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

3 Responses to “Week 16: Dad’s Second Post”

  1. Janess September 30, 2011 at 2:07 am #

    Superb information here, ol’e chap; keep biunrng the midnight oil.

  2. ozcidbzor October 1, 2011 at 9:33 am #

    Lu4g7I ryfaiwlqrwnd

  3. gacytubwac October 3, 2011 at 7:41 am #

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