blog 58, good-bye

I could tell you that we made a whirlwind visit to the Mona Lisa. The crowds overwhelmed and the Louvre lost three visitors within five minutes. Do we have to stay? complained Jim…I mean Rachel. Hannah, Madelyn and I swept through the marble chambers to view the Venus de Milo, sarcophogus of the Sphinx, and ancient relics of all sorts. A population of a small country was visiting with us.

I could tell you that two thirds of us made it to the second floor of the Eiffel Tower, without near fainting. That we ate more brie, baguette, espresso and nutella banana crepes. That we saw a few more BMWs and haute couture fashion houses. That we basked in the sun on the Sienne.

It’s been a slice…of brie, that is. We’ve taken in as much decadent Parisien culture as one can experience in four days with four children. It’s time to go home.

I’m a little sentimental. This blog is now coming to an end, as is our African adventure. We’ve enjoyed sharing, and so glad that you ventured into the uncomfortable with us. As we are in Paris till tomorrow morning, I can only end on a cheesy note: thanks for all the memories!

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lost in paris

Happy Birthday to Rachel! Breakfast in bed, followed by photos at the Eiffel Tower and croque monsieur eaten during a Sienne river cruise encapsulated her day. She window shopped at Versace, learned the words creme glacee and carnival. We sang to her at the Nairobi Guest House, at midnight Nairobi time, at midnight Paris time, and this morning with gifts. We are so thankful for our delightful surprise girl.

Jim took the kids to the hotel for afternoon rest after such a long night, and we parted ways. I walked an hour along the Sienne to find the Louvre where I eventually found the entrance, and followed the Mona Lisa sign to discover adoring fans photographing her. The Louvre, gorgeous in architecture and grand,was like a mini United Nations. Reminded me of Nairobi in congestion, but every race represented.

I decided to taxi home. And by the time I actually got home, I had remembered what I’d read about Paris…taxis aren’t forthcoming. Try as I might, taxis and buses weren’t providing me service for one reason or another. My hips and knees felt like cement. And I was missing my daughter’s birthday. My tears were more forthcoming than taxis, when everyone returned from dinner. In Paris, Rachel chose a choco cherry tart and McDonald’s french fries on the Champs Elysse. During our visit, she’d like me to call her Raquel…all growed up.

frere jacque, dormez vous

Tap water, please…I answered the Heathrow airport waitress. Cheers! We raised our glasses to the most taken for granted sign of western affluence, clean drinking WATER!

It was a bittersweet goodbye to Africa. I’d always wanted to go, so I’m worried I’ll never come back. But it’s like the moment when you know you’re finished having children: you can’t imagine not carrying another baby, not holding your newly birthed baby in your arms….you want to know that you can have that experience again, but then, really, no, actually you don’t want to do that again.

Eight and a half hours in the plane from Nairobi to London yesterday was a stretch, especially after having to arrange another taxi last minute–our Samaritan’s Purse driver didn’t show. At the beginning of the flight, we made our movie choices. I hadn’t considered that I’d have so much time I could preview all the movies, or that Zach would watch Alvin and the Chipmunks three times. If there ever was a time I wished I’d allowed my children to practice being tv zombies, it was this day.

We flew over the Sudan, Libya, the Sahara, the Mediterranean Sea. Could you drop us off over Paris? One of the girls remarked on arriving in London, Look, mom, all the white people.  Our flight to Paris was delayed, after the already three hour stopover. Twenty minutes, one hour, hour and a half. I’d thought our drive from Prince Rupert to Cache Creek, eighteen hours driving, topped the gateau on our Arctic summer trip. Nope. We’d been travelling nearly nineteen hours by the time we arrived at our Paris hotel. In the hotel room, the kids threw themselves on a bed; they were out, every one of them…

au revoir Africa, bonjour Paris

Probably the number one reason, at present, that I would like to leave Africa and head home is that I am freezing. About ten degrees outside, no heat or fireplace inside, and just the warmth of one good man to keep me from turning into a block of ice. So I’m looking forward to Europe and Canada.

On our final day in Nairobi, we headed to the Nairobi National Park and sat quietly (ha ha) in our seats for a couple hours, searching through the thick African savannah for eland, cape buffalo, white rhinos, giraffes, antelope, and water buck. When the troops felt their pressure sores requiring new positioning (loads of travel time in the harried traffic attempting to get anywhere here), we headed to Carnivore, Nairobi’s renowned eating experience.

As you can imagine, we ate a lot of meat. No elephant today; they’re not allowed to serve that anymore. But the more adventurous of us tried crocodile (does not taste like chicken, more like chicken gristle), ostrich (yummy, like turkey), and rhino’s balls. When I asked Jim what unusual foods we ate, he suggested potatoe sticks with masala sauce and potatoe, fennel and mint soup… It was all very tasty, except for the balls. And when I asked our driver, what precisely the balls were, he only answered balls. Aiy, gross…what did it taste like? Liver.

Raymond gave us a special surprise from his wife’s bakery, a seventh birthday cake for Rachel. We hid it in the back and ate it for a post-dinner treat, to share with all our Guest House friends. Elmo and Cookie joined us at the table–still Rachel’s favourite friends. And their picture adorned the cake, along with Rachel’s photo. After tomorrow’s lengthy travel day, we’ll be able to celebrate Rachel at the Eiffel Tower. Au revoir, Africa, we will meet again!