Gone Walkabout...

This blog was going to be about my travels and impressions I had from them. But my attention span went walkabout. And like with any good walkabout I discovered unexpected things. I invite you to come explore with me...

You can contact me at teri-gonewalkabout@live.com

Saturday, October 31, 2009

NOW it's a special day!

It’s no secret how much I despise Halloween and all of its ugliness. But now we have a reason to look forward to 31 October. It is the day we finish our Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes ( http://www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/OCC/ ).

We pull out the container of items we’ve picked up thru the year and sort them into piles on the table. After all the months, we really don’t remember everything we have. I know there will be a good supply of school items – I get those during the back to school sales. Can’t beat .15c for a notebook or .25c for a ruler.

After we do an inventory of what we have, we head out for the evening. First stop is to the Dollar Tree and then to Wal-Mart. After our shopping is done we go out someplace nice for supper.

And then the best part… putting together our shoeboxes! We use plastic containers. The container is the first gift. We line the bottom with a towel. Since you can see thru the plastic this fabric is our “wrapping paper” and is the second gift. Then it’s time to STUFF the box. There are school supplies – notebooks, pencils, erasers, rulers, etc. This year I found backpacks on clearance for $1 each. Those took some tight rolling to compress them down! Always put hygiene items in – toothbrushes, combs, soap, tweezers, etc. Items to eat with – a plastic bowl & cup, and a spoon. And of course these are for children and there must be toys! Cars, balls, puzzles, a musical instrument, and a soft “lovie”. And this year we were able to put in 2 shirts and 2 pair of socks – given to us by people who know about our box packing. Sounds like a lot to fit in a large shoebox, doesn’t it? I am a master packer!

Oh… I forgot about the final gift. And according to Samaritan’s Purse, the most important gift. We enclose a Christmas card in which we write a note to the child and enclose a photo of us. We’ve been blessed to receive 3 letters over the years from children who have gotten one of our boxes. Jamaica, Philippians and India. And one year in the annual report newsletter, a photo showed one of our boxes being opened by a boy in Sudan. Wow!

Every year since we were told by the Operation Christmas Child region representative that the boxes they run out of first are the ones for boys 10 to 14 years old, we have done 6 boxes for that age range.

But this year we’ve added one more box. A box for a little girl in the youngest age range – 2 to 4 years old. This is in honor of our new niece Little Bird. We will keep doing this box. We are looking forward to next year scooping up this little sweetie and taking her shopping to fill that shoebox. As the years pass we will do shoeboxes that correspond to Little Bird’s age.

We’re looking forward to it…

The table loaded with goodies.

Items that went into the boy boxes.

Our honorary packer - Little Bird!

Items that went into "Little Bird's Box" (for a 2-4 year old girl).

"Little Bird's Box" finished.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Ivine from Kenya's Kids In Need

Here’s one of my new sponsor kids. We’re co-sponsoring Ivine through Kenya’s Kids In Need.

Ivine has had a rough go of it all her life, and the troubles in Kenya after the elections brought more grief into her life. In spite of terrible things, she is determined to finish her schooling and has moved into the orphans house on the Galilee school grounds.

She is a junior (Form 3) this year. Kenya schools run Jan – Dec, so she will be finishing up the school year soon. We and the co-sponsor will do our best to help her pass her exit exams this next year.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

My Elephant Herd is Growing!

My little elephant herd is growing. Times are terrible for elephants in Kenya. The drought is so hard on everyone - man and beast, and now there is horrible poaching to get ivory for the China black market.
Just in the first 3 weeks of August there were SEVEN new babies rescued. At this time, Dame Sheldrick and her staff are tending TWENTY EIGHT baby elephants (and this doesn't include the heartbreaks of the babies who couldn't survive their trauma). When we were there in Oct 06, I think there were around 12.
So as part of donating to help feed these babies, I have sponsored two more. Let me introduce them to you...
Meet Turkwel:

The rescue of a baby elephant on the 4rd August 2009 was one of the more dramatic that has ever been undertaken. The 4 month old calf must surely rank as both the luckiest and unluckiest of elephant babies – lucky to have been found intact in the very remote and hostile region around South Turkana Reserve and unluckiest to have been born into a an area inhabited by wild and warring pastoral people of the Pokot and Turkana tribes who are constantly in conflict over the sparse resources centered around land and livestock, and have been so since time immemorial. Theirs is a forgotten Wild West frontier in Kenya where wildlife lives in a perpetual war zone, made that much worse by the fact that in this remote area almost every male tribesman now carries not a spear, or bows and arrows, but an AK47 machine gun, and uses it with impunity.

The Trust received the rescue alert from the Kenya Wildlife Service during the evening of the 3rd August, too late to initiate a rescue that day. The rescue team therefore left at 7am the following morning (4th August) and after a 2 hour plane journey landed at the Turkwel Airstrip, near the Nasalot and South Turkana National Reserves, at 9:30am where they had to await the arrival of the calf. Gunshots were heard going off in the distance while the team waited, so this delay on the ground was nerve wracking to say the least.

Even more nerve wracking was the rescue of the calf. The Deputy Warden of the Nasalot and South Turkana National Reserves Mr. Nduati James organized a very high risk and brave rescue of the little elephant, who had been spotted alone near the Wei Wei River and was heading into an extremely high conflict zone. A protected team of Rangers, escorted by armed paramilitary personnel of both the General Service Units and Police set off to retrieve the calf as it approached the Juluk area where they risked attack by armed bandits who had blocked all roads leading into the area. It took the team all morning to clear the roads of obstructions in order to get a vehicle to the calf.Unfortunately wildlife is caught in the middle of a very serious and ongoing tribal conflict for in order to access water and feeding grounds the animals have to cross the Kerio valley corridor to enter Nasalot Game Reserve from Romoi Game Reserve, where they are caught in the crossfire of the warring Pokot and Turkana people.

Elephants especially are a prime target – their tusks used as barter for guns, sold to unscrupulous middlemen of the infamous Ivory trade, their meat used to feed the rebels and others living in this impoverished region, where life on the edge is exacerbated by severe drought. It is, in fact, a miracle that any elephant still manage to exist in this conflict zone.

We named our latest little living miracle Turkwel. She is the third elephant orphan we have from the area. “Nasalot” of Yatta’s Ithumba unit being one and Ajok who came to us in 1990 the other. She is a very gently and loving little elephant who has been embraced by all at the Trust, both her little elephant peers as well as the humans.

And now meet Meibai:

On the evening of the 5th September, Samburu tribesman in the Wamba area named Leguuti at Lodingokure town in Northern Kenya, rescued a young orphaned elephant. After a struggle, they managed to overpower the two year old elephant and took it to Lodingokure school where they locked it in a classroom overnight. The elephant calf had apparently been seen alone by tribesmen in the area for several days beforehand, who had tried to monitor the baby on a daily basis, hoping that it would eventually find, and join, its mother. However, being still milk dependent, it was becoming ever weaker, and by the time it was captured it was obvious that its mother had either died or been poached somewhere in the vast and remote Northern Frontier, an area that has been hard hit by both drought and the Far Eastern demand for ivory. The calf was tall for his age, with the tusks just visible whenever the trunk was lifted, indicating that he was about 2 years old.

Most Kenyans, even those in remote areas, today look upon a Mobile Phone as a necessity so even the people of that remote region were able to alert us in the Nursery about this orphan. Robert Carr-Hartley, who is well known amongst the Samburu people of that area, took the call on his mobile, since all the landlines of the Trust were, as usual, out of order. He told them exactly what to do should they succeed in capturing the calf i.e. bind its legs together with soft cloth, but not too tight so as to restrict the flow of blood, keep the baby warm by covering it with a blanket, lay it on a mattress turning it over several times during the course of the night, and remain with it so that it is not alone, treating it gently and with genuine and caring kindness so that it will understand it is amongst friends. Finally, under no circumstances offer it cows’ milk, because this will kill it. Instead only give it water.

At first light they went to report the presence of the elephant first to the Meibai Conservancy Scouts and then to KWS and Lewa Downs Conservancy who organized that a Northern Rangelands Trust vehicle come to collect the calf and rush it to Wamba airstrip, to await a plane dispatched by The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust from Nairobi to fly the orphan to our Elephant Nursery. It so happens that one of our Elephant Keepers named Leleruk comes from that particular area, and is well known to the locals there, who are extremely supportive of the Trust and its work with the orphans. To us Leleruk is known as “Zoom Zoom” because he is such a cheerful and exuberant character. His experience with the orphaned elephants and everything that he has learnt about the nature of elephants as a result, has been relayed many times to his Samburu peers whenever he returns home, so they understand just how important to them and to Kenya generally elephants are, proving again how the orphaned elephants help get this message across the elephant/human divide.

The Rescue Plane left Nairobi at first light the following morning (6th Sept), and landed at Wamba airstrip a couple of hours later with Leleruk and Keeper Abdul aboard, armed with the usual life saving intravenous drip support as well as a milk feed. The calf was already at the airstrip, surrounded by hundreds of concerned tribes-people, who crowded around it, all anxious to see their their special elephant lifted to safety, since even the sight of an aircraft on that remote airstrip is a novelty. By then the calf was almost spent, and calm beyond caring, so as soon as it was loaded onto the plane, the intravenous drip was inserted into an ear vein as it lay with its legs bound on the rescue tarpaulin. As the plane soared into the sky, Leleruk and Abdul could see a sea of waving arms below, like the tentacles of a sea anemone as the crowd waved a fond farewell. Keeper Abdul was incredulous how cooperative and supportive the people of that area were, but Leleruk was not surprised!

The baby arrived in the Nursery still comatose and with the saline drip inserted into an ear vein. We doubted that he would ever get up again, for many others like him from the North having died soon after arrival. However, much to everyone’s surprise, he was lifted to his feet during the night once he came round, and immediately took milk and began feasting on the Grewia bicolor branches which had been sent to the Nursery from far off Ithumba – something that all elephants love and which contain all the minerals and trace elements an elephant needs to thrive. He was amazingly friendly and trusting of the two Keepers that attended him during the night and by morning, having regained some strength, he was only gently rough towards them, but soon calmed down as they offered him the bark stripped from the Grewia branches. Having spent just one day in the Taming Stockade, he was allowed out the next morning, joining the older Nursery orphans led by Kenia and Dida.

His rescuers suggested that he be named Meibai which in the Samburu dialect has a special meaning that is difficult to adequately translate into English. The best we can do is to say that it means “something extremely precious that is priceless” – a fitting name indeed for a very lucky little elephant calf who owes his life to tribesmen in a remote area of Kenya, who themselves are suffering enormous hardship during this extremely severe drought year of 2009. All credit to the 4 Samburu Warriors that captured and rescued him and thanks to the Northern Rangelands Trust for their vehicle and driver, and to Lewa Downs and the KWS officers involved, for their help, namely Driver Peter Kupis of the Northern Rangelands Trust, and Corporal Roba Kumbi and Sergeant Charles Mukabi of KWS.

Meibai (getting bottle)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Connect with a teacher from Kenya

The other day I was on Himself’s computer and didn’t have available the bookmark to the web site of Kenya’s Kids in Need – where we sponsor children. Too lazy to go to my own computer, I did a web search for Galilee school Kenya.

Found what I was looking for AND found another site. Hmmmmm… So of course I checked it out. It was for Plant a Book International http://sites.google.com/site/plantabook/ Through reading the history I found out this is the “parent” organization of the child sponsor program.

But this program focuses on getting books into schools. Wow. And one of the schools they are working with is Galilee school.

Then reading more, I found they have a teacher sponsorship program in place at Galilee school. Galilee is in the Kayole-Soweto slums of Nairobi. Galilee area is a small shining place in a black hole of despair. The teachers here aren’t paid what they could get in other areas, they teach here because they believe in the program. But the reality of life too often steps in and they must take another job with a higher salary so to provide for their family.

For just $15 a month, one can sponsor a teacher to that they receive this stipend to their salary. You can write your sponsored teacher letters to encourage them. You can send small packages to them. You also have the opportunity to help more by purchasing basic classroom supplies in the organization’s “on-line store”. This on-line store is grand!! You purchase and pay by PayPal for the items you select. Once a month the organization wires the total over to Kenya where the school director Fanuel purchases in Kenya – AT KENYAN PRICES – the items. (This on-line store (OLS) is also a part of the KKIN program and works wonderfully – I’ve used it many times.)

So Himself and I have sponsored Eunice. She teaches at the high school. Her classes are Christian Religious Education and Kiswahili. She is a graduate of Kenyatta University. Married, she has 3 children.

A sponsorship would be a wonderful gift for or by a teacher or a classroom here in the US. Please consider it – Christmas is coming…


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Little Bird at 7 Weeks

Our last stop on our trip was in Missouri to visit *my* family. We were especially eager to spend some more time with our Little Bird. Except… she wasn’t so little anymore! HOW can a baby grow that much in just 5 weeks??

One clue is the catch-phrase “Little Bird hungry!” She is making good use of all that formula she’s going thru!

Now she looks AT you. She’ll even turn her head towards you sometimes. Big smiles all the time. Well…almost all the time. If that bottle is late…
The bib says it all!!!

NOT a happy camper!

Who's that pretty baby in the picture?


Keeping Little Bird sweet smelling!

Monday, October 26, 2009

A Visit to Abe's Home

The last leg of our trip we headed to Missouri to see my family before heading back to TN. And between our night stop of Bloomington, IL and DeSoto is Springfield, IL.

What’s special about Springfield? It was the home of Abraham Lincoln and is also his burial place. Sometime when I was in high school – can’t remember exactly when – we made a field trip over there. Unfortunately it didn’t make much impression on me because the only thing I clearly remember is everyone rubbing Lincoln’s nose on one of the bronze statues at his tomb.

So I decided since we are going right past it, now would be a good time to visit with a bit more mature appreciation.

Following the “Lincoln Trail” signs into town, our first stop was his tomb. Kinda backwards but that is just the way it worked out. Found out they’re closed on Mondays but we still had a look around. First thing we saw was a very shiny nosed bust of Abe in front of the tomb! He hasn’t changed much in about 30 years! After looking around a bit, we took off – making a slight detour to look around the cemetery and at a war memorial there.

Next stop was at Lincoln’s home ( http://www.nps.gov/liho/index.htm ). Very interesting site. Not only is his home restored… but much of the neighborhood around it is part of the park and also restored back to period. Those other buildings are offices for the park service. Pretty cool. There is also a small museum and gift shop on the site.

Tours are free but you have to get a ticket to lock in a time slot. They only allow 17 people per tour because it’s pretty cramped. But not bad.

We didn’t make it over to the Presidential Museum – we’ll hit that on another trip thru Springfield. By the time we finished at the homeplace it was time to get rolling for Missouri!

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, November 19, 1863

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate - we can not consecrate - we can not hallow - this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us - that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion - that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain - that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom - and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Lincoln Trivia:

Lincoln quote: "Whenever I hear any one arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally."

There are no living descendants of Abraham Lincoln.

Lincoln’s son sold his father’s home to the state of Illinois for $1 and with the provision that there never be a charge for people to visit it. And to this day, it is free for all to see.

In 1909, President Lincoln appeared on a one-cent coin and became the first American president to have his face appear on a regular-issue American coin.

Frederick Douglass said Lincoln was "the first great man that I talked with in the United States freely, who in no single instance reminded me of the difference between himself and myself, of the difference of color."

Abraham Lincoln established the US Department of Agriculture.

Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday, the first one being celebrated on November 26, 1863.

According to his wife Mary, Lincoln's hobby was cats. (I knew I liked that man!)

And the trim on his home is the same color as our deck is stained. –LOL-
Outside of Lincoln's home.

Front sitting parlor.

The Lincoln family room.

Lincoln's bed. It is 6 ft 9 inches long to accommodate his 6'4" frame. The wallpaper is an exact replica of what was there.

Lincoln's Tomb

Still shining!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

International Crane Foundation

After the excitement of seeing the wild Whooping Cranes, we drove to Baraboo, WI to see the International Crane Foundation (http://www.savingcranes.org/ ). They have on display specimens of all 15 worldwide crane species. Besides seeing these unusual birds, I was also hoping to get some close-up shots of Whooping Crane.

I ended up with photos of 12 species, including my Whooper close-ups – the other 3 must have been hiding from the cold windy weather!

Entry gates to the International Crane Foundation.

Whooping Crane

Grey Crowned Crane

Sandhill Crane

Wattled Crane

Blue Crane

Eurasian Crane

Demoiselle Crane

Sarus Crane

Siberian Crane

White-naped Crane

Red Crowned Crane

Black Necked Crane

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Whooping Cranes

We went to Necedah Wildlife Refuge looking for one thing – Whooping Cranes!

Whooping cranes are considered extremely endangered. In 1941 there were only SIXTEEN left in the world! That’s just scary. Through extensive efforts the population has increased and as of 2009 there are 539 Whooping Cranes – 387 between 2 different wild flocks and 152 captive birds.

The original wild flock summers in Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada’s Northwest Territories and winters in Aransas NWR, TX. This flock has about 250 now.

The Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (http://www.bringbackthecranes.org/index.html ) has established a migratory flock that summers in Necedah NWR, WI and winters in Chassahowitzka NWR, FL. This flock has about 80 in it.

A fascinating part of the Eastern Partnership is that they take eggs from the captive populations and abandoned eggs to raise in a controlled environment. The chicks never see their human caretakers so they do not become imprinted. The caretakers are always dressed in a costume that (loosely) resembles a whooping crane and only make noises similar to the cranes. The chicks are conditioned to fly following an ultralight… and eventually follow “Mama Ultralight” in “Operation Migration” (http://www.operationmigration.org/ ) all the way to Florida to learn their migration route. In the spring, they fly back to Necedah on their own.

I read somewhere there were 64 Whooping Cranes living wild in Necedah this year. So I was looking as we drove around the public areas. We got out to walk along one area and there ahead was a huge patch of white. I had the telephoto lens on my camera and saw…yes…it was Whooping Cranes. Two of them! And they were calling! I was so excited!

Himself took this picture of me photographing the cranes - that's the white you see in the crook of my arm.

Wild whooping cranes!

The call of wild Whooping Cranes. It was very windy that day but if you turn up your volume, you can hear them. It's incredible to think that this sound was almost lost forever...

Friday, October 23, 2009

Trumpeter Swans

It was a treat to see several groups of Trumpeter Swans as we traveled around Wisconsin. They are North America’s largest native bird and the world’s largest waterfowl. The males average wingspan is over 6.5 feet and weigh about 26 pounds. That’s a big bird!

Their call sounds a bit like a Canadian goose with a sore throat.

In the photos you see several swans are wearing collars. They are to track individual birds for study programs. The colors in the colors are unique to species, so the yellow collar verifies that these are indeed Trumpeters.