Monday, February 18, 2008

February 18, 2008 - Nairobi National Park

The past few days in Kenya have been really nice. The weather has been good and there has been an absence of violence throughout the country, although not necessarily an absence of tension. On Friday I had my first doctor’s visit at the Nairobi Hospital. Don’t worry – it was not an emergency! My pacemaker has been misbehaving and I visited a highly recommended doctor (he is the President’s doctor, actually!) who is one of 4 doctors in Nairobi with the technology to service the old ticker. He was really nice and has American credentials, a Canadian (possibly upstate NY) accent, and a Jewish last name. In Kenya. Very diverse. Anyway, I brought him instructions from my cardiologist in NYC which he happily followed. Since then, the problem has not been completely solved but has been improved and I am seeing him again on Wednesday. I have been told that Nairobi Hospital is the best private hospital in East Africa and my experience was very pleasant; just like in an American hospital I had a 45 minute wait to see the Doctor.

The big excitement was that on Saturday Kristoffer, Christine and I took a game drive through the Nairobi National Park, which is about 25 minutes from our home and is 75 square miles of land. We woke up at dawn and filled our new cooler with snacks: bread, fruit, cheese, chocolate chip cookies, After Eight mints and lots of water. What more could you need on safari? In addition to everything we saw, the trip was exciting because Christine and I both drove for the first time here. It was a little strange to be on the left side of the car, but because there isn’t traffic in the park it didn’t have the same feeling as driving on a main road with other cars. And because the roads were so bad we weren’t staying to the right or to the left, but to whichever side had fewer holes or bumps! We were so happy to be in the Wizard because the Toyota Corolla we had before would never have survived the rocky terrain and off-roading required. We got into the park at 7:00am and we left at 2:15pm. It was a long day!

Obviously, the best part of the trip was seeing all of the animals! Most often, we saw Eland (the biggest antelope), impala, and gazelles. We also saw a lot of zebra throughout the whole day, but at one particular point our car was almost completely surrounded by them, probably 75 in total. We saw them playing with each other, rolling around in the dirt, and even a few expectant mothers (we think). Baby zebra are adorable…their stripes are more brown than black and they seem to stick close to their elders. They were really fun to watch for quite a long time.

We also saw a few monkeys in the trees near where the zebra were surrounding us. They were a relatively small kind of monkey, but one of them was clutching a teeny-tiny baby monkey who was suckling. The baby almost looked dead because it was so small and was a different color than the mature monkeys – but we saw it move so we knew that it was alive. The mother was staring at us hard and, if I hadn’t rolled up my window quickly, she looked like she was going to jump right in!

While the monkeys were cute, the true entertainment came after we ate our picnic lunch. We stopped at a beautiful observation point and enjoyed the food we brought. When we were done eating, another car arrived and we packed up our cooler and got into the car. Pretty much the second we closed the doors, a large family of baboons appeared, we believe because they smelled our food (apparently they also like bread, fruit, cheese, and chocolate!). We rolled our windows up very quickly but the other people who had arrived were standing outside with the baboons romping around them. They climbed all over the other car, playing with the side-view mirrors and the windshield wipers. One of them jumped from the top of the other car to the top of our car and parked himself on top of the driver’s side mirror. They were crazy! We learned that baboons are easily aroused, and trust me when I tell you that the baboon on our mirror gave us quite the show! The man in the other car had to activate his alarm just to be able to get inside, but the baboons still did not go away for quite a few more minutes. We even started to drive away with the baboon on our mirror for a few feet before he jumped off.

Throughout the day we saw many giraffes, including a beautiful baby, some buffalo, and very cool birds. Sadly, we did not see any lions, rhinos, cheetahs, or leopards. The park doesn’t have elephants because it is not big enough to feed them! Probably our last two hours were spent just looking for lions and rhinos, but we were so exhausted that we finally left. The new binoculars we bought last week were awesome! And hopefully you can enjoy some of the pictures we took. We know that we will go back because the park is extremely beautiful and so convenient for us to see wildlife whenever we want. We are determined that we will see lions eventually! For Kristoffer and me to enter the park in our car, as residents, costs $40 which is not an expensive way to spend a beautiful Kenyan Saturday!

Saturday night we were exhausted and, even though we probably would have gone to sleep really early anyway, we had a 5-hour power outage starting at 7pm and were sort of forced to go to sleep very early. Yesterday we had a nice afternoon dessert with Christine’s friend from work Joyce, who is Kenyan, and her two children. In Kenya, and probably all of Africa, children call adults (their mother’s or father’s friends usually) “Auntie” or “Uncle”. Both of Joyce’s kids absolutely loved “Uncle Kris” and her 3-year old daughter told “Auntie Lisa” that when I meet her daddy I can call him “Uncle Jimmy”, which was hysterical because it wasn’t that obvious to her that I am a grown-up!. The other accomplishment of our weekend was finishing Season 3 of 24 on DVD that my sister brought me. We have to finish Season 4 before she goes back to the US…and then I wonder how I will get Seasons 5 and 6?

As you probably know, “Condie” is here in Kenya right now. There has been a mixed reaction to her presence and to Bush’s statements at the end of last week telling Kenyan rivals to strike a power-sharing agreement. One Kenyan at work today said, “Well the whole world can’t be wrong…” about all of the suggestions for a power-sharing government, but other people were saying the US should mind its own business and nobody asked them anyway. We’ll hope that her presence and Bush’s comments don’t hinder the progress Kofi Annan’s team has made. This week Kristoffer and I are just working and Christine leaves for 10 days in Sudan tomorrow. We are thinking of going on a little vacation to the Coast of Kenya this coming weekend (which is very calm these days and very cheap because they really need business!) and we will keep you posted if we do so.

Right now our internet connection is too slow to be able to load many pictures (unless I stay up all night!) so I will leave you with one from our safari and will upload more pictures tomorrow when I get a faster connection at work.


Can you spot the giraffe in this picture below?

LMW

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