"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.
Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead

Building Futures, Inc.

Building Futures, Inc.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Friday, February 24, 2012

This was our last day.  I was going to be flying out of Keekorok an hour before everyone else to ensure that I got to Nairobi ahead of them.  After breakfast, Andrea, Katie, Karen, Sue, Ryan, John and I hopped in the jeep with Dennis. We left at nine to ensure that we'd be at the landing strip by 10.  He drove quickly, and we made it with 5 minutes to spare.  We bought a couple items from the man selling trinkets at the strip (I was the only one who haggled with him - it made him smile when I started speaking kiswahili and telling him that he wasn't being nice).  Andrea walked me closer to the plane before giving me a hug and a kiss goodbye.  "You're going to be at the airport when we land..."  "Yes," I said reassuring her that I'd be there.  The plane took off.  I tried to sneak one last glimpse of them before they disappeared from view, but I was on the wrong side of the plane.

Thankfully, that last promise was one that I was able to deliver on.  It wasn't easy, but I was able to get past security and walk out onto the tarmac to greet them.  Karen had a good flight... no syncope or headache at all.  I was happy to be back with them.  We headed back to the Safarilink office, grabbed our luggage from storage and began combining our bags.  Once complete, we got back into the Gracepatt bus and headed fro Jomo Kenyatta International airport.

We made it in plenty of time.  We had to stop frequently due to traffic, and that made things difficult for Karen.  The heat in Nairobi is often unbearable.  It was that kind of day today.  She collapsed in her seat, but came to soon enough, and she was perfectly fine after that.  We made it into the airport terminal, checked all the bags, and made our way to the gate.

Most people looked in all the shops grabbing last minute gifts.  The conversations had died down by this part of the trip.  Most people were rather quiet.  Even when they were conversing, it was in much softer tones.  It gave everyone a chance to reflect on what they had just experienced.

We said it several times over the last few days.  Everyone had an idea as to what this trip meant to them.  I tried to be perfectly clear about what to expect.  Some of them will speak about how beautiful the children are.  Others, when they step off the plane, will comment about Masai Mara and the animals.  Still others might remark about the constructions site and their first comment.  Invariably, some will complain. Too hot, no water, didn't like the food...  That's just the way it is.

Ultimately, we commend everyone for making the trip because it is not for the faint of heart.  I can't promise them how they will interpret what they experience though; all we can do is try to make it as enjoyable and meaningful as possible.  I think we did that.

Thanks for coming with us.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Sue, Ryan, Richie, Andrea, Katie, Karen and I hopped into Isaac's jeep, while the other piled in with Dennis.  The pictures speak volumes as to the beauty of this territory as well as it's inhabitants.  At mid-day, we stopped under a tree for lunch.  It was fabulous.



Entumoto had their own version of "Pride Rock."  They rolled it Lion Rock, and they took us out there for drinks and a snack before dinner.  The plan was to watch the sunset (the view was spectacular), but overcast skies prevented us from seeing the bright reds and oranges fill the sky.  Me had fun anyway!

It was beginning to get dark, so we all headed down and made our way back to the common area for dinner.  If memory serves me right, we had curry beef.  It was pretty good, and I can say that because I don't normally care for curry.  Isaac volunteered to take people out on a night game drive... it would give everyone a chance to see the nocturnal animals on the mara... bush babies, owls, dik diks, jackals...  Isaac said that the drive would be short, only about 45 minutes - but this is Kenya.  It could be 45, or it could be 90 - but neither would be due to negligence on Isaac's part.  If there were a lot of animals, he'd stay out longer.  His goal is to make everyone happy, not get anyone perturbed.  A couple people were looking for clarification on how long we'd be out - they weren't going to get it.  Ultimately, if you wanted to be back in 45 minutes, you should probably stay behind.  Think about it.  If at the 40 minute mark we came across a rhino, Isaac's not going to say, "sorry, we have to head back."  Hell no.  He'd sit there and tell us stories about the rhinocerous and let us get pictures from every imaginable angle.  At this point, the questioning was probably getting offensive.  Again, Isaac wants to please you, but he's not going to purposely mislead you.  If you want guarantees, Kenya is not the place for you.  He ended up taking out a group of 8, and it was interesting.  We saw all the animals mentioned above along with thompson gazelles and antelope.  We got back at a decent hour, and headed to our rooms to begin the process of packing again.

We were assured that the hot water was fully operational, so we looked forward to a hot shower the next morning before we started the flight back.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

If anything could go wrong, it did.

Remember how we told Job that the car needed to leave the Guest House by 6:45?  Well, it showed up at 7pm.  Then we needed to find a way to transport the luggage, because there wasn't enough room.  By the time we got loaded, and had another car coming to get the luggage (Job waited with the bags), we left the Guest House at 7:15... our flight leaves at 7:50.  Our driver Moses (yes, Moses) was very entertained by us.  He asked where we were going and volunteered that he had driven to Keekorok many times and, "the next time you need to go there, I will drive you and save you money."  We'll get to that later.

By the time we got to the airport, and our bags arrived, the plane had already left.  We were all sitting in front of the counter as our bags came through.  We double checked the count and I proceeded to the counter.  We still had some time before the plane was scheduled to leave, but when I got to the counter, the woman took the tickets and said, "It has left."  "Why didn't you tell us it was leaving early?  You saw us all standing over there?"  She simply repeated, "It has left," and handed me back the documentation.  If you couldn't already tell, they're a little weak in the customer service department.  She wasn't remotely helpful in finding us an alternate flight either.  Her facial expression continued to be completely apathetic as I left the counter.

The hits kept coming.

There was only one other flight that was leaving in the morning.  All the other flights out didn't leave until that evening.  I went to the Kenya Airways counter to find out that they had room on the plane for 9 passengers.  There were 13 of us.  I called to Ann to fill her in on the situation.  She, very wisely, suggested that she, Katie, DJ and Holly drive to Masai Mara, since the four of them had already been there.  It sounded like a great plan (Holly and DJ agreed), so we had Job call Moses to come back.  He would bring the other 4 and drive the 5 hours it would take to get to Masai Mara.  We wouldn't be landing on the Mara until 1:30, so they would be 30 minutes behind us.  Or so we thought.  As we waited for our departing flight from Kisumu, I got a call from Ann - she was incredibly upset.  Tears rolled down her face as she explained that she didn't think about Holly and DJ driving with her through Kenya.  Nancy (and most likely David) were very nervous about them driving because of Jim's accident.  She felt responsible for the stress that Nancy was now under.  I tried to reassure her that the decision was made for all the right reasons.  This was a different route from Jim's and it's during the day as opposed to traveling in the dark of night.  It did little to calm her nerves.  I spoke with Nancy and David, and they understood the reasoning behind the 4 selected to travel by car, and told us not to worry about it.  I reassured them that they'd be fine.  Andrea was still angry with herself for not considering Jim's accident when selecting travelers to accompany her.  When we were talking about it at the Kisumu airport, I didn't consider it, either.  We would later find out that Nancy and her family thought Andrea was crying because she was leaving me.  As flattering as that may be, the reality is she was saddened by the stress that she put Nancy under, not that we would be separated for the next 5 (or 10) hours.

We landed in Nairobi and were picked up by our friends from Gracepatt Ecotours.  Patrick helped us load our bags into the bus before the 20 minute drive to Wilson regional airport where are charter was.  We checked in, left additional luggage in lock-up and were off.  We landed on time at 1:30pm, and Isaac and his friend Dennis were there waiting for us.  I explained the whereabouts of the other travelers, and called to see how they were progressing.  They said they were still 3 hours away!

Three hours later, they said the same thing.  We didn't actually meet up with them until 8:30 at night.  Isaac and I went to pick them up at Keekorok Lodge.  Here's what we learned.

Before they even began their trip, Moses first had to replace two tires and fix the spare.  They then went to his home so he could say goodbye to his family.  Not, "See you later."  Not, "I'll talk to you tonight."  Rather, "Goodbye."  That was not encouraging to the passengers.  It got better, or worse, depending on your perspective.  Understand, though, that as I was hearing the story of their journey, they were laughing (perhaps to keep from crying).

During the trip, the fan belt broke.  I don't know how, but they got a replacement. Then they lost the bumper (which was placed inside the van with the passengers).  It was too big, though, so part of it hung outside the window.  Next, the muffler was beginning to fall off.  Although Andrea volunteered her headphone wires to help tie it back up, they decided that DJ's belt would make a more reliable fix.  Well, it lasted for a little while before falling off, too.

You probably think that this was the worst of it.  It wasn't.  I will preface this next part by saying that the Tanzanians do not really get along with the Kenyans.  They each have their own views of each other, neither of which are ever favorable.  Now back to the story.  As they were driving, apparently lost, Moses said, "Look, the Tanzania border sign.  Want to get out and take a picture?"  "No," explained Job, "We need to get out of here fast."  You see, while the border sign would have made a nice picture, they were on the wrong side of it!  God knows how long they'd been traveling in Tanzania, but everyone was thankful that they weren't stopped.  Did I mention that Andrea didn't have her passport?  Yes, she was the only one, but I think it would have been worse for Job and Moses.

(Insert your own Old Testament joke here)

Andrea insisted that Job and Moses begin their journey back to Kisumu immediately rather than waiting for us to come get them.  We knew this because Isaac and I passed them on the way to the lodge.  They were still lost.  We would later learn that they spent the night in the van in Narok because there were no rooms available anywhere.  By the time Isaac and I found them, they were retelling the story over and over again. That process continued as we traveled with them back to Entumoto.  They kept adding pieces (relying heavily on poetic license) to make the story even more interesting than it already was.  DJ was planning on telling stories to women back in Rochester as to why his belt smelled of Kenya and motor oil.  Job became a Tanzanian refugee whom the other 4 refused to allow to fall back into the hands of his captors... and so on and so on.  It was very late by the time we arrived at Entumoto.  Everyone ate and retold their individual stories during dinner.  Everyone was near tears with laughter.  Now exhausted, everyone retired to their "tents" to sleep.  Here are some pictures of the accommodations.

Although it pains me to do so, here are the pictures that Ann took while traveling from Kisumu to Masai Mara.












At one point, while refueling, Andrea looked out the window to see a man next to the van lowering a bucket into the underground fuel tank, hoisting the bucket back out and dumping the diesel into another basin for transport.  Nobody light a match... or talk on a cell phone.

These are the pictures that we took while the rest of us were on Safari, while the other 4 were breathing in Rift Valley dust all day.

If it makes anyone feel any better, the spider on the left was on the wall of our tent... every day.

When we woke, there was no hot water... then there was no water.  We cleaned up as best we could using the bottled water that was in the rooms when we arrived.  Katie showered the night before, so 1 of 4 of us was clean.  Andrea, who had been driving for 12 hours through the rift valley the day before, was incredibly agreeable after she realized she wasn't going to be able to stand under hot water.  The staff explained that there was air in the lines, but it would be fixed by the time we got back.  Everyone crossed their fingers.  Karibu Kenya.  Nothing is guaranteed.  Nothing... except maybe the heat.