13 December 2017

Madaraka Express, an amazing way to travel between Mombasa and Nairobi!

Brand new terminus just outside Mombasa, at Miritini

This was my third time to take the train between Nairobi and Mombasa. The first trip in 2010 was with Ryan; it was supposed to take 12 hours, but took 20 hours. My second time, in 2015, was with Hannah; that trip took 29 long hours!

This trip, on a brand new track and with brand new equipment, only took 5.5 hours. We left the terminus at precisely the stated time. The entire ride was comfortable and smooth.

Boarding platform at the Mombasa terminus (technically at Miritini, just outside of Mombasa)

This new train, christened the Madaraka Express, was flagged off on 1 June 2017 by President Uhuru Kenyatta. The initial agreement was made in 2009 by then president Mwai Kibaki. Madaraka Day is celebrated on June 1st, in recognition of Kenya attaining self-rule in 1963. Madaraka is Swahili for 'freedom'.

The new track and infrastructure was built - and 90% funded - by a Chinese company (the same one developing many of Kenya's roads). The train engines, cars, and much of the construction materials were imported from China. A Chinese and an Australian company will operate and supervise the business for the next 10 years. At that time, it will be handed over to the government of Kenya.

The Madaraka Express and new cargo trains are the largest infrastructure project in Kenya since her independence.

I spent most of my time in the dining car, having a meal and enjoying the scenery. I also chatted with these two proud employees.

I met Teressa the night before at the Airbnb where I stayed in Mombassa. We spent much of the train trip together.

Part of the time, we paralleled the highway between Mombasa and Nairobi.

I  always love Baobab trees and Sisal plantations!

Once we alighted at the Nairobi terminus (in Syokimau), we simply walked from one platform to another and boarded the local commuter train. For 50 cents, we were conveniently taken to Railways station in Nairobi city center, a ride of 30 minutes. From there, I hopped on a bus to my home at Ngong town.

The next phase (already in progress) is a track from Nairobi to the border with Uganda, at Malaba. It will pass by Narok, Naivasha, and Kisumu.

From Malaba, cargo trains will soon travel on to Kampala, Uganda and Kigali, Rwanda. This will allow easier transportation of imports and exports, opening up these two land-locked countries.

Visiting folks in a remote village, Shimba Hills, and also the busy city of Mombasa

Maxwell (on the right), who doesn't like to be called Max, is getting so much bigger!

When I wasn't with Steve and Brenda during our time at the South Coast, I visited some friends of mine at the quiet and remote Shimba Hills. I also got to see Maxwell again, when I spent a couple of nights at Faraja Children's Home. One last stop was to see Masha in the noisy city of Mombasa.

Katunge's daughters-in-law use an umbrella to keep the hot sun off of them and the child

Katunge tried to reach all her relatives so they could say 'hi' to me (ever the novelty and foreigner)

Waiting for lunch

Katunge (Stella's friend and neighbor), Stella (Masudi's mom), and Modi (Masudi's nephew)

The two pictures above are Bixa, whose seeds are used as a food colorant and also to make lipstick. It's popularity is increasing with farmers in the Shimba Hills area. Katunge harvests it whenever she's able, to get a few extra coins for necessities. The nearby processing plant pays 40 cents for two pounds of the dried seeds. Worldwide, bixa produces 70% of all natural dyes.

After lunch, a few cups of chai, and some tangerines straight off the tree, we strolled over to say hi to another friend and neighbor

She was also overjoyed to see me again :)

On a different day, I had lunch with Masha in Mombasa, at Tudor Creek Marina

08 December 2017

Visit from Ripe for Harvest field directors: hiking at Karua Forest and fun at the South Coast

Steve and Brenda wanted to meet some of my ministry friends, 
so I gathered some that live in Nairobi for a hike at Karua Forest.

We had a fabulous time in the forest, including finding a GeoCache and throwing a Frisbee.

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They were also keen to see Kenya's famous white, sandy beaches at the South Coast. 

Christopher makes his living by doing sand sculptures. I was impressed with his work and enjoyed a nice chat with him. 
I often see polio victims begging in Kenya, so I was happy to give a donation to help support his family.

It was fabulous to have Steve and Brenda make the effort to visit me and learn more about my ministry in Kenya. 
In turn, I also learned about their work in India. We got along great and made a lot of wonderful memories together. 

This is one of many tuk-tuks we squeezed into for a lift while at the Coast.

07 December 2017

Visit from Ripe for Harvest field directors: Nairobi National Park, Sheldrick elephants, and Giraffe Center

This was the third time my missions agency has sent Field Directors to visit me and other Ripe for Harvest folks in the area, and I have enjoyed each one of the occasions.

Bright and early on the day after Steve and Brenda landed in Nairobi, we headed to Nairobi National Park for a morning game drive. It had been raining, but we didn't let that deter us.

To say we all gave it a huge 'thumbs-up' would be an understatement!

We saw many animals, like Impala, giraffe, zebra, ostrich, rhino, buffalo, various birds, etc. But the most thrilling part was seeing 15 lions!

First we watched four lioness eating a buffalo that had just been taken down a few hours prior to our arrival. We were so close to them that we could hear the flesh being ripped off the carcass. Later, three other lioness and seven cubs came along to also enjoy the feast. We were so enthralled at what we were viewing that we stayed at that one spot for a solid two hours!

To cap it all off, we later saw a male lion next to a different carcass.

Steve and Brenda getting some pictures

We had such a memorable time and praised God repeatedly for allowing us to see so many lions!

Next we headed to Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage and Giraffe Center, both of which are practically required for anyone visiting Kenya. I've been to both several times, but never tire of either place.

Steve was quite good at receiving wet, sloppy 'kisses' from the giraffe!

17 November 2017

My trip to Cape Town, South Africa: exploring this beautiful and fascinating city

Camps Bay

One of the first things I did at Cape Town, after hopping off a Red Tour Bus, was head to the ocean. Whoa... when I dipped my feet in the water, it was ice cold.... way too cold to go for a swim.

Another view of Camps Bay

A ride on the Cape Wheel, in an air conditioned cabin

While out exploring, I randomly met a gal who is a missionary in Uganda (but attending a different event than me). We hung out at the V&A Waterfront for the afternoon, enjoying the street music, looking at curio shops, having a bite to eat, and riding the Ferris wheel.

Another day, while strolling around on my own in the downtown area, I meandered into a shop that had just opened that day. I shared a table with three fascinating South Africans, while we each devoured a delicious salmon and creme cheese bagel. I took their recommendation and visited the Iziko Slave Lodge Museum just around the corner.

Not only was the museum quite fascinating, but I also noticed the statue outside of Jan Christian Smuts (1870-1950). For most of his life, he was in favor of racial segregation, but in the final years of his life, he changed his mind. Perhaps his friendship with Gandhi eventually swayed his views on the subject.

I was quite fascinated by the style of architecture. Much of it falls in the category known as Cape Dutch, which became prominent in the 17th century, when Dutch settlers immigrated to the area.

One afternoon, Tina and I decided to go for a walk along the beach at Simon's Town. Little did we know that a sudden rain storm was about to descend on us! Ha... and neither one of us had an umbrella! Fortunately I managed to get this shot of the colorful beach houses before the deluge.

While we enjoyed a walking tour of significant historical locations during the era of Apartheid, I noticed this quite talented street performer portraying Nelson Mandela. It seems appropriate to quote him here:

We understand it still that there is no easy road to freedom. 
We know it well that none of us acting alone can achieve success. 
We must therefore act together as a united people, for national reconciliation, 
for nation building, for the birth of a new world.
Let there be justice for all. Let there be peace for all. 
Let there be work, bread, water, and salt for all. 
Never, never, and never again shall it be that this beautiful land 
will experience the oppression of one by another
Let freedom reign.
~ Nelson Mandela, (1918- 2013) 
excerpt from inauguration speech as South Africa's president, May 10, 1994

Sunset at Hout Bay

I had an absolutely wonderful time in Cape Town and thank the Lord for how it all came together quite unexpectedly. Such trips are one of the ways I practice self-care, in an effort to maintain good health and longevity on the missions field.

Good self-care is a lifestyle of regular, ongoing, non-crisis activities
that promote good spiritual, emotional, and physical health. 

What feeds your soul?
Reading, running, painting, playing a musical instrument, 
watching a comedy, a week at the beach? 

Whatever feeds your soul, brings you rest, refuels you for the journey,
those things constitute good self-care for you.

~ Kay Bruner

15 November 2017

My trip to Cape Town, South Africa: a lovely stroll at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden

Bringing Condolences
"The loss of your child brings much sadness."
by Norbert Shamyarira (born 1962, Zimbabwe)

I thoroughly enjoyed the Sculpture Garden at Kirstenbosch. This particular statue gripped me, as I paused, transfixed by it. Doing a bit of research, I discovered the sculptor has had a very difficult life and understands the blessing of someone offering condolences.

The Prayer
"Ishe wangu ndino kutendai ne mhuri yamakandipa."
Translation: My Lord, I thank you for the family you gave me.
by Gideon Nyanhongo (born 1967, Zimbabwe)

African Linden (Sparrmannia africana)
The species is known for their haptonasty, rapid movements made by the stamens when they are touched.
This adaptation helps in more effective pollination.

Gordon's Bay Pincushion
The Gordon's Bay pincushion is quite unusual for a pincushion with flowers that are a creamy white,
when they are normally a striking orange or yellow, and fragrant where they normally are not.

Pincushion Protea

The 90-acre Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden lives up to its reputation as the most beautiful garden in Africa and one of the great botanic gardens of the world. Few gardens can match the sheer grandeur of the setting against the eastern slopes of Cape Town’s Table Mountain. The garden was established in 1913 to promote, conserve, and display the extraordinarily rich and diverse flora of southern Africa, and was the first botanic garden in the world to be devoted to a country's indigenous flora. 

I spent a solid three hours strolling around this beautiful spot (plus an hour for lunch at Moyo Restaurant). If you happen to find yourself here some fine day, be sure to have a cup of Famous Hot Chocolate at the Kirstenbosch Tea Room! 

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.”

John Muir (1838-1914)
Scottish-American naturalist, author, environmental philosopher,
and early advocate for the preservation of wilderness in the United States