Today is an easier day. We’re heading to Nairobi after doing some “last day” plans. We started with going back to Masikonde Primary School and the special needs class. Veronica was happy to see us pull in, as was the entire student body. They just don’t get a lot of white visitors this far off the beaten track. Karen immediately joined Veronica in the classroom while I walked out into the courtyard to lure the children away from the class. They have a tendency to get very loud when there are this many of them vying for attention. They held my hand and stroked the hair on my arm. They’d touch my palm and look at their finger to see if the pigment would come off on them. No such luck. I picked up a couple of the children to give them more of a birds-eye view of the crowd and as soon as I put one down, everyone wanted to be next. Had I not told them to make some space (“Suduru, suduru”) and stop grabbing my pants, (simama!) I was afraid they (my pants, not the children) were going to hit the ground.
Afterwards I returned to the classroom window to watch Karen in her element. She’s picking up Kiswahili and now I know why she was asking Isaac about the Kiswahili names of the animals as we drove through Masai Mara. She put it all to work today. She’d call out a name, make the sound it was known for and give one of the students a long stick that they would then take to point to the appropriate picture on the wall. When they got it right, everyone cheered. Karen would make an elephant sound for a cow and they would all scream , “NO!” with laughter. Andrea and I just love to watch her work.
In the afternoon, we snapped some more pictures of the group before heading to our next site. Father Symon Ntaiyia’s Jubilee Mixed Primary School was just outside of town on the way to Masai Mara. Fr Symon is a Catholic priest (captain obvious, again) just outside of Rochester, but he’s also Masai. I had lunch with him before we left and I told him we’d be checking in on his school since we were so close. Sister Mary met us inside the gate. I called her earlier to let her know when to expect us as well as letting her know that this needed to be a quick visit. I really didn’t want another night of driving in the dark. It’s pretty unnerving. Just ask Andrea who always seems to be situated behind Isaac so she can see all of the madness unfolding in front of us.
Sister Mary gave us a quick tour before arriving to her office. We presented her with school supplies, soccer balls, jump rope and yes, a Kenyan flag (insert applause). Behind her hung a picture of Fr Symon from his younger days as a priest. He still returns here to check in on things, so I’m sure he knows it’s there. Sister Mary said he’ll be back in November, so I want to make sure we meet with him before then. We said our goodbyes mixed with apologies for the brevity of the stop. She was fine with it and on we went.
Next up was Barclay’s Bank so that I could withdraw some money to pay Isaac for the accomodations on the mara and for the use of OD’s car. Once that was done we moved on to a store for sukas (pronounced shoo-kahs). These are the bright colored wraps that the masai are famous for. You can find them anywhere for upwards of 4,000 ($40), but we can get the same ones here for less than 500 (yep, that’s $5). We picked out several as gifts and got back in the car.
Next on the list were some items for Kevin and Nick (Karen’s boyfriend). I won’t tell you what they are because I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but it was a somewhat similar scenario. Isaac pulled the car over and hopped out. This time we waited in the car. No more than 5 minutes later he returned with 2 beautiful, well-made ________________. I think they’ll be very happy with them.
We refueled the car and headed for the rift valley. It’s a picturesque and fun ride. You never know what you might see. Hopefully I’ll have pasted some examples here. It’s a steep climb in a single lane. When you get stuck behind a lorry (truck) you have to peak around the vehicle to time a safe passing. The road is constantly winding so it’s not easy. It is very necessary, though, because the lorries travel at about 5 miles an hour because of the hill they’re straining to climb. Conversely, the trucks coming from the other direction try to maintain control. You can see why it makes passing a bit risky. Again, Ann was understandably nervous in the back seat. I’m just glad is was during the day. I can’t imagine what it’s like at night. One sat in the road while another crossed. Many more sat on the shoulder staring at traffic going by. We stopped next to a big male who was staring at Karen. After a selfie, Karen stuck her head out the window and made a monkey sound. The animal
At one point on the climb there was a pack of baboons along the road.
made a quick movement towards her and it scared her back into the vehicle. I thought Isaac was going to wet his pants he was laughing so hard. It was a stark reminder that these are wild animals despite their mixing with the locals. Regardless, we continued to laugh for the next 30 minutes.
We stopped halfway up the incline to take a quick picture of the valley, then back in the car and on the way to Nairobi. It was once again dark as we entered the city and headed toward Karen. We arrived at the Royale Karen Hotel around 7:30. We talked about dinner en route and Isaac called ahead. We brought our bags in and met in the restaurant. Soon after, the food arrived. We ate quickly and Andrea and Karen went to bed first. I stayed behind with Isaac and talked about the week, and life. We had an enjoyable day ahead of us, and there wouldn’t be an early start time. 9am was agreed upon and we both headed for our rooms.
Andrea and Karen were in one room, and I was next door. There wasn’t enough room for all of us AND our luggage in one room. It also gave me the opportunity to pack most of the items we bought. It’s easier if I do it because I’m used to it. When I finally finished it was 12:30am and I climbed into bed with the intent of blogging. No such luck. I left my computer in Isaac’s car. I was typing as we drove and put in inside it’s black case on the floor. The perfect camouflage. I texted Isaac saying, “Let me know when you wake up. I left my computer in your van.” 5 minutes later I got a phone. “Adam, I have your laptop. I am coming.” Seriously, I don’t think he sleeps. At the very least, he’s super-human. I managed to write for a bit, but more importantly, I downloaded the pictures needed first, while I wrote in another program. Thank you “cut and paste.” I fell asleep with the laptop on my legs.We were all up around 7:30 and ready for breakfast at 9. I finally remembered to take a picture of a meal. It doesn’t do the others justice, but at least you get an idea. First stop was the Giraffe Center. The pictures say it all. It’s simply marvelous. In case you’re wondering, there is a sink with plenty of germ killing soap right next to the giraffes. We used a lot of it.
We walked through the small gift shop they had and purchased a couple of unique soapstone bowls with giraffes carved in them. We then stopped at a curio shop that I had never been in before. The place was big and packed to the gills. I could have spent all day in there looking at things. We grabbed a bag and starting dropping items inside. Before long it was filled and we placed it on a table and waited for the owner to let me know what he wanted to charge me. We didn’t get past the first item before I said, “Ah, Ah. Tosha. I am done.” He pleaded with me to wait until he was finished with all of the items. We continued to add things as he did his math. He may as well have been picking numbers as if he were playing lotto. There was no rhyme or reason for them, and the only thing they had in common was that they were ridiculously high. When all was said and done, I threw out the two most expensive items, and he still wanted a crazy amount. By the time we were done I got everything for ¼ of what he wanted (including the two items I discarded at the beginning). They asked if I could raise the price a little and I laughed, patted the store manager on the belly and said, “Nobody here is missing a meal, we need to settle on the price.” All the employees laughed and tried to pull in their bellies. Too late. I made my point. We put everything in the back of the van and moved on.
We then stopped at the Hub for lunch. It’s a local mall with some wonderful shops and restaurants. It’s what you’d expect in one of the most affluent cities near Nairobi. We ate at a place called Zuccini’s. It reminded us of whole foods. It was full of fresh fruits and vegetables. We sat and ate sandwiches as we talked about the giraffe center… and the baboon from the day before.
It had grown late so we headed back to the hotel for a nap and to freshen up before heading to dinner and our flight home. Andrea managed to sleep for a short while. I repacked everything to accommodate the new items. While we were out we purchased another suitcase to help spread things out. We had more than enough when we started, but we left one of them at the rescue center and another with Isaac. Oh! Before I forget, the young lady at the Mbaka Oromo Clinic gave birth to a boy at 8:45pm.
We all showered and headed out for dinner. On the way, we stopped at a crocodile park where we held a small croc and a big turtle... then a not so big turtle. It was actually pretty interesting. We then continued on to the ArtCafe for dinner. The meals were good, but the company and conversation was better. Isaac kept saying how grateful he was to be able to spend so much time with us. The feeling is mutual. We ran into the adjacent Nakumat and found a baggage scale. It will come in handy when we get to Boston. We’ll change airlines and balance out the weight in the bags to avoid paying additional fees.
The first 15 minutes of the ride was like driving through a ghost town. I think I only saw 5 cars. Then we turned off onto th main road heading to the airport and it was bumper to bumper. 5 lanes wide. Motorcycles rode along the dashed lines between the vehicles. Lorries and buses changed lanes with little warning. I don’t know how we didn’t get hit. Isaac pointed out all the dents in the buses from that very scenario. I’m happy to say we arrived unscathed. One last hug from Isaac and we disappeared into the airport. Now begins our journey home. We’re missing Katie and Kevin and look forward to having everyone together again. See you soon.