Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Few of My Favorite Things...

It's hard to believe but I am back home again, after three weeks of travel, each day marked by something new and special and wonderful...perfect weather (needed the umbrella only once, for about an hour, in Amsterdam); memorable people; fantastic food; glorious places; and a storehouse of memories to sort through in the days and weeks and months to come.

When I inserted the memory card (lovely name, isn't it?) from the camera into my computer and began downloading photos, I discovered that I had 731 pictures. Of course, some I had already erased as redundant or woefully out-of-focus, and some I will erase as I go through them yet again, but right now I have 731 reminders of the adventures of the past three weeks...memory triggers all, to keep ever mindful the sounds and sights and smells and feel of the places we visited, of the people we met, of the celebration of life which was this journey.

While I promise I will not burden you, the reader, with all 731, today...this afternoon...Wednesday, May 29th...I am including just a few of my favorite photos, to give you some small notion of the paths I've walked, the experiences with which the past twenty-one days of my life have been filled. And no matter where I am, the adventure continues... 

In flight...to Rwanda

Artists, Innocent & Emmanuel- and me, of course
 
My Rwandan "grandson", Emmanuel

Friend, Simon, in Kigali
 
The "Mushroom" grandmothers
One of the Nyanyas

 
The Inema Arts Center, Kigali
  
At the Nyanya Preschool Center

The Mount Kenya welcoming committee

Glorious flowers everywhere
 
2-year-old Joel at the Wildebeest
Lioness at the Nairobi National Park
 
Yum! Dutch chocolates

An Amsterdam houseboat
 
Bicycles everywhere in Amsterdam



Sunday, May 26, 2013

Mis-Adventures while Adventuring...

Some famous person once said, "Humans plan; God laughs." Well, the Holy One has surely been rolling in the aisles at our very human travel misadventures. They all began on our third day out when we arrived at the airport in Nairobi in what we thought was plenty of time for our flight to Kigali, only to be told at the sign-in counter that we were late for our flight; it had already departed. After I got over the initial shock, I waved my email confirmation in front of the clerk, a confirmation which clearly stated that we were confirmed for a flight leaving Nairobi at 12:45p.m. that day- only there was no flight at that time and the flight number indicated on my email was the one which had just departed for Kigali- with us clearly NOT aboard. 

Time was then spent at the Kenya Airways ticket counter, attempting to explain our predicament to a trying-to-be-helpful Kenyan clerk for whom English was clearly his second language. Finally, understanding was reached and he was able to put us on another flight, this one departing at 3p.m. By this time, it was about ten a.m., so we were faced with a five-hour airport wait...believe me, they were well-acquainted with us at the Java Hut by the time our flight boarded. Okay...misadventure Number One...no big deal, really, since I was able to phone and email to let our guest house accommodations as well as our friend, Simon, know that we would be arriving late.

Misadventure Two: After a wonderful time in Kigali and a return to Nairobi, we had arranged- via Facebook messages- to meet a friend at his lovely shop and then go to lunch. Problem was, he sent us the name Westgate for the shopping plaza and when we arrived there, it became quickly obvious that it was the wrong place. After making inquiries, we finally learned from a delightful young woman, hostess at the restaurant where we finally decided to eat, that the shopping area we wanted was called Village Market. Yes, it was indeed in the Westland area of the city but was not called Westgate. And I had neither the phone number of our taxi driver nor the one of our friend...so we enjoyed a delectable late lunch at a Tapas restaurant at Westgate, and returned to the Wildebeest without seeing our friend.

Misadventure Three: On the day we were leaving Kenya, with bags packed, bill paid, and all in readiness for travel, I happened to check my emails one last time and was confronted by a communication from KLM, stating- with sincerest apologies- that, due to overbooking (they called it "overselling") ", we had been placed on a Kenya Airways flight to Paris, where we would then catch a flight via Air France to Amsterdam. I won't go into detail here, as I have already devoted another blog post to this but it certainly added to the stress of the intercontinental travel.

Now you might think- along with us- that the third time was the charm and all should be smooth sailing from that time forward...but,no. It was not to be. 
When we reached Amsterdam and went to retrieve our luggage at baggage carousel 11, we watched and waited and waited and watched, but no luggage. Finally the electronic sign over the carousel informed us that ALL luggage from our Site France flight has been unloaded and our gray bags were clearly NOT here. So it was off to the KLM service counter where, after a short wait, a pleasant and helpful airlines employee did some checking and assured us that our itinerant luggage would arrive on the next flight from Paris and we would be able to retrieve it at carousel 9- in about 35minutes. And sure enough, even as we waited with bated breath for its appearance, there it was on the slowly-moving belt and we lifted it off with complete relief, headed for the buses, and reached our B&B only for hours later than we were scheduled. Again, email had enabled me to communicate the unexpected changes to our host. So ended Misadventure Four.

And then came last evening. Enter Misadventure Five. After a busy day of walking and sightseeing and picture-taking, we had returned to our B&B to change for dinner and the evening concert at the Concertgibou. Dinner at the Cafe American was wonderful- both relaxing and delicious- and we set off to walk to the concert hall in high spirits. Reaching the impressive structure, we went to the box office to retrieve our tickets, armed once again with the email printout of our ticket confirmation. It felt like deja vu all over again when the young woman at the window, after typing the confirmation number into her computer, said sweetly, "But your tickets are for Monday evening." Ever see the eyes of a deer caught in the headlights? I'm sure that would have accurately described my look as I heard those words- but she was absolutely right. There in front of me, hidden in the forest of computer printout jargon was the date 27 May 2013- and I had totally missed it. Apparently the concert was fully booked for Saturday and so the online box office booked us for Monday- and somehow I totally missed it. 

So, we got our tickets for Monday evening and they are safely tucked into my purse. And we walked back to our B&B, window shopping and laughing all the way. It just struck us as so funny that we simply could not stop laughing, this string of misadventures which has marked our lovely trip. And as we reflected on them, we realized how inconsequential they really were. Each time, each one, worked out. Nothing dreadful happened; and we've learned a great deal about the serenity- and laughter- which can result from accepting that which we cannot change...from letting go of the need to control...from simply being IN the moment as it presents itself and being grateful for what is- each and every day, no matter what. 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Walking Amsterdam...

What an absolutely great city for those of us who like to walk! Leaving our B&B at 8:30 this morning, we finally stopped for lunch at 1:00p.m., after walking around the Jordaan area, visiting an incredible outdoor market, seeing lovely canal houses and houseboats, and being surprised and delighted by several courtyard gardens in the center of apartment complexes composed of houses built in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The Dutch, you see, are a thrifty people, valuing the preservation of buildings whose only "fault" is being old. They remodel and update the interiors, while retaining the character and integrity of the original structure, resulting in extremely livable habitations which have a character all their own. Lovely, truly lovely. 

Today was absolutely gorgeous, in spite of the fact the it began with a temperature of 37 degrees- that's Fahrenheit, not Celsius, understand. The first hour or so of our walk made me glad for scarf and gloves, but by mid-morning, people were beginning to frequent the outdoor tables at corner cafes (they are on virtually every other corner) and by noon, it appeared that half of Amsterdam was biking, walking, shopping, or coffee-ing somewhere outdoors. 

This is definitely a city where people like and embrace being outside. And why shouldn't they? Totally bike-friendly, there is a bike lane next to every sidewalk; public transport is readily available and very dependable and includes both buses and trams; many of the streets are tree-lined; there are small parks and playgrounds in abundance; and virtually every available square foot of dirt is planted with some sort of greenery and flowers. No wonder the residents are so friendly and hospitable. Their spirits are being fed by the beautiful surroundings and the fresh air- and all the exercise!

Oh, and did I mention the food? Never have I seen- or eaten- such bread! Bakeries abound, as do cheese shops. At the outdoor market, I saw varieties of
mushrooms I have never seen before; cheeses in quantities unheard of in American markets; beautifully fresh produce; and, again, the bread! And muffins. And pastries. And...is your mouth watering yet? Mine surely was and it was hard to restrain myself from buying vast quantities...which would pose a real problem when traveling. By the time we finally did eat, we were hungry... really, truly hungry, since breakfast calories had long since been burned away. 

And what a delicious lunch at a lovely little Italian place which had been recommended by our host. We shared a foccacio which, unlike the ones usually served at home, was a delectable, thin crust topped by fresh Mozzarella, tomatoes (also fresh), and pesto, with a drizzling of olive oil. The sharing left sufficient room for a shared dessert: the best tiramisu I have ever tasted, hands down. Ever. Tasted. Anywhere. Ever. 

it's three-thirty and with an evening concert at the Concertgebouw ahead, I'm stretched out on the bed, resting, simply reveling in the ambiance of this city and its people and being thankfully delighted that I am here. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Last Dance...

Our last night in Kenya, in East Africa...and it has been an amazing trip, filled with unforgettable people who I will carry with me in mind and heart and spirit. For that is what travel is really all about for me...the encounters I have, the people who enter my journey and walk awhile with me...the faces, the smiles, the hugs, the incredible variety of the human family I have been privileged to meet and hold close, if only for a short time. 

The time in Rwanda was amazing...meeting the grandmothers; spending an afternoon with Emmanuel's family; connecting again with our friend, Simon; seeing the coming-to-life dream of artist brothers, Innocent and Emmanuel; being cared for so lovingly by the staff at Heaven Guesthouse; meeting and getting to know Kassim, our on-the-scene man with the Nyanya Project; visiting the new business of Florence, an intelligent and ambitious young woman, part of our Rwandan family. Every contact memorable...every connection meaningful, enriching my life in countless ways...making my life more and richer and fuller.

In Kenya, the golden thread of connection remained unbroken as we traveled to Mt. Kenya to see the grandmothers there; as we renewed friendship with Julius; as we visited the Nyanya Pre-school, meeting the children and seeing Elizabeth, the teacher, and the Kibera grandmothers again; as we spent time with our hosts at the Wildebeest and played with their two little boys; as we are dinner and talked each evening with an ever-changing cast of characters, as guests from many countries came and went, people of all ages, enriching our meals, our evenings, our lives.

Tomorrow we leave...and though it is to head toward another adventure in Amsterdam, I will be leaving a piece of my heart behind, forever connected to these people who have become so dear, who will continue to hold that golden thread to my life, my heart, my memory, no matter what life holds for any of us in the tomorrows to come.
                                     THESE ARE FACES OF AFRICA







Monday, May 20, 2013

What a Difference Ten Days Make...

Ten days ago, journaling on my first day here in Africa, I was asking myself what I was doing here...and was really uncertain of the answer. Now those days have passed, and I have achieved, if not clarity, a certain acceptance of what has happened and continues to happen in these countries so far from home.

Africa in my heart...
What a difference ten days make...
Ten days and countless encounters with
      so many wonderful people...
Rwanda and Mount Kenya and fresh air and good food
      and welcome and joy and kindness...
Breathing...just breathing...
heart filled to overflowing with a myriad of emotions,
      their varied palette as multicolored as the Kenyan evening sky...
            the rich red of joy, the serene blue of hope, 
            the vibrant green of courage and determination,
            the quiet lavender of peace
I have seen colobus monkeys and warthogs,
paintings and lushly-blooming trees,
exotically-shaded birds and every shade of human skin...
      the world around me alive with color...
I sit here on our tent's front porch,
gazing at the lily pond, 
listening to the frog chorus,
      voices high and low and in between,
filling the dusk with their own peculiar music of the spheres.
My heart is at peace...
this world and I are ONE...
I will carry East Africa in my heart once again.


Home away from home in Kenya



Half the Sky...or More

Several years ago, a prominent writing couple, Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, wrote a book entitled Half the Sky, in which they made the statement that women hold up half the sky, meaning that, in spite of having less power in most countries, in spite of the gender bias and misogyny which exists in so many places, in spite of unequal pay for equal work, in spite of often-incredible violence against them, women are consistently the ones who keep things going...the ones who are responsible for family survival...the ones who make it possible for life to go on.

Yesterday, I was privileged to meet with twelve women who are indeed holding up their share of the sky...women who, in their fifties and sixties and seventies, are determinedly working hard and creating a community of support in which they are being able to care for their AIDS-orphaned grandchildren with wisdom and courage and strength. The Ebenezer Nyanya grandmothers of Mount Kenya are phenomenal women and the way in which they have organized themselves- with some help and guidance from the Nyanya Project- is awe-inspiring.

I was first privileged to meet these grandmothers in 2011, on my previous trip to Kenya. The encounter left a lasting impression on me and it was with great joy that I joined Nyanya's founder, Mary Martin, her young intern, Blyth, and my friend, Mae, for the trip to Mt. Kenya for the day. 

Words simply cannot convey the exchange of joy which took place upon our arrival, with hugs and joy-filled smiles and excited cries of welcome filling the air. And then sitting down with them to hear about what has been happening in their lives, to see how well they looked and to hear about how their grandchildren are doing- and actually seeing many of them for ourselves... again, no words. These women take my breath away by the way in which they take hold of life and live every bit of it, neither complaining nor feeling sorry for themselves and the hard lot life has dealt them, but rather striving to make life better for their grandchildren. They are incredibly beautiful women and my heart is filled with admiration and love for them. Half the sky? Sometimes I think they're holding the whole thing.


Saturday, May 18, 2013

High and Dry...

I think I am suffering from altitude sickness...having gone from High Point's elevation of one thousand feet to Nairobi's 5400+, with a hiatus at Kigali's 5000+. It's one of the things travelers are seldom warned about- unless they are planning to mountain climb! But I find the lack of oxygen makes me feel very tired and late afternoon naps have become the order of the day for me.
The rainy season seems to have stopped...not a drop since we arrived, after an extremely wet March and April. Temperatures hover in the upper seventies during the day, but begin to cool quickly as the sun drops low in the western sky, around 4:30 or 5p.m. And because we are so near to the equator, there are almost exactly twelve hours of daylight, with darkness setting in around 6:30p.m. 

Of course, we have also not been eating a great deal...just not particularly hungry, in spite of lots of time outdoors and a fair amount of walking. Bedtime has been early...no later than nine-thirty most nights...and rise-and-shine hasn't been earlier than seven-thirty, which is really "sleeping in" for me. My body's biological clock is adjusting pretty well, I think, but I don't feel like the "No Jet-Lag Diet" worked as well for me this trip.

And, of course, there is one additional factor which is coming into play- though I tend to think of this last and least. I am two years older than I was last trip...and though in my head there seems to be no difference, I know that there is in my body, particularly when it comes stamina.

I've been reading Thich Nhat Hahn's book, Fear, in which he states that one of our greatest fears is aging, accompanied by becoming ill and, of course, death. We all too often fool ourselves into believing these things will never happen to us...but the reality is, they will happen to everyone. The key, he believes, is to not let the fear overwhelm us...to befriend these truths and accept them as part of the natural cycle of life...and to continue to live as fully and courageously and joyfully as possible.

At seventy-one, I am facing and noticing many changes, in mind, body, and spirit. I hope and pray that I will accept and embrace them as "teachers" along the way, continuing to learn and grow and become, even as parts of life become smaller. And I am deeply blessed to have so many of you to accompany me along the way. Thanks be to God.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Wild Ride...

I have to tell you that driving in Nairobi is like nothing I have ever seen anywhere else. No, I am emphatically NOT doing the driving for, as our cabby today put it so well, "Driving here, it would keel you!" And that is no overstatement, believe me. Not only is the traffic heavy at seemingly every part of the day, not only are the noxious diesel fumes enough to make the eyes water continuously, not only is there perpetual road construction everywhere, but there seem to be no traffic rules at all. Especially hair-raising are the traffic circles, or roundabouts, where traffic enters from several different directions at once, with drivers apparently "playing chicken" to see who enters, who gets the right-of-way, and who can slip most successfully through the smallest spaces. 

Can't tell you how many times I was convinced today that we would hear the crunch of metal or the scream of tires or the blare of horns- but didn't. Instead, our intrepid driver, Edwin, calmly, coolly, and collectedly got us through places
where I would have sworn no vehicle could fit, weaving through traffic which threatened to set my hair on end. At one point, when I could draw breath, I asked Edwin if there were many traffic accidents. "Oh, no," he responded, "and we have no rules...just go. Nobody minds." and he smiled broadly, totally at ease. 

Thankfully, today's visit to the Nairobi National Museum was lovely...
informative, slow-paced, and enjoyable, capped by a nice lunch at the museum cafe, so heart rates had a chance to settle back to normal before the return trip. And as an experienced cabby, Edwin knew the best routes home avoid some of the traffic...getting us back to the Wildebeest safe and sound. But travel by road here in Nairobi is a challenging experience for sure and we'll be doing more of it in coming days, so send lots of good thoughts and prayers for our safe travel- even as we trust in the uncanny ability of our drivers to seemingly go "where no one has ever gone before". 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Seeing IS SEEING!

Haven't told you about one of my favorite places in Kigali, though there is no way I can adequately describe the Inema Arts Center. It needs to be seen for anyone to fully appreciate the experience...and experience it truly is, from the colorful mural on the front gate to the sculptures scattered throughout the grounds to the amazing diversity of the paintings displayed on the gallery walls, all created by the ten young artists who share the studio space.

The "brainchild" and dream fulfillment of two uniquely-wonderful, self-taught artists- who also happen to be brothers- Inema is dedicated to reaching people through the arts, whether it is the young people in their dancing troupe or the women who come to learn fabric crafts using the center's sewing machines or the countless European and American travelers who come to see- and perhaps (the artists fervently hope), to buy. 

We spent several joy-filled hours touring the center, meeting the artists, and hearing the updates of the work Emmanuel and Innocent have been doing in United States. Both have traveled there several times, to tell about their work in Rwanda, to display their art, and to lead workshops on using art to reach all kinds of people. Then we enjoyed a lovely dinner together last evening, joined by Tutu, another one of the artists. It really does my heart good to be treated as a valued friend by guys almost young enough to be my grandchildren, reminding me that friendship knows- or should know- no boundaries. Can you picture it? Three handsome, young African men sharing a table,a meal, an evening with two aging, white-haired, undeniably-white American women. Glorious doesn't even begin to describe it. And to top the evening off, this evening of the holiest of communions, these dear guys offered to take us to the airport so that we all might have a little more time together "to hang out," in Emmanuel's words.

And so, this morning found us in their nice little car, heading to Kigali Airport, where we shared coffee and conversation until it was time for us to check in.
Keeping in touch is not optional; it simply will be. More of those connections I have come to value so highly, accompanied by the ever-increasing realization that we ARE the same...and that this is what makes life worth living. Once again today, I am truly and fully blessed. Thanks be to God.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

All Over the Place...

It has been one of those days...emotions nearly run amok, running the gamut from morning to evening in a day filled to overflowing with sights and experiences, with death and life, with people and places unlike anything at home.

The morning began with a lovely walk up to our favorite coffee shop, Bourbon Street, combining exercise with conversation and people-watching and a really good latte. Then it was off to the Ntarama Genoside Memorial, a small brick church well outside Kigali where several thousand Tutsis were slaughtered by Hutus, many of them their neighbors. They had fled to the church for safe haven but were hunted down and killed by their fellow countrymen wielding machetes, clubs, knives, and heavy steel balls which could easily crush skulls. Soldiers came with grenade launchers, blowing holes in the walls so the killers could get in. Among those killed were many children, taken to their Sunday school room be slain.

How can I begin to describe feelings which flooded my heart and mind upon seeing not only skulls and others bones but the clothing of the slaughtered, torn and blood-stained? To see some of the weapons of massive destruction? To hear our guide explain that the huge stain on wall of the Sunday school room had been made by the bashing of the heads of the children against that wall?
Unspeakable...and yet only by speaking about it can the Rwandan people get through the horror and be certain they will never let such a thing happen again.

Sitting quietly...taking quietly with our good friend, Simon, himself a genocide survivor...realizing how difficult such a place is for him to visit, even as tears slid down my cheeks, as my heart broke with the harsh reality of human inhumanity. Never again...that's the mantra...never again.

And then we were in a village where another friend, Florence, a young woman of only about twenty years, has begun a business, a small restaurant which seems to be doing a thriving business after only three months in operation. She was so proud to show us her place, to give us lunch, and to present us with thank-you gifts since some the money she used to get started came from us and our friends. It was a joy to see her obvious pride and happiness, even as I found part of my heart still back at the memorial.

After a bit of packing and just putting our feet up for a bit, it was evening and time meet our young artist-friends from the Inema Arts Center for dinner here at Heaven Restaurant. It was an evening filled with good food, laughter, and delightful conversation. And now I'm in bed, about to go sleep in preparation for the flight tomorrow...grateful...contented...full of joy yet fully mindful of how close to the surface sadness lies.

I say goodbye to Rwanda, well aware that I will leave a piece of me behind.

Two Hundred Hugs

If twelve hugs daily is supposed to make us thrive, then I should be in excellent shape for the remainder of our trip and beyond. Yesterday, we visited the Nyanya grandmothers in the countryside outside of Kigali and were so warmly welcomed that it brought tears to my eyes more than once. Beautiful, determined, incredibly strong women surrounded us at each site, eager to show us their projects: growing peppers, preparing to grow mushrooms. Dressed in their best garments, they presented the image of a colorful bouquet, each flower unique and lovely, each one adding to the overall beauty of the whole. 

There is no way to adequately describe what it means, how it feels, to be welcomed so warmly and unrestrainedly by complete strangers...and in "real life", it all to seldom happens. We Americans have become suspicious of strangers, the "Other" who does not look like us, sound like us, smell like us, experience life as we do. But as I looked into the faces of each of these women- and I did look- I saw and felt a connection, a deep connection. Though we come from such different places, have such disparate lives, WE ARE ONE. The only separations are the ones we place between us by our prejudices, our stereotyping, our sense of entitlement. In the eyes of each of those Rwanda women I saw reflected my own loving concern for my family, my own pain at the losses in my life, my own hopes and dreams for the future. What we share is so much more than what separates us...so when will we human creatures ever learn this? 

I am so thankful, feel so incredibly blessed to have this journey as part of my life. And I hope the feelings of connection, hope, courage I have felt will stay with me, become part of me each day for the rest of my life. Let it be so.



Sunday, May 12, 2013

Rwanda Wa(o)nderings...

A different breath of air filling my lungs...
a different feel of sun and wind touching my skin...
a different scent of living things filling my nostrils
      and my mind...
a different sight of views both unfamiliar and exotic 
      filling my eyes...
My senses reel...
      gently and not-so-gently assaulted by
      this different clime...
this place across the world from home where my heart
      feels both at home and feels a stranger,
where my mind speaks a "yes" and "no" concurrently,
uncertain of what force draws me here...
draws forth my love...
stirs up my sadness-tinged anger...
elicits hope and grief in equal measure...

This is Rwanda, land of a thousand hills, Milles Collines...
where once the blood of many thousands ran...
where neighbor turned on neighbor in media-flamed hatred...
where "good" people performed acts unspeakable...
while the nations of the world turned their backs and
        closed their eyes, dead to the shouts of agony
        and cries for help rising from death-ridden streets.

So- what draws me here?
Perhaps hope's never-dying spirit, 
        which oozes from the pores of so many Rwandese...
        which marks their often-scarred faces with a sense 
              better todays and tomorrows...
perhaps the lovely children and sweet young families
        just beginning their life's journey, filled with a determination
        that life will be better for their children...
perhaps simply the lush lovely countryside...
but most of all, 
        there is the wonder I sense that this country
               exists at all, is firmly here,
               intending to stay and grow and thrive
               and be a nation united.
This is Rwanda- and I am here!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Perceptions...

How do we ever really see life through the eyes of another person? especially when our life experiences are so very different. How can I begin to understand what it feels like to be a Rwandan or a Kenyan when I come from a culture which is so totally different? It's not that I don't try, but I find myself bringing my middle class American values with me; how can I not? But how do we find common ground between cultures, between societies, if we do not first make interpersonal connections, find personal common ground?

It is difficult for me to be perceived as "rich", when I have worked so long and hard to make this trip; hard to find hands perpetually outstretched for something, when I have nothing to give except my smile, my friendship, my compassion. And that does not put food on the table, does it? 

And so I, with the loving assistance of many friends, am helping one family, keeping one young man in school, sharing with them our friendship and love, knowing full well we cannot begin to comprehend the demands of their existence. We cannot do everything, but I deeply believe we can each do something...to connect, heart-to-heart, life-to-life, in the hope that we human creatures will come to BELIEVE that we are ONE...sharing life on this one small planet, no matter our color or our status, our gender or our age, our nationality or ethnicity. Perhaps...one day...just imagine...
Emmanuel and I in 2011

Friday, May 10, 2013

T.I.A...this is Africa

In Rwanda, after a somewhat rocky start. Our wonderful driver, Charlie, got us to the  Kenyatta airport in plenty of time for our 12:45 flight. Problem was, when we went to check in, we were told we had missed our flight, that had departed at 8:45a.m., in spite the fact that our confirmation email clearly showed the flight time as 12:45p.m. We to go back outside to the ticketing office and explain the entire thing to yet another person, after which he checked and rechecked and again and finally told us he could put us on the flight leaving at 3:30 in the afternoon. That's right, we spent from 9 a.m. until 3:30p.m. in the airport. Thank heaven for Kindles  and the Java House coffee shop. Oh, and the Serenity Prayer got a bit of a workout, too.

By the way, discovered that there was no battery available for my two-year-old Safaricom Phone and I had to purchase a new one to enable me to contact friends, drivers, etc., only to find out when I needed to use it today to let everyone know about the change of flight that it had not been registered at the place where I purchased it and was not usable. So I set out in search of a Safaricom store or kiosk and finally found one where a most helpful young man explained the problem and was able to rather quickly correct it. "I don't know why they didn't do this where you purchased the phone," was his comment. "After all, why were you buying the phone if you didn't want use ?" My sentiments exactly. (Breathe deeply, Linda. Remember about accepting what you cannot change...) And so I was finally able to connect and inform and all was well.

Incidentally, Kenya Airways  flight attendants put our U.S. airlines to shame. During a flight of a little less than an hour's duration, they brought us hot towels to wash and refresh ourselves and then served a very lovely small meal, of which there were FOUR choices, and did beverage service, plus cleaning everything up in time for landing...without making us, the passengers, feel in least bit rushed. I was both a little bit out of breath and in awe watching the ease with which they did all this.

This evening, we were joined by our friend, Simon, for a lovely dinner here at the Heaven Restaurant. It was wonderful to spend time with him catching up on his life and hearing about his job with the Clinton Foundation. Tomorrow we'll be spending more time together, seeing some of the countryside. For now, quite contented to be getting ready for bed in the Heaven Guesthouse. Sleep well, one and all, and sweet dreams from Rwanda.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

In Kenya...

Yes, we're here, after 24 hours of travel time and nearly 40 hours without real sleep. Last night the bed at the Wildebeest was so welcoming and I slept until 9a.m. for the first time in years. No apparent jet lag...and a slow,pleasant day today, doing a few errands, catching up on email, reading, and talking with people here.

For those of you in Carolina who continually complain about our roads being under continual construction (and I am one of you), after riding down a main road near here and watching our driver doing potholes and serving into the non-existent shoulder the road countless times, I pledged never to complain about our roads again. The people here would think they were in heaven driving I-85...while we Carolinians mutter under our breaths and curse the NCDOT. All a matter of perspective, I guess, but we Americans have so much for which to be thankful- and too often aren't! 

Tomorrow we head to Rwanda to visit with friends and meet our newest grandmothers there. We will also visit the artists' studio and gallery begun by a pair of young artists we met two years ago. These brothers are amazing young men who are using art to reach the people of their community. (More about this later.) For now, I'm anticipating a good night's sleep and perhaps pleasant dreams. May you have the same. Lala Salama.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Getting Set...

Two more nights in my own bed...and then life changes for three weeks, with the first night spent on a plane winging its way over the Atlantic to Amsterdam. Then, after a layover for breakfast and walking, back on a flight to Nairobi, Kenya, where we'll finally get to sleep about 11p.m. Kenya time (about 5 p.m. here) after spending nearly 40 hours mostly awake (I don't sleep on planes. At best, I fitfully doze.) By the time I fall into bed on Wednesday evening, I will sleep! And with nothing special on the agenda for Thursday, sleeping in a bit is a definite possibility. Hah! Fat chance! We'll be in Africa, in Kenya, so how could we waste the time sleeping any more than necessary?

The smells will be different. The sights will be different. The sounds will be different. And I plan to immerse myself in the total experience, being as fully present as possible to all that is taking place around me. Even as I close my eyes now I can "see" the people...the incongruous juxtaposition of traditional dress and modern business attire...women carrying computer cases alongside others bearing baskets of fruit on their heads...can hear the traffic...the lilting music of the speech patterns...smell the strange but uniquely memorable odors of diesel exhaust and burning trash and food cooking over charcoal fires.

I am homesick for a place that has never been my home...no explanation...it is just so. And I return with an eagerness of heart and spirit which is beyond my understanding. Karibu, Kenya, back into my life.