Full Circle Moment

The other day I was looking for something completely different, and I came across this blog entry from September 2011, and was surprised to see that at the end of it, I mentioned having just heard about Wendy’s idea to start a child sponsorship program in Haiti. I’m re-posting it here for your convenience. (Be sure to scroll to the bottom for the ‘full circle moment.)


This is a photo essay from my trip to Africa last January that I never published.  As is obvious, I like shoes.  I was so touched by the shoes these little kids from the slums wore.  It was obvious to me, that even though this was a “soccer tournament,” most of these little kids were dressed in their best clothes for the American visitors.  Some of the little girls had a real sense of style and did the best with what they had.  You can see in the last photo that the pile of shoes that we brought with us was definitely the most popular with the soccer coaches, even though there was a whole roomful of sports equipment and clothing strewn about.

So last week I was at a meeting at church, and a young couple, who I admire very much, each had an idea for ministry that I got very excited about.  The husband happens to work at the same University hospital that I worked at, and he said that on a recent trip to the downtown area, he noticed the shoes of a homeless woman, and thought to himself that no one should have to wear shoes like that.  So he had the idea to collect good comfortable walking shoes and take them to homeless people on his lunch break!

Then his wife shared that she had been trying to figure out how we could set up a sponsorship program for the kids in a church in Haiti that our church has partnered with!

Both of these ideas are things that I feel passionately about.  Just that day I had been feeling so lost–what am I doing that is worthy? etc.  I know that there are some things volunteer-wise that I want to do that require the use of my hands, so that will have to wait until after I have my right hand surgery done.  But these two things are things I can do now!  I was so excited after that night.

 And here I am, a little over a year later, helping to distribute shoes to the kids in Haiti:


This is a photo essay from my trip to Africa last January that I never published.  As is obvious, I like shoes.  I was so touched by the shoes these little kids from the slums wore.  It was obvious to me, that even though this was a “soccer tournament,” most of these little kids were dressed in their best clothes for the American visitors.  Some of the little girls had a real sense of style and did the best with what they had.  You can see in the last photo that the pile of shoes that we brought with us was definitely the most popular with the soccer coaches, even though there was a whole roomful of sports equipment and clothing strewn about.

So last week I was at a meeting at church, and a young couple, who I admire very much, each had an idea for ministry that I got very excited about.  The husband happens to work at the same University hospital that I worked at, and he said that on a recent trip to the downtown area, he noticed the shoes of a homeless woman, and thought to himself that no one should have to wear shoes like that.  So he had the idea to collect good comfortable walking shoes and take them to homeless people on his lunch break!

Then his wife shared that she had been trying to figure out how we could set up a sponsorship program for the kids in a church in Haiti that our church has partnered with!

Both of these ideas are things that I feel passionately about.  Just that day I had been feeling so lost–what am I doing that is worthy? etc.  I know that there are some things volunteer-wise that I want to do that require the use of my hands, so that will have to wait until after I have my right hand surgery done.  But these two things are things I can do now!  I was so excited after that night.

Back to our regularly scheduled blogging tomorrow!

Safari, The End

[Previous Africa posts:  Here We Go,    Kawangware,  Safari Begins,   Safari Continues.]

The next morning, after a good night’s sleep, I opened the patio doors to see this sight.  People were hot air ballooning on safari!  (We didn’t do that.  But it was cool to see.)

Had one more great meal, where I heard the young’un’s talk about seeing a hippopotamus about 30 feet from the pool at the resort!  More good coffee, and we were off.  All the guys were talking about, “if we could just see a male lion, that would be so perfect.”  I KNOW.  Can you believe that was one of the first things we saw???  Yeah, we actually saw two male lions and one female.  Ruh roh.  So right away after our three vans pulled up, the one male and the female moved away from us.  Never fear, our trusty van drivers just went over a hill and around a curve and found them again.  They didn’t seem particularly pleased to see us.

The female got up and moved again, and she moved by going right between two of the vans.  I am not kidding.  They were about two feet from either van when they walked through.

Our driver explained that it was mating season, and the other male lion that we had seen was ‘the loser.’  He stayed behind this hill and kept an eye on everything that was going on.  It was just like you see in the nature movies.

And yes, they ‘did it.’  (Picture edited for my G-rated blog)  It was the end of the mating  season, our guide explained, so there really wasn’t much to it.  But if you must know, our guide said that they mate for an entire week, up to 72 times a day, and they don’t eat for the entire week.  No comment.

Now that I review these pictures, it seems like we saw more ‘activities’ this day than the others.  Here’s a young warthog nursing (ouch.)

We went back by the river and got to see a group of hippos out of the water.

We saw a lot of elephants this day.

Then, just when I thought we were through, the drivers suddenly turned to the left and took off!  We rounded a curve and saw this guy.  Yeah, another cheetah, kind of far away again.  But this time he was watching a whole herd of impalas or gazelles.  We watched him watching them for what seemed like forever.  Eventually most of them moved away.   But one of them looked like the proverbial deer caught in the headlights.  It just stood there, stock still.  Obviously sensed the cheetah.  We watched this for another long time.

And then the strangest thing happened.  A big warthog came trotting across the plain, right between the deer and the cheetah, and climbed up this small hill, turned around and stationed himself right there, like he was doing something really important.  I tell you, it was like watching a great drama unfold.

And then, all of a sudden, the cheetah sprang!  Of course, immediately he was out of sight of our vans.  The drivers took off and found the cheetah right away.  And even though I hate watching ANYTHING be killed, I wouldn’t let myself look away.

When the poor little deer was all dead, he put it down and just watched it.  The driver said he had to recover from his exertion, and also had to watch out for hyenas.  Just like the nature shows!

He really is a magnificent animal, isn’t he?

Later on our driver was explaining that the warthog provided confusion and distracted the deer so that the cheetah was able to take advantage of the situation.  I asked him, “But what was the warthog doing?   And he said, “Oh, he was just being silly.  That is what warthogs do.”

The end.  And just like our host had said, we certainly did see how God blessed Africa with something that He did not give to Europe!

Safari Continues!

A couple of the comments from the last post reminded me of some things I had forgotten to say.  When I signed up for this trip, the possibility of a safari was mentioned.  But it was not the main point of the trip, and my true thought process was that I was not going to plan on a safari being a part of the trip.  If it was, that would be an extra added bonus.  So when we got our schedule for the trip (like the third day we were there!) I glanced at it and saw 7-10am Tuesday:  Safari. And I thought to myself, Wow, that really is a little safari. Then I looked again, and saw that the safari started on Monday morning.  We were going on an overnight safari!  I also thought that it wouldn’t be much different than visiting a wild animal park here in the states.  It was SOOOO different.  I can’t really describe to you the vastness of the reserve.  It truly felt like you were just out in the wilds of Africa.  Well, you were.  It is just protected now.  And probably the animals are a little more used to cars and trucks than they used to be.  I also thought, like Jill mentioned, that we might see an animal or two, but they would be at a long distance.  But we were SOOOO close to so many of the animals, as you will see.  The drivers are very skilled at spotting the animals, and then they stay in contact with one another by walkie talkie or cell phone.  Oh yeah.  That was one of the biggest revelations to me.  There, in the middle of nowhere, with miles and miles of nothing, these guys had perfect cell phone reception.  I can’t even sit in my own house and have a decent conversation on my cell phone.  There’s something seriously wrong with that.

Anyway, after the lions, we saw a couple other interesting animals.  This character was called a secretary bird.  So appropriately named, don’t you think?  I was really fascinated by this bird, because I think it is one animal that I have never seen in a zoo, or on a nature show.  Our guide said that it is a scavenger type of bird.

He was in a hurry to get somewhere!

We saw lots of deer-type animals.  Maybe these are impalas?

So, when I heard that we were going on an overnight safari, my immediate question was, “What kind of place are we staying at?”  Not because I’m picky.  I just wanted to know whether it would be worthwhile to bring my hairdryer and try to wash my hair there.  J, our leader’s wife, gave me a thumbs up and said “its a NICE place.”

I have to admit that as we took that never-ending dirt road to the middle of nowhere, I thought to myself, oh, this is going to be Africa nice, not regular nice. We continued our drive through the Masai Mara, went up a little hill, rounded a bend, and there it was–Paradise!!!  We walked in the front door of this resort, hot and covered with dust, and were greeted by an attendant who handed us a warm moistened wash cloth to wipe our faces and necks off!  Followed by an attendant collecting our grimy washcloths!!  Followed by an attendant with a tray of cool fruit drinks!!!  Oh, yeah.  This was a NICE place.

Here’s the view from the expansive patio.

We dropped our bags off, and went in to have lunch.  It was a buffet, but someone said it was similar to the type of buffet that they have on a cruise ship.  They did have lots of native type foods, but also plenty of American and European type foods as well.  Oh yumm.  Can anybody tell me why such a foodie as myself never thinks to take pictures of food??? You’ll have to take my word for it.  It was GOOO-OOOD.

You can kind of see the rooms off in the distance of this picture.  Each room stood individually.  They were supposed to look like Masai mud houses.

I didn’t care so much about the exterior, but look at the inside of this room.  Heaven.

Each room had its own little deck.  I opened the doors and walked out on the deck and saw this little animal looking back at me.  It was another strange animal that I had never seen.  Later I showed this picture to our driver and asked him if he knew what it was, and he said in his charming accent, “Oh that is a skaral.”  “What was that?”  I had to ask about 3 times.  The third time one of my traveling companions helped him with the pronunciation.  “That is a squirrel.”  Oh.

After cleaning up and relaxing in our rooms for a bit, we met in the lobby to go out on safari again.  There were some beautiful landscapes and skyscapes along the way.

Then we climbed a little ridge and came upon a river.  I saw two animals I NEVER expected to see on this trip:  HIPPOS!!!

There were a ton of them in this river.  It was hard to tell which were rocks and which were hippos.

And CROCODILES!!! Can you believe it?  These guys were gigantic! I’ve been saying they were 27 feet long–that’s what I thought our guide said.  Evidently crocodiles aren’t that long.  But they were BIG.

And they had big teeth.

Water buffalo were plentiful.

More giraffes.  I took this picture because it showed all the little birds landing on his neck. They are looking for ticks, our guide said.  Ewwww.

Back by the lions, who were still snoozing.

Oooh!  We spotted our first rhinoceros!  There had been a lot of talk about ‘the Big Five.’  Which I thought referred to the five most difficult animals to spot on safari.  Evidently, the traditional meaning is ‘the five most difficult animals to hunt on foot.  Anyway, rhinoceros was one of them, so we were pretty happy to see it.  The other four were lion, water buffalo, elephant, and leopard.  We were doing pretty good on our quest to see the big five!

Oh yeah!  This was the best.  Elephants are my all time favorite wild animal.  In fact, my nickname forever was Elly.  And I can ‘trumpet’ a mean happy birthday. Only to select people.  But I digress.  Can you believe we saw elephants close up???  There was always a group of elephants, and usually they were surrounding the babies, so I was really excited when I could get a pic of the mom and her baby.  Our guide said this baby was only about a month old!


Our day was almost done (you have to be off the reserve by 6:30pm.  Probably more for your own protection than for the animals) when this animal was spotted!  What a find.  And what a magnificent creature!  (Cheetah.)

We saw these hyena pups cavorting by the side of the road.  Their mom skulked by but I didn’t get a clear shot of her.

We drove back to the resort so happy and satisfied with all we had seen, and were treated to this glorious sunset.

Had another delicious meal, and I headed off to my room for a wonderful shower, and to wash my hair, and to spend a little time working on my little quilt project that I had with me.  Slept so well in that wonderful bed.  We would go out on safari one more time before heading home.


Safari Begins

I’m taking the trip a little out of order, but thought it was about time to share the safari with you all!  The day started bright and early with a quick breakfast at 6am–really just put together pb&j sandwiches and an apple for the trip.  I grabbed about three gulps of coffee and we were out the door.  On the road by 6:30 am.  I really was impressed with the sometimes timeliness of such a large group.  I liked the way Kamal, our host, described what we were about to see on safari.  “Now you will see how God gifted Africa.  He gave her something special that he did not give to Europe.”

This time, instead of all 17 of us being in one big bus, we split into 3 safari vans–you know those kind that the top pops up on so you can stand up and take pictures.  Yeah, and so you are easily accessible to all the animals… I didn’t take a picture of one so you’ll just have to use your imagination.  I have to say that the seats on the bus and the vans were very spacious and comfortable.  That was good, because our drive out to the Masai Mara  was over 5 hours.  We drove through the crazy roads of Nairobi–animals, people walking, donkey carts, and cars seem to have equal access– and out into the countryside.  After a couple of hours, we came to the Great Rift Valley.  Our driver told us that this was the basis for the movie The Lion King.  It really was beautiful, and so very grand and spacious.  Not sure my pictures can do it justice.

After we got through the Rift Valley (where we saw some baboons and some zebras just along the side of the road!) we turned off onto a, well, dirt road just doesn’t describe it.  It was dirt, but it was full of rocks, deep ruts, and just general bumpiness.  And we were on that road for a good two hours!  We learned later that most folks flew into the resort.  Here’s a typical scene.  Most of the time the goats and the cattle were on the side of the road.  You can kind of see a Masai guy there with the cattle.  They are just like you see in the movies.  Very tall, thin, dignified, and almost always wearing a red blanket.  I wanted to take closer pictures, but it seemed politically incorrect.

Here’s a picture of the never-ending dirt road.  Doesn’t really do it justice.  It was NOT this smooth in real life.

We came upon this guy before we even got to the reserve!

I think these animals were the first official animals we saw after entering the Masai Mara.  You’ll have to forgive my lack of names for all the deer-types.

We came upon these ‘crown birds.’  That’s what the guide called them.  I think we have a fancier name in America.

Then we came to this whole group of LIONS just lazing around under this tree!!!  This was so exciting.  We were so near to them that later I realized that if one of them had wanted to, they could have reached me through the open window (I was sitting in the front seat) in one leap!  Fortunately, (we heard this later,) they had killed and eaten a zebra the day before, so that is why they were so lazy.  Still.  It was really something to see them so close.  We had to be real quiet, and the drivers turned the vans engines off, because they said that sounds really bugged the lions.

Their paws were huge.

This is the female that was close enough to jump into my lap.  Isn’t the young male cool looking?

And that’s just the beginning!  To be continued…


We interrupt this travelogue for a little food talk.  You guys know I can’t go too long without talking about food!  But come back in the next day or two for the Safari report!

So.  The food on the trip.  First of all, there was plenty of food.  I think I mentioned our breakfasts every morning.  For lunch we sometimes had local food, which as far as I could tell was really low in fat, high in carbs.  Very little fruit, and the veggies seemed limited to a few carrots, some kale, and plenty of cabbage.  They used some kind of bean and what looked to me like lentils.  Okay this is funny.  I called this lentil-stuff gumbala in my last post.  So when I did a google search just now to see what was in it, my blog entry was the fourth listing that came up.  Because evidently there is no such thing as gumbala.  They make something called ugali, but that is not what I am talking about.  Oh well, doesn’t matter.  The main point is, I ate too much food.  I had some trail mix with me, which I really didn’t need to eat.  I knew when I was eating it that it was just plain stress eating.  For dinner, quite a few nights we went out to American type restaurants.  We also tried Ethiopian food (no thank you) and ate at a great italian restaurant.  That was the only food picture that I took the whole trip, because the plate was so pretty.  It tasted as good as it looked. (Chicken  Marsala.)

There was lots of excellent coffee over there too.  Not too many sweets, so much so, that when I had a few squares of dark chocolate that I had brought along, they tasted too rich and too sweet.  I don’t think their food was too highly salted either.

But by the time I started the long trip home, my food choices had really eroded.  I had french fries more times than I have had in the past two years, and the last two days (when I was in America,) I literally only had junk food.  Except that bowl of cheerios I had for breakfast the last morning.

So since I’ve gotten home, I’ve had a little bit of a sick feeling in my stomach.  I’m not sure if that’s part of jet lag, or if I am trying to get sick, or the result of those last two days of junk food.  I’m choosing to believe its the junk food.  What?  Do you really want to know the specific junk food?  Okay.  I had airport pizza, a candy bar, McDonald’s, and fried chicken.

Moving on.   So, I am so happy that since coming home I have eaten absolutely purely nutritious foods.  Homemade yogurt, fresh fruits, roasted brussel sprouts, salads, custard oatmeal, etc.  Here’s a few of the things I remembered to snap pictures of:

Dinner last night!  I was quite thrilled with this creation.  Or recreation.  An old favorite that has been remade.  Used to be fried chicken fingers, with full fat white gravy, mashed potatoes, and canned corn.  Now–chicken tenders sauteed in a tiny bit of coconut oil, mashed cauliflower, and fresh corn (microwave cob in a wet paper towel for three minutes and then cut off the cob.)  The gravy is some leftover almost fat free gravy that I made after Thanksgiving.  Yes, it was in the freezer.  Mashed cauliflower note:  I read this, but still had to try for myself.  It does not work to mash the cauliflower with a hand potato masher.  They just tasted like mashed cauliflower.  Somehow putting it in the osterizer breaks down something and turns them into mashed potatoes!

Mid-morning snack–1/2 a small Fuji apple with THE MOST DELICIOUS CHOCOLATE ALMOND BUTTER ever!!!  Justin’s, that I found on sale at Whole Foods.  And a lo-bar.

Ooh.  Something new that I picked up at the gym today.  A creation of Vicky’s called Marble Pistachio Halva.  I asked Vicky what it was and she said the Halva was simply a mixture of tahini paste and I think ground pistachio nuts.  The swirl has carob in it.  Oh yumm.  Quite rich, but good for you, Vicky says.  Just a little nibble now and then.  The thing about Vicky’s creations like this is that they are not the sweet/salt combo that drives you to eat more and more.  Just enough to satisfy.

One more foody item.  Today I was going to meet a friend for lunch to talk about my trip and some other stuff.  I kind of agonized about where to eat since I am counting calories now.  I suggested Jamba Juice, since I knew they had the oatmeal that I like for only 220 calories.  And once again I was so impressed with their choices and the fact that they have the ingredients listed and the calorie count of everything in their store.  I think its a great place to go for lunch with friends.  My friend (who is doing Weight Watchers right now) was also impressed.

So, I am so happy that I have gotten back on track so quickly and easily.  For now I am actually carefully tracking my food until I lose the Christmas/travel weight.  According to the gym scale, I have already lost 4 pounds. (Yes, Shelley, I couldn’t resist!  I checked it out on Monday, the day after I arrived home.)  And I am most happy that I have made it to the gym two out of three days since returning.  Today I was already back to using my pre-vacation weights on both free-weights and machines.

Isn’t this the cutest?  We are so happy to be back all together.  Noah is so happy to be home, and he has been such a good boy.  I am hopeful that we have entered yet another era of more grown-up and less energetic Noah.

Have to go back to work tomorrow.  So will get the safari report up in the next couple of days.


So, at 7pm London time, we boarded our final eight hour flight for Kenya.  If you’re keeping track, that is 38 hours total travel time, and two nights sleep in those wonderful airline seats.  (On the trip from Chicago to London our seats were upgraded to economy plus, which gave you extra leg space, and that was extremely wonderful, even for a short person like me!)  I have to say that the whole travel thing went extraordinarily smoothly.  Every single flight was on time, or even a little early.  There was never any prolonged time sitting in the plane waiting to take off. And our tour leader was extremely proficient at moving 17 people through all the different check in points–that was very comforting to not have to worry about any of that.  Security in some places was pretty lax, while in others they were extremely thorough.  I never had to be searched, though, thank goodness.  Someone had told me to not wear loose clothing.  So I had a comfortable outfit that was fitted–black cords and a black cotton turtleneck sweater, along with my fuzzy white jacket and a black and white silk scarf that I had woven years ago.  It was the perfect traveling outfit, I have to say.  I take dramamine for motion sickness when I fly, and even though it is labeled ‘less drowsy formula,’ I cannot stay awake on a plane!  Another plus on a long trip!

Eight and a half hours later we arrived in Nairobi, Kenya, at 8:30 in the morning.  During our orientation, our leader had explained that the Kenyan people are extremely relational, and time is not extremely important to them.  Just as he described, we were greeted by about 8 (extremely good looking) young men, and every single one of them greeted every single one of us with a handshake and a smile, and exchanging names.  Doing the multiplication, that is about 136 handshakes!

In general, the Kenyan people are very beautiful.  I saw so many young men and women that I thought “they could be models” if someone ‘discovered’ them.  I was particularly impressed with their beautiful teeth and smiles.  The woman (from the couple that was my age) was a microbiologist, and she explained that for tooth decay you need bacteria AND sugar.  They eat very little sugar.  Which was a good thing for me!

Let me backtrack here and explain again about the organization that I traveled with.  Their name is Vapor Sports Ministries, and their goal is to provide humanitarian aid and sustainable life change, alongside sports and teaching people what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.  Like I have said several times, I am not much interested in sports.  But I decided to support this group because it seemed more personal to send money to a smaller organization, to people that I actually knew and trusted.  I know that there are many other organizations that are doing the same thing, and doing it well.  Actually, that was one of my takeaway thoughts–the enormity of the problem of extreme poverty in this world.  You could allow it to paralyze you into apathy or inactivity.  But we can’t allow that to happen.

In the orientation, they talked about how traditional ‘missions trips’ are not actually helpful.  To just swoop in and paint a building or hand out some food and clothing does not solve the problem.  So one of their goals is to empower the local people to use their resources(!) and to build leadership from within.  This was really one of the great things that I saw.  But I am getting ahead of myself.

Back to the airport.  We were all tired, of course, but the goal was to keep us up, so we would get on Kenyan time and be able to sleep that night.  So we got all loaded up–17 people and 34 giant bags–that’s a lot of loading up!  Each person took one large bag for themselves, and one large bag loaded with sports equipment for the soccer teams there.

Driving through Nairobi I was struck with the, well, with how dirty and unfinished everything was.  I’m not talking about the slums.  Just in general they do not have the resources or money or whatever it is that we have to ‘make things nice.’  And then, how there was nice housing like right next door to slums.

I’ll try to describe the road to the guesthouse that we stayed at.  So you turn off the main road (OMGOSH, I’ll have to talk about the traffic and the driving later.  I just chose to trust that our drivers were extremely skilled and competent…) and on the corner there was a very large, very nice brick catholic church.  But the road in front of it was just a rutted dirt and rock road leading straight into a slum area.  The slum areas all had multiple little shacks that were businesses of various sorts–food for sale, shoe repair, hair ‘salons’, which seemed to consist of a chair out front with a woman braiding her customer’s hair, etc.  Multiple goats and chickens running around, and tons of darling little kids waving and saying “howareyou howareyou howareyou?” in singsong voices.  The driver explained that that is the first thing they learn in school and are waiting for us to say “fine.”  So we continue down this rutted dirt road, past more goats and chickens and kids, make a couple of sharp turns, and come to this guest house, kind of like a little apartment house (which I imagine is similar to what we would find in America in ‘the projects’ or such.  VERY basic facilities.  There was a shower, no stall.  You had to turn the hot water heater on each time you wanted to take a shower, and the showers were usually lukewarm, with the occasional blast of ice cold or scalding hot water.  Not complaining, just describing.  Next door to where we stayed were our hosts for the trip.  An EXTREMELY charming and gracious couple who served a great breakfast every morning.  Let’s just say my resolve to not eat much wheat went out the window on this trip.  Toast, french toast, pancakes, sandwiches…you name it, I ate it.  They did also serve good eggs, even made omelets sometimes.  Not a lot of fruit, and not as many veggies as I am used to.  Very little dairy.  Because there is not much refrigeration  available.  They did serve FANTASTIC coffee every morning.  My friends had kindly allowed me to borrow their little coffee maker, but I really didn’t need it most mornings.  Because we started every day at 7am!

Anyway, we arrived and this pretty vine was growing on the outside of the building.  I was still in the ‘its impolite to take too many pictures mode’ so unfortunately I don’t have any other pics of where we stayed.

Then back in  the bus and on to the center in Kawangware. Now.  I had looked at all the pictures on the Vapor website.  And had seen videos when they came to our church to speak.  But as with anything, pictures are not the same as in person.  So the sights were not surprising to me.  The enormity of the space and problem was a bit overwhelming.  Coupled with the fact that the whole time I am thinking, this is just one slum in one city.  Actually this is not even the biggest slum in THIS city.  And then of course the other senses are bombarded.  Specifically the sense of smell.  And actually, for whatever reason, the smell was not as offensive to me as even our own American dumps.  I don’t know why.  Maybe because it was the ever present smell of burning coals. They always have little coal ovens going.  Sometimes there were piles of garbage burning, but more often it was cooking something or other.  They are very industrious, and even in the slums there were lines and lines of little stalls offering food and other stuff for sale.

We had been told during our orientation to be sensitive and to not take pictures in the slums, which was disappointing to me because I wanted to take pictures to share and for inspiration for possible quilts.  So I didn’t take many pictures, but I do have some that were taken by Drew VanFossen, who does volunteer work for Vapor.  His pictures show exactly what I saw.  I think they are beautiful and artistic despite the poverty that they show.

This scene was so typical.  These ducks were ever present, along with the goats and the chickens.

They split us into smaller groups and the Kenyan guys who work for Vapor took us on a tour of the slums.  Kids were everywhere, the piles of garbage were everywhere, and little streams of sewage were running down the middle of the street.  I wonder if my years of raising dogs and cleaning out dog kennels made this less horrific to me??



We went by this stall and I was completely fascinated.  I told Lawrence, my guide about my fascination with quilting and all.  So on the way back he brought me back by these ladies, and I had him ask if they minded me taking a picture because I loved to sew too.  It looks like maybe they had a business repairing or even making work clothes for people.  Probably they did whatever was needed.  I didn’t see anything that looked like quilting. But again I was struck that not much is needed in way of space or materials to try to be creative.


The second day at Kawangware they again divided us into small groups and had each leader take us to his home (which was in the slum) for lunch.  Oh, adventure!  By this time we had already had one Kenyan lunch, so I was only a little nervous.  I wish I could have taken a picture of their home.  Two rooms.  The room that we ate in was maybe 8 feet by 8 feet.  Maybe.  Lawrence’s wife had done her best to make it beautiful.  There was a narrow bench in the middle that served as the table, with a narrow bench along one wall, and little chairs against the other wall.  Somehow eight of us fit in there to eat.  There were clean pretty cloths on the bench, and draped over the entrance into the other room.  Lawrence disappeared and came back with warm sodas for everyone.  Eventually (Kenya time was a common  phrase on the trip,) a bowl and a pitcher of warm water was presented–they poured the warm water over our hands to wash them, which I thought was a very sweet thing to do.  I don’t know if that is a custom, or if that was special for us Americans.  The meal that Lydia presented was really very good–gumbala, rice, some kind of stew, and these delicious tortilla-like things called chapati.  All of this was cooked outside on her little charcoal cooker.  I’ll tell you, I was humbled by their hospitality.  I think I can’t entertain because my house is too small and messy for people….

Here is a picture of Lydia.  Isn’t she a beautiful woman?

Now then.  There was a LOT of soccer playing going on on this trip.  I’m not complaining.  After all, the name of the group is Vapor Sports.  I’m just saying.  For this NON-sports loving woman, there was a LOT of soccer.  The little guy in the yellow shirt is Freddy.  He is one of the first kids they ‘rescued’ at Vapor.  His mom had died, and he was living with his alcoholic dad who did not take care of him at all.  Freddy is quite a character, and very confident.  He is so typical of the kids (and adults) around there.  VERY slim.  My microbiologist friend was more inquisitive than I was, and asked one of the guys how often they ate, and they said matter-of-factly, “oh, once a day.”  There you go, girls.  The simple answer to all our problems with losing weight and keeping it off.

Being my usual shy, insecure self, I found myself sitting on the sidelines observing many times, while others in the group talked and played with the kids.  This little girl, who was shy herself, picked a  blade of grass and began tickling me!

We had fun talking and tickling, and she was quite intrigued with my camera and took quite a few pictures for me. Here’s the picture she took of me (remember, I am ‘puffy’ from travel LOL)  The brick building in the background is the bathroom…Oh my, the bathrooms were also a challenge.  Most of them were just a hole in the floor.  But I have to say that I was patient, and only once during the whole trip did I have to use the hole in the floor.  I did, however, always have my own tissue paper in my purse.)

Nanci and I together.  The buildings in the background here are nice apartment buildings that have been built directly on the edge of the slum!

Wow.  If you have made it this far, thank you.  Come back tomorrow for continuing adventures in Africa!


is anybody out there?

Hey there!  Anybody out there still checking on my blog?  Boy have I missed you guys!  In 15 days I only got one five minute chance to check out the internet.  Can you believe that even in one of the biggest slums in Africa they still have an ‘internet cafe?’  I should have taken a picture.  Even on my bravest day in America I wouldn’t have dared to go in such a place.  Anyway, I couldn’t get through to my email, so I just left a quick comment on friend Jill’s blog.  More about Africa on another day.

For now, I just want to say how extraordinarily happy I was to see  Dale and Bev, (my pastor and his wife) waiting fro me at the airport.  At the time I said I was so happy to see people I knew.  And while that was true, I realized later that what was even better was seeing people who KNEW ME, and loved me.  What a blessing.  Something I won’t take for granted for a long time.

Another thing I won’t take for granted is my lovely little home.  Do you know how nice it is to come home to a clean house?  In the past I used to leave in a whirlwind, and then have to come home to something that looked like a tornado came through.  I opened the door and everything looked great.  Sophie and Monk were sleeping in their crates and didn’t even bark when I came in.

So.  You can see that I am just writing about drivel.  Its gonna take some time to process all that I saw and felt.  And I took one thousand and ninety-three photos!!!  Don’t worry, you won’t have to look at them all.

For now I just wanted to say hello, and its good to be home.  I stopped at the grocery store on my way home and stocked up on veggies and fruit and dairy.  All things that I sorely missed over the past two weeks.

Nothing much changes.  Here’s the scene tonight:

Mr.Monk looks like he's gained a few pounds on his vacay. Hmmm, one of those cases where the dog resembles his owner...


Sophie in her usual hopeful position on the bed. Its so cold here I might just let her cuddle with me for a while.

So yes.  If you read that caption, it does indeed appear that I gained weight while on mission to the slums of Africa.  Darned embarrassing if you ask me.  I’m hoping some of it is just general travel puffiness.  But I know I’ve got some damage control to take care of.

I guess I’ll try to go to bed and get back on schedule.  I know I am going to want to write more daily drivel.  But I will try to alternate it with fascinating tales from the dark continent.  Why is it called that?