A Travellerspoint blog

Summer in Chicago

How fast time flies when you're having fun!

Monday, August 1:

Hard to believe I'm already back in Heathrow airport to get ready for the start of year 3 in Kenya! Luckily, this time around, Mom's making the trip too and visiting for an impromptu 2 weeks!

There were TONS of great things this summer, but here are a few highlights:

Brett graduates from Kellogg! It was FREEZING outside, but Henry, as always, was entertaining. Especially with his new gift, a mini vuvuzela from South Africa! I'm pretty sure that horn is staying at Nana and Grandpa's place. It's LOOOOUUUUUDDDD!
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NYC here I come! Spent a long weekend with Christine in the big apple.
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Porter's bachelorette weekend in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Good times, good friends, good food, LOTS of boxed wine, impromptu dance parties with special choreographers and great memories.
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And a great week with the family on Gun Lake in Michigan!
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Posted by BlakeSims 02:23 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Chiefing Ceremony, Kenya Style

Sunday, April 17th:

When Lindsey asks if you want to attend a traditional Maasai cheifing ceremony for a friend, how can you resist?! Honestly, you can't...the amazing possibilities that the day will enfold is way too good to pass up!

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Nickson and his family at the ceremony

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Philip showing some of the kids the photos he's taken of them

So, when the situation arose last weekend, two cars full of muzungus, mainly women too, headed out of Nairobi and into the neighboring "town" of Kitengela to see what a chiefing ceremony is all about.

An hour into the drive, we begin to see Matutus, and lot of them, on the deserted strip that we call a road. Where were they heading? How many people would be attending this event? We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into!

We round a corner, and BAM! Out of nowhere we see hundreds of Kenyans, mainly men, with white tents, and LOTS of matatus. We've arrived!
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The tents full of spectators!

We gingerly climb out of the cars, cameras ready for the big event. We make our way through the crowd of onlookers towards Nickson's home, the man of honor. I've visited his place a few times with Lindsey, but usually we're surrounded by empty hills. Not today.

It turns out that a "gang" in Kenya is gathering to discuss how they will respond to the Ocampo Six arriving back in Kenya. For those out of the loop, the ICC has pressed charges against 6 Kenyans they feel most responsible for the deaths of over 1,000 people in the post-election violence of 2007. The case is finally getting underway, and the 6 were returning the following day from the Hague. Would there be a rally of support at the airport? These folks were meeting to find out what to do with their matatus!

Anyways, back to the real ceremony! Eventually Nickson and the other chiefs were able to get the crowd to disperse and only about 200 remained to celebrate his cheifing. This meant long lines of mamas and babies for lunch, including a massive pot (or two) of rice and meat being hacked off directly from the bone. YUMMY! There is nothing quite like Kenyan nyoma choma, it takes hours just to break it down enough to swallow!

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After a delicious lunch, we proceeded over to the now empty tents for the ceremony to begin. We were taking secret photos of people (Maasai believe that a photo steals their soul, so we have to be sneaky sometimes). Meanwhile, we were having our pictures taken by the DJ, and at one point, he even came to sit on Lindsey and my lap for a snapshot!
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The event started off with a group of local orphans singing and dancing to the music before the speeches began. A couple of hours later, we decided it was time to head back, and graciously made our exit, with most likely, another couple of hours of speeches to go.

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Lindsey introduces herself and congratulates her friend, Nickson

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Speeches, speeches and more speeches!

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Who knew an acacia tree branch could double as a tooth pick?!

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Time to head home!
Overall, it was a fascinating afternoon and one that won't be forgotten!

Posted by BlakeSims 08:54 Comments (1)

Cape Town, part 2!

Tuesday, April 12th:

More photos from spring break! What a fantastic trip and great time with friends!

Vineyards:
We spent an afternoon touring a few of the hundreds of vineyards just about an hours drive outside of Cape Town. We began at Spier, a vineyard that is also the home to abandoned cheetahs, cool! They also have cages for exotic birds, including owls, hawks and other feathery friends. For an extra few, you and your friends can enter the cheetah cages, pet the WILD cats and have photos taken. Tempting...but we passed. However, there were other more daring groups that didn't look very calm once entering the cages. Do you play dead or run for your lives?!
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Next stop was Delaire's, a BEAUTIFUL vineyard and restaurant in the hills. The clouds were coming in, adding a dramatic backdrop to the modern building. Sadly, we were too late to sample their wines, but got a short tour of the stock!
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Last vineyard was a classic Dutch design including an outdoor space under the trees and delicious wine for the tasting!
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The night ended with a fantastic 6 course meal, and wine pairing (of course) at Le Colombe. According to Kate, it's one of the top twenty restaurants in the world and it certainly DIDN'T disappoint. I've still foaming at the mouth just thinking about it!

Next day we spent some time sight seeing and shopping down town. We visited Green City Market, where there really weren't many things that I can't find in Nairobi (helped on the budget!). I chatted it up with some Kenyans and found a great print from Zimbabwe to take home for a souvenir. IMG_3031.jpgIMG_3029.jpgIMG_3030.jpg

Time for some more touristy things, like Robben Island! I accompanied Devon and Daniel, the two chaperones with kids from school, on the boat ride and tour of the former political prison. Quite an experience! Although I didn't quite find my sea legs, the ride and tour, led by a former inmate, were totally worth the few minutes of nausea! We took a bus ride around the island: previous home to a leper colony, and still home to about 50 people that work for the museum. We also got to walk through the prison and grounds, as well as see what Nelson Mandela's cell looked like when he first arrived. Bare floor, bucket for a toilet, and thin blanket/mattress with pillow. Very moving experience.
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Of course, I also had to see the views of Cape Town from atop Table Mountain! I met up with two other coworkers on vacation for the day's trip. We took the cable car up, after a line that felt like I was at Great America, but decided to hike back down. Um...this is a mountain, and my thighs felt the workout for a week! IMG_3107.jpgIMG_3109.jpgIMG_3110.jpgIMG_3113.jpgIMG_3115.jpgIMG_3116.jpgIMG_3120.jpgIMG_3122.jpgIMG_3124.jpg All view from the top!

Then, the LONG and STEEP hike down: IMG_3134.jpgIMG_3128.jpgIMG_3129.jpgIMG_3131.jpgIMG_3135.jpg

Drive around the coast to see surfing and penguins!
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The penguins were so cute! It was a little scary getting close to them, but they are NOT afraid of humans! IMG_3146.jpgIMG_3148.jpgIMG_3150.jpgIMG_3153.jpgIMG_3156.jpgIMG_3158.jpgIMG_3160.jpg

I miss Cape Town already, but it's nice to be back in Nairobi...more adventures to come!

Posted by BlakeSims 09:10 Comments (0)

Cape Town!

Spring Break 2011

Tuesday, April 5th:

How time flies when you're having fun! I got to spend a fantastic week visiting friends in Cape Town for spring break! Now, I need a vacation from my vacation! Jackie's recently moved there for a new position, although she might be relocated again soon! Becca has been volunteering and making her way around Africa before she heads for Israel. And Kate, she flew down for some mandatory rest and relaxation for UNICEF from Kinshasa, Congo.

Aside from those three lovely ladies, there were many co-workers from ISK traveling in Cape Town as well, so I was always busy! Here are a few highlights from my photos. They aren't all downloaded yet, so there will be more to come! All in all, Cape Town is absolutely gorgeous with so much to do, see, and eat! It didn't even feel like Africa!

First of all, we had an amazing house rental for our trip. The living room was solid glass, taking advantage of the beautiful view of the ocean. Most days we spent some time laying on the balcony soaking up the sun and occasionally dipping into the "pool".
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With so many options for dining, it was often hard to choose! I got my fill of Mexican, although I'm not sure I can ever really get my fill! We spent most nights sitting outside enjoying the scenery and the Waterfront with views of the harbor and Table Mountain.
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Our first day was beautiful, so we headed to Camps Bay: lots of boutiques, cafes, and waves.
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To feel more touristy, we then headed downtown to the BoKap area. It was, and still is, home to Cape Town's Muslim population and know for its vibrant colored homes and mosque.
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There's so much more to come! Write again soon.

Posted by BlakeSims 06:33 Comments (0)

Crescent Island and Brown's Cheese

Sunday, February 6th:

Last week Becca, a friend from home, came to visit Nairobi. Kobi, Becca and I traveled about an hour outside of Nairobi to visit Crescent Island, an animal sanctuary without predators, so it's safe to walk around. Even with the intense heat and dry land, Joesphat was a great guide.

We stopped off at a Great Rift view point on the way out there. We joined in with dozens of tourists to pose for pictures and look around at the local goods.

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You can even buy chickens here!

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Becca and I pose for a shot.

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Kobi and me

This was Kobi's first experience with wildlife (an amazing statistic), but he wasn't scared of the giraffe. He probably got within 6 feet of one at one point...a little scary from behind the camera. He and Becca were amazed by the wild creatures.

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A little too close for comfort

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Mama and her baby, born early December.

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Kobi and I ready to go out later that night.

Then today, a group of teachers headed out to Limuru, another town about 45 minutes outside of Nairobi, to visit a local cheese factory. Marie, sorry I didn't know about this when you visited! I thought about you and Kraft all day long!

We took a tour of the family-run factory, sampled half a dozen types of cheese, and had a delicious group meal. The day ended with a tour of the grounds, garden, and farm. A great day!

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Brown's was started about 30 years ago, when cheese was nowhere to be found. The company is now run by the founder's daughter and husband, along with their two adorable kids!

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Tour of the factory

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So much cheese!

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One of the cutest dogs ever!

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Our cheese sampler.

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The Chakula food group at our best.

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View from the farm.

Good times with good friends!

Posted by BlakeSims 08:53 Comments (0)

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