The Green Sea
I realized today how long it's been since I've written, and then I remembered why. Engaging in internet time in Nairobi is no small feat. It's frustrating and overwhelming. No more than 5minutes ago I finished an entire blog that was lost to the whim of my tempermental Kenyan computer. But, beyond that-things here are fabulous.
South Africa is where I spent my holidays. Seeing my parents was refreshing and reminded me that they are truely my best friends in life. I felt like we were travelling buddies instead of child/parents. We spent our first week in Cape Town, where we took tours of the area where "Blacks" had been displaced during Apartheid. We walked right into the cramped houses of the many who had been seperated from the city in the hopes of creating a "White Nation". While their condition was definitely dismal, I could not help but contrast it to the slums of Nairobi. Whereas people in South African slums have running water and electricity in their shacks (which were usually mulitiple roomed), those in Nairobi's slums cannot afford candles and drink contaminated water if they find it on a good day. However, no one's plight is any more minimal than the next and it was still astonishing to see how prevalant Apartheid still is, and how it's aftermath of a "seperate but equal" like state in South Africa has relegated rascism to a pervasive yet inescapable factor in these people's lives. I hope to share with you all the pictures of the "street art" I took while there. Some of it is angry, and some of it is a reflection of the national motto of "reconciliation".
From Cape Town it was on to Kruger National Park, where we saw animals abounding. We saw so many that their exotic appeal morphed into an apathetic gaze at the next zebra or antelope. Nontheless, they were remarkable. Especially the elephants, cheetah, leopards, lions, rhinos, giraffe, and hippos. What a unique and fragile ecosystem. As it turns out, everyone's "Save the elephants" campaign is actually harmful to the delicate balance of the reserve, as the elephants are now so numerous that they are going around ripping up trees for fun and destroying the precious habitats of other animals there. Still, elephants remain my favorite mammal. They are massive, yet gentle as well as one of the smartest species alive. They mourn their dead and have shown signs of self-recognition and awareness. BRILLIANT and I love them.
From Kruger we went to Durban. That's where the "green sea" comes from. Durban produces masses of sugar cane, and thus the rolling hills are covered in green cane that moves with the wind like waves. To me it looked like masses of whispy hair. It was remarkably calming to look at, and this was a good thing considering the first day we did lots of staring out the window in our city tour that turned out to be a drag. So we decided to relax the last few days at our hotel and spend time together.
My parents left on the 2nd of January and I met up with a friend, Emily, in Durban. She and I stayed in a hostel with a very interesting array of people. There were folks from all over Europe, Australia, South America, and Africa. The best were the elderly folk who'd relinquished their lives to hopping from hostel to hostel with no particular agenda and in no particular hurry. One woman honestly did not step outside of the hostel walls for the three nights we were there. Emily spent hours in the ocean, jumping in the waves and earning ourselves impressive sunburns that kept us pretty imobile the other days. We managed to do some walking around and found free galleries and museums in the city to keep us out of the sun. Durban is a very interesting city, and until the wee hours of the morning Emily and I would sit on the verandas of the hostel with Castle lagers (the local S.African brew) in hand, people watching. Around the corner from our hostel was an "escort service and executive massage parlour" called Sonja's. Watching the mad dash the men dropped off there made from the taxi to the front door of Sonja's was pure entertainment. At one point, I was invited by the receptionist at Sonja's to come in. After some serious internal moral debate...I turned her down :) We also watched the prostitutes saunter up and down the streets and in and out of cars. If this wasn't enough, there was always enough mini-taxis (like Kenya's matatus) with blaring music, to keep us stimulated. They were like dance-floors on wheels with young girls and boys hanging out the sides waving their arms, enticing anyone on the sidewalk to break into dance.
Emily and I hopped the BazBus, which takes backpackers from hostel to hostel in South Africa, and headed to Johannesburg where we caught our fight to Nairobi. It felt like I was coming home,which was a mixture of bizarre and comforting. As one man who owns a horse stable in Nairobi said to me, "Kenya gets into your blood". He was right. I love being here without classes and have been going to the orphanage as much as possible. It's difficult, emotionally, to be with these children day in and day out and know I'm leaving so soon. However, their little signs of affection make it worthwhile.
One young boy, Nigel, was badly burned by a Kenyan family who adopted him. The week I returned from South Africa, we were sitting on the couch watching Lion King when he took my finger and ran it over a scar near his lips. He said nothing to me, and I nothing to him. However, he's been attached to me since. Those are the times I am most happy, to know it takes absolutely nothing to convey love and know it's genuine.
I'm running around the city like a mad woman collecting data on the Kenyan adoption process and so on in order to write my paper. With my time left, I have a trip planned to Mt.Elgon to do some hiking and view elephants who come to these famous salt caves to lick the salt formations. I also have a trip planned to Egypt in mid February. Both of these are with various members of the group,and I'm anticipating good times.
This weekend we are returning to Hells Gate(where the baboon ate my lunch) to camp,hike, and bike. Jeff, a member of our group, put the trip together to celebrate his brother coming to visit. All in all, I'm busy, but grateful for it.
Hope everyone is doing just fine. Keep in touch and stay well!