Take a Look

Here’s what we’ve been working for in Kenya.  Watching this video makes me realize how grateful I am to have played a part in all of this.  In spite of all the seemingly negative or difficult parts of the last two years of our life, I’ve never had single a moment of regret.  So thankful we were able to hear that quiet leading of our hearts and minds over the deafening noise of our hectic lives.  Karibu Centre Programs.

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In our hunt to find the cheapest yet safest flight home from Kenya we happened upon a stay over in Dubai.

We as in Erika Lee mentioned it, it sounded like  a fabulous idea that saved thousands even with a 2 night hotel stay over, we booked it!

I didn’t know much about Dubai except that I’d seen it on t.v. on the greatest engineering feats of all time.  You know, where they show them dumping load after load of rocks and sand into the ocean to produce man-made islands shaped like palm trees and other random things.  

Here we are arriving:

The kids waiting patiently at midnight in the glistening Dubai airport

 Our Dubai plan involved arriving just before midnight, staying over a full day, and then flying out on the 2nd morning after leaving Nairobi.  We had booked a hotel within walking distance of a mall (they REALLY take shopping seriously there) in hopes of spending some leisure time in an air-conditioned space.

Why air conditioning?

Uh, because it was the height of summer in Dubai, where temperatures easily were reaching 110 degrees Fahrenheit.  Our plane stewardess talked about her flip-flops melting on the sidewalk there.  I’ve heard of that happening in the US in Arizona and places like that when it gets really hot, but I wasn’t up for trying it out on this trip.

We started out the next morning after sleeping in and taking warm (hot water right from the tap!!!) baths.  We managed to walk across the street and one block down from our hotel before ditching that plan.  We were all melted and luckily there was a cab in sight who was more than happy to stop for our family.  We hopped in and asked him to take us to a mall.

He took us to the largest mall in Dubai.  Actually, it now holds the distinction I believe of being the largest mall in the world. I never thought that I could be overwhelmed by shopping, but I was.  If we had been coming from the consumer mentality of the US, it might have been manageable, but to step from a more rural area of Kenya straight into this….it was a bit much.

We managed to look around in 2 shops total, including the largest candy shop any of us had ever seen.  It was aptly named, Candylicious:

Perhaps this is why Eli now has a cavity

 We also decided to tour the aquarium that was housed in the mall.  We especially enjoyed the glass tunnel that allowed us to walk within a few inches of sharks and sting rays:


Checking out the rays

 After the aquarium, we sat down to a ridiculously priced lunch that would have cost half as much in the US and my first Starbucks latte in 15 months.  My latte cost 200 Dirham, which is about $7 here in the US.  It was good, but not that good!

We took pictures outside of the mall in front of the world’s tallest building.  This building has something like 165 stories and is 2717 feet tall:

It’s on the left there behind Ian and I.  It’s so big, you only see a portion of it, even in person because it disappears into the haze.  You can tell though that it dwarfs everything next to it.  Here is a picture of it from the web:

Later that evening, we went up to the roof of a sister hotel and Ian and the kids enjoyed some fun in the pool. It was wonderful to spend time outside after dusk.  This is something we were rarely able to do while in Kenya because of malaria and safety concerns.

A very happy girl!

Sitting by the pool sweating out the humid heat of the Sahara


A view of Dubai from our rooftop pool...there was a sandy haze all day

 We had a wonderful time together as a family in Dubai and were very thankful for the rest before our 16 hour flight to the US the next day.

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Leaving Kenya


After the big goodbye party, and my “garage sale” and cleaning the house thoroughly, the day of our departure finally arrived. 

The whole week before Ian was pestered by staff about the necessity of them giving us a “push” to the airport. 

We TRIED to let them know that it really wasn’t NECCESSARY for everyone to take us to the airport. 

We finally agreed to let the Centre van travel to the airport as we had arranged private transport to the airport with our safari guide/awesome driver friend George, which meant that 14 people could escort us to say goodbye. 

That's George in the grey next to Tito


Saying bye to Major Martha, our neighbor and Karibu Centre administrator


This did not go over well.  Staff was upset.  Kenyan friends were upset.  We really tried to understand the importance of this “send off”  to Kenyans, but honestly, we weren’t upset by the idea of not having each and every friend at the airport to say goodbye. 

In the end though, it was such a big deal to the staff and friends who were having to stay behind (Teacher Mercy was distraught and crying)  that Ian & I went ahead and paid for another 14 people to ride in another matatu to the airport. 

Teacher Mercy cried again, this time from joy.  Who knew it was such a big deal?  Uh, the Kenyans knew. 

Staff, residents and friends loading into the hired matatu


 Just before leaving, Catherine and Mary came by to get their pictures taken with baby Angel and one of the abandoned babies.  Remember, Mary was our resident who had the still-born baby in June: 

Beautiful girls!


 We finally had everyone loaded up into 3 vans, with the 2 vans of staff going out ahead of us.  We enjoyed a nice ride into Nairobi and got to talk to George our driver about his little girl who has spina bifida.  George also knows the shortcuts to the airport, which we have been thankful for many times. 

Of course on this day, of all days, the security at an industrial site George routinely cuts through decided to not let the Wazungu through.  We had to back track through this: 

Our alternate route when denied our "short cut"


 It was literally a bunch of dirt tracks crisscrossing every which way.  It felt like driving to nowhere.   We finally arrived at the airport, where all the staff, residents and friends had been patiently waiting for us.  We unloaded and began the process of hugging each and every one, and crying, and walking away as they all stood there waving.  It was a very difficult moment, especially since none of us are sure when we will see each other again.  I was thankful to have the distraction of 8 bags, 4 carry-ons, 1 diaper bag, a stroller, 2 kids and a newborn.  It kept me from becoming a blubbering mess of tears.  Leaving Kenya was so much more difficult than when we left the US, in the US you are assured that there are many qualified and capable people to do your job.  In Kenya, nothing is for sure, which makes life very stressful for those who live there, but on the other hand, they embrace things so much more because they know it might be temporary.  I hope for many return visits to our dear friends who have been woven into our Kenyan story. 

Ok, back to the departure. 

We checked in at the Emirates counter in Nairobi with ease and soon boarded our plane for Dubai.  We had a wonderful flight crew that engaged Eli and Lucy throughout the 5 hour flight, and hooked us up with this wall bassinet for Ameena: 

Bless the person who thought of these!


Thoroughly entertained by the media


We arrived in Dubai 5 hours later at 11pm and deboarded the plan via the hatch stairs (is that what they are called?).  I felt a little like the first family!  Then I felt the HOT (like your flip flops melt on the jetway hot) air and suddenly felt how long of a day it had been.  So did the kids: 

It's close to midnight and we are patiently waiting for dad to find the hotel driver we reserved


 The Dubai airport was a preview of the city.  Huge, sparkling, golden, clean and fairly devoid of people (ok, keep in mind I’m comparing it to Thika, Kenya!) 

I’ll share about our Dubai stopover (suggested and engineered by my dear friend Erika) more in my next post!  Stay tuned!

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 So months before our departure from Kenya I told Ian that I had hatched a fabulous plan that would allow us to fairly distribute all of the things we had accumulated that would not be returning to the US in our alloted 8 suitcases.

That’s right.  No shipping things home.  I’m about reducing and recycling when it comes to packing up a house—and what a wonderful way for us to bless the many friends we had made in Kenya. 

Kenyan’s have surely missed out on the wonderful concept of garage sales.  Or at least it is wonderful in my eyes.  I know there are those of you out there who cringe at the thought of used clothing,  or half colored coloring books, or shoes with other people’s foot sweat. 

That’s not me. 

Or Kenyans. 

Kenyans are the MOST fantastical people when it comes to cleaning something up so that it can look spick and span new.  So I just knew that they would adore my garage sale, or as Ian termed it:  Duka Ya Mama Eli’s  (Eli’s mom’s shop). 

Soooo, in preparation for our move home I began to sort through our house in Kenya with the help of some ladies from the community (which was a score for them because they carted off bag after bag of miscellaneous goodies for themselves).  Separate  from the furnishings in our house that were owned by OO and would  remain, we had amassed a ridiculous amount of items ranging from kid and adult DVD’s, to nail polish remover, to the ax and kerosene lantern.    

Ian and I converted the pregnant girls’ classroom space into my shop, pulled in a few tables, and set things up by category. 

A few days before the party I let all of the staff in to preview the items.  Some staff  took up to an hour carefully looking over each and every item. 

Now, I decided that in order to make it a true shopping experience the staff would need money.  So Ian, being the handy and fun husband that he is, printed out play $10 bills so that each staff was given $100 to “spend”. 

After our going away party, we had the 27 staff draw numbers and line up from the #1 shopper on back. 

Waiting to shop!

  They each got to go in individually to shop.  They could buy one item (no matter how expensive) during each round.  We did this for 3 rounds, and then I let them all in at once to spend their remaining money.  

I am so proud of the men who shopped! They did such a quick sweep and grab of the womens' clothing for their families that the women of the Centre had to find other things to paw through!

Well into the free-for-all, Notice the empty tables!

They went crazy.  The laughter and excitement was contagious!  I LOVED it!  And so did they.  I loved watching them scheme and work together to get all of the things they had their hearts set on. 

In this next picture, you can see Tito happily sitting on his 3 piece outdoor furniture set that he bought for $120!  That’s right, Tito was the one and only employee who managed to convince another employee to give him some money so he could afford it! 

Oh yeah, sitting in his new chair guarding the door to my shop.

It was a fabulous way to wrap up such a serious day of thank you’s and good byes.  I was thrilled to share my love of g-sales with my Kenyan friends.  Even better was a staff member telling Ian that “we had taught them something fun they could do together in the future.”  I’m just sitting here in my American home imagining future Kenyan garage sales among the staff and loving it! 

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