"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.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Friday, August 9, 2013

I'm posting the last couple days at the same time.  A similar opening is posted for Thursday's story.  We're all on our Emirates flight en route to JFK... somewhere over the Atlantic.  As we've said all along, thank you for you thoughts, prayers, and continued support.  I'm sure that phone calls will be made once we're through customs and back on US soil, officially.  I wanted everyone to know we are safe... thought that was more important than posting pictures.  The internet speeds are slow on the plane, so I'll be posting pictures from JFK.  And yes, I know how pathetic it sounds that I'm disappointed that the internet, although available, is slow.  I'm on a plane over the middle of the Atlantic - it's amazing that we even have access to the internet!  Please continue reading, and thank you for doing so...  

We started the day early.  Breakfast at 7, on the road by 7:30.  Everyone looked forward to a hot shower with clean (or at the very least “cleaner”) water.  No such luck in our tent.  It lasted for about 10 minutes before reverting back to ice cold.  The water in Maseno was warmer!  We got through it.  This was exactly the same scenario we encountered the last time here last year.  Andrea and I were the last to arrive at around 7:20.  I guess we were off on the schedule.  Breakfast was now at 7:20, and we left at 8.  Karibu Kenya.  Things are just run at a slower pace here, so you really need to stay on top of things.  When I say “here,” I don’t mean Entumoto, I mean Kenya.


As we drove, the air was cool.  Wildebeests were everywhere, as far as the eye could see.  The dotted the landscape in every direction.  Zebras and gazelles were mixed into the crowds.  Isaac talked as we drove.  The wildebeests and zebra are the only animals that migrate, and the latter follows the former.  You see these single file lines that actually wear down a path into the ground where the grass used to be. 

After seeing everything imaginable, we stopped for lunch in the middle of the park.  We ate as wildebeest and zebras walked by, paying us no mind.  You could see a string of 12 giraffes walking (also single file) in the distance. 

Although the grass looks ridiculously dry, it’s actually quite the opposite.  The wildebeest are Kenya’s lawnmowers.  You can see where they’ve been because the grass goes from being 3 feet high, to being 6 inches high.  Then the zebras come by and eat the rest.  It’s a pretty efficient system.  The rains are not heavy, but they’re consistent and new shoots of grass pop up quickly.  The animals have enough sense to follow the rain.  Isaac says that’s about the only common sense the wildebeest have.  “God gave them all the leftovers.  Mane of a lion, legs like a horse, horns like a cape buffalo, body of a gazelle… but no brains.”  The sound they make is like a muffled “No” from somebody that’s been smoking since they were 12.  “No.  No.  No.” comes from the herds all day long.  Isaac fills in questions between the “No’s.”
“Seen any lions?”  No.
“Seen any cheetahs?”  No.
“Seen any crocodile?”  No.
“Do you want to be the first to jump down and cross the river?” No.
We, however, did see all three.  Today we saw the alligators sunning themselves with the hippos.  Although the crocodile are usually pretty static, the hippos are not.  Today was the opposite.  The only significant movement was an alligator that came up out of the water to lay next to another one.  The hippos were apparently offended by our presence as they kept their backs to us most of the time.
We then moved further down the river tone of the 4 or  spots that the wildebeest cross.  We waited 200 yards away so that the engines wouldn’t spook them.  When we left Rochester, Andrea was saying, “The only thing I really want to see is an crocodile eating a wildebeest.”  Most people protested, commenting on the brutality of it, but she said, “When we get there, you won’t feel the same way.”  She would soon be proved right.
The wildebeast slowly arrived in several single file lines and then stopped at the edge of the embankment.  Their numbers grew exponentially.  The alpha males would be running across the front of the gathering, but other than that, there was little activity as more and more continued to arrive.  A younger one emerged from the crowd, and we all thought it was time. No.  They moved closer to the edge, but never committed.  Then they started to spread out across the edge, while the occupants (including me) were using all the telekinesis we could muster to push those wildebeest over the edge.  It’s clear that today they weren’t as dumb as we’d hoped. While they normally make the journey across one or two at a time, now they looked as though they were going to come down in a wave.  We had to move the car because they were coming towards our vantage point which happened to be another of the crossing points.  The rain started coming, and unfortunately the alphas turned around and started back toward the mara and away from Tanzania and the Serengeti.  Like Lemmings, they all followed.  Nuts.  We were hoping to see the more brutal side of tumultuous side of this area’s great circle of life.  Not today.
We then headed back to camp.  We were clear on the other side of the mara, so we drove for so long that Isaac stopped the vehicle to give everyone the opportunity to get out and stretch their legs, and grab a drink if they chose. 

I know I’m missing info and things that we saw, but I took so many pictures that I’ll let them do the talking for me.
We leave for Nairobi tomorrow… ½ of us are going on a game drive at 7:30am, the other half will be having breakfast at 9am and then heading directly to Keekorok “airport” to meet up with the those that got up earlier. 
It was barbecue night in the dining room and it was fabulous.  Chicken, beef and lamb with mixed vegetables.  yum.
See you tomorrow.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

OK, here's the latest.  It's actually Saturday, and we're on an Emirates flight to JFK... somewhere over the Atlantic.  Everybody's safe, we're all on our way home.  I'm sure we'll be calling everyone soon.  Thanks as always for the thoughts and prayers. The blogs you're about to read from this point on were written at the end of the day, but I wasn't able to post them until now.  I'll post pictures after we arrive in JFK and we have a faster internet speed.  So now, back to our story...

Because I’m posting these late, I’ll start off by saying that Andrea and I have been talking to Isaac constantly about the conditions in Nairobi.  I am happy to inform you that Emirates resumed flights on Friday, and we are on schedule to depart Nairobi at 4:40pm.  With the help of Anne (Entumoto’s Director in Nairobi), we secured seats on a light aircraft that will pick us up at the Keekorok gate and get us into Wilson Airport in Nairobi before noon.  We’ll then be transferred to Jomo Keyata International Airport and have plenty of time to check in and relax.  Again, thank you for all of your prayers
We arrived at Entumoto on schedule.  About an hour from the camp, we left the asphalt road.  Actually, the asphalt road ran out.  It just stopped.  I’d like to say that there was some semblance of gravel or marrum on the road, but I’d be lying.  There were simply a hump and two tire marks that had worn down on either side.  And it was bumpy.  Do you know those rumble strips that they have on the highway to help you stay awake?  Picture that for 10 miles.  Kenyan massage… no charge.  Once we got to the mara things improved significantly. We had to stop for a serious road block, but not the kind you’d expect.  There were about 100 head of cattle that had bottlenecked at a bridge we needed to cross.  Fortunately we’re not in India.  Isaac bumped them with his car as he spoke in his native tounge to the Masai in charge of the wandering beef.   Eventually we got through, and all was well.  While we waited for our rooms to be prepared, we tried to take advantage of the wireless in the main seating area next to the dining room.  No luck.  The signal was weak enough when we arrived.  Once 8 people began to access it, it got worse, so instead we passed the time talking about our experiences so far.  The view from this area is spectacular.  The camp sits in a mountainside, so we’re quite high (7,000 ft above sea level), and it looks down into the valley.
After we checked into our tents, and after we grabbed some lunch, we were back in the Land Rover heading back out to the Mara. 
The animals were spectacular.  There were literally hundreds of thousands of wildebeest.  If they weren’t grazing, they were walking in single file lines, head to tail, to the Mara River.  There, they will either make it across, or be consumed by alligators or lions.  We’ll try to see that tomorrow. 

Instead, we chose to watch a lioness devouring a wildebeest that didn’t even make it close to the river. We constantly passed carcasses in different stages of decomposition.  They were so plentiful, that even the buzzards were tired of eating.
Elephants, zebras, Thompson gazelles, heartbeast, topi, elan, lilac breasted rollers, dik diks, and impalas filled the remainder of the day.  The air was quite cool as we bagan heading back to camp. 
Although I was expecting two vehicles to give us some space to spread out, we al fit into one, and I think it made the day that much more enjoyable.  The conversation was light, and the jokes were many.  Karen and Richie (who Isaac still continues to call “Greg”) continue to make everyone laugh.  They banter pretty well together.  Katie’s laugh is absolutely infectious!  She’s got three distinct laughs, and they’re all great.  Kevin, like a lion, waits in the tall grass before adding something funny to conversation, and that usually keeps everyone laughing.  Andrea is in the last seat next to Job who spends most of his time making statements like, “Do we have to be so close to the lion?” and “I don’t think that animal likes me… he looks like he’s going to eat me.”  Isaac laughs and responds, “You’ll be a hero Job.  You will be the first tourist killed on the mara!”  Job adds, “That is no good.  My sisters will then be enjoying the fruits of all my labor will I am in the ground!”  Laughter continues.  Amie and Sam continue to be enjoying themselves, too.  It is clear that Amie really looks out for her younger sister… and my guess is that Sam doesn’t mind, rather, finds some comfort in it.  Although some of the scratches obtained from the climb up the mountain back at Mbaka Oromo are still visible, they are a distant memory.  There is too much for the eyes and the mind to take in here to be bothered with bruises sustained from that climb.

We arrived back at camp and took some beautiful pictures of the sunset as we made our way back.  Crikey, it’s cold here! It can’t be above 65 degrees.  I think I can here Richie’s teeth chattering.  Because I was in the front seat net to Isaac, I didn’t get as much of the wind as the others did.  Job and Andrea were freezing.  I also learned that the back of the land cruiser is much more bumpy than the front.  Those two got bounded around a lot, but they were both always in good spirits. 
Everyone was happy to see food.  We were hungry after a very long day.  We started with cream of onion soup – that was a good start as it helped to warm everyone up.  Then we were offered a buffet of tomato salad, cauliflower in a light cheese sauce, broccoli, chicken and spaghetti and meatballs.  Chakula ni kitamo (the food was delicious). They closed out the meal with a slice of coconut cake.  It’s not like our cake though.  It was much more dense, but tasty.  As everyone finished their wine or beer or soda, fatigue set in and we retired to our tents.  Amie and Sam are together in the closest tents to the left (Rhino Ranch), Richie’s in the one on the opposite side of  the path (Tembo Temple). Job is staying with Isaac.  The rest of us are staying in the family tent (Eagles Nest).  If my calculations are correct, it’s about 1 mile from the dining room.  I may be bit off.  Oh, did I mention that it’s also a vertical climb?  It helps add to the ambiance… and the exhaustion.