Trip to Africa

hello all,I’m writing this to let ya’all know what I’ve been up to here in the source of humanity. (That would be africa) The pln is to be here in Africa for a month and a half. I’m here with my friend Michal. Most of you probably know who she is. For those that don’t she a friend that I met in Israel shortly after I got there. For those gossipping people out there, she and I dated for a short time, for that was over at least two years ago. So get your minds from where they shouldn’t be. Anyway, here’s a short synopsis of what we’ve done. We arrived in Nairobi, Kenya on Jan 10. We spent about 3 days there getting out bearings, visiting the museum, and scheduling a safari. We went to Masai Mara reserve for a total of two days followed by a day at Lake Nakuru. After that we were on our own. In Masai Mara, we saw that more traditional safari animals like zebras, giraffes, elephants, gazelles, lions, and a leopard. Some of the hilites include: we saw the two lions going at it. I’ve never heard that many camera shutters before. The zebras also had their fun. We saw an elephant that probably just finished doing his thing cause his unit was hanging out. It must have been 6 inches…. all the way along the 3 foot length. We are in Africa. 😉 At lake Nakuru, we saw alot of flamingos. By alot I mean 1 million. There were also some rhinos and giraffes there as well. We didn’t do much else in Nakuru and we headed towards Kisumu with the intention of heading NW towards Ethiopia or Uganda. First we stopped for a day in Lodiani where we met a carpenter. Very cool. More on that later. (I hope I have time to cover all the “laters”) WE spent two days in Kisumu where we visited the local museum and hiked to Lake Victoria. This is a BIG lake; something along the scale of the Great Lakes in the USA. It was really interesting to talk to the curator there. There weren’t any other visitors there at the time, so he had plenty of time to explain stuff. More on that later. We left Kisumu and went to Kisii where we spent another two days. On one of those days, we went to a town called Tabaka where they carve soapstone. More on that later. We also took a hike up onto Manga Ridge which was about a 2 hour walk each way. It was really nice as we got to see quite a distance. We gathered about 10 kids along the way who showed us the way, followed along marvelling at our lite skin-color. We went from Kisii to Kakamega stopping at Sandu for a day in between. Sandu was nice. We met a local who was home from the Nairobi University that showed us around. He had a nice walk, he explained how to select a good pineapple and he introduced us to his mom. At one point, he had a short discussion on how he’s different from most of his relatives in that he only intends to marry one woman. More on the polygamy thing later. Kakamega, we didn’t like so much so we didn’t spend much time there. By this time, we realized that Ethiopia wasn’t a viable option since we would have to return to Nairobi to obtain the visas. I guess we didn’t plan this part so well. We thought we could get them at the border. Apparently, very few people would travel to Ethiopia this way, so it’s not really worth it for them. It is a long way. After Kakamega, we ended up in Bangoma where we stayed for a little over two days. This town was quite nice to be in. We’d been getting tired to the monotonous East African food and really wanted something different. I’d seen a number of Indians (as in India) so I approached one of them for the location of an Indian restaurant. In the end, he invited us to his home. Good food! The next day we had breakfast at a family restaraunt. That day, one of the daughters, also home from University, was running it. Michal and her hit it off quite well and we ended up eating the rest of our meals in Bangoma there. Also good food. WE then headed for the Ugandan border and are now in Kampala, which is the capital city. It’s a nicer city than Nairobi. We plan on being in Uganda for a couple days to check out the museum as well as some of the nature. There’s supposed to be some great river rafting. And here I am now. Now for some more detail. When we visited the Kenya museum in Nairobi, we had a really nice time. Before we went into the museum itself, we went into an area that was occupied by local artists doing their work. Some of it was pretty good! (to my eye, anyway) One artist caught our eyes more than the others. He uses a small spatula to paint on canvas. We were most impressed that he has so many styles. When we return to Nairobi, I want to go back and give him a roll of film to take pics of his favorites which I’ll take back, scan, and put on my website. This way, maybe someone from USA or Europe can see them and purchase some from him. Computer access is expensive for locals so I figure it’s help him out. (Plus I get some good art pictures) When we were in Masai Mara, we saw two lions having their fun. It was rather entertaining. So we drive up to where they were in our vehicle. We knew they were there because another group was also parked there. We were maybe 10 or 20 feet away, but the lions just ignored us. They were sleeping. We watched for awhile and eventually another vehicle joined us as well. Then the male wakes up. You could tell he was kinda groggy. He goes over to the female and sniffs around a bit. She doesn’t really take notice, but he gets on her anyway. She was accomodating be rolling off of her side more into a crouched position and lets him do his thing. This is when all the cameras were in action. Then then both let out a big growl and they’re done. The male gets off, takes a couple steps and goes back to sleep. The whole thing took no longer than a couple minutes. And women complain about men?! I do hear that lions mate on average 18 times a day, so I guess they’ve got us beat there. While we were in Lodiani, we went a carpenter. This guy was amazing. He have build his own wood lathe, table saw, and planer. I’m not talking about assembling, I’m talking build from scratch out of car, and train parts and other scraps. Very cool stuff. I’ll put pictures on my site when I get back. In the end, the work looks good. It’s all hand made except for the three tools I just mentioned. It seems like someone could get this guy to buy some “antique” furniture and sell it in the USA for large sums of money. I mean, who really cares whether and antique was made last week or a hundred years ago as long as they were made the same way and look alike? The people of Kenya are very friendly. After a couple days there I decided on a goal of one good/interesting/fun interaction each day. Each day, I want to meet someone that I remember. So far, I think I’ve missed only one day. I’m not sure how Uganda will turnout since we’re just in the big city and not in the countryside. The curator at the Kisumu museum was really interesting. He explained some Kenyas tribal culture, specificly the male/female roles. He told us of some time he’d spent in Chicago researching at the university (I don’t know which one; I assume there are more than one) They’d gotten him an apartment, but he was in a bind with the cooking. In his culture, men are not allowed to cook. “What, you don’t trust your wife? So why are you cooking.” It’s not just that her job, his dependence on her in this regard is also expected. They do get around this by marrying multpile wives. It seems that in Kenya the average number of wifes in just about any of the cultures is three, each of which had 4-6 children. This way, if one dies, is sick, or is away, there is always someone else to cook. There is also a power heirarchy between the first wife and the others. In some tribes like the Luo, it’s the negotiation of the wives amongst themselves that determines who the husband will sleep with on any given night. In other tribes, like and Masai the husband goes whereever he wants. I was a bit confused by the math of this multiple marriage thing wondering how they keep from running out of women in the population to marry, but it turns out that the birthrate of girls is higher than that of boys. Another funny thing that he explained is the roles of the witchdoctors. My favorite was one of the solutions to the problem of a woman not bearing children. If a man marries, he’s expecting some children. When they don’t come, he goes to the witchdoctor and asks what to do. The doctor will propose some possible remedies and if that doesn’t work he’ll ask to “examine” her. “sleep with” her is a more accurate description. It’s funny that the woman often gets pregnant shortly after. Tabaka was nice. This is where they quarry and carve soapstones. We walked around and were quickly joined by a local who showed us around. He showed us where they get the stone, some shops with the results, and lastly, he carved up some figures out of the stones that Michal had picked out. It was interesting to watch because they used a machette for much of the work. They also had this hoe looking (though it was thin) thing. Within 5 minutes you could already see the shape forming. The whole process from start to finish on the simple pieces can’t be more than 20min. So of the pieces were really impressive, though obviously take more time. One thing we were suprised to here is that small pieces are more difficult than the big ones. This is because the smaller pieces are more delicate and therefore break easier. Makes sense when you’re told, but we were suprised. In Bangoma, we met a shoemaker. We only spend maybe 15 minutes talking to him, but it was interesting. He’d made his own tools. As a cutting tool, he took a putty knife and sharpened it. Most impressive was his awl. (I think that’s the name.) It’s essentially a crochette needle, hook. He’d made it out of the airstem from a car tire and pieces of an umbrella. He made sandals, repaired worn shoes, and replaced the soles on otherwise good shoes. It was cool to see the simplicity of it all. I guess those are some of the hilites. There’s a bunch more to tell about and I’ve taken lots of pictures so far. My nightmare is that there’s something wrong with my camera and the pics will all some out blank. God willing, they’ll be ok and I’ll put many of them on my website. Miles

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