Posted by: kevinspiers | April 6, 2011

Ola Spain !!!!!

Spain

 After a very good flight we are all rested and looking forward to Spain.

 We arrive in Madrid in the evening and grab our gear and head to taxi stand. Try and get a cab, but they all want us to take two taxis a they say we have too much luggage. Well we are not taking that and find a driver who will drive us.

The city is bright ad clean and the weather is warm.

He takes us to the city center and drops us off at the street corner but we don’t see our hostel. He tells us it’s just up the road. Well we do find our place and its great and clean and located over an Irish pub.

We are on the top floor of the hotel with great views of the street life. It really is a great area and once again our research on finding a place to stay pays off.

Brendan is tired so Kim, Aaron and I head out to dine in Madrid. We find a cool little café and order a beer and calamari. Its such a great little place we have found just up a cobblestone road from our hostel.

During diner we chat to a group of fellow travellers and Aaron wants to join them as they are heading to a club to see live bands. Well they are all older than Aaron (perhaps 23) and he has really matured a great deal so we say have fun and off he goes with the one guy and 3 ladies.

We had given Aaron a curfew of 1am and he missed that but I will leave the rest of this first night in Madrid story for Aaron to share with you. But can say I think it’s a night he  and we will never forget.

After all the drama we crawl into bed and rest up for a full packed day tomorrow visiting Madrid.

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Posted by: Kim | September 6, 2010

Who wants Calamari?

I wake up feeling like crap, but  Kim and the boys head to the ocean port while I rest back at “home for now”. They return bellies full, with stories of eating delicious calamari on a patio while looking across the street their dinner’s freshly caught cousin, the octopus, hanging up along the sidewalk. I know a few friends back home that would be drooling over a good octopii meal (and a few who would shudder at the thought.) Even while feeling whoozy the idea of eating some BBQ octopus sounds good.

It is our last full day in Greece, and time  to pack up, excited for upcoming Madrid . No need to ask our host for a ride to the airport, as it so easy to get around by public transport here, we arrived by subway and bus.

 The bus travels along the coast of the Mediterranean and we say our goodbyes to Greece or so we thought. Once on board our  plane we’re informed of a slight delay as the pilot is waiting for an oxygen tank, hmm,…we figure that is worth waiting for.  Aaron makes his own entertainment as we wait,  chatting up a few girls his age  who are off on holidays and he talks about our adventure.  So,  2 hours later we are finally off to Madrid and another adventure. No biggie for Team Spiers, …2 hours, 2 days… we are in Greece and heading to Madrid, so what’s the hurry!?

Fresh as Fresh gets!

Posted by: Kim | September 6, 2010

We are almost “Ruined Out “

The Acropolis.

 

Well know one we can say we haven’t seen our share of ruins, but when in Athens the main attraction is the Acropolis. The boys like to say that they are ‘ruined’, but there is know way they are missing this site.

The  Parthenon  maybe considered the perfect and most magnificent ruin in the world, although a whole museum was carried away to England by Lord Elgin . The Parthenon was completed in 438 B.C. but they cannot tell  when construction began.

Arriving at the entrance gate we pay our fee (Brendan is FREE yahoo!) and start the walk up.

Easy walk up and the views are spectacular. We are able to see the Temple of Zeus and the original Olympic Stadium which we plan on visiting later on.

Upon reaching the top we see the enormous structure of the Parthenon. Its larger than I imagined and its under mega renovations which is a shame for picture-taking but understandably it’s needed.

One thing we noticed is that we cannot just walk where we want to as the restrict your movements. We here whistles blowing from security guards as they tell people to either get off a rock or stand back from a monument. At other historical sites I other countries we have not seen the restrictions they have in place here. Walking around we take a few pics and video before we walk back down to scout out a lunch place.

After a quick meal we walk over to the Temple of Zeus followed by a brief visit to the original Olympic Stadium. Both sites are fantastic with the stadium being restored which was a highlight of the 2004 Olympics. Kevin is a history junkie and he loves the old stadium. Another check off destination on hs bucket list.

The Zeus Temple still is in its original condition with very little restorations and must have been an impressive site when it was in its full glory.

As we walk back home we see a street performer who juggles in front of stopped traffic and we have not seen this before. He’s very good and a few drivers toss him some money and it sure beats someone washing your windows when your stopped at a red light.

Continue to walk around the city and decide on a little place for dinner in the main tourist area of Plaka. Dinner of course consist of fresh seafood and then we walk over to see the Acropolis lit up at night.

 

 Tomorrow we discuss taking the metro again to the ocean port to checkout the sites

Acroplolis at night

Posted by: Kim | September 6, 2010

Can you say “Fresh Calamari”

Loaded up waiting for the train.

 

Hello Greece Goodbye Lovely Africa

Flying into Athens we see the crystal blue Mediterranean. We land at Athens airport which is very modern and spotless. It’s the middle of the day, so we decide to take the metro versus a taxi, as it is modern, cheap, and stops about 6 blocks from our hotel. It is a great way to commute in Athens, and along the route we see the ocean and city on the horizon and of course we catch a glimpse of the Acropolis.

The weather is hot and humid and we haven’t had this type of weather in a very long time one thing we notice is a tremendous amount of graffiti everywhere. It’s a real shame as some buildings are just beautiful, hundreds of years old and they are covered in spray paint…

Our hotel is in a lovely old area and is very quiet and clean. As always the boys are hungry and notice a few shops selling gyros. You can pick the restaurants out that sell the gyros by the rotating towers of meat spinning and roasting away. Usually lamb, or chicken, they shave it off while it is cooking (with what looks like a giant electric razor) and put it in a wrap with yummy condiments. Back in Jordan and Turkey we ate loads of Shawarma (same thing…just variation of condiments) Canada sells but they are bargained processed meat.

Well the boys noticed many pita and doner shops along the ride to the hotel so we plan on hitting one for dinner. The food is fantastic here and we are looking forward to fresh calamari. The restaurants remind us of our favourite place back home “Pantheon” on the Danforth in Greek Town.

To say Athens is an ancient city is an understatement s settlers first arrived here in 3000 B.C.

Being in a modern city is a change for us as we have been in Africa for almost 2 months. Don’t get me wrong Greece is lovely but as we landed in Athens I secretly wished it was Entebbe Ugandans airport.

It’s a strange feeling to walk around and not see cows, goats and wild dogs wandering the streets. No crazy bodo bodo’s, overloaded buses and cars driving on any side of the road they wish to. Also the roads are so smooth here not what we have been used to.

We head back to hotel as we are all a little wacked out and grab a good night’s sleep as tomorrow its site seeing day.

Posted by: Kim | June 7, 2009

Masai Mara…King of the African Safaris!

When one dreams of traveling the world, one of the top 5 images that pops into their heads HAS to be an African safari, no? Well, in our house it was anyway. And here we are, …off to world famous Masai Mara, Kenya’s finest wildlife reserve, where wildlife abounds like nowhere else in the Africa.

We are so excited. Even the 5 hour drive to the reserve is fascinating.  As we get closer to the reserve, all of a sudden you really recognize “Africa”. All those things you images comes to life,….vast plains of Serengeti grasslands with sporadic Acacia tree umbrellas here and there,  if you just look closely you can most always spot either warthogs or zebras on the plains, and it seems like endless heards of cows being tended by the spear carrying, red blanket wrapped maasai tribesmen. Yes, for real. Not a thing of the past, not just ceremonially dressed for tourists,… the real unspoiled Africa.

Wow, and we aren't yet to the Reserve!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just like on our way to Nakuru, we see the most amazing sight just before we hit the park. Our driver pulls over spotting some movement up ahead, and we see a giraffe peaking high above the trees. Oh, there is another one, oh, wait, look there!……No less than 40 giraffe can be seen and they begin to cross the road right in front of us. Driver Joe says, to see them in such great numbers is not usual. Incredible… (You can’t miss our Masai pictures folks.)

Finally arriving at the game park and about 20 minutes later are at our camp. The Sarova Mara Camp. OH MY! We thought it would be pretty decent, but shopped for the best price, so never expected this decadence! Our “family tent” with ensuite bathrooms consists of two luxury tents, , connected with a huge glassed in porch looking into the jungley brush, very private, no other tent in our view, and beautiful grounds, swimming pools, all inclusive! On the grounds and right beside our tent are various monkeys and didyck (little deer type animals) prancing around, and the sounds are fabulous. One night I lay awake listening to lion roars, and crazy monkey screeches The boys are in heaven, as they are always impressed with BIG buffets of good food and clean sheets! I have to admit, coming in after dinner to my bed turned down, “window” all zipped up, mood lighting, mosquito killer lit, and hot water bottle IN my bed was pretty nice. In fact, Aaron and I went massaging too! (Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous I tell you!)

But of course, the best part was the safaris! Over 4 days at Masai Mara, we went out for two safaris EACH DAY (sunrise and sunset) across this natural wonder of the world, for it’s remarkable eco system, the Masai Mara Reserve.  It’s  1500 sq km reserve, is connected to Serengeti National  Game reserve, and we can see Tanzania on our drive, where the famous migration of wildebeest starts every year. The terrain actually looks like the LION KING unanimated, and rightly so as it is home to the highest population density of lions in the world. 

What an unforgettable experience. We take very long drives across the plains to a low mountain range bordering Tanzania.  This is where the great wildebeest migration takes place from July until August. (Bummer that we won’t witness, this world famous event, but it doesn’t take away from what spectacles we do see.)  And we get to see a couple of wildebeest that must have been too lazy or old to migrate to Tanzania.  The wildlife was so abundant, and the gentle rolling grasslands ensured that animals were never out of sight.  Amazing birds with, well over 450 species recorded at the park.  We managed to spot some amazing animals including….

  • A couple prides of Lions, so close, if they cared to they could have jumped in our truck.
  • Cheetahs, just sunning on a mound
  • Elephants by the boat load. Our first sight of this natural wonderland is breathtaking with the great herds of shuffling elephants browsing among the tree-studded grasslands with an occasional sighting of a solitary bull elephants roaming the plains.
  • Hippos  maybe 30 feet from where we stood on the bank, in the Mara River, hippo submerge only to surface seconds later to snort and grumble their displeasure at our being there (VERY dangerous but we did it. Stupid tourists!)
  • Ostrich Maybe a dozen
  • Hyenas,  just 4 occasions, usually solo, including a baby just sitting outside it’s den, waiting for Mom to return with the grub
  • Jackals, Giraffe, and mega groups of  Topi, Cape Buffalo, Gazelle, Impala, with the odd Crown Crested Crane which was doing a spectacular mating dance for us (perhaps I was having a bad hair day !)

Ridiculous Beauty!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You manage to see lots of great animals because if something particularly exciting is going on, they will radio each other. If you are in the area it works, but you can be miles away. The two radio tips we took were to see the Cheetah, and a lion pride with a couple BIG males and a bunch of cubs having a rest. At times we were 10 feet from these lions with open windows and roofs. I was a bit freaked but was assured I was being over protective. (Hey, I don’t want to be one of those people on Worlds Most Dangerous/Stupid Video shows!) The Masai people will tell you that they mainly fear the cape buffalo and elephants, as they are the most aggressive, but Driver Joe tells us the “lions are like dogs to them.”

Joe was awesome, very knowledgeable but fearless. If what you say is true Joe, why are we  going off roading (often) and doing round-up duties with cape buffalo and elephants?…uh, Joe? On more than one occasion, we were van trunk to elephant trunk, and someone was squealing “Go Joe, keep going!!!” (Oh, that was my voice.)

So yup, we saw them all.  The only animal that managed to elude us was the leopard, so we could hardly complain!

 But if the animals aren’t enough of a draw, the landscape, scenes of roaming Masai tribes people and violet skies are “worth the drive.”

Life is SO good. Blessed beyond wild dreams! PS. As Brendan says, we can never go to the zoo again.

Posted by: Kim | June 3, 2009

Eburu, Hells Gate and Lake Nakuru

Our wonderful host Dita, has offered to take us on a couple of day trips while we are in Kenya.  We are so grateful, as getting around Kenya is pretty difficult without a car, (and we wouldn’t even consider driving here as visitors. Much too dangerous.)

Our first day trip was to a small village called Eburu, high upon a hillside of the beautiful Lake Naivasha, about 90 minutes from Kijabe. In 2003, Dan and Dita founded a feeding program here, where there is extreme poverty and lack of food resulting from poor soil and drought conditions .  While there is still much work to be done, in just 2 years with the Poenaru’s ministry actions, the state of malnutrition has been drastically reduced.  The Poenaru’s have also recently initiated a similar program in the village of Dbibi where we will pray for similar success.

 A few weeks back, we had thought we would spend a few days here in Eburu, but due to our “toe jiggers” have decided to make this a day trip as it would be difficult to continue with the daily treatments required to rid us of our parasites. We came to see the newly opened medical clinic and the temporary missionary housing.  In the waiting area, we see and chat with a few people while the doctor/dentist Mary pulls out a  patients tooth.  Among the sad little group of patients waiting for the doctor is a mother with two twins about 2 months old. One twin is about 15 lbs, and the other is the tiniest baby I have ever seen outside an incubator, at maybe 3 to 4 pounds. Doctor Mary tells me that this baby is simply not thriving, and without the proper tools and resources it is just a bleak situation.  Mom looks so sad, and for the millionth time in Africa, my heartaches. God love Mary and her husband Pastor Jenga and the Poenarus who give of themselves regularly to feed and love the poor.

Sunday Service in Eburu

Lil guy wanders over during Sunday Service in Eburu

We are especially thrilled to be able to join in Sunday worship with the community. After a rough ride down a billy goat trail of a road, we arrive at a large tin dry shed/church from which glorious music is wailing!  The service is fantastic. It is incredible how these quiet people, especially the woman and children who barely speak above a whisper, throw themselves into worship, bellowing out their songs and uninhibited dancing for the Father. The message is predominently spoken in Kiswahili, but we got it anyway. As I have said many times, “They love the Lord in Africa”. 

 

Of course all curious eyes are on us, and many of the community came to greet us afterwards, and the kids engaged the boys in some fun antics. We were then invited back to  the medical clinic, and temporary housing site for visiting volunteers.  The site was built to encourage and accommodate the volunteers and missionaries to come work in this area. Similar to Yorkview issues in Uganda, there isn’t anywhere safe/clean for visitors to stay near the work-site or village, and the drive is a daunting 2-3 hours from Nairobi.  So this community lead by a wise pastor, have taken it upon themselves to build housing in the form of mud huts that are VERY nice and comfortable.  Although there are only few amenities (ie. fresh water, electricity, long drop toilets, ) they are secure, and very suitable for short tem missions.  We have stayed in much more rustic on our journey and had a wonderful time.  In the largest of the mud huts, there is the common room where we finished our visit after enjoying lunch with the elders of the church.  A wonderful day.

The following day was Brendan’s birthday, and we had planned a mini safari to Lake Nakuru. We had hired a safari van, and realized in the eleventh hour that it was silly to be in a 9 person van, with a bunch of paid-for empty seats, so we invited a couple of Poenaru friends to join us. They are a small family of a mom and three daughters,who are close to Dita’s heart,  living just minutes away from the hospital in quite frankly a shack.  While daughter Irene 18, had to go to work at the hospital, and her still young Mom who is suffering from HIV wasn’t feeling up to it, we were thrilled that Tabitha 21,and her young sister Joy  6, were able to join us. Their family story like many others in this country is very sad, and we were so happy to be able to share this day of relaxing and fun with them.

The excitement started far before we arrived at the park. On the highway, we whipped past a HUGE snake on the road, and begged our driver to turn around so we can check it out.  Once there we found a python about 10 feet long, and 7 inches in diameter, and with a head the size of my flat hand.  With only one imperfection being that of a tire mark across it’s body about halfway down, it  must have been run over just minutes ago as it was still in otherwise perfect condition, looking fresh as a daisy. Our driver was so frightened he wouldn’t even get out to investigate. We took lots of snaps which unfortunately we lost during a memory card mishap…DARN! But oh well there were many more animals to be seen.

We are awestruck as we see the lake from a distance and witness this world famous location of the greatest bird spectacle on earth – myriads of fuchsia pink flamingos creating a solid pink ring around the lakes edge. They number often more than a million maybe two. We had no idea as to what to expect but had a great day off roading and looking for animals in their natural habitat. The park covers an area of almost 190km squared, so you could spend days travelling through it.  During our travels we see so many animals including:

  • Baboons hundreds!
  • Zebra thousands!
  • Gazelle, thousands!
  • Warthogs, tons!
  • Cape Buffalo, thousands!

And dozens of Langurs (monkey), Rothschild giraffe, White rhino, and finally, when we were just about to go home, we finally saw a pride of lions.

They had just killed a buffalo, but for whatever reason weren’t interested in eating, and were shading under a tree.  We were thrilled to see how much our Kenyan guests were enjoying themselves, surprised to hear that  of all the animals we saw, they had only ever seen the gazelle, baboons and zebras which are plentiful around Kijabe.

And the day just got better, when we arrived home, Dita surprised Brendan with a homemade chocolate birthday cake! A GREAT way to celebrate a 14th birthday.

Another incredible day trip was made with Dita two days later to Hell’s Gate National Park. This is one of the few game reserves where visitors can explore by foot and walk amongst the elands, zebras and hartebeest able to go for a great hike through a beautiful gorge, apparently used in one of the Raiders of the lost Ark movies. While driving in we saw many baboons, zebra, giraffe, but in addition spot the colobus monkey and ostrich! Very cool!

Despite it’s name Hell’s Gate  is a beautiful place,  famous for its natural hot geysers as  an eagle and vulture breeding grounds. You can see the steam rising from the ground everywhere, and in some places there are small pools of water that are so hot the masai people boil eggs in it. The  Masai people continue to inhabit this area and one of the local boys, Jacob,  ends up “finding” us on our hike and kindly guides us around for  a few hours. He was a lovely kid, who spoke english fairly well, and  we enjoyed hearing bits about Masai life as we walked. Brendan and Aaron were mostly interested (envious) of the way he just casually wore his weapons…the  machete and ringu (heavy small wooden club).

Jacob took us through the gorge and an amazing view point, which we enjoyed until the rains came, when we headed back to the vehicle, but not before being thoroughly soaked by the African rain, which unfortunately for them didn’t last long.  On the way home we stopped at Lake Naivasha for a change to dry clothes and a drink.

We just can’t ever get enough of the wildlife here in Africa, and are really excited to hear that what we are seeing is just a warm up compared to what awaits us in the famous Masai Mara safari next week!

Posted by: Kim | May 30, 2009

“Working” in Kijabe

It is lovely to be here. Living a somewhat normal life. We are cooking again, doing laundry, buying groceries, etc.. As far as “working”, it was our desire to serve the community, and the Poenaru family in hope that as a result they have more time to do focus on their important ministry work. First on the to-do list…There is a conference (small one of about 30 surgeons) and at the last minute Dan was asked to host the closing dinner. Kev and I said, huh!? 30 people?… no problem! That is just a well attended summer Sunday at the Spiers!. and were happy to do at least that for them, which turned out to a be a wonderful night followed by a lovely time of worship, singing and praying together after dinner.

 Neither teachers, nor medical professionals, make us a perfect fit here, but we manage to work doing whatever we can to serve the community.  We have helped a couple families move house, and updated a hospital formulary (prescription drugs and dosages manual). Kev has done some “household to-do”  items for Dita, put in a stone walkway, and assiste the boys who created for a video for Dita’s teaching  of good hygiene practices (to avoid the spread of flu) for the hospital. We also lead a devotional for one of the boys dorms, sharing stories of our trip. Oh, and for some reason Kev has taken to baking!? Making cookies and banana breads!  (I have taken to calling him Benny Crocker and Stevie Homemaker!) The vendor ladies at the produce market howl with delight when Kev makes his daily trip to the shops. They have come to refer to him as “the Cook”, are most likely still talking about “the man who shops and cooks”.

 I have actually been doing some HR consulting at the hospital regularly spending a couple hours a day there, sitting on panel interviews for medical officers, and reviewing HR policy manuals. I am filled with joy as we start each meeting and interview with prayer, and can’t help but laugh at the contrast to that of Canada, where it is against the law to “bring God to work” with you!

One day I was sitting in on a panel interview in search of a hospital medical officer. Our first candidate was a young, good looking Kenyan doctor, with a dynamic personality, and we were all impressed by his confidence and credentials. A high potential candidate for sure. 

Next up, walks in candidate #2, who quite honestly at about 4ft nothin’, is what I would describe as a wee mouse of a woman, black as coal, maybe closing in on her late forties. With her suit jacket a bit too big, very softly spoken and barely able to keep eye contact, she is a sharp contrast to our previous candidate.   I am ashamed to admit that  I quickly began to pessimistically judge, especially in contrast to our last “bright and shiny” interviewee.

Proceeding with the interview, at some point we get around to asking about her strange breaks in her studies and career pathing choices, something we noticed prior to the interview, and identified as a red flag. She responds telling us with half a grin, and looking down at the table, that her studies and career have not gone exactly as she would have planned, perhaps because she has had “some storms in her life”.

For the next 5 minutes or so, we just listen as she speaks with the steady tempo of a slow metronome, sheepishly looking down, she admits to us she didn’t complete an earlier program she had been enrolled in. She tells us a story of how it may have been due to, the coo that ran her away from her home. For weeks people in her village were being wiped out daily. She had to look for safety, but she tried to continue her study, but it was a “bit difficult”. She noted that as medical student, her studies were  often interrupted to tend to medical emergencies in her home area, as people were being injured and killed. She finally decided to leave to safer areas, and was gone for a few weeks where she managed to complete more of her courses. However, when she returned home, many people from her village ran to greet her, she thought they were just sad she had gone. As she continued toward her home she eyed a tent beside her house with many people. Perhaps she thought, a welcome home gathering, but only to find that her father had been hacked (making the motion of karate chop to the back of the neck)  and his body lay inside the tent waiting for burial. She is very calm almost without emotion as she recants this, and continues in this manner to try and explain why she hadn’t completed her courses. Another “storm” came a few months later when her mother had difficulty swallowing bananas and mash potatoes. She was away in the city studying, but told her sister to take her Mom to the hospital however two days later she succumbed. As the eldest sister it was then her responsibility to take in her younger siblings, (while she continued to study medicine). So in summary, she acknowledges that her career has not gone as she would have planned, again, maybe because life had been a bit stormy, but as she put it, she didn’t want to make excuses.

“Excuses”?  …excuse ME!?

At this point, I am trying to think about clowns and french fries, or pretty much anything so my eyes don’t well up.  As an HR Manager, I have heard my share of stories, defenses, and general lack of responsiblity for blips on a resume, and was taken back the tragedies this woman experienced all the while insisting on not wanting to “make excuses”.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to stay for the debriefing of this candidate, and doubt for the right reasons that she would be hired in this role, but her story touched my heart, and I will never forget it.

Only in Africa….

Posted by: Kim | May 15, 2009

Down Time in Kenya for the Teamspiers

About three years ago, I sat in church listening to Dan Poenaru, a Canadian, paediatric surgeon speak at our Yorkview church speak about the missionary work he and his family had been doing in Kenya.  I was very inspired and signed up for his newsletter and followed their missions regularly via cyberspace. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to hear him speak yet again, a year or so later, on his next visit from Kenya. Who knew that these brief 2 minute meetings would translate into us staying in their home for 3 weeks as part of our journey through Kenya.   In fact, there wasn’t much “journey-ing” once we hit the home of the very kind Poenaru Family, Dan, Dita, Daniel and Christopher are wonderful people and have made us feel so welcome.  This was our chance to catch a much needed vacation from travel, and we were overjoyed to have such a beautiful place to wake up, overlooking the most beautiful “Rift Valley”, in the home of this God loving family, where we can ground ourselves for a couple weeks.

It is so lovely here in Kijabe, home to both the Rift Valley Academy (RVA) and AIC Kijabe Hospital where Dan and Dita both serve.  RVA is the Christian boarding school located in central Kenya. The academy, a branch of Africa Inland Mission International, exists to provide a quality education in a fantastic environment for the children of missionaries serving in Africa. With over 100 years of rich history, RVA has played an instrumental role in the lives of countless missionary kids. Poenaru kids,  Daniel and Chris attend RVA but are among the very few students that aren’t boarding there.Rift Valley View from "Our Home"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our boys are in awe of the school facilities and regularly head up to watch various volleyball and rugby games, and are invited to shoot hoops whenever they like. We are all so enamoured with this community that Kevin and I actually set up some time to discuss the various opportunities at Kijabe with the school superintendent, (just for future reference). Truth is, given the role we know we could play here, and all that this place would offer our family, …if we  had we come here last year or at the start of this trip, we would have probably just come to stay in Kenya for a couple years with the money spent on the trip. We would have been dorm parents, looking after the boarding kids of the missionaries. Perhaps dream #2? That said, at present, we wouldn’t be able to raise the funding to support us, so no worries, we are in back to Canada for years to come.   

Staying with this lovely Christian family has allowed us stay focused on the Lord also. More time for reading the bible, prayer and snuggling up to the Lord also. We have attended a couple nights of devotionals, Kev went to bible study with Dan, and we’ve attended service at both here in Kijabe. Last Sunday we went to the small village of  Eburu. The church was a corregated tin shelter, with dirt floors and maybe seating for couple of hundred but the place was rocking! They LOVE the Lord in Africa!

The boys are enjoying the kids around. All the wonderful kids around have had a profound influence on both of them (especially Aaron, who has been so incredible, so completely respectful of us, really mentoring Brendan, etc.. ) One night I looked at Kev and said, okay what did you do with my son, and who is THAT guy?!   Ah but I won’t question it, as it may not last. Bren wants to live here of course.

Did you hear about our jiggers? Fleas that crawl into your skin and lay eggs?!….MMM nice huh. Yup we got them from painting the school in Uganda. We were getting paint on our shoes and so we decided to paint in flip flops… I totally forgot about the closed shoe rule!… So a couple days after we get here, my toes are so sore and look like blisters and infected… and then I notice similar spots on the boys and sure enough, Kev. So thankfully we are here at Poenarus and could treat them properly, just soaking and disinfecting etc… Thank God, that the Poenarus were so understanding. I would have freaked if a family of 4 came with toes full of eggs to spread around my house. But they just said to keep socks on and disinfect them and sheets etc every other day, and keep up with the soaking and what not… Thank goodness.

Oh, cool thing….We saw many Zebra and gazelle and big cape buffalo on the way here on the bus! And there are quite a few monkeys around, and Kev saw many baboons (about 50!) just down the road about a mile or two. We are told they are very dangerous, to carry a stick around and  are all scared to go out in the dark now! Especially after hearing about  a man in this village got his finger bit off by a rabid hyena a couple months ago!. YIKES!  In fact, one day when I (Kim) decided to take Simba for a walk we came head on with a family of about 30 baboons, that thankfully did not see me before I saw them as I made a hasty retreat, (… I never knew I could run so fast!)Local Baboons

We decided to celebrate Brendans birthday with a Nakuru Lake safari. It was incredible, and from everything we are told is just a warm up for Masai Mara, which is suppose to be one of the best place in the Africa to safari. We’ll be there in the next week for 3 nights, but we can’t imagine how it could be better. We saw rhinos (8?), lions (4 and 3 cubs), 6 or 7 giraffe, masses of waterbuck, gazelle, zebra, warthogs, impala, monkey, baboons, vultures, pelicans,  ….and so many flamingo that from a distance the edge of the lake looked lined with baby pink. The highlight was outside the park where we were on the highway and saw a giant dead boa constrictor python. It was about 10 feet long with the head about the size of my hand. It was in perfect condition except for a dent the size of a tire width, so it had just been run over and died on the side of the road. It was freaky.

The bummer of the whole day is our pictures were completely destroyed (transfer to computer trouble?) but regardless, it was a remarkable birthday for Brendan, and we can’t imagine what we will see at Masai Mara that we haven’t already. We also had the pleasure of bringing a couple young girls from the village with us. We were hiring the van, and realized we should not go with empty seats and ended up taking couple local girls who had never seen many of the animals or had the opportunity to visit a game reserve. Sharing the day with them really made the whole day extra special, as they were as thrilled to see these animals as we were!

In general, Kenya seems a bit more dangerous than Uganda, but not quite as poor. I think there is more personal risk here, with more potential of tribal clashes, and violence, as the political climate isn’t great. Ie., can’t walk out at night , double lock at all times, can’t even leave shoes outside or they will “walk away” even during the day.  But with taking appropriate precautions, it feels as safe as living in a nasty part of downtown Toronto, but much more beautiful!

Still, I can’t explain how much we love, and how comfortable we all are in Africa. When I am here, I feel as if I finally snuggly fit into my own skin. (Sigh………………….)

We are so grateful to have Marty and Don, from our church family connecting us with reliable God loving people in Uganda to help us get around. Tourism is not a major industry here, so guesthouses/hotels are few and far between,  Taxis are VERY expensive, and unreliable (not to mention as Kevin notes deathtraps). Even for us, who now feel we can travel at the non-luxury level, it is a stretch.  We are thankful for the alternative of a hired driver in David Muisi. David is actually the cousin of the Bishop Grivas, a faithful servant, founder of Prayer Palace, and responsible for bringing Don and Marty and eventually us, the Newmarket Yorkview family to Nakyessa.  I love how God weaves us together like a giant global basket!

Driving up and back is not as bad as I recall from my last trip here in 2007. While there are still parts of the road on the 2.5hr journey that in Canada would be considered “not a proper road”, and even impassable at times, but for the most part we find it pretty good. Again, I believe our standards of “pretty good drive” has lowered substantially based on the experience of earlier journeys this year.  We are still dodging trucks that could at any moment easily tip, so stacked with bananas, people, what have you, simultaneously avoiding masses of pedestrians, cyclists and swerving motorcycles and  passing cows and potholes. Oh, the potholes. The type you could fill up with water, and swim in.  All the while David, a very good driver by Ugandan standards, navigates and near misses at the speed of  80-100km! At one point we are forced to divert due to a washed out road section through an alternate “road”/ billy goat trail. The faces of the village people seeing  vehicle pass where they are few and far between,  was priceless!   How the wheels stay on the car God only knows.

But what wonderful days we had visiting Nakyessa. It is the truly for me, the closest place to heaven on earth.  The long 2.5+hour each way was worth every scary minute on the road! We we went 4 days to the village and school, painting and are happy to report that we  had enough paint for  5 of 9 primary classrooms, of which two of these classrooms are being used as dormitories.  Supplies, paint and transport of such are remarkably expensive in the this landlocked little country. We thinned the paint, and used every last drop. It was school holiday time, so only a few boarding students were at the school (but many local village kids), all of whom expressed delight in the newly painted rooms.          

Kevin Preps The Class As Little Eyes Watch

Kevin Preps The Class As Little Eyes Watch

I am thrilled to see the changes at the school since I left 2 years ago .  Many new buildings, such as the senior lab, junior kitchen, tailoring room, the many goats, and the AMAZING primary library!  Don and Marty McLaughlin have done an amazing job and coordinating the energies of all those Canadians (especially Yorkview-ites!) who have fallen in love with Nakyessa.  It is beautiful to see the extended use of the “donated” tools, resources being used by students and teachers to help each other.  More importantly, the gifts from afar have enabled a poor community, and brought a glimmer of hope where they believed none previously existed.

 I was disappointed to hear that our visit coincided with school holidays meaning most of the children would be gone. However, I was SO thrilled to find, that amongst the tiny fraction of students there over the holiday was my very best friend of Nakyessa, …Okelo, Abraham!!!! I couldn’t believe it, …and we had a jumping up and down reunion! Okelo is 20, and the oldest boy in the school. He would say he has had the privilege of attending school for the last 7 years. He treats all the students at Nakyessa like a doting big brother, and is obviously highly regarded and really loved by them.  When I found him, he was sitting outside the kitchen, where he was making pots of posho (cornstarch and water), and tiny bait fish of some type, for the borders lunch. (Anyway, it looked horrible, as does all the food I have ever seen come out of that kitchen to be honest.) The quality of cuisine however is lost on him, as he is just very happy to have the food to cook. Half in jest, I asked one of the boarders if Okelo was a good cook?, to which he replied that “he IS a good cook, but not this food. This food is just for filling,…not for good eating.”

 As we peered into the classrooms we were to paint, my boy’s hearts sank. I had told them of the state of the school, but they were still feeling unprepared for what they saw. The condition of concrete floors, full of breaks and craters, make it impossible to walk or even sit in, and most of the furniture completely busted just from wear and tear, rendering it really useless. Even in the “best” classrooms, there would be only proper seating for two thirds of the students.  We could only look forward to doing our small part to clean it up.

 Preparation of the rooms took almost as long as the painting itself. There was much of the red dirt you find everywhere stuck to the walls, lots of rat poop, on the desk and floor, and nests of creatures ie, terrible looking stinging wasp type insects, big spiders, etc.  Kevin and Aaron killed a small very poisonous Mamba snake in one classroom, and in another we had to remove a dead rat and scoop out small amounts of goat droppings before we could paint. I was especially disturbed that this was in the building that houses the boys dormitory.  Apparently, they had a rat problem and had had laid out poison, so I guess this was the result.  The condition of the walls, with bigger holes than could be managed by our small boxes of poly-fill, made for more paint to be required than one might expect. All in all, a couple coats of paint gave the classrooms a much needed lift, and really brightened them up. And we got a “twenty thumbs up” by our gathering audience of village kids, and a few student borders, all peering in to the classrooms.

 Amongst the gathering crowd came a young man whom I met briefly in 2007, known as Robert, the “head boy” of the senior school.  Robert just walked in and basically grabbed a paintbrush wanting to help, in a very meek mannered way was persistent about helping us. We graciously accepted. What a joy to be painting with someone who is literally grinning from ear to ear the entire time.  I was only concerned he would get paint on what I am fairly certain were his only clothes (outside of his school uniform) and made him wrap my sarong around his clothes.  

 By the end of the day, Robert had shown us great care in his painting, and responsibility for the brushes, and ensuring the paint was locked up in the evening etc… and we crowned him “captain of the painting team!” At this point we knew there was enough paint to do only one of the remaining 3 classes, which we were returning to do on a following day.   Feeling a bit deflated by this, we told Robert that after we leave Uganda we would still raise the funds to complete painting of the primary area in the near future, and arrange for the paint to be purchased.  We told him we were confident that he, the Captain. could pull a team together of senior boys to get the job done. “Oh, Yes Mum.. Please.  Can do…That would be would be wunda-fool!” he responds.

 In the meantime, I asked if during the following day, he and Okelo could prep the classroom to be painted by brooming the walls, and taking down pictures, (maybe removing the rat!), etc… With the regular perma-smile, he said he would try but had a service to attend tomorrow, but really wanted to help us when we return. Knowing the Ugandans always want to please us, (saying yes to anything,) I reassure him not to worry, and that we can do it when we return in two days, and yes he could help us again.

 On our following “day off” we hung around Kampala and I decided to buy some treats to take back to “our boys” back in Nakyessa. Afterall it is “holiday”, and everyone should get some kind of break. The day prior I watched the borders eat the posho (cornstarch pudding), prompting me to pick them up some food from the market. We purchased sweet potatoes, tomatoes, avocados, mangos, salt, “ground nut stew”, (basically a big bag of very mushy peanut butter)  and the house favourite….green bananas. Green bananas are the staple starch of Uganda for those who can afford it. They boil them for an hour or more, and mash them up like pasty mashed potatoes and eat them with basically everything. But for the boys at the school it had been a long while since they had them.  We bought an entire BRANCH of bananas (well over a hundred anyway.)  We were really happy to be able to bring them up to Nakyessa.

 So the next day comes, and we arrive at the school. Walking across the field to the classroom due to be painted I am looking, …walking…looking… and can see that the classroom is already painted(?). The paint fairies were here! We had suggested that if they the Sr Boys have time, they might sweep and tidy enough just to prep the room, and they had taken it upon themselves to complete the whole job! My eyes filled with tears! I was so touched, and proud of them for taking the initiative to do this. Moments later Robert came around the corner on his bike just beaming, so proud of the work he had done. Okelo was soon to follow, and was equally thrilled with the job they had done, and rightly so…it was terrific!

Proud Okelo and Robert

Proud Okelo and Robert

 We then went to the dorm to carry the food over, and thanked them for the job well done. They were giddy with seeing the food and immediately started to plan their feast for the evening. They carefully packed the goods into plastic bags to hang from the ceiling of the dorm so rats couldn’t get at it (gulp!).   We could see that the plastic bins which some of the boys had to keep their belongings in, is no match for the rats who have eaten the corners off . A couple of the boys had metal “toolbox” type containers that work well. Hmmm, note to self: perhaps collect toolboxes? (Ya, right after new floors and furniture? Ah, I already have drawn up designs for furniture that the Sr. Boys can build on site!!! A little furniture team!))

All in all our last and glorious day at Nakyessa! Because they had taken care of the brushes, cleaning of the buckets etc. we had nothing left to paint. So we spent the day, listening to music, praising the Lord together in song, and just playing with the kids. It was absolutely perfect, and we all were sad to see the day end, and say our “goodbye-for-now’s.  

An Expanded Team Spiers!

An Expanded Team Spiers!

We will all return home better people for having visited the children in Nakyessa. They have taught us so much. We hope we are blessed once again to return someday.

We wish you could see the wonderful work in this small community that God is doing, and how they make th most of all the contributions from abroad, and the merriment in the faces of the children as they react to something as small as a freshly painted classroom. Thank you those who supported this little project,  for partnering and enabling the kids of Nakyessa. As promised to Okelo and Robert, I would pass on to people in Canada…. “God Bless”, and “we love you so much”

On another note, did you hear about our jiggers? Fleas that crawl into your skin and lay eggs?!….MMM nice huh. Yup we got them from painting the school in Uganda. We were getting paint on our shoes and so we decided to paint in flip flops… I totally forgot about the closed shoe rule!… So a couple days after we get to Kenya, a few of my toes are so sore and look like blisters and infected… and then I notice similar spots on the boys and sure enough, Kev. So thankfully we were at the home of the Poenaru’s  (post to follow!) and could treat them properly, just soaking and disinfecting etc… We are completely healed since so no worries.

Posted by: Kim | April 29, 2009

UGANDA

Friendly Faces of Uganda

Friendly Faces of Uganda

“Olio tia!” As we approach the landing strip the picture of the lush green valleys covered in mist with the sun half risen was just spectacular. I immediately notice, that the airport was different. Much more fancy than I remembered it!?

Waiting for us was Jackson, a sweet young man who welcomed us with the most fantastic smile, and loaded us into the waiting van. Jackson tells us that the airport terminal is new, so that is why it is much nicer than I recall. When I tell him I was here 2 years ago, neither of us is certain if we met back then, as I was part of a large team from Yorkview Church. Regardless, Jackson had fun listing all the people he knows from “The Dons High Adventure” team, all of whom everyone here misses. We even broke out into JaJa Kens favourite song… Things Already Betta’….and I was a homesick for Yorkview.

I was really impressed by the kids and Kevin. They barely flinched at the sights on the drive in. They waived to kids in the back of pickup trucks, and kindly waived off peddlars selling leather belts, and wash sponges to cars at the stop light, and barely noticed, motorbikes carrying 300kg of bananas or live chickens. So it seems the previous adventures have prepared us well for Uganda. In fact, it seems nothing is shocking, just different.

I think I was beaming the entire ride to the guesthouse, reminiscing as soon as I smelled “it”, that being Uganda.  Those exclusive scents, …the wood burning for all the fires being used for cooking  on the streets, and the smell of the people. You can burn wood anywhere but it doesn’t smell the same as it does in Uganda, and nor do the people smell like anywhere else. Many countries people have various scents based mainly on what their diets consist of, (and how often they shower, I suppose) but none of those are as distinct, as those that come with the beautiful people of Uganda. (Maybe I should say Africa, but I have only knowledge of Uganda.). I enjoy it, as attached to that scent, is the memory of a endless line of the most loving people I have ever met, on my last short visit here in 2007. My anxieties of returning with my family quickly dissolve.

Jackson takes us into town to pick up supplies of cases of water, and hundreds of candy for the ready, when we get to Nakyessa next week. We are disappointed that school is out on vacation, but know that there will be many village kids still up there, and there is good work for /us to do painting the primary classrooms.

Pulling up to Adonai 2, the guesthouse, we are greeted and reacquainted by our lovely housekeepers Jane and Susan. We exchange warm hugs, and do intro to the rest of the family. It turns out due to some financial struggles, Jane has let her apartment go, and is staying with her youngest son Josh at Adonai.  An hour later, Brendan, Aaron and new buddy Josh, are playing soccer, dodge ball and every other game they can think of on the front garden, followed by some early evening scrabble.  

Aaron is looking very relaxed here, Kevin keeps saying he can’t believe how lovely it is in the garden, and Brendan well, let’s just say he adjusts quickly. Getting into bed, Brendan says he thinks today was his favourite day of the trip so far (!?) ….feels like home,…people are so welcoming….they have peanut butter,… they got to play soccer and just read books, etc…. Smart kid!  Proof that it is truly the simple things in life the bring joy.

While in Kampala, we do lots of walking around the town centre near the guesthouse. It is quite sad in some places. At one point Joshua is with us walking around and we see a line up of people at the backdoor of the hotel, where we are headed to buy and ice cream. He tells us that the people in line are there to pick up old bones and “good scraps” from the hotel. Suddenly, the ice cream doesn’t taste so sweet.

The contrast between what we are used to in North America and that of Africa is SO polar opposite. Even for those who are being educated, and have some stable quality of life, the differences are glaring. The following day, we are eating lunch at the guesthouse and had bought some dill pickles to snack on. When we invited Joshua to have some, he did but didn’t know what they were. So Brendan says, you know “pickles” like you get on hamburger at MacDonalds. To which he replies.”Mac Donalds??” …you know you’re far from home when you are no longer in the land that knows MacDonalds. (Even in India we had it!) Oh, he also had soup with us for the first time. He called it “sauce”, and probably wondered what it should be poured over.

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