Friday, June 15, 2007

I’ve spend my last few days in Nairobi- and I must admit, as much as I love traveling, it’s been nice to sleep in my ‘own’ bed. On Tuesday I spend the day shopping. Lisa and I went to the Maasai market. The market covers a huge area along side the road… people have their items spread out on blankets on the ground and you go around choosing items and bartering down the prices. This was the most stressful shopping experience of my life… partially since I have a zillion people I want to bring back presents for and also because the sellers kept grabbing me and trying to drag me to their blankets. We got to the market rather late, and it was about to begin raining so people were packing up their stuff- this was actually good because the sellers wanted to sell their items fast so we were able to set the price. Lisa did all my bartering for me- and she was SO good at it.

They next few days, Evans, Lisa, and I went to the elephant orphanage, Giraffe Center, and Nairobi Walk/Orphanage. At the orphanage, there were 8 baby elephants. They can’t be out in the sun too long so we watched them play in the mud and petted them for only an hour. The orphans are taken to the orphanage until they are out of the nursing stage. If they were left in the wild during their nursing stage, with no mother, the other elephants wouldn’t accept them and they therefore wouldn’t survive. At the orphanage, the workers are their ‘mothers’. Each ‘mother’s divides their time between all the babies to ensure that the elephants don’t get attached to one human. Once they are old enough, they are taken to Tsavo to be introduced back into the wild.
Next we went to the Giraffe Center. At the Center you climb up to a fenced platform, this way you are nearly at eye level with the giraffes, then you feed them. Apart from feeding them out of my hands, I got a giraffe kiss! I placed a pellet between my lips and then leaned towards the giraffe and it ‘kissed’ me to get the pellet. The pellets are very small... and the giraffe’s tongues are SO long... so I was really scared to give it a kiss. But actually, the giraffe kisses rather well! Their tongues are scratchy and slimy, but their breath really isn’t too bad. It was definitely an interesting experience... that Lisa and I did over and over! Most of the giraffes were very friendly. There was however one giraffe- named Betty- who wasn’t very nice. She likes to head butt people- luckily we did not experience that.
The last trip, today, was to Nairobi Walk and Orphanage. One of Lisa’s college classmates is the boss at Nairobi Walk so we got in and had a tour for free. Even though it’s always more fun to see the animals in their natural habitat, I had some incredible experiences here. My favorite part of the day was going into the cheetah cage and petting them!! They are so soft and they purr just like a cat... it was amazing. I got to pet a young buffalo, also. The scariest part of the tour was when Lisa’s friend lead me around to the back of the crocodile fence right next to one of the crocs... then I stuck my hand through the fence to touch it! I was completely terrified.

I am extremely sad to announce that this is my last post. I leave tomorrow at 11:30 pm for London. I will spend two days in London and return late on the 19th (sorry, not the 20th like I told some people). Yesterday, I read through my old posts... It’s interesting to remember how scared I was to come here... and to read about my first reactions to certain things and see how much my views have changed. Like the driving; it seemed crazy at first, but now it just seems normal... I hadn’t realized how much I’ve adjusted to things here; everything feels so familiar now. I’m so used to making tea for my guests, stepping outside and seeing banana trees, passing baboons alongside the road, stopping for cattle and goats every second in small towns, drinking everything out of a bottle, and hanging my clothes outside to dry.

It’s really hard to believe that I’m actually leaving Kenya in 24 hours. I came here not knowing what to expect at all and I’ve had a better experience than I ever could have imagined. The friendships I’ve made and the wildlife I’ve seen have been absolutely incredible. And talking with the people here... the people actually living in the conditions I saw on TV, the people experiencing hunger... living with AIDS... you can’t see this poverty and not reevaluate what’s really important. Since leaving here still seems unreal (just like coming here felt) I’m trying not to think about it! I know it’s going to be sad to say goodbye to everyone and everything.

It’s been a bit strange to write a blog - knowing that people are actually reading about me. But, it’s been a perfect way to share my experiences. I hope you all enjoyed reading it! Please pray that I don’t get myself lost in London... see you all next week!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Well, I’m back from the Mara! This was, by far, my favorite part of my trip. The Mara is beautiful; it’s exactly how most people picture Africa... plains with lone trees scattered throughout. The Mara River runs through the plains and along one side runs the Mau Escarpment (mountain range). Before reaching the Mara we stopped at the border of Tanzania so I could (illegally) cross the boarder. Then we went for a game drive. The nice thing about the Mara being plains is that we could off road the entire time (which I have many bruises from)… this meant we could get VERY close to the animals. The first wild life we saw was actually a lioness (my first lion!!). The grass was rather long so I didn’t get a great view. Continuing on we saw many elephants, giraffes, buffalo, antelope, zebras, all types of birds, and hyenas. There was a mother hyena and two babies... we stopped for a long time to take pictures because they were so cute! Later in the drive we saw another lioness… she walked off when we got close but came back with another lioness and two cubs. They all started walking and playing in the middle of the road- it was amazing to be that close to them! We went to the camp after the drive. At the camp there are 5 small houses- these belong to the wardens/rangers and the General Service Unit (the police that guard the border and watch for poachers). Evans is a field worker, so he is in the Mara quite often and knows all the wardens very well- I’m so glad he’s the one who took me there, with all his connections I had a wonderful experience. We pitched our tent in the dark then went to one of the wardens houses to cook dinner. Since Lisa and I were the only females, we were expected to make morning/nighttime tea and cook/serve dinner for the men while they sat around talking! It was very interesting, to say the least. After dinner Lisa and I went down to the tent to sleep. Evans was offered a bed in the warden’s house so we were all alone- with a horn to sound if we were surrounded by lions or hyenas of course. The next morning we woke early to go for a game drive. This time the first animals we saw were CHEETAHS! There were three young ones and no mother around... we followed them around for a bit so I could get lots of pictures. We then went to the river where there were two lions resting. We opened the roof of the car and got within a few feet of them. Male lions are SO lazy (but so beautiful) they get to lay around while the females do the hunting! The next exciting sight was the hippos. We spotted a group of them but we couldn’t get close enough in the car... so we got out and hiked through the bush. Normally, people are not allowed to walk around in the Mara; it’s too dangerous. But we had a warden (with a gun) with us so we were allowed! We went down the river a ways and found a group of hippos on the opposite shore. Almost all the hippos were bleeding because they fight a lot. Hippos actually kill more humans that lions or anything else do. They don't bother you as long as you are not between them and the water, but if you're in the way... you're dead. Seeing everything from a car was exciting, but actually being on foot and seeing the wildlife up close was just unreal!

Later in the day we took a trip up the mountains. We drove to the edge of the mountains and got out to look at the view- I have never seen anything more incredible. Then Lisa and I decided we wanted to get closer to the Zebras and elands (the biggest of the antelope) that were grazing so we got out of the car and walk around on foot. After scaring away all the wildlife we drove to a small group of Maasai ‘stores’. We got out and immediately a Maasai woman came up and hugged me and began playing with my hair (it’s always weird when strangers do this to me, but I’m getting used to it!). When we got back in the car a Maasai man climbed in with us. We drove to the Maasai Manyatta and got out... that’s when I found out that the man was actually the chief of the Manyatta. Many people visit this Manyatta, and normally you have to pay to get in, pay to take a picture with the chief, and then pay for any jewelry/carving you want. Since Evans knows the chief we were able to enter and take pictures with him for free. The chief took us inside his house- the huts are all made from mud and grass... cow dung is packed along the sides and roofs to make it very very sturdy and rock hard (the women/girls are the ones who have to pack on the cow dung... I actually saw them doing it). Inside the hut it was very dark but extremely warm and cozy. The chief told me and Lisa we should spend the night... we declined; I didn’t want to become his fourth wife- one of the other Maasai men had already tried to buy me from Evans! Before leaving the chief gave us both a bracelet (for free!). I am SO lucky and grateful to be staying with Evans and Lisa- with all their connections I am truly getting an incredible experience.

Back at the campsite we discovered that the rain had gotten into our tent and everything was soaked. Luckily, I pack all my clothes in plastic bags inside my duffel (thanks mom!) so nothing was wet or ruined. Our bedding, however, was soaked. We went up to the houses and visited the only house with a woman staying in it. When she heard what happened she insisted we stay with her. So, after dinner, we went back to her house to sleep... the houses there are extremely tiny- two small rooms, a bathroom, and a kitchen that you can’t fit more than two people in at a time... yet everyone is so hospitable! They offer you food and coffee and share whatever they have. When this woman offered to have us stay there, she meant that we would share her bed with her- it was a full size bed, but me and Lisa basically slept on top of each other. I am getting very used to sleeping in random places. The places that I’ve visited outside of Nairobi have been very eye opening and different. I’m glad that I’m actually experiencing how the majority of Kenyans live. It always feels strange at first, like when I realized I was going to share a bed with a woman I didn’t even know... but this is how the people here live, and everyone is just so amazingly hospitable... so I’ve learned to accept anything that feels strange/new.

Monday, after another game drive, we came home. On the way home we stopped along the river to see crocodiles. While Lisa and I were standing at the rivers edge we noticed a bunch of vervet monkeys in the bushes- including a baby. We took pictures and decided to see how close we could get. We were surprised when the monkeys let us come just inches away from them. The wardens there told us the monkeys were very friendly… so I got to touch them! I would hold out my hand and they would hit it and grab it. I love monkeys so of course this made my whole day. Also on the way home we saw a whole group of vultures feasting on a wildebeest (ew ew ew!). As soon as I got back last night I took a niiice hot shower- in the Mara we didn’t get to shower and after three days of putting on sunscreen, bug spray, and being sprayed with mud when we were off roading... well, I needed a shower pretty bad.

I am spending the rest of this week in Nairobi- Lisa and Evans are taking me to different animals places here- and again, lucky me, with their connections it will be amazing! I leave Saturday, I’m in shock at how fast my departure has come. I will try to post pictures- but it’s very difficult to post them since the internet connection is so slow.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Hey everyone,

Well, it has been quite an eventful week... so I have LOTS to share. On Monday, Asgar found out about a family emergency in the UK (which I won’t go into details about). He needed to fly to the UK immediately so he booked a flight for Tuesday. He will not return until after I have left. It was a very strange feeling to know that my one contact in Africa was leaving me here alone... and I wasn’t prepared to say goodbye to him so soon… so it was hard! But, even with all he had to deal with, Asgar took time to make great arrangements for me. I am staying at his house, and Lisa is staying here with me. This weekend, we had planned to go to the Mara, so Asgar’s employee/friend, Evans, will be taking me and Lisa there to camp.
Apart from that news, this week I have been doing my volunteering. The first place was the orphanage in Machakos. Renee came into Nairobi and I met her at the train station to take a matatu to Machakos. In Machakos we took another matatu up a mountain to the orphanage- the view from the top was beautiful! I was a bit nervous to go to the orphanage; I wasn’t sure how the kids would react to me. But, it ended up being the best experience of my trip so far. The children ran right up to me and hugged me and grabbed my hands. They were so kind and friendly and outgoing. There are 25 children there (ages 5-13) almost equal ratio of boys to girls. The youngest ones don’t speak English, but the older ones do. Each night, the kids have to walk down the hill a ways to a “river”. The river is basically a hole in the ground with water… there, they fill their huge containers with water and carry it back up to the orphanage to dump it into larger tanks. Renee and I walked with them to get water. Then, it was dinner time. Although Renee cooks for herself and doesn’t eat the children’s food, that night the kids put together plates for us (rice and potatoes). It was so sweet to see them giving us what little food they had. We ate a bit then gave the rest back to them. After dinner, I gave them all the gifts I had brought (pencils, markers, crayons, colored pencils, games, a map, a globe, soccer ball, footballs, DVDs, CDs, books, etc). The looks on their faces when I showed them this stuff made my whole trip. All the stuff I just mentioned was theirs to share but I had also brought along sweatbands for the boys and necklaces for the girls (by the way- thanks Aubrey and Megan!). I laid the stuff out on the table and the kids crowded around to choose an item. This was the best part of my night… when they were putting on the necklaces and sweatbands they just looked SO happy… I cried; it was the best feeling in the world to watch their faces light up. The next morning we got up at 5 and left at 6 to walk to school with them. It was about a 20 minute walk through the mountains to the school. The kids held my hands the entire way- which was a very good thing too, because it was a steep climb and I nearly fell countless times (my shoes have lost all traction). At their school they have grades 1-8. Each grade has their own small classroom and they sit 3-4 to a desk. When we arrived around 6:30 none of the teachers were present; the kids get there early to clean up the place. I visited 4 of the classrooms and in each classroom they sang for me (in Swahili). It was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard- each song has a soloist that sings half of the time, the soloists were amazing (again, I almost cried while listening). At 8:00 they have assembly. At assembly, all 600 kids (yes, 600 at this tiny little school) gather together and are led in song by one of the students. Then a bible passage is read by another child and a prayer is led by a third. During the assembly the kids were SO well behaved- none of them talked or goofed off like kids in the US do- it was incredible. Afterwards, Renee and I left. Before we left though, all the kids had to walk by me and grab my hands or hug me- it was adorable. The entire time I was at the orphanage and school all the kids wanted their pictures taken. They love posing for the camera (one girl, Sara, always gave a thumbs up) and like to look at the pictures right after they are taken. The kids also took to calling me mzunga (not to be confused with mzungu) which means doll.
So, back at the orphanage… The orphanage has a girls dorm, newly built boys dorm, kitchen, and dining/study room (located in the old boys dorm). Until the new boys dorm was built they ate on the floor of the kitchen (which is an extremely small room). By the kitchen was a small closet called the ‘library’ where they had some books and toys. It was very disorganized and filled with trash. Renee and I moved the shelves and everything to the new study room. We went though it all, threw out stuff, organized the books/toys, and put them back on the shelves. More than half of the things on the ‘toy’ shelf were the items I had brought. It was an overwhelming task but it looked amazing in the end. I wish I had more time to stay at the orphanage, I fell in love with the kids. At the end of my visit, I took a matatu (by myself for the first time!) back to Nairobi. Since Asgar is no longer here, I have to get used to matatus... I don’t know if that will happen- I reeaally dislike them.

Today was my first day at Beacon of Hope. I took a cab to the site. Unfortunately, in Kenya, there are no physical addresses, just P.O box numbers. So the only info I could give the driver was the name of the place and the street… we ended up getting lost. Eventually we pulled over for directions. It was much further than I thought it was, and on the drive I was nervous and really wishing I wasn’t alone. But, once I reached BOH I felt much better. Jane (the director and my contact at BOH) was not there when I arrived. However, there were about 10 mzungus volunteering there – they are from a church in North Dakota. One of the women gave me a tour around the place. There are counseling rooms, weaving rooms, classrooms, a clinic, and a play area out back; it is a very nice facility. First I played with the kids- all of them, like at the orphanage, were so friendly and attached themselves to me. There are three classrooms; the kids are ages 2-6. They don’t speak much English so I used my limited Swahili to communicate- it actually seemed to work! In the classroom I helped teach them a song then drew with them. In the afternoon I worked upstairs with the infections disease nurse (I did organizational stuff, helped package pills, etc). I also sat in on the consultations when women/children came in with problems. BOH offers testing, medicine, and help for not only the women in their program but for anyone else in the community wanting to stop by. It was difficult to listen to the women’s problems and watch them scrounge for a few bob (shillings) to pay for medicine. At the end of the day, while I waited for my cab, I got to chat with the pastor and another couple from the church. They know people from Black Hawk church quite well so it was really nice to talk with them... just like it was really nice to talk with Renee. Although I’ve had Lisa and Asgar here this whole time to talk to, I hadn’t realized how much I needed to talk with other mzungus. Being here and experiencing this new culture and seeing the conditions in small towns/schools/orphanages is very difficult, and I haven’t been able to talk with anyone about what I’ve been feeling. But, other Americans are experiencing the same feelings and reactions that I am so it was great to finally get all my thoughts out!

With all the traveling I’ve been doing I just haven’t had a moment to rest and it’s really catching up on me (I got sick again last night). What I really need is a few days of rest buuut tomorrow (and hopefully some days next week) I will be at BOH again. Then, this weekend (Saturday-Monday) I will be in the Mara. So no rest yet! I’ll write again next week and I’ll try and post pictures of the orphanage tomorrow.

Monday, June 4, 2007


Well, I am back from the Rhino Charge- and very glad to have a real bathroom/shower! As promised, for those of you who don't know what the Rhino Charge is, I will explain it.
The Rhino Charge is an off-roading event that takes place every year in a different area in Kenya. The purpose of the event is to raise money for a fence being built in the Abadare Mountains. The fence is game proof so it keeps the wildlife on the outside in order to protect the people/ecosystem on the inside. Without the fence, the people's farms were being ruined and the children couldn't walk to school by themselves. The ecosystem is very important to protect since the water there provides power and such for all of Nairobi. The participants (2-6 people per team, and 60-something teams) get sponsors in order to compete. Each year the number of participants grows, and so does the number of spectators. This year, the competitors and their designated guests camped at a different site than the spectators. This made things run much more smoothly. The Charge itself is a one day- all day- event. There are 13 check points spread throughout the area. The goal is to get to as many check points as possible in the least amount of time and distance.
Last Thursday we set off for the Charge. We left at 7:00 am and arrived there at 4:00 pm... it was quite a drive! During the first part of the drive, we were overlooking the Rift Valley, it was beautiful- there is nothing else like it! We passed by four lakes; the shores of these lakes were all pink because of the thousands of flamingos there! The rest of the drive was up/down/through the mountains so it was amazing to look out on. We reached the check in point at about 1 pm. There we received directions to the actual charge. The next three hours were along a dirt road. It was incredibly dusty and since we kept the windows down (because of the heat) we got covered in dirt/dust (it stuck even more on me since I was lathered in sunscreen)- I looked about 4 shades darker. On that road, and the roads through the mountains, there were mud huts and children everywhere. The children stood along the side of the road with their hands out, or just waving and shouting to us. When we waved back they would cheer- it was so cute, but soooo sad! Also along the roads were many goats, cows, and donkeys. The goats and cows loved to start across the road RIGHT when you reached them. They also loved to lay in the middle of the mountain roads so when you came around a turn you had to quickly slam on the breaks to avoid hitting the sunbathing animals.
The Rhino Charge took place in a valley. It was very hilly, rocky, and full of trees- almost all of which had inch long thorns. In our group there were 21 men, and me, so there were 11 tents. These men are 'high-class' campers so they had hired people to set up the tents for us and they brought along cooks (from a hotel that one of the men runs). So, our tents were set up and in the middle of the camp ground was a big open tent that held the tables and "kitchen". Unfortunately, the toilets were just pits in the ground... the showers, however, weren't too bad; they had warm water- but very limited water since it was just held above the small showering tent in a bag. Basically I would switch on the water and get wet, turn it off while I put on soap/shampoo, switch it on again and hope to wash off all the soap, and that was it. When we arrived it immediately started to rain... all the dirt on me turned to mud. We unloaded the cars, helped set up the middle tent, and then, once the rain stopped, we unloaded the charge car (the charge cars are brought on trucks to the site, they are never driven to the charge). Dinner was served and then the men sat around drinking- of course- and talking... they were quite fun to talk with. The next day was scruiteneering. The Charge Car was taken to the headquarters and checked for extra gadgets that shouldn't be there; checked for proper safety features, and then a GPS system was installed (the GPS system keeps record of the km traveled during the charge). The rest of the day was spent doing repairs/check ups on the car. It was fun to watch- I was put to work doing the easy tasks like cleaning the car haha. That day, there was a goat tied up near my tent. It was sooo cute! I asked Asgar who's goat it was... his reply: "That's dinner". Yes, they slaughtered two goats for dinner... I'm sure you can all guess how pleased about that I was. That night the coordinates for the 13 check points were finally given out to the teams, so they spent the night planning their route- it was amazing to watch. We had a huge thunderstorm that night and, since the ground there doesn't soak up water very fast, I again was covered in dirt/mud... which was actually pretty fun! While camping there, I never once felt clean (except for a few minutes after showering, but as soon as I stepped outside the tent I was dirty again).
The next day, Saturday, was the actual charge. The contestants began at 6:15. We left camp at 8:00 and went to the check point called 'The Gauntlet'. The Gauntlet is the hardest check point in the charge, and the best area for spectators to watch. This year, the Gauntlet was on top of a huuuuge hill. The cars would come crashing through the trees and bushes to reach the top. Spectators were scattered all over the top of the hill and down the sides. You really have no idea which way the car will be coming up, and since the cars can't stop- people had to run out of their way. It was extremely amusing to watch. We stayed there about an hour and a half then started off to another check point. Unfortunately, I had been feeling quite sick that morning, so I was dropped off at camp after The Gauntlet where I got even more sick (fever, throwing up, etc). So for me, it was actually a very very horrible day. I thought getting sick at college was a bad place... oooh no, nothing beats getting sick in the bush in the middle of Africa. That night I was feeling a little better, so I managed to get some water down (everyone kept trying to make me eat- I refused, I still felt too sick).
Since I didn't get to watch our team- I was filled in that night. Our team was doing very good. They had made it to 5 check points by 11:30 (that's one check point each hour which is the goal). But by 12:30 no one at any of the check points had heard from them. So everyone started to worry. Asgar and a group of 4 other men finally got their approximate bearings and went searching for them. They had to go off-roading themselves, and then walk around and they didn't find them until 5:30 that night. Something had happened to the car and they'd gotten stuck half way up a hill in the middle of a forest. Another car was stuck nearby- the men in that car were all injured so our team helped them out (they were flown to Nairobi) then they got our charge car out of the bush. One of our guys had a thorn from one of the trees go right through his ear- but apart from that they were all fine.
I went to sleep early that night and Sunday morning I felt a bit better. We packed up the camp (correction- they packed up the camp, I laid in the tent). Then we drove home. Last night I slept 12 hours, so I'm feeling much better today; I'm just very weak/dizzy from lack of food. But I'm eating and drinking LOTS of water today because tomorrow I leave for the orphanage. All in all it was quite an eventful camping trip and a very fun experience- the men say I got to experience the "real" Africa. But, I am VERY glad to be back in Nairobi!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007


Well, I have nothing too interesting to report, so I thought I'd write about some random stuff. Since I've spent a few full days in Nairobi I'll tell you my routine while here (everyday is different, but I'll simplify it).
When I'm in Nairobi at Asgar's house I wake up around 8ish at shower. Showering is actually rather interesting because I have to hold the shower head and there is no shower curtain... so, that takes a while. By the time I'm showered, dressed, and ready, Lisa is here. I go downstairs and have coffee and some sort of fruit for breakfast (mangos are my new favorite!). Then Lisa and I go to the office and talk while she works... we share stories about Kenya and the US, it's quite fascinating. Throughout the morning we probably have two more cups of coffee (tea in her case). Lunch time, Asgar cooks for us (he loves to cook). It's different each time... I've had veggies, potatoes, chapati (bread), samosas (triangle things filled with, well, veggies in my case, but also meat), and lots of rice… and almost everything is cooked in curry. After lunch we normally get another cup of coffee... of course. Then, we do random things. We've run out on trips to pick up things, people are in and out of the house (so I've had many conversations with new people, which is always fun), and time flies by pretty quickly. The few nights that I've been here I've hung out with Lisa. We've gone out to different places just so I could see more of Nairobi. Asgar drove us once; the other nights we went out we took matatus. I've met a few of her cousins and friends- it's always fun seeing people’s reactions when they hear I'm from the States. When I say I'm from Wisconsin people generally say "oh don't you have a lot of cheese there?" or ask "Why is WI always mentioned in movies". Most people comment on my blonde hair (as I've mentioned before) and when they find out I have blue eyes they tell me I'm just like a doll. Here, when people guess my age, they think I am 21 or 22 years old! In the States I would never be taken for that age.
Most people speak English (they have brittish-like accents) but they also speak Swahili and generally their native tongue (example- Lisa speaks kikuyu). They will speak other languages with each other, or a mixture, so I often have no idea what is going on. Swahili words are thrown in when they are speaking to me; one word I've picked up on is mzungu- which means white. Also, they have different words for things than we do. Most of the time it's easy to pick up on, but there are some which have caused some confusion. The easy ones are: torch = flashlight, zed = z (the letter), serviettes = napkins (napkins = diapers), and there have been so many more that I can't remember. The word that caused the most confusion was used on the way home from Tsavo. I felt the car kind of jolt and Asgar pulled over to the side of the road. I asked him what happened and he says "puncher". I thought I misheard so I asked again and he repeats "puncher". He gets out of the car and starts doing stuff and I'm sitting there completely confused thinking that I really must be dense when it comes to cars to have no idea what a puncher is. Actually, puncher just means a flat tire. When me and Asgar were out fixing the tire (okay, he was fixing it, I was holding stuff) two boys came along. I thought they were coming to help us, but they just kind of stood there. Asgar quickly finished, told me to get in the car, and we sped away. Asgar told me that you need to be very careful of those people (the people along the side of the road) because they will often beat you up and steal from you. Another small difference in speaking I noticed when Lisa talked to her friends about me. She says "She is called Devri" she never says "her name is Devri". Having taken French and Italian this didn't shock me because that is more along the lines of how they say people’s names, but hearing it in English sounds quite funny.

A few other random things I've learned/noticed:
Every school here, whether private or public, has school uniforms.
When people come over you immediately offer coffee or tea (never water or soda);
There are hundreds of kiosks along the side of the road and almost all are selling bananas.
Most people here walk around so there are thousands of people, right next to the car, which I think is quite dangerous with the driving here!
The matatus can charge you whatever they want; if I were by myself instead of with Lisa I would probably be charged way more.
Along every street side where there is parking and in every parking lot there are people who help you park and get out of the spot and watch your car while you are away. Then you tip them afterwards.
The funniest sight yet was when I saw marabou storks sitting in the tree. Marabou storks are HUGE and since I’m obviously used to seeing robins and finches in trees this was strange and hilarious.
Most people here do not have cell phone plans. Instead they buy these little scratch cards that have a number on them which they punch into their phone and then they have a certain amount of money in their phone to use.
White children who were born and raised in Kenya are called KCs (Kenyan Cowboys).

Well, that’s all I’ve got for today! I’ll be writing again next Monday. Mungu abariki!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Jambo! Well, friends and family, I've decided I am never coming home... I love it here too much! I'm running away and living with the elephants... okay, but honestly, this is the most amazing place. My boss, Sheena, told me that if you only travel once in your life you have to go to Africa. I completely agree.
Last time I wrote was Friday. That night I went out with Lisa to some clubs. We took a matatu (small 14 seater bus) around town. It was an interesting experience just because I got so many stares. I seriously would walk around and people would stop and turn their heads to watch me. Lisa says it's not just because I'm American but also because of my blonde hair.
Saturday morning Asgar and I left for Tsavo. It took us two hours just to get out of Nairobi then another 4 hours to get to Tsavo. Along the way we passed through many small towns. I didn't get any pictures because we were driving, but I wish I had. The building in these towns are made of sticks and rusted sheets of metal. Many of the houses are just small huts made of mud. I can't even explain how sad it was to see these horrible conditions.
Once we reached the park we went for a game drive. Then we went back to the lodge for dinner and went to bed early. The next morning we left early and went for a 6 hour game drive. Here are the animals I saw in the park: elephants, giraffes, buffalo, hippo, dikdiks, gerenuks, water bucks, kongonis, zebra, baboons, another type of monkey, ostrich, crested eagle, fishing eagle, secretary bird, ground hornbill, red beaked horn bill, yellow neck spur fowl, guinea fowl, two types of herons, warthogs, impala, and grants gazelle.
The first animal I saw was a HUGE baboon- it had the biggest butt too...I've decided I don't really like baboons, Asgar says they can be dangerous. I prefer the other, cuter, monkeys we saw (go figure). We saw many herds of elephants throughout the drives. The second herd we spotted were standing right in the middle of the road. They had a young (2 week old) baby with them so they were very wary of us. They clumped together and started marching down the road towards us with their ears flared. Once they got off the road we drove past them; the one closest to the road gave me a very intimidating look! Tsavo elephants are very red because of the red dirt and they are also quite aggressive because of all the poaching done in Tsavo. This herd, like most others I saw, were all female. The females stay together (the males only approach during mating season) and the matriarch (leader) guards the baby very closely. During the second game drive I saw a few Bull Elephants (male) who stay by themselves, and I also saw a group of bachelors playing in the water (which we watched during lunch).
I saw a herd of over 200 buffalo. Buffalo are the funniest and scariest looking creatures. They seriously can give a death stare. We drove so close to them I honestly thought they were going to charge us. Buffalo are the most dangerous land animals and hippos are the most dangerous animal in water... I found this funny since both are vegetarians. The hippo I saw was half submerged in water but still pretty cool. We saw many many many zebras. And they often had babys with them, which were so cute!
Some of the smaller animals were actually the most impressive to see. The secretary birds (which look like they are wearing black stockings and have quills-hence the name) were a rare find as were the gerenuks (giraffe antelope). I saw three gerenuks, including a baby, and Asgar says I should consider myself very very lucky for that sight. The dikdiks are the smallest of the antelope. They are about the size of a rabbit (although much skinnier) and are very shy- they run away as soon as they spot you. You always find dikdiks in pairs because they mate for life :) Warthogs are actually very shy also. I saw three of them and I fell in love- they are adorable! Another rare find was baby ostrich. I saw a mother and about 10 of her young. Later I saw a male and female ostrich together. The females are brown and the males (who are complete show offs!) are black with some white- very beautiful. Watching ostrich run is a very funny sight!
Last night during dinner a group of two hundred buffalo (possibly the same group I'd seen before) came to the watering hole. I got to watch a couple of them fight each other.
We also went to the elephant orphanage. The orphans have grown quite a bit and they've become more independent. So, I got to get really close to all of them and pet one for a while but they do not come right up to you as they used to. It was a little disappointing but this independence is good for them! (And I get to go to a place in Nairobi to pet baby elephants... so of course I can't be too disappointed). One of the elephants had a cut in his ear from top and bottom nearly meeting in the middle. This was from a wire trap. I will never be able to understand what is going through peoples minds when they hurt/kill these amazing creatures.
I did not get to see any cats, sadly. But Asgar assures me I'll see a lion in the Mara or Amboseli. I cant wait!
On Thursday we leave for the Rhino Charge. I won't be back until Sunday or Monday. For those of you reading who do not know what the rhino charge is... well, I'll explain it when I get back! For those of you who know what it is and saw the video you know how dangerous it looks. Well, apparently that video doesn't even show the worst of it so I was quite relieved when Asgar told me what we would be doing is meeting the team at each check point to watch them and help them there. There is a competitor and a spectator camp ground. I am staying at the competitor camp ground with Asgar, his team, and more of their friends. There are 20 men in all in the group... and I'll be the only girl. This will be interesting. Well, I will be writing again in a week. Kwa heri!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Hello everyone!
I haven't written in a few days so I have quite a bit to report. I spend Wednesday and Thursday in Nairobi. Asgar's Care for the Wild office is in his home so I met his assistant the first day. Her name is Lisa; she's 23 years old. It's really nice to have someone my age (well, close at least) around. We've had lots of fun sharing stories, figuring out differences and similarities between the US and Africa, and talking about the wildlife here (she is going for her degree in wildlife management). She has shown me around some places here in Nairobi which, again, has been fun since she's so close in age. Over the past few days I've been reading a lot of magazines/books on Kenya and Asgar has filled me in on some projects he's working on. Asgar works for Care for the Wild, volunteers with Friends of Conservation and Project Jambo, and volunteers/partners with even more places. It's incredible how much he does. Although Asgar's main work is with the wildlife, he shares my belief that you need to help the people and the environment also. It is impossible to expect results unless you work with all three areas simultaneously. He told me about a project being worked on with the Maasai that is very interesting. The Maasai have not accepted modern day living yet (which I think in some ways is great, technology can ruin life in some ways) but there are some aspects which they need to accept. The Maasai still believe the women should serve the men, and sadly, without education the women believe the same thing and treat the men as gods. The Maasai women cook, clean, gather firewood, get water, etc. As more Maasai are educated this will hopefully begin to change. The project that Asgar is helping with is trying to supply villages with biofuel so that they can cook and have some light with it. With the light, the kids will be able to do their homework at home (it's dark when they return home from school so they are often unable to do it or they must stay late at school to do it).
This morning we got up early and drove to Machakos. On our way to the town, and in the town we passed through many poor areas. Areas that aren't nearly as bad as some places, but still it was heartwrenching. The houses were spread out through the fields and quite small/run down. It's quite difficult to explain what I was feeling as I saw this. Because of films about Africa and such, these parts didn't shock me (again they are not the poorest areas) but I hated seeing how little these people have compared to most Americans. In Machakos we visited a school for the physically disabled. We went there to deliver a wheelchair to a girl named Eunice who has no legs and had the tiniest, more rickety wheelchair you could imagine.
Eunice is one of ten girls that Project Jambo supports. Project Jambo sponsors girls from extremely poor families- it helps them pay their school fees. Education is SO important, especially for girls since they are still overlooked here. Most girls do not make it to secondary school. Project Jambo wants to add more girls to their program and also wants to begin supporting boys who have worked hard so far in school.
Back to the school: The school currently has 170 children (both boys and girls) attending and is looking to add more. The area which they own is very small; it has I think 3 or 4 different classroom buildings, washrooms, two dorms, an office, a church building, and a physical therapy room. The dorms (one boys, one girls) are single rooms packed with small metal bunk beds. The school desperately needs more funding, larger facilities, a full time physical therapist, and more- but still, the school is doing amazing things. The kids there are taught money making trades such as bead working and leather crafting. The money from the items sold goes directly to the child who made the item. This way, when they leave the school they will hopefully have some money to start off with.
The physical therapy room was very shocking. First off, the physical therapist visits only twice a week. The kids there really need to have a full time physical therapist and doctor. The physical therapy room had such little equipment- a few weight sets, one exercise ball, two old exercise bikes and that was about it. I was in shock. But still, it was amazing to talk with the teachers, watch the more able children help the ones in wheel chairs, and watch/listen to them as they learned.
Both the school and Project Jambo need funding. If you are looking for an organization to donate to these both are amazing, and after meeting the children, both the school and Project Jambo are already dear to my heart. If you want more info about either please ask!
Side note: I saw an ostrich today along the side of the road to Machakos! It was awesome, they look so funny!
Well, it's time to go have my 4th... or 5th?... cup of coffee. They drink so much tea and coffee hear, I fit right in! Tonight I am going to a club with Lisa and a couple of her friends. I'm trying to experience every different part of Africa that I can! Tomorrow Asgar and I are off to Tsavo- first stop is the elephant orphanage :) I'll be back on Tuesday and I'll post some pictures and stories then!
Also, thank you to all of you who posted comments and are praying for me!