Thursday, May 30, 2013

On safari: The Bag Lady learns about Kenya

Of course we are seeing the animals. But we're also learning about the country and people.  Here's some of what I've learned.

1. Kenya, in East Africa, has a population of about 40 million, from 42 tribes (or "communities). Many Kenyans speak English - the language of the British who colonized the area - or Swahili - or a local language. They speak with variations of "British" accents, some harder for me to understand than others.

2. If you stay in a Nairobi hotel near the government buildings and are eating in the restaurant, you will observe many men in black suits having business conversations. You may also observe them having conversations with Chinese businessmen. China is a major economic presence these days.

3. If you eat in restaurants you will have an excellent selection of fresh fruit to choose from. You will usually leave the breakfast buffet feeling quite nourished. At dinner, you may not be able to eat all the courses presented to you.

4. If you decide to have a cup of warm tea at a curio shop alongside the road instead of a bottled soda, you will regret it all night long, even if while you get up to go to the bathroom numerous times you see hyenas, mongooses and elephants outside your window. That was Art's experience, at least. I missed the gettings up, the hyenas and the mongooses. But not the elephants!

5.  Jet lag is easier to deal with when you arrive at your African destination at 8:30 p.m., just in time to go to bed, than when you're getting to Europe in the morning and have to stay awake all day. It helps to take No-Jet-Lag every two hours on the airplane. That was actually a surprise to me.

6.  The most pressing need of the Kenyan people is the education of their children. Public education is free until the sixth grade, but after that families may struggle to pay for the uniforms, books and schooling of their children. Especially in the rural areas, families may need their children at home for such activities as herding the family goats and cattle.

7. Girls in rural areas may not have as many opportunities to be educated. They may be married off young, or they may miss a month or more of school following female circumcision, which is sometimes a rite of passage similar to the circumcision of boys of the same age. Among the middle class the girls are educated as well. There is currently an educational program in place within the country to encourage alternative rites of passage for girls.

8. Public transportation is handled by "matatus"or minibuses. Usually crowded, sometimes quite battered, these smaller buses are cheaper to operate than larger buses. In the city, the drivers can be quite reckless. The traffic is bad enough without them!

9.  A driver/guide on a safari is a wealth of information about the people, the history, the animals - even while they are keeping a very close eye on the road. In most places, the roads are quite narrow, with paths alongside for the many people walking. And in the rural areas most roads are unpaved. 

10. Morning noises in the countryside are different from home. Right now I can hear unfamiliar birds, roosters, goats and a donkey.

Here's where we'll be for the next three days:


Olga said...

Thanks for passing on what you learn in your exciting travels. To see elephants in the wild is a dream for me.

Arkansas Patti said...

What interesting facts about Africa. Things I would never have known other wise. I have another blog buddy touring China. You two are letting me tag along and I really appreciate it.
Sorry but I cracked up at #4. At least the scenery was interesting on the unfortunate potty trips.

DJan said...

You reminded me of a terrible day in Russia after having eaten something at the restaurant the night before. I have never been so sick! It sounds like you are having a great time. And I look forward to hearing about this next phase of the trip, too! :-)

Travels with Emma said...

Very interesting. Can't wait for the next installment.

Meryl Baer said...

What wonderful experiences. Sounds like a great trip and keep up the great commentary.

Rosaria Williams said...

Looking forward to more posts and more information. Can't wait!

Demandra said...

Wow! I am so far behind on my blog reading and when I stop by to see what's up, you're in AFRICA! Wowza!! How fabulous.

Sally Wessely said...

This was so interesting to read. Well, at least getting up to go to the bathroom in Kenya is memorable!

You are truly living the dream. Oh to go to Africa.

Chris Loehmer Kincaid said...

Thanks for the update. Kenya is certainly a different world, isn't it? As far as education up to grade 6, the government brags about it being free, but the families still have to pay for uniforms and books from day 1. Also, a lot of families still send their kids to private schools and pay those fees. I didn't see that the private schools were any better than the public ones so I don't know why parents would chose to pay extra.
As far as the matatus, I just blogged about my experiences on them.
Have a safe and fun trip.

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

You are such a great traveler ... thanks for sharing your explorations with us!