A giraffe in Masai Mara. Giraffes are one of the most fun to watch since they are so tall and graceful. This was my favorite picture I took on safari. I'm a terrible photographer, but out of a couple hundered I'm bound to get one right...though the experts would probably scoff at this!
We've enjoyed the last days of summer in a big way. Alisha's parents took us on an amazing vacation to Kenya the last week of July and first week in August! It was such a treat to get away and enjoy some of the magnificient creation in this part of the world. When we first joined EMI the CEO recommended that we get out of Uganda every 6 months to help us keep our sanity. Well, that may not always be possible, but after returning from this incredible trip we can definitely see how it was good for our mental well-being and a great chance to be refreshed for the coming semester.
First, we got to see all kinds of animals in the Masai Mara on a safari for a few days. The Masai Mara is the northern end of the Serengeti once it crosses into Kenya from Tanzania. Lying in the center of the Great Rift Valley, it is a vast expanse of golden plains with sparse acacia trees sprinkled throughout. Surprisingly, it is at a high elevation of 5200 ft above sea level, so while the days get warm (80's) the nights get very cold (30's and 40's).
The wildlife was incredible - lions, cheetahs, elephants, zebras, wildebeests and many more. We got to watch lions hunt and nearly catch a warthog, and a cheetah stalking but narrowly missing a couple of unsuspecting gazelles. We also came upon two separate lion prides feasting on a kill - one a zebra and the other a wildebeest. The boys loved it. Though Graysen remarked: "I don't like it that Alex is eating Marty!" (ref. the movie Madagascar).
We stopped off at a Masai village just outside the Mara Reserve. Jonah had these Masai warriors attention within seconds of arriving. Vintage Jonah.
Looking out the top of the safari van makes it a lot more fun. You feel pretty vulnerable at times though, especially with the Cape Buffalo, rhino and elephants, who could easily knock the vehicle over. The cats also make you a bit nervous since they can jump!
This female had just killed and eaten a wildebeest. She was heading back to a shaded area to lay down to rest while some of the other lions took a turn. The female lions do most all the hunting and killing, but the male lion gets first crack at the kill.
We saw about five male lions - majestics cats!
One of five cheetahs we saw. This one had just run directly at our van before stopping a few meters short and calmly walking by. Beautiful animals.
At the Mara River. We got out and walked a short trail, but were accompanied by an armed guard the whole time we were outside the vehicle.
Overlooking the Mara - one of the spots along the river where the famous migration crossing takes place. But due to rains in Tanzania, the migration was late this year. We did see lots of hippos and crocs though.
The nicest tent I've ever slept in, though the occassional crocodile in the river just down the bank from our front door and the elephants grazing around outside at night made us glad we had a Masai warrior watching our two tents each night!
After the safari, we headed east for the Indian ocean coast for a week at Turtle Bay. It is a family resort with a great pool and nice beach for access to the warm waters of the Indian ocean. The boys got their first try at boogie boarding and spent all day everyday in the sun either swimming or joining an activity organized by the resort. We felt spoiled rotten to have such a nice vacation, and we thoroughly enjoyed the break.
Surveying the waves before heading out.
Brodie loved riding the waves, though he wasn't a big fan of the wipe outs!
Jonah catching waves (with a little help from dad).
Thank you Mom and Dad Berry! We could never afford such an amazing place but it was such a treat and a great chance to get away.
Jonah & Graysen enjoying the all you can drink bar. Their favorite was the 'blue splash', which was simply Sprite with blue food coloring! ha!
I got a workout throwing all those kids in the pool! I know, it was a really tough week! :)
We went out snorkeling one morning - grandpa and I were the only ones who liked swimming with all the fish though!
Alisha and I at dinner - the food at Turtle Bay was all you can eat buffett! Any weight we've lost from living in Africa was easily gained back this week!
There are camels in northeast Kenya, so this one "George" was brought down to the coast for rides - Alisha and I did it too and it was a kick! When it sits down and stands up it is hilarious!
Grandpa went fishing, and though he was throwing up sick for 7 out of the 8 hour trip, as you can see he had quite a successful day!
After returning home, we celebrated Graysen's 5th birthday with a little party with our neighbors, but otherwise reality hit fast as we learned that while we were gone two thieves had broken into the office compound and assaulted our guard. Fortunately, our guard got the best of them and chased them away, but not before being stabbed in the forearm with a screwdriver. It was decided to hire an armed guard for the time being until we feel we can secure the compound otherwise. (The guard Patrick is doing just fine now, as the screwdriver didn't hit any nerves, tendons or major blood vessels.
Alisha and the boys also started school two days after we returned as the school year starts early here. Brodie began fourth grade without an aide this year. Jonah moved on to first grade and Graysen is in Alisha's kindergarten class. So far, the year is off to a great start. Brodie is the biggest bright spot as he is doing very well without an aide shadowing him for the first time. He is very proud about being in fourth grade with no assistance. But the other boys are doing well too, though having some adjusting to make - Graysen is learning that Mom isn't 'mom' when she's the teacher, and Jonah is learning that his talkative nature needs to be contained in the classroom. :) Alisha is doing well teaching again, though the first couple of weeks has been a lot of shuffling kids around to get them in the right classroom. But it's really going well with Ms. Margaret, the Ugandan teacher who she is mentoring this year. Alisha really likes her and they get along very well. And, Alisha says she has great teacher instincts.
Brodie, age 8, on the first day of 4th grade
1st-grader Jonah, age 6
Graysen in class on his first day of Kindergarten, age 5
Alisha reading to her class with Ugandan teacher Miss Margaret looking on.
The three boys, off to school - for the first time all three are in school all week, though Graysen goes for just half day.
At the office, we've been preparing for the mass influx of people coming towards the end of this coming week. On Friday, I picked up a new couple and their teenage son who will be here for a year. He is a civil engineer and will be a great addition to the office, especially because he's from Oregon! But on Wednesday morning, 9 interns are arriving for the next three and a half months. Then on Saturday Sept. 5th, I'm leading a team of 8 on a project trip to Nakuru, Kenya to design an orphanage. This will be an especially fun trip since my friend Jason Prins, an engineer from Medford is joining me! I look forward to posting a rundown on the trip after we return to Kampala on Sept. 13th.