Jeany: Kenya took some getting used to I think because we were still grieving our lovely time in Uganda. Thankfully our morning flight went well and our host Julisa came to pick us up and take us to her beautiful home on the east side of the massive city of Nairobi, filled with 8 million people.
Nairobi is similar to Uganda, but not quite as friendly on the roads unless you stop and talk with someone. Then they are very kind.
One of my favourite places was the giraffe sanctuary. They let us hold out the food to these giant gentle creatures with massive brown eyes and long lashes, and they lick our hands. We were encouraged to even put it between our teeth to get a kiss… so I did.
I’m grateful to the Rowe family who let us stay in their home. Julisa is a kindred spirit with her loves of theatre and ministry and Bill is a great musician and cook. But even more remarkable was that their two boys Kendall and Nathaniel are almost the same ages as Donovan and Weston.
We got to see both Daystar campuses, the one downtown and the large one out at Athi River. Our host Julisa had worked hard to organize a theatre workshop day and David and I both taught sessions in acting and directing, drama ministry, and devised theatre. It was fun to interact with the students; they are very lively and responsive. I especially enjoyed their original choreography born out of their histories, and getting to hear several of them speak in their mother tongue.
At the end of the day, we were presented with BEAUTIFUL garments made in Kenya and we were overwhelmed with gratitude.
We leave Julisa and Bill’s house early on Monday to beat the traffic and arrive in time for breakfast and her acting class at the Athi River campus. On the final stretch the dirt road borders a wild game land and she stops as we spot some gazelle… and then wildebeests, and then we are off-roading it on small paths and Julisa drives us close to a herd of zebras and more Hart Gazelles and even two Secretary birds. Stunning. An impromptu safari in African wild.
Then we arrive at Julisa’s parent’s house, Don and Faye Smith. I have known them since I was a child, but always through my parents. Now it is my pleasure to introduce them to my husband and children and they treat us so special in their beautiful villa on a rise overlooking the campus they helped initiate and foster over the last 40 years.
Their home is spacious and inviting and each picture and artifact holds a story. This a cultural crossroads for us to connect with native Oregonians in Kenya. And we continue to enjoy stories and wisdom from this elderly couple who seem to be thriving with good purpose as mentors of the several young students who come to them for guidance.
As the heat builds, we opt to walk down to a nearby hotel to enjoy a swim. It is AMAZING! It reminds me of a Hawaiian resort with it’s turquoise waters and luxurious surroundings. We have an absolute blast with the pool all to ourselves and marvel at the beat box sounds of the nearby weaver bird. This is third time our family has been able to swim on this trip and, as always, it totally revives us.
We are spoiled by the Rowe’s housekeeper Ann who does our laundry for us, even pressing each item so they look brand new.
We also enjoyed getting to know their gardener Sammy.
Our final day in Kenya we made our way up into the highlands for a tea tour and lunch. This region was developed years ago when Kenya was a British colony, and many of the plantations have indigenous forests and rich gardens that have been cultivated for generations. The tea farm we went to was a small acreage owned by a woman named Fiona, and she was delightful.
I learned so much about tea! And we drank tea, and went on a forest walk, learning the medicinal values of many of the trees, and then we were treated to a three course meal, that was so … I mean SO SO good! We ate outside under umbrellas and afterwards I got to wander in the bountiful, colourful garden. It was exquisite.
I continue to be struck with the variety and newness of the vegetation here. So many fabulous flowers and plants, and massive fruit bearing trees like mango and avocado. The produce is better than any I have seen and we can’t believe the taste and the low cost.
Weston: It was really great to stay with the Rowes. There were so many things we got to do in Kenya. We got to see baby elephants at an elephant orphanage, experience Nairobi and go and watch a Nairobi Youth Orchestra band practice, we got to visit a beautiful tea plantation, where we had tea, coffee, a three course lunch with home-made ice cream made from milk from their cows, which they called "ice cream makers".
Donovan: Kenya was the time we were exposed to the most animals of any African country so far. We enjoyed the company of cats, dogs and rabbits at the Rowe house, and were fascinated by the wild animals in the Kenyan savannah, just off the highway. There were zebras, wildebeests and hartebeests, Thompson and Grant gazelles and ostrich-like Secretary birds. Too bad their land is about to be invaded by a Chinese-funded railway. we also saw, maribou storks, Ibis birds with their crazy laughter and weaver birds that could crank out an incredible dub step beat. We also saw a baboon that ran across the road, a monkey carcass strung on barbed wire to scare other monkeys away, and then a bunch of young and adolescent elephants at the elephant orphanage, and then there were giraffes with warthogs running around their feet.
It was a relaxing treat to be able to stay with the Rowe family, and cool to experience a youth orchestra and see the boys (Kendall and Nathaniel)'s international missionary school. Everything was surrounded by walls and wire.
We got to spend a day at a beautiful out of town campus for Daystar University and go swimming in a pool all to ourselves.
It was fun to play with Kendall and Nathaniel and learn things from Bill and Julisa. And I especially enjoyed rocketing down the cobblestone hill outside their house on a scooter with Weston and Nathaniel, Kendall charging them with a pointed stick to try to scare them off.
David: We got to enjoy Western comforts at the Market Mall, haircuts for the boys and wonderful spicy lamb curry, and my first taste of tree tomato juice!
Getting a kiss from a giraffe
Driving through Karen, the area where the author Karen Blixen (aka Isak Denison) lived
An unexpected off-road safari
Donovan and I went with our host Bill , the principal trumpet player, to the Nairobi Orchestra rehearsal. It was fun to see Donovan hang out with other French horn players, to hear an accomplished bassoon player perform solo, and to listen to the organic orchestra of frogs and crickets outside the rehearsal hall.
I enjoyed going to the Maklakla Chapel and hearing rich harmonies in the singing and emotionally charged instrumentalists. We also shared communion, and I liked that they offered an open table like Rosebud Church does.
I had a special opportunity to teach workshops, give a short talk on the parallels of Christianity and art, and play theatre games with a vibrant group of students at Daystar University. Our host Julisa arranged the conference as a kick-off for her organization ACT — Artists in Christian Testimony.
At the end of the conference we were gifted beautiful Kenyan shirts, and a dress for Jeany.
We had a pleasant stay with the Rowe’s enjoying creative meals like Payaiya with chef Bill, restful nights (except for when we were battling rogue mosquitos), and spending time visiting Sammy their house gardener. Their house has beautiful dark wood and there was a lovely sun room as well.
I also appreciated talking theatre with Julisa and was grateful for her adventurous spirit in transporting us throughout the city.
We had a few nice walks throughout their gated neighbourhood, catching glimpses of large and beautiful homes through their fences and security gates.
After spending a number of days in Nairobi, Julisa took us to the Athi River campus of Daystar University. Our wonderful day began with an early drive through the city, seeing huge and ominous Maribou Storks in the trees, and then getting a personal game drive from Julisa to get close to amazing animals on our way to the home of her parents (founders of the university), Don and Faye Smith. They welcomed our family warmly, with lovely meals and time to hear some of their legacy and wisdom about connecting with other cultures. Don and Faye are from Oregon, which is the connection to Jeany’s family from years ago.
I had a fun time assisting Julisa teach her acting class in the morning, and then we got to walk to a nearby resort and swim in a teal pool for the afternoon. After that we got a guided tour of the campus from the student body president, JB, and had the chance to greet many students.