road trip stop six: cleveland, ohio

ok…I’ve been back for a while, so these posts are a bit delayed….

Here I chilled with brother CC and sister-in-law EC. Highlights include the farmer’s market, great food (think salmon, crepes, fresh raspberries), spending a day replacing the speakers and stereo in George (aka ‘ my faithful car’), and riding on CC’s motorcycle.
For the record, in this picture I am in an empty parking lot in first gear…I am much more practiced at being a passenger!

road trip stop five: atlanta, georgia

Spent a couple days chilling with brother MC in Atlanta. In this picture he is finding out that he has lost a bet…good thing we just bet a beer.
Meet MC’s girlfriend LL. She has been the inspiration of MC’s starting to cook. MC wowed me with two outstanding breakfasts and three fantastic dinners. May they continue to cook to create many a good meal together!

kenya

I was born in Kenya while my parents where in the Peace Corps. While I only spent 7 months there out of the womb, I have always had a fascination, a connection of sorts, with the country and have wanted to return. 27 years after being one of two white babies in Nairobi Hospital, I returned. Five rip highlights:

 

1-Visiting the hospital where I was born. Though it has grown significantly, ‘my ward’ was still there, and mom and I snuck a quick photo while we walked down the hall.

 

2-A friend treated us to a wonderful day at a tea estate where we learned all about how tea is made, drunk our fair share of tea, ate some wonderful food, and enjoyed some magnificent gardens and tea fields.

 

3-We returned to Thika High School, the boys’ boarding school where my parents taught math. We visited our house, and walked all around the school.

 

4-One night was spent at Castle Forest Lodge, where Queen Elizabeth stayed at age 19. A beautiful location, Mount Kenya gave me a beautiful birthday present when she was fully visible in the morning.

 

5-We had birthday cake and coffee at the Norfolk Hotel. A waiter searched high and low for a way to keep a candle lit with the wind outside, and was, finally successful. So not only did I get a beautiful piece of cake, but a candle to blow out as well.

a fly in my coffee

I have a short consulting job, so have set up shop on our dining room table. It is really a good situation: big table, wireless (which is slooooooow), windows that look out to our gardens, and air conditioners and ceiling fans.

Every now and then we get a fly in the house, which mom chases, with much fervor, until she is triumphant in killing it. I always laugh and carefully watch the food as I am worried that her fly swatter might just land itself on my plate or in my face in the mad chase.

Yesterday afternoon I was home alone so was saved from that humorous chase when a solitary fly invaded my work space. Before long I went to take a last sip of my coffee to find him slowly doing the backstroke in my coffee. I guess this is a lazy man’s way of killing flies.

whipping cream

Originally written on 8 February 2008, but the internet was down…

Last Saturday was Mom’s birthday. In discussing birthday presents this year, us kids decided that, although Mom does very little cooking anymore, she does a lot of serving of people. So we had a bit of fun rounding up some particularly fun serving items: a 20 inch pepper grinder, a whipped creamer, and a fresh parmesan cheese grater.

The whipped creamer is of particular note as it has been a source of much fun and laughter this week. You fill it with heavy cream and powdered sugar, attach the little canister of condensed air, shake three times, and voila, whipped cream. Only thing is that if you pull the trigger too fast, it can get a little violent, including shooting through a pancake.

mafia island

A few pictures from the Mafia Island trip. We took a small plane to the island; on the way back I got to sit in the co-pilots seat. The hotel had multi-course meals… so easy to gain weight while on vacation.

The dive boat was a dhow, a traditional sailing / fishing boat. We motored out to dive sites and then sailed back. Our diving was done at the Mafia Island Marine Park, and it was absolutely fantastic. Turtles (my first ever to see while diving), sharks, moray eels, sting rays, soft coral, and thousands and thousands of fish of all sizes.


Swimming with the whale sharks was on the last day, an it was outstanding. I first read about whale sharks in National Geographic years ago, and have since wanted to see them. Of course this means being in the right place at the right time. I’ve included two pictures of me swimming with the whale sharks. In the first one you can see the spots on the whale shark. In the second you can see its first dorsal fin.


The smallest of the whale sharks were 2-3 meters in length, and, as our guide said, “Are like human children: fast and impossible to keep up with.” The largest whale sharks were around 10 meters in length, and I could swim next to them for a bit of time. I was swimming right next to the head of a particularly large one and it’s eye kept moving with me. Kind of wild to be watched so closely by such a large creature that is within an arm’s reach. Another time I was watching the full length of a large one slide by and did not quite make it out of the way of its tail…though not sharp, it was hard and I have a bruise on my shin… a bruise that I am not all that disappointed about. If you ever get a chance, do not pass up the opportunity to see these magnificent creatures!

it is the little things in life

It is the little things in life, the things that could go unnoticed or fade into the background, that are often the sweetest things in life. They are the spices that make the ordinary into the exotic.

Yesterday morning as I was lounging in my parent’s bedroom shortly after waking, a monkey was spotted out the window. There was a thud and a scampering as he ran across the roof and jumped to the next tree. Then he was on his way as he walked the power lines away from he house.

Swimming the ocean later in the morning I decided to swim parallel to the shore as there were rumors of portuguese man-off-wars being sited further out. So, instead, I ended up seeing three small jellyfish, all below the surface and seemingly without tentacles. Given their lack of tentacles, I was able to enjoy the grace of their movement in the water.

In the past I have sometimes swum in a pool that was divided between lap lanes and free swim areas. On more than one occasion I have run into a pool toy (think swimming noodle or beach ball) that had drifted into my lane. Yesterday I nearly ran into a coconut innocently bobbing in the water.

Last night I rode home from the embassy with dad. This meant I was on the back of his scooter as we drove along the beach and the sun began to set. A glorious few moments. Later in the evening we went out again and stars were visible in the night sky as we zipped through the cool night air.

It is the little things in life.

thanksgiving

This year I celebrated Thanksgiving at my brother and sister-in-law’s place. It was fabulous. This was their first time to host a family holiday, and they were gracious hosts. Not only did they have my whole family descend, but family friends from South Africa living in the US of A for the first time also joined us.

The final count was 10 people spending three nights at their place, and a total of 15 for Thanksgiving dinner; all in their spacious 2 bedroom apartment. One grand sleepover and it worked. The sleeping arrangements were: 2 people on each of the 2 futons in the living room, 2 people on a blow-up mattress in the dining room, 2 people in the spare bedroom, and Chris & Esther in their room.

As we cooked good meal after good meal, Esther said that she felt as if she was doing nothing and should help out more. Nonsense. We were each able to do what we are good at—some of us cooking, some playing with children, some cleaning up. She was laid back enough to let people take over her home. We each have our gift, and when we work together, it is good. Today I am thankful for such times, for family and friends that make such times possible.

parents: a top 5 list

A week with my parents and we were able to explore Benin from the south to the north, from the east to the west. Much could be said about this week, so I have reduced it to a top 5 list. Thanks Mom & Dad for coming!

1 – Meeting the Team
My parent’s first night in Benin was spent relaxing in Cotonou meeting this year’s team (minus CR who had stayed in village). When we entered the section of the hotel where our rooms were I heard several squeals as the girls busted out of their rooms. Even though it made her uncomfortable, RC managed to use my parents first names. Later in the trip mom made the following comment, “I knew it would be wonderful to get to know your village, but I had no idea how wonderful it would be to meet your girls.” Yeah, I love them too. (Picture: the village team.)

2 – Village Life
The morning after they arrived we tackled the visa situation and then headed north to village. During our 45 hrs in village we got to go to market, greet a ton of people, eat my favorite village foods, listen to a big rainstorm early one morning, work with a couple people from another village to finish training on one of the water quality monitoring instruments, go for a walk, deliver gifts, take outdoor showers, get bit by mosquitoes in the latrine, sleep under mosquito nets, and say goodbye. It was packed, but it was perfect. I do not think I could have asked for anything more. (Picture: Me and Dad in front of some of the beautiful rocks & trees near my house in village. Our clothes were made locally with fabric bought at market during previous trips.)

3 – Beautiful Land
Benin is beautiful. As the country is not large, we were able to drive most of the way north and almost east to west as well. I think the most beautiful regions are where I live…the beautiful hills that give the Colline Department its name are fantastic, and at the north (north of Natitingou) where there is a stunning mountain pass. This was my first trip north, so it was exciting to see how the land, villages, and people changed. (Picture 1: Me & mom in front of the lower waterfalls in Tenengou, on the border of one of the national parks in the north. Picture 2: Mom & Dad relaxing.)

4 – Rich History
We stopped in Abomey, the ‘capital’ of the Fon people, which was the largest Kingdom in old Benin, where we toured the palace. Benin’s original name was Dahomey, after this kingdom. In the south we spent some time in Ouidah where we saw a Portugese slave trader’s home and did a tour of the slave route. In the US of A the history books seem to start on the slave boats, but the story began long before that with a rather dehumanizing process that occurred along the slave route. For me, these pieces of history are important as it creates a framework for both history and the modern culture. (Picture: Monument at the ‘Point of No Return” where the slaves boarded the ships for the Americas.)


5 – Cassa del Papa

The second to last night was spent at a nice, European / American style hotel. Only 7km from Ouidah, the hotel was located on the beach, had several pools, various other forms of entertainment, hot water, big towels, and great food. It was perfect after nearly a month in Benin for me and a week for my parents. We were able to be lazy around the pools (there is dangerous undertow along the beaches in Benin, so we enjoyed the pools while listening & watching the surf crash), play some speed scrabble, and just relax. Oh…and my first big breakfast in a month was eaten in the morning. It was luxurious. (Picture: View from our balcony of the storm rolling in just before sunset.)

congratulations! — 11 july

In case you had not heard, my ‘little-little’ brother (CJC) is engaged. He and EJM will be getting married this December in Cleveland at the church that they both now call their home church. I love them both and am so excited for them!

happy father’s day! — 17 june

Just in case you have not had the chance to meet my dad, I think he is pretty cool. We share a love of the ocean and just about everything attached to it. He is wonderfully patient, and loves to listen to stories and the general noise associated with fun. He is supportive of all of my crazy endeavors. The list goes on, but you get the idea. Happy Father’s Day Daddy!