KENYA: Mowgli, the president, and giraffe smooches

Date: June 18, 2015
Current Location: Nairobi, Kenya
Unfortunately, this will probably be my last post for the next 2 weeks since my wifi access will be little to none (in fact the wifi I have now is shotty, loading pictures takes ages and I hope this one even posts). I’m going to try but I’ll most likely be off the grid. To be honest I am actually looking forward to being unplugged for a bit. If you need to get a hold of me, I should have access again on June 30 or so.

Growing up I had a terribly wonderful bowl cut with uneven bangs that started from the crown of my hair. I often was shirtless in the summer due to the Valley heat. Throw on a pair of red chonies and I was female Mowgli. Ya know, like the Jungle Book? In fact, I remember even being compared to Mowgli by my family (it was either that or “gorilla” as the amount of hair I had as a newborn raised the question if I was 100% human…”

Anyway, today I felt like Mowgli.  I arrived in Kenya around 2100 yesterday (if you need an update about my Africa plan, click here to get an update). I was supposed to meet my nursing team in London, but LAX in all it’s glory delayed them meaning they missed all of their subsequent flights. Cray. So I headed to Africa solo. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a tad nervous. I haven’t been following the Kenyan unrest as close as I probably should have for someone who was coming to the country and I remember Kenya being on the travel warning advisory list in the spring but I was given the go ahead by the organization we are partnering with for our medical mission so here I am. This was my first time flying on British Airways and I loved it. I adored that I got tea with real milk and sugar with every meal and when everyone around me was talking I felt like I was part of the BBC network or something. I sat by two young children that were flying without their parents (just one parent chaperone who was somewhere in first class). I guess they were checking out secondary boarding schools in London because the ones in Kenya are “rubbish” as Emma the older of the siblings said. I was surprised to learn they were both born and raised in Kenya and are fluent in Swahili, the national language in Kenya. The younger one, William, was about 9 or 10 years old and made it through probably 8 episodes of Family Guy. I wonder if his parents know (or care for that matter). The pair was just adorable and they even went to the back of the plane and got the flight attendants to give them extra cookies and chocolates to share with me and taught me a few words in Swahili. Such sweeties. Kids with accents just make me melt (as do tall freckled gentleman).

When we landed, I followed the mass of people towards customs to get my visa on arrival. I had my paperwork and a crisp $50 bill ready so I wasn’t nervous about getting through, just more so about finding my ride outside the airport. All of a sudden a huge crowd of men in suits and police walked in and the airport security started pushing our line to the side with their batons. I guess THE President of Kenya was somewhere amongst the suits. What are the odds? The entourage that followed was massive and the crowd around me started to speculate which one he might be so I turned to this Canadian girl next to me and said, “He’s the tall important looking one in the suit, duh.” Not sure if it was out of courtesy or not but she laughed. Hey, I thought it was funny. (Life Rule #12: Your jokes are only as funny as you believe them to be.)

Because of the President’s presence, it was a bit more crowded outside than normal but thankfully I was still able to find Michelle easily.  Michelle is the co-founder of Hope Matters International, the organization my church in Kingsburg supports, and has such inspiring faith. Michelle went on her first mission to Africa in high school and she fell in love with this country. She also had her eyes opened to the huge medical and spiritual needs of Africa and in her own words I remember her saying, “Africa is a country full of pain, but also has a lot of beauty…even though I was only 15 at the time, I knew God was calling me here.” Wow. Talk about faith and obedience. Because of that trip, Michelle pursued nursing, then became a nurse practitioner, and also did several other mission trips to Africa. On one of those trips she met a native Kenyan, William, who is now her husband and the other founder of Hope Matters. Together they have created a medical clinic in a small village outside of Eldoret and cater to not only the physical health of the village, but also the spiritual, mental, and emotional well-being of its people. The organization is still new but they are slowly getting more volunteer groups and have big dreams for the future.

Since the rest of my team hadn’t arrived yet, Michelle and I had an extra day without any plans. We couldn’t even prepare for our course that we are teaching because the team has all the supplies in their bags. So instead, Michelle and I decided to get wild! I have this thing for elephants. When I was 16, I went on a mission trip to Cambodia and that is when I fell in love with those giant, gray wrinkly creatures. In fact, I have tried to collect elephant souvenirs on every trip I take (if I can find something elephant related that is not stupid and reasonably priced, that is). I have a small collection of all things elephant in my bedroom so when she told me she was taking me to an elephant orphanage I was elated. These little guys were rescued by the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust that seeks out elephants whose mothers have been killed (either from poaching or natural causes). They had 12 babies that were a few months to two years old and then nine older ones. While they were kept in a large roped section, the elephants would come right up to us and we got to pet their muddy backs and snap selfies as much as we pleased. Oh and fun fact: a baby elephant drinks about 24L of milk a day! Oh and the gestation period is like two years. Crazy.
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After that we went to a giraffe conservatory that was created mainly to breed giraffes and has a large emphasis on environmental conservation education. I didn’t expect to like the giraffes as much as the elephants but they are stunning beautiful creatures. Not as playful but much more elegant than the elephants. And this is where I fell in love. I’m telling you these guys will make you swoon. So much that you won’t leave without letting them give you a big drooly kiss. Okay so I’m over exaggerating, but I did kiss the giraffe…twice. You take a food pellet and stick it in between your lips. Then they come right up to you and snatch it with their lips so that you literally have to kiss them to give them the food. See, just like I said. I was getting wild and got some action from a tall, freckled gent :]
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While the animals were a great start to this trip, I did not come for the wildlife. I am ecstatic to be here and look forward to opportunities that God has already prepared for us. I am excited to see how His other children worship Him. To be reminded that Jesus has no boundaries and that He is present in every environment. To be stretched and be stripped of my normal resources that I often take for granted of having at home. Practicing full trust and dependence on the Lord is always such a struggle for a controlling, independent individual like myself and it is when I feel I have nothing that I come to the realization that I can only find true and total contentment in Him. I hate admitting that because I would like to trust and depend on Him fully regardless of the season of life I am facing. I know it takes discipline, time in His Word, and fellowship with others. Which is why I feel privileged to be surrounded by these other nurses, these older and wiser woman of God, for the next two weeks.

If wifi allows I may pop another post up but otherwise peace out for the next two weeks!

Cheers and keep on wishin’!

Miriam

 

 

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