Good news! Sharon’s feeling much better this morning! That’s a relief to everyone. We could hear both of them giggling as they prepared for the day. Our rooms were diagonally situated across the hall, but the windows along the ceiling facing the hall meant that you could hear everything. Every room had them, and they were all open. There must not have been many people on the floor, though, because Sharon and Nasinkoi were the only two we could hear. Again, they were laughing and talking and despite not knowing exactly what they were saying to each other, it was clear that these girls were close friends.
The rooms were spacious and comfortable, although we really could have used a fan (like the one that Karen had in her room). She had a large floor stand model that she had trouble getting started, but eventually figured it out. We spent most of the night on top of the covers trying to stay cool. 6am arrived quickly, and it didn’t help that I was up blogging late the night before. I’ve got nobody to blame but myself. Andrea, Karen and I got downstairs where Isaac and Richard were waiting with Sue and Ryan. Each of them had coffee or tea in front of them with the sugar bowl always within Isaac’s reach. Kenyan’s like sugar. Isaac consumes sugar like a Kenyan taunting diabetes. The girls had not come down yet, so I went up and knocked on their door. In Kenya, most places have the equivalent of a skeleton key, and once you enter your room, you turn around and use the same key to lock it from the inside. I leave my key in the door after I lock it. Sharon and Nasinkoi did not. It took Nasinkoi awhile, but eventually she got the right angle with the right depth to release the bolt. She emerged with a smile and handed me the key. Sharon followed us down the stairs to the are where the rest of our party was seated. They sat and had tea while I stood and drank my coffee. Isaac stood next to me as we talked about the plan for the day. He suggested that he stay behind to ensure that everyone was comfortable. We hadn’t originally planned to be accompanied by these two young women, so space was tight (this was with us shipping bags ahead of us in another car). I notified the rest of the group of the change and as expected, everyone was fine with it. We hopped in the Land Rover and headed for Lake Nakuru.
It wasn’t more than 15 minutes away! It was an abnormal treat to have the destination so close to the starting point. We stopped to get our park passes and entered through the gate. Lake Nakuru National Park is also run by the government (obviously) but it’s quite small compared to Masai Mara – this means that animals are in a smaller area, thus a better chance of being spotted. The vegetation was vastly different from Masai Mara. The lake means a constant water source, so droughts are rare. The forest surrounding the lake was incredibly dense in spots, and as the sun was climbing higher into the sky, it made for a some spooky pictures with the lake as a backdrop.
The cool temperatures were made worse when Richard opened up the top of the car so that we could stand while taking pictures. It was freezing. Granted, 53º is not freezing, but it was to us, which meant it was REALLY cold to Sharon and Nasinkoi. They got the blankets. That left the adults in the vehicle trying to curl into fetal positions while trying to look through the windows for animals. We passed by the old standbys while Karen quizzed the girls on what we saw. Zebra= punda malia, giraffe= twiga, warthog=pumba, and on and on and on. They giggled and laughed and pointed with excited, wide eyes. The rest of us shivered and reveled in watching their enjoyment.
There are birds everywhere here – all shapes and sizes. Multiple species of ibis, pelicans, cranes, starling, teals, herons and vultures. Although they are known for the flamingos, we literally came across 2 white rhino. TWO! We stopped and took pictures as Richard explained the difference between the white rhino of Nakuru and black rhino of Masai Mara. The white is clearly more docile. These two were pretty close and never even gave us a glance. Their mouths are wider, too, and almost looked cartoonish, extending from one side of their head to the other. Once finished snapping photos, we continued driving. If someone wasn’t satisfied by 2 rhinos, what about 5? We weren’t driving for 5 minutes before we came upon them grazing next to a small pond. Again, they paid us no mind and just went about their business of filling their bellies. They were magnificent!
We sat their longer than we did with the first two, but eventually went back to driving. Time was passing rapidly, so I had to ask how far we were from the hotel. Their check out time was 10am, and it was already close to 9:15. It was enough to cause him to change course. Rather than driving all the way around the lake, we turned around and took a slightly different route back. It took us closer to the water and closer to the section of the lake where the flamingoes congregate. The air smelled like a mild low-tide. What else would you expect from a salt water lake that had receded? We were able to get out of the vehicle to walk closer to the water’s edge. The earth we walked on was cracked and in various stages of dehydration. As we got closer to the water, our shoes sank deeper giving us the indication that we were close enough. The flamingoes were still pretty far away, but there were some smaller groups that were 100 yards away - their pink feathers unmistakably recognizable against the black water. They were beautiful. We walked around in the soft soil for a bit, snapping pictures of the birds and each other before getting back into the 4x4.
We spotted more giraffe, hyenas, gazelle, cape buffalo, spring bucks and antelope as we exited the park, stopping periodically to take it all in. It was still cool as we drove, but not as cold as it was when we started. That only meant the goose bumps were not as noticeable as they once were. We made it back a little after 10 and had to work around the staff to grab our bags and exit the hotel. It didn’t take long before all the bags were downstairs and everyone was accounted for… time to get into the car for another long ride. This time, we’re en route to Isaac’s parents house. It’s always wonderful to see them. They are like family, and they feel the same about us.
We arrived much dirtier than we were when we left.
We were on a dirt road for most of the drive. I’d say it was dusty, but that’s not right. It was more like powder… whole wheat flour. It was everywhere, and I mean everywhere! As we drove, cars would approach from the opposite direction and we would frantically close the windows to avoid eating the dirty powder that blew in the wake of the opposing vehicle’s tires. If we slowed down to quickly, our own “wake” would catch up to our own windows and catch us by surprise. It was awful, yet we laughed at it. We did our best to mask the dirt flavor by chewing gum, tootsie rolls and starburst. Don’t judge. Regardless, it worked. It also helped that Ryan and Karen were making us laugh through the entire ride. They are funny; no doubt about it. Andrea and Sue were also adding to the humor of it all. They’re jokes complimented they’re children’s. It all made the ride go faster.
We arrived shortly after 1pm, and Isaac’s father was the first to appear. I stepped out of the car and started patting my shirt and pants, watching the dust fly off me as if I was slapping my hand into a pile of flour. I emerged from behind the auto to see a Isaac’s father smiling wide holding his hands out to me. He welcomed us over and over again and invited us inside to sit down. Isaac’s mom stepped out, but only just beyond the door. She’s still walking with crutches following her broken ankle. She and Andrea were quick to exchange stories when she noticed the cast on her arm.
After introducing Sue and Ryan, we exchanged greetings and updates on those family members that weren’t able to join us on the trip. We didn’t need to introduce Sharon and Nasinkoi, because they had already been here. Nasinkoi had something to say, and she said it. “Chai, hapa,” she said pointing to the ground. “Tea, here.” When Isaac brought the girls to Nakuru for their first semester at school, he stopped here and spent some time with Isaac’s parents. Both girls were all smiles as Isaac’s parents carried on a conversation with them. Isaac translated and we just watched with grins on our faces as they went back and forth - the exchange like watching a tennis match. The “grand slam” would come later.
Lunch was soon served – mashed potatoes mixed with corn, goat stew, skumawiki and chipati. Karen served everyone and the dialogue continued as we ate. I was surprised that they let her do it – it’s very rare for a guest to serve the host… just another indication that we are among family. While we sat there, a couple chickens periodically tried to enter the house and were quickly shooed away by Mister Kasura wielding his walking stick. At one point, a donkey came into view through the doorway. Sue was sitting next to me, and she clearly had a different view than I did. She said, “Hm. A donkey… she looks pregnant.” I responded with, “What? Do you mean the one with the testicles?” She bent over in laughter. That is how this trip is gone. Someone consistently makes a comment that makes people howl with laughter. It’s actually nice that it’s not always Karen and Ryan.
When lunch finished, we gave them a wind chime as a gift and hung it just outside their front door. There was enough breeze that it worked like a charm. Mr. Kasura said, “This is the only house in Kisiriri with a bell like this!” He was elated! (Kisiriri is the town he lives in).
It was then that Isaac and his father began an excited exchange with lots of pointing and smiling. Isaac finally caught us up. Apparently, Isaac’s uncle (Mr. Kasura’s brother) used to date Nasinkoi’s mother. Yup, you heard me. The plot thickens. Well, they dated for quite a long time before deciding to get married. They actually lived with Isaac’s father while they planned. Unfortunately, Nasinkoi’s mother was told she had to marry someone else. The family came and took her and beat her until she gave in. Isaac’s uncle could do nothing to stop it. She would eventually marry Nasinkoi’s father – and he eventually abandoned them. When Isaac finished telling the story, his father began speaking again. When he stopped, Isaac said, “Wow,” than filled us in. His father didn’t realize the connection until long after the girls left. He said that it’s a wonderful thing that we are helping her and Sharon because this is just another connection that we share. “God continues to bless us with family.” There was a short silence before everyone simply agreed in amazement at the story they had just heard. We had a brief exchange about how blessed we were to now have a part in that story.
We didn’t have time for a tour of their land this time. It had grown late and we needed to get to Narok and check into the hotel. We went outside where Ryan and Sue broke out the sweets and small toys. A crowd of kids had massed outside before they started handing things out. We watched the smiles flow through the crowd like a wave. The children were patient and appreciative. A great combination. Time kept moving, however, so it was soon time to get going. He was the first one to greet us and the last to say, “Olaseri.” (Goodbye in Ma’a)
Richard had to do a K turn to get us facing the entrance/exit. He would have failed his driver’s test in the US. Even when he finally got it, the tires were slipping in the grass. He finally stopped and put the car into 4-wheel drive and climbed the hill and got back on the main road… yup, another dirt road.
We continued to talk about the connection with Nasinkoi as we brought the girls to their mothers. Sharon was first. Her mom met us outside a gas station where she was selling roasted corn. She, like her daughter, has always been the more reserved of the two families. She gave here a hug, thanked us for the ride and we said our goodbyes to Sharon. Continuing the same as we pulled away.
Unlike Sharon, Nasinkoi’s excitement was oozing out her pores. Before we even made it to her home, she was out of her seat and heading for a door. When the car finally stopped, she jumped out and lept into her mother’s waiting arms. She, too, was excited to have her daughter home. We all exchanged greetings, and she asked us to see her home. Saying it was “modest” would be an understatement. The home was made of mud and dung that was pasted to slats of timber. Just inside the door sat a bunk bed with two double sized mattresses on each level. The bed took up all the space in that area. To the right was a small area the size of a standard closet – this was the kitchen. A similar sized room was to the right of the bed; probably a storage area of some kind. That was it. How about if I tell you that Nasinkoi is the eldest of 8.
We came back out to the car so we could all say our “goodbyes.” Nasinkoi and her mother still held a tight embrace as we pulled away in the direction of Isaac’s home. We stopped at Veronica’s home (she’s the Special Needs teacher at Masekonde Primary School). She was rather insistent about us stopping, and Isaac seemed uncomfortable with the visit. We soon learned why. As it turns out, she just wanted us to meet the parent of another one of her students, and began to talk about what a good candidate he would be for the Nakuru Special School. We weren’t there for more than 15 minutes before we started to say goodbye. I would later find out that she had this woman and her child come from a long way just to make this “connection” and sales pitch. We’re heading to Masekonde tomorrow, so I’ll be sure to have a conversation with her then.
Two minutes later we arrived at Isaac’s front door. We walked in with a bag holding gifts for Leah and the kids and sat on the chairs in their main room. Isaac’s plot of land continues to show ongoing work. He’s finished a fourth apartment and is about to start a fifth. He’s socking money away to pay for his children’s college education. It’s brilliant! He’s proud of what he’s done with good reason. He’s a good man.
We went back inside to join everyone. Karen opened each of the bags one by one starting with Tatiana, then Caleb and finally Leah. Karen got each of the kids smiling as she clowned with the items she pulled from the bags. Tatiana’s dresses got the most smiles from her. Caleb smiled with each item, and hid his face when she pulled out the boxer briefs and asked him to try them on… immediately! Leah was grateful for the gifts, too. She also smiled the entire time. We joked a bit more before we divided up into two groups. Half of us went with Richard, while the other half climbed into Isaac’s Land Rover. He was holding onto 6 of our bags while we traveled to Nakuru. Now those bags were in his car.
We made it to the Park Villa Hotel at about 7 (I think). Dabash (the hotel “manager” we always see) was waiting in the doorway as we pulled in. He gave us all a big smile and “welcome back,” then called for some young men to help us with our bags. I was grateful, because he put us on the third floor… and those bags are 60lbs apiece.
We dropped our bags and went back downstairs to head across the street for dinner.
This restaurant is a favorite of ours. They have the best roasted potatoes we’ve ever had. It’s something simple, but they’re phenomenal, and (with the exception of Leah’s), we have never found their equal. We place a drink order, then Isaac ran me back to the hotel so that I could retrieve a couple items from the bags we left in our room. When we got back, we laughed and shared stories like we always. When we get together, that’s what happens. I handed the items over to Leah, stating plainly that they were hers (and not Tatiana’s). The first was a box of these egg-shaped chocolate covered something-or-other that we know the kids love. The second was a gift that Andrea got for her. She knows that Leah loves ginger, so she brought a box of frosted ginger cookies. After the chicken, and the potatoes, and the kachumbare (a salad made of red onion and tomatoes), and the stewed spinach, we all had a cookie. It was a great closer. We all headed back to the Park Villa. Isaac and I stated behind with Richard while everyone else retired to their rooms. We had to “settle up” with Richard for the use of his vehicle/time. Suffice to say that we won’t be using him again. The price he charged was ridiculous, and it would have put Isaac in a very bad position. He knew it, too, and was saddened and embarrassed by it. This wasn’t his fault, and I made sure that he knew it. I didn’t want either of us to lose any more sleep than we already had, so I gave Isaac a hug and went to bed. Or so I thought.
Karen was about to hop in the shower so I helped her with the water heater – which worked too well. It heated the water to an absolutely intolerable temperature, so she was forced to regulate the temperature by turning it on and off. Ugh! That means that we would be doing the same then next morning. Now, however, it really is time for bed... it's 2:30am.
Here are some more pics that I couldn't fit in the body of the blog. Enjoy!