Thursday, January 3, 2013

Prison Island - Where the Turtles Roam Free

Prison Island - a very misleading name for this island that barely reaches 800M long and 250M wide. No prisoners have ever actually spent time here - as it was quarantined for yellow fever victims almost immediately after a prison was constructed on it.  If I was a convict in 1893 I would of been quite excited at the thought of ending up on this small but breathtaking island covered with turtles.  
Our good luck that started once we flew out of Kenya continued on the island as the flash storm that was approaching took a detour.  Allowing us to enjoy a day on the beach - wading in the turquoise waters - napping on the sand - and constructing turtle themed sand castles.
Mama P and I entertained the gang from our two sips of wine while we enjoyed a sunset sail back to the main island. 
A dolphin adventure that left us disappointed was soon forgotten as we ventured into Jozani forest to ooh and awe over monkeys swinging on vines around us.  Fair warning to anyone who ever decides to visit paradise on this side of the world.  When a local informs you it is fighting season - don't duck or hide in fear of getting caught in a monkey scrapping battle - instead get your camera's out and cover your children's eyes.  And prepare to be consumed by confusion and laughter as you discover that 'fighting' turns out to be mating season. 
Swimming lessons in the Tembo pool with Mama P turned out to be nothing short of a very entertaining hour.  
The 'fighting' season continued on Prison Island as we trekked through the brush following the odd sounds we couldn't place.  Only to come across the 160 old turtle mounting the 53 year old turtle. Shock and awe to follow.
We left Prison Island giddy, sunburnt, and with a new interest/appreciation for all of the islands that appear as small specs on the world map.  

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Crepes - Seafood and Pizza oh my!

Zanzibar island turned out to be an overwhelming success - and within our short time there I fell in love with StoneTown - the people, and most of all the turquoise waters.   

This little island seemed to have an uncanny knack to have breathtaking views from every patio, balcony and beach.  We started our days from this view at our balcony and ventured into the winding streets looking for trinkets to buy, locals to meet and ice cream to lick!
We also spent a considerable amount of time crouched in the back of a curio shop with the owner who did not speak a drop of english - but gladly allowed us to hide from the flash rains. 

I've discovered a real obsession I have for doors - windows and any type of passageway that seems to have character and colour.

No matter how well planned our night seemed - we always ended up at the local market bartering over fresh seafood and mangoes.  One thing we did not barter over - and likely would've overpaid for was the irresistible nutella crepes. Complete with giant bananas and musical charades. 

Zanzibar you impressed us with your innovational shoes made from old tires - and your hidden treasures we found in each curio - from gypsy pants to chess boards.  

Above all else Tanzanian people have a great sense of humour - noted in the t-shirt for sale above.  How many Tanzanians does it take to complete six braids? Four. As we found out below.

We were satisfied with our morning entertainment of a senior tanzanian performing his 'yoga' on the beach as we indulged on chocolate croissants and corn flakes for breakfast.  Much to our amazement we were even more entertained by the two tourists who decided to get an up close and personal documentation of the local yoga moves.  
And judging by the angle of his camera - we did not want a copy of his prints.

I was quite proud that I had adapted into Kenyan currency with such ease - I was not prepared however for the changes in currency I was about to experience over the next three weeks.  
Currency conversion headaches start below.  

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Nakuru - 24/7

Upon arriving at Nakuru’s Sure 24 Orphanage you will immediately identify it as a well-run organization.  If you have also spent the past three months working in the slums of Nairobi, it’s a positive surprise as well.  Once you pass the Sure 24 gates that are named after the tag line ‘God Loves 24/7’ it’s quite easy to mistake this new world as a well-run village of it’s own.

Self-Sustainability is literally waiting for you at every corner you turn.  The fish-feeding program is impressive to start, abundant gardens that go for miles and a designated area for hair styling and weaving (essential with African-american hair) just to name a few.

Samuel and his wife Millie run the orphanage on their own, and if tissue wasn't so hard to come by in Africa - their story is reason enough to pull some out.
Growing up as a street boy apart of many gangs Samuel split his time between running drugs and soliciting client for his mothers home brew business run out of their one bedroom home. When Samuel was a baby he would pass out from the fumes of the brew, and would revive only after his sisters had rushed him outside for fresh air and a drop of milk.

A random individual approached Samuel one day while he was begging and asked why he was not is school.  Samuel who was a young thirteen at the time was quite honest about the fact he could not afford uniform or books.  The man who turned out to be from the UK took him to the school paid for his entire primary education, bought him a uniform, books, and most importantly a warm lunch.

Sammy turned into a successful business owner in property sales, until one day, he met himself.  A street boy, who was not in school, attempting to make it on the streets stealing, getting high and begging.  Sammy took that boy in, and was the very first of 89 orphans and vulnerable children to come.

Sammy has high hopes for the future of Sure 24 and it’s uplifting to see his high hopes have a well thought out plan behind them.  As I have seen in the past few months, too many hopes and dreams fall through because of the tendency to rely on handouts.  

The entire orphanage runs like a well-oiled episode of the Brady Brunch. At first glance it may seem like the orphanage is mostly composed of brothers and sisters who ended up here together.  When in fact there are only a few siblings by blood in the orphanage.  They treat each other as we treat our family – because to them, this is the only real family they have.

If you are lucky enough to arrive at SURE24 around christmas season you are entertained for hours by their well planned christmas concert - And although you may resist - you will find yourself pulled on stage several times to exhibit 'canadian dancing' which includes the classics like the macarena, the shopping cart, the lawn mower and most importantly Kaetlyn's trademark old man dance. 

The rest of our days were filled with activities with the kids, milking cows and preparing meals.

When meal time comes you squish in on a bench filled with chattering kids and gladly pass on the chicken head, eyes, and claws that are served on your plate.  

We were entertained for hours with choreographed dancing, hand-written letters and the comedic relief the older boys provided.

We woke on our last morning to an overwhelming amount of letters the children had written to their sponsors back in North America.  The amount of sincere love and gratitude in these papers was like nothing I've ever read before.