Today was a day like no other. With about 11 hours of sleep, mostly making up for the jet lag, we all woke up, refreshed and ready to start new adventures in our plan book. Today was our ‘city tour.’ What I originally thought was going to be a trip to see the buildings and sights in Nairobi, ended up being an animal adventure.
We awoke around 7 for our tour beginning at 8. Shortly after 7:30, we learned that the van broke down and we had to wait till someone was available at 10. The transport over here is something of its own. If you aren’t walking, you usually take the Matatu, the main Kenyan form of public transportation. The Matatu is hard to describe. It is like a small bus/van with about 4 rows of seating, completely blocked off from the driver, although the seats next to the driver are also passenger seats. The 14 passenger van is usually shoved in with about 20 people, some sitting on laps. Legroom is not a thing. The Matatus also have a solicitor riding with them. A man leans out of the door and tries to coerce people walking to take their Matatu. Unlike public buses in the U.S. you can choose which ones to take based on their look, amenities, and music. So most of them are painted bright colors with famous figures on them. One would think maybe the Kenyan president or famous religious figure… wrong. The decor printed on the van usually matches the music. The three we rode so far were blasting, and I mean nightclub-style blasting, hardcore rap and reggae music. Funny thing is, it is 90s and early 2000s songs. So our first Matatu, we listened to Dr. Dre, Ludacris, and Snoop Dogg.
Not only is the Matatu an experience for its atmosphere, but driving as well. Honestly though, this applies to most all driving in Kenya. It’s like New York City driving combined with go cart racing. Constantly swerving around cars on a single lane road, mostly dirt and not paved. Honking left and right. And, in the Matatu, stopping to pick up or drop off people every half mile. Certainly an experience.
We had a wonderful man pick us up today though in his car. Samsun arrived at the house around 10:40. They joke here about Kenyan time. They think most westerners are too rigid with time and schedules. Kenyan time is approximate and works in flux. It supports their laid back lifestyle more, but when I am scheduled to go see animals… I want to go!
When Samsun arrived, we headed to the first stop: an elephant sanctuary. Here we got to see over 25 baby elephants. They were adorable. Watching them play around with each other, the keepers, or the soccer ball was amazing. What amazed me most was the excitement they had when headed to the viewing ring. Around 13 came at a time from the forest area to the place where they are viewed and described. When they were running, yes running, from the trees they were yelling with excitement for their milk bottles. Their cry sounded more like the dinosaurs from Jurassic Park then what you would think of as an elephant noise. It was a perfect start to the day.
The next stop: a giraffe sanctuary. Here, ten giraffes are raised in a large open area. Not only are they ridiculously close, but you get to feed them! There are guides there to hand you food pellets to give to the giraffes. Luckily Dina K-B previously taught us how to hold the food for them! We used our skill and fed them from the top deck and the sanctuary floor. There’s also a tradition of kissing a giraffe, which should be called the opposite. As you place one of their snack pellets in your mouth, they come up to eat it and lick your chins to your nose. A completely odd experience, but one I would totally do again.
Stop three along our ‘city tour’ was a crocodile park. We had a guide take us around and educate us about Nile crocodiles. We saw ones that were 5-43 years old. We even got to hold the smallest one! They also had turtles and ostriches there. This place was similar to a small zoo but still was impressive. One of the neatest things wasn’t even the animals. It was that there were about a dozen school groups there. Seeing the kids play around and gaze at us was priceless. We got a chance to interact with a bunch if them as well. Veronica taught them how to fist bump and blow it up. They were infatuated with us. It makes me so excited for tomorrow, our first day at our school placement!
The last stop on an amazing day was a monkey park. Unlike the other three stops, this is not a tourist attraction. This was just a random park that had over 2000 syke monkeys throughout the trees. We made a pit stop along the way to pick up peanuts. As we arrived, Samsun gave us each two rolled up packs of peanuts and told us to hide them securely. As we quickly realized, the monkeys would jump on you and steal the packs of peanuts. Veronica had this misfortune happen to her. It was amazing to see the monkeys descend the trees and come right up to you. As you put out your hand to give them a peanut, their little hand would grasp yours to get the treat. When we got more comfortable, we placed the peanuts near our ears and they would climb on our shoulders. Such a weird but amazing experience. Again, one I wouldn’t trade for anything.
Unlike my last post, today was a day for tourism. Getting to know the greater area and enjoy the sights is certainly something to see. What also threw me off the most was the difference in surroundings depending on which way you turned. Make a right and you are in an area with houses with walls and storefronts. Make the left and you are amongst tin houses and marketplaces and a lot of trash. Which road Robert Frost?