Friday, December 31, 2010

Rain Forest - Day 2

It’s Christmas Eve day and our friend and hostess, Julia is busy with all manner of preparation for the evening carol service. We explore a bit, read, nap, paint and explore some more. At one point I find myself out in the woods and I hear a loud thrashing in the trees – overhead! I look up and see a Colobus monkey has just made a huge leap from one tree top to another and is staying in the branches above me. I see movement near in another tree. I settle myself down and crane my head straight up. I stay and watch six or eight monkeys take the ‘path’ through the tree tops jumping from one tree to another, none of them falling. They are like the equivalent of five or six stories in the air. I’m in awe.
Later I find myself on a bench by the fish pond staring at the most incredible huge leaves. They look too big to be real. Yet they are so intricate, they certainly aren’t fake props. I listen as the fish prop into the depths of the pond when they are afraid of a noise. Otherwise they like sunning themselves at the pond surface. A little further on I stop to listen to a little babbling of the stream that runs through the forest near the Rondo. It’s so serene and peaceful inside the forest, and it seems so far from everything.
At 9:00 PM the chapel bell is rung. We assemble in total candle light. It’s a short service by Kenyan standards; lasting a little over an hour. I am so thankful to rehearse once again the coming of the baby Jesus who turns out to be a King. Different scriptures are read in between our carols. In the end Julia reads a story about an old lonely Russian man who meets Jesus in all his visitors on Christmas Day. It’s a lovely way to finish off the night before Christmas.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Rain Forest - Day 1

We arrived early in the day after a short plane ride from Nairobi where we started before the light of day. Our taxi driver takes up by a view of the ‘weeping rock’ – a large boulder formation that seems to spring water from inside and pour it down the rock from the top no matter how dry the season.
We arrive inside the gates to well-manicured gardens with a few very tall trees. We get a bit of history and a brief tour: started as a logging mill, the miller’s wife wanted her home close to the largest tree in the forest. The tree has since died but the remains of a giant stump still grace the yard.
There is a main house with a dining hall and two large sitting rooms for guests. Several cottages of varying sizes unobtrusively dot the grounds. At the lower end of one side of the garden is a small round chapel with a lovely wooden interior. We’ve already passed through the small reception area and had a peek at the tiny gift shop. We’re fed a little breakfast and then given time to settle into our rooms before lunch. We’re advised the forest is known for both birds and butterflies. But we notice there other life here as well; monkeys – three kinds live in these trees, and we’ve read the snake warnings. As it turns out, Kakamega Forest may have the highest concentration of poisonous snakes in the world. (But we don’t hear about that until our last day.) That afternoon while sitting on our verandah we hear the very loud creaking than a crash! A tree has fallen in the forest nearby. A couple of us go to investigate, sure enough a medium sized tree (for this forest) has fallen across a foot path just outside of the Center’s grounds.
I think of the philosophical question, “When a tree falls in an empty forest does it make a sound?” and suddenly realize that no forest is ever really empty. No one is trapped under the tree, but if a person hasn’t been certainly a monkey could have been.

That evening as the sun is setting the full orchestra of the forest around us crescendos. I relate the sounds to the only experiences I know of rain forests – ‘it sounds like one of those rain forest CDs that you can get to fall asleep by.’ Much more real now that I have sat there and heard it for myself.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Rain Forest

Kenya is a land of diverse climates – we have maintains, savannah, deserts, coastline and … rain forest. Perhaps not quite as dense as you might picture from the nature specials on the Amazon but none the less, intriguing and exotic.

As I write the steam rises from the lawn of out retreat center as the sun hits the damp grass. This place has been carved out of one edge of the forest. Owned by a local mission organization; it’s run as a kind of hotel/retreat with an emphasis on peace and quiet. If you sit still you can hear all sorts of birds singing, frogs croaking and monkeys calling. Following will be a “brief” journal of our days in Kakamega Rain Forest. I say brief in quotes because these entries will be longer than my usual ones, but certainly not an exhaustive log of the events. If I should fail to mention it elsewhere, the food at Rondo Retreat Center is fabulous. It’s absolutely amazing to have such gourmet food in such a remote place. I’ll try to add in some of your meal offerings so you will believe me. However scrumptious, food is not the reason one should visit Rondo. Watch here for more about this incredible trip.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Rondo Retreat

Let me start you off with a link to the website of the place we stayed.

There is so much to tell you that I will have to do it in installments. We arrived by air (and bus) then went by taxi for about 45 minutes to arrive at this Center on the edge of the Kakamega Rain Forest. There my travelling companions (Jane and Laurel) and I met up with an old friend of mine, Julia and enjoyed 4 days over Christmas there. Details and photos to follow!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Recipes are Timeless

I kind of think that recipes never really go out of fashion. That's why we sometimes find that a really good recipe was one handed down from someone's grandmother. And honestly, there are some recipes I wish I had that went to the grave with my Grandma Korbel. My siblings have often lamented not having her fried chicken recipe.

Now some recipes should go out of fashion. I think james r lileks has a whole book on regrettable recipes. I'm content to never even look at another Jello salad myself.

All this is to say, I'm love to revive the recipe blog that some of my friends started together some time back. Every recipe on the blog is tried and true. We started posting because people were asking for the recipes.

I just added an old favorite that I haven't made in a while; A yummy garlic parmesan topped focaccia bread. The most challenging part was that I made the bread part myself since you can't find focaccia bread here in Kenya. (It wasn't really that hard.) I used the Easy French Bread recipe out of my nearly ancient and very handy More with Less Cookbook.

Anyone what to join in the recipe collection and become a poster, let us know.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Christmas Season in Kenya

There are many things I find odd about celebrating Christmas in Kenya. They are all colored by my Minnesota upbringing which makes it very challenging to shake all my images of snow, cozy fireplaces, skating rinks, etc - basically winter!
I was lamenting today about the huge inflatable Christmas "ornaments" at the local shopping mall. I couldn't figure out why one of them was more like a duck than a Santa. The security guard thought it was fine. I chalked it up to the influence of China in Kenya. But as I was checking blog reader today I was alerted to some Christmas lawn ornaments back home that I'm not sure how I feel about.
I'll give them this; they're at least as funny as an inflatable Santa Duck.