Sunday, May 26, 2013

Exciting week for Matthew and Ruby's quest

Mr Matthew had a busy, busy week.

On Monday he gave a presentation to his class on America. Was he nervous? No way, he couldn't wait for the appointed time. Last weekend could not go quickly enough for him since he wanted to show his class all he knew of the USA. Mommy and Daddy were able to watch him show his presentation skills. I wonder if in 2nd grade they move onto to Powerpoint!?!

The first part is some clips from his practice run - then the real deal...

Next day was the school's spring time concert. Matthew was in the front and center singing and dancing...

This weekend has been filled with birthday parties for Matthew's buddies, so when Ruby came into the bedroom at 6:30a holding her Highlights magazine and pointing to a recipe/picture of apple with oatmeal and declaring that's what she wants for breakfast -- how could I resist???  Problem is no apples in the house and no car to get them -- only solution was for a morning walk to Nakumatt.  So we rounded up a groggy Matthew and charged out for some morning exercise.  2 hours later the troops were happy!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Going Home

The second half of our Mother/Daughter adventure brought us to New Jersey and New York.  Amazing how a 3.5 hour flight from Minneapolis to Newark can feel like a trip to the grocery store!

Cousins Reunited
Going home after 8 months of acculturating elsewhere is a mixed bag. It was surreal being home with a life in play on another continent. Life must've been simpler when people had to spend a month on a boat, taking in the physical journey to get there with time for your psyche to make the journey, too.

Even as I was walking around a bit like a ghost, Ruby grounded me. Having a fellow sojourner cross into the other dimension with me helped. Then, of course, were the people we love. Seeing everyone was like reclaiming parts of myself that have been in hibernation since August. I think it was the same for Ruby. I've never seen her so talkative and open with her friends.

Best Buds Reunited

What a reminder of how much we need people - how different we are when we are in community.

Now back in Nairobi, Ruby asked someone to play on the playground yesterday at school. And she made some children laugh while they jumped together on the trampoline (or so she tells me).  A big step for her, as she's been quite shy since coming here.  I suspect it has a lot to do with the many loving children who greeted her with open arms and warmth when we were home. I think she remembers other parts of herself, too, and feels a little more confident as a result of all of those hugs.  

Unexpected ballet class with neighbors
First Sleepover with a soul sister!
Nothing like good friends to lift you up

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Dubai, why?

for a father/son weekend, that's why!  Water parks, indoor skiing, camel rides - perfect!  Momma and daughter are in the states so the boys needed to do something exciting!

Matthew was the perfect travel mate. He didn’t seem to mind one bit that there was no rest for the weary– we packed a ton of things in and he came back wanting more!

After a stopover to change plans in Addis Ababa we arrived in Dubai at 3am – by the time we got through passport control, found a taxi and got to the hotel it was 4am. Right to sleep we went since Saturday was going to be packed. 

Saturday morning we bounced out of bed and headed straight for the Aquaventure water park near the Atlantis hotel. The whole complex (hotel, water park, residences, etc) are built on man-made islands out in the Persian Gulf. Right away we jumped on as many cooling water rides as possible. It was great fun floating down a lazy river, riding inner tubes on some rapids, and even sliding down some slides in the children’s play area. Matthew even let me do the “Leap of Faith” water slide (water jump is probably a more apropos name!).
aquarium at the water park
Burj Khalifa - tallest building in the world
We didn’t stay at the park the whole day though – it was time to see the city. We got a cab and went to the downtown area.
Matthew liked the 'twisty' building

Matthew was very hungry at this souk
On the way Matthew took a power nap in the taxi which would be a key move for later in the night.

old fort
After walking through some souks (markets) and a quick bite to eat on the waterfront we ventured on a dhow (boat) to the other side and more souks (textile, gold, spice, and food).  

view from dinner

dinner on the 'creek'

food market

As an aside, while walking to the gold and spice markets we noticed all these ships and docks leaden down with many different types of goods (tires, refrigerators, steel, etc). I couldn't help but ask someone where the stuff was going - since most shipments by sea these days is via containers. The stevedores confirmed it was all headed for Iran.  Hmmm - I thought there was trade embargo...  But it was neat to see a non-glitzy, real world side of Dubai.

smuggled goods?


By this time it was already 8:30pm or so. Instead of a boring taxi ride back to the hotel we decided to try the metro. It was very efficient, clean, and organized.
no fish in the metro!

he looked tired to me on the Metro - but no!

On the way back to the hotel I mentioned we should look out the window for the tallest building in the world. Burj Khalifa. But that wasn’t good enough for Mr Matthew – he wanted to see it up close. I said aren’t you tired – NO was the adamant reply. So off we got and ventured to it. We had a great time seeing it in all its height. They have a magnificent water show at the base too.
Next to the building is also the Dubai Mall (suppossedly the biggest mall in the world) - probably the most interesting thing was seeing the Dubai menfolk - many of them were dressed in the traditional Arab garb of long flowing white robes with headdresses.  They looked so elegant.
By midnight we were back at the hotel - phew!
Sunday was our ski day.

venturing across the desert to go skiing
Skiing was great fun.  2 hours was just right. They supplied us with everything, boots, skis, parkas - we just had to bring the gloves and hats.  I got some good turns in, by the time 2 hours was up Matthew was flying down the hill.  Daddy was proud.
tech details on how the snow is made
In the afternoon we went on a desert safari.  Matthew had a ball playing in the dunes.  I did a little sandboarding and we rode camels.  The real thrill was a 4X4 drive over the dunes - a couple times we were certain we were going to flip.  Afterwards there was dinner in the desert.
yup, I did that!
Monday morning we needed to hit one more water park before our flight home.  Matthew was super proud of his ride on the Jumeirah Sceirah. It was 11 stories high. They put you into a tube, lock it up, and then the floor drops out! 
It was also interesting to point out that since we were in an Islamic country there were many signs pointing out the need for decorum. No PDA (public displays of affection), etc.  But at the waterparks women still wore bikinis - but not the Arab women - they have something just for them - the veilkini, no kidding...
On our flight home I got a thrill - we were lucky enough to be on the brand new Dreamliner.  Last week it was just put back into service - I'm pretty sure the one we were on is the only one flying right now. It's a gorgeous aircraft.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

onward to Lake Magadi

Matthew and I had a great time exploring the area south of Nairobi today.  We signed up for a trip through a NGO that does work helping pastoralists: PACEF

We met at a mall at the edge of Nairobi and joined up with the group.  The bus was just like the ones Matthew takes to school so he was excited.  Even his computer teacher was on the trip - a nice coincidence.

Went through a couple busy towns and then made our way over the crest of the Ngong Hills - the view going down the southern side was gorgeous.  Due to the rains everything was green savannah doted with acacia trees.

First stop was an archaeology site.  Nothing too interesting there - a couple of ancient hand tools, some skulls and the such. We only stayed about 30 minutes but it was nice to stretch our legs.

We then made our way to a Maasai village (manyatta).  Peter, our host for the trip, has good connections in the community so it did not appear at all this was a commercial visit.  It was nice actually to just hang around the village for 40 minutes or so.  They genuinely seemed as interested in us as we were of them. The chief spoke in the Maasai language with his son translating and the beautifully adorned women sang some songs. 
They also offered us roast goat.  Matthew had to retreat to the bus after about 30 minutes since the flies were intense.  All us mzungu were also bothered by them but the Maasai pay them no mind.  I asked Matthew this evening what he thought of being in the village and what if he were a Maasai. I thought he would have said he didn't like the flies but he mentioned that his teacher read him a book about living as a Maasai and they drink cow blood. That seems to be the reason! I said well they probably think the spaghetti you are eating for dinner is pretty gross too! He just smiled and seemed thankful to be who he is.

Next we ventured through the countryside to Lake Magadi.  In the stark landscape the length and breadth of the lake really stood out. 

When first arriving at the lake you go through a factory town (processes soda ash, raw material for use in making glass, water softener and even pretzels! ) that is very bleak and stark -- all concrete. But what was interesting is all the Maasai who either work there or visit.  The vast majority of them are in their traditional attire so that made the visit unique - there was nothing touristy about it - just a work-a-day town.

We had some lunch and then made our way out of town south along the lake - again watching many Maasai either walking, herding or just waving hello. 
Eventually we got to the lakeshore and the bus rode off-road along the lake (and through at some points!) to the hot springs.  We enjoyed about 30 to 40 minutes at the springs.  Man was the water hot - it felt like taking a bath in boiling tea water. 
Oddly enough it was slightly more bearable to put your whole body in rather than just the feet.  I suspect the water has some healing qualities as the bus driver and other Kenyas took as much as they could into water containers.

On our way back and forth from the lake - we were also graced with zebras running along the bus, wildebeests grazing and looking at us inquisitively, views of Kilimanjaro, hundreds of deep pink colored flamingos
 and the biggest bird in flight I ever saw. Seems it was a kori bustard (nine foot wingspan!) - it was like seeing a flying dinosaur.

It was a long drive back to Nairobi but at least we weren't driving! The night sky was alive with tons of stars and a bright Milky Way.  Seems everyone in the group had a good time and it was nice to do the tour through the NGO and not have the profits go to some random tour company.