Sunday, June 10, 2018

Home again, home again!

Our flight back from Heathrow to Bush International Airport in Houston was uneventful and was almost an hour early, due to an unusual tail wind.  We are usually fighting the jet stream.  After clearing immigration and collecting our luggage, we boarded our chartered bus and were back at Redeemer by 5:30pm.  We said our goodbyes and headed to our respective homes.

Adrienne dropped me off at home and I did my two week's worth of laundry before going to bed around 9pm.  The charter bus ride home from Houston plus sleeping on the proper flights has made my recovery from 8 hours of jet lag relatively easy this trip.  I've slept at least 7 hours each night since returning Wednesday evening and have only hit a brick wall of exhaustion a couple of times when it would be the middle of the night in Kenya.

I am hard at work on editing pictures from the trip and am already done with images of our compound where we stay, worship on Sunday and the clinic.  Stay tuned for a link to the photo album when it's done and more in depth stories from our time in Kenya.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

At Heathrow

Made it into Heathrow on time a little after 6am local time.  The team made it through security with not too much trouble. We're now taking turns watching each other's bags, getting coffee and food, etc until our flight back to Houston at 10am. Much more to come after we get back home. Blessings everyone!

Final day in Kenya

We got up early and had breakfast at the wonderful lodge inside of the Nakuru game park that Catherine had booked for us. We checked out and were driving the three vehicles through the trails in search of the pink flamingos. About half of the team rested the previous afternoon following our arduous nine hour journey from Masai Mara,  so they now got to see the beauty of this place and its wildlife. We never did encounter the flamingos but saw a wide variety of bird and animal species including zebras, giraffes, hyenas, water buffalo, storms, pelicans, plovers and many more. Our abbreviated two and a half hour safari was capped by a stop at the Baboon Cliff high above Lake Nakuru. It is a great vantage point for surveying the entire lake and wildlife refuge below. I got some great pictures of a Cliff Chat, a really cool looking bird that lives in the rocks and trees poking out of the sheer cliff. Stay tuned for pictures of this little guy.

We made our way out of the park and headed for Lake Naivasha, our original destination we had planned on for our last morning before travel difficulties changed things up. We arrived at the lake around noon, donned life jackets and boarded three small skiffs for our final photo safari.  We were right among a pod of hippos for a few minutes,  always an eye opener for newcomers and veterans alike. I got many shots of the wide variety of shore birds this place is known for. African fish eagles were in abundance and our guides were able to coax 4 of them to fly down and snag fish they had thrown their way. I've been there on 3 hour tours when none responded,  so this was very special.  Some great photo sequences will be published as soon as I can get my feet on the ground back home. Due to finishing up our boat ride as 1:30 pm approached,  we skipped lunch and headed for Nairobi, since you never know quite how long it will take to get back.  Many in the team were very hungry after a full morning of fresh air, but when the lake lodge restaurant let us know it would take an hour and a half to prepare and eat lunch, we had to move on. I gave a bag full of Payday candy bars to Yancy to distribute to everyone for the ride and we headed for the Little Daughters of St. Joseph convent  for pizza and much appreciated showers. Catherine came and joined us and I went over vision clinic details and told her tall tales about our safari experiences before we left for the airport.  More to follow about the trip home. Blessings everone!

Travel to London

After saying our farewells to Catherine, we got on a bus for the airport. Ever since the Westgate Mall attack,  security has been at a high level. As we approached the airport,  there was a checkpoint at which we all had to get out and pass through a metal detector.  Some vehicles were also searched.  Next, just to enter the airport, our bags were screened and we traversed yet another metal detector.  I don't mind, whatever it takes to keep us safe. I went through last and checked in last to make sure the whole team made it through. We spent a couple of hours at Java House in the next terminal, eating and making conversation.  We had to go through another security check to get to the restaurant,  however.  Finally, when it was time to board our aging 747, we needed to go through two identical security checks.  When we arrive at Heathrow, we will also face very good security. I am writing this from the plane before touchdown in about 45 minutes and will continue with my next post from Heathrow if time allows for it.

Monday, June 4, 2018

The trip to Lake Nakuru was a disaster in many ways

And a blessing in others.  We were on the road a little after 7am for what should have been a 4-6 hour trip depending on traffic.  The plan was to get to our lodge inside the Lake Nakuru National Game Park, have lunch and spend the rest of the daylight hours on photo safari.  God had a different plan.  We started out driving down very bad dirt and rock roads with lots of ups, downs and scraping the bottoms of our vehicles.  We saw many Zebras, Thompson Gazelles, Wildebeests and other game outside of the park and it was a beautiful morning.  Then, we noticed the left rear tire of the van in front of us wobbling badly.  After stopping, we looked and 4 out of the 6 lug nuts were missing and the remaining two were loose.  We robbed lug nuts from the other wheels and tightened them down, but they kept coming loose.  We had to slowly crawl the nearest town for repairs.  The same van was also having problems with a leaky brake line, so that was repaired as well.  We piled everybody into the remaining two vehicles, a Toyota van that I was in and a Toyota Land Cruiser.  We didn't get to Lake Nakuru until after 4pm.  Several of us took two vehicles out for late afternoon animal and bird photography and saw some cool things, but our nine hour commute pretty well ruined the day.  Thankfully, no one blamed me.  Our planning was good, but reality happened.  I thank God that the wheel had not come off of the van or the brakes had failed at an inopportune time.  Things could have been much worse.

That's it for now.  Stay tuned.  I'll continue to write on the trip home and will add a link to a photo album once it's done.  Blessings!

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Masai Mara rocks!

We were out from 7:15 to 4:15 on safari and saw many species different from other game parks I've been to before.  These include a cheetah in the tall grass, hyenas, dikdiks (tiny antelopes) and elephants. Also, many birds, both familiar and unfamiliar to me. Some of our folks split off in one of the vans around 2pm to check out a Masai village.  We will have dinner here and pack up. We are leaving at 7am tomorrow morning for Lake Nakuru. We will arrive for lunch and then an afternoon photo safari there, a park that is famous for its pink flamingos.
More to follow as time permits.  Blessings!

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Getting ready for full day at Masai Mara

We are truly blessed. The 17 of us are going to take our 2 vans and Land Rover out for a full day in the game park. Since we had rain in the late afternoon yesterday, rather than our planned morning and afternoon safaris with a break for lunch, we are taking box lunches, plenty of water and snacks and heading out a little after 7am to see what we see. I still have hopes of my first leopard but the grass is tall and they are elusive. This place is huge, maybe 25000 square miles with plenty of places to hide. I love not knowing what I might see and then always being surprised in some way. More to follow at the end of the day.

First day trip to Masai Mara

We had breakfast at Little Daughters and hit the road for the Masai Mara around 8am. We got to.stop at the Great Rift Valley for some pictures and made a couple of rest stops on the way. About 4 hours into the trip, we drove a few miles on new highway the Chinese had constructed.  It soon ended and we were on dirt roads that our driver Simon called "riding the horse".  We spent around 2 hours going up down and all around before crossing a river in our van. We arrived at the Fig Tree Lodge around 2:15 pm and had an incredible lunch. It is a first class hotel and great food is abundant.  We aren't at the end of the world but you can see it from here.  We had about a 3 hour safari before dark and I saw my first hyena and elephants in the wild. Cool.

More to follow as the adventure continues!

Friday, June 1, 2018

The clinics finish with a bang

In spite of or because of the national holiday, both clinics did well, each seeing over 500 people.  My clinic saw about 2,250 patients during the week and Kevin's treated a little over 2500.  A very good week indeed for out combined totals.  I had a very pleasant surprise this afternoon.  Around lunch time, one of my local friends came to me and said I had a very special visitor.  When I went outside, it was Catherine's mother, Mama.  She had brought lunch for me and my team.  A special Kikuyu tribe dish called mukimo.  It was fabulous.  I later found out that it is only served when very important people are visiting.  What a high honor that she cherishes me so much, I love Mama!  And my team and many of our volunteers enjoyed it and the bananas and another dish she brought.  It was wonderful spending time with her, even if I had to speak through an interpreter.  But smiles and hugs need no interpretation.  We also got her an exam of her eyes by our doctors, I made sure she was in the express lane the whole way!  I am so blessed.

I had Alison help me order pizza and drinks for the team tonight from Domino's and it was a reasonable facsimile of what I would expect in the States except for no little red pepper packets.  After we ate, we had a short team meeting about the details of heading out for the safaris in the morning.  Breakfast at 6:30 and we hit the road by 7 am for a 6 hour drive out to the Masai Mara. More to come about our after trip if I have an Internet connection, otherwise, I'll continue to write and post the blog as I am able.  Thanks be to God for a most productive mission and for bringing us together as friends with the very hospitable Kenyan people.  I always feel right at home here.

Blessings, everybody!