Week 16: Mom’s Second Post

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Robert had made arrangements for his host family, Eustace and Priscilla Mbogo, to spend the day with us.  The Mbogos are a delightful couple, and it was especially fun to be driving around Nairobi rather than walking.  We saw parts of the city we had not seen before as we drove to the Nairobi Safari Walk.  As Mr. Mbogo said, this place offered us a chance to see some wildlife we would not see on a regular safari.  I was especially interested in the albino zebra and the pygmy hippos.

On the way to the By Grace church and school compound, we stopped at a grocery store so that Priscilla could pick up a few items.  There were a number of street vendors operating in the parking lot.  Mr. Mbogo bought Tom a red chukka (what the Masai wear) and for me a piece of fabric which I wore as a skirt over my slacks for the rest of the day.  We then proceeded to the Mbogos’ home where we were served a traditional African dinner.  After the meal, the Mbogos showed us By Grace church and school which they founded.  They have accomplished much during their lives.

From Family Visit

Sunday, December 21, 2008

We took a taxi from the AACC to St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church.  It was good to meet several of Robert’s friends before church.  The church building was unusual in that everything about it was completely traditional, except for the fact that all the huge windows on both sides of the sanctuary were completely open to the outside and everyone was very comfortable.  Robert’s Young Adult Volunteer coordinator Rev. Phyllis Byrd preached a very eloquent sermon.

After church, we all (4 Quirings, 4 Byrds, and 6 YAV’s) made our way to an Ethiopian restaurant.  The Ethiopian meal experience was extraordinary.  I have no idea of the names of the food.  Anyway, what happens is that three or four people share a large platter covered with what looks like (but is not) unbaked pie dough.  Scattered on the platter are maybe ten different food items.  Rolls of the dough are provided as silverware.  The diner tears off a bit of the dough, scoops up whatever she wants to try and then consumes the whole thing.  Much of it tasted very good.

From Family Visit

And Shelvis who missed the picture:

From Family Visit

After lunch we returned to the church for their Christmas program.  The music was fabulous, but it was a bit of a pain not to understand what was said in between.

Monday, December 22, 2008

This was the beginning day for our safari.  Our driver/guide Christopher picked us up at 7:30 a.m.  Christopher said he had worked as a guide for forty years, and I do feel we profited from his experience.  We traveled in a white Toyota minivan with a pop-up top.  We headed out of Nairobi toward the Masai Mara Animal Reserve.  The drive to the safari area includes a panoramic view of the Great Rift Valley and roads that alternated between standard quality to extremely poor.

From Family Visit

As we got closer to the reserve, we observed many Masai villages, homes, and stockades and the Masai themselves herding their cattle.

We arrived at Sopa Lodge around noon and were greeted by servers offering us rolled up damp washcloths with which to remove the dust of the journey from hands and faces.  We were also served fruit drinks.  We found our rooms to be large and comfortable.  We especially liked how each room had a little porch with chairs so that a person could sit outside and enjoy the outside air and the views.
Since sunset is a prime time for animal viewing we ventured out at 4 p.m.  As we drove into the reserve, I was reminded of the pastures in Kansas and also of the scenery on either side of Highway 40 as a person travels west in the US.  Far different though was the variety of animals visible everywhere.  We first saw many zebra, wildebeest, impala, gazelles, and buffalo (according to Christopher, the most dangerous animal in the reserve).  Our first sighting of big game was a large number of giraffe grazing along a creek bed.  We kept driving and came upon an even more imposing sight–a herd of about twenty elephants.  The group included a bull elephant and several baby elephants, which were kept in the middle of the herd.  It was quite a thrill to see so many elephants.  We had to head back to the lodge before dark, but we felt fortunate to have seen so many animals.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

We left the lodge at 7 a.m., eager to see what our second day on safari would bring.  Christopher seemed to think we had been quite fortunate to see all the animals we had seen the previous evening.  We hadn’t seen any lions though, so his focus for the morning was to hunt down this elusive prey.  He went to several locations where the lions usually are, but no luck.  Then all of the sudden we could hear great excitement in the men’s voices that chatter continuously on the two way radio.  It seems a rhinoceros had been spotted.  Christopher said he had not seen a rhinoceros in the park for six or seven years.  Sure enough, after maneuvering over the trails, we came upon the rhinoceros having his or her breakfast and quite unconcerned with all the attention from several vans of tourists.  According to the guide book, it is rare to see a rhinoceros on safari.

As we continued our search for lion, we spotted a giraffe standing like a statue under a tree fairly close by.  We drove right up to this giraffe, taking all kinds of pictures and admiring this unusual animal.  Then behind the giraffe we noticed a young elephant moving along at a faster clip than seemed normal for an elephant.  Christopher thought the elephant was going to find water, so we left the giraffe under the tree and followed the elephant—all from the safety of the van, of course.  A little further down the trail, sure enough, there was the small elephant with his trunk in the ground, apparently getting water from a source we couldn’t see.

From Family Visit
From Family Visit

About this time our young elephant friend decided he or she didn’t like being stalked.  This young elephant got in front of our van in the middle of the trail in a challenging position.  Christopher then gunned the van motor and the elephant took off.  I am thinking if the elephant had been larger we wouldn’t have done all that, but all’s well that ends well.

The final big event of our morning safari was our encounter with the true king of the safari.  After hearing a lot of chatter on the radio, we noticed a number of other vans heading for this one clump of bushes.

From Family Visit

The first thing we noticed was a dead animal fairly close to the trail.  Then Christopher got off the trail (a no-no) and pulled around the bush so that we could observe the large male lion lying under the brush, yawning, licking his chops, and showing off his huge teeth.  This was at very close range.  We took our pictures and got out of there.

After lunch and rest at the lodge, we went out into the reserve one more time that afternoon.  We saw two female lion, but not at such close range.  We also observed a cheetah up in a tree, also at long range.  The big game was so overwhelming that I have forgotten to mention the ostriches, emu, and many unusual birds that we observed.  We felt that we had had an outstanding safari experience.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

What an unusual way to spend Christmas Eve!  We got a fairly early start for our drive back to Nairobi.  Before getting totally out of the reserve, we had our last significant encounter with wildlife—a whole troop of baboons beside the road—quite entertaining.

Halfway back, we stopped at a trading post for a break.  Patrick saw a drum he liked, and Tom was attracted by a small piece of animal sculpture.  However we didn’t think these items were worth $60 each, which was the asking price, so we left with no souvenirs.  After getting settled back into our room at AACC, we walked up the street to eat at the Chicken Inn.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The big event of our day was our invitation to dine at Rev. Byrd’s at 3 p.m.  When we first entered the large living room, we went around and shook hands with all the other guests who were seated in sofas and chairs which bordered the room.  The guest list totaled twenty—four Quirings, six YAV’s and the rest were family and friends of our hosts.  After a bit, Tom and I (as the oldest guests) were invited to wash our hands first.  This apparently is a Kenyan custom, which of course makes a lot of sense.  Anyway, everyone present had to wash their hands before eating.  As the longest married, Tom and I were the first in line to enter the dining room where a large table was loaded with delicious food including pumpkin pudding with marshmallows and a turkey looking just like a Norman Rockwell picture.  We ate in the living room with the help of small tables strategically placed around the room.  Three kinds of desserts were available.  In the course of the evening, the YAV’s exchanged gifts, sang Christmas carols, and toasted the health of all with wine and fruit punch.  It was wonderful to be able to share Christmas Day with Robert, his YAV friends, and our generous hosts.

From Family Visit

Friday, December 26, 2008

Since many Nairobi citizens return to their villages for the Christmas holiday, the streets were quieter than usual as Robert and Rodgers drove us to the airport in the AEE van.  We made it in plenty of time.  It was very hard to part from Robert!

We considered ourselves very fortunate because the plane from Nairobi to London was almost empty.  We felt free to move around during the flight.  Both Tom and I took window seats, and I was surprised to discover that a person can actually see the Sahara Desert, the Mediterranean Sea, the Alps, and the English Channel including the white cliffs of Dover, from 30,000 feet.  As we approached the airport, flying over the city of London, I could recognize several famous landmarks, which was a thrill for me.  But by the time we landed and got situated in our hotel, it was too late to do any sightseeing.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

We arrived at the airport in plenty of time to face our nine hour flight.  The plane was full—every seat occupied.  We were thrilled to finally get to Houston.  The flight to Tulsa seemed to take no time at all.  Our thoughtful neighbor, Linda Newton, was at the airport to greet us.

We are still a bit incredulous that we actually have experienced life in Nairobi, Kenya, that we were able to go on a safari, and that once again all of our family was together at Christmas.

Helen

Wow. It's Quiet Here...

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