Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Lions, Bush Babies & Elephants, oh my!

Hello all! Well, this week has bee packed with classes. We get one non-program day a week, but the rest of the week is class, class, class. This past Saturday and Sunday were spent in classes most of the morning and afternoon. The classes are pretty interesting, but also a little challenging to grasp. The conservation issues here are a lot more complicated than they seem. It's super fascinating to learn about how the local people feel about conservation and wildlife. Anyways,.... since my last post I've been to a market, club, safari, wedding & more! I went to the local market last week and it was very, very, overwhelming. The mamas that sell their jewelry will circle around you and are very persistent that you buy from them. They follow you and do not leave the foreigners alone. I learned how to say "No thank you" and "I don't have any money" in Swahili, but they always respond in English by saying "No problem, no problem" and keep following you. The market was a very interesting experience. Afterwards we went to Club Kimana, which is a bar like hangout place. The bathrooms there were very interesting, to say the least- it's a hole in the ground. There were two stalls that looked pretty normal until I opened the door and saw a little hole in the cement ground. Most bathrooms in Kenya are like this. Still, club Kimana was extremely fun to say the least :)

Last week I also went on my first safari! We drove to Amboseli National Park and had to count all the animals we saw. And we saw A LOT of animals- giraffes, zebras, hyenas, hippos, gazelle, waterbuck, wildebeest, elephants, baboons, & more. It was so wonderful!! We road in the jeeps and got to take the tops off of them. It was sooo much fun riding in a jeep hanging out of the roof! I felt like such a safari tourist with my binoculars (binocs, for short) and camera. I now know why dogs love to stick their heads out of car windows haha. At the beginning of our drive we could see elephant herds off in the distance. After a while we got to a heard of elephants that were right next to the road. We got extremely close to them and it was such a sight!! They made the most wonderful crunching noises while eating. I <3 elephants, so much. The hyenas were also incredible to see. I didn't expect them to walk so distinctively, they are really fascinating (and cute) animals to watch. As we were driving on one road, baboons started to flock towards out car and they were such hams! They would just plop down in the middle of the road and pose. Amboseli was so, so, so, so wonderful to see. We are going to go back next week to do more animal counting. Oh and also, most importantly, there is one rule to follow on any safari- no shooting. "No shooting" means no farting (ahahaha), this rule is for the drivers sake. 

Around four days ago we got invited to a Maasai wedding reception of one of the staff members here. Their were people dressed up with beautiful fabrics and beaded jewelry. The reception consisted of everyone dancing and jumping in a circle for hours and hours. Everyone would lean in the circle and jump back, over, and over again. I eventually joined in and it was super fun! Some of the men would have jumping competitions in the circle to see who could jump higher. I finally got to witness the amazing jumping skills the Maasai have. They can jump a good 3-4 feet in the air! After attending a wedding it is customary to give the bride and groom a wedding gift, so we are putting our money together to buy them a goat. The other night I went with the group on a nighttime nature walk. I was soo paranoid that I would run into a snake, but so far i've only seen one nonpoisonous snake. I did see bush babies on the walk, and they are the cutest lil' nuggets! Their eyes peak out in the trees and they leap amazing distances, they are seriously the cutest. 

Now, I thought i'd fill you in on some random things that are here in Kenya. First off, there is dust EVERYWHERE. Seriously, everywhere. Dust flies everywhere I walk and everywhere we drive. There is always dust in my hair, on my feet, and in my nose. There are also little prickly things EVERYWHERE. They are like mini thorns and the bottoms of all my shoes are covered in them. They always manage to sneak in my bed and on my clothes. There are also little bed bug like insects here that leave red spot all over my arms, so I had to get my mattress washed. And strangely enough, I have never seen a mosquito flying around, yet my entire body is covered in mosquito bites. The weird thing is NO ONE ELSE HAS ANY BITES. I talked to a staff member about it and she said mosquitos just like some people more than others. So apparently mosquitos love me very, very much. Good thing it's not the wet season yet and malaria is not as common around this time of the year. There is also garbage and plastic bags littered through out the entire landscape of Kenya. Driving down every road, I probably see thousands of plastic bags on the ground and stuck on plants. There is no such thing as recycling here, in fact, the way they dispose of garbage is by burning it.

Monday was incredible. We visited a local school and hung out with the kids. The kids where really fascinated with us and wanted their picture taken all the time. I really didn't want to take "those" pictures, ya know, the ones with groups of nameless poor children, I just seems to overdone and a little unethical. But I eventually caved. The kids love to see the pictures taken of them. So I took a lot of pictures just to show the kids, they got so excited and had the biggest smiles on their faces when they saw themselves in the pictures. We worked at the school painting a classroom. The room was in poor condition and very small, but somehow managed to hold 70 students. The kids talked about how they had no school supplies or water, which was really sad to hear. The kids did seem really happy though. Some of the SFS students played soccer with the kids, and others (including me) had a dance party with them. It was so much fun!!!!! One person brought ipod speaker so we played music and danced. The kids gathered around us to watch, and some joined in, while others just giggled at how ridiculous we probably looked.

Yesterday (Tuesday) was a non-program day so we didn't have classes, but we were still pretty scheduled. In the morning we took a hike down to a gorge. The climb down was pretty steep, but at the bottom of the gorge it was beautiful. It looked like something out of Jurassic Park. Seeing any green plants or trees here is a rarity since it's the dry season, but the gorge was filled with green, it was breathtaking. After our hike we drove to an AIDS support group center. We met a group of women and they told us their stories about living with ADIS and the stigmas attached to it here in Kenya. It was really fascinating and sad to hear. For me, the worst part was to hear that the husbands are the main ones that bring AIDS home to their wives and yet take no responsibility. Many of the women we talked to said their husbands would not admit to being unfaithful or contracting the disease to their family, and the women just accept it, stay with their husbands, and sweep it under the rug. The support group raised money by selling jewelry and so they had a little store filled with nick nacks. I definitely spent way to much money there, but the jewelry the women made was beautiful! Later that day we went to Club Kimana and it was, yet again, another fun night. We also watched The Lion King that night, which either takes place in Kenya or Tanzania. There are actually a good amount of Swahili words in it. Simba means lion (which was the first Swahili word I had down), Rafiki means friend, and Akuna Matata really does mean no worries. My inner child was extremely happy to be watching The Lion King in Africa. 

Today was spent out in the field talking to farmers in the local communities about their crops. It was really interesting to hear their stories about how elephants and zebras destroy their crops and also to see how their farms are run. However, it is not fun to have stomach problems when the only place to go to the bathroom is a hole in the ground and instead of toilet paper there is news paper. Lets just say it hasn't been the most pleasant day. It was an experience though. Anywho, sorry if this post is all over the place. I've been writing it sporadically throughout the week and have to wait to post when there is a strong internet connection. The only website that is fast is FaceBook oddly enough. Loading this blog and my e-mail takes a few hours, but FB is pretty fast.

I thought i'd post a Swahili word/greeting at the end of every entry: 
~Lexi's Swahili word of the week~
question: "Vipi?" (pronounced vee pee) slang for "What's up?"
response: "Freshi" (pronounced freshee) means "I'm fresh"
☮ Lexi

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