Leaving Kenya was hard with the friends and new family we had made, the beauty of the country, the sincerity and beauty of the people. Our departure was sweetened by getting to see our wedding officiant and his new home, and support the work he is doing to help orphans in India. We were going to beat Ian Forber-Pratt home, because he was finishing a trip all across the US. So, we would get to see his home and offices for a week before he got home.
We landed in Mumbai in the wee hours of the morning on Sunday, April 30, and had planned our layover so we could go to the Christian Science church service. We took a taxi to Neera Kapur’s house, our friend who took us out to lunch when we visited in December of 2010. She opened the door with a lovely grin, turned on the fans and let us sleep for a few hours before church. The church service was great and everyone was so welcoming. After lunch, we headed back to the airport where we flew to Udaipur.
Kenya is a land where you drive for many kilometers, not seeing anything but a few people carrying five gallons of water on their thin frames from unseen wells to faraway compounds, and truck-sized parcels on their backs that are bound for a market you never come to. It is a place of telephone poles made from live, still-growing trees with branches still on – the crookedness of the tree appreciated and not shaved off or the tree simply abandoned. Where friends enjoy eating teeny tiny fish whole – bones and all. Where you learn of soccer, futball, netball, only to realize they are all enjoying the same sport…sometimes. Where netball (really basketball) is more like ultimate frisbee with a basketball, and one of the hoops is a rock in the ground. Where you constantly wonder if a short cut is really shorter, and children gather to watch your driver figure out how to cross the river, ditch, or rock that “wasn’t there last time” – and you always wear your hiking shoes so you’re ready to get out and push.
May 2, 2013 by Mary Beth |
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When Lilian introduced us to the whole school during morning assembly, she encouraged everyone to make us feel welcome but also to ask us lots of questions and to utilize our skills during our stay at the school. From that first day, there was one particular teacher who seemed really excited to collaborate with me. Mr. Jack was thrilled when I visited “Class 7”, as they call it, while he was teaching English, and after class he asked for pointers, suggestions, and ideas. We decided to assign a “composition” as homework so that I could read original stories written by these students and find the areas where they needed the most help. It wasn’t until all 34 students turned in their papers that I realized that I had managed to get myself attached to the largest class at Petals!
May 2, 2013 by Mary Beth |
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Within the first few days of our arrival, Lilian said to me, “By the time you leave, you’ll be Kenyan.” I was determined to prove her right! I took every opportunity to learn from her how to do the labor-intensive tasks that she takes on daily, how to serve family and Petals, and how to do it all with a constant smile and a joyful calm that puts others at ease. By the end of our time in Ngochoni, Lilian had grown used to having a shadow almost all the time. The cow never did allow for anyone to milk her except for Lilian — I suppose that skill will have to be learned later. These are some of my highlights:
I loved this setting for washing clothes: outside under this huge tree, with the well nearby for getting clean water when it was time to rinse everything. The techniques I learned are serving me well in India and Thailand, too 🙂
May 2, 2013 by Mary Beth |
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We already knew I loved babies– and it’s a good thing too, since I’m going to be an aunt soon 🙂 But I also adore baby animals, so naturally I was drawn to all the baby chicks running around. Eddie was kind enough to indulge my obsession and went so far as to army-crawl across the grass just to get better photos of the cuteness! We both really enjoyed the way these particular chicks stayed close to their momma and we watched as they hid under her feathers when an eagle was circling overhead.
Every day we were blown away by the peace and beauty of Ngochoni. The atmosphere was idyllic: the children were always either studying diligently or playing cheerfully, so half the time there were no noises, and the other half we would hear giggles and shouts of camaraderie and teamwork from students playing organized sports. Occasionally a huge tractor carrying sugar cane stalks would rumble down the dirt road, and if it was during a break from classes, the students would run behind the tractor and gather up falling stalks… And maybe gather some stalks that hadn’t exactly “fallen” off. Then they would immediately start tearing apart the stalks, sucking on the sugars. Eddie tried eating sugar cane once, and determined it was a learned skill just to get the sheath off the cane. The kids just ripped them apart.
One of the most amazing sights was the sky. As the clouds moved in almost every afternoon, there would be a new incredible mixture of dark ominous clouds, shafts of light, and fierce midnight blues on one horizon and the setting sun with pinks and oranges on the other. We had a lot of fun going on walks and photographing the brilliant sky from different angles.
March 18, 2013 by Eddie |
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We wanted to show you where we live, and show more about Petals. So, here are a few videos to help do that. Some are quite large, and quite long, so don’t try to rush through them. Maybe get some popcorn or something… ok, they aren’t that long.
March 18, 2013 by Mary Beth |
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We arrived at Petals excited to have a relaxing weekend settling in, and then to see the school in action on Monday morning. However, the government had ordered all schools to close because of the elections and feeling like all children would be safer in their own homes and villages. Then, as you probably know from the news, we ended up having to wait all week just to hear the election results, which made the schools have to remain closed for longer. We were grateful for the extra down-time to get to know our hosts, Lilian and Fred Baraza (and their two younger sons Junior and Jamalek), to ask questions about Petals, to make new friends in the community, and to get used to a different pace of life. Here are some highlights so far:
– Atmosphere: When we first arrived, it was very hot, dry and dusty. It cooled off in the evenings, but the cool air wasn’t coming in the house because the windows (without screens) and doors stayed closed to keep out the bugs. We put a mosquito net over our bedroom window and this helped a little. Thankfully, the intense heat only lasted a few days, and now we’ve entered the rainy season, which brings a refreshing cool most afternoons and during the nights. We love sitting outside in a huge grove of trees, reading and reflecting while enjoying the breeze, the laid-back atmosphere, and the sounds of children playing, roosters crowing, and baby chicks peeping.
March 18, 2013 by Mary Beth |
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While I do believe that Eddie’s incredible safari photos speak for themselves, I have to add a little anecdote about this amazing experience. For starters, our accommodations were idyllic. The Fairmont Mara Safari Club truly lives up to its high reputation, where friendly staff are ready to meet your needs before you can even think of them, the peaceful atmosphere is achieved even in spite of the rambunctious hippos, and the perfectly manicured tents, where even your mosquito netting adds to the magical setting, instantly feel like home. Again, if you have any questions or doubts, please refer to the photos! (**Side note: upon arrival, we learned that this resort was not actually inside of the Masai Mara National Reserve, where we were hoping to be. Our driver was nice enough to drive us all the way to the Reserve anyway, but for the future we would not recommend staying at this lodging option, even though any travel agent will tell you that you’re in the Mara, because you end up spending more time and money in order to have the real safari experience in the Reserve.)
The next amazing feature was our guide, Apollo, whom we highly recommend. This man could spot any animal (no matter how fast he was driving!) and knew about its patterns of eating, migrating, growing, and tendencies to stay with its own kind or not. Apollo helped Eddie to get many amazing photos (like this one)