Where God makes holiday – Nov 2. 2009

Dolphins at Wasini Heading back from Shimoni after a magnificent day of dhow sailing, dolphin watching, swimming and snorkelling amongst the coral gardens and magical underwater world of Kisite Mpunguti Marine National Park, a beautifully presented gourmet seafood lunch on Wasini Island and a tour around the ancient slave caves at Shimoni we spot a sign by the roadside proudly boasting: “Mwazaro Mangrove Lodge – Where God makes holiday”.
The sign to Mwazaro
Of course we have to investigate what the reality of such a proud statement holds and turn into the narrow 1km dirt path leading away from the main track into the
verdant coastal jungle! And indeed we are not being disappointed. Built on the site of a sacred Baobab tree surrounded by lush mangrove swamps the German Hans von Loesch has created a stunning tiny resort of outstanding beauty and tranquillity.

Mwazaro means “Place of Prayer” and for generations the local Digo people have come here in order to celebrate their ceremonies of ancestor worship. The full congregation of tribal elders and the medicine man came together to decide whether it was permissible for Hans to built the lodge on this sacred beach and contrary to other places where tourist developments took over sacred Digo sited, in this case permission was granted by the ancestors. Even the slogan “Where God makes holiday” was suggested by the local witch doctor.

Now the lodge is situated on a tiny snow white, palm fringed, shell and other treasure littered beach flanked by mangroves on one and a river delta on the other side. There is no other human settlement in sight, no mains electricity (power comes from an impressive solar system) and water is drawn from a local well. In addition the place has acquired a somewhat legendary reputation for its exquisite Zanzibari cuisine. Accommodation is extremely comfortable. We intended to camp as usual which is well possible, but after some consideration of the cost involved we just can’t resist the temptation of sleeping in one of the “Palm Cottages”, a row of seven makuti bandas situated right on the beach front. Each of them is entirely made of cooling palm leaf thatch and woven mats, the latter being used both to make the walls as well as for ground cover as the banda is right on the powder fine sand. The one we choose is furnished with a magnificent king sized four-poster Lamu bed carved of dark wood and decorated with colourful stained glass ornaments.

Further accommodation on site is available in two Swahili style Coral Houses. We are allowed to freely wander around and have a look at all of them – rooms are beautifully furnished and decorated, very inviting indeed. A roof terrace is part of the upstairs rooms and there is a further roof terrace on the main building housing offices etc. which we are warmly invited to use for our sundowners. The indeed delightful meals are served in a spacious and airy lounge overlooking beach and sea. From here fish eagles and king fishers are spotted easily and frequently.

And of course there is Hans who has started to establish this place 16 years ago and lives here with a characterful congregation of four dogs and two parrots. Apart from a young British couple whose vehicle got delayed in Mombasa harbour we are the only ones around and as such we are treated as Hans’ personal guests. Having breakfast with him – his egg pizza invention is highly recommended! – we curiously ask, how on Earth he discovered such an incredible place. “Do you have a bit of time?” comes the return question.

Of course we have! What better in a timeless place like this to listen to some tales of adventure. Three hours later we got a most fascinating glimpse into Hans’ unbelievable life story. A true “Aussteiger”, his thriving career travelling world wide as a representative of the tobacco industry was suddenly cut short by the diagnosis that he had about 6 months left to live due to severe arteriosclerosis and beginning liver cirrhosis. But instead of embarking on the urgently suggested medical treatment and surgery all he wanted was to travel to the most beautiful country he’d gotten to know during his business travels, find a white sand beach with palm trees and some “Hula girls” and live out in peace whatever life still had to offer him.

Arriving in Shimoni after many an adventure and synchronistic event and wandering around in the jungle in search of his dream beach, he came across a local girl lethally injured while collecting herbs in the forest and saved her life only to find that she was the daughter of the local witch doctor. A deeply appreciative friendship to both developed. Hans stayed, even got apprenticed in some of the Digo herbal healing art, fell in love with his beautiful “forest find” – though they can’t stay together yet as after the father’s death she keeps being sold off by her brother to other husbands.

And there are so many more breathtaking stories of and about Hans, all written down now in his book “Afrikanisches Schach” (menaing “African Chess” but available so far in German only although Hans recently received an e-mail that by Obama’s decree all books written in or about Kenya have to be translated into English).

By Hans’ policy no radio or television spoils the peace of Mwazaro but to entertain himself and his guests there are various unique chess games around. One of them is giant with figures 1m high, another one is carved out of ebony and the teeth of a whale that sadly got stranded in Shimoni and was auctioned off by Kenya Wildlife Service!. Once more we are softly called for a delightful meal by Hans beautiful waitress Manaisha and Thomas finally puts his watch away. There is no need for time here, everything just happens. Incredibly pure sunrises over the sea, walks through the mangrove swamps with so many shells on the beach and all around Hans amazing stories and animals! Our favourites are Babu, the naughty Rottweiler puppy and the multilingual parrots calling out “Jambo”, “white wine”, “Hallo” (in German), “check mate” and some other randomly picked up linguistic oddity.

What a place to be!!!
Mwazaro Beach

Diani Beach – Oct 23. 2009

After an incredibly relaxing and nourishing week at The Twiga Lodge Campsite on Tiwi beach the long awaited day has come. We have moved into Lobsterpot Cottage, a spacious beach house in Diani sleeping 8 and being part of Vindigo Cottages. And we have picked up our UK friends “the Gracies”, Daya, Jacqui and Nigel, from Mombasa Airport. Daya is Zoe’s very best friend whom she’s been missing a lot despite all the adventures we’ve had so far. Lots of e-mails and text messages have been going back and fro and Zoe has been extremely excited about this visit in conjunction with her birthday coming up a few days from now.

Apart from comfortable beds, decent showers and real flushing toilets, the cottage even has a fridge, an incredible convenience after living without one for 2 months. Chilled drinks, cold yoghurt, spreadable as opposed to runny butter etc., wonderful! There is no lounge indoors but a large outdoor terrace overlooking the ocean and boasting a dining table, coffee table with arm chairs and sun loungers – more luxuries for us after camping life on the ground. And here it is where most of life happens anyway!

Sunrise

Sunrise

The sand on the beach is extremely fine and white. The water temperature can be as hot as a bath tub during midday near the shore. At high tide the ocean waves nearly come up to the property boundary and at night we are lulled to sleep with the rhythmic sound of the surf in our ears. Right in front of our cottage there is Mohamed’s massage parlour and the gents among us make good use of his muscular arms and hands that he uses with perfection to get that tension out of bodies lying on his makeshift wooden table. Close to the shore the local fishermen moor their outrigger boats, skilfully carved out of a single light wood log and hawkers come by daily to offer the catch of fresh fish, prawns, crabs, even lobster if you wish. Plus tropical fruit and locally grown cashew nuts being abundantly on offer.

And there are the monkeys – watch out!!! It’s a troop of vervets and some black and white colobus, the former ones being more than daring and super quick if it comes to snatching anything edible. As soon as there’s food on the table a vigilant human monkey guard has to be stationed next to it. A monkey mama with a baby clinging to her belly managed to steal a whole bag of breakfast rolls from behind his back while Thomas is actually in the kitchen preparing breakfast. Another mama turns up with extremely cute twin babies clutching her. And though we do pity them, we’re just not willing to put up with the constant raids. However, despite all our efforts, vigilance and attempted watchfulness, they managed to steal a loaf of bread, a bunch of bananas, two apples and, if that wasn’t enough yet, broke Thomas’ coffee maker during one particularly spectacular dash into the kitchen. To our amazement they even learned how to open the front door. But after a few days the scream “MONKEY RAID” gets all of us going very quickly. And if monkey raids are all you have to care and worry about, so what?! Surely, life could be more problematic.

Instead, we keep enjoying sea, sun, sand and each others great good company, fascinatedly watch a storm and heavy rains go by, come up with ideas for and decide on various activities and outings together and generally just rest in BEING and in the moment … while the girls celebrate spending their precious time together, Elia has some amazing conversations with Nigel and really makes friends with him, Thomas and Naraya keep putting their tent up on the terrace at night (just the inner shell to keep mozzies and creepy crawlies out) to sleep under the stars and go for a loooong beach walk up to the Kongo Mosque with it’s awesome ancient Baobab trees, Jacqui catches up on some dearly needed sleep, the female members of our party ravel in some plain old holiday shopping for beaded jewellery, flip flops and the like, Daya gets her hair into braids to look just so fabulous, and, and, and … Life simply is good!

Simply the beach

So many shining eyes: Letting the children speak – Oct 11. 2009

Here’s how some of the children we’ve worked with express themselves before and after their Journey process:

“Each day I thought…

Before: “I was very lonely and upset. My beloved had just passed away and I was even willing to hang myself. I stayed for long unhappy. My school fees could not be there for me to learn since my parents could not afford it. I felt very upset and each day I thought about hanging myself. I did not even want to be with other people since they were always happy and enjoying life while I was ever sad.”

After: “After being sad for long I joined the Journey where I met a mentor who consoled me and made me to be happy. Many changes seemed to be taking place in my life. Soon I found myself in a new generation where it was full of love and every good things. Slowly by slowly I started forgetting of bad things I was with in my mind. I forgot about hanging myself and all pain in my heart was relieved.”

Diana Daisy, 15, Nyabola Girl’s High School

Levy Onyango, 13 years ...

Levy Onyango, 13 years,…

Before: “I wanted to spear my father because he caned me.”

After: “I then said to him I’m sorry.”

Levy Onyango, 13, God Agulu Primary School

“My heart is full…

Before: “I was very sad in the morning because I was pushed by my friend to go away.”

After: “Now I am feeling very happy and I have just forgiven her and also she has forgiven me.”

Bivalyne Awuor, 14, God Agulu Primary School

Boredom vs. Wow!

Boredom vs. Wow!

Before: “What I felt before the process – BOREDOM, BOREDOM, BOREDOM, … Very bored and tired. Lonely and somewhat unloved.”

After: “WOW – There can be miracles when u believe. Relaxed and calm and confident. Cared for and loved by someone invisible. Fear escaped and I’m left a confident girl.”

Ruth Adhiambo, 16, Nyagowa Secondary School

So many shining eyes: The feedback – Oct 9. 2009

“The whole process is fantastic as it is a remedy which can help in solving various problems like stress, animosity, hatred, trauma etc. which have affected most of our people’s lives. It therefore gives people a sense of reconciliation and forgiveness which is a pre-requisite in creating peace and harmony in the world.” Mr. Erick Odhiambo Nyasio, teacher, Nyagowa Secondary School

“A deep appreciation of your programme – ‘Journey Outreach’ – I have honestly uncovered it’s value adding attributes, it’s ability to contribute, without pharmacy-related medicine, to the well-being and healing of a person. Going through the process I found myself being naturally more relaxed, happy and radiant. I recommend you re-do and re-do …” Mr. Martin Onyango Okello, teacher, Nyagowa Secondary School

“I feel highly delighted to make a brief comment about the Journey seminar carried out in our school. This is extremely encouraging. I have personally transformed myself from the negative attitude I had about the community and felt encouraged to practice patience, forgiveness, peace, self control and love … I am now a happy man and inspired to extend the message to the needy, especially the orphans.” Mr. Fanuel Odhiambo Oliech, teacher, God Agulu Primary School

“The seminar was very good and the impact would be of great improtance especially now that orphans are many. I have personally enjoyed and got inspired to change my attitude and with intrinsic motivation face life with optimism. Many people need to be reached to have internal healing since many are traumatised with the challenges of life in Kenya today.” Mr. George Okello, teacher, God Agulu Primary School

“This is a great and wonderful event. It has a great impact on our pupils and even our teachers. Journey Outreach should be extended to all parts of the country. I now know how to go about my problems and even solve conflicts with others. Long live Journey Outreach!!! It’s marvellous!!” Ms. Eunice Gor, teacher, Ombek Primary School

“To be precise, in the early 1997 I lost both of my parents who were the bread winners in our house. I was left a young man heading a whole family. In fact I was feeling neglected by the community up to date. But when I was introduced to the Journey I was happy and excited with the first Journey classroom process. I was somewhere in my heart and I learned how I could go on forgiving those who have wronged me. Up to date I am a very upright boy who is loving, caring and courageous.” Eliazar Juma Kopany, Nyambewa Self Help Group

“This is a wonderful programme that helps in transforming a person into a new being, hence very necessary to all human beings. This process will also help in total reduction of human illness and disease thus promotes the economy and creates a new world for One People, One Nation. This is medicine that can heal the world!” Kennedy Onyango Chaga, Nyambewa Self Help Group

“This is not only for the children in our schools, I want this too! We leaders need the same kind of encouragement, healing and potentializing.” Mr. Mbaka, area chief, Konuong’a location, Oyugis

So many shining eyes – Oct 9. 2009

The first 6 weeks of Journey Outreach work are over – so much done and so much still to come. During the month of September alone we reached more than 1000 people, young and old, with the incredibly transformative and healing tools of The Journey. Wherever we go it feels like encountering a sponge that has been lying dry for long and is only too ready to soak up these teachings until completely saturated.

Geographically, the focus of our work lies both in the poor outskirts of Nairobi, mainly Dandora which is home to Moses and Beatrice, two of our super great Kenyan Trainee Journey Practitioners, as well as in Nyanza, the area south of Kisumu, around the shores of Lake Victoria, Oyugis and Kisii.

Most of the people we work with are school children age 13 upwards, i.e. classes 8 of local Primary schools plus all Secondary school age groups and their teachers. So far, 19 schools have been worked with, a selected number of which will receive regular follow up visits from our Journey Outreach volunteers throughout 2010 (provided funds are available to cover travel costs). A smaller number of clientele are members of community groups and here we seem to be “specializing” in bringing the Journey tools for healing, forgiveneness and hope to people living with or affected by HIV/AIDS, for instance the Chaukweli Women’s Group in Dandora/Nairobi and Raganga New Vison HIV/AIDS Group in Mosocho near Kisii. Another yet smaller focus falls on introducing local leaders, the so called chiefs, to our work, because experience has shown that if the local leaders and school teachers got The Journey message, everything else just flows easily and effortlessly whereas if these key multiplicators are not in favour of what we do, the spark doesn’t get ignited with anyone else in the community. Luckily, in the locality we are most active, we enjoy tremendous support from both the sub-location as well as the area chief plus various school principals and teachers – a blessing not to be underestimated!

For the last three days I myself have been seriously knocked out by a severe allergic reaction to certain fly bites, so much so that it felt my body was going into an anaphylactic shock. But due to the wisdom and foresight of my beautifully Africa versatile daughter Zoe, I was given homeopathic Rescue Remedy the day before yesterday and am now slowly recovering, though the flies keep biting and I therefore look forward to travelling back to Nairobi next week. And from there we’ll be off to the coast for a couple of weeks, a mix of Outreach work and family holiday. And Zoe really can’t wait for her best friend Daya and her parents to visit and spend time with us on the beach … At least my illness gave the rest of the Team the chance to facilitate two morning workshops in different schools on their own, first working with the teachers, then proceeding to facilitate Classroom Journey processes with various groups of students. And they mastered the challenge admirably. Well done you three fabs – Moses, Beatrice and Sheila!

It really is amazing how we’ve been made welcome by the local community and how eager people are to understand what this funny new thing called The Journey is all about. Is it a new church/denomination trying to catch people off guard? And if not, why on earth does one have to close one’s eyes in order to undergo the Journey process? What’s the meaning of the logo sprouting on our freshly printed T-shirts? And what is the role of that mentor in the Journey process? Has it got something to do with Yoga, because there too one is breathing in deeply? And anyway, what’s the practical use of it in daily life? Is there not even a hint of material gain involved? Is that Mzungu (white) lady really not giving us any fish but insists on teaching us how to fish for ouselves, to quote the metaphorical language that she keeps using? I she serious in her attitude not to reduce us to beggars anymore but to draw out our own rich resources, our creativity, ingenuity, that elusive boundless potential these Journey people are talking about …

Well, those are some of the questions we meet with on a daily basis while on the road. And yet, those people who “get it”, and they are the vast majority, leave us with feedback so rewarding that every single word we speak seems worth more than it’s letters written in gold. Let some of that feedback speak for itself … So many shining eyes!

We also intend to put up more pictures, but can’t promise anything right now, because we have to deal with an extremely limited power supply – no mains electicity far and wide. Thanks to Thomas’ unbelievable ingenuity we’re able to charge the laptop off the car battery but only once a day and then we have to push start the car. Never mind, so far it’s worked and given us about 2 hours computer time a day shared between 7 competitors. The other issue is the equally limited internet connectivity – best bet is to try uploading anything during morning and evening rush hours when most people are stuck in traffic and therefore offline … Or to wait until we’re back in Nairobi, where electricity supply is available, though rationed to 5 pm to 8 am – roughly, depends on when the person switching the power for the entire estate off gets out of bed!

But back to our Journey Outreach feedback. Here’s some:

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