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Murakami’s in Kenya, Family Vacation - Day 11, 12, & 13.5

Christmas Day! in Kenya 

We didn’t quite finish the paint job the day before, so we made another trip to the ASH Wamuini Community Center on Christmas morning to finish.

 

Then, we took lunch at Dr. Lydia’s home, which was another amazing home-cooked Kenyan meal. Then, we finished off the home visits at Zach’s place. His wife couldn’t resist, and made us Kenyan style pancakes even though we had told her we’ve been overly stuffed for the past day and a half. But it was a great visit! My family got to meet Zach’s and we gave his children (Michelle and Nathan) some Christmas presents. It was like my Kenyan family meeting my American family haha  

Then we finally rested back at the compound to enjoy what was left of Christmas. We prepared Christmas dinner and gave Hannah, Manu, and Juliet (Rwandans who live at the compound with me) their Christmas gifts   

Then I gave my family my gift to them (made by our sewing students) 

That pretty much wrapped up our trip. The last day and a half was just travelling back to Nairobi, purchasing last minute gifts for people back home, and sadly saying goodbye as my family flew back to the states and I flew off to Rwanda…

Thanks for following! .. coming soon are posts on my trip to Rwanda and Uganda


Murakami’s in Kenya, Family Vacation - Day 10

Our first full day in good ‘ol Kitale began with an early start as the plans for the day were jam packed!

It all began with a visit to the ASH Wamuini Community Center, where I’ve spent my working days for the past year. My family got to meet most of our wonderful staff, including Mama Sarah. Mama Sarah is the one who donated the buildings and grounds to ASH, and has been an amazing partner in this community endeavor. She prepared a small snack and Kenyan tea for us, and I was so happy my family caught a glimpse of her incredible heart and warm hospitality. 

But my family didn’t come to just meet people and kick back. I brought them to work! haha They helped paint our sewing classroom and sewing/tailoring shop room to give a nice and needed facelift. Just a couple coats of white paint really made the difference. They did a great job! Thanks family

We had plans for the rest of the day, so we said our goodbyes to the ASH Wamuini staff and snapped our photos. Everyone was really glad they got to meet Baba and Mama Kyle, and brother Derek.

 

Then, we headed out to Sister Ejira’s (nurse) home for a late lunch. She had been preparing for this day for weeks now and was so precious in her planning. She kept asking me what they like to eat, if they would take tea with milk, whether the fruit should be mixed as a salad or just kept separate, etc. She prepared an amazing spread of delicious homemade Kenyan food. I don’t think any of us could have stuffed any more food into our bellies. It was a very nice time for my family to sit and relax and chat with Sister Ejira and Zach (managing director), and really get to know a part of my life in Kitale/Kenya. 

After a long day, we went back to the compound to rest, and try and make some room for dinner. We walked just around the block to Karibuni Lodge for a beautiful dinner. Their compound is located perfectly that you can sit out on the patio while looking out at views of Mt. Elgon. They also prepare great food and the ambience was perfect for a peaceful, relaxing end to the day.

It wasn’t until my family arrived in Kitale that I really felt like they were here, in Kenya. It was a huge blessing to have been able to have them here, see where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing for this past year. I’m so thankful that they made it

> Coming up: finishing up paint work at ASH Wamuini Community Center, lunch at Dr. Lydia’s, afternoon snack at Zach’s, Christmas dinner, and gift giving


Murakami’s in Kenya, Family Vacation - Day 9

(sorry no pictures for today)

I was told by the shuttle company that I could just call to reserve a shuttle for my family back to Kitale. “Just call the day before. No problem”, she told me. WRONG. I called and she told me she can’t book in advance.. I have to go the morning of the departure at 5am to book. So I went.. at FIVE AM and they were sold out… at FIVE.A.M.!!

I went around frantically with the taxi driver, trying to find another option. There were none. So the taxi driver finally told me - if I was desperate enough, he could arrange for someone he knew to taxi us out to Kitale. So that’s what we had to end up doing. It actually didn’t end up being much more than the original shuttle cost, but still pretty expensive and took a bit longer.

But anyway, we checked out of the Crowne Plaza and 8 hours later, we finally arrived in Kitale. I think my family wasn’t too thrilled with that car ride. Sorry guys!

It was funny and a bit sketchy though, because the taxi driver worked for Crowne Plaza and knew they overcharged so he decided to arrange things on his own. Plus, he’d get the commission instead of the hotel. So he got another taxi driver from the hotel to pick us up as a “normal” taxi to wherever we needed to go.. to the airport for all the hotel knew. This guy took us to a location that had been pre-agreed upon. At this spot, the original taxi driver and his friend were waiting. We switched cars, I gave him the money, and we left from there. It was like some sort of drug deal or something

Anyway, even Kenya gets crazy during the holidays. Everyone was travelling, so shuttles, buses, etc were all booked and the roads were more crowded than I had ever seen them. Next time, although there probably won’t be a next time, I’m booking way in advance or we’re just staying where we are

> Coming up: Day at the ASH Wamuini Community Center, being hosted for meals, and relaxing dinner (and pictures this time)


Murakami’s in Kenya, Family Vacation - Day 8

Last day on safari

On the first part out, our AWESOME driver (Adan) found another cheetah with his eagle eyes. Seriously. It was so far out, but he managed to spot it without binoculars! 

And as if that wasn’t enough, Adan found a leopard up in a tree! It’s super rare find b/c they spend most of their time up in the leafy parts of trees. But of course Eagle Eye Adan found him! It’s hard to even see in this photo, but look just above the dark branches that make a diamond shape. He’s looking back… 

There was another vehicle that was with us when we saw the cheetah, so Adan radio-ed that driver as soon as he spotted the leopard. Well, EVERY OTHER vehicle in the masai mara heard the call and started showing up at our spot since the leopard is usually so tough to find. It was pretty hilarious, about 20 other vehicles showed up! 

Finished up the safari with more beautiful sites 

A couple more lions  and giraffes  

After the drive back to Nairobi, Adan dropped us off at our hotel and we said our goodbyes. Seriously, Adan is the best safari driver you could ever have. If you ever plan one, book through Pollman’s and asked for Adan Mbaganja 

Took some time to rest, then we went to hangout and have dinner at Nairobi’s Village Market mall. They have an Art Caffe there, so I got another Art Ice Coffee haha

> Coming up: struggle to find travel, 8 hr car ride, and final arrival in good ‘ol Kitale


Murakami’s in Kenya, Family Vacation - Day 7

More safari!

(for this post: promising less words, more pictures. HAPPY ria?!? rude)

Woke up early for a morning game drive… saw more animals  

and more beautiful landscapes  

Oh and we got stuck, again.. in this: 

Went until 12 when we stopped for a visit to the Maasai tribe. The crazy hat is made from lion skin and is worn whenever someone kills a lion  (next post has video of me dancing with the Maasai’s)

After a lunch break and nap back at the lodge, we went back out and saw a cheetah! 

And Simba & Nala…

Then Sarabi with her baby cubs 

bringing us to the end of the day 

Just one safari/game drive left… then back to Nairobi

> Coming up: last game drive with rare leopard sighting and majestic giraffes, then back to Nairobi, goodbye to awesome Adan, and hangout/dinner at another nice mall


Murakami’s in Kenya, Family Vacation - Day 6

The safari begins!

We got picked up from our nice ash hotel by Pollman’s, the safari company. It was so fancy - they sent a rep to first explain the itinerary and welcome us, then the driver actually picked us up for the 3-4hr ride down to the masai mara. Along the way, we stopped at a viewpoint of the great rift valley and got stuck twice in these sandy/swampy areas.

But we eventually made it and checked into our hotel, The Mara Sopa Lodge 

And took off for our first game drive (safari drive in the Masai Mara National Reserve).. saw tons of animals and beautiful landscapes 

On this first drive, we were lucky enough to find some lions! The mama actually came RIGHT UP NEXT TO US!! 

Our driver/guide, Adan, was THE best! He was very nice, out for our best interest, and very knowledgable. He kept teaching us all these interesting facts throughout the drive. For instance, he picked this leaf off a bush while in motion and told us how the Masai tribesmen rub it on their underarms as deodorant….. cool. 

Then as the sun starting setting, we decided to call it a day and headed back to the hotel to rest up for a full day’s game drive tomorrow 

> Coming up: Many more animals, including a bunch of wildebeest, a herd of elephants, more simba’s and mufasa’s, a cheetah.. and Kylie dancing with Masai warriors


Murakami’s in Kenya, Family Vacation - Day 5

My family and I were pretty ready to get out of Mombasa by the third day because of the intense heat and ridiculous humidity. So we did - flew back to Nairobi on Kenya’s main intra-national airline: Flight 540 

They were pretty happy to get out of the humidity, as you can tell

Once we landed in Nairobi, wonderful Gina drove us to our hotel. Now, I’m a bit embarrassed to say this, but we stayed at the Crowne Plaza. I know.. kinda contradictory: in Africa/Kenya and you stay at this upscale hotel. buuut, it was a very reasonable price considering how much you’d normally spend on a hotel during vacation. 

So after settling into our nice ash rooms, we headed out for Westgate Mall to hang out and have dinner. I embarrassingly, again, admit that it seems a little wrong to go to such a nice mall, but why not? haha It’s still boosting the economy and it’s still Kenya! fine fine. I lose 

But I mainly go here for this restaurant that has this drink I’m ADDICTED to: ArtCaffe’s Art Ice Coffee.. basically a coffee slushy, but with top-notch, Kenya coffee flavor. So we had dinner here and I had two (that bottom photo actually isn’t it. I didn’t have a photo of it, but you get the idea) 

It was a relatively slow day so we could rest up before the big safari!

> Coming up: safari in the Masai Mara, getting stuck in Masai-land, and awesome Adan


Murakami’s in Kenya, Family Vacation - Day 4

*CLARIFICATION: I’m not currently on this vacation. My family came for the holiday’s and have sadly already left. This is just a recap of what we did…

I had heard glowing reviews of the Diani Beach area on the south coast of Mombasa. So we jumped into a taxi for a day in Diani.

We drove through the main part of town, as our hotel is in the north coast, and boarded the insanely packed ferry to cross over to the south side.

We wanted to check out the actual beach, so we went through the Leopard Resort & Spa to access the beach. Apparently, you can’t just go to the beach without going through a resort. We ended up just sitting pool side again because as soon as you even approach the beach, you’re bombarded with men trying to grab your business - scuba dives, ocean fishing, wind sailing, products for sale, etc. 

After another relaxing morning and lunch, we took off for our village bike tour with Diani Bikes. I thought it’d be fun… nice stroll on bikes through some beach town. NOPE. It was painful and long. Everyone stared. It was awesome. BUT my family did get exposure to a typical Kenyan village and learned a lot. Plus, it was our workout for the entire trip and we’ll never forget that experience… Diani Bikes was great, but I don’t really recommend this one - not worth the money and ends up being just a painfully memorable experience.

> Coming up: departing from Mombasa, checking into upscale hotel in Nairobi, and hangout/dinner at fancy pants mall


Murakami’s in Kenya, Family Vacation - Day 3

Even in the early morning, Mombasa was HOT and really humid.. 84%! So we decided to spend most of the early day juss chillin at the pool 

After a relaxing late morning and lunch at the hotel, we checked out Haller Park. Did an 1.5 hr walking tour around the grounds where we saw a bunch of animals, tickled a tortoise, and fed giraffes! 

Oh and btw, we forgot we made the hotel reservation with half-board, which means 2 meals are included in the price. The food was pretty good too and it was a buffet! Seemed like the hotel was owned and mainly occupied by Germans, so there was plenty meat and potatoes, which I didn’t mind!

So the first day we just ate dinner at the hotel since we got in late, the second full day we had breakfast and dinner at the hotel, and just breakfast before check-out on the last day. But this first full day, we ate breakfast and lunch at the hotel because we had an awesome dinner cruise planned!  

The Tamarind Dhow dinner cruise was perfect… amazing food, live music, relaxing, great service, and beautiful views. Highly recommended!!

> Coming up: Diani Beach (south coast of Mombasa), crazy ferry ride, and painful but memorable bike tour


Murakami’s in Kenya, Family Vacation - Day 2

Woke up early Friday morning, checked out of the wonderful Wildebeest Camp, and had wonderful Gina take me to the Jomo-Kenyatta International Airport to meet my family.  

They arrived on time (after enduring through a screaming baby on both plane rides) and we took off for a quick trip into Nairobi before our flight to Mombasa.

We visited the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage, where we watched and petted some baby elephants. This is also where we had our only rhino sighting (no rhinos found on our safari)   We then had a quick lunch at Carnivore - Nairobi’s version of brazilian bbq. They say you’re supposed to be able to eat every animal you see on a safari here. It was pretty good… 

With scrumptious meat in our bellies, we took off for the airport for our flight to Mombasa. After a 2 hour delay and a 1 hour flight, we arrived in the oldest city of Kenya: Mombasa.   Finally, after an hour drive through the crowded and hot/humid city, we checked into our hotel - the Bahari Beach Hotel. 

> Coming up: chillin by the Bahari pool, seeing more animals at Haller Park, and a luxurious dinner cruise


Murakami’s in Kenya, Family Vacation - Day 1

The vacation teeechnically began with me travelling from Kitale to Nairobi, so I could meet my family early at the airport the next morning.

So, I took a typical shuttle that took about 6 hours travel time.

I slept for practically the entire ride, as I got only 3 hours of sleep two nights before (prepping for staff holiday party) and 2 hours the night before (packing for family vacation). I actually was so knocked out that my head kept slamming against the side window as I went in and out of delirium. But I arrived in Nairobi safely, nonetheless

I stayed, for the first time, at what I now consider to be the hidden jem of Nairobi: Wildebeest Camp. It’s an oasis amongst the crazy busyness of the city. They have a main house which holds the two dorm rooms, private budget rooms, the dining/hangout area, the office, and kitchen. And the Australian family who owns and runs this awesome hostel lives on the upstairs floor of the main house. 

Then they have various options of housing out on their garden grounds: tent camping, garden tents (more sturdy), and ensuite deluxe safari tents. I chose tent camping to save money, plus I thought it’d be fun.. which it was! Then you just share the nice bathroom facilities with the other residents, which worked out fine. My option is on the top left and the nicer options are on the bottom left and right: 

The best parts of this place were the people I met and the taxi driver they set me up with. 

Since Wildebeest is a more family friendly place, I still got to meet and talk with cool/interesting people from all over the world without the wild partiers bumping music and drinking at night.

Then, Wildebeest coordinated for a taxi to take me to the airport the next morning to meet my family. The driver’s name was Gina and is THE best taxi driver I’ve met yet. I’ll forever call her whenever taxi services are needed in the city, and will recommend her to all my friends. She doesn’t try to rip you off and gives you the most fair price instead. She’s got a new, spacious Toyota station wagon. AND she’s young, friendly, and very accommodating. 

So lemme know if you ever plan on visiting or passing through Nairobi. I can recommend the best place to stay and taxi driver to take you around.

> Coming up: Murakami clan arrives, explores Nairobi, and departs for Mombasa