I don’t know how to tell you this, but I think I’m falling in love with Kenya. I know I told you that you were the only one for me, but I can’t deny how I’m feeling. It’s not you, it’s me. Actually, it’s Kenya. Kenya is just so amazing and great that I can’t help myself. This doesn’t mean that my feelings about you have changed; you’ll always be my first love and there is always a place in my heart for you. But I’ve realized that I can love both of you. I hope you understand.
I’m amazed at how quickly I’ve fallen for Kenya. I realized how well this place suits me when I was on a matatu (mini public transportation bus) to Lake Naivasha this past weekend. We’re driving past an amazing overlook of a valley and the green and red earth are flying by. My group of friends and I are having nice conversation with a woman on the matatu. The joy of the place is contagious. I texted Rose (one of my (Kenyan) roommates) “I love Kenya.”
I think Kenyans are the warmest people that I’ve ever met. My sample size is very small so far, but there is something about Kenyan mannerisms that makes me feel comfortable. In Morocco, I hated it when some volunteers made (negative) generalizations about Moroccans. Nonetheless, I find myself making similarly broad (but positive) characterizations of Kenyans.
It’s also such a beautiful country. This weekend we went to Lake Naivasha, which is about 60 miles from Nairobi. Once we were settled, we took a boat tour at sunset. Beer in hand, our driver took us over to where pelicans were feeding. The group must have been over 500 birds; as we would get close to them they would take to the air and fly over our boat. Even though pelicans are not new to me, it was great to see them so close and in such number. Next we went over to the hippo hang out. I’ve seen hippos in the zoo before, but this was much cooler. They opened their mouths wide at us and moved towards us aggressively. Hippos are known to capsize boats, so we couldn’t get too close to them. We spent the rest of the night having a nice dinner and drinking beers by a campfire.
The next morning we got up, rented bikes, and road to Hell’s Gate national park. We road our bikes into the park, which was dry grasslands with red rock mountains shooting straight out of the ground. We first came upon a group of warthogs at a watering hole. Then a large group of zebras. Next was a pair of giraffes, a juvenile and presumably its mother. We got off our bikes and walked along the road. They started walking in our generalization and crossed the road quite close to us. The juvenile got spooked and ran. Giraffes are the most awkward runners; I couldn’t believe it didn’t fall over. This park was different than most every other one because there were no carnivores. Although this deprived us of seeing lions, it meant we could be on bikes instead of in a car. It made the experience much more intimate.
Once at the other edge of the park, we entered Masai lands. There is a little ranger station where Masai take you on a walking tour of nearby gorges. We got off our bikes and walked with our guide Patrick into two deep gorges. The rock was worn away smooth and the gorge was often very narrow. It was probably 50-100 feet deep. After the heat of the sun on the plains, the coolness of the gorges was a welcome relief. The hike finished at a high point with a view of the whole park. We had lunch and got back on our bikes and headed home.
So, it was a great weekend. Other than that….everything is great. I like Rose and Dan (my roommates) more every time we hang out. We laugh and joke a lot. It’s great to come home from work and just relax with them. Tonight we watched the Owen Wilson movie “Hall Pass.” Work is going fine. At this point I’m just doing a lot of background research. So I hunt for articles on Forest Transition Theory and the political economy of the Indonesian plywood industry. I’m reading all day and learning a lot. I’ve never had a computer/desk job before and staring at a computer screen for 8-9 hours a day is difficult to adjust to. But I like the people in my office and I’m happy to be there. I look forward to a few weeks from now when I start to write the report and put ideas down on paper instead of just absorbing them.
The only major complaint I have about Nairobi is the traffic. It’s pretty bad. I’ll devote a whole blog post to it at some point.
I hope everyone is well!