Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Blending of Dreams - Part 1

     Last weekend, a dream came true for me.  I took a trip which blended ministry and a little literary history.  Our family volunteered to help a medical outreach team heading to Masai Land.  We packed a few sleeping bags, two days worth of clothes, some snacks, and our adventurous spirit and rode out into the Wild West of Kenya.  The Overlander Truck picked us up at 5am from our comfortable compound and departed to a place with no electricity, no running water, and no cell phone reception. I never imagined the lack of cell phone reception would be harder to live without than running water.  The party of about 20 people went by highway until the road ran out and then took a left on a dirt road.  We continued on until a chain of hills appeared in front of us.  A church sat in the fork of the road and that is where we pulled in and called home for the next few days.   (At the bottom of the post is a button labeled "location".  If you click on the button, a map will appear and the area at the foot of the Chyulu Hills is where we spent the weekend.)

     A fellow missionary couple ran the medical clinic.  The wife is a nurse and her husband coordinates the logistics of running the clinic.  His years of running the business end of a large church comes in handy.  On this assignment, 5 people from the US flew in the night before and helped minister in the clinic. After we arrived and unloaded the medicines and equipment, the clinic started.  Andy and I were stop number 2 in the line up. After the local people registered outside and received a number, Andy and I welcomed them in and weighed them.  Then we took their temperature, blood pressure, and then asked them why they wanted to see the doctor. 
      Our first 15 or 20 patients were older men.  In the Masai culture, respect is shown for the older men by allowing them the privilege of being first.  Their dark, deeply creased skin and holed earlobes are the images I hold in my mind.  I remember the cloudy eyes looking at me as they explained how they could no longer see well. The older women followed the men.  On average, most ladies were 10 kilos heavier than the men. 

     Throughout the next 2 days, we met 9 warriors who had killed lions with their spears.  I am an animal lover and hate to hear that any animal was killed for the sake of tradition but I have to say that I was impressed with the skill it takes to kill a lion with a spear.  Since arriving in Africa, I have been about 10 feet away from a huge lion.  I sat comfortably in a safari vehicle but my heart raced as I took an up close look at the lion's massive body.  I would not want to meet the lion on foot in the wild with nothing but a spear to protect me.  The Masai said, "If you miss the right spot on the lion when throwing the spear, you are dead."  So, if the spear hits a few inches to the left or right of your mark then you have only made the lion more angry and able to kill you.  The people who came to the clinic are people who live among the lions.  It is like living in the woods in the US and when you go for a walk and come upon a deer.  The lions live in the area like deer live in the woods.  

     At night, we camped in tents.  Thick, thorned branches cut from the bushes surround the church property.  The fence of thorns served as our only protection from the local wildlife.   In the middle of the night we heard the hyena roaming around for dinner.  During a one of our short walks, Spencer and Andy saw jackals eating a gazelle.  Early one morning I heard there was a giraffe over the hill so I hurried out to see.  I found a baby giraffe eating branches from an acacia tree with his mom.

     The name of the town which hosted us was Otiaseka which sat with the Chuylu Hills on one side and Mt. Kilimanjaro on the other.  Most days clouds surround Kili so she is not visible.  On the last morning of our stay in the area, the clouds cleared and the view of Mt. Kilimanjaro was magnificent.  The largest mountain in Africa took my breath away.  Our departing gift from the land appeared from the clouds.  I shared the moment with my kids.  A feeling of gratitude filled my heart as I thanked God for allowing us to make this memory  together. 

     Below I posted a few pictures from the trip.  In my next post, I will write about my time discovering Ernest Hemingway's campsite from his 1953 stay in Kenya.  A doctor named Joseph saved a woman's life a few years ago and because of his act of kindness, I was able to take a tour of Hemingway's old camp.  Stay tuned. 

The long dusty road to the site.

Our accomodations for the stay.  Notice the thorny fence on the right that served as our fence and protection.

The Chyulu Hills were a beautiful sight in the morning.

A Panaramic View

Baobab Tree and my favorite scenic path

Mt. Kilimanjaro in the early morning hours

One of our first patients in the clinic