Saturday, May 30, 2009

Last Day Here!

I can't believe it is our last full day in Africa! Five weeks has gone by so quickly!

Kruger was really cool, although we were pretty spoiled after our safari in Kenya. We were able to see some different animals close up, though, so that was cool. It was about eight hours of driving every day which was tiring, but it was still really cool. We went on a night tour, which was really cool. It was pitch black, and then we had five spotlights that we would shine around looking for animals. We ended up finding a lion who had just killed a wildebeast, and our driver got us really close, so that was neat. We also saw a HUGE owl and a hyena that was circling the truck.

On our way back to Johannesburg, we went through Blyde Canyone Reserve. It had a lot of beautiful rugged geological formations. It was absolutely gorgeous and had amazing views of a canyon. It made me miss the mountains back home since we haven't seen a whole lot of them here. We also stopped at God's Window which is supposed to be pretty cool, but we were so high up, that we were in a cloud and couldn't see anything but white.

Yesterday we met up with the Cannons (Nic's friend's parents who are presidents of the MTC here) and they took us to lunch and shopping. It was great to see them and spend time with them. They were great to show us some of the city because today we are going to try to drive in alone. We are hoping to make it to the Apartheid museum which we hear is really sobering, but great.

Well, I guess that's it for now. We are going to head out and enjoy our last day here. :)

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Time Flies!

I can't believe we are already flying out of Cape Town today! This trip is flying by! Cape Town has been a really interesting place. It's pretty much Euro-San Francisco, with slums everywhere right outside the city. It seems there's no middle class, just the extremely wealthy and the extremely poor (at least in the areas we've seen). Unemployment is almost 25%!

The first day here we took the cable car to the top of Table Mountain. We ended up hiking all around the top and then hiking down the mountain instead of taking the cable car. We figure we did about 6-7 miles, and we still look like old people while going up and down stairs because our calves are so sore (and it was three days ago!).

The next day we went down to the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point. It was a little difficult hiking around because we were so sore, but the views were amazing. We also saw some ostriches, penguins, and baboons, so that was fun. After that we drove up to wine country which was gorgeous! Unfortunately, the light was awful, so the pictures will never do it justice. We had a nice dinner at a little restaurant and then came back to Cape Town.

Yesterday we took a boat out to Robben Island and took a tour. Nic and I both agree that we need to read more about Nelson Mandela. Our tour guide was actually a prisoner there because he and some others set fire to a building (in an attempt to destroy some files having to to with apartheid...he didn't give specifics) when they were 18. The court called it sabotage, and he was sentenced to 7 years (he served 5 1/2). It was really cool to hear about it from someone who was actually there, even though he missed Mandela by about four years.

Well, I guess that's our Cape Town update! We are flying to Johannesburg today, and then heading to Kruger National Park tomorrow. We don't really think we'll have access to Internet, so it could be about a week before I am able to write again. I hope everyone is doing well!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Greetings from Cape Town!

We are in Cape Town now, and it seems we will have no problem with fast Internet or downloading photos (although I'm not sure we'll have time to do it today).

We left Thika Monday afternoon and headed into Nairobi. We were dropped off at a house where other volunteers are staying, and then we took a bus into downtown Nairobi. It was weird to see so much diversity, especially so many white people. We went to the Nairobi Gallery to an exhibit called Kenya Burning. It was a photojournalism exhibit about the clashes last year after elections. We really wanted to see it because we had talked to people who had experienced it, and we had seen burnt out homes and IDP (Internally Displaced People) camps where victims are STILL living in tents because they were chased away from their homes. The exhibit was very graphic and hard to look at, but it was really moving. That night we went back to the house and met some of the other volunteers, including two guys from Kaysville...small world!

Tuesday morning, we caught a taxi at 5 am to the airport. We flew to Johannesburg, then Cape Town. I was pretty sick all day (worst cramps of my life), so it wasn't a fun flying day for me. Once we arrived in Cape Town, we got our rental car (VW Citi), and after a few wrong turns and an hour and a half, we found our hotel (The Fritz Hotel). We definitely miss Thika and Kenya as Cape Town is pretty much like San Francisco, rather than "Africa," but we must admit that it is nice to have a "real" shower, "real" bed, and fast internet. :)

Monday, May 18, 2009

Leaving Thika

Our time in Thika has come to an end. Nic and I are very sad about it, and wish we could spend our remaining two weeks here instead of going to South Africa. We have made so many great friends and can't wait to come back again!

This week has flown by! Through Family Health Option Kenya, we were able to continue to visit different parts of Thika this week and learn about more issues/problems here in Kenya. Our last couple of days were spent setting up a food program for a primary school. We visited 4 or 5 schools, and they all had feeding programs except Kisiwa. The kids who go there are VERY poor, and probably don't get much of a chance to eat at home. Then they have to go to school and try to learn while still not being fed. All it took was a few bags of food to start the program up. They will charge a small fee (like 2-5 shillings) a day, and that money should be able to sustain the program. It's crazy that it took something so small to feed so many children indefinitely. We also were able to get a few bikes for FHOK. They travel so far every day (some days we walked over 20 km!), often without lunch or water, and they only have time to visit a few clients. We are hoping with the addition of bikes, they will be able to visit many more clients each day. We are really going to miss our friends at FHOK!

Last night, our family and friends all came over, and we roasted a goat (well, a quarter of one). Everyone is so surprised that we don't eat goat back at home, and I must say that it was really tasty. We might have to start a new movement. :)

We are off to Nairobi today, and South Africa tomorrow! We are hoping we have more internet access and can post some of our pictures, but we don't want to get our hopes up too high. :)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Back from Safari!

Hello, everyone! Well, we are back from safari. We have tons of great pictures and videos...too bad none of these Kenyan computer labs have USB ports...we're still hoping for South Africa.

The safari was really cool. We went to Maasai Mara for the first few days. Pretty much the only animals we didn't see were a crocodile and a leopard, but it wasn't for lack of trying. Our guide, Mike, was so great and really tried to make sure we saw everything we wanted to. In fact, we only missed a leopard by about 10 seconds, but we did see the antelope it had killed and dragged up a tree. We got really close to all sorts of animals, including lions. We even saw a lion eating a giraffe, so that was quite the experience. On our last night there, the Maasai people came to do some traditional dancing and teach us all about their culture. Cassi even did the marriage dance and got married to a Maasai man...sorry, Nic! :)

Lake Nukuru was more safara-ing. We saw thousands and thousands of flamingos which was absolutely amaznig. We also saw rhinos and many other animals. We really liked the baby babboons and wart hogs (note to Annalisa...they don't have pigs here, so I'll get you a wart hog something or other :)).

We pretty much spent 4 days in a van (and many times on VERY bumpy roads), but it was well worth it, and I can't wait to post pictures! We were all really excited to get "home" after our long weekend journey. It's odd to think that in a week, we will be in Cape Town, and won't be seeing our home or family again. We are definitely planning a return trip!

Anyway, I better go since Cyber is slow and I have some other things I need to do. I hope everyone is well!!!!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Mambo? Poa!

Hello everyone, hope all is well in your big super rich, comfortable, luxurious homes back in the states! We toured the biggest slum in Thika yesterday, it's called Kiundutu and is just a mile or so outside the town center. About 100,000 people call this place "home" and the houses probably aren't fit for animals back in the states. Pretty bad is an understatement. No water, no electricity, no sewage, just stick and mud huts built from scraps that go on and on. muddy streets with human waste all over... and kids, soooo many kids, everywhere (oh yeah, we were told that this is the cleanest slum in Kenya actually, wow!)

People here live on like $1 a day. So don't yall be complaining about life back in the states ok? :-) We've been learning about the local organizations that are working to help the people and vulnerable children living in the communities in these slums. Most of the effort is done by volunteers as the program cannot afford to pay very many staff (they have 2 people).

We're heading back to Nairobi tomorrow morning (way too early though) for a weekend safari through the Masai Mara and then Lake Nakuru. Don't know if we'll have internet access for a few days... it's pretty spotty right here in town. Yall take care and we'll be in touch!

P.S. This was Nic's first official post on the blog...didn't he do a good job? :) P.P.S. Moms, we will try to call you on Mother's Day, but since we haven't figured out exactly how to do that and may not even have electricity or running water on safari, we may not be able, an early HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY to you!!!!! 

Monday, May 04, 2009

Greetings from Thika!

Hey, everyone! Sorry about the double post. The computers here are from the 1980s and the Internet isn't that reliable. :) That's also why we will not be posting any pictures until we make it to South Africa (hopefully).

We're still here in Thika. We start our volunteer project tomorrow, since there was a slight change with our placement. We will be out in the community working with AIDS victims in their homes. We will also be working with a community group that plays drums and puts on plays for kids teaching them about AIDS.

The water here in Thika is good, so despite all of the warnings from the states (and many of you), we are drinking it (well, we haven't convinced Katie to drink it yet) and haven't had any problems. Everyone can relax because we have an Aussie doctor living in the bunk below Nic. :)

Yesterday we fed some kids and took a walk around town. We saw Thika's "mansions" which are about the size of the average home in the States. We saw our first white couple, and found ourselves pointing and calling them wazungu. We started laughing because that's how everyone else reacts when they see us. :)

Tonight is our night to cook (we will do it once a week) "American food," so we are making tacos. They'll be slightly different since we are having a hard time finding all the correct ingredients, but it should be an experience for our family. :)

Other than that, it's hot and sweaty and the people are super friendly. :) I hope everyone is doing well, and we'll try to write again soon!

Saturday, May 02, 2009

They are alive! Again!

Danette here.  Cassi sent me the following and asked me to post it.  Most information seems similar to her previous post, but being the dutiful sister that I am, I will post it anyway.  Can't get enough of Cassi and Nic, right?  :)  And now a few words (although many are repeated) from Cassi:

Okay, so I have now spent 30 minutes typing up a blog post three different times, but either it won't post or my Internet closes itself. I'm really sorry I can't give you more of an update...maybe in a few days.
We spent our first night in Kenya in a Nairobi slum. We weren't really able to go out, but had a great time getting to know some of the other volunteers. Friday we went to volunteer orientation and found out what our placements would be. We then did a bit of shopping, and were split into groups and were sent to our placement.
We are in Thika for the next two weeks (about an hour outside of Nairobi) doing our volunteer work (supposed to be HIV/AIDS at a hospital, but we may also work in a school for severely handicapped children). I am attempting to get used to all of the critters (mice, misquitos, spiders, and cockroaches), but we really did get a great house (we have a shower...some didn't have running water or electricity!!!) and host family (Ann and her daughters Maggie and Lucy). The girls took us to our first Kenyan club last night which was fun, too. We were quite the hot commodity since we were the only white people, and my favorite pickup line was "you are different...wanna dance?"  LOL  Luckily, I had Nic there to fend them all off.  :)
We have only seen one other white person in this city of a million, and Nic and I are loving the diversity. Our favorite looks are from the little kids who don't quite know what to think (most of them haven't seen a white person outside of Nairobi), so they just stare. :)
Anyway, my time is up.  :(  Next time I will try to find a more reliable computer.
Hope everyone is doing well!

We are alive!

Well, we are alive! I just spent 20 minutes typing up a post of everything going on, but this computer shut itself down. :(

Now I'm running out of Internet time. Here are some of the highlights:
-We spent our first night in a house in one of the Nairobi slums. We couldn't really go out, but enjoyed meeting a bunch of the other volunteers.
-Driving here is INSANE! No lanes painted on the roads, so it's just up to 3 or 4 lanes of traffic driving wherever they can fit.
-We were taken to our placement in Thika. We are staying with a great family and we are lucky enough to get a house with a shower (some didn't have electricity or running water).
-We are settling in, although I'm having to get used to lots of critters (mice, misquitos, spiders, and cockroaches). It'll be a great home for the next two weeks, though.
-Ann, our house mother is really great. Her daughters, Lucy and Maggie, are a lot of fun. They took us to our first Kenyan club last night, which was a lot of fun although we got a lot of looks because we are white. The best pickup line was a guy who walked up and said, "you are different...wanna dance?" LOL
-We have only seen one other white person in this city of a million people. We love the diversity, and all the looks from the locals are pretty good, too (most of them don't ever see white people unless they go into Nairobi, an hour away). :)
-We are planning to attend a Kenyan church tomorrow, which we hear is really cool.
-We start our volunteer work on Monday. We are supposed to be doing HIV/AIDS work in a hospital, but may switch over to working in a school for handicapped kids...we're thinking of trying to do half of each.

I sincerely apologize for how short this is, especially since I have no idea when the next chance I will get to write will be. We also had pictures ready to upload, but these computers don't have USB ports to do that with. Oh well, that's life in Kenya. :) Once we hit South Africa in a couple of weeks, it should be better. :) I hope everyone is well!