October 16, 2019
I told the staff that I’d have my coffee in the main tent. Normally, they’d bring it up to your tent along with some breakfast biscuits, but I knew I’d be awake so rather than have them hick it up the hill, I came to them.
I hopped in the shower, and after a couple seconds, hot water came pouring out. It’s a “rainshower” type head, but I may have been standing under a waterfall! It was phenomenal! I got dressed in plenty of time, and made my way down the path. The sun had already begun coming up, so the conservancy was lit up, but no direct sunlight had made it’s way in just yet.
The coffee here won’t put hair on your chest, it’ll put it on your eyeballs. A 50/50 mix with hot milk makes it tolerable, and a 1/2 teaspoon of sugar almost makes it enjoyable. I should have remembered that and ordered tea. That is as constant as the day is long. Isaac and I were sitting having our breakfast when Jen and Jody came down. Jody spoke. It’s gonna be a good day. I spent the day with them and our guide Abraham. Jody really is quite sweet, and she definitely holds her cards close to the vest. She’s actually just quiet and a definite introvert - if her behavior didn’t tell me that, her mother did. I got both! The best way to describe both of them would be this: Jody is predominantly thought bubbles. If she was a cartoon, there’d be the cloud like image above her head to reveal her thoughts. I get the feeling that Jen, on the other hand, has never been anywhere near a thought bubble. If a thought crosses her mind, it crosses her lips. Together, they are balanced.
We really did have a fun day; a remarkable day, in fact. We started with a leopard. No, not really. As we drove through the conservancy on our way to the game park, we passed the following: zebra, water buck Thompson gazelle, impala, heartbeasts, topi, cape buffalo, some ducks… not to mention countless birds. Then we saw the leopard. She had her eye on female impala and her fawn. He sat absolutely still, eyeing them before darting out of the grass in chase. Good news, they both got away.
Abraham, like Isaac (who trained him) was wonderful at positioning the Land Cruiser where the animals were going to be, not where they were. So while the other 6 or 7 vehicles jockeyed for position, we just waited for them to come to us. Yes, they did. the leopard walked right past our vehicle, then BAM! He gave chase again, and so did we. We drove immediately behind him like an impending ambulance chaser. The patient was dead on arrival. As we circled around him, we saw that the fawn’s neck was in her mouth. (cue the music -Circle of Life playing softly in the background) She then passed in front of our vehicle again to catch her breath in the shade. We took a bunch of photos as the fawn twitched in front of her; eventually falling still. We moved on.
En route to lunch, the list of animals grew: elephants, giraffes, cape buffalo, marabou storks, lilac crested rollers, hammer cops, and wildebeast. And yes, more zebra and impala and heartbeats and gazelles. Everywhere you turn, you see something.
We stopped for lunch under a the shade of a tree. I can’t remember if we had already seen the hippo pool or not, so I’ll go on the assumption we hadn’t so you have to wait until we’ve eaten to hear about that. Four chairs came from underneath the landcruiser, as did a folding table. Jody hopped in to the back seat and started pulling cold beverages out - 3 cokes and a sprite. I popped the caps off on the fender of the vehicle and helped Abraham remove a cooler from the backseats. He began bringing out 4 place settings and various items to choose from- it’s like listing the animals - vegetable pizza, fried chicken legs, bananas, passion fruit, tomato/cucumber/onion salad, biscuits (that looked like muffins)… and other things that I can’t remember. We ate slowly, talking in-between bites. Clouds came and went providing additional shade. After everyone was full, we helped clean up and hopped back in.
Now we went to the hippo pool. Jen and Jody didn’t know it, but I did as soon as I saw it. There aren’t many areas on the mara that have a round-about. Well, that’s what it looks like. We hopped out and there they were. The water can sometimes be pretty gross and poo infested (I don’t mean the bear). This time, the slime on the surface closer to the water’s edge. The smell, however, was everywhere. I was standing next to Jen and rattled a bush at the top of the embankment and all the elephants rose out of the water making noises and exhaling heavily. I tried it again when she got her camera ready, but no luck; the hippos were onto us. We wandered along the edge, looking down into the river at the various pods before getting back into the vehicle. It felt great to walk and stretch our legs. Three giraffe wandered around us before we got to far. We watched them eat the acacia leaves and stare at us completely uninterested. A little further down the bank, we spotted a large crocodile, but it was a bit anticlimactic. He was motionless and the sun had already dried his back so he looked just like the stones he laid near. Meh.
We went back looking for animals, seeing all the aforementioned again. We then went back to look at the leopard who was now, nose deep into the belly of the fawn (increase volume on music playing softly in the background). Wow, she was really gettin in there. More photos ensued, and more vehicles came. When guides see a vehicle off the path, it’s like ringing the dinner bell (no pun intended). We were directly in front of the leopard and her kill, so we thought it best to let everyone else get a looks. Twende (go).
The afternoon turned out to be a day for the cats. We stumbled upon a couple different prides. It was late in the afternoon, so they were in various stages of sleep. Jody commented that they looked just like house cats; laying on their backs expecting to get their bellies rubbed. No thank you. The engine turning over was the only thing that got them moving, but it was just to roll over before returning to their REM.
We spotted some elephants as we drove and got closer so Jen could take some pictures. She asked to get closer ones as she seems to have a good number of elephant backsides, but nothing from a more photogenic angle. Well, she does now! She was also interested in takin g pictured of a decaying animal skull. I had that in the back of my mind and was looking for a good one throughout this game drive. I finally said, “Simama,” (Stop) to Abraham ho stoped the vehicle and turned to me. “Jen, you were interested in an animal skull. Do you want the carcass, too?” We had driven by a good one, and she became very animated when I pointed it out. Abraham returned to the scene of the crime. Jen was worried that the flesh would still be on it’s bones, but it was more ribs and vertebrae. She took a lot of pictures, and the fun continued. Cheetahs.
5 of them, actually, staring at a group of zebras upwind. They slowly approached them, fanning out as they got closer. I was very exited! The zebras would move a bit, and the cats would close the distance. While we were able to get some great pictures, it was to late in the day to wait for what could be hours to seem them down a zebra. We headed back home admiring the landscape and animals.
It was time for a sundowner, but I had developed a migraine that the coke I had earlier was not helping with. I went back to my room, took a pill and laid down after calling Ann. Dinner was at 7:30, so I had some time to close my eyes. I welcomed the opportunity. When I came down, Jen and Jody were the only ones there. I sat at the same table across from Jady and chatted until the sweet pea soup came out. Like everything else I’ve ever eaten here, it was delicious.
Slowly, more people streamed in. Sidebar - Although Jen and Jody were from Texas, they had no accents at all. The only brief siting of their roots was when Jady said, “Ya’ll” during lunch. While I’m on this sidebar, I’ll tell you that Kelly from New Zealand is really from New Zealand. But her name is Anne. You’d think I’d remember that one, but I don’t remember her saying it, and I mistakenly remember seeing “Kelly” on the birthday cake. Oops.
She was back from a good day, too, and was leaving tomorrow. She going to catch a rugby match with her hometown All-Blacks in South Africa. I couldn’t let an opportunity to pass by, so I told her about Katie and her high school/college experience playing rugby. “Good for her!” she exclaimed in her best Steve Irwin impression. I can’t help but see him every time she speaks.
Isaac brother Anthony arrived and came to give me a big hug. I introduced him to the group as 2 new groups came in and sat at separate tables. Karl, who was seated at the opposite end of the table said he wanted to move down next to me so I grabbed his chair and brought it to our head of the table. Another lively conversation ensued.
He asked me about the stop at Siana Girls Secondary School, and I answered him quite plainly. He’s familiar with the school and has done a few projects there. Guests that come to Entumoto tend to want to “give back.” Entumoto gives them an opportunity to visit a girls secondary school, a mixed primary school and a rescue center. Entumoto customers have sponsored literally dozens of students over the years. Interestingly enough, it’s a different partner that governs over their work in the community. Karl’s passion is laser focused on conservation, not just for the animals, but for the tress and grasses… and not just for those, either. He has marvelous plans for the symbiotic relationship between the Maasai and their spectacular environment, and has gone so far as to show them the importance of planting grass seed to replenish the food supply for these nomadic herders, who aren’t as nomadic as they once were. Education was the driving force effecting that change. You can’t be wandering all over the region and have your children attend school. The math doesn’t add up. Okay, I’m realizing that I’m way off script here. Where was I…? Oh! Yeah! Siana Girls Secondary. So, when I met with the head teacher (principal), we talked about her needs versus her wishes for her school, as well as where the dividing line was. As I was relating the story to Karl, he was surprised at the questions I asked as well as the answers I was given. Because this isn’t his passion, but because he’s a partner in this endeavor, I wouldn’t be surprised if I hear from their “Community Projects” manager. I got the impression that she doesn’t drill down the way that we do, and it might not be an idea to start. He, too, feels a responsibility to their donors, and doesn’t want money to be squandered - it has to be sustainable!
The dormitory that the government started, then abandoned before completion was something we investigated last year. The bones of the place were in good shape, but the idea of a 2 story dormitory on this particular locale is a recipe for disaster. Besides, we were told we couldn’t touch it - it was the governments to fix, and we would most likely be fixed by them… eventually. Karl’s organization didn’t want to wait, and I can understand - the need is now, not in the future. That dormitory is almost complete. Currently, they have 160 girls sleeping in a huge teaching kitchen that Entumoto built. We built a couple classrooms and are about to embark on another dormitory similar to their original dormitory that is now a classroom. So, here’s what I discussed with the head teacher, and subsequently told Karl. I asked her how many desks she needed and, additionally, how many beds. The numbers she gave me were significantly closer to what she wants, not what she needs. Based on the current enrollment and growth projections, she needs 90 desks, not 120. Beds fell prey to the same logic. She wants 160, but she only needs 80. The desks should be a government supplied item. When I asked why there were no desks in the classrooms we just finished, she said, “I though you would buy them.” Nope. That’s part of our understanding that everyone is a stakeholder in these projects. If we spend $20,000 to build classrooms, the government (and/or community) should be able to come up with the $5,400 for 90 desks. Next came the questionable decision on moving children around. Try to follow this. They moved the girls from the original dormitory to the kitchen. The old dormitory is now a classroom, and one of the new classrooms is empty. The other one was turned into a staff room. That will not stand. I told her that we’d be meeting with the County Officer for Education (although I did not know who she was, or her phone number, or if she was even available - it’s tough to get “next day” appointments). She said she would call her to ask her for desks, “and we will have them.” “Wakati?” She resonded, “January,” but that’s not soon enough. Additionally, when we committed to building a dormitory, it was going to be a duplicate of the one they had. As a reminder, it’s the one they’re using as a classroom now. The dormitory she wants has running water and indoor toilets. That will cost close to $100,000usd. That’s not going to happen. Earlier in the discussion, she said the reason their were only 5 girls currently in their senior year, she said it was because of a lack of competition. Culturally, that’s true, so I gave her something to ponder. If we build her an 80 bed “box” dormitory like the one they originally had, she could move the highest performing girls into the one that Entumoto just finished-complete with running water and indoor toilets. She didn’t like that idea much. I was hoping she’d endorse it, but no matter. I’ll run it up the flagpole with her boss in the county office to see if can’t get more traction. As we left the compound, Isaac said, “Oh, Ahdahm. You were very tough on her.” He was smiling and shaking his head as he said it. “Really?” I asked. I thought I was holding back. I had to ask a few more questions before I learned what “being tough” meant. Apparently Maasai (and probably all Kenyans do like pregnant pauses. “Now that you know we’re not supplying them, where are YOU going to get 90 desks?” Start the clock. I’m good at this silent staring game; I do it with the dog all the time. She didn’t bark, though, instead she just lowered her gaze. Not a great sign, but I think she got the picture. I did start playing a little game to lighten things up. I would be speaking with Isaac about the number of desks they NEED or the size of the dormitory they NEED, and without turning my head away from Isaac, I’d ask, “She’s staring at me right now, isn’t she? Does she look like she just ate a lemon?” With that, I’d turn my head to find her smiling. Isaac, on the other hand, was belly laughing. It was a good meeting. If we’re able to meet with the county officer, it will be a better one.
Here’s my problem, and yes, this is a hard right turn. I’m writing a blog from Wednesday, which is a recounting of discussions on Tuesday, AFTER (spoiler alert) we spoke with the county officer on Thursday. Yes, we managed to have a meeting, but seriously, I can’t tell if I told you this stuff already or if I’m confusing my days… I’m sitting in the Detroit airport trying to get caught up, eating all kinds of food that I shouldn’t be eating after a trip like this. I started with Popeye’s chicken (yes, it’s better than the KFC all day long; don’t even), now i’ve moved on wot pringles and swedish fish. I make myself feel better by having a water instead of a Coke. I’m pathetic. For those of you saying, “At least it’s not another goat penis?” I hate you.
I don’t hate you. It’s funny stuff, and I’m sure I/we/you will be laughing at it for quite some time. When in Rome, right? Yeah, the Romans probably never ate goat penis.
I’m going to close out the day with that story. We have to head back to Narok for a meeting with the county education officer at 10am, followed, hopefully, by a meeting with the county health officer. You already know about the former, so keep your fingers crossed for the latter. Spoiler alert. She wasn’t there.
See you tomorrow… literally and figuratively.