Thursday, 6 December 2012

We're Off to Meet our Kids!

Tomorrow, on December 7th, we will be setting off on our Christmas vacation! It’s hard to believe that it was just a little under 3 months ago that we left home for Africa and now we’re less than 3 weeks away from Christmas. Time really does fly! This Christmas, we’ll be taking the opportunity to travel around Africa and to finally experience being a tourist here after all this time! As excited as we are to make this trip, it’s definitely bittersweet, as this will be the first Christmas away from our families for both of us. To make it an even tougher pill to swallow, this just happens to be the worst Christmas for us to be away from home! First, we are missing out on Byron’s mom’s 60th birthday celebration (apparently the most celebrated of all birthdays in Chinese culture) on December 18th, which we know she is quite disappointed about. Second, we are missing out on the first Christmas for the two newest additions (Reese and Teddy) to the extended Chan family. With all that considered, with a four-week break from work, we may never get a better chance to explore other parts of Africa.

Below is a rough itinerary of our upcoming journey:

First Stop – Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
This isn’t so much a chosen destination as it is a destination by necessity. Due to the very expensive cost of flights from Zambia to Kenya, we are taking the train from Kapiri Mposhi, Zambia to Dar es Salaam, en route to our intended destination of Mombasa, Kenya. The train is scheduled to take three days and two nights but we have heard of many instances where the train has been delayed – sometimes up to 24 hours! As if three days on an African train isn’t already long enough! While on the train, we have tickets for a “first class” sleeper cabin, complete with its own toilet and shower. First class is in quotation marks because everything here is relative. The train itself is pretty old and, from the reviews online, there seems to be a 50/50 chance that we’ll have running water in our bathroom! Gotta love those odds!

We are scheduled to arrive into Dar on Dec. 9th, and with our flight not leaving to Mombasa until Dec. 11th, we should have plenty of leeway to accommodate any lengthy train delays. Should we get to Dar on time, we will take the opportunity to explore the city. However, we’ve heard from quite a few people that Dar is a bit of a craphole, to put it nicely (apologies to any native Tanzanians reading this blog!), so we’re not too bothered either way!

Second Stop – Mombasa, Kenya
The reason behind the entire trip. In 2010, we became sponsor parents to two children in Kenya through Compassion Canada. Their names are Faith (Diane’s little girl) and Silas (Byron’s little boy). One lives 40 km north of Mombasa, while the other one lives 40 km south. Over the last few years, we have exchanged letters with them in the mail about once every few months. It’s been neat for us to develop a relationship with these children halfway across the world and now we are thrilled to have the opportunity to finally meet them! We’re also very interested to see what visiting our children’s homes will be like compared to the home visits we have done here in Zambia and in South Africa. Hopefully our experience over the last few months will really help prepare us for this very special moment and to be a real blessing for our children and their families!

Third Stop – Nairobi, Kenya
After Mombasa, we fly to Nairobi, Kenya where we will meet up with one of our fellow Hands volunteers, Jackie, a local Kenyan. We are very excited about this because there’s no better way to experience a country than to do it with a local! Jackie has also hooked us up with one of her friends in Kenya who has graciously helped us plan our entire trip. A few things in store for us in Kenya: giraffe feeding, elephant orphanage, flamingo park, local markets, Carnivore Restaurant (a famous all-you-can-eat meat restaurant!), local Kenyan church, a visit to Kibera (apparently the largest slum in Africa) and, of course, lots of Kenyan coffee!

Fourth Stop – Arusha, Tanzania
After Nairobi, we will travel by shuttle bus (approximately 5 hours) back down to Arusha, Tanzania, where we’ll stay with our friend, Terry, a pilot who’s been living in different parts of Africa for the past few years. Arusha is only a short drive from Mount Kilimanjaro and, while we put some serious consideration into doing the 7-day hike to the top of the famed mountain, it was a bit too expensive and a bit too time consuming for us to do this time around. I know you’re probably thinking, “as if you two could do a 7-day hike anyways!” which is a legitimate thought. But, apparently, Kilimanjaro can be a relatively easy hike, especially when you have porters carrying your packs and cooking all your food! The only thing we would have needed to worry about is the altitude sickness, which is the main reason the hike takes 7 days. That’s what Terry tells us, anyway. So, instead, our actual plans in Arusha will involve a 3-day safari in the Saharan desert! Terry tells us there’s no better place to do a safari. We’ll see if he’s right.

Last Stop – Zanzibar, Tanzania
Last, but not least, we will make our way by plane to Zanzibar, Tanzania, to take in the Indian Ocean and do some much needed relaxing on the beach. A day trip into the city to do a tour of Stonetown may be on the agenda but, other than that, we anticipate our days to look like this – Sleep. Eat. Beach. Repeat. We keep hearing about how Zanzibar is a must see if you’re in Tanzania, so let’s hope it doesn’t disappoint! Sounds like the perfect way to end the trip!

Contacting ...
If you want to contact us while we are away, email may be the best bet. We plan on getting local Tanzania and Kenya SIM cards during our travels but who knows what difficulties we may run into. We will have internet access from our hotels along every stop so we will be checking emails and you can expect a few blog posts along the way – both about our travels and about some stuff we wanted to write about in Zambia but didn’t get around to before we left.

Please also check out our prayer requests in our Prayer Requests tab. We will definitely need your prayers during our journey. Thank you!

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