Tuesday, March 18, 2014

"Get your menthol'd self over here!"

March 4, 2014
                Today was a bit of a difficult one for me. It was extremely hot and I don’t remember ever feeling so utterly exhausted before – most likely I was dehydrated so I quickly chugged a bottle of water. As I was sitting outside, stressing about an assignment that was due soon, I noticed something in the reflection of my laptop. The thatched roof of our kitchen, bathed in a backdrop consisting of the clearest blue sky I’ve ever seen. Once again, I’m struck by the majesty of this place, of Africa in general. I’m in Africa. Even after almost 4 weeks it still seems surreal. Even on the most stressful of days here, I’m still one of the luckiest people in the world and I know I’ll come to remember even these days fondly because it means that this impossible dream was real.
                The past week has mostly been filled with classes and homework but on Wednesday we had another non program day! For this day we decided to go on an early game drive. Seeing the wildlife was probably the only way to get us out of bed before 6am. We all piled into the land cruisers around 7:30am and drove to Amboseli National Park. As we reached the parking lot, the mamas swarmed our cars, shoving bundles of hand crafted bracelets into our vision, yelling out various prices. It was a custom we had all been forced to get used to over the last month and yet we all got sucked in at the sight of that one bowl or one bracelet nestled in the midst of 40 more. A lot of us left that parking lot with more items and fewer shillings in our pocket. As we drove through the park, we saw many elephants, including an entire bond herd that crossed in front of our cars. We even got so close to one bull elephant that I was able to get a picture of his eyelashes. It was absolutely incredible. After a few hours, we were getting ready to eat lunch when the car in front of us started waving frantically at us and pointing off to the right. They mouthed “hyena” and waved again. It was then that we spotted a hyena basking in the sun near a small body of water. It sat up and regarded us for a few moments before relaxing back down into the grass. It was then that we realized there was another hyena taking shelter in a pipe directly underneath our car! Its nose peaked out from the shadows, followed slowly by the rest of its head as it surveyed the surrounding area. We finished up the day at another lodge, which has come to be the favorite among students as a form of relaxation. I ordered a mocha latte and French fries…I know it sounds incredibly stupid to order from a lodge but you have no idea how delicious their coffee was and I haven’t had Heinz ketchup in over two months. Let me tell you, after 5 weeks of African style cooking (which is fantastic by the way), it was amazing to partake in some American goodies. Everyone swam and lounged out in the sun for a few hours, some of us enjoying the alcoholic side of the lodge as well. There was a drink called the Ostrich Kick that was really good! Especially for those of us that don’t really like the taste of liquor. The drink was made from a double shot of Kenya Cane (rum), mashed squash, orange juice, and pineapple juice. It was a little strong for my blood but it was definitely a popular choice! To wrap up our fabulous day off, we did a short game drive on our way out of the park. Alas, we have yet to see any lions yet but I have high hopes for Lake Nakuru National Park next week!
                On Thursday we had an environmental policy field exercise in which we got to interview local farmers about the prevalence of human-wildlife conflict in their area. Groups of three students were each given a guide and tasked with interviewing at least five or six families. We were given a list of predetermined questions to use and a specific area in which to conduct our interviews. The most memorable part of the day was when the animals attempted to interact with us. At one of the households, a tiny pup took issue with one of the students in our group. His tiny yet ferocious attempts to scare her off his property were nothing short of adorable and hilarious. Once the mama quieted him so that we could proceed to ask questions, he promptly took up residence in the dirt directly in front of the student. He glared at her for the duration of the interview and immediately began barking at her every movement. It’s safe to say there was no love lost between the two, even if he was adorable. We stayed away from him regardless due to the prevalence of rabies in many of the animals that reside in East Africa! We had another instance of adorable animal behavior towards the end of our exercise. We were heading back in the direction of our car when the littlest goat kid I’ve ever seen began to follow us. He started bleating loudly and prancing along after us, most likely trying to find his mother. We tried to shoo him back into the boma he came from but he kept after us like a baby duckling. Finally our guide had to pick him up and actually carry him back, to which he responded by screaming bloody murder for a few seconds after. We’re pretty sure he attempted to follow us again but by then our car was pulling away from the site.
                For the rest of the week/weekend we helped prepare to go on expedition in Nakuru! We packed up all our bags and helped the kitchen load adequate supplies into the “white rhino” truck for transport to our camp. We also filled three 100 liter jerry cans along with about twenty 22 liter jerry cans with clean water for the week. Tomorrow we wake up bright and early for our 10 hour journey north to Lake Nakuru National Park! My alarm at 6am is going to feel like hell but maybe it means everyone will sleep in the car!
Until next time,


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