Sunday, December 29, 2013

Trip to Senegal (December 2013)...

Kristin and I traveled to Senegal in December 2013. The primary purpose was to see Joyce who is serving as Peace Corps volunteer based in Thies, the third largest city in Senegal.

Senegal is in West Africa. Its land is 197,000 sq. km. and its population is approximately 13 million. Senegal has another country squeezed into it, namely The Gambia.

We arrived in Dakar, the capital city located at the western tip of the country, and stayed there for four nights. We visited several places, including Goree Island, French Institute, vegetable market, fabric market, Independence Plaza, Sea Plaza, Monument of African Renaissance, Seoul Restaurant, Presse Cafe, Time's Cafe, an art gallery, International School of Dakar and Ngor Beach.

Goree Island was the capital for slave trade in West Africa. It was a gathering place for all slaves collected from all over in West Africa before they were shipped to North America, South America or Europe. This Goree Island was compared to Zanzibar that was the capital for slave trade in East Africa.

The visit to the Monument of African Renaissance was quite an experience. It is the tallest statue in the world and it cost the country $27 million. This statue of a father holding his wife and holding up their baby pointing to a bright future, leaving behind the tragic past history of colonization and slavery. Ironically, the mother's skirt was completely untraditional to Senegalese culture and far too short, thus becoming very scandalous. Moreover, their faces were not like Senegalese. Another observation that I made was the baby was pointing to the direction to North Korea, while the guide was explaining that the baby was pointing at America. American was in their back. No wonder it is scandalous.

Africa pulled by other powers

Creative art by a Senegalese artist

Baobab Tree 150 years old at Goree Island

Popenguine Beach scene

Rice with chicken shared by the Ly family

Enebe Guest House at Popenguine

Flamingo scultures at Popenguine Beach

Christmas Service at International Fellowship Dakar

Heavenly scene at a restaurant in Popenguine

Almost junkie van... most of the cars were like this

The living room at the Ly's

Monument of African Renaissance

Fantastic ocean view at Ngor Restaurant

Quality time between mother and daughter

A sunset at Popenguine Beach

Another sunset

Riding a horse wagon at Thies

Statue of returned slaves

Street arts at Goree

Street vendor

Waves were gorgeous
The lunch at Ngor Beach was gorgeous. The food was excellent but we enjoyed the soothing sounds of ocean waves more than the food. The restaurant's decorations were quite interesting.

We then traveled to a small beach town called Popenguine probably with a population of one thousand. But the beach was stunning and people were so friendly. We stayed two nights at a guess house called Enebe that had four rooms in a cute and cozy setting. We thoroughly enjoyed the ambiance and the hospitality of the guest house.

Joyce and I climbed to the top of the cliff by the beach and on the way down we saw a beautiful sunset.

The restaurant by the beach was a fantastic experience. The setting was beautiful and the ambiance was a dream with the soothing sounds of breaking ocean waves. We had a lunch on Christmas Eve and it would be an unforgettable memory.

On Christmas Day, we traveled to a more touristic town called Sally. Joyce wanted to experience the sauna and facial treatment at an award-winning hotel and spa, called Rhino Resort Hotel and Spa. It was a five-star hotel, but it was obvious that they over-advertised themselves. On the way there we saw a numerous bill boards, but the actual place was not so grand nor luxurious. Kristin and Joyce had experiences at the spa, while I was enjoying my solitude moments without disruption. The lunch was far better than the hotel experience itself.

Joyce and I learned about how to play a card game, called PK, and we enjoyed playing games for three nights.

After Popenguine, we traveled to Thiess where Joyce is living and working. We stayed at a hotel called La Massa, supposedly one of the better hotels. We visited the family of the Ly. Madam Ly was Joyce's business counterpart. Joyce has been helping Madam Ly's jewelry business in market development, product design and accounting. The family invited us to lunch and we ate Senegalese traditional rice with chicken. The food was delicious but their family's hospitality was wonderfully warm and friendly. Madam Ly's husband was Samba Ly and he was a painter. They have nine children and three of them were artists. We saw some artworks and they were very unique and creative. The father Samba Ly gave us one of his oil paintings as a gift. A lovely family we enjoyed dearly.

We briefly visited Joyce's living place. A moderate place it was. I prayed for Joyce over there asking for God's special grace of protection and safety over the remaining four months or so period until she will have completed her service period with Peace Corps.

We also visited American Corner located at the Cultural Center. Joyce is teaching English once a week. Also, we stopped by Peace Corps Training Center where new Peace Corps volunteers must be trained for two months. It is the only one in West Africa.

The following day, we visited Ibu, a farmer, and his farm where Joyce is working on a chicken farm project. Ibu is a well respected community leader and also an exemplary farmer with several best practices of farming. He was growing many veggies with water dripping irrigation system. Joyce has just received approval to raise a funding to build a chicken house to be able to raise up to 500 chickens. Joyce hopes to finish the project before her tenure is over. Ibu was father of four children. We visited his house briefly. Ibu was a very warm and nice man, who was willing to help out his village people going beyond the boundary.

We headed off to the airport to catch the return flight to Kigali Rwanda. We used taxies several times, but Senegalese taxis were very close to junkies frequently with window shields severely cracked and the car seats were wildly torn. All taxis we rode had the odometers and speedometers out of order. It was a miracle that such cars were still running. Comparatively speaking, Rwandan taxis are fancy and luxurious limousines.

Both Kristin and I came back home safely with deep gratitude for the opportunity to see Joyce and spend time together over Christmas. For me, Senegal was the 12th country to visit in 2013. - Jeffrey 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Trip to Nairobi, Kenya (November 2013)...

Trip to Nairobi, Kenya (November 2013)...

James Lee, Mrs. Lee, Caleb Kim, Mrs. Kim, Kristin
I serve as a member of Opportunity Kenya's board. So I travel to Nairobi, Kenya once a quarter.

In November, there was a board meeting and Kristin joined me in this trip to Nairobi for a few days. The hotel we stayed was House of Waine in Karen, a boutique hotel with 11 bedrooms converted from a private home. The surrounding was cozy and beautiful, and the staff service was just excellent. Many honeymooners come for an experience. We also had an opportunity to stay there.

Kristin spent time with Manok Kim, a Korean missionary Dr. Caleb Kim's wife for two days. Caleb is a professor at Africa International University which converted from a theological seminary in recent years. He teaches Anthropology with the focus on Islam cultures. He directs the doctoral program in Intercultural Study in cooperation with Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. He has been serving in Kenya and a couple of other East African countries for the past twenty five years.

Kristin happy at Haru Japanese Restaurant
After the board meeting, Kristin and I were invited to lunch at Dr. James Lee's house, along with Caleb's couple. James is another Korean missionary who is running Bridgewood College where they teach and train pastors and young workers about bibles and related topics. They issue diplomas to them after completion. They have served in Kenya for the past 15 years or so.

Both Caleb and James were involved in Integral Mission Alliance of which I was also part two to three years ago. They are intellectual scholars, passionate missionaries, like-minded fellow Kingdom workers for holistic mission and more than anything else good friends. I was very grateful for the opportunity to fellowship with them before we left to come back to Kigali, Rwanda. - Jeffrey

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Trip to Amman, Jordan (November 2013)

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I took a short trip to Amman Jordan in November 2013. The primary purpose was to attend Women's World Banking conference for Middle East and North Africa. I was asked to speak about 'mobile banking for low income women.' I accepted the invitation because I have never traveled to Jordan. It is always enticing to travel to a country I have never visited.

Jordan was the only second country where I have traveled in the Middle East Asia. Kristin and I have been to Dubai, UAE two years ago. So this trip to Jordan was exciting to me.

Besides, Jordan is a country that dates back to many places that are mentioned in the Bible. In this land, there were Ammon Kingdom, Moab Kingdom, Edom Kingdom and even Amelikite Kingdom. Jordan's formal name is Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. It population is approximately 7 million living in a desert land of 86,000 square kilometers. Out of this population, approximately half of them are Palestinians who have escaped the the disputed land and settled here. 

Jordan borders with many countries, including Saudi Arabia, Syria, Israel, Palestine and Iraq. Surrounded by these countries that have had political turmoil, this country has remained stable. The King Abdulah is well respected by his citizens and has maintained good rapport with many countries. Jordan is also known for rapid and positive transformation that it has achieved in relatively a short period of time. Its primary sources of revenues are coming from tourism since it does not produce oil or natural resources. Nonetheless, this country is one of the freest countries in the region.

Jordan has several historic sites that attract people from around the world. It occupies the eastern part of the Jordan River and maintains the eastern part of the Dead Sea. It has one of the largest Roman ruins outside Rome. The most famous site is Petra where a lost city is hidden in the rocks. It was three hours away from Amman and it was too long a distance for a day trip before a red eye flight. So I saved it for a trip Kristin and I will take together, along with the Dead Sea and Wadi Rum.

On the way to Jordan, I flew to Dubai and took Fly Dubai to go to Amman Jordan. This route was the cheapest, but I had another reason to go through Dubai. Anna Sunghye Yoon, a former member of Shalom Bible Study in Rwanda, is now working for Fly Dubai as a cabin crew and asked me to come through Dubai. So I ended up going through Dubai, but the layover was for 12 hours, pretty grueling after a red eye flight. But I had some work to do to prepare for the upcoming board meeting. So it has worked out well. It was a delight to see Anna in action on an airplane and I was able to post her photo in uniform, which appears to be forbidden for the crew. 

After the conference, I went to Rainbow Street to stroll, but I was disappointed by its short distance and quietness of the street. It was supposed to be crowded with people visiting many restaurants. A cold weather was an excuse, but it was disappointing. I ended up eating a humble Gamberi dish at an Italian restaurant. 

South Theater

Due to long wait before my return flight, I was able to take a day trip to Jerash site (Garasa) where the archaeological park displays Roman theaters, Roman oval plaza, Temple of Zeus, a couple of churches. These have been all excavated over the past 70 years or so and this excavation is still being carried out. These were all buried under sands, most likely because of a major earthquake in the area in the 8th century. It was an awesome experience walking around the park, imagining the glorious days of the Roman Empire in the area.

I also visited Amman Citadel in the middle of the Amman City. It is situated on the top of a hill, which used to be a fortress. It has some Roman ruins and Islamic temple ruins. It also has an archaeological museum that shows artifacts of the past from the pre-historic age to the most recent Islamic age. It was a quick tour, but from there I was able to see a giant Jordanian national flag over the valley on another hill and also Roman Amphitheater to the south. It was a breath-taking view.

The taxi driver I hired was Hadi who has four children. He took me to Jerash site first (one hour drive), waited for me for 3 hours, took me to Citadel for an hour and took me to the airport. I look forward to returning to Jordan for further exploration. - Jeffrey

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Trip to Mombasa, Kenya (October 2013)...

Kristin and I made a trip to Mombasa, Kenya. The main purpose was for Jeffrey to attend Opportunity International's CEO Conference. Jeffrey was tied up in the conference, but Kristin was able to explore the city market a bit.

Mombasa is the second largest city in Kenya with the population of approximately one million and the major port city for Kenya. It competes with Dar es Salam in Tanzania for incoming and outgoing ocean cargoes. Because of its importance as the major port facing the Indian Ocean, it has been occupied by many countries by Oman, Portugal and Britain, until 1963 since which Kenya has kept it under its control.

Also, Mombasa is a tourism destination. Many inland people, including neighboring countries, come to Mombasa for their vacation. It has white sand beaches protected by barrier reefs and its weather is tropical.

Here are some of the photos taken in Mombasa. - Jeffrey