Monday, February 3, 2014

We Look Like Residents

Do Camille and I now look Kenyan?  Let’s examine this further.

I have gotten to know many of the “askari,” or security guards, who work at the gates surrounding our vast flower farm realm.  There is Steven, the young suave guard with the knee buckling smile who really wants me to get him a scholarship to America.  There is Nancy, the kind yet sassy guard who couldn’t tell if Eric was a boy or girl for two months, and now just asks me, “How is whatever you have doing?”  There is Samuel, the older, pleasant guard who always has the nicest greetings and gives us unearned praise for coming to Kenya.  And there is Simon. 

Simon is an outgoing, handsome, smooth operator who also has a killer smile.  I think Camille has a little crush on him. Simon is great.  He was extremely welcoming and friendly from the start, and he is a perfect representative for Kenya.  

On Wednesday, Camille, Eric and I went over to Simon’s home for dinner.  He lives in a poor yet typical community in town.  His building is a one-story housing block that is home to forty people, with a communal bathroom at the center.  He lives with his wife in two very small rooms.  His wife made a delicious meal of stewed goat and potatoes with chapatti, all cooked on a one-burner gas stove connected to a small propane tank.  We had a wonderful time, and we plan to return the favor soon.

Eric was showing off his dance moves after dinner
I mentioned before that Eric is pretty popular.  Unbeknownst to us, while we were eating dinner, all of the children in the community were congregating outside Simon's home.  When we walked out, there was a swarm of forty smiling kids waiving, shouting “how are you?”, and wanting to shake our hands.  It was a cool moment, but also pretty surreal.  Eric ran around in the street and the kids followed, all trying to play with him and touch him.  Within this community, we were celebrities.  As Camille put it, “Here, we are the zebras.”  We certainly did not look Kenyan!  Still, we enjoyed meeting everyone and playing with the kids.  


Fast forward to this Saturday.  We embarked to the Aberdare Mountains, a national park in Kenya, with five of the medical residents: Anshu, Rebekah, Amy, Ben and Katie.  The Aberdares, unlike the wide open African plains, are covered by vegetation, making it harder to spot the wildlife.  You drive down unforgiving dirt roads, never knowing what you might see around each turn. 

When we first arrived at the gate, the two guards believed that only Camille and I were Kenyan residents, out of the seven of us (residents pay lower rates for entering the park).  Their reasoning?  “Because you two look like residents.” 

HECK YEAH WE DO!   That made my day.  I asked him to explain further, and he said I looked “burnt from the African sun.”  Sounds good to me!  I didn’t wear any sunscreen for the rest of the trip.  

We made Eric run to the Aberdares.  It is never too early to start training.
The group at the gate.  Eric was a bit squirmy.
Let me in!
Welcome to the Aberdares.

We played the game, "Poop or Rock?"
Usually elephant poop.

Don’t go chasing waterfalls, please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to, I know that you're gonna...
Daddy, I want to see the waterfalls too!
Ok.  Check out Karuru Falls.

Mommy will show you.

Our first animal.  A LION!  Oh, no, wait, that's a guinea fowl.
The road was bumpy.

Our second waterfall.  This setting was magnificent.

Eric really wanted to swim.

After three hours of thrilling driving, we began seeing animals around every corner.  These water buffalo and warthogs were the first.

Baboons were the second.

Hakuna Matata here was the third.
And then, bam.  We've have never been this close to water buffalo.  Holy moly.  They were everywhere.

We decided not to get out at this viewpoint.
Not zoomed.  We just drove right by.
WE ALSO SAW TWO LEOPARDS!  Two leopards, we think a mom and her cub, crossed the road around 10 meters ahead.  Seeing leopards is rare and apparently a sign of good luck.  It was incredible.  They were much larger, and their spots more vivid, than we would have thought.  

Alas, despite all the poop, no elephants. 
Camille was a great navigator, especially because the signs made no sense.
There were many many deer.  Here are two impala.
We stayed in a stunning cottage.
They had deer.  Wait, where did Eric go?
We awoke to a peacock. 

And two giraffes far off in the distance.  An overall great experience.
Other notes from the week:
  • Eric received his first-ever report card this January.  It is heartwarming and professional, very typical of his fantastic teacher, Elizabeth.  But some of the comments made us confused: “Eric maintains attention and concentrates and sits quietly when appropriate… Eric moves with control and coordination…Eric handles tools and malleable materials safely and with basic control.”  Hmmmmm… interesting.  We bought some stone animals this weekend for Eric.  The seller told me, “They are stone.  They will not break!”  Within 10 seconds, Eric grabbed the giraffe, ran off the carpet to find a hard floor, and launched the giraffe as hard he could, shattering it on the ground.  Handles malleable materials safely?  I think I’m going to ask teacher Elizabeth to write my comments.   

  • Thank you to Rebekah, Ben, Anshu, Katie and Amy for coming and playing/watching volleyball with us at the shelter!  Yay!
The shelter kitten is alive and well.

Hello Irene.
Don't give me any bull!  Post a comment on Dan's blog!
 It's been a beautiful week in Kenya.  See you next week.


  1. Wow! Great post! Beautiful animals and very interesting. :) So does the kitty stay with you at your home?

    1. Thanks, Zhao Hui! Unfortunately, the kitten stays at the shelter, but the dogs actually don't attack her! They may even be friends.

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  3. Wow! Your pictures from the Aberdare Mountains are absolutely stunning. Thank you for sharing so many of them on this week's blog. It seems that you, Camille and Eric have attained a level of comfort and familiarity within your Kenyan home that, indeed "you look like residents!". That being said, your Mom is glad that this status is temporary as we miss you. Thank goodness for Skype and this blog! And Eric's first report card (!) - I think there may be a bit of grade inflation here. His Nana has yet to see the "concentrates and sits quietly when appropriate" part......hmmmm. Love to you all.

    1. Thanks, Mom! We were actually just saying today that this feels like home now. Eric said that while he was concentrating and sitting quietly.

  4. Next time bring the inflatable kayaks and get some pictures of you running those waterfalls! Great catching up on the are a gifted writer, father, and uh.... monkey basher. That sounds bad. Gifted kayaker! Yes - DO IT!
    From Seattle and Super Bowl land :)

    1. RJ!! I'm only going to run those rapids when I have you and Conor, it's freezing rain, it's getting dark, and we have no headlamp.
      Oh man, I need to hear about your times in Seattle. I'll send an email

  5. Wow, those waterfalls are stunning! Also, I love the close-ups of the amazing wildlife. Congrats to Eric on his report card :).

    1. Thanks, Sasha! The waterfalls were pretty spectacular, and Eric is very proud of his report card :). Say hi to your family for me!