We arrived at the familiar Park Villa where I would be spending the next two days. Even though it’s only two consecutive nights, I’m glad that I won’t be packing and unpacking everyday.
Narok is the closest city to Masai Mara, so it gets a lot of tourists passing through. There is constant movement with increasing congestion as you head toward the city center. You pass by dozens of business along the main road, and as soon as you turn onto dirt it gets more congested. Small kiosks are pinned against each other like matches in a matchbook, selling everything from meat, to airtime to haircuts to shoes. Each one is designed to meet a specific need. Walking the streets are more “salesmen” hocking their wears. These guys (and yes, they’re almost always guys) wander between the moving cars with 6 hats on their head, belts hanging off each arm, a radio in one hand, and lollypops in the other. They’re their own walking warehouse, and they sell whatever they can carry. It was especially windy, so the air was constantly filled with swirling dry earth. It didn't make their jobs any easier.
The day manager, Dapash, met me as I entered and asked about America and why I’ve been away for so long. It’s a common theme. Usually, the only time we have this much space between visits is when the presidential election occurs (here, not in the US). I was assigned a room across from the usual one. I only need one bed, so it was fine. It turned out to be a bit of an upgrade, too. Although the room was a bit smaller, there was cable tv that worked (although I never used it). The cable ran from the television, through a vent in the wall and out to the railing where the antenna was attached to the railing. Outside the window were the equivalent of tenement housing. You can hear the conversations all day long. The only time their interrupted is when a cow wanders through. The cows wandering alone have bells that are so loud at night it sounds like they’re in your room.
I dropped my bags and got a 2 hour nap. It was needed. Isaac came back and picked me up and we went to get Leah and the kids to have dinner across the street. The Member's Club has the best roasted potatoes I’ve ever had. Think of of a small potato made like french-fries. They’re fabulous! Which reminds me, I forgot to tell you that I also had them with my breakfast at the Royale before we left. Isaac was kind enough to take a picture. Yes, those are chicken wings. They’re not just for lunch and dinner anymore. It was a nice little reminder of home, sans wing sauce. They were, however, quite tasty. I could have licked the plate, it was all delicious. OK, back to Narok.
We drove down one of those aforementioned dirt side streets to where Leah was in a shop selling dresses. She greeted me with a smile and a handshake (I was inside the car when she approached, and I couldn’t get out fast enough). Prior to our arrival, Isaac informed me that Leah had finally received her driver’s license. That’s a big accomplishment, and now that Isaac has his own 4x4, Leah gets to drive the smaller Toyota that we were currently in. I thanked her for letting us use her car, and she gave a soft laugh and her familiar head nod. It’s quite common here, and signifies something along the lines of approval. Here’s how I’ll describe it. If you were talking to someone with their hands full when they asked you to get something. You ask them where it is, and they show you buy gesturing with their head – as if their chin was pointing the way. It’s that kind of head nod.
Leah stayed behind while the kids jumped into the back. Leah and Caleb. They’re both adorable. We headed to the restaurant where everyone came to greet us – I’m starting to feel like a celebrity. Really, though, it’s nice to see familiar faces. We chose to sit in another “private” hut for dinner. I remembered to snap a picture this time. On our way, Isaac told me he ordered the chicken so that it would be ready when Leah arrived. Note the time – 5:30pm.
The kids went out to the playground while Isaac and I talked and told stories. We laughed a lot recounting past adventures together as well as bringing each other up to speed on events from our lives that the other missed. Occasionally, the dinner that Isaac ordered wandered in front of the door. I just caught the tail end (no pun intended) of him with my camera. I was too slow. Isaac has two other homes on next to his that he rents out. He informed me that one of them was recently vacated by a tenant who was transferred. He was sorry to see her go. She was a policewoman and as such, served as free security. He laughed as he said it. His compound is quite secure without her there. I’ll include pictures of the place tonight as I’ll be staying there. So much for 2 consecutive nights. As per our new schedule, I’ll be staying at a different place every day. One of those nights will be at a new camp in Masai Mara. I’ll keep you posted. As it got darker, our waiter arrived to bring in candles to keep the mosquitoes at bay. I hadn't seen many, but it was a nice to have them there. 4 coke bottles as candlesticks and voila... mosquito repellent.
One of the more lively exchanges happened when Caleb and Tati came back in. Isaac informed me that Caleb wanted to get circumcised before his other Masai friends. He was very convicted in his efforts to convince his father to let him, which made Isaac very proud. Despite the sentiment, Isaac told him that he had to wait. “It is customary to wait until your are between 16 and 18 before you are circumcised.” INSERT CRINGE HERE. Caleb is 11. BREATHE. KEEP BREATHING. In the immortal words of my father, “Holy crap!” I wouldn’t want to be circumcised at 11, and a certainly would make a special request to have it done! BTW, no pain killer, and no flinching. I’m definitely out. It took awhile for my facial expression to depart “discomfort,” and my breathing eventually returned to normal. Yowzer.
An hour later, Leah arrived and the stories continued. Most about the family and how they were. I showed them pictures of Andrea, Karen, Kevin and Katie, as well as the most recent shots of the foot of snow they got. “How can you survive?!” she said in amazement. Good question – I often wonder myself. It was another hour before the food arrived. They came in with what looked like an old coffee percolator, but it was used to wash your hands. It’s set on a stand and a small water bottle is placed on top. The bottle has two small holes in the cap and has been repurposed as a soap dispenser. You put some soap on your hands, rub them together, then open the spicket and rub your hands together under the warm water. I’m sorry that I’m taking these things for granted – I will try to do a better job of taking pictures. There is no towel to dry your hands, but it is imperative that you do. And by “you” I mean “I.” Water here is not our friend. One drop and you can set the timer for 1 hour before “the levy breaks.” The locals are all very much used to it, but the parasites/bacteria in the water wreaks havoc on our more delicate systems. I’ve seen it happen… just ask Kevin.
We had chicken, skumawiki (kale with onions and broth) and, of course, roasted potatoes. Which brings me to my next point. I love the way they talk here. It’s just as you’d expect – heavy British/African accents. “Potatoes” sounds more like, “Poh-tah-toes.” When I’m here, I fall into the accent almost immediately as it makes it easier for them to understand me. It takes me a bit longer to get used to the British jargon. I stood in front of a chambermaid and had to ask her to repeat herself three times before I finally understood. It doesn’t help that most Kenyans talk barely above a whisper. “Deed you get you-ah dust bean?” x 3. Wow did I feel foolish. Yes, I got the dustbin (trash bin). I’m a dope. Fortunately, they’re all used to it.
We finished dinner at around 9:30. Much of the conversation was about Isaac’s water consumption. Basically, he doesn’t, and he’s starting to show the effects. His doctor told him to stop eating red meat (not easy to do when the majority of your meals include goat). The joints in his hands are starting to feel uncomfortable, and he’s starting to get headaches. Leah said, “It’s not red meat,” shaking her head while she said it. “I get that way when I don’t drink enough water,” I said. That led to a long story about our family’s health and our water intake. Which led to a story about the color of your urine (which was met with amazement, not shock), which led to Isaac saying, “Is thaht why Andray-ah always asks eef you ah dreenkeeng wah-tah?” Yes, yes it is. We continued to laugh as we got in to his vehicle to head back to my room. I typed as long as I could last night, and am gald to have finished with yesterday’s story. I’t’s 9am and I’m waiting for Isaac to come pick me to head over to his parent’s home for a visit. We’ll see Vivian Mpetti later in the day – she’s the government official that was so helpful with the maternity construction. Well, you’re up to date! Let’s hope I can keep it that way.