Monday, May 31, 2010

Birds of East Africa

In my family, knowing the names of flowers is expected. I know my Alaskan flowers well - columbine, forget-me-not, fireweed. But in Kenya, there are too many flowers to know, so I've settled for learning the names of the birds on my porch. One of my favorite things to do, when I have a free moment, is to sit on the porch and watch the birds come to the bird feeders, which Will made out of flower pots. We get a variety of birds with unusual colors and names. East Africa is a bird-watcher's paradise. There are more species of birds in Nairobi National Park (a small game park next to the airport) than all of the United Kingdom, so our little porch offers a great variety as well. Some of our favorites include...

black and white mannikins,


baglafecht weavers,

and our newest and coolest visitor, the pin-tailed whydah.
The whydah is very obnoxious and won't let anyone but his wife eat at the feeders when he's around. He provides us with a few laughs as he fights off all the other birds, even ones bigger than him.

As you can see, our lives are pretty chill around here when bird watching is part of our daily entertainment. Yes, my nerdiness has been confirmed - I look up each bird's name and mark it in my "Birds of East Africa" book. Even my "cool" husband is looking up birds now. I'm telling you, it's very neat when so many different birds stand within two yards of you each day.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Family Outing

"Baby, it's our first family outing."
That's what Will said to me as we drove down the road with ten Kenyan kids in an eight passenger SUV... five girls squeezed in the back, four more girls squeezed in the middle seats, one on my lap, and Will driving over pot-holes. Will and I had our first "family outing" with kids from Limuru Children's Center, where Will does a lot of work. We took twenty of his forty kids at the center to Joe and Linda's house. Linda is on the board for the children's center, and they were wonderful hosts. The kids had a blast playing in the pool as it rained and eating bar-b-qued sausages, cake, and ice-cream. After a few hours of playing in the pool, shivering in the rain, and filling bellies with rare treats, all ten kids in our car fell asleep for the 25 minute drive home. It was a fun-filled day for the kids and a great "first family outing" for us.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Muzungus on Safari

Muzungu means "white person" in Swahili. And all white people in Kenya MUST go on safari. So two months ago, when my family came to Kenya for our wedding, we went on a great African safari. Being that I LOVE safari, it was a great excuse to go see Africa's best and most beautiful parts. I chose to take my special guests to Amboseli National Park on the border of Tanzania. With Mt. Kilimanjaro looming over us, it was a picturesque place to see a good bit of Africa in a short period of time. The best part of the trip for me was how impressed everyone was with their experience. I think they thought they would be "roughing it", but Kenya does safari well!
We woke up at 6am to catch a ride in our land cruiser (thank you Will for the upgrade!) and headed on the four hour drive to the park. Along the way we saw zebras on the side of the road and Masai herding their cattle.
In the park, which is known for its vast elephant population, we saw a variety of animals. No big cats this time, but a lot of elephants, gazelle, zebra, giraffe, buffalo, hippo, and more.
We stayed at a tented camp, whose name is very deceiving. A pool, luxury bathroom with bidet, and multi-course meals were all part of the package. As Molly kept repeating again and again, "This is AMAZING!"
After two days of seeing Africa's interesting animals and landscape, we headed back home. On the way back, we learned that they had closed the road we used to get to the park. It just didn't exist anymore! So we ended up with a bumpy ride home on a typical Kenyan road, rather than the short-cut to the nice highway. Bethany's response after a couple hours of jostling was, "If anyone ever complains to me about bad roads, I'll say come to Kenya." Despite the bumps, we made it home safely and everyone was still in one piece.

Remember family and friends, there is always an open invitation to Kenya! I can't promise a smooth ride, but I can promise a unique experience.

Zanzibar, Tanzania

I'm backtracking a bit to show you the sites of our "mini-honeymoon" in March. We spent four days in Zanzibar on the most beautiful beach I've ever seen in my life. Beats Hawaii and Thailand by a landslide!
We went into Stonetown, a famous port of Zanzibar, where the slave trade once thrived. The church below is built over the slave auction block. We stood on the pulpit, where slaves once stood in chains to be sold. It was a very somber place to be.
I love Zanzibar architecture. They're very famous for their intricate wooden doors, like the one this lady is standing in front of. (Notice the bike helmet she's wearing - gotta love it!)
A dhow at sunset.
More Zanzibar architecture in Stonetown...
We meandered through the maze of narrow streets,
And spent time on the white sand beach.
I highly recommend Zanzibar for a vacation spot. It was a great mini-honeymoon in Africa. Now I'm looking forward to the real honeymoon in Europe this summer. More architecture and historical pictures to come...

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Saturday Night...

Tonight Will and I sit on the back porch googling for our upcoming European honeymoon and checking Facebook. It's dark outside. The neighborhood dog gang is howling and causing a commotion. And the termites are out!

At night, especially when it rains, flying termites are attracted to the lights of our house. They squeeze through the cracks in the windows and doors to get into the house, fly in our faces, drop their wings all over the floor, and squirm with their little bodies at our feet. Tonight we're being attacked by them as we sit outside because of the one lone light the illuminates our porch. As they flop around our keyboards and in our faces, Will grabs one and says some choice words, threatening to rip the insect's wings off.

Our annoyance is actually a delicacy in Kenya. Big fat fried termites are eaten with pleasure by Kenyans. I've never tried it, but I think I'm OK with not experiencing that part of Kenya.