Day 1 The trip started off delayed by two hours because Saudi Arabia led air strikes over Yemen. Our flight plan and airplane was changed immediately. We had a lot of room because it was a small flight but the plane we switched to had to be bigger to handle the amount of fuel needed for the longer route. We arrived at about 5:45 p. Our driver, Henry, was there waiting while we all got SIM cards. After a very long time for wasted shillings we arrived at our hotel, the beautiful Villa Rosa Kempinski. It was well worth the extra money paid to stay there for 3 nights. The hotel was more costly than the flight! The Dubai Kempinski is flawless, and this one did not disappoint either. We had to go through so many metal detectors everywhere we went: the airport (of course), the hotel, the mall, restaurants, etc. Henry later told us that terrorist are always targeting Kenya. The weekend after we left, there was a terrorist attack on a college there. Back to the hotel, the room was beautiful with a great view of the city. We were tired by the time we got settled into the room (we’d been traveling all day and that was not originally our plan), so we decided to have dinner at the hotel. Our day was long and tomorrow was planned to be even longer, so we straight to sleep in anticipation for our day at the Cheery Education Centre.
At the Airport
Day 2 10:00 am saw us in the Kibera Slums in the Mashimoni area. This slum is one of the biggest in the country. We had to park and walk to the school. We carried the supplies we brought over sewage filled ditches, rocks, and mud. I was not looking in front of me because like an idiot I wore sandals and I had to watch my steps. We turned a corner and all of a sudden a sea of beautiful black babies were running toward us. The hugged and high fived us the rest of the way to the school. Bigger kids came and all of a sudden supplies were taken from our hands and being carted off to the owners office. They didn’t want us to carry anything and they wanted to hold our hands. This was very overwhelming and I was not expecting this reaction. The owner took us to his office. I saw the library the group of people helped to create the week before we came. Seeing those pictures on social media caused me to reach out to the owner and make part of this trip a service to others. After sorting through the supplies, he took us to the classrooms and the kitchen. The teachers were welcoming, but the educator in me felt bad for interrupting instruction. The students ranged in age from 11 months to 11 years old although the grades were Kindergarten to 4th grade. The students were eager to ask us questions and show all of the things they’d been learning. The second graders were dividing…DIVIDING! It was astonishing because there were no books, no paper copies, no supplies, nothing. Just some wooden slats for sitting and a broken black board that functioned as a chalk board. They recited poems and mantras for us on the importance of education, equal rights for women, cleanliness, and AIDS. It was sobering to see the conditions the children learn in: mud walls, no lights, no running water, no bathroom, no supplies, but plenty of determination to succeed. I was a bit uncomfortable with the level of poverty and was ready to leave, but not for the reasons one may think. I was uncomfortable because I felt guilty. I could leave, but this is their life; they can’t leave and go back to a luxurious hotel. We all made promises to come back to bring more supplies and check their progress. We finally left the school with this life changing experience that will forever be in our memories.
The school kitchen
Pre K and Kindergarten
Supplies we brought
They didn’t want us to leave.
The Maasai market was next. This market is nomadic and is in a different place everyday. Looking back, I wish I’d taken pictures, but I was overwhelmed with all of the sights. Art and craft everywhere. There were women making every conceivable object from the traditional Maasai beading. Incredible fabric, intricate carvings, and intense colors everywhere. I wanted to give all my Kenyan shillings to every vendor, but I had to be a shrewd negotiator. I heard about how they drive up prices for Americans. My friends and I attempted to stick together to avoid being preyed upon, but they were overwhelmed also and we eventually split up. They swopped in. I stayed strong and got everything that I wanted to get for very good prices. We only left because it was around 4pm and we hadn’t had a legit meal! But we couldn’t leave without getting some sugar cane. The vendor picked a stalk and cut it up for us right there. It brought back so many memories from my childhood.
I bought so much more. #dontjudgeme
DAY 3 Today we visited the Nairobi National Park. We didn’t have enough time to fly to Mombasa to visit their national reserve. This was an impromptu trip without any formal planning. Nevertheless, we were able to see animals in their natural habitat. The drive to NNP was short because weirdly enough it’s in the middle of the city. It was dreary that morning (it was Kenya’s fall season), but after about an hour the sun started peaking through the clouds. We had a van-jeep. The roof was “opened”, for lack of a better word, and we were able to stand and see the animals. We were instructed and there were signs everywhere to never exit your vehicle while in the park except for designated areas. I don’t know why you would. The animals may be in the city but they DEFINTELY aren’t domesticated.
After about two to three minutes of driving we came across some caribou. Then we encountered some lions, a mother and her cubs but they weren’t that young. The male had his mane starting to come in a darken. It was awesome seeing them that close up. The lioness left the crew in what looked like a possible attack on a car (the fact she got up scared me lol), but she sauntered away. We drove around and saw here eating something she must have killed recently because you could still smell the kill. It was sickeningly blood sweet (I’m making the vomit face just thinking about it now). We left the lions and encountered a rhino family which consisted of a father, mother, and a baby. The male was walking around urinating everywhere. The guide let us know that he was marking his territory in regards to the lions. Seeing rhinos in person and not in a zoo…nervous. They are HUGE! We moved on.
Hunnnnnney, let me tell you something. African buffalo? Aggressive! I’m dramatic, but the buffalo were the only group of animals we happened upon that I was actually scared of. Baby, we came into their area I guess and they gathered like a true gang. The leader, I guess, stepped in the middle of the road like “I dare you to cross this line.” I was ready to cry. Then his little friend (you know everybody got back up) came in the road too. I’m like “oh lawwwd, they bout to attack us.” The guide said “they are known to attack cars.” WHAT?! He challenged them by moving the van forward, and I almost fainted. I begged him to turn back around, but he kept going forward. They eventually backed down and the breath came back into my body.
We drove for some time and came across a little lake with about 20 to 30 caribou, gazelles, and impalas drinking and milling about. It looked like something from a show on Animal Planet. The giraffes were so beautiful and full of grace. The zebras were pretty, carefree, and just plain happy. It made me feel good just seeing them be. I couldn’t believe I was on a real African safari. A real life Lion King set. We drove further on and it let us to and elephant orphanage. I really wasn’t interested in seeing the elephants considering I’d already seen them at the Pinnawala orphanage in Sri Lanka. This was different. They weren’t chained or poked and prodded with spears. The babies came running out to see us, be fed, and play in the dirt and mud. We got to touch them if they came near us (if they wanted to). Their trunks felt like rubbery, worn worker hands. I like how the orphanage saves them due to abandonment due to poaching. Many of the elephants were because their mother was killed for their tusks. They nurse the elephants back to health and eventually train them to be wary of humans so they can be placed back in the wild and survive. I thought that was amazing! After 4 hours it was time to eat!
Carnivore is a restaurant that everyone visits when in Kenya. Me? I don’t eat that much meat. It just doesn’t appeal to me, but I couldn’t come here without at least giving my patronage to this famous place. It’s very similar to Chima the Brazilian steakhouse where you have Yes/No chip and they keep bringing meat around until you place the chip with No facing upward. The difference here is they serve all the normal meat you’d get at places like this, but they also served a tad bit more: rabbit, ostrich meatballs, oxen balls (scrotum), crocodile, and such. Needless to say my ass didn’t try any of it. You may scoff and say with derision “you don’t want to try new things?!” Hellllllll no. I’m not the type of traveller that likes to try the local cuisine. I need time to jump in and we only had 3 days so…..fat chance. Not a foodie. End digression. All the other food was great here. The people were nice and the atmosphere is safari like. I actually would go back, the bread was so good (I’m a carb whore).
We were tired, but we decided to stop at the Karen Blixen museum. Her home is there and has been turned into a museum. She is the author of the book “Out of Africa” which was a major motion picture that some might remember. This was just a quick stop on our way to the giraffe center. This center is in the wild. The giraffe aren’t domesticated, but when they hear you shake the can with feed in it they gracefully appear from behind trees and brush. We were able to feed them. I was in awe, but also not too interested in feeding them. Like a kid I wanted to pet them. Down below the warthogs were looking up at us like, “hey we’re here too.” I threw them a couple of bits. We didn’t stay long because we had a long day and were super tired. Kenya was awesome.
DAY 4 Time to go back and get ready to leave again for Spring Break! But not before my traditional post card writing. I always send loads of postcards on the last night of my trips. On the way back I was able to have all 3 seats to myself. I was able to catch the sunset from the airplane. I was in awe of life seeing the sun kiss night goodbye. It was beautiful.