Friday, November 22, 2013

kenya part I: the non-safari stuff

on a semi-whim i decided to go on a safari, something i've had on my ultimate bucket list for as long as i can remember. about a month and a half prior to departure i booked a trip to Kenya in search of wild animals and an experience of a lifetime. considering i was embarking on this adventure solo, i expected to feel a little bit isolated as i anticipated the tour group i'd join would likely be couples and/or families. nonetheless, i figured it'd be a good way to challenge myself. but the moment i got to the gate at JFK (where we would start the journey to Kenya) a guy asked if i, too, was going on safari. i then met four others in their early thirties who were friends or acquaintances of one another and they quickly adopted me into their group. the idea of isolation immediately became a thing of the past. they made what was sure to already be an awesome trip even more amazing. i became fast friends with each of them and looking back, can't imagine how the trip would have been without them.

Kenya was an amazing experience and probably the best thing i've ever done. just some quick thoughts about it overall: the people are calm and respectful (aside from the people selling souvenirs). the food we ate was mostly Indian based (i wish i'd had more authentic native Kenyan food). the country is absolutely third world. what you or i might think of as slums is their normal city. the slums are even worse and almost unimaginable. but everything puts your own life into perspective and that kind of exposure makes you truly appreciate your own life as well as gives you understanding about how others go about their lives. a humbling and eye opening experience. 

part I here are pictures of the parts of my trip that were not safari-based. 

three hour layover in Brussels. when in Belgium you must drink the beer, right? even if it is 6am. 

after 23 hours of air time and 36 hours of travel total (for me), we finally made it in to Nairobi, Kenya.

Emilie, Evonne, Kelsey and Mike, my new buds.

market in Nairobi. this was basically a huge souvenir shop with people trying to get you to buy their stuff. great place for people who like to haggle but i neither like to dispute prices nor collect souvenirs so this experience was more annoying than anything. 

everywhere you go people ask "where are you from," and when you say "USA" they ask "but where are you from originally?" when i tell them i'm chinese they think i'm from China. one of the 'salesmen' said "oh, you know chinese never buy." to which i replied "you're right so i'm chinese...i guess i'm not gonna buy." this got them off my back.

making these cool Africa jewelry boxes where Kenya is the key that unlocks the box to open it. this lady was not happy when she realized we were taking pictures of her with no intentions of purchase. she said "why? you do not wish to promote me?" haha

frying fish in a back alley

lunch at the Intercontinental Hotel before we headed to a giraffe orphanage. there aren't a lot of places to sit down and have a meal in the heart of Nairobi. 

giraffe kisses. scruffy and slimy all in one.

they told us to put a pellet in our mouth and have the giraffe take it. i sorta wish i could take this back but who can refuse a little action? lol

this is Julius, our Kenyan guide. he was awesome! and he's got a little bit of a lisp so anything starting in an 'a,' he'd start with an 'h.' "i will hask you a question!" i loved the way he spoke! also, his demeanor was chill and he was super efficient. couldn't have asked for a better guide for safari either. he made sure we saw all of the animals we really wanted to see.

elephant orphange

it was really great to see animals in their normal element. playful. active. not once did any of the staff do anything to make them do something to entertain us like they do at the circus or even some zoos. these elephants are all intended to leave the orphanage to go back into the wild, so it's pertinent that they maintain their natural instincts.

splashing in the mud. they didn't fail to splash me too. 

throwing dirt on it's back to cool off

little warthog kneeling to collect bugs

our housing at the Lake Naivasha Sopa Lodge. this place was amazing! the rooms were spacious, clean and there were wild animals roaming the grounds right outside your window. 

on our way to a boat safari at Lake Naivasha, which included mostly varieties of birds and hippos

spiky plants all over the place

peek-a-boo! hippos sort of linger in the water all day long to cool off and be lazy.

unless they need to yawn

our guide said that these types of eagles stay with one mate their whole lives. aaaww...

water buck (?) near our lodge

a couple kinds of monkeys roamed the lodge area too! these looked like skunks but have bearish faces.

he's so mad about his blue balls!

"whatcha lookin' at?" 
you, my friend, you!

i don't even know what this is but it was cute

hippos roamed around our lodge at night to graze. i was lucky enough to take a pic of this one, who was standing directly in front of a lawn light. they are super aggressive so if we needed to leave our rooms at night we had to have a security escort to ward off approaching hippos. 


we visited the Maasai tribe which are one of the last standing traditional tribes in Kenya. they still live in houses made of dung and pride themselves on wealth based on the number of cattle they own and the number of wives they keep. while they still dress in traditional red wraps and beads and stretch their earlobes, they are beginning to slowly westernize. many of the children go to school nowadays. 

at night they keep their cattle within the confines of a circle of dung houses. this means that there is shit everywhere. like, everywhere. this is not bothersome to them and they just walk and sit around. but this is their norm.

creepy, yo!

Evonne had a polaroid camera and everybody wanted a picture of themselves. they don't get to see what they look like very often so to have an image to keep was exciting for them.

the kids would pose for a picture and then reach up and clamour to be chosen as the one who got to keep the picture

i imagine this was overwhelming for Evonne. the adults would tell the kids to stop and then asked for a picture of themselves. Evonne was a popular person at the Maasai village.

showing us how they make fire

making cinders to put into a pile of dried brush

blowing air through the cinder and brush to light it on fire

it was really bizarre how some of the little girls posed like this for photos. i wonder where they learned that from

kid feet just after stepping out of dung.

they asked me to join them, put necklaces on me and later asked me to pay for the necklaces. no thanks.

high fives, kids! 

soon, part II: safari  

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