A preface: This post, by far, isn’t going to be the most interesting one…. This week has been a chill, get over jet lag, get the lay of the land kind of week. Next week, the exciting project stuff starts!
I made it!
I landed in Nairobi, Kenya around 9pm on Tuesday, September 5th. I went through the loooong customs line, got my bags and met up with Alex. Alex, his wife, who they call Mama, and his son William were all there to pick me up.
William is Alex’s 25 year old and is training to be a safari driver/guide. He is going to be the one driving Alex and I around when we travel.
We drove about an hour and a half from the Nairobi airport to Alex’s house. Once we arrived at his house, around 11:30pm, he gave me the grand tour of his property and where I would be staying.
Through generous donations from different people in my life, I was able to bring 30 (16 oz) bottles of sunscreen and 45 wide brimmed hats with me to give to Alex to distribute to people with albinism. Thankfully, all of this made it to Kenya! (phew!)
Wednesday, September 6th, 2017 (first full day)
My body and mind quickly adjusted to waking up with the sun – I was in and out of sleep from about 5am – 9am when I actually got up.
For breakfast, we had bread and butter, sausage and hard boiled eggs – and chai tea of course.
After breakfast, I helped William do laundry, then Mama and I left to go to the market (so we thought). We ended up needing to fix something in the car, so we were at the mechanics for several hours.
While waiting for the car to be fixed, Mama and I went to grab some lunch. We had choma (Swahili for roasted meat) and ugali. It was delicious.
Once we got back to the house, Alex’s brother, James, and his wife, Rose, came and visited over chai.
Thursday, September 7th, 2017 (Visits to Alex’s family)
Most of Alex’s family all live on the same road as him. Mama, Jonah (Alex’s grandson) and I spent the day walking along the road, stopping in at every house. Each place we stopped, I was introduced to the relatives that lived there, then I got a tour of the property. We visited Alex’s cousins, brothers, mother and others.
The two visits that were most special to me were Alex’s cousin and Alex’s mother.
Alex’s cousin has many acres of land and grows all sorts of fruits and vegetables there. Orange trees, corn, sweet potatoes, mango trees, papaya trees, wheat, and avocado trees.
Alex’s mother is a 90+ year old Maasai woman who moves around better than you or I. She was so full of joy and enthusiasm to meet me. She even went so far as to call me her “other white child.”
Friday, September 8th, 2017 (Kazuri Beads and Nairobi National Park)
I woke up around 10 am, had breakfast, then loaded up. Mama, William, Jonah, Sialo (Alex’s daughter), and I headed out on our adventure – to go to Kazuri Bead and Nairobi National Park.
Kazuri Beads is located in Karen, a neighborhood of Nairobi. I went here the last time I was in Kenya and absolutely loved it. Kazuri means “small, beautiful thing” in Swahili. Kazuri beads employs single mothers to handcraft beads for necklaces, bracelets, earrings, etc. They make these beads with clay that is collected from Mount Kenya, then glaze and fire them to be all sorts of vibrant patterns and colors.
We took a quick tour of the facilities and then shopped.
After finishing at Kazuri, we went and got some lunch. We got pizza, chips and soda to go and headed to Nairobi National Park.
Without even being 50 meters inside the gates of the park, we saw a huge giraffe standing in the middle of the road, eating from a tree. We had to drive off the road in order to get aground it.
We went to a picnic site just inside the park.
This picnic site is also the site where the government burns all confiscated ivory. The ivory is burned until only the ashes remain. They can only burn it until this point because it will eventually become dust and become harmful for the animals and people to breathe. The most recent burn was earlier this year, and the largest to date.
After finishing lunch, we headed out on safari. The most striking thing about Nairobi National Park is the stark contrast of the urban Nairobi skyline that you can see throughout most of the park. The other amazing thing about our safari was that we saw THREE rhinos – THREE! It was unbelievable. We saw a mom and a baby and then a solo male.
We also saw the standard Cape buffalo, giraffes, gazelles, antelopes, hartebeests, warthogs, rock haraks (small cliff dwelling rabbit like rodents), monkeys, zebras and my absolute favorite – wildebeests.
Saturday, September 9th, 2017 (planning day)
This day was very low key. Alex and I spent some time planning for next week and beyond.
Sunday, September 10th, 2017 (church day and baby goats)
We all got up around 8am and had breakfast together. We ate omelets and sausage and drank chai tea.
The whole family piled into the car and headed to church. It was a bumpy 20 minute drive. On the way, Jonah sat on my lap while the whole family sang Swahili praise songs.
During church, Alex asked me to stand up and introduce myself and my project. Later in the service, Alex, his family and I all sang a Swahili praise song for the congregation (I had the lyrics pulled up on a phone).
After church, we all rode home and had a relaxing rest of the day. There was a lot of excitement, however, when two of the family’s goats gave birth! I got to hold one of the new baby goats – so sweet!
Tomorrow (Monday, September 11th, 2017), work on the albinism project officially begins!! We will be doing things in and around Nairobi all next week. Some of the things we will be doing are meeting with Honorable Issac Mwuara, going to Thick School for the Blind and visiting the Albino Society of Kenya offices. Stay tuned!