africa: day 5 & 6

Wednesday 11.11.09 & Thursday 11.12.09

(reeeally long, but lots of pics)

We said goodbye to Ethiopia and flew into Nairobi, Kenya early Wednesday morning. Mama Florence and Nora (Lameck's mother and sister, who both work at Fountain of Life) met us at the airport. They drove us to a smaller airport, where we boarded a little 10-seater airplane to fly to Maasai Mara for our safari. That in and of itself was amazing - flying in a tiny little plane over Kenya...

(Mathare - the biggest slum in Africa, from the air)

... but the safari was unbelievable. Everything I'd ever imagined about Africa - this was it, Lion King and all.

Our first excursion started right when we arrived (about 4pm). We split up the girls & the boys, of course. We met Clara (Lameck's other sister who also works at Fountain of Life) there and she went on the safari with us. Our driver's name was Charles, and he was awesome! So knowledgeable and friendly. That afternoon we saw...


Approximately 2 seconds after this was taken, they stood up, walked a few feet, began mating, then stopped and just chilled like nothing happened. We followed them and got pretty close.



In case you missed that sweet dumpling...

& hyenas, which are disgusting, but I love the animals against the horizon.

We came back for dinner where we were staying (Siana Springs, and during dinner some of the Maasai came and did a traditional song and jumping competition for us. It sounds funny, but these guys can jump so high - like a 4-5 foot vertical! And apparently whoever jumps highest gets his pick of the village women. Sounds like a deal.

After dinner, we went on a night safari excursion. It was pitch black and there was a big guy with an automatic rifle in our Landrover with us. I didn't take any pictures, but we saw mostly scurrying little things. My favorites were the springhare (aka "African kangaroo") and the dik-dik (aka "cute mini deer"). Then we drove into the middle of a plain, the drivers turned off their lights, we got out and looked at the stars & the drivers made us hot chocolate. The stars were out of control. I have never seen stars glitter and sparkle like that. Words can't come close. God is so cool.

The tents we stayed in were pretty sweet... they had indoor plumbing.

The next morning we got up at 6am for our third & final safari outing. We saw...

baby lion cub

more elephants

water buffalo (everybody's got one, right?)

(please note cute baby water buffalo)

a bunch of variations of deer-type... things...


& wart hogs. Interesting tidbit: Did you know the wart hog's brain is so small that sometimes when being chased by a predator, they'll forget they're being chased?

After breakfast, we took our little safari plane back to Nairobi. When we arrived, we went straight to Fountain of Life.

A brief history of Fountain of Life. The church was started by James & (Mama) Florence Mwanthi. The two of them had a heart for the street boys they saw all the time, so they decided to start cooking meals for them on Saturday nights. Well, after doing this for a bit, one night some of the boys showed up and asked if they could stay with the Mwanthis because of destructive things happening at home. So James & Mama opened their home, and that was the start of their orphan/street boy care. As more boys began coming to stay with them, they decided to build a home for them. By 2006, they were caring for about 60 boys. Halfway through 2006, James passed away, leaving Mama and her 3 children to care for the boys. The government had been trying to purchase the Mwanthis land from them for some time, but they continued to turn them down. However, a few months after James died, the government came with bulldozers and demolished the church and home in the middle of the night, leaving Mama, her children and all her boys with nothing, on the street. But they didn't give up, and God was faithful. They found property to rent, and in 2008, they were able to purchase new land to begin building a new home and a new church. They are still living in the rented property and having church under a rented tent on the new property, but the foundations for the new homes and the new church have been laid.

We toured the rented facility and then had home-cooked Kenyan food. After lunch, the 34 boys (along with 3 girls who go to school at Fountain of Life) did a presentation in which they sang and danced for us. It was awesome.

Afterward, we got to hang out with the boys - playing soccer, chatting, running around - just getting to know them/falling in love with them.

We headed back to our hotel for dinner & debrief & bed!

Good morning, Kenya.



Interrupting the Africa update to share about Thanksgiving.

We went back home to WNY for Thanksgiving. Actually, on Thanksgiving, we drove out to eastern NY to spend the day with my mom's folks. My Uncle Tom & Aunt Heidi hosted. The meal was delicious, of course, and it was so good to see my grandparents. Being far from my mom & dad has helped me realize how difficult it must have been for my mom to be far from her parents over the last 27 years.

View from Uncle Tom & Aunt Heidi's driveway

The rest of our time at home was wonderful as well. I haven't seen Ethan since he left for college. It was fun being able to talk to the whole fam about Africa and hear stories about various happenings on the farm and back home since we were last together.

Warning: Potential reader eye-rolling ahead but I'm going there anyway.
I'm really thankful that our trip to Africa was in such close proximity to Thanksgiving. It's really humbled me and helped my perspective. I've been really challenged this Thanksgiving to not only be thankful for what I've been given, but to understand that nothing I have is really mine. I need to use what I've been given to bless others. Anyway, just a little of what I'm learning lately.

That being said - there is so, SO much I'm thankful for.
the redemption of my sin ~ doug ~ my family ~ friends ~ a warm home ~ a warmer bed ~ good health ~ a reliable vehicle ~ a job that I love ~ zooey ~ nutritious food ~ junk food ~ beauty ~ laughter ~ hugs ~ kenyan boys ~ and so much more.
Dad & his girls going to get the tree. Alarming.

Let the hunt begin!

Girls wandering through the trees

Dad sawing down the tree

Dragging the tree to the truck

Now I'm off to bake a pumpkin pie for Parton family Thanksgiving tomorrow!


africa: day 4

Tuesday 11.10.09

Kale Heywet Church has identified 29 families where one or both parents is HIV positive. Since these families have been outcast from society, the church is helping support them by getting them involved in various projects. Two of the projects we got to see and hear about are a garden and a chicken farm. The garden has already been planted, and the families tend it and sell the produce to support their families. The chicken farm has the building for the coop, but no chickens yet.
Lameck (Fountain of Life/World Orphans) & some of the women

We met the most perfect and adorable baby on earth, and I wanted to bring her home.

After visiting the site, we visited the homes of some of the women we had just met. Tiny, 1-room homes that were so dark because they had one light bulb (if that). No toilets. But often the walls were decorated with magazine clippings, pictures from newspapers - anything to make them more "homey".


Our group got back to the designated meeting spot for lunch a bit early, so we had a little bit of time to walk around. We had been laughing about how much fun it would be to go on a mule-driven cart, so we paid a couple drivers who weren't busy and went for an approximately 2-minute long ride, but it was awesome! Here's our driver, trying to act like he doesn't love me & isn't totally thrilled that I wanted a picture of him.

We also went inside a little shop...

After lunch, we went out for macchiatos with the pastor and then had a strategic meeting at Kale Heywet to discuss the vision of the church and how Charis Foundation can partner with them in their efforts. It was just so cool to see the global church at work and experience the Gospel in action. After our meeting, we said goodbye to everyone in Woliso.

Then we drove back to our guest house in Addis Ababa where we had homemade pizza for dinner! We packed our stuff in preparation for Kenya and ended another day in Africa.


africa: day 3

Monday 11/9 - Woliso, Ethiopia

Started the day with an "egg sandwich" for breakfast and of course, an amazing macchiato. After breakfast, we went to church for a medical clinic. The church had organized the whole thing and was offering it to the community for free. There were so many people, and by the end of the day we discovered the doctors had been able to see 200 people.
Front of the line.

While people were waiting, we tried to talk to some of them and did a yarn bracelet craft. We started out showing it to the children, but women and even men were quickly interested.

I met a girl named Tegis who was waiting with her grandmother. She was 11 years old and spoke a tiny, tiny bit of English, but we managed to communicate a few things. She was such a beautiful, sweet girl. As we were talking, she gently pulled me out of the sun into the shade, made me take her place on a bench and stood at my side with her hand resting on my shoulder as she talked to me, periodically stroking my hair or my arm.
Tegis & her grandmother

Ethiopian culture is very intimate - there is no sense of "personal space". Men will hold hands while they walk with a friend, or even just rest their arms on one another while they talk. I'm sort of a "huggy" person, so I really loved this, but I could imagine it might be a struggle for an American man to get used to!

We took a quick break for lunch and continued doing the same thing throughout the afternoon, only playing sports instead of doing crafts.

As the medical clinic was underway and we were entertaining children and teenagers, contractors were busy continuing the construction of the children's home (infrastructure seen in above picture).

I met two little girls named Jitu and Fayva who spoke excellent English. I talked with them pretty extensively. A few of their school teachers came over and began trying to teach me and Sara the Amharic alphabet.

The med clinic closed down, and a few kids straggled to continue playing "football".

That evening we took Pastor and his wife out to dinner. I ordered "Woliso Chicken" - amazing. It was sort of like fried chicken with gravy, but then again, not really. We returned home, did a quick debrief & then turned in for the night.