Thursday, December 29, 2011


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

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

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

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.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Playing a little catch-up

Good Morning from sunny Lamu, Kenya. Charlotte and I are here to spend a little time with a missionary to the Aweer People, and getting some R&R on Lamu Island. So we're playing a little catch up on the ol' Blog, but I'm sure you'll forgive us.
Charlotte's duties with the office of Communication and Development continued sadly and unexpectedly as she helped coordinate the on-campus memorial service for Dr. Steven Sesi. Dr. Sesi was a beloved member of the AIU faculty, and his loss deeply impacted the community. Additionally, Charlotte has been working to support the launch of Serve the City Nairobi, develop a 5-year project plan for AIU's Center (or is it Centre?) for World Christianity, and do ministry profiles for student ministries. All while keeping me fed and clean. Another full-time job.
By comparison, I have been slacking off, reading and writing for school. Exam week ended Friday, and the sum of the semester is 1,700ish pages read and 140ish pages written, double spaced 12 font, so its not really that impressive and even less so if you bothered to read any of it. Please don't, you've got more important things to do. The final push for reading tests and papers meant I was a bit of a study-hermit the last couple weeks. Thankfully, EB was good about stopping by and pulling my head out of the books. We went together to downtown Nairobi, went to a guitar store, and got lunch at a KFC. It was EB's first time, and he was pretty impressed, deducing that it was the Kentucky that made the Fried Chicken so good. I wish I'd made up the last part.
I think our biggest pangs of home-sickness hit Thanksgiving week. I whine about missing football, but Thanksgiving is something that Charlotte and I both love, and it is defined by the people we celebrate with. Besides, Tennessee has been so bad at football, its kind of nice to be out of the country. Thanksgiving is really a favorite holiday of mine because it is about being together. Thanksgiving doesn't possess the busyness of Christmas, and hopefully true reflection of what we are Thankful for will give perspective that we are so blessed. We were able to celebrate with 2 missionary couples from the U.S. and it was a good time with lots of good food.
So that's why you haven't heard much from us lately. Kinda a newsy update that we've been busy, but nothing too exciting. We'll get some fun stuff up about our time in Lamu. We return to Nairobi Thursday night, and fly to Dubai the following Wednesday. Time is ticking off pretty fast.

Playing a little catch-up

Good Morning from sunny Lamu, Kenya. Charlotte and I are here to spend a little time with a missionary to the Aweer

Sunday, November 13, 2011

It is official...

...we are the worst bloggers of all time.  It has been 24 days since our last post. But let's face it - we haven't really been all that consistent since the beginning.  Finding time to blog has been more difficult than we expected!

So what have we been up to for the last month?  A lot!  On one hand things don't look all that different from home.  We've been going to work/school, grocery shopping, cooking, meeting friends, going to church, reading, trying to keep up with email, taking turns beating each other at settlers of cantan on the iPad(our new favorite way to unwind), etc.   Lots of normal every-day life stuff.

Yet on the other hand, things can look quite different.  Some every-day life things take a lot more time.  For example, going to the grocery store can take up to 3 hours! First you walk half a mile to the main road, catch a matatu down to Karen, walk to the store, shop, look for a cab, come home, walk another half mile.  A bit abnormal for us, but very normal for much of the world.   Dishes also take a little more time.  For starters, there is no dishwasher!  Secondly we have no hot water in the kitchen so we've mastered the art of washing, rinsing, boiling water, rinsing again to sanitize and then drying!  And you never quite know when the power is going to cut off - candles a and a good computer battery are a must!  And I am not going to even go into traffic.  We'll do a whole post in pictures of what it is like on the roads here.  Let's just say you never quite know what you might see!  

But in the midst of the normal, and the not so normal things here, we've been living in a full, stretching, life-changing kind of way.  Living in another culture, particularly in a developing country, makes you stop, think and take stock of life.

We do hope to blog more often over the coming weeks - even if it means writing about things we did 6 weeks ago!

I have been QUITE busy in the development office this past month.   We have launched the big capital campaign and are now working on follow up and strategy plans for the next 5 years.  It seems that project plans, spreadsheets and politely nagging people (who are not my husband) is part of my life regardless of what continent I am on!  I have learned a LOT by trying to work and produce in a culture that is not my own. That deserves its very own blog post.  But thankfully my main responsibilities i are winding down.  I am hoping to focus on a few more relational projects during out last few weeks here.

John has just 2 weeks left in the term.  He has been working extremely hard and is really enjoying his courses, fellow students and professors.  Let me tell you, this is no joke though.  The work is rigorous and stretching.  But that is part of why we came.  This week is reading week and then he has exams and final papers are due.  I see the back of his head at the computer a lot these days.

Thanks for sticking with us even if our posts are few and far between.  This has definitely been a crazy adventure of amazing and wonderful things mixed in with hard and very difficult things.  But it has been worth every minute.  We firmly believe God is using this for our good and for his glory.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Lions and leopards and cheetahs, oh my!

Well I don't know about you, but I see nothing wrong with having a massage as part of our safari adventure...who says they are mutually exclusive!  

Anyway, last weekend we flew to Masai Maura (in a very small plane I might add for any fellow small plane fearers) and had an amazing experience in one of the world's most beautiful places.   Words and pictures will fail to justly describe what we saw.  We landed on a red dirt landing strip in the middle of nowhere, met our guide Deadon and jumped into a land cruiser that had no windows and an open roof and headed to our lodge which was only about 5 minutes away.  We saw lots of zebras and a few wildebeest on the way to the lodge - we were beside ourselves already!

We arrived at the lodge where you are greeted by someone with cool towels and then are handed a glass of some type of fresh tropical  juice...needless to say the service at this place was top notch.  Each room at the Serena is shaped like a little Masai hut.  They were really cute and had an amazing balcony where you look out and the sky and the land seem to go on forever.  And you could see zebra, elephants and giraffes milling about and walking across the land!  

We went on 4 games drives throughout the weekend.  You go out at 6:30 am and 4:00 pm each day since that is the best viewing time.  Most of the animals are asleep in the middle of the day.  Our first game drive was on Saturday at 4 pm and we found everything amazing!  We raced out with all the other trucks because there was a large herd of wildebeest near the Mara river.  Apparently it is quite rare to see a herd cross a river.  We waited about 20 minutes but it looked like they weren't going to cross and then all of a sudden they just went for it!  Thousands of wildebeest crossing the river - it was incredible.  You could also see a croc in the water watching them!  Apparently it tried to attack, but the wildebeest just kept on kicking and got away!  

So I could go on and on, but here is a recap of the animals we saw:  
  • Tons of elephants - including lots of babies.  The elephants always travel together in groups and their tusks are incredible.  
  • 3 cheetahs - 2 that were just relaxing and sleeping and one that was walking away from eating about half a wildebeest.  John and I thought she looked pregnant but our guide said she had just eaten so much.  She was stunning.
  • More wildebeest than we could possibly count.  Thousands for sure.  They are currently migrating back to Tanzania.  They usually spend about 3 months in the Mara
  • More zebras than we could count - they are beautiful and are also migrating to Tanzania.  We saw lots of baby zebras
  • At least 25 hippos - we had an amazing outdoor breakfast by the Mara river where the hippos are often found
  • 3 crocodiles
  • At least 20 giraffes at various places in the park.  At one point one walked RIGHT in front of our truck.  Their size is stunning and you can always tell it is a giraffe.  Sometimes when you are looking far out you don't know if it is a bush or an elephant or a rock or a lion.  But there is never a question about a giraffe
  • 4 male lions.  2 together sleeping, one early in the morning walking towards the woods and one walking in the middle of a field.  The last one was one of the highlights for me - the sun was washing the field in light and it walked right by us - maybe 10 feet away!  Majestic is the only word to use
  • 7 female lions.  3 sleeping together in a field, 2 sleeping on a rock and then a single lion dozing. She would look at us and yawn!  A group of impalas almost ran right by her but stopped at the last minute.  We thought we were about to see a kill.  
  • lots of impalas, gazelles, waterbucks, buffalo
  • hyenas 
  • warthogs
  • lots of amazing birds 
  • a huge group of vultures feeding on what the cheetah left behind
  • A leopard in a tree!!  This was amazing b/c it is quite rare to see leopards.  Their paws are HUGE
  • We kind of saw a rhino - but i don't think it really counts.  With binoculars you could make out a grey mass but he never came out of the woods
  • Monkeys
  • lots of lizards - extremely colorful
So all in all we couldn't have really asked to see anything more.  We were so struck by the expanse - the sky is so big.  The land seems to roll on and on.  It truly felt surreal to see such beautiful creates.  You couldn't help but worship in the midst of the beauty.  

And here is what you probably really want to see - pictures!