Thursday, October 27:
We have experienced thunder and lightening. The torrential rains come with little notice. One moment sun and the next monsoon. As planned we leave at 6:30. It is still raining heavily…monsoon like and the traffic is overbearingly heavy…even at this hour.
It is still raining a little but thankfully soon stops as we arrive at the park. The KNP is huge. Hundreds and hundreds of acres of wild, indigenous, untouched landscape roamed by elephants, lions, zebras, giraffes, impalas, ostriches, birds of all varieties and sizes, water buffalo, hippos and monkeys, leopards and cheetahs.
My first view of the park was from above on the return flight from Kitale. I could see the vast landscape abut the edge of the city itself. A remarkable sight and one that is not replicated anywhere else in the world.
We drive and drive the endless network of roads that streak across the park. We are in the Serengeti at last. Glimpses of striped or spotted fur keep our eyes riveted on the grasses of the bush. Sometimes, like the Maasai livestock tht roams the city, we see a herd of zebra or giraffe or impala. They watch us carefully as we creep by. The impala’s turn and run as we come near…their leaps and bounds gracefully executed as those of fine ballerinas.
We watch for “Mr. Lion” but he will not appear. It is too wet and cold and he is not hungry. We can tell this is so because the impala and zebras are playful and feeling free. There is no scent of Mr. Lion afoot today. Perhaps his appetite has already been satisfied.
It is time to leave the park and we stop by the “Animal Orphanage” on the way out. We expected to see a program similar to the Baby Elephant Sanctuary, but are disappointed. It is just a zoo of the worst kind. The animals are fed but are bored, held in pens and runs that offer little variety. All this right next to a magnificent refuge that feels like home in the wild? It is puzzling. We resolve to email our thoughts and impressions to the park about this. We also discuss the situation with our hosts who have connections to Nairobi leadership. They are interested to hear what we have to say and agree with us that such an exhibit cheapens the magnificence of the park and does not contribute to Nairobi the city.
We arrive home in early afternoon with every intention to write, read and gain some rest. But it was not to be. Rose’s older sister, Elizabeth, has come to visit as has Metrinne (Paul’s niece home from Chwele. There is much visiting and conversation about the best plans for our last day.
The plan will have us leave at 8:30 in the morning for coffee and supermarket and then to the City Center shopping for fabric. I have an appointment at 10:00 with Mercy Corps. So Justus offers to take us to the supermarket this evening This excursion is much like our trips to the market here, except that security is heightened around the entrances to the parking lot. There have been two explosions in the city. Police and security check our tires with metal detectors, open the hood and trunk before allowing us to pass.
We need to find some Kenyan money and search for a bank which, when we find it, cannot help us. We find ATM machines (Barclay’s Bank) which honor our cards and we begin shopping for special gifts to bring home. A selection of Cadbury bars which are not available in America were a wonderful find for me, a Kenyan thermos which keeps liquids hotter and colder than any I have found in the States, Kenyan coffee, banana chips and Cadbury Ginger Cocoa. Happy with our finds we head home to face more planning conversation for our last day tomorrow which is to include an early coffee stop, Mercy Corps and places to buy fabric so that Metrinne can make us each a dress. We want to visit All Saints Cathedral, the old Anglican cathedral in downtown Nairobi.
Elizabeth and Metrinne leave before dark. The rain and dark mean slow traffic and danger. It is not safe to go out at night
I have previously made an appointment with the Program Director for Africa, Matt Lovick. Matt operates out of the Narobi office and is part of a MC network of presence in 13 African countries.
Friday, October 28th:
We begin with best laid plans at 8:30, find our coffee and arrive at Mercy Corps compound at 9:40. Office is in Lavington, home to ministers residences and high end real estate.
Matt greets us in his office and we exchange information. He is interested in our work in Chwele and possibilities for further work via Grace Art Camp. He is very interested in relationship building projects and heads a youth program not far from Chwele which has received a $25 million grant for the launch of a youth project “Youth We Can!”
Matt is very interested in this program and wants me to keep in touch. He offers his office for my use when in Nairobi and I leave feeling there may be an opportunity for partnership on Chwele community project in the future. I will continue to search for possibilities upon return to Portland and will follow up with appropriate personnel at MC Portland.
We leave MC feeling pleased with the meeting and begin to head down town to City Center and the Cathedral. We never make it. The City is held in the grip of traffic grid lock. There is no way in or out. Instead we head back out to Karen and visit a Maasai market. The merchandise is beautiful but is not priced. So we have to negotiate our purchases, our voices competing loudly with the pounding monsoon rain beating on the tin roof of the simple stand-alone store and we and come away with all parties satisfied.
We are exhausted from fighting the traffic and are more than ready to go home to pack for our return journey. We are relieved to arrive at Justus and Rose’s. They insist on treating us to lunch and we go to a Kenyan Chinese restaurant which was delightful….much good fellowship and conversation. Arriving back home again, we begin packing many items that the family wishes us to transport to Portland and I pack my suitcase in another larger case that belongs to Paul and Grace. It needs to get home too.
We expect Ben to pick us up at 5:45 in order to get us to airport by 8:00 pm for our 10:30 pm flight to Amsterdam. He is, as usual, on time. My new sister, Metrinne, has come to drive with us. We take photographs of each other and share many hugs and kisses all around with promises to return….to keep in touch…and we are on our way. It’s like leaving family and we’ve only been here two weeks.
The traffic is horrendous, the rain relentless, matutus everywhere. Ben somehow manages to maneuver us on side streets and we eventually make it to the airport. After passing five security points, we are finally able to be free of our bags and make our way to the nearest café for our first glass of wine in two weeks. Sweet nectar!
I become ill on the plane and spend time in the bathroom saying farewell to the wine and airline dinner. Something didn’t agree (probably a combination of the wine, fatigue and relief.) I finally manage to sleep and felt better by time we put down in Amsterdam. Ginger ale and a bun do the trick but now I am really looking forward to home, bath and bed.
Kenya is far behind me as I write these final words on board the flight from Amsterdam to Portland. But she will haunt me as she has countless others. I fear for her as troubles with Al Ashad and as her war with Somalia unfolds in the days and weeks to come. I pray for the safegy of Naomi and her friends at Daraja, seemingly safe behind their electric fence, and I pray for the well being of our newfound friends and “family” who have claimed us as their own.
May God protect her and may Grace Memorial keep Kenya, her people and our friends in their prayers.
End of an amazing trip for Grace Institute and all it stands for and Grace Parish and its call to reach out to all God’s people.