Archive for the ‘Heather in Kenya’ Category

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Heather: Egypt

May 13, 2010

Hello from Egypt! Our last couple days in Lamu were fun, though the bus ride home was not. We were driving for about 2 hours and the bus stopped for a bit and we were all wondering why. Apparently, the bus did not have brakes, and they decided they wanted to put some on. So weird. So it took us about 10 hours to get from Lamu to Mombasas, when it should have only taken 7.

My last day in Kenya was spent doing last minute shopping, talking to my family, and packing. Then I took a 4:30 a.m. flight to Egypt. We landed in Egypt and found a taxi to take us to a hotel. We ended up just having him choose one for us, as we didn’t really know what was good. He chose a good one, which is nice. That day we walked around downtown Cairo and decided to stop into a travel agency just to check out prices of places to go. We ended up booking a trip with them, and it goes like this: Take a night train to Luxor from Cairo. Meet with our tour guide who will show us around Valley of the Kings and other monuments and temples. Stay 2 nights in Luxor. Take a bus to Hurghada, go snorkeling in the Red Sea. Stay one night. Take a night bus to Cairo, then immediately catch a train to go to Alexandria. Go to the library and check out the Mediterranean Sea, stay one night. Take a train back to Cairo and head to the airport that night to wait for our flight back home.

In Cairo we went to the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities, which was very cool to see. That night we made dinner reservations on a floating restaurant on the Nile. Very neat to see Cairo by night, as it is HUGE. 22 million people! The next day was the pyramids! We got up early and started off at Dashur Pyramids and saw the Red Pyramid and the famous Bent Pyramid. Next we went to Saqqara. There was a museum and a few pyramids to see there as well. We couldn’t go inside because of restoration. It seems that a lot of the pyramids are undergoing restoration, which makes me sort of frustrated. No one should be touching these things, and it’s inevitable that they’re going to fall apart a little bit. It’s been 4000 years since they’ve been built! They’ve also repainted some of the pictures on the walls, and they’ve used chemicals in their paint, rather than just natural paints extracted from plants. This makes the color drain even faster. Ugh. We saved the best for last and went to Giza and saw the 3 most famous pyramids and the Sphinx as well. We rented camels and got a guide and rode around for 2 hours to see everything there. It was awesome. The sphinx was great to see, though you couldn’t get very close.

That night we got back to the city and went to Hard Rock Café for a drink before we left for Luxor. We got to the train station and waited for about 2 hours. We met a German couple that we talked to for awhile, which was nice to share stories. The guy was telling us that he has been to Kenya and has never met nicer people. I have never ridden in a sleeping train before and was very surprised as how tiny it was. We didn’t know where to put our stuff! Finally we figured it all out and passed out as we were so drained from all the traveling.

Today our guide met us as the train station. We went to Valley of the Kings on West Bank. This is where King Tut’s mummy is. In his original tomb, not a pyramid. We didn’t go in and see it because it cost a lot of money just to see the mummy and nothing else. But we did get to go in other tombs, which were fascinating. Some were huge, some were small. The size depended on how long the King reigned for. After that we went to see a Queen’s temple. This was neat to see because she was the only female Egyptian ruler.

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Heather: Lamu! (and then home)

May 7, 2010

We arrived in Lamu last Saturday afternoon, after a night bus to Mombasa and then a very not fun ride from Mombasa to Lamu. We took a boat to the island and found a place to stay for the next two nights. We stayed at a place called Yumbe House in Lamu town, which is an old coral castle! It was a great place, and we had a couple rooms on the top floor so we had an amazing view of the city! Great architecture in the city and around too. All for $10 a night. We went to the Shela, where the beaches are and found a place to stay for the rest of the week.

Because it’s low season, there’s absolutely no one else here so we got a really good rate for our rooms. We basically have the entire building to ourselves, so the top level and rooftop are all ours! We have fully taken advantage of the kitchen. The first night we made white snapper, sauteed veggies, and red wine and noodles. So delicious. Last night we bought fresh crab (~$18 for 12 pounds!!) and made more veggies and rice to go with it too. Fresh fruit juices as well (banana passion=great mix!).

We’ve just been hanging around Lamu town and Shela and going to the beach. We ran into one problem though. On our first night here some drunk guy wouldn’t leave us alone and tried kissing Sara and actually grabbed me inappropriately. So I turned around and would have given him a new face. However, two of our guy friends were there and stepped in between and wouldn’t let me. But the next day he found us again and followed us to the beach. Still drunk, and still groping at all the girls. We finally just had to be extremely rude to him and were actually causing a scene, but then a local man came up and started yelling at the guy and lead him away. The next day at the beach I was laying there and he came up to me again. I don’t know how he keeps finding us! Another local guy came to my rescue though, thank god.

There are donkeys everywhere here, as there are no cars or any other transport except for boats. We tried renting donkeys the one day, but the guy totally tried screwing us over, so we unfortunately haven’t had a chance yet. But we will! Everything else is going great! The place we’re staying at is very nice and the guy is extremely helpful and nice too. We went on a dhow trip on Tuesday. It rained the entire time, but it was so much fun! We met two people from Holland so they came along with us. We went to some ruins from this old village and got some great pictures. We did some fishing as well! This was fun, but I didn’t catch anything. It was difficult to cast because our rods were literally blocks of wood with fishing line wrapped around it with shrimp as bait. Two people caught fish, and Michael caught a rock. We had a sunset ride last night, absolutely gorgeous!

Anyways, I’m having a great time and am getting excited to come home! We are heading back to Mombasa on Saturday morning and we’re taking a night bus back to Nairobi and flying out to Egypt on Tuesday morning at 4am. Then I’m home!!

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Heather: Back home

April 28, 2010

I have made it safely home to Nairobi! It was a decent bus ride, no problems. We had a Saw marathon showing. It was so nice seeing my Nairobi family again, I think they missed me! We stayed up for a couple hours just talking about everything that’s been going on and telling them about my experiences and everything. And the next morning I got an amazing breakfast of tea, samosas, and eggs. Better than the white bread I’ve been getting recently. It was great!

We headed to Methodist Guesthouse to stay there for the next couple days while we finished up the program. The first night was really great seeing everyone again and catching up. It’s crazy that we all missed each other so much. I guess we’re all pretty good friends! Sara, Rebecca, Mia, and I lucked out on our room in the guesthouse. There’s four beds with our own bathroom. Well, everyone has this. BUT, our room has an extra door that opens onto a closed balcony overlooking the pool area. So seriously everyone just chilled in our room the first night and last night too. Later on in the night other people were being extremely loud and we could hear everything through the walls, so we slept on the balcony. So great! No mosquitoes; the weather was AMAZING!

We’ve just taken our exams. Today we had discussions about our internships and reverse culture shock. It was ok, but a rather long day. It sounds like some people really enjoyed their internships while others were indifferent, while others didn’t like it at all. So, technically, we’re done! Just have to hand in our papers and head out! My future plans are: take the night bus to Mombasa on Friday, then catch the 8 a.m. bus to Lamu. Stay in Lamu for 5ish days or so, head back down the coast. Then get a bus back to Nairobi from Mombasa. Then fly out of Nairobi on May 10 to go to EGYPT!! Then May 18th, fly home!

I will be on a boat for about a week, then traveling without my internet modem working, I will have very limited internet. My blog posts will probably be few and far between. Just so you’re aware. I will be going back to my family tomorrow morning and staying with them until Friday.

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Heather: Last week in Mombasa

April 23, 2010

This is my last week in Mombasa so I’ve just been finishing up some stuff at work. Mostly just working on my presentation and final report that I have to turn in.

I also made dinner for my family yesterday – my original plan was to make burritos. However, when I went to the store, I was banking on them having chapati (to use instead of tortilla shells), but they did not. And then I didn’t want to depend on a street vendor having them outside my house, so I had to think on the fly. I decided to just simply change it to chicken stir-fry. That was something easy to make, and something I didn’t need a recipe or ingredient list for. I just picked up some rice, chicken, green and yellow peppers and some onions. As I was making it, the power went out. I had two burners going and I was flying blind. But no worries, I prevailed! It turned out well. My family seemed to enjoy it.

Since you may be curious about my host family, I’ll talk about that. As mentioned before, it was just my host mom and I. Since then the kids have come home from school for 2 weeks but have left again now. And my host dad came home from Sudan from work, but is leaving next week to go back for another couple months. For the time that he was home, my host mom took a leave from work so she could be around during the day.

When I get home from work we talk about how each of our days went, but they’re a pretty quiet family. My little brother and sister didn’t talk much either; I think they were just shy. It’s different learning about the kids’ schooling and stuff, but I’m still not exactly sure how the system works.

For dinner we normally have rice with cabbage and fish or some sort of stew. Sometimes there’s spaghetti, and other times we have chapati and beans. The rice stews and spaghetti are my favorites. After dinner the family normally watches TV, but it’s mostly in Swahili so I don’t know much. I try to watch it but I really have no idea what’s going on, so I normally read. They don’t talk amongst themselves much either.

I normally prepare my own breakfasts, which are just white bread and hot chocolate. It’s very simple, but it doesn’t take much time.

The other night my host mom gave me a handbag with a carved wooden lion and a salt shaker made out of cow horn. It was very nice of her and I really like it. Since I didn’t know anything about my family before coming to Mombasa, I didn’t have any gifts for my family. But a couple weeks ago I was making bracelets from beads that I made in Nairobi and I gave a couple to my host mom and her sister in law who always made me dinner. So I’m glad I at least had something in return for her.

I will try to post pictures of my house, but I don’t know when that will be. Maybe next week when I am back in Nairobi.

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Heather: Return to Tanzania

April 21, 2010

Definitely one of the top 3 of weekends since I’ve been in Kenya. On Saturday morning I headed to Tanzania. Got on my bus at 7 a.m., and the only plan in mind was to get to Moshi, Tanzania. I was going to meet our friend Simon who we met while rafting in Uganda.

I was afraid we would miss each other because my bus was 1.5 hours late and there was no way I could get a hold of him, as he has no phone. So I got off the bus at Moshi, walked around for a few minutes having really no idea where I was, just praying that I would see another whitie. Luckily, he found me after only about 10 minutes. We started to figure out our plans for the weekend; I was really just planning on going along with anything. He met this guy who wanted to help us, but ended up wanting to charge us Tsh 90,000/person (~$75) for one night of going to this local village. Long story short, we ended up paying only Tsh 30,000/person.

We took a dalla-dalla (matatu thing) halfway up this mountain right near Kilimanjaro with Richard, the guy whose family we were going to stay with. We had to walk another 1.5 hours uphill the rest of the way to get to the village. The village we went to was called Metaruni and held the Chagga tribe. That night we walked around meeting his family and seeing what was around. We ate this really good pork along with some salty soup. We also tried some banana beer. Not so good. I was literally chewing my beer because there were chunks of grain in it. Played some checkers and headed back to get some dinner. Dinner was a banana, bean, and yam stew. It was ok.

The next morning we got up early to watch the sunrise. Unfortunately it was just a little too cloudy for this. However, we saw Mt. Kilimanjaro!! Greatest sight ever! Normally you can’t see it during the day because it’s so cloudy, but in the morning and at night you can see it if you’re lucky. Guess I was! We ate some breakfast (roasted peanuts, bread, plantains, homemade coffee, and tea) and headed out for the day. We hiked up to some waterfalls and swam for a bit, then hiked to some other falls and swam some more. The water was SO COLD! It was great hiking, but really tiring. I am rather sore from it. When we got back we grabbed some lunch (beef and banana stew). If you’re wondering about the bananas, they have a ton of banana trees around and they use them to make a ton of different things. I never knew you could do so much with a banana! But it was all really good, especially the stew. After lunch we went to go make some coffee. We ground up the seeds to get the coffee beans out, then roasted the beans, then ground the beans into a fine powder and there was the coffee. Then we hiked about 2 hours down the mountain to catch a ride back into Moshi.

Once in Moshi, we went to a hostel and got some rooms and went to get some dinner. Street food is so amazing! I got rice, bagia (fried dough stuff), cabbage, and tea and Simon got chapati, beans, bagia, and tea and we only paid Tsh 1000 total. That’s like 35 cents per meal. And it was really good too!

The next morning we went to the market to grab some fruit for breakfast. I have never had so much fruit in one sitting. We made a GIGANTIC fruit salad (only Tsh 5500, ~$4.50). I couldn’t even finish it: 5 bananas, 2 oranges, papaya, watermelon, and mango. Delish. We packed our bags for the day and jumped on a dalla-dalla to go to Marangu, a town about 1 hour from Moshi. We went to some caves and then more waterfalls.

Caught my bus in the moning to head back to Mombasa. I took about 8 hours (ugh), but I saw about 30 elephants and 10 giraffes on my way. We passed through Tsavo West National Park on the way. This was one National Park I wanted to get to, but unfortunately never had time. But, at least I can say I passed through it and officially saw some wildlife of the park!

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Heather: Rodent & Butterfly Week

April 18, 2010

Last week at work I started off in the reptile park. SNAKES! It was actually pretty interesting. I helped with all the feedings, including a few crocs and Nile Monitor Lizards. To do this, we headed to the rat house to get the food. 11 rats, 10 mice, and 38 baby chicks later, we had our lunch ready! I helped feed the East African Egg Eater. Because he was just a little guy, he wasn’t able to fit the whole egg in his mouth, so we had to manually take the juices and feed it to him.

On Wednesday my day was spent in the Rat House. Basically I learned why we have what and why they’re in the cages they are. We did some transferring of rats and mice from young to old and male to female from the stock bins. Yesterday and today I was in North Quarry working at the butterfly pavilion. Normally I’m in South Quarry where all the animals are. North Quarry is basically just butterflies and walking/cycling trails. They’re really nice trails that people just come and walk around on. Except you have to be careful where you step, those millipedes are nasty! There’s like a million of them all over! And you also have to watch for Safari Ants. They bite, and it hurts! I had a shoe infestation yesterday.

But, on the other side, I was supposed to work with butterflies, learning how the breeding system works. Unfortunately, as it is the rainy season, it POURED the past two days and the butterflies weren’t out much. But I did learn a little bit from other stuff they had available. However, this afternoon, it cleared up a little bit and we went “butterfly hunting.” I must have looked so goofy with my butterfly net and orange reflector on, trying to catch these things. They’re fast little buggers. End points: butterflies 127, Heather 2.  At least I caught some. And from what my supervisor said, the ones I caught were the hardest breed to catch. Maybe he was just trying to make me feel better. But it was fun nonetheless. As I have two days next week to do whatever I want, I think I’m going to go back to North Quarry to get some better pictures and see if I can’t try out my hunting skills some more.

As for the weekend, I am going to tackle the Tanzanian border again. But hopefully it won’t be so bad since I don’t have to pay for the visa again. This time I am heading to Moshi, right at the base of none other than the largest mountain in Africa, Kenya’s gift to Tanzania, Mt. Kilimanjaro. As it is VERY expensive to climb the mountain, and I have time restrictions, though this is one of my goals sometime in life. I will only be taking on the foothills this weekend.

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Heather: Snorkeling and Fishing

April 13, 2010

It was a weekend on the water! On Saturday Liana and I went to Wasini Island (south coast of Kenya) to do some snorkeling. We took a dhow boat out onto the ocean to Kisite National Marine Park. Before we jumped in to start or snorkeling, we of course had to see some dolphins! There were about 5 of them that we saw. Unfortunately they weren’t jumping or anything, but they were swimming between the dhows.

We did two sets of snorkeling. I’ve never been snorkeling before so it was kind of hard to adjust to the flippers and breathing out of your mouth, but it was actually quite easy once you got the hang of it. On the first one we saw a TON of really cool fish, really brightly colored and they were just all over. We also saw some sea cucumbers. Then we swam back to the boat to get some oranges and drinks and take a break for a few minutes. On the second swim we didn’t see as many fish, but we did see a sting ray, an octopus, and a water eel thing. We loaded back on the boat and it took us to our place for lunch. It was this really, really nice restaurant on the beach of Wasini Island, which was pretty secluded. We had a red snapper coconut soup and chapati for an appetizer. Then fried red snapper, crab, coconut rice, cassava stuff, and a few other not so exciting things for the main meal. So good! I even ate the crab, and normally I don’t do that. But the red snapper was delicious!

When I got home I started cleaning out my bag and realized that there was definitely something in the shell that Liana and I found. They told us we weren’t really supposed to take the shell because it was a national marine park, but no one would know. And they said as long as it was empty, we could just put it in our bag. So they even looked inside to make sure there was nothing in it. Well, apparently it was hiding because THERE WAS! So I had to figure out what to do with this thing, as I wanted to keep the shell. Finally, I just poured bleach in the shell and left it sit overnight.

Today Rebecca, Danielle, and I went deep sea fishing. We unfortunately did not catch ANYTHING! It was so sad. I guess that’s the risk you take. They said yesterday they had some pretty bad waves and the fish weren’t biting much, so they thought it must be because of that. I don’t really know. But at least it was a nice day and we got some sun and hung out on the Indian Ocean for 4 hours. I was going to take some home tonight to cook for my family, but that didn’t work out! I wish I could have said I caught something. Anything! Oh well. Dad, I tried!

For other news: my host dad came home from Southern Sudan last week so I met him. He was there for work; he’s a mechanical engineer. I told them that my dad and sister do that, and my host mom, not kidding, said, “Oh good, they can get him a job in the states.” But he’s pretty nice. My host brother is home from boarding school too, he’s maybe like 16? I don’t know where my sister is. I think maybe living with the grandma? This is whole thing is kind of weird, but whatever. I get my own room so it’s ok with me.

Other than that, it’s just been hot like normal here! Going to go back to Nairobi and need a sweatshirt! And then come back to the coast and die again. Ahh. Getting excited for my adventures after the program though!

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