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Saturday, July 12, 2003

Blogs and Updates
Nairobi, Kenya

We're still just getting the hang of this remote updating stuff. I've been able to connect our laptop to an Internet cafe, but the operator doesn't know the ISP's FTP proxy that will allow me to update the website. So, for now, blogs will have to do!

Oops, running late, gotta run. See you in Tanzania.

Jambo! Samburu National Park
Nairobi, Kenya

Gosh, has it already been a week and a half since we left Seattle? Time has gone by so quickly ever since we stepped off the plane here in Nairobi, last Friday morning. We met up with Anne & Dave just before boarding British Air for a comfortable direct flight into the capital city of Kenya. After getting through customs, we were met by the folks of Sagawa, who transported us into the city center. After paying our final balance for our safaris, and getting money from the ATM, Winston and I met up with our safari truck. We were to be part of a Game Tracker's 8 day Lake Turkana tour, along with 10 others: Abbe & Sylvie from Holland, Vierla & Bart from Belgium, Sylvie from Switzerland, Shan from Wales, and Cara, Erin, Roddy & Barrie from Scotland. We were driven/guided by Rufus 'Kimani', and fed by Migwi, who always starts our meals with "welcome to the world."

Our first destination was Samburu National Park, where we spent 2 nights in a pre-erected tents with 2 mattresses on wooden frames (cots, I guess we can call them). On the way there, while driving on dirt roads north of Isiolo, our truck broke one of its front springs and so we had to go slowly into the park. It was starting to get dark by the time we arrived. Rufus and several others replaced the broken spring while we went to bed and the truck was ready to go the next morning. We have fond memories of this park, having visited 3 years ago and spotting a leopard.

We went to sleep to the sounds of lions mating all night, and guess what we saw as soon as we left our campsite for our morning game drive? A pair of lions strutting down the road. As soon as all the trucks and vans were stopped for pictures, the lions proceeded to mate. It was over in just a matter of seconds. Hehe. While we had breakfast, a group of vervet monkeys visited our campsite, and some were brave enough to steal toast off the table. We haven't never understood why the alpha male has such bright blue testicles. We assume that when he dies, the next most dominant male's will turn bright blue. Weird. While on the way to visit a Samburu Village, we raced through the park looking for cheetahs which were spotted by other trucks. We saw three of these beautiful slender animals, just strolling in the mid-morning sun.

After lunch, we went to cool off at the Swimming Pool of nearby Samburu Lodge. It is a luxury to take a shower considering that we're covered in dust from driving along the dry dirt roads. Animals viewed here include: lions, cheetahs, gerenuks, reticulated giraffes, elephants, oryxes, grant's gazelles, impalas, grevy's zebras, bat-eared fox, vervet monkeys, baboons, crocodile, dik diks, and tons of birds, of which the blue starlings were the most striking. They look like our robins, with the red breast, but have beautiful blue wings and body. It was also neat to see the desert rose, with bright pinkish red flowers in the middle of the dry park. I'll write more about Kenya next time we get to an Internet Cafe. Kwaheri!

Issa the Shoe Repair Man
Nairobi, Kenya

One very interesting side story for me was making a friend in Marsabit, a shoe repairman named Issa who was sitting just outside the grocery store. Some friendly banter led to some serious conversation about religion, Kenyan politics, the future of Marsabit, and then eventually a visit to see Issa's wife and seven month-old son. Our conversation finally wrapped up with a soda that Issa insisted he buy.

Issa works everyday repairing shoes, competing with three other shoe repairmen in Marsabit, while his wife sells maize. Between them both, they make the equivalent of about $1.50 USD a day. Issa is Islamic, has a huge grin, seems to be sincere about his intentions, is extremely proud of his son, and gave me the impression of being a simple but honest man. He said to me, "The next time you come to Kenya, you are not visiting, but you are coming to see your brother Issa in Marsabit!"

"Konichiwa Kung Fu Man!"
Nairobi, Kenya

This was the greeting from an aspiring business man who shouted up to me as we stopped at a petrol station for refuelling. When he didn't get a verbal response to "Konichiwa, Kung Fu Man!", he tried "Arigato! Do you know karate!? I am karate!" I couldn't help but laugh out loud.

Kenya isn't the only place where Jen and I seem to be identified as Japanese. Our visits to Jamaica, Egypt and Mexico have produce similar greetings. Interestingly though, this time the young men who called for us to buy their wares were not nearly as aggressive as those we encountered in the game parks closer to Nairobi, by far the more popular tourist areas. Seeing as not many people make the trek up to the Turkana region, we suspected that the intensity of the sales pitch increases with the number of tourists in any given region.

I have mixed feelings about bargaining for trinkets and souvenirs. On one hand, I enjoy bargaining and getting a good deal for anything, but on the other hand, you're really negotiating about the difference between $1.50 and $1.70, or something like that. Then again, a street vendor will never sell you anything at a loss. Caveat emptor, I guess!


2003-2004 Winston & Jennifer Yeung. All Rights Reserved.