Challenges Met in Sterling Ways

DSC_6559As astonishing as it was to observe the basic, stark way of outdoor cooking, and serving to the hundreds of UAW delegates in Nairobi, was the lovely, caring, presentation of meals to speakers and other guests. Table clothes were changed for each meal. Later we would see the linen pieces hanging on fences to dry.

IMG_0935These beautiful tents were rented. Used for ladies sessions during the day, at night they became sleeping places for many of the delegates. IMG_0891Junior Aston showed us how to eat this Kenya food called Ugali. It is customary in one’s home to serve the mixture in one large bowl into which everyone dips their hands and pulls off a piece. The process calls for taking one’s thumb to make an indentation, then “sopping” up the sauces that have been cooked with the meat and vegetables. I learned the trick quickly, and quite enjoyed it. The food was tasty; lots of stewed meat with delicious sauces. Pictured below is goat meat we were served. I liked it.

IMG_0980IMG_0978Her name is Carol. She is the national secretary of the Ladies Department, and she kind of took me under her wing. She is the one who in the first service gently pushed me into a group of ladies who were dancing in worship to African music. (I did my best, but in some videos I have seen, I look rather stiff and uncoordinated!) Once, in a moment of affection,  she picked me straight up off the floor. Later I walked up behind her as we headed to the tents, touched her on the arm and acted as though I would lift her. She smiled at me and said in her beautiful accent, “You cannot move a mountain.” I truly love her. Hope to see her again some day.

Safari

The Nairobi area has experienced a significant drought, so the rain that pelted us at the airport on Tuesday evening was quite welcome, even to the animals that roam the lush savannah lands of southern Kenya. We saw hundreds of them during our safari, sleek, healthy, and beautiful. It was a breathtaking moment as we motored down a dirt trail, saw a spotted neck rise above the trees and a face thrust about, so that we could recognize this being  as an elegant giraffe. They are huge animals, ranging from 15 to 19 feet tall.

DSC_6288The landscape itself was magnificent. The weather glorious. In certain places it was safe for us to leave our vehicles and walk about.DSC_6487Indeed one of the rangers offered to guide us to a spot where a crocodile had recently hatched 15 babies.

DSC_6467DSC_6473Zebras seem impossible. They are so fine, so perfectly stripped. Sophistication with a mask on. We saw herd after herd of these beautiful creatures.

DSC_6369This fella fixed his eyes on me as we paused to consider his handsomeness.DSC_6353What of these horns?

DSC_6388“There’s a lion down the way,” someone in another vehicle told us once as we stopped for something. “A recent kill.”  The lion had killed a cape buffalo that lay beside the road. The lion was a few feet away in some bushes, but unfortunately we could not see him well. We did see his chest moving up and down, breathing hard as he digested his tasty meal.

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A bit of a tourist trap threatened to snag us when after walking with a guide down a trail we were led to this little business venture by some ambitious Maasai. We smiled, fingered the trinkets, but I don’t believe any of us bought anything.

Adventure personified–the day of the safari in Nairobi, Kenya on the continent of Africa.

Dancing with the Maasai

Jet lag is a reality as is demonstrated in my own life by the fact that it is now 5:06 am on Tuesday and that I have been awake since 2:00 and up since a bit after 3:00. Our delightful 12-day trip to Africa and Italy  ended on Friday with a smooth landing at LAX. Rebecca and Nathaniel were there to drive us to our home, and when I opened the car door there was Winston, our great dog, wagging his tail–indeed his entire body. Bek had tied a big red bow around his neck, and he wore a sign that read Welcome Home. Jet lag tends to be worse as one travels eastward, as certainly was the case with our entire group our first few days in Nairobi. Many of us were awake for long periods around 2:00 in the morning. East to West typically is less taxing, and I have done very well until this morning. So, since I hate to lie wakeful in bed, I’ve been up drinking coffee, reading, praying, and reviewing this glorious trip.

DSC_6255On Thursday two vans picked up our group of 11 to take us to Nairobi National Park for a Safari. After our drivers had parked the vans and before we entered the safari area, we joined with a group of persons who were entertaining near the admission gate. I first went into a restroom and when I came out, there was Jerry right in the middle of the dancers, who I learned were of the Maasai tribe. Many Maasai live in the Kenya area. As we traveled into the city proper one day on what is considered a main highway I was startled to see numbers of cattle roaming about. I learned then that the cardinal means of living for the Maasai is cattle herding, and that they consider any open ground as fair game to graze their herds.

DSC_6256They are beautiful, tall lean people who are extremely agile as is demonstrated by their high leaping and jumping.

Someone pushed me into the dance group. The dancers circled us and dressed us in their garb and soon began chanting, leaping, and dancing. Jerry and I did our best to dance the African steps, but a couple of videos I have seen of our efforts were little short of abysmal.

DSC_6273DSC_6264DSC_6267The dancers gathered about Jerry at the conclusion of the dances, and as he dug around in his pockets for tip money and considered a shilling of 10, they indicated no. Two 10s would be better. And so it was!

The People, The Market

We’re so attached to Winston, that both Jerry and I were sad when we dropped him off at Rebecca’s, but he’ll be fine, for Rebecca’s dog, Paisley, is Winston’s sister, and they love being together. Sweet Nathaniel loaded our things into his car, and we were off to LAX. Horrendous traffic, but finally we were there. Met up with Steve and his group, checked documents, obtained boarding passes . . .and we blasted into the sky on a magnificent 747. I’ll never get over my amazement that such creations holding 400 people can move with great precision across the globe.

A trip such as this one has been described as brutal, for it calls for virtually traveling from one side of the world to the other. A few details may help you see this. We left LAX at 11:00, flew up the coast to San Francisco. From there a ten-hour to Frankfurt, and from there to Nairobi, an 8 hour flight. By the time we arrived in our room, it was Tuesday evening, and we had left our home 24 hours before. It definitely was the longest time of air travel for me, but I was surprised at how well I felt when I plopped into a comfy bed at midnight. Worth every second of the grueling day.

Before I finish writing of this trip I will endeavor to express my love and appreciation for our hosts here, Brother and Sister Aston Ngota, and will strive to describe to some extent the compound here; the printing room, the beautiful church, the kitchen, the chickens, the building in which we have a 2 bedroom suite, as do Steve and Dearrah. Gracious and godly people.  Brother Aston and his staff picked us up at the airport, midst a mild cool rain; Sister Aston met us at our rooms in which she had placed hot chicken soup, fruit, sandwiches and other fine things.

The picture below is of the building in which we’re staying, looking back on the trail that leads to the kitchen where we have been served delicious meals.

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The conferece does not start until Friday, so we have a couple of days for some sight-seeing. Wednesday the church graciously supplied two church vans, along with drivers to show us around a bit. Highlight of the day was a visit to one of the markets.

An interesting moment occured when the young girl in the white shirt pictured above beside me complained that I did not buy anything from her stall and that I was just taking pictures and would probably charge for them. I am careful of people’s feelings when I take pictures in such situations, and if I am close range to a person and want to photograph them, I ask their permission, as I had done of the lady in the booth to which this young girl referred. Steve joined the conversation and offered to have me photograph them. They declined, then their vibrant friendly brother pulled on a hat and said, “Take my picture.” I did and told him I would send it to him if he gave me his email address. The conversation with all of them became sweet and tender as you can see. Bottom line: We gathered about them, Steve led in prayer, and they have promised to attend one night of the conference.

Thursday plans: A safari!

The Makings of a Sudden Trip

I write this first segment aboard a Lufthansa plane, at an elevation of 37,200 feet. Set against a crystal blue sky, the surging aircraft–with me in it–is traveling at a ground speed of more than 500 mph. Far beneath us I see a river. The screen attached to the seat ahead tells me the river is called the Nile, and I think of Moses, and bulrushes, and a floating baby basket. We will reach our destination in 2 hours and a half. The city of the airport is Nairobi, the country is Kenya, the continent is Africa.

I find it hard to believe I am here.

Jerry called from the living room, where he sat with Steve, to me in the kitchen in the afternoon following lunch, Easter Sunday 2017. “Want to go to Africa tomorrow?”
“What?”
“I said do you want to go to Africa tomorrow.”
“What are you talking about?” I questioned as I walked into the living room.

And so began the trip. I knew Steve and Dearrah were flying on Monday to Nairobi, Kenya where Steve would preach during a church conference, then on to Rome for a few days of sight-seeing. I knew that, and that a few people from his church would be going with them. But we had not figured into those plans in any way.

“Why don’t you and Mom go with us,” Steve had said after Jerry casually asked of the airline price for the trip. “We bought rooms at a group rate, and it was cheaper for us to add a room we didn’t need, so your rooms would be paid for.”
Jerry and I stared at each other. Then we grinned, began talking of appointments, hotel reservations and such we had for the coming days, and that we could cancel them all, how that our passports were up to date, how much fun it would be, and that because of my cancer treatments last year when our 60th wedding anniversary rolled around we hadn’t really celebrated it, and this trip could take care of that little lapse, and that the fares were exceedingly reasonable . . .

Steve made phone calls to his secretary, Evette, to assure that seats were available on all the flights we would need. They were. We said yes. We were laughing, Dearrah and I hugged, and Steve reminded us we would have to cancel our plans to attend a drama that evening, get home as quickly as we could for Evette needed our passport numbers, visas must be arranged, travel insurance bought, packing for us, phone calls, and such. Our drive home before we could even begin the process was two hours and a half. The first flight was out of LAX at 11:00 on Monday morning, we needed to be there at 9:00, and the airport is a 2 hour drive from our house, so we would leave at 6:30 am, take Winston to Rebecca’s and transfer our luggage to Nate’s car.

I called Rebecca to ask her to keep Winston and to get Nathaniel to drive us to the airport. “We’re going to Africa tomorrow.” Stone silence. “We’re going to Africa.” When she could finally talk, it was to say how excited she was for us, and that of course she and Nate would help us with the airport trek, and with looking after Winston.
Panic set in a few minutes after we walked into the house. I could not find our passports. I keep mine in a desk drawer in a folder named Important Documents; Jerry keeps his in one of his dresser drawers. Neither passport was in its place. Expired ones were, and a copy of our current, valid one, but I could find neither of our passports. I was trembling. Called Steve. Asked how much time we had. Could the airline tickets be cancelled? “Keep looking, Mom. I’ll make phone calls.”

I tore the house apart, checked in pockets of all our luggage, pawed again through the places they should be, checked folders in the desk, and finally out of two drawers of a four-drawer file I took  every file folder and plopped them on the floor, thinking maybe mine had slipped out of its file. Nothing. I went upstairs to the room where we keep our pictures and travel mementos. Same word: Nothing. I was sick.

Back to the study. I opened again the bottom file drawer, took everything out of there, and discovered a large file with ISRAEL/ISTANBUL scrawled over its face. I looked through it, and there among maps, cards and notes was my passport. I grabbed it up, ran in the bedroom. “I found mine.” Poor guy, Jerry had pulled a chair up to the dresser, still searching, and was just pulling out the entire big drawer when I walked in. “Maybe it’s behind there.” IT WAS! I reached my hand far to the back, and there wedged against the rear wall was Jerry’s passport. Somehow it had slipped over the edge of the drawer and had jammed there.

Days 15 and 16 of 16 Days with the Grands *Preparations for Leaving*

The last two days of this great visit I encouraged the youngsters to be sure they had all their things gathered, so that they would leave nothing behind. I believe I have mentioned before that these grandchildren like to discuss what we will be having for meals. I had told them sometime before that on the 16th day, which would be Tuesday, we would have fried chicken. And so we did . . .along with mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans (which they spurned !) and a green salad.

dsc_4564As she had for every meal we ate in the dining room while the youngsters were here, Ella set the table. She always does a fine job, setting the silverware properly and choosing cloth napkins to blend with the dishes we have chosen to use.

Andrew and Shawnna’s plane arrives in the late evening, so arrangements had been made that they would not come to our place until Wednesday morning, which was actually the 17th day.

On Wednesday morning, I did final laundry for them, spruced up the house, urged them to get their bags packed, and helped them remake the beds after I washed the sheets. Jerry had decided to smoke ribs for the big afternoon meal, and Rebecca and Nathaniel would join all of us. The day was warm; we set up tables on the back deck.

. . .and then they were here.

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I became distracted and got few photographs after that.

We spent several hours together before they had to leave, hearing a few of their adventures and seeing pictures of magnificent Hawaii on their computer. Andrew and Shawnna both have quite an artistic flair, and each of them produces beautiful photography. She uses a cell phone. Andrew has a Nikon. The youngsters told of their adventures, and Cole even snookered his dad into a game of checkers.

On the north shore of Oahu, actually within the sea, Andrew had the good fortune of finding a large piece of coral. He and Shawnna gifted his dad and me with this magnificent piece. . .and with this very touching card.

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And then they were gone.

It is quiet now. Too quiet.

 

Day 9 of 16 with the Grands *Disneyland!*

It was around 8:00 on Tuesday morning when hubby drove Ella and me down to connect with Rebecca and the boys. The Disneyland day had arrived; their gates opened at 10:00 and we didn’t want to miss one minute. It surprises me a bit, but Disneyland allows food to be taken onto their grounds, so we each had frozen bottles of water, and sandwiches, trail mix, granola bars and such were in the backpacks that were the order of the day.

img_0461The women.

img_0467-2The men.

The day was as perfect as any could be. Warm weather, but not too hot. Slightly humid.img_0516-2

img_0495The mouse ears. Love them and the little girl who wore them all day.

img_0496At the entrance Rebecca and I told the boys they could split off from us if they wanted, and as we spoke we decided on a place to meet later in the afternoon for a meal together. However, it worked out that in the early part of the day we were in the same places, in particular we entered the Haunted House together. Ella was terrified. Nathaniel was so sweet with her all day long. He hugged her up when she was so frightened, and often they walked hand in hand. Ella dearly loves her big cousin, Nathaniel.

img_0541I can ride these tea cups, whirl as fast as they go, and never feel a touch of dizziness. We had met up with a family from Rebecca’s church. London shared a cup with us.

Once when Cole and Brady were with us women and we talked of getting some food, the boys entered a food place where we were sitting outside. Somehow they thought they had to spend their own money for this meal and when I followed them in a few minutes later, Cole said, “I don’t think I want to eat here, Granny.” One slice of pizza was $8.00! We wandered around a bit, found a hamburger joint and ordered our food there; Cole’s hamburger and fries was $12.00!

“What do you want to drink?” I quizzed all of them. The drinks were nearly $4.00 each.

“We’ll get water out of the fountain and put in our bottles,” Cole said. I know I have mentioned it before but these grandchildren of mine are really exceptional; thoughtful and not greedy at all.

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It’s a bit strange, I suppose, but Pirates of the Caribbean has always been my favorite attraction at Disneyland. Ella loved it too, and we wound up going there twice. I think all together we covered most of the rides. I did not like Space Mountain. Too dark and loud. All the kids loved it.

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We closed the place down, and even the boys were  complaining with leg and foot pain before we got to the parking lot around 10:00. I chose to wear these not too beautiful tennis shoes, and at the day’s conclusion had only a little pain over one of my toes.

“Granny, those rainbow laces,” Cole had giggled when he saw my shoes early that morning.

It was a glorious day!

 

Day 2 of 16 with the Grands *Biscuits, Gravy, and Disneyland*

I “blew it” on the first day the youngsters were here, but I didn’t find out about the mistake I had made until the next day. When by snickering whispers, knowing looks, and finally a confession, I learned what I had done. I felt like poking every one of these three in the middle of their funniest bone to make them suffer. Happened this way:

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People who live here in southern California will probably find it hard to believe, but these youngsters of mine have never been to Disneyland. Never. Now I don’t believe they have suffered in any way for this lack of entertainment for they’re well adjusted friendly people, and don’t seem at all disadvantaged or in any way abused or neglected. 🙂 Anyway, I decided to treat them to such a trip while we are keeping them, ran the details by their parents, then ordered and printed out the tickets. It would be a secret, I decided. They would know we were going on a very special outing, and only when we arrived at the gates of the “happiest place on earth” would they know our destination to be Disneyland.

I was so excited. And so dumb. Left the tickets in full sight on the desk in the study; a desk that is not off limits, a desk where they are allowed to work, and to get tape, pens and such from its drawers.  Ella saw the tickets first, ran to tell Brady, then Cole saw them a few hours later. None of the little rascals right away said anything to me, but when I mentioned the secret trip they had blank looks on their faces, nodding wisely and sweetly. Finally Cole whispered to me, “We’re going to Disneyland, aren’t we Granny?”

“These youngsters of yours are little rats,” I later told Andrew on the phone.

“How did they find out?” he wanted to know. “Brady emailed me last night that they were going to Disneyland.”

Amidst slightly embarrassed laughter, I told the deed. And now you also know the saga of the almost secret trip to Disneyland.

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For breakfast on Tuesday we had biscuits and gravy, and when we were eating dinner, Brady said, “I love biscuits and gravy, Granny. We could have that for breakfast every day.”

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During these days we’re eating breakfast and lunch at the bar, and since we only have four bar stools I’m usually not sitting with the rest during these times. Love seeing Pappy with these special grands, hearing him say a prayer over the meals, or asking one of them to do so. Unforgettable, dear times.

Sixteen Days with Grands–Pre Day 1

Yes! Andrew asked Jerry and me if we would be able and willing to keep three of their children for 16 days while he, Shawnna, and their eldest son, Gentry, vacation in Hawaii. Gentry graduated from high school in the spring, and the trip is his graduation present. I was delighted to say yes!

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On Saturday, we traveled down to San Diego to meet up with Andrew’s family and with our second son, Mike, and his wife, Melina, who were there to celebrate their 26th wedding anniversary. Around 2:00 in the afternoon we all met near the jetty in Mission Beach. Relaxed in the afternoon, did “beachy” things, ate snacks, then just at dusk the men and boys built a great bonfire.

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dsc_4369Ella and her mom on the sands of the great Pacific.

dsc_4401The descent. At the edge . . . then gone. How quickly so. And Brady . . . merely days before, a baby. Now a fledgling young man.

So ended Saturday. On Sunday morning Jerry and I were extremely blessed to be in church with our three sons and some of their families.

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Great barbecue place after church. Loved being with my family. Loved seeing Jerry stand close to our wonderful boys, for through the years it has become almost impossible to get all our four children together at one time. I cherish such rare occasions and consider them precious. (Just sorry Rebecca didn’t make it down.)

At Andrew’s we loaded up Cole, Brady, and Ella, and by 2:30 were on our way to Crestline. We would see their parents in 16 days.

The Dogs of Forrest, and A Cat

imageIsabel is her name, she weighs 75 pounds and her proud owners, Junior and Sandy, report she has recently lost 10 pounds, which puts her at a normal weight for an English Bulldog of her frame. I laughed at her repeatedly as I visited my brother, for she is downright funny. She takes three or four plodding steps, then plops down hard wherever she is, which may be right at your feet. Her head is monstrous.image

She reminds me of both a pig–look at those legs, regular hams–and a rhinoceros. Would you believe, though, she gets up quite a head of steam when she decides to chase one of the beautiful chickens. Izzy sleeps in Sandy’s room, although one morning when I arose before the others I found her on the fine leather couch in the living room. She languidly opened one eye, then closed it and resumed her snoring. When Sandy found her there, she promptly scolded Isabel and shooed her off the couch.

Once Sandy dropped off Isabel at an obedience school. When she returned to pick her up after the first day of training, the coach in a friendly way said, “You know what. Some dogs are made to just be companions. We’ll refund your money.” Seems she just couldn’t (or wouldn’t) learn the most basic of commands! Sandy put a leash on her, and Izzy waddled to the car.

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Pugsley is a Shih Tzu, a little ole man, nearly blind, either 12 or 13 years old. He is tended by Sandy, a little touchy and wouldn’t let me pick him up. He sleeps in a crate in the office area. Sometimes when a treat is promised, he performs a little trick.

imageimageimageYou’re met Sally before. A beautiful, sweet boxer, she thinks Pugsley is her pup. One evening as we all sat in the living room, Isabel did something mean to Pugsley. Next thing we knew a dog fight was roaring with Sally atop Isabel holding her down and biting her ears. Junior and Sandy broke up the fight; Sandy held Isabel down hard to the floor a bit for punishment. A little later Sally went to Isabel and sweetly licked her ears.image
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One cold winter night, Junior heard something mewling outside the house. He opened the door, and in the howling weather found a tiny, drenched, black kitten. Kitty is now a beautiful, sleek cat who lives in the Forrest home, mostly in Junior’s area. Name is Gato which is cat in Spanish. Not sure whether Gato is a boy or a girl. Forgot to ask. Sally thinks Gato also is her baby. Sally sleeps in the bed with Junior. Gato sleeps somewhere in the area.

Every morning Junior holds “Doggy Day Care” where he feeds the animals and washes their faces. One afternoon while we were there, he cooked up a batch of hamburger meat for their lunch. He grinned at us when he admitted the deed.