So excited about this trip! It’s almost a dream that we are really going. 4 days and counting! I should probably think about packing...
What a day! Sarah finished the run of Young Frankenstein and Eric was on call, then had a kidney stone removed. Now if I could only find Sarah’s passport...
We made it!!! On board, ready to go! Everyone’s passports are accounted for and we had our efirst dose of malaria meds. They go down well with a margarita. 😁 14 hour flight ahead so we are about to watch a whole lot of movies.
Dubai is hot. I know it is hot in the Middle East, but it is really something crazy. It is 11pm, and since it’s the coolest part of the day, people are all out exercising in the dark! There are lots of people out in general, and I felt very safe.
I made a pretty big error yesterday. I didn’t think through this extended layover business and didn’t process the fact that our luggage would keep going straight on to Nairobi. Oops. So we went to the mall near our hotel and picked up a few things. I will be roasting in my Capri pants tomorrow instead of the cool dress I had picked out but that’s the price of my stupidity. At least I will have clean underwear, and I’m not wearing a full burqa like some of the women in town!
We are going to try to sleep now- Hotel Coral Dubai is nice and has adjoining family rooms! Girls have their own beds so everyone is happy!
I’m hoping my photos will be more interesting tomorrow!
Today didn’t work out how I hoped. The hotel was fine but the hotel recommended tour guide was pretty bad. He just drove us around the city aimlessly for 4 hours, not talking about anything and not stopping close to any landmarks. That wasn’t what we hoped for. Our best stop was at the beach where we dipped our feet in the Persian Gulf. It was amazing- I’ve never felt water that hot in such a huge body of water!! It would have been fun to have time to just hang out there and swim.
We also went to the famous Atlantis hotel where they have the aquarium rooms. We had some Gordon Ramsey ice cream there which was amazing. The aquarium looked fun but no time to explore.
If I were making recommendations I would first of all rely more on Trip Advisor for the tour. I also think because it was summer there (heat index 122F!) it was very smoggy and not very vibrant. Dubai is very fast growing so pretty crowded, and not all of it wealthy. There are tons of malls and lots of opportunities to spend money, and it also felt like people were constantly trying to scam us out of our tourist dollars. It didn’t really charm or attract me in any way. Perhaps we would have had a much different impression with a better tour.
Eric told me that I definitely HAD to journal the story of today. But when I start thinking about what to say, I realize I have no words to adequately describe it. I had some pretty big expectations of this trip, and within a half hour of being in the Masa Mara preserve, we surpassed our expectations 3-fold. It was incredible begin to end, and we will have these memories forever.
Our guide Lenny is a wonderful man and an INCREDIBLE drive. He is very knowledgeable and we have taken to teasing him about being a “madman”. When you read guide books about Kenya safaris they warm you that the guides communicate by radio and most things you see will include a dozen or more safari vehicles looking st the same thing. Lenny doesn’t like doing it that way. He is so familiar with the park and animals that he would rather hunt up his own than follow a pack. Once in a while he will go where something big is, but somehow he maneuvers into a better position than the others. His driving is artful and aggressive which couldn’t make Eric (and the rest of us!) any happier. Riding in the Land Cruiser with Lenny behind the wheel is like an all day Jeep ride with the most amazing animals you will ever see!
When we were on our way in to the park, Lenny was telling us that we hoped to see a lot of things but you never know. I told him that we are very lucky, so not to worry. He said we will see how long it takes to see your first animal, then that will be proof. So we pull up to the gate to get in, and what do we see? \240Park ranger is there with his vehicle and they had just captured a leopard that had been preying on local farm animals. I was laughing so hard and todos him see? We are at the gate and see one of the big five.
Our luck continued for the entire evening game drive. We saw so many animals that i can’t even name them all. I didn’t expect there to be so many so quickly, and to be able to get so close to most of them. No one will believe the pictures really came from my camera! I’m glad I didn’t spring for a super zoom lens- I wouldn’t have been able to use it because we were so close. (Unfortunately I can’t get them off my camera- I forgot the SD card adapter so I will have to add them in later. I have a couple from my phone.)
Driving through the park there are animals around every corner it seems. All sorts of grazers- impala and antelope, zebras, and elephants. We came across a tour vehicle watching a lion sleeping in the grass. We could only see it’s paw, and couldn’t even tell if it was male or female. We watched for a while and occasionally saw a tail twitch. Then suddenly she sat up, and so did the male lion that was in the grass beside her!! She got up, stretched, and we watched them mate about 15 feet from our vehicle. It was a pretty quick act, and they just laid back down to sleep, this time in the open. \240It was so amazing. Eric called it Kitty Porn and I know his dad would be proud.
We moved on and saw lots more animals including ostriches which I thought were a lot of fun. We then got word of a large pride of lions and raced over to watch them.
It was incredible- 14 lions!! Of course Lenny positioned us so we had an incredible view and we watched them for a long time. One of the things that is special about being on safari is watching the animal behaviors. They truly do act differently in the wild and I could watch forever! One of the young males picked a fight with the wrong cat failrly recently. The injuries to his face were quite gruesome. The guide said he will likely survive since it didn’t look very swollen but he will report it to the park police anyway.
We continued on hunting for more game and came across so giraffes. They are huge and glorious and have the most interesting walk. It was really fun to watch them strolling around, doing their thing.
We \240then heard about a male lion. We came up to the group of cars watching him and he was just slipping away across a creek with very steep sides. He was gone out of sight so everyone left except one car who was in Lenny’s way. I think he was debating about trying to cross. He eventually backed up to allow us room to move, and that is the first time I called Lenny a madman. He just threw it into gear and bounded across that embankment and up the other side.
To our amazement and delight the lion had stayed right there so as soon as we crossed we saw him- beautiful and proud and only about 8 feet away. It is a moment none of us will ever forget!
We saw some elephants on the way home and a gorgeous sunset and back to the hotel for dinner. Our first day was done- or so we thought!
After we were finished eating, we were sitting for a moment relaxing. The guides were sitting together in their traditional dress. They got up and started to sing an welcome song. They went to each table and sang and danced- it was amazing! After they finished all of the tables they then started a song where they started jumping unbelievably high! It was so much fun- we were laughing and smiling so much. Definitely another unforgettable experience!
We are here in Kenya, and even though we have only been here a few hours, it is all I hoped. The hotel was lovely, and the breakfast buffet was amazing. But most importantly the people are wonderfully warm, welcoming, kind and genuine.
We met our tour guide Lenny this morning. He is Masa Masai and wears traditional dress. He is 30 years old and \240has been a guide for 9 years.
The drive will be about 4 hours to Masa Mara National Park, which everyone says is the most beautiful. The wildebeest migration is still going on and I have a feeling we might see more than we \240bargained for!
Maasai Mara Day 2
We met Lenny bright and early (6am) so we could make the most of the day. We got to enjoy the sunrise over the savannah. We brought along a man who is learning to be a guide, and ended up making a great spotter. His name is Josphat and he is 22. Another friendly and happy guy who added joy to the trip.
We started by looking at all the wildebeest- wen they say there are millions migrating, they aren’t kidding. There are groups of them far and wide, young ones and bigger ones. There are sometimes zebras or other animals in the mix which is interesting.
Very soon after we arrived we came upon a lioness and her cub with a fresh kill. She didn’t care we were so close, but the cub was more shy. We were able to get very close and watch her a while. More incredible pictures to insert later!
One of \240he most elusive animals in the park is the leopard. Lenny knows where to look though, plus we were extremely lucky. Josphath spotted one in a tree, snoozing away with its kill in the upper branches. He was gorgeous. The coloring of the coat and the face were awesome. The guide says it is finding gold to see one.
We spent much of the day following the wildebeest herds, waiting for them to cross the river. They meander around eating grass and then a group of 50 or so firms up at the edge. One big one will decide to go, then they all follow. Wildebeest are pretty stupid, so even if there is a lion or crocodile at the bottom they will just keep going. Most made it across that day, but not all. We saw one that had drown (and we watched as the vultures found it on the bank), one lost an entire leg to a croc but somehow managed to scramble up the other side, and one mama completely shattered a rear leg on the way down. It was too lame to go up either bank and The young one just stayed with her. Kind of sad to think about them getting eaten by hyenas that night but that is nature.
Lunch is eaten out in the park so we don’t waste time. We were all amused by our strange chip flavors. We had Tangy Tomato and Tingly Cheese and Onion.
After that we drove around looking for more game. We were lucky again and found a group of 3 male lions who had made a kill and were sleeping. One of them was so sound asleep that it’s tongue was hanging out and he was dreaming so hard he was panting. It was so funny!! We watched that for quite a while. Lenny knew the names of the dominant male lions. He was definitely a wealth of knowledge and loved teaching us as much as he could. Teaching is a very well respected in Kenya so he is proud to teach something to all who visit his homeland.
On the way back Lenny decided Sarah should drive the Land Cruiser for fun. He was surprised she could drive a stick and thought she wouldn’t do very well but was willing to give it a shot. The right drive is definitely something to get used to but she used the clutch and drove us up the road no problem. Lenny was ”100%“ delighted and Eric was very proud.
At the end of the day we saw 5 cheetahs just hanging out in the road. They were also beatiful animals. And not the least bit frightened by all the cars.
Our last stop was the Massai village. It was extremely eye opening. They still live in tiny mud huts, raise livestock as a community, and use the river for washing and restroom. Medical care is minimal We saw things commonly repaired health issues like hade lip and club foot. The kids ran around all over the courtyard, frequently barefoot, and so did the livestock which made for a lot of flies. But the people had a zest for life and a contagious happiness. They must sing the welcome song 20 times a day but the people sing it with genuine joy. It was definitely what I wanted my kids to see, and to see myself.
Today we drove to the border of Tanzania and said goodbye to Lenny. (And shortly after we crossed the border we realized we didn’t get a photo with him!! We were all sad about that.) He was an amazing guide and we miss him already. We definitely have a new friend in Kenya. His passion for the wildlife of Africa, as well as his love of people make him a perfect guide. We know he will do amazing things one day!
The drive to Serengeti was long and bumpy. Road conditions are poor most of the time, though you do see construction projects. The area is much more hilly there, which took me by surprise. We had the opportunity to see much more of the people and everyday life. The clothing was different, though the markets and houses were similar. There is a lot of agricultural activity but of course everything is done by hand so the farms aren’t massive. Clothing is colorful for women and we couldn’t get over how much those ladies could carry on their heads! Goats and cows are constantly in the road, and people are always walking. Poverty is very evident (more than 50% unemployment rate) but people seem to be trying to make a living, even if it is taking care of the family livestock or making crafts to sell. The marketplaces were bustling with activity. Many Tanzanians live on a dollar a day. They value education very highly and there are many schools, a lot of them Christian. It was fascinating to see all that we did.
When we arrived at Serengeti, we looked for animals as we drove to our camp, which is in the middle of the park. When we arrived, we were delighted. It is the absolute definition of glamping. We are staying in tents, but the are huge and spotless. They have an actual toilet and sink, and shower as well. When you get back from the safari, they ask if you are ready for your shower. They heat water and poor it into an overhead bucket and you pull the handles to turn the flow of water on and off. It felt fantastic! Little did I know that first time, they stand by (outside where you can’t possibly see anything) and pour in more water for you as necessary. I was chatting to Eric the whole time and was slightly embarrassed when I hear a man ask if I was done or needed more water! I don’t think I said anything bad I was just shocked. It was hilarious.
There are 12 units in all, and a large, incredibly attentive staff. We eat in a communal tent overlooking the grasslands and it feels like I am royalty they treat us so well. \240
We will spend 2 nights here, living with all the wonderous sounds of nature. Game drive all day tomorrow on he Serengeti.
We woke in the middle of the Serengeti and spent the whole day on Safari. The Serengeti National Park and Maasai Mara are connected, just in different countries. I expected the topography to be the same, but it is actually somewhat different. It reminds me a bit of being out west, but with umbrella trees! We had breakfast outside, packed our lunches and hit the trail.
Shortly after starting our drive we came across 2 jackals chasing a mongoose around some bushes. They are so fast and were a hoot to watch. The mongoose eventually made a dash for the tree and made it to safety in the high branches. No breakfast for them!
Our next stop was a hippo pool and we loved it! We spent a ton of time there watching all the activity. There were at least 100 hippos in the pool, resting and playing. They eat grasses on land all night long then retreat to the water in the day. There were lots of cute babies and sparring adults. Of course with that many elephants there was a whole lot of poo floating on the surface. It was definitely something I haven’t seen before.
We drove a trail marked hippo loop, which is where we saw our first big crocs. They were a little way down the stream sunning themselves and were quite impressive.
We drove to the National Park visitor center for lunch and had a tour by a park ranger. It was interesting but we were very distracted by the hyrax that were everywhere. They are unfazed by human activity (probably because they mooch food scraps) and a bit like mammalian pigeons. We thought they were fun and cute though.
After lunch we drove a lot. Because we can’t leave the road we ended up in a herd of sports utilities. That wasn’t ideal but couldn’t be helped. We saw several more lions (tally for the trip so far is 42), giraffes, ostriches, and a whole lot of deer type animals. We also spotted a huge family of baboons in a tree close to the road. We were fascinated by them, especially the babies that could climb so well!
On the way back we saw a huge herd of elephants. They hung out for a while (eating part of their 300kg of grass for the day) and \240eventually crossed the road so we got to watch them for a very long time. They are huge and awesome.
We got back to camp which advertised laundry. So we decided to wash somethings. I think watching the girls (and Eric) wash their clothes by hand was one of the best parts of my day!!
We had a lovely dinner, shared some good laughs, especially watching a stick bug dance. Lovely memories to cherish!
As we leave the Kati Kati camp, I have to note that they had the best service I’ve ever seen anyone give in my entire life. Their attention to detail is unbelievable. For example Eric got a cup of tea and there was still quite a bit of room to the top. So he asked for more water. The next day his tea was filled to the brim without asking. The girls were in the back of the morning buffet line and each decided they just wanted a little egg so they were going to split one. Sarah ordered the omelette and when they brought it to the table, they brought 2 halves. It is hard to really describe but they anticipated our needs at every turn. It was amazing- I felt like royalty!
Leaving the Kati Kati Tented Camp and headed to Ngorongoro Crater! Sunrise photo.
Our camp was in the middle of the park, so we had a game drive as we made our way to Ngorongoro. It was big cat day for us, as we saw many! We saw several more lions, (bringing our total up to 49), and we came across a leopard in a tree with its kill. It astounds me that they are so strong they can carry a whole wildebeest or gazelle high up into the tree and balance it there.
The last big cat we saw in the park was a cheetah on the move. It was amazing. Even our guide, who has been driving for many years has never watched a cheetah for that long. We saw it cross the grasslands and get closer and closer to the road, despite all the vehicles stopping to watch. He wandered over to the creek and got a drink. He looked very nervous with all the people but didn’t bolt. Usually they are very shy around humans, but we were able to watch him for about a half hour before he wandered away from the road. What an experience!
The road was incredibly dusty and rocky today. So rocky in fact that we got a flat tire and had to change it. Some Maasai children saw we were stopped and came running to beg for food and money. I can’t imagine how many miles they walk a day!
At lunch time we arrived at Ngorongoro Gorge. They built a beautiful visitor’s center which is only 8 months old. It is the place where they found “Lucy” and other hominid species that helped scientists learn about the origins of man. We toured around the exhibits and artifacts and then the guide took us down to the bottom of the gorge. It was very hot and dusty, and about a mile down then up, but it was so cool to be able to stand in the spot where something of such scientific importance happened!
After a lot more rough and dusty driving (we actually got 2 flat tires today from all the rock!) we ended near the crater to our lodging. It was incredible. The Farmhouse is a coffee plantation with guest houses. It is African owned which is wonderful to see. I knew we were going to enjoy our stay when upon arrival they presented us with hot towels to wash off the dust, juice, and wiped off our luggage before taking us to our rooms.
Everything there was lush and beautiful like an oasis. The flowers, trees and flowering trees were gorgeous. Our rooms were large and very comfy, and we shared the balcony with the girls. (Because the girls are older, the tour company put them in the own room, always close by but not usually connected. They have been awesome - taking care of themselves, figuring things out, and always on time, even with our early mornings. We are very proud of them!)
Before dinner drinks and snacks included some singers. We had a lot of fun doing that. There was a dance for women then a dance for men. It was loads of fun and all the men werenwarly \240as enthusiastic and awkward as Eric so that make it even better!
As expected from viewing the extensive gardens, the dinner was excellent. I even took my chances and had a salad. Since everything comes from the property and they are very good about using RO water tanks everywhere, I fingered I would be safe.
We retired to our rooms and as usual the staff had turned down the beds and lowered the mosquito nets. But when I \240hopped in I was delighted! They put a hot water bottle in each side of the bed to warm you up on the cool nights. It was perfect!
After a marvelous breakfast we went on a tour of the coffee plantation and gardens. The young man giving our tour was the same guy who played drums for us the evening before! His name is Philippe and he’s 24. He grew up in the area and his English is perfect. His German is also quite good too. He couldn’t continue his education to high school because it is expensive and they had to use the cows that they planned to use for his education to pay \240for his grandfather’s hospital bill. He learned the German from YouTube. 😱 He makes bricks and works 3 days a week for the resort. He makes an average of 1000 bricks each morning to earn money for his younger siblings‘ education. Lots of people think that is terrible and that he should be married by now. He actually faked a leg injury for 6 months to avoid marriage. I hope he does well- he is very bright and motivated and has great ideas.
The tour was fantastic. He told us all about the crops they grow for the guests, and how the coffee farm works from planting to roasting. He did such a good job keeping us engaged. My favorite part of the whole day was he and Sarah singing ”Jambo” together. It was amazing and I will never forget it. I bet Mr. Henry didn’t expect one of the student e taught that song to would go off to Africa and sing it with an African! I can’t wait to show him the video. (I wish this Journal would hold video but alas.)
After we finished the tour we took our lunches to the crater. It is enormous beyond description. It was created when a huge volcano exploded leaving this depression. It is the largest crater in the world and contains a whole ecosystem. It is the only water around so the Maasai are allowed to bring their cattle down to drink (but not graze), but no other humans are allowed to use the land.
It is a steep and rocky drive to the bottom but only about a half hour or so. Decent is 600 meters. There is a wetland area that is good for the animals to get water but the large lake in the center dissolves the alkaline volcanic ash so it is somewhat salty. The flamingo feed on the brine shrimp that are able to live there.
We saw many of the same animals but they are in even greater number down there so we could see some of them even closer up. I am growing quite fond of the warthog for some reason. Technically we saw a rhino but not really. The guide could tell the difference between it and a buffalo through binoculars but we could could not because it was so far away. We saw hundreds of wildebeest, zebra, gazelle and water buffalo. We also saw more lions (up to 56 now), elephants, jackals, hyena, water buck, spoonbill, pelicans, Cory bastard (the largest flying bird in the world) and others. It was another amazing and dusty day out on safari. (PS I didn’t have to pee outside once all day today!)
Rhino Lodge is at the top of the crater which has lush surroundings. The Cape Buffalo come to graze there in the evenings so they were feet away just over the railing of the back porch area. When they took our bags to our rooms, they gave a stern warning that they are dangerous and not to go out of the railing. A little while later when I went to dinner I saw that they had come I to the courtyard area that we crossed after check in. I decided I didn’t need the reception desk for anything!
The lodge itself wasn’t super memorable. Rooms were neat and clean, but not the extraordinary service we received at the other camps. It is very cold there at night so Eric filled up lots of water bottles for me. I didn’t escape Anna’s cold virus so the 2 of us are sniffling together. We aren’t miserable just missing American cold medicine a bit.
Most of these lodges claim to have WiFi but it is usually pitiful at best. We have been reading a lot and playing games on the long and bumpy car rides. It has also given me lots of time to journal! Here’s a pic of Anna at the lodge waiting for dinner.
This morning we left Rhino lodge and headed to the border. There were a few things to see along the way but mostly just drove. We drove through the city of Arusha which is about 1.5 million people. The layout was the same- streets lines with small shops, with drainage ditches on either side of the road for rainy season. The buildings were mostly brick, including the houses and things seemed in better condition all around.
This is because Arusha is in the middle of many parks so it is the center of tourism. This helps their economy greatly. Travel here is expensive because park fees are extremely high. For example the fees are $71 per person a day to enter (24 hour pass) and $60 per person per day to stay overnight in the park. So the government makes much money on tourism and the private investors (many Chinese and Indian) make the money on lodgings and your company profits. The people of Africa make very small wages (unemployment is 50% so if you don’t take low paying work someone else will) so our tips and souvenir purchases are very meaningful to them. From talking to the people we learned that they value education greatly and many are college educated, but they will take any job to earn money. Nothing is “beneath” them. Normal jobs like school teachers earn about $10/day. This is the part of the world where some live on a dollar a day.
We crossed the border and met up with our newest guide, William. He was born and raised in the outskirts of Nairobi and still lives on his fathers land. They have 2 boys and 2 dogs. He is a wealth of knowledge, just like our other guides.
Our afternoon tour of Amboseli was awesome. Amboseli means “dust devil” in the Maasai language and you see at least 1 or 2 all the time. it is very dusty with lots of fine dust everywhere.
The park is typically dry this time of year but they had so much extra rain in the rainy season that it is still there. Usually they drive across that area but we had to go around. Even going around there was still a lot of water. It made us a little nervous!
Amboseli Park is filled with wildlife, like all the other parks here. So many zebras, wildebeest, antelope and elephants and a hundred types of birds, probably more! Our guide said that most documentaries about elephants are made in this park. It is at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro and so gorgeous. If a person wants to trek up to the top it takes about 4 days up (and 2 down) and costs about $1500. It is 5,600 meters tall and spectacular because all of the grasslands around it are so flat and the mountain just up out of no where.
The guide said sometimes the mountain clears off in the evening but more often in the morning. We traveled over near the lake to look at the flamingos, which are rarely there this time of year. The greater flamingo is a little bigger and mostly white. The lesser flamingo is the bright pink one. We got to see flocks of both, and wow- there were thousands! While watching the birds we slowly watched the clouds clear from the top of the mountain. We couldn’t have been any luckier!
Kibo was the name of our lodge, which was a rented camp but very nice. It has regular plumbing and 24 hour electricity. They claim to have WiFi but it is minimal at best. The food was pretty good but it was completely full so very crowded. About 250 people can stay there. It was a good camp but not the same personal service as the smaller ones.
*I downloaded some pics from my good camera after I finished writing so now they are out of order but can’t fix that from here*
We woke at Kibu camp to the sound of a LOT of birds. We are and checked out and went with William to see what is shaking in the morning in the park. It turns out the answer is baboons! We watched a large family with lots of young play and play. It was so much fun! We probably saw a little too much fun (if you know what I mean 😳😉).
We saw many elephants this morning, of all ages. The matriarch down to ones less than a month old. We also saw a lot of buffalo, and the birds that clean them of ticks. One of the buffalo had a shortened tail, likely a close call with a lion.
We tried to find the flamingos again but they had gone somewhere else. Just a few stragglers left behind. We did see a somewhat familiar sight- a flock of pelicans that are white with black wing tips like ours on the Rock River. William was surprised we have a similar bird.
We got a tip from another driver that there were lions nearby, so we got a chance to see 4 more. They were 3 females and a young male. They mature at about5 years, grow their mane and get kicked out of the pride. Sometimes if they are family they can stay. They wandered around a bit then laid down and disappeared into the grass for a nap. It was quite a way to end our long week of safari!
Our early morning flight to Kisumu started off more exciting than we wanted it to. I called the hotel to arrange a cab to take us to the airport at 4:45am. The hotel desk assured me 5:00am was plenty of time. We got to the lobby and the cab driver was no where to be seen. 😬 We talked to the desk, then talked to the doorman. They finally got him there but we were now 15 min later than i wanted to be. Then we hit traffic- unusual for that time of day- because of an overturned truck. He dropped us at our gate (and overcharged us to boot) and we ran in as fast as we could. Got through the security line to discover that he had dropped us at the wrong gate!! We ran back outside and grabbed another cab to the other terminal. The lines were long there too, but luckily I checked in online so we made it on time. Of course there aren’t any electronic scanners here so the electronic check-in is pointless. They were kind though, and hand wrote our birding passes at the gate. We all sat down and we were much relieved.
It only took about 45 minutes to get to Kisumu, and we got to watch the sun rise.
Taxi to the Unbound office was pretty painless. The town is pretty large (275,000) and is on the shore of Lake Victoria (second largest freshwater lake in the world, after Lake Superior). It is a little more humid than other parts of Kenya so a little more green.
At the Unbound office we were introduced to the entire staff, both local and regional. The building is large and clean and functional, but they do not waste money. They have several accountants, someone in charge of correspondence, and many social workers. The local office takes care of 2700 children and elderly, and the total for the region is 5900. The people who work there are very passionate about their mission which is awesome to see.
Before too long Shirley arrived with her sister, grandmother (who is her sole guardian) and little sister, Effie. Her Social worker Marcy accompanied them.
Shirley was much bigger and older than her pictures made her seem! She is bright and hopes to be a doctor someday. She didn’t know Eric is a doctor and was shocked. She is a beautiful 13 year old \240girl who is so shy she could barely talk to us at the beginning! She is very sweet and you could tell she relaxed a little and enjoyed herself as the day went along. Effie (who is 7) was extremely shy too, but after about an hour she became a bundle of energy and attached herself to the girls. \240Basically our visit consisted of sitting in the board room together to visit. We didn’t really have a home visit of any sort or see much of the town. Shirley and her family live about 45 minutes drive from Kisumu, so they probably thought it would be too much for us to travel there. When we ran out of conversation Sarah broke out the embroidery floss and made them some friendship bracelets. The girls picked very bright colors and I think they enjoyed them very much.
We brought Shirley a backpack filled with goodies, so we showed her the games and things inside. I think because they haven’t really seen board games they didn’t really get it. But they really liked the Mad Libs! She is learning English so I thought that might be fun. I think Marcy enjoyed them as much as Shirley! They laughed a lot.
Next we were talking about things back home, so we started showing them pictures on our phones. They can’t believe we have a whole house just for our cars. They thought I was just making it up when I told her our dogs have a doctor. They haven’t even heard of such craziness. They had a great time playing with our phones, dancing to music, and taking pictures and videos. Effie especially liked taking pictures and looking back at herself and us.
We went out for lunch a little drive from the offices. We ate the normal lunch others in the restaurant were served, including spinach, rice, ugali (cornmeal mixed into a thick dough and cooked until it’s a flavorless lump. It is basically your starch you put with other Stees, etc), beef stew, boiled chicken in sauce, and fried fish from the lake. It was a good meal and we enjoyed it. I was a bit intrigued by the grandma who didn’t use any utensils. She took a wad of ugali and picked up some other food with it, sauce and all. This makes your hands quite messy of course but the restaurant had sinks in the main room for washing after the meal. Definitely not my typical experience!
After lunch we were supposed to return to the board room to visit a couple more hours. I asked Marcy if we were close to the lake and she offered that we could take some taxis to the water. Of course we were all for it! We went to the shore and it reminded me so much of the Great Lakes! We were just in a bay, but it was still beautiful and had that freshwater lake smell. We discovered that none of the people in our party had been on a boat ride before (Shirley had never even seen the lake!) so we knew we had to fix that. The girls were excited to go, the grandma said no way, but the social worker was brave and overcame her fears.
Before we went out on water midday on the equator, we had to get out the sunscreen of course. They all thought that was hilarious! They never heard of such a thing and were completely dumbfounded. Marcy kept taking pictures of us because it was so wacky! Of course Effie was not to miss out on that experience so she was probably the first Kenyan to put on sunscreen. Glad we could entertain!
Marcy, Shirley’s social worker
They fish by sail boat using nets
Even the taxi drivers came on the ride with us. One of the men had a smart phone but he had never figured out how to take a picture. Eric showed him how, and he was thrilled!! He was taking pics and video and loving time on the water.
The tour guide was very good- he had a reasonable amount of information about the lakes, took us over to see the hippos (which none of them had ever seen) and showed us where the fishermen come in, and the women who work cleaning the fish right on the shore. They throw the gills and entails to the “lazy” birds who hang out on shore. It was very cool.
We returned and said our goodbyes. It was so nice to meet the family and Shirley’s grandma is so appreciative of the financial help we give to Shirley. She says she prays for us, and we will continue to pray for her. She can accomplish great things but she will have to work hard for a long time.