Friday, August 21, 2015

I Could Write a Book, Part 3

A Kenyan sunset.

Although Uganda is about the same size as Oregon in terms of area, it often seems much, much bigger. Mostly because getting from here to there is often a feat and a test of patience, ingenuity and flexibility.

For example, a trip from Jinja to the capital city of Kampala is only 53 miles, yet it can take from as few as 2 hours to as long as 7 (or more) depending on traffic and how many different vehicles you have to switch to. It could require riding four different taxis as you change from one to another, or using a boda (motorcycle) or two, and/or a coaster (bus).

As "small" as Uganda is I haven't done as much traveling as I would like inside the country or into neighboring countries. However, the last couple of months have given me several opportunities to see new places.

I talked about visiting the far southwestern tip of Uganda and a brief jaunt into Rwanda in this post and then a fun weekend trip to the opposite, eastern side of Uganda in this post. These were parts 1 and 2, respectively, of a series I am doing on recent experiences and adventures.

In addition to a quick step-over into Rwanda, I have visited Zanzibar, a Tanzanian island in 2011, and have made three trips to Kenya. One of the most vivid memories of my first trip to Africa in 2006-2007 was the 30-hour bus ride from Jinja, Uganda to Mombasa on the southern Kenyan coast.

A very bumpy ride (thanks to back seats), Karina with a broken foot, and clothes caked with dust that required three washings, faded from memory once I saw the incredible and stunning Indian Ocean with its varying shades of blue, green and aqua, and its sparking white sandy beaches.

Back in 2007 I fell in love with the Indian Ocean and its warm, clear waters. Having grown up near the Pacific Ocean, which is beautiful, but so cold even in August, I loved the fact that the Indian was so "warm" and inviting.

Eight years passed before I had another opportunity to visit Kenya, Uganda's neighbor to the east. This July it was an amazing pleasure to travel with the Peterson family and another family from Jinja in trekking 328 miles for 13 hours by coaster (bus) to the immense Great Rift Valley. This expansive valley of 3700 miles is surrounded by towering hills and spotted by lakes and volcanoes.

Kijabe, our destination and home to Rift Valley Academy (RVA), is on the valley's edge at an elevation of about 7200 feet. It is approximately 30 miles northwest of Nairobi, Kenya's capital. "Kijabi" in the local Maasai language means "Place of the Wind" and it lives up to its name. Being accustomed to Jinja's 3900-foot elevation and warmer, humid climate, I found myself living in sweaters and basking in the sun when I had the chance. But, the surroundings were beautiful with towering evergreen trees, rolling hills, stunning vistas, and the sprawling valley.

Our aim was to attend a graduation at RVA, an international boarding school, but we turned it into a week of relaxation and fun. We attended music concerts and football games at the school, explored the broad, historic campus, visited old friends and met new ones, took in a one-day safari at Lake Nakuru, a salt-water lake, and of course the climax, enjoyed the graduation ceremony itself.

Zebra on the roadside - seemingly as common as deer in Oregon. :)

Anyone for potatoes, carrots, or cabbages larger than your head? (A roadside market stand.)

As seen from the bus - part of the Great Rift Valley.

Rift Valley Academy an international boarding school established in 1906, currently the second-best secondary school on the African continent, and primarily serving the children of missionaries working throughout Africa.

Janae, the graduate, standing in front of the famous "chai" tree where students hang their cups when not being used to enjoy tea.

The school's new art building.

Cornerstone of the school's Kiambogo administration building, laid by the Honorable Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt on Aug. 4, 1809, during a hunting trip to Africa.

One of the girls' dormitories.

A day safari in Lake Nakuru National Park was definitely a highlight! From top left, clockwise: flamingos, zebras (see the little one?), a giraffe, rhino, male bushbuck, group of rhinos, and impalas. 

Lake Nakuru - a saltwater lake.

One of my favorite animals on the safari - a baby vervet monkey, learning to climb a tree.

Janae with her diploma. She graduated with flying colors!

The proud Peterson family, and Grandma Gloria, too.

The Petersons and Kings - two amazing families! The Kings are on staff at RVA and related to the Petersons.
The painting of RVA's Class of 2015, inspired by the Pixar movie "Up" and featuring the students' artwork and signatures.

My return to Kenya was certainly a blessing and all the more so for spending it with some incredible people. Adventures are best shared with people you love! :)

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