I wish that somehow I could transport the sensory experience of Africa to you all - words will never do it justice. There are the rhythmic acacia trees dancing across the valley, the Masai standing ramrod straight swathed in red guarding their cows and/or goats, and people everywhere walking, standing, talking. I saw a woman yesterday with a 5 gallon carboy on her head walking. I don't think I could lift one, much less put it on my head and walk.
We left Karen and drove to an escarpment overlooking the Rift Valley. I was surprised by my emotions looking over the womb of humankind. How improbable it is that I am alive. How many generations had to defy the odds and live long enough to reproduce to start the genetic pool that I am part of? Which of the 7 original mothers can I trace back to? The valley is beautiful stretching out before us- it must have taken significant events to drive the first migrants out of the valley and onto their wanderings.
On the way to the first two nights' campground, we stopped briefly in a town. Immediately we had salesmen at the side of the truck. "Look, mama, look at what I have. Isn't it beautiful? Do you want to hold it?" One man asked me where I was from. When I said America, he said, "So we are family, now. Obama." Our guide told me that the change in attitude toward Americans in all of East Africa is unbelievable since the election. Overnight the pictures of Osama Bin Laden that were pasted on buses and cars disappeared. Now we are family.
To reach the campground, we turned off on one dirt road, onto another and another and another until we reached it at the end of the road. It was in the middle of nowhere, guarded and surrounded by 15 strands of electric wire to keep the hyenas out. The owner is a young Kenyan who was delightful, and the campground itself was nice if plain - it had a bar and a bathroom with toilets and showers where sometimes after 5 you could actually get a hot shower. We met the rest of our traveling companions there: a young British couple, 19 and 25, who had been traveling for 10 weeks, an 18 year old Aussie woman, a 50ish American man who remodels houses in Albequerque, and a 30 something British woman. Our group was a 29 year old British microbiologist, a 40 or 50 something German chemist, a young Welshman just out of University, and Michael and me. Most of the others were travelers- they worked long enough to get money for their next trip, and stayed on the road for months. It's an interesting fraternity, welcoming and enjoyable. And when I say campsite, that's what I mean. We put up our own tents and sleep on the ground. Mostly we rotate who cooks dinner and who washes the dishes. Breakfast is spartan = I usually have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for breakfast. The first night my body protested sleeping on the ground (and listening to the hyenas) but since then I've slept at least as good as I do at home. And there is a bonhomie that is wonderful that is developed among all of us.
I'll only tell now about our first day there. We arose early and went to the Nakuma Park which is famous for its birds. And although we saw white and black rhino, lions, giraffes, every manner of gazelles, elands, and other hoofed animals, wart hogs, a parade of baboons and monkeys, my favorites were the birds - 3 types of eagles, a yellow billed stork, a red throated stork, rollers, hoepoes, flamingos by the hundreds, ibises, etc. My favorite was the African Pelican. They would fish in V formations, bobbing their heads in time, until all of a sudden, in one movement, their heads would go down into the water to get fingerlings.
Enough for now. I've had other adventures and fun, but I don't want to be at the cafe for too long. I'm well, having a wonderful time, and wish you were all here with me.