We've been home for over a week now. My jet lag is gone. My calendar is mostly full. But Kenya is still in my mind. When I look at the pictures, I'm still there. I have a friend who says whenever she talks to a person who has been to Africa, and the subject comes up, the person gets a certain look on their face. I have that look now.
Kenya is unlike any place I've ever been. And I learned so much.
1. It's not "darkest Africa" as I heard when I was growing up. Kenya is a country full of sunshine and energetic, enthusiastic, friendly people. It has its share of entrepreneurs in the city and in the countryside, its educated and its not, its optimists and its grouches, its middle class and its wealthy and its wretchedly poor, its city dwellers and its tribal pasturalists. And its hopes.
2. The places where we stayed - an upscale downtown hotel, a cottage on a farm, and multiple game lodges - had some of the finest customer service I've ever encountered. From friendly morning greetings when coffee and cookies were delivered to our tent, to excellent mealtime service, to a willingness to take care of any issue that came up for us, we couldn't have asked for better. The effort made to make sure there were power and extension cords for our CPAP machines was commendable. Even where the electricity was from a generator, and the generator was turned off at night, the camp staff provided us with an inverter so we could use the CPAPs all night. I would give five stars to any of the places we stayed.
3. Kenya has fabulous thunderstorms. Four afternoons in a row, we were treated to a natural symphony. We live in an area where these things are infrequent, so we appreciated the experience. We also loved the sound of monkeys playing on the roof of our tent - once we figured out what the heck the noise was! And a baby elephant trumpeting from the middle of the road. And the chants of the Samburu and Maasai dancers. And the silence, on the game drives, when Peter cut the engine and we sat and watched and listened.
4. We felt completely safe everywhere we went, and in good hands with our experienced outfitter, George, and guide, Peter. If you are thinking about traveling to Africa, I recommend you get in touch with George Gituku at Sandrage Safaris in Nairobi. He will create the itinerary of your dreams - for just you, or for you and a few friends. I asked many questions before we decided to go to Kenya, and many more before we left, and George answered them all. He met us at the airport on the night we arrived, spent the next day with us in the Nairobi area, took me to his optometrist to fix my bent glasses, lent me his modem for two weeks, bought us a powerstrip to use, shared a final meal with us and dropped us off at the airport at the end. We couldn't have asked for more.
And be sure to tell George you want Peter to be your guide. We have had many guides in our years of traveling, and Peter is the best.
5. I made a decision to leave my hypochondria on the African savannah, and so far it has remained there.
6. I knew about how nature works, but watching all those animals on their playing field, I got a new and wondrous appreciation for how it all fits together. I feel honored to have spent time in the midst of the animals.
7. If you are standing up in a vehicle, on bumpy roads, for two and a half hours in the morning and two and a half hours in the late afternoon, you get good exercise for your back and legs. You forget you are eligible for Medicare in three months. And you come home with lower blood pressure.
8. I no longer believe in zoos, except possibly as rescue facilities. The animals belong in their natural habitat. I'd like to see other ways to inform people about animals - surely we can do that with the technology available to us today. Two elephants in a compound, no matter how well equipped and well fed, are no substitute for their family in the wild.
9. My husband Art is a seasonal hunter. For two weeks I got to watch him hunt every day - with his camera. It was a treat.
10. The trip was worth every single cent we spent. Those are the Bag Lady's very words.
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