WH Chronicle No. 1.34d

April 14, 2011

We were shot only three times while in Nairobi! 

Notice the 'bullet holes' seem to be strategically located near their hearing orifices!

 The Kenyan city is  frequently referred to as “Nai-robbery” and visitors heed the warnings.  Though a rough town, it is very modern, cosmopolitan, and might be considered the “New York City” (1980's high crime version) of East Africa.  

Tanzanians refer to Kenyans as the “Man Eat Man” society.  Even with the short time we were there, it was easy for us to notice the differences in the cultures.   Kenyans are not even as remotely friendly as Tanzanians.  The country has a long history of violence and the current political fever is a daily reminder.  When we departed, the 'Ocampo Six' were returning to Kenya from the International Criminal Court in The Hague in the Netherlands.  They were to be received by mass demonstrations--not a good place for any fair-skinned person to be.   When Kenyans are not being denounced for their brutality, they are often accused of acting like Americans—whatever that means. 

Despite the volatile history, Nairobi is definitely navigating the 21st century--a very different scene than Tanzania.   English is the national language of Kenya and all of our polite Swahili attempts were met with indignant responses in English.  Consumerism abounds with places like the Nairobi Java House (their Starbucks), shopping malls, supermarkets, lots of traffic, modern accommodations--everything one would see in the states.  It would appear that Tanzania lags behind their neighbor by several decades--like there's a time warp at the border.  It's understandable considering that Tanzanians generally prefer stability to revolution, and Swahili (national language) to English.  I supposed these choices slow development and globalization, but perhaps the government has confused  stagnation as stability. 

The Nairobi Symphony hosts a very interesting variety of musicians— England, France, South Africa, US, Kenya, Sweden, Tanzania, Spain, Poland, Scotland are some of the countries represented.  One of the horn players was a friend from our old summer music festival days.  The venue was very modern--complete with multi-level bar open before, during, and after the concert.  We performed Beethoven's Eroica Symphony, Stravinsky's Suites No. 1 and 2, and Brandenburg Four for a very receptive crowd that refrained from clapping between movements!

Sight seeing in Nairobi—
 We visited the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage.  These adorable little guys lost their mothers due to poaching and were rescued from the wilderness.  Now they live at this facility with a 24/7 human caretaker who even sleeps in the stall with them at night.  These very social animals desire affection and are covered with heavy blankets to simulate the feeling of standing under their mother while they are sleeping.    
Once the babies begin to grow tusks they are reintroduced into the wild at Tsavo Game park.  Almost all elephant herds shun newcomers, but in Tsavo there is one particular herd under the authority of a Mama elephant (female elephants always rule the herds) who will accept the young orphans.  Her name is Elena.   And the best part of the story, she actually came from the Sheldrick Orphange in the early 70's.    She is the Mother Teresa of Elephants.   
Time for mudbaths at the elephant orphanage.
Rhino orphan named Maalim.

 We also went to the Giraffe Center. 

Not sure who's more grossed out, because she has his food in her mouth!

Baby zebra

We also went to the Kenyan Railway Museum.  The highlight here was a special exhibit on the Tsavo Man-Eating Lions that halted progress of the railroad in 1898.  They claimed these maneless lions ate people 'like Twinkies' and killed over 140  people before they were turned into rugs.  Out of all the Indian 'Coolies' and Africans eaten, only one of the lions' victims was European.   This man was waiting with a gun to ambush the lions from inside the railcar pictured below.  He fell asleep.  Then the lions stealthily boarded the car in order to drag him out by the neck and devour him within earshot of the camp.  Tsavo means 'place of slaughter'.  
Dining car for the Tsavo lions.

Kenya Railways (this train was seen in the movie "Out of Africa"... recognize Meryl Streep and Robert Redford?)

Claw of one of the lions--still has dried blood in it!

In order to avoid political demonstrations, get the hell out of Kenya and sleep in our own bed, we decided to drive home after the symphony performance.  Driving in the daytime resembles lifesize bumper cars, so driving at night is much more perilous.  Though most of this Nairobi road is actually paved (no stripes), there is concern of collisions with pedestrians, handcarts, motorbikes with no lights, cars with no lights, busses with no lights and wild life with no lights.  Serendipitously, we ended up seeing more Dikdiks and Thomson Gazelles crossing the road that night than we did in the expensive Nairobi Game Park.  Luckily, no collisions.

Carolyn is in high demand for her instructional skills on violin and drum set.  Despite all the travel, she has managed to fit right into our daily routines on campus.  Everyone here is already commenting about their disappointment in her impending departure.  I think she is beginning to see the world a little differently--though I wonder what experiences she will take back with her.  We engaged in exciting journeys and adventures, but that, of course, is intertwined with the obligatory weirdness.  For instance, while we were eating ice cream outside of the convenience store, we noticed a flying bug the size of a small pony crash-land a few feet away.  It was so large, that emotionally, it no longer fit squarely into the 'bugs that you squish with no remorse' category.  It was flailing on it's back so we flipped it over and examined this unusual creature.   After we lost interest and were distracted by other Tanzanian oddities, we were suddenly startled by a loud squishy, crunching noise, as someone (with obviously poor eyesight) had accidentally mashed the bug.  He was lucky the critter didn't skateboard off with him when he stepped on it.  But the next sight was probably the most disturbing--our entire family (6 people) stood around this bug and watched it perform it's last creepy, buggy shudder.  Carolyn commented, "Wow, that circle of life thing is rotates quite quickly here."

Daryl, Sam and I continue our exercise program at dark thirty in the morning.  The kids have rockstar status as they are so adorable attempting their little karate moves.  Me, well, I'm just thankful that the leaders (my students) are of generous spirit and  haven't take the ample opportunity to vent their homework frustrations on my pitiful physical condition.  I'm especially thankful after passing out a test earlier this week and hearing a faint, "Madam, You are killing us."  Luckily, it was followed by a meek classroom chuckle.  In recognition of the  lack of cultural reference, I refrained from my normal evil laugh, "Bwah..ha..ha..ha..ha!"

Tom was as happy as a hyena in a hippo carcass last week while playing the symphony.  He misses performing orchestral literature and being recognized for his talents.  Referencing Ferdinand the Bull, I tease him about longing to return to the bullfights in Madrid--where "..all the lovely ladies have flowers in their hair."  As for me, I'm happy to sit and smell... ..the flowers, that is.

Tom was also somewhat mollified with a visit to the famous Stanley Hotel, the first hotel, if not the first actual building, in Nairobi. This hotel is home to the Thorn Tree Cafe which  is a popular meeting place, has an historically recognized note board, and it's own Facebook page.

"Teaching a child not to step on a caterpillar is as valuable to the child as it is to the caterpillar."
Bradley Miller

"I never thought much about the lion tamer.  Inside the cage he is at least safe from the people."
George Bernard Shaw

"I meant what I said and I said what I meant! An elephant is faithful one hundred percent!"
Dr. Seuss from Horton Hatches the Egg

Hoping Carolyn washes the giraffe slobber off her face,
Typical Nairobi store toy item--notice Indian bridal nose ring.

From our Cub Reporter (what I wanted to name "Musings from Timeout", but was voted down)

by Daryl Hale

Hi everybody!
Today I just wanted to talk to you about what I did and liked and disliked in Nairobi.
When I went to Nairobi I got to do so many things.  My favorite part was when I got my ears pierced (as you
have already heard about).  It was scary at first, but it only hurt after I got them done. Now on to the next part.  As some of you will understand most kids will get really bored at 2 hour long rehearsals and you know how I've been going to rehearsals ever since I was a baby and never got bored.  Well this time I got bored.
Alright my mom is getting a little impatient. So that means bye for now!

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