Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Thanksgiving Safari - Kenya Part 2

Thanksgiving 2010
Location: Masai Mara, Kenya

This year we drove down to Masai Mara to go on safari with some friends. If Thanksgiving last year felt a little odd and out of place, than I feel I must classify this year's Thanksgiving as unrecognizable. Unrecognizable but a lot of fun.

Masai Mara is a national game reserve in Kenya and connects with Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. By car, the Mara is about 3.5 hours from Nairobi and it is just completely amazing. We stayed 2 nights in one of the tented camps in the park although, it has to be said, the term "tented camp" is a bit misleading. Yes, technically, it was a camp and yes, we literally slept in a "tent" but it was the nicest tent I have ever stayed in. Comfy beds, full bath, electricity, and 4 course dinners at the lodge restaurant. Not exactly roughing it.

The first night there we went on a afternoon game drive with a local Maasi warrior as our guide and about 20 minutes into the drive our truck decided to break down. As our guide tried to fix the problem we got out to look around for a moment...only to book it back to the truck when we saw a hyena hanging out nearby. Somehow the idea of being eaten alive was not appealing. Best to wait in the big metal object. Soon, it became apparent that the truck was not going to work any time in the near future and our driver called for another means of transport to pick us up and continue the game drive.

After the minor vehicular hiccup, the game drive was near perfect. Our guide was great and we were extremely lucky and were able to see cheetahs, a leopard (with its morning kill up in a tree), elephants, lions, zebras, gazelles, antelopes, and giraffes all in one evening.

The next day Henry and I went on a day long game drive. Again, the day did not disappoint. We saw lions, lion cubs (insanely cute), wildebeest, cape buffalo, warthog families, more elephants, zebras, antelopes, gazelles, giraffe, and my personal tubby favorite, hippopotamus (aka hip-hop anonymous). Lunch was picnic style under a tree amidst a herd of wildebeest. In the afternoon, one of the most incredible parts of the day was coming across a pride of lions eating a recently killed antelope. We were about 8 feet away and could hear their teeth ripping away at the poor animal. Pretty unreal.

The next day we went on another early morning drive at sunrise. It was beautiful. There were hot air balloons in the sky. There were herds of zebra and wildebeest moving about. At this point on our safari, the only 1 of the big 5 we had yet to see was the rhino. And then - as if he knew - one showed up. Such a cute tub-a-lub. Our guide told us it is very rare to see a rhino at the park because there are so few of them in both Masai Mara and Serengeti. This made us feel very special.
So, in short, the safari was one of the best experiences ever. As many are already aware, our next post is Nairobi and we will be moving there late next year. I absolutely fell in love with Masai Mara and am very glad that me and the hippos and the baby zebras will be neighbors soon.

More safari pics coming...to be continued...

Mom and baby giraffe...

Sunset on the Mara...

Looks cuddly and friendly. Probably isn't.

Zebra love.
Family of elephants + us...

Our "tent"...

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Nairobi is Lovely - Kenya Part 1

Henry and I just returned from a week in Kenya and, coming from Kinshasa, I must say, Nairobi is one sparkly little African gem.

Nairobi weather is cool and dry and there were hardly any mosquitos. Congo is hot hot hot, it feels like 300% humidity, and my legs look like that of the Elephant Man thanks to all the mosquito bites.

Nairobi has things like working traffic lights, shopping malls (avec actual food courts and coffee shops), resort hotels, office parks, safari, and taxis that one can use without expected robbery, assault or death. Kinshasa has none of the above, although, in fairness, Kinshasa does have a couple of traffic lights but they are more of a novelty versus a part of an actual functioning traffic system.

To be sure, Nairobi is still Africa and it's not all bunnies and cartwheels. There is still extreme poverty, disease, crime, security issues, and problems but, as one Kenyan said to me, and which I think sums it up pretty well, "Kenya is just more civilized than DRC". Agreed.

We spent 4 days in Nairobi and then drove down to Masai Mara to go on safari. Which was incredible. And which I will post about next...

Monday, November 15, 2010

On the River

Sunday: Spent the afternoon out on the Congo River again with some friends. We drove two of the embassy boats to Petit Paradis (previously visited here), a restaurant about an hour up the river. In typical Congo fashion, restaurant service was pretty abysmal but that is to be expected and it was still fun nonetheless. On the way back, one of the boats broke down...as the sun was setting. And who wouldn't want to be stuck on the Congo River in the dark? Luckily, we were not too far from the marina and sent one boat back to fetch the supplies to repair the problem and all was well.

Another way to travel on the river...a very slow way to travel on the river.

One of the sandbars. Last Sunday, we spent the day here. Henry tried wake boarding and went tubing. Lots of Congo water inhaled but, as of this moment, no notable side effects to report. As for me, I have decided my swimming-in-the-Congo days are done. People tell me that it is perfectly safe but my bug phobia begs to differ.

Beautiful countryside...

Congo sunset...

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Goat murder!

There is murder in the neighborhood.

Apparently, our next door neighbors are having a party tonight. And, apparently, there is going to be goat on the menu.

This afternoon, I was on our back balcony filling up water pitchers from the distiller and throwing some laundry in the washer when I heard a horrible cry. Is it a person? Is it...who knows what in Congo? Maybe it's nothing. Back to the laundry. But then, again...the horrible Baa-aaaa-ARGHHHHH! Wtf?

I scan the Republican Guard soldiers to the left...nothing. One is peeing in a bush and the other is twirling his AK-47. All clear there. I check out the neighbors directly behind us. All clear. Then I spot our neighbors to the right. And it's not pretty.

One little goat is being held down. There is previously cut- up meat on the driveway. There are more innocent little goats watching the carnage. I've seen enough.

Now, I'm a full on omnivore. So it's not like I don't know how hypocritical this sounds. But goats are cute and tubby and have short legs! But anyway, that's that. Saturday in Congo. Less Crate and Barrel, more goat massacre.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Conversations at home

Today...
Conversation #1
Emery: Madame, why you not speak Japanese?
Me: Because I am not Japanese.
Emery: But why you not speak Japanese?
Me: Well, one, I am American. So there's that. Two, I have nothing to do with Japan. Not now or then.
Emery: But you should speak it!
Me: Why do you think so?
Emery: Because you should! You look like you should!
Me: I speak English and mediocre French. The thing is, in the United States, there are many different types of people. But yet, and this is the important part, they are all still American. Some people do speak other languages in their families, but I don't. And if I did, it would not be Japanese. The reason being because neither I nor any of my family or ancestors are Japanese.
Emery: But, Madame, you Japanese!

Conversation #2
Emery: Madame, why do people like dragons?
Me: I'm not sure, I suppose why not?
Emery: Me no like.

Conversation #3
Emery(pointing to season 3 of Dexter): Madame, this man, he no good.
Me: Aw, Dexter is the best!
Emery: Madame, he no good.

Racial profiling in the home, America loves the melting pot, dragons, and Dexter. Another Congo morning is complete.