Thursday, December 29, 2011

Dubai

Outside the 
When planning our trip, we discovered that many flights from Kenya to Beijing went through Dubai. Our good friends, Grace and Andrew, are teaching at an International School in Dubai, so we thought we'd stay a few days on our way to Beijing. If I had one to describe Dubai, it would be New. If I had a sentence it would be "The new part of Vegas, minus the vices". Since we were coming, Tom Cruise decided to come as well and premiere Mission Impossible 4, which stars that funny guy from Shawn of the Dead and this really big building.
It is difficult to describe the Burj Khalifa except to say that it is a really big building. Dubai's skyline is impressive, but the Burj gives everything a Napoleon complex.
Dubai is set up with with multiple sub-cities that are oriented around specific industries. There is an academic city with university satellite campuses from around the world, a technology city where Microsoft has a high-rise, and a theme park city known as Dubai-land. We stayed at Grace and Andrew's apartment in Motor City. The don't build or sell cars in Motor City, they race them. An impressive race track, overlooking the sea is at the heart of Motor City. Charlotte and I enjoyed breakfast at Starbucks, while watching a class learn to race Ferraris. Dubai is a bit of a car culture, where Porsches are as common as Corollas. I guess when you can't eat Pork BBQ (redundant BBQ can only be pork) or drink anything harder than coffee, fast cars are the next best thing. They also have excellent shopping, and the largest mall in the world. Between the tall building and biggest mall, it seems that Dubai is just trying to make America jealous.



The night pictures are from the observation
deck of the Burj Khalifa. 
We enjoyed our brief time in Dubai, were able to see a few things, and get a great time catching up with Grace and Andrew. Going from Kenya to Dubai was in many ways like night and day. Not that one was better or worse, just that they are two distinctly different places.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Lamu Days 3-5

Lamu is full of incredible carved doors
 Day 3 was our last staying with Ezekiel and his family. That morning, Charlotte and I rode with him to the closest Aweer village to pick up a woman that was getting an X-Ray in town. It was great to see the village, and interesting to see Ezekiel work. His pick-up seemed to be for half the village. Charlotte rode in the back seat with 3 other women, and 8 men rode in the truck bed. Getting a ride into town is a big deal. We wanted to travel to return the Aweer that were at the culture festival to their villages. Unfortunately, that would have required bringing guards and even though the area has been kept safe by the military, there just wasn't enough space on the truck. Since more off-roading (crossing a stream would have been required) was not an option, we did the next best thing and went to the beach.
The view from our hote
  We took Ezekiel's girls (age 10 and 7) along with us, and caught a boat first to our hotel to change and then a second to take us to Shella beach. We enjoyed beautiful white-sand beaches and crystal clear water, and had the beach all to ourselves. We found a downed palm tree, and used it for shade. Unfortunately, we didn't use the shade enough, and got sun burned. We returned the girls to their mother that evening, and spent the next day laying low and letting our skin heal. One man was kind enough to inform me that my face looked like chili sauce (it is bright pink in Kenya).
We forgot how that Zack Brown song went...
    Lamu is an interesting city. Originally settled by Arabs in the 13th century, it served as a slave market until the 19th century when the British abolished the trade and took over the city. The architecture reflects the two historic eras, and the modern era. The impact of Arabian culture is still present as much of the population is Muslim, and the Swahili language derives from this community.
  We got some good rest and relaxation in Lamu. It is a tourist town, with few tourists due to the Kenyan war with Somalia. We did our best to help the locals by shopping and eating. I helped them more by being a terrible barterer. I am just not good at arguing with someone over what amounts to a dollar. At the end of the day, that dollar will matter more to the street vendor.
One of our favorite things that I overpaid for was a boat trip around Lamu's waters. We were able to snorkel, and see much of the coast. We landed on the super high end beach across from Shella and spent a few hours swimming in a quiet channel among mangroves. It was an enjoyable experience. The boat was a hand-crafted wooden sailboat with no keel and all of the rigging was rope. To keep from tipping, a plank would be rigged across the boat and a 10 year-old boy would sit out on the end of the plank to balance against the wind. The rigging was an Eagle Scout's dream (or nightmare) as no metal was used, and every function was carried out by a splice or a knot. Apart from the outboard motor, that was used only to leave the dock, this boat could have been hundreds of years old.
Our time in Lamu was brief but full of fun. We were able to rest some while enjoying a wonderful gem in Kenya. Upon our return to Nairobi, we had about a week to finish projects, pack up, and say goodbye. Between finishing school and preparing to go, we were thankful for a time to rest.

Lamu Day 2.2

Aweer Women Dancing

Chillin'
The second half of day 2 in Lamu had us visiting the main island with our host Ezekiel and his family. He does medical work with a people group along the coast of Kenya on the way to Somalia known as the Aweer. This group has been able to maintain much of its culture and heritage. Ezekiel was excited to bring us to Lamu because it was hosting a large culture festival that weekend, and many of his friends from among the Aweer were there presenting aspects of their culture. They had built a traditional hut woven from reeds, and were able to perform their traditional music and dances. The first picture is two of the women dancing together. The dances were quite enjoyable, and it would be interesting to hear about the purposes of the different dances. I did not think to ask while we were there, and we didn't get an opportunity to ask later on. After getting some dinner at a local fish house, we joined Ezekiel and the family on a "post-dinner cruise". Or an overcrowded boat taxi driven at night with a flashlight to guide us. Perspective. During our cruise, I saw more stars than I'd seen in a while. We were able to see them for a longtime, because the "captain" had forgotten to fill up with gas, and we had to be towed back to get more. Charlotte was sitting away from me, and was unaware of why we were turning around and being towed. In order to allow her the full experience of wondering if we were being kidnapped, I kept quiet regarding our situation. She has yet to display her gratitude. I imagine that she is planning something special .
All in all is was an exceptional day




Public Service Announcement

We interrupt your regularly scheduled non-programming to bring you the following...
So we hit a little mix up in our travels, and found it almost impossible to blog from Dubai, as Google, in its infinite wisdom decided that since we were in Dubai, we wanted to read and write in Arabic. (Mark Davis is pleased with my run on sentence). Never mind that 90% of Dubai is international and likely doesn't speak Arabic. When we asked Google to translate everything back into English, they neglected to change grammar and punctuation rules. So the blog has been once again neglected by the Rippys.
I'll catch you up on where we are, and then go back to posting previously planned updates as we had a few adventures that we'd like share.
After school we went to Lamu for 5 days of R'n'R, then back to Nairobi for 1 week to tie up loose ends, then off to Dubai to see our good friends Andrew and Grace for 5 days before heading to Beijing visiting family for Christmas. We are now in Beijing. Do the math and it adds up to neglecting "Around the World in 120 Days". At least now you understand the title.  
...We now return you to the Lifetime Original movie that has become your guilty pleasure

Monday, December 5, 2011

Lamu Day 2.1


Day 2 in Lamu was a Sunday. When picking us up the night before, Ezekiel (our host) informed me that I would be preaching the next day. Having recently (the day before) turned in a 25 page exegetical paper on John 11, I decided that's what they were gonna get.
Going to church was quite a joy. We drove through back roads (4x4 paths in the sand) to pick up the "neighborhood". 3 in the front seat of the truck, 4 in the back, and I'm guessing ten in the back of the truck. A Toyota Hilux (Tacoma). So fun.
After enthusiastic worship, time for testimony, and special music by the children and the youth, I was as ready as I would ever be. I was told sermons should be at least 45 minutes. Thankfully I had an interpreter, Jeffrey, so to make sure I hit the time quota, I'd confuse the interpreter with big words, or lose my train of thought. I was also using a tiny travel Bible (since we were travelling) which made it easy to lose my place. Between the humid 90 degrees, and trying to keep up with the enthusiastic delivery of the Jeffrey, Ezekiel asked me afterwards if I was Pentecostal. He meant it as a compliment. I think.
After church we spent a little time with the Children's Sunday School Class. They had just been in a competition with other Sunday School classes from the area, memorized 1 Corinthians 13. They memorized the chapter in English, Swahili, Kykuyu, and Somali. Clearly, they won the competition.
After After church, we left the main land and went to Lamu island, where a big culture festival was going on, and the Aweer people had a big display and cultural demonstration. That will be blogged about in Lamu Day 2.2

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Lamu Day 1

 The Kenyan coastal city of Lamu was settled by Arabs in the 13th Century. Given all that time, they've never bothered to build a bridge connecting the island with the airport to the island with the hotels. Charlotte and I stepped off the plane Saturday afternoon and began sweating. 84 and humid,  and took a boat from Manda (the island with the airport, to Mokowe (the mainland where we stayed our first two nights). The top picture to the right was a typical Lamu boat taking a group to Lamu Island. Once on the mainland, we were greeted by our most excellent host, Ezekiel. He took us on to his home about 10 kilometers inland. Ezekiel is a missionary to the Aweer, an indigenous people living on the coast between Kenya and Somalia. Ezekiel provides basic medical care and support to the tribes. We stayed with him and his family, wife Lucy and daughters Kenna (10) and Riri (7). We got in kind of late, made our introductions, had some dinner and went to bed. The weather remained tropical and the home runs off of solar cells and car batteries, so no thermostat. More to come on our adventures in Lamu...

Nairobi Game Park

If you look closely, you'll see a rhino hiding behind a shrubbery

An ostrich and her cubs
 So a couple weeks ago, we had a great opportunity to go with Ken and Linda Wiley to Nairobi game park. Ken and Linda are missionaries with Africa Inland Mission, and when we mentioned getting someone to drive us through the park they volunteered Ken and their Land Cruiser. To my great pleasure, it had been a rainy week in Nairobi, and the park was full of mud and puddles. Ken and the Cruiser proved quite capable and (un)fortunately we didn't get stuck. We had better luck finding animals. The one big animal we fouled off on our trip to the Mara was a Rhinoceros. I glimpsed the backside of one, but he moved quickly towards interior forest. We were able to track him down later by following his footprints in the mud. I am not making that up. Big footprints, sniffing droppings was not necessary but mildly tasty. Big Game Tracker Achievement Unlocked (xbox360 ftw). We stumbled upon Terrance (he had a "Hi my name is.." tag on) and happened to be down wind of him. Uncertain of our location, Terry tried hiding behind a bush. Fortunately, we were able to get lots of good photos and videos. See if you can find Terry in the top photo on the right.
This is an Impala (I think)
We saw many other animals and Charlotte spotted a lion in a tree. The lions will climb trees to get out of wet grass. We watched her climb somewhat awkwardly down from the tree. Thankfully she got down without the help of the local fire department.

A fun time had by all at Nairobi game park, right in our own back yard. Make sure you check it out next time you're in town.