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January 30, 2008

How are all of you?

I hardly know how to compose this. We’ve seen and done so much in 14 days in Nairobi, and all my ignorant awe and delight at this beautiful new place seems trifling in light of the sad violence and unrest that’s shaking this country socially, economically, and politically.

Our hearts break with each new story of more people killed, injured, or turned out of their homes. More than 250,000 are displaced, more than 800 killed, and new violence west of here and in Nairobi slums over the weekend sent that number even higher.

Nairobi is mostly calm for all this. The people are devastated but hopeful for peace, wanting leaders to make good on their promises for reconciliation, and wanting the safety and stability this country has enjoyed for so long to return. After neighbor turning on neighbor, this will take a long time.

But the truth is we are safe, our neighborhood is calm, we’re largely unfettered as far as moving around the city goes, have made wonderful friends, and from the get-go have been taken care of and set up as well as could possibly be hoped, with car, apt, connections, even a nice place to swim in the late afternoon (the YMCA where Chris stayed last year has a great lap pool).

Internet connections are few and far between though, so please forgive sporadic posts. I’ll try to catch you up with some pics:

Getting here:
plane map
Live map on the plane. Flying over the Sahara was surreal! Endless desert, just the patterns of the sand and rock below you.

sleeping on the plane
There were but 53 people on our Boeing 777. Everyone had a row to himself. (They kindly supply the blackout goggles.)

flowers in H garden
flowers in the Hopkins’ garden right after a cool rain. There are soooo many cool plants here. Last weekend in the countryside, my favorite thing (aside from baby warthogs) was seeing a giant acacia tree growing up around a giant euphorbia (I think) tree–two completely different species embracing on the plain. No pics of course…

stuck truck
To understand the news about shortages in the country and now in countries west of here, you have to see the major commercial thoroughfare. This is it, the Mombasa Road, and this is one of 5 big trucks we saw in the ditch on a short drive (maybe an hr) out of town. (attempted a climbing trip but got rained out). That bulldozer miraculously got it out! Here’s the view from the road.
mombasa rd

The Mombasa road stretches all the way to the coast, hundreds of miles, but we’re told it’s just the last 50 Km into Nairobi that remains in this poor condition, the rest having been fixed over a years-long project.
On this stretch there are diversions–spider webs of side roads–all over the place, and because of the truck in the ditch, we attempted one of them. It was a dead end, but rather than turn around and go the 200 yds back to the road, one light truck in our caravan attempted yet another detour and got MASSIVELY stuck. Meet African mud:
stuck truck 2

Some men and boys watching the semi being lifted out came to help, but the mud was too much. Another car in our caravan, a super-bad Land Rover, driven by a Kenyan guy who apparently was not at his first mud rescue, pulled the truck out, and all the helpers got tipped. Land Rover dude left without a speck of mud on him. The pushers however…
Chris in the mud

We were out that day with a group from the Mt. Club of Kenya, going to a climbing area that they own (Lukenya). They meet every Tues, so we went last week and got together with some more people, organizing a camp and climb at Hell’s Gate national park, about an hour away the other direction. It’s got a lot of single pitch cracks and a main wall that goes about 4 pitches up, all volcanic basalt. The most significant feature of the mail wall for me was that it houses 1000s of cliff swallows, who swarm the cliff morning and evening. It’s incredible to watch. It is not, however, incredible to climb up said cracks where they live. It was a pretty dirty, nesty, bushy slog of a climb, made worse for me due to poor crack-climbing skills! But at the top, we were a stone’s throw from and eye-level with soaring vultures, huge and silent, scanning the valley where herds of zebra, buffalo, and gazelles live alongside small families of warthog and wandering flocks of guineafowl.
I went to wash my hair at the campsite tap Sunday morning and found these 2 guarding it! They kneel down to eat and drink! Saw 2 separate families with babies, all running single file across the road with tails held straight up like antennas! Amazingly cute.
warthog at fountain
rooting around near camp
warthog at camp

Getting a touch ahead of myself…A couple days after we arrived, we rented a car from another Mt. Club contact, the (in)famous Suzuki! Got a lot of character, don’t she?
the zuki
and 100x better now with a new back shock and a battery cable clamp! Chris had the pleasure of having a lunch meeting with a founding member of the Nairobi stock exchange at his home. The man walked him out and got to witness the car not starting, the opening of the hood, and the jimmying with the battery…fortunately I think Chris already made a fine 1st impression ;)

Figuring out which is the light switch.
zuki lights

Driving on the left side, with a left hand stick, turned out to be NO prob! It’s the getting used to the fact that the road rules, signs, signal lights, and even road lanes are really more guidelines than anything else that’s the shocker! The best advice i got was to ignore the hooting (British for honking), the blinking lights, the traffic lights and watch all the cars around you. I’ve seen 2 dozen cars go through a red light more than once. Roundabouts do have a rule system, but when there are 4 lanes coming at you from the left and you are going all the way through, you just have to pretend you’re bigger, stand your ground, and get into the flow! Amazingly, it all works, not quickly, but it works. But when a herd of cattle comes at you going the wrong way on a major thoroughfare, as it did for me on Monday, you just gotta get out of the way. I will have to do a whole post on driving…

Monday I was able to drive over to Humble Hearts for the first time! What an incredible place, dedicated teachers, and sweet children.
This is Irene, the fantastic and glamorous librarian.
Irene in the library

and these are some of the students after their lunch.
HH hug
Sadly, because the member of Parliament from their area was shot dead Tuesday morning, it was not safe for me to back there today. There was due to be a protest, and the school and the construction on the Angel Cottage were both called off.
I leave you with the children’s hugs, smiles, hope, and love. Please pray for their peace.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. January 30, 2008 12:55 pm

    wow! What a lot to pack into 14 days! I’m glad to hear you’re safe and embracing the joys of driving. Sounds like Bolivia where the saying is, “there are no bad drivers in Bolivia because they’re all dead.” Yikes!
    those children are adorable. Will you be working there with them?
    big kisses to you both,

  2. andrea permalink
    January 30, 2008 6:59 pm

    so happy to see a posting from you ! glad to hear that all is going well, in spite of the circumstances around you. i can only imagine how your learning curve of perspective and experience is increasing – quite the exponential rate, i’m sure. sending many good thoughts your way.
    take care and soak in! xoxo!!

  3. MIL permalink
    February 1, 2008 8:38 pm

    You have NO idea how much we enjoyed reading your descriptions and seeing your pictures from Kenya. Thanks so much for bringing your experiences to life for us! Keep ’em comin’ gal. :-) One request….more pictures of YOU (as much as we love seeing Chris!) Be safe and enjoy. We send our love to you both.

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