Friday, May 28, 2010

Lamu, Kilifi & South Coast

We continued our trip to Lamu, and stayed at an amazingly gorgeous hotel - the food was nice, we had a good time relaxing and checking out Lamu - my third time, and of course I had to take my parents there.  My teachers at my school said that no trip to Kenya was complete without Lamu, and that I had to take my parents there.  I happily agreed and took them there. 

It rained for part of the time, but this impressive rainbow made it all worth it.

I introduced my parents to some of the kids that were there the first week (surprisingly everyone showed up during the second week - not too shabby), and this was the result.

Apparently I didn't take any photos of the South Coast - whoops!  I thought I had some, but I realized that my parents were the ones taking the South Coast photos, and because we split up after that, them flying out of Mombasa back to the States, and me back to my house, their photos never got downloaded onto my computer.  We had a great time there regardless of the beach boys.  We stayed at a cottage and had fresh food for our meals, fresh fish and prawns - divine!  Overall, it was a great trip - if anyone else want to come visit, please feel free to do so! 

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Maasai Mara

My second trip of April began in Maasai Mara - Mom and Dad came along for the ride, and it was awesome to be able to show 'em the country I've been living in.

Maasai Mara was gorgeous - exactly like all the movies and stories of Africa.  All the wildlife, the savannah, and all that jazz.  

These buffaloes numbers in the thousands - they were all over a specific area in Maasai Mara.

A couple of hyenas waiting for a meal - hyenas do not make the kill themselves, but wait for the lions and cheetahs and then get second dibs.

Speaking of cheetahs - we saw this one along with another one right after they made the kill - our driver started driving like crazy after he got a phone call, and we got there and saw like ten or fifteen matatus / vans with people looking at this sight.  The cats were utterly gorgeous, and apparently my mom's favorite animal (that was news to me and dad).

Mama lioness with eleven cubs - the lions travel in packs, so there were actually three lionesses and they all shared the responsibility of raising these eleven little cubs.

I love this picture - the lioness in the foreground, with the elephant in the background, just hanging around - it's the way life is out there. 

I have so many more photos of various wildlife, and it was hard to pick just a few photos, especially because of the fact that the photos does not do it any justice.  It was more beautiful than I expected, and it was just a nice start to our trip.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Kigali & Nyamata

Rwanda was beautiful and it was hard to believe that the genocide occurred there fifteen years ago - I was fourteen and did not really pay much attention to the world history as I was just navigating my first year at high school, especially it being 300 miles away from where my family lived.  Regardless, this trip to Kigali was very educational and inspiring.  I was inspired by the people who continues to work at these memorials and told us to keep talking about this, the more pictures we took, the better.  It was hard for us to take pictures in the church, specifically of the human remains, but the staff there told us to please go ahead and take pictures - that way more people talk about it, and hopefully it won't be forgotten.  Out of respect, these pictures won't be posted, and I'll show the photos I took to those who ask. 

Outside of the genocide museum - along the concrete blocks that are used as memorials for the people who died during the genocide of 1994.

One of the crypts outside of the church with the remains of some of the 10,800 people who was killed in the church.

The window of the church - it was hard to believe that such an innocent looking window of a church would harbour such stories of death.

Kigali skyline - finally, a city with a beautiful lighted up skyline.  This is the view from the courtyard of the hotel we stayed at.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Kakamega Forest

Kakamega Forest

This is the edge of the field at Rondo Retreat, just before we started walking into the forest.

Playing around with the depth of field on the XT.

Serious photographing happening here ...

Rain in a rainforest, who knew?!  We were soaked when we got back to our rooms but had a roaring fire to warm us up - so that worked out nicely!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Taxicab Experience

Taxicabs are a necessity of the Peace Corps lifestyle, for safety, to get to a specific place quickly and easily, for late night restaurant and club visits, rides to a country’s border … basically everything that local public transportation can’t accomplish.  Here in Kenya, well, East Africa, really, navigating the minefield of usage of cabs can be amusing, annoying and downright frustrating.  Many times – most of the time – cab rides would go off without a hitch, but these rides aren’t stories or any fun to write about.  On our trip to Uganda and Rwanda, I, along with Paul, Matt, and Lee, happened to be involved in three memorable taxicab rides.


As Paul and I tried to figure out the next step and how to buy tickets for Kakamega in a couple of days, we saw a few white cars, the telltale sign of a taxicab in Nairobi and decided to head their way.  Immediately one of the drivers waved us and took us to his car.  We were walking toward two cars and one of them was a total POS, while the other one was in pretty decent condition.  Paul and I looked at each other and knew that our car would be the POS and tried to do telepathy and will ourselves into the second car to no avail. 

After a series of ‘what, what?’ and some more accent issues, we finally resorted to paper and pen to bargain the rate and explain our destination.  We wanted to head to a bus service office and then to Upperhill Campsite.

“Upperhill Campsite.” I wrote.

“Right, right, Upperhill, I know.  Yeah, I know.” the taxicab driver said as he gestured us into his car. 

“Upperhill Campsite, on Othaya Road – Lavington.”  I persisted on my piece of scrap paper. 

“Sawa!”  After some quibbling on the price, we finally agreed and got in the cab.  Of course, this being East Africa, the taxicab did not have any gas and asked us for some money.  We handed it over, and then asked him to stop by the bus office so we could purchase tickets to Kakamega. 

“Wait?  You don’t want to go to Upperhill?”

“Yes, we do!  We just need to buy tickets.”

“No. You don’t want to go to Upperhill.  You want to stay in Parkside Hotel.”  Paul and I looked at each other with a resigned look. 

“No.  We agreed to go to Upperhill, that’s where we are going after the bus office.”

“Okay!”  I raised eyebrows – the battle was won too easily. We stopped at Crown and I dashed out to buy the tickets only to come back to Paul rolling his eyes saying that the driver tried to move to a different parking spot on the other side of the plaza and Paul insisted that he stay and wait for me. 

After I got back in, the driver said, “Upperhill, right?”

“Upperhill Campsite, on Othaya Road – Lavington, yes.”

“No!  I agreed to take you to Upperhill not Upperhill Campsite!”

“Yeah, you agreed to Upperhill Campsite.” 

“Not at that price we agreed upon!”

“Yes at that price – we agreed.”

“No!  It should be double that!”  I rooted around in my bag and got that scrap of paper with the bargaining and clearly printed location and showed it to the driver.

“Pole.  Pole.  My bad.  I’ll take you there.”  I leaned back on the badly torn upholstery and thought that any trip to Nairobi probably isn’t complete without A Taxicab Experience.  We finally reached Upperhill Campsite and then he asked us for twice the fare. 

“No.  We’ve given you the fare we agreed on.”

“You don’t want to give me money?”

“We gave you what we agreed upon.”

“Okay.” The driver then turned to me and pointed at me, saying to Paul, “Does she want to give me money?”  Paul looked at me and sighed.  I gestured that we agreed upon the rate and that was it. 

Paul said, “No, she doesn’t.”

“Okay!” said the driver, and then he was gone.  Paul and I looked at each other and shook our heads.  That was a crazy cab, but by far, not the craziest in our year and half of service.

“Lets get a beer before dinner.”

“That’d hit the spot!”


“Where’s the sign?”

“Do you know where the KEEP bandas are?” We asked the cab driver, an hour into our drive in Kakamega Forest. 

“Sure!  Sure!” He said as he inched through the forest.   “I’m just going to stop and ask these guys.” He continues as we approached the gate of a really nice that we ended up staying at the next night.

I looked at Paul, Lee, and Matt and I couldn’t do anything else than just laugh.  After some conversation with the security guards, we turned back and continued our search.  Mind you, this was after dinner, and the forest was pitch black dark.  We couldn’t really see anything unless the headlights were directly on them.  Finally after some time, we turned at the right turn off, asked several more people, and ended up at the right place. 

“We’re finally here!”

“Woo hoo!”

“Ah! My legs were cramped there!”

We went to someone that looked like hew as in charge and asked about the booking.

“Pole sana.  We’re full.” He said, pointing to a large bus at the campsite.  Disbelief crept upon our faces and we looked at each other. 


“Yeah.  We were expecting a few mzungus to come, but yeah we’re full.”  After some discussion it was concluded that we probably didn’t have any booking.  We got in touch with the person responsible for our booking and discovered that our booking was at another banda, using a complete different entrance to the forest.  We finally just decided to get our asses back in town, find a place to sleep, and start over the next day.

We just shook our heads and headed to our rooms and crashed - four hours after we got in the taxicab. 


“Here you go.” Paul said as we gave the cab driver the agreed upon sum.  We had gone to Lake Victoria and bought some food, some beer and a bottle of wine and sat on the shores and had a nice evening, and was just returning to our hostel that we were staying at. 

“That is not enough!  I need more money!”

“We gave you some money earlier, and that added with what we gave you just now totals what we agreed upon.”

“No!  That money you gave me doesn’t count to what you’re supposed to give me.”

“We’ve already given you what we agreed upon.  We’re not going to give you more money.”  We went in circles repeating the same thing over and over for the next thirty minutes.  The cab driver was visibly becoming more and more dramatic. 

Suddenly, with a dramatic flourish, the cab driver tossed his money on the floor in front of us and a confused Paul and Matt looked at an equally confused me.  We looked at the money, nobody wanting to be the first one to make an attempt to pick up the cash, and I think that nobody really knew what to do.  He got in the car and sped off, burning rubber (if that was at any way possible on a dirt road), and then abruptly stopped at the security guard’s tower.  After an exchange of words, the security guard came and asked us what the deal was.

We explained that we agreed upon a sum and now he wanted a lot more than what we agreed.  After some discussion with some of the employees at the hostel and another taxicab driver, we discovered that in fact, we had overpaid, and everyone tried to calm down the taxicab driver. 

One of the hostel employees finally told us, “You better go in the hostel – he’ll never leave if he thinks he can get money out of you.”  We left and then realized that it was an hour and a half since we got into the hostel. 

I wondered as I got in bed, was the third time the charm for the trip? Or maybe this specific one was just so crazy that any other cab rides after that guy would be an anticlimax?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Where to begin?

Really.  Where to begin?  Where did the time go? When I think about my April holiday, I can recall various humorous anecdotes and a couple frustrating situations, so there are moments that really stand out – and these I will write about over the next few entries, hopefully. 

Because I’ll write more over the next couple of weeks, I don’t want to repeat myself and bore all of you to death, so I’m trying to condense my month into a few [edit: okay maybe not few] bullet points and here they are.

  • traveled to Nairobi with Paul
  • had the first crazy cab ride of the month (there were quite a few)
  • met Ginnie’s parents (awesomeness!)
  • saw my kids and a few other PCVs in Thika for the Nationals
  • had a lady puke on me in the bus to Kakamega (not so cool…)
  • met up with Matt who I have not seen in months
  • had another crazy cab ride into Kakamega forest – and due to miscommunication and a lot of other reasons, we had to come back in town to spend the night
  • stayed at a fantastic cottage type of place in the forest with a fireplace (dude – it was cold enough to actually have a fire!)
  • hiked through the forest and walked through a downpour
  • got my ass whupped for the first time at rummy by Lee (little did we know what we were in for the next week and a half)
  • met up with other PCVs in Jinja raring to go for our two-day rafting trip after the three matatu day – Lee was our guide and hero for safely getting us across the border
  • our raft was christened “Fuck, Yeah!” (yes, Allen was in our rafting group …)
  • went over some crazy ass and awesome rapids
  • went to Kampala dead tired and basically just crashed
  • checked out Kampala and had wine at the shore of Lake Victoria
  • had another interesting cab encounter that took over a hour and half to “resolve”
  • got on another bus to Lake Bunyonyi where we rode a boat with a roof in the driving rain  to the island we were staying at – unfortunately the roof didn’t do much to keep the water out
  • ate fantastic food and relaxed on an island for a couple of days
  • of course we all got whupped again in rummy by Lee (no way he is not cheating … )
  • crossed the Uganda-Rwanda border
  • was impressed with Kigali – everything looked really developed and they even have a Nakumatt!
  • ate frog legs, fondue, excellent desserts, great wine and drove on the right side of the road – dang, there’s actually good food in East Africa – who knew?!
  • was humbled at the Genocide museum and church memorial – what a terrible, terrible thing for a country to go through – it was just very thought provoking and sad
  • became a little sick and spent the last day and a half in Kigali basically out of commission
  • flew to Nairobi for the VAC meeting and part of the IST for the newbies, as well as the BCC workshop (is that enough alphabet soup for you? no worries – we have more out here in Peace Corps – Kenya!)
  • had a blast with all the PCVs
  • met up with my parents who flew out here (yeah I know! the month’s not over!)
  • had a fantastic dinner with a good number of volunteers with the parents
  • had a wonderful safari in Maasai Mara where we saw a couple of cheetahs chomping a gazelle
  • relaxed in Lamu and ate way too much food
  • showed the parents around in Kilifi, introduced them to some of my kids, teachers, and basically showed them my neck of woods
  • spent the last few days of our trip together relaxing in nice cottage in South Coast
  • went out to a fantastic restaurant in a cave – it was truly cool
  • had a monkey sneak in our cottage via a small hole in the roof who stole my sandwich
  • and now, back to the grind

I had a couple of great trips, and it was also great to spend time with the volunteers during their IST – it was just a great all around month.  I am now catching up on work, finishing up my schemes of work, planning out this term, which will be my second last term. 

Whoa.  My second last term!  Really, where did the time go? 


This blog consists of my personal thoughts and opinions. It does not in any way reflect the position of the United States Government or the Peace Corps.