The south beach is filled with people wanting to sell you things, take you on boat rides, and give you tours of the coral reefs when the tide is out. They all start walking beside you and try to strike up conversation, but then it always turned into, "I'm hungry . . .will you please by this from me so I can eat." Or, "I need some money for Christmas." It was hard. I bought some things, but it was definitely a struggle to determine whether these people really did money and if they did, what the best way to help them was. It was also a struggle because sometimes you just wanted to walk to beach peacefully. We did take up a gentleman by the name of "Friday" for a tour of the reef while tide was out. We almost went out by ourselves so we didn't have to pay anyone, but I'm glad we didn't. He showed us quite a few things that could kill us pretty quickly. The stonefish was one. It has these spikes that stick you and then inject you with a crazy purple poison (he poked one make it emit the poison and it looked like a hundred purple pens busted in the water). They look exactly like the rest of the coral and he said they could kill you in 30 minutes. The sea snake was the other one. Terri was telling a story about how her mom was walking through the reef many years ago and one wrapped around her leg and bit her twice. She said the doctors found it pretty amazing she lived through it. Guides are good.
We saw all kinds of other crazy critters like sea cucumbers and starfish. You'll have to check out the pictures.
After a big Christmas breakfast and some opening of gifts that Terri brought, we decided to go back to the south beach on Christmas. We almost went snorkeling the day before with "Captain Muhammad" (everyone has a boat and is a captain in Mombasa) but we decided not to after he started walking around and asking people for flippers and snorkels. So we decided to go with Friday in a glass bottom boat on Christmas. What an experience. We went out to a coral garden and I wish I had an underwater camera to catch some of the beauty. All the marine life was just incredible and my description or pictures couldn't do it justice. Just being on a boat in the Indian Ocean on Christmas was pretty incredible.
We came back and I decided to go for a camel ride on the beach. They have to get down on their knees to let you on. They told me to hold on tight because George (the name of my camel) was going to stand up quickly. Being the adventurous young man that I am, I thought it would be a good idea to use no hand (like on a roller coaster) as George stood up. He went up with his front legs first and I was barely able to reach up and take hold of the saddle before being bucked right off the back. The owner of the camel just rolled his eyes. George took me down the beach a little ways and an African Santa Clause actually came in on a boat. He got out of the boat, came up on the beach and got on a camel. I rode a camel on the beach of the Indian Ocean alongside Santa Clause on Christmas. . . that was new for me.
We walked the beach more that evening and ended the Christmas with a Turkish dinner and a swim in the pool.
It was an amazing Christmas, but I'm still not completely convinced that Christmas actually happened. Christmas isn't Christmas without family and friends. I feel more like I just skipped this one. . . I guess I'll have to make up for it next year.
The 26th was a travel day and we made it back to our camp in Nakuru. We spent the 27th relaxing and hiking. We met locals as we hiked through villages and up to a spectacular view of the Rift Valley.
We traveled to Maasi Mara on the 28th, a game park that is just north of the Serengeti (it's part of it if you ask me). We did an evening game drive with a Maasi guide. Between the evening game drive and the drive we did the next morning, we saw 31 lion (some walked about 15 feet away from us), around 100 elephant, countless deer species, giraffe, wildabeast, water buffalo, hippos, crocs, hyena, warthogs, rhinos, zebra and one of the most amazing sunset skies I've ever seen. I'm sure there are more animals that I'm missing. We never went more than four or five minutes without seeing something. We just missed a kill by the lion because were able to drive up within yards of male lion that were passed out from gorging themselves on a carcass laying beside them. It was like the discovery channel live. Words and pictures can't describe the immense power and beauty of the animals.
We headed out of the park that afternoon, stayed in a guest house that evening just outside of Uganda, and made it back to Kampala around three on the 30th. It's good to be back and I'm ready to start being productive again. There's much to get ready as I have just as many teaching hours, but a couple classes switch to content I'm not as familiar with. I have a lot to get ironed out with religious life stuff as well. I'd like to do some planning for youth groups and Molly and I have a retreat to put together in February. I look forward to spending the next few days lesson planning and learning.
I also still have a big decision to make. The decision of whether to come back next year or not looms over my head as I have to decide by Tuesday. I certainly didn't come with the intention of staying two years, but it's not as clear as I thought it would be. Prayers and advice will be well accepted.
Thank you for all your prayers as I was in transit. I hope you find time to reflect on the end of a year and the beginning of a new one. May your resolutions be big, meaningful, and last longer than two weeks. Grace and peace.