs, each with 2 rooms in each building. Each room had a porch overlooking the park. It had a large reception building and dining room, each with a thatched roof. The meals were great, and one night they had a variety of African dishes served on the patio.

After resting in our rooms, we drove out into the park at 4 p.m. Christopher had raised the top up so we could stand up and get a better view of the animals. We saw zebras, wildebeest, impalas, gazelles, buffalo, and elephants. It was great to see them in the wild in large herds.

On Tuesday, we left the lodge at 7:00 a. m. The weather was great in the park. Since we hadn’t seen a lion yesterday, Christopher was determined to locate one. All the drivers of the vans in the park are in communication with each other on 2 way radios. As we drove along you could hear them talking in Swahili. As we were searching for a lion Christopher heard on the radio that rhinoceros had been spotted. After driving to the location that had been reported, we, along with several other vans, saw the rhinoceros. It was grazing and didn’t pay any attention to the vans. We then drove further into the park and found a giraffe. We were able to drive up very close the giraffe. Close by the giraffe was a herd of elephants. One of the smaller elephants left the herd and went looking for water. We followed the elephant on his search for water. After he had finished drinking, he decided to go down the same road we were on. He walked toward the front of our van. To scare the elephant away, Christopher gunned the engine and the elephant left the road and let us by.

We then heard a lot of talking on the radio. Someone had spotted a lion. We drove over to where several vans were parked near some brush. The first thing we saw was a dead buffalo. We then drove around the brush and found a lion resting in the brush. We were just a 10 or 20 feet from the lion. It was quite a sight.

We then went back to the lodge to rest and have lunch. We went out again that afternoon and saw several more lions, as well as a cheetah. As we drove around the park we saw many more animals and birds. It was truly a great experience.

On Wednesday morning we headed back to Nairobi. There were quite a few animals outside the park. We came across several monkeys.

Shortly after we left the park we came upon another police checkpoint. Christopher got out and reported how many people he had in the van. It appears that they keep track of how many people enter and leave the park.

After our long drive back to Nairobi, we checked back into the AACC and we rested that afternoon. That evening we walked over to the Libya Oil convenience store (which is like a QT convenience store) and had dinner at the Chicken Inn.

On Christmas day we walked over to the apartment Robert and Patrick were staying in. We rearranged our luggage for our departure Thursday morning. Then we walked over to Rev. Phyllis Byrd’s house to have dinner at 3 p.m. As is the Kenyan custom, we went around, shook hands and introduced ourselves to all the quests in the house. There were twenty guests for dinner. It was a very enjoyable dinner, and everyone was invited to have seconds. After dinner the guests exchanged gifts and sang Christmas songs. We then were driven back to our room to get rested for our trip home.

On Friday, December 26th Robert and Rodgers drove us to the airport in the AEE van. Because many of the Nairobi citizens had gone to their villages for Christmas, the traffic was very light. We made it to the airport in plenty of time. Robert and Rodgers helped us get our luggage into the terminal. After saying goodbye to Robert and thanking him for a great time, we went through three security checks and boarded the Virgin Airline for our 8 hour flight to London. We enjoyed this flight much more than our flight from London to Nairobi, because this flight had a lot of empty seats and we were able to stretch out, while the flight to Nairobi had been full and crowded.

As we flew to London, we were able to look down and see, among other things, the Sahara desert, the English Channel, the White Cliffs of Dover, and churches and castles. After landing in London we had to take a city bus to our hotel. The people were very friendly and helpful. It was very cold in London, but our hotel was very nice.

The almost 10 hour flight from London to Houston was completely full. Usually the three of us sit together, but on this flight I was sitting in another row between two other people.

After arriving in Houston, we went through customs. It felt good to finally be officially back in the United States. We then had to pick up our checked luggage, and checked our luggage again. We went to the gate to wait for the flight. They then notified us that the gate we were leaving from had changed, and then they changed the terminal. Luckily we had enough time to walk over to the new terminal.

The flight from Houston to Tulsa was very enjoyable. There was enough room to stretch out and the flight was very short. Our neighbor, Linda Newton, picked us up at the airport (thank you, Linda) and drove us home. We all went to bed and had a restful nights sleep.

We all enjoyed our experience and the opportunity to spend a family Christmas together in another country and culture, and experience the beauty and excitement of Kenya.

Tom

THANK YOU FPC BROKEN ARROW!

When my family arrived to Kenya last week they were carrying 3 extra bags that were full of treasures that my home church, First Presbyterian Church of Broken Arrow, had collected for me.  So, I want to say a big THANK YOU to all of my family at First Presbyterian Church of Broken Arrow!  I want to especially thank Margaret Ann for heading up the collection process.  So, thank you Margaret Ann!  Merry CHRISTmas to you all and I love you.  Thank you!

From Family Visit

RTQ

Week 15: Merry CHRISTmas and Family Visit

Hello friends,
Merry CHRISTmas!  Well, it was yesterday, but I still want to wish you all a very Merry CHRISTmas.  My parents and brother have been here for the past 10 days spending time with me in Kenya and I have absolutely loved the experience of having them here.  Furthermore, it was great to have them here for CHRISTmas.

Merry CHRISTmas from the Quirings:

From Family Visit

Merry CHRISTmas from the Kenyan YAVs:

From Family Visit

Our spare Blair has finished her overtime as a YAV from last year and the beginning of this year and we had a going away party for her the night my family arrived.  May God bless you and keep you, Blair.

From Family Visit

Below is a post from my mom and another from my dad.  Next week I will put up more post from them and my brother about our time in Kenya.  I felt like leaving the blogging about Kenya to them for the time being, but I still have a few insights to share.

Here is short video of my family arriving at the Kenyan airport:

First, family.  Wow is family important which I have known for a long time, but this morning as I saw my family off at the airport I once again realized how amazingly blessed I am and that I wouldn’t see them for 8 months.  I just started praying for them without the thought of, “I should pray” but it just happened.  Kind of cool.  Any who, I love my family and am glad we got to spend the last 10 days together.  May Jet Lag cause you many fun memories…

I got pretty sick last week and am still getting over whatever it is.  It was nice to have my mom down the street instead of half way around the world during this.  The situation reminded me of a woman that I visited with several times this past summer during my hospital chaplaincy.  She was 83 and talked with me about how every time she gets sick she wants her mother to come and take care of her.  I had many other people tell me this in less direct ways, but I think it’s true no matter how old you get you want your mom when your sick.  So, I was glad that I had mine readily available.

Mom cooking dinner after the power went out one night:

From Family Visit

I have been thinking a lot…about my childhood, teenage years, college, and seminary.  The whole shabang.  Memories that I haven’t thought of since they were formed and others for years have popped back in my head as I have been with Kenyan children and thought back on how my childhood was different and so on and so forth with teenage years, college, and seminary.  You get the picture.  Any who, there have been a lot of e-mails to parents and friends.  “Hey mom, thanks for taking me to swimming lessons when I was young.”  You know, the typical e-mails you get from a 25 year old male…

I’ve also been thinking a lot about a funny predicament.  When I am home on the couch in Broken Arrow (my happy place) watching Cash Cab or Man vs. Wild I want to be in NYC (where Cash Cab is) or whatever exotic place Man vs. Wild is taking place.  However, when I make it to NYC or the exotic place, I want to be back on my couch in Broken Arrow.  Make up your mind, Robert!  This goes along with my problem of not wanting money, but at the same time wanting money.  So, it has been fun to sit and ponder these predicamentss under African skies for the past 4 months.

Welp, that’s enough for now.  Until next week with more family posts.  Have a relaxing break for those who get one and a good end of 2008!
RTQ

Week 14: Dad’s Post

Hello from an internet café in Nairobi.  The lodging we are staying at doesn’t have internet access, so we have to go to an internet café to contact the outside world.  It charges 1 shilling per minute (75 shillings = $1).

From Family Visit

The weather is in the 70s.  Most of the buildings don’t have furnaces or air conditioners, so all the cooling and heating is done naturally.  You just have to add or take off blankets to stay comfortable in bed.

We had to sleep on the airplane twice on this trip.  Sleeping on the flight to London wasn’t too bad because we had enough legroom, but the legroom on the flight to Nairobi was very tight, which made it hard to sleep.  The dinner was good (three different meals to select from), and the Virgin Atlantic crew was very friendly.

In London the fire alarm went off, so we had to evacuate our part of the terminal.

When we arrived in Nairobi, it took a while for our passports and visas to be checked.  The traffic was bumper to bumper most of the way to our lodging.  The Kenyan’s like to drive very close to each other and honk their horns a lot.  The honking seems to work, since everyone was avoiding accidents as they merged in and out of traffic.

It is taking a while to get used to traffic driving on the other side of the road.  The first time I thought that we were going to have an accident.  Now the problem is walking, because you have to look the other way to avoid traffic.  We are mostly walking in the city (along with a lot of other people).

The best channels here are CNBC Africa and Aljazeera.  From what I had heard about Aljazeera in the States, I thought that it would have a slanted view about the world.  But from what I have seen, it appears very balanced and also gives news about the other side that we may not get in the States.

Thursday

The compound Robert works in is very nice.  It is a rural area of Karen.  There are many flowers and open spaces.  He has a room in a Quonset hut that is divided into several rooms.  Robert’s room is next to Cosmos’ room.  The walls don’t go all the way to the top of the hut, so they can talk back and forth.

From Family Visit
From Family Visit

Robert forgot his room key, so he had to climb over the wall to get into his room.  He tried to open the door from the inside, but was unsuccessful.  We were able to see the inside of the room by standing on a bed in Cosmos’s room and looking over the wall, or looking though the outside window into Robert’s room.  Because Robert is so tall, as compared to the average Kenyan (or average American, I guess), they have supplied him with two beds that he has placed next to each other.

From Family Visit
From Family Visit

Robert showed me the network wiring he installed, with the help of Rodgers, an employee at the compound.  The wire goes from the administration office, through the attic, along a fence (using twist ties to attach the wire to the fence), then up to a tree (again using twist ties to attach it to the tree), then into his room.  Robert then has internet access to the world.

Friday

Because Robert wasn’t feeling well and could not make it into Nairobi until Friday afternoon, Helen and I decided to explore the city.  We walked to the Sarit Centre, a large enclosed Kenyan mall.  We wanted to see what Kenyan stores were like.  It took us 30 minutes to walk to the general vicinity of the mall, and then another 20 minutes to find it.  Robert had taken me there earlier in the week, and I thought that I could easily find it, but all the other stores surrounding it made it difficult to locate.

There were a lot of Kenyan’s walking on the road from our room to the mall.  It was interesting to be among the general public.  When we did make it to the mall, there were many cars trying to find parking spaces, so it was easier to get around on foot.

The mall was four stories tall.  It had ramps between floors, instead of escalators, and wasn’t air conditioned, with the temperature in the mall being very pleasant.  We went to the food court and had lunch at “The Southern Fried Chicken” restaurant.  They also had several other restaurants there, including Chicago Pizza and Chinese food.  They had Santa Claus, having his picture taken with children.  After checking out several stores, we went to the super market in the mall.  The cashiers at the super market were allowed to sit down as they checked you out.  We found this at several stores, and they seemed to be as efficient at their jobs as cashiers in America, who are required to stand up to do their job.

After receiving a cell phone call from Robert and Patrick for food from the food court and baguettes from the Shell service station, we walked back to our room to find a sick Robert.  He was able to eat lunch, and then I showed him a video tape that his friends at the church had made wishing him a very merry Christmas, which he really enjoyed.  He rested some more after that, but was still feeling sick.

We all walked over to Henry’s apartment, where Patrick and Robert are spending their nights.  Helen made subway sandwiches from the food we had purchased.  Robert was still feeling sick.  He was starting to have chills and was shaking.  We had to leave because it was starting to get dark.  Robert thought that walking would make him feel better, so he walked with us back to our room and then went back to the apartment.

At 7:30 pm we received a call from Robert saying that he had chills, trembling, joint ache, and a fever.  He said that he was going to the emergency room to be tested for malaria.  His supervisor was going to drive him.  They said that they might stop by and take one of us along for moral support, but decided that that wasn’t necessary.  Luckily, after running a blood test, they found that he didn’t have malaria, but just a severe throat infection.

Well, we are off now.  Today (Saturday) we are going out with Robert’s host parents for a drive around Nairobi.

From Family Visit

Tom

Week 14: Mom’s Post

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Robert had requested at least one morning of his usual breakfast in Broken Arrow, so I had brought blueberry muffin mix and baking cup papers.  Robert borrowed a muffin tin from his boss and went around the corner to buy some milk from a street vendor.  We thought we were all set until we realized that the oven in the apartment did not seem in the mood to attain the required 400 degrees.  We ended up baking the muffins under the broiler.  I was surprised when the muffins disappeared without a complaint as I knew they were not baked that well.  Robert and Patrick said I had made worse back in Broken Arrow!!!??

From Family Visit

Around 11 a.m., Robert’s boss appeared in a Volkswagen Golf to take us around for the day.  William is a charming 28 year-old who attends college part-time and works for African Evangelistic Enterprise full-time.  The first thing we wanted to do, of course, was see where Robert is spending the majority of his time during his year in Africa, the grounds of AEE.  After what seemed to me a harrowing drive through thick traffic, William made a hit with me by saying he wanted to buy us Americans a coke.  What a nice gesture!

AEE is located on a very pleasant expanse of grass with lots of colorful plants.  The office building looks kind of like a Midwestern ranch house, and then there are the two Quonset huts, one of which has been made into a dormitory.  Robert lives in one end of it, but he had forgotten the key to the door so we had to make do with peeking though the window.

From Family Visit

Since William was making a special effort to drive us around, we wanted to take him to lunch.  He suggested a restaurant called The Rusty Nail and our Midwestern minds conjured visions of horseshoes on the wall and peanuts underfoot.  However, the restaurant turned out to be one of the most charming spots in which I have ever dined.  Our table was on the verandah and the weather was perfect.  Stretching out in front of the restaurant was a large expanse of lawns, gardens, and exotic trees.  The whole meal was just a lovely occasion.

From Family Visit

If anyone asks me what my favorite movie is, I always respond Out of Africa.  I first saw the movie in 1987 while recovering from my broken right arm.  The story of Karen Blixen’s life has fascinated me since then.  Flash forward to 2008:  Robert decided to go to Kenya as a Young Adult Volunteer.  After about a month, he announced that he is living in Karen.  I immediately made the connection that the Karen he is mentioning must have something to do with Karen Blixen.

Somehow Tom, Patrick, and I were able to travel to Kenya to spend Christmas with Robert.  Seeing and being with Robert was of course my first priority for our time in Kenya, but I couldn’t resist the idea of actually seeing the location of the events which have interested me so much for so long.  So, of course, when Robert typed up his plan for our ten days in Kenya, he put Mom’s trip to Blixen museum at the top of the list.

After lunch, William drove us to the museum, and it was very satisfying to find that the house and grounds looked exactly as I had thought they would.  Apparently when the movie was made, the house was restored and has been maintained as part of the National Museum of Kenya.

From Family Visit
From Family Visit

Well, we’re off to dinner and more Kenyan experiences.

Helen

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