Sunday, December 1, 2019

A few more pictures from Masai Mara

The days and nights were very nice at Masai Mara.  The weather cooperated nicely, and even though it is still the rainy season in East Africa, we didn't have any rain.  The skies were a beautiful blue, and the horizon stretched off seemingly without end.  We drove a long way around this, one of the largest parks in Africa, and saw lots of different animals.  Then, on the way out of the park we stopped by a Masai Village.  That was actually a bit unsettling.  The Masai are one of the most fiercely independent peoples in east Africa, but they have been forced to compromise with the outside world.  They have a village that is built much like what the Masai have lived in for hundred of years, but this group does not move, and is partially (I believe) subsidized by the government so that they will cooperate with  tourists.  A hundred years ago we would have had spears thrust through our bodies as we approached the village.  Now, well, its not like that.  Here are some pictures of the last day or so in the Mara.

One of the denizens of the park are the baboons.  I actually don't find these fellows all that interesting, but they are fun to watch.

Here are a couple just hanging out.  They do a lot of that.  The babies were cute, though!

There are also large herds of buffalo in the park.  I actually find them more interesting, even though they don't do much.  They apparently are highly unpredictable and are very dangerous, if they get mad at you.  Though the horns have a curious shape, they can slash pretty nicely with them.

They don't look very bright, but they are big and very strong.

Here are some antelopes, hanging out towards the front of the park.  Very nice to watch.

These are either waterbucks or topies (I think) hanging out in the grass, enjoying the afternoon sun.

Here are some zebras that you can see, a little far off.  The zebras don't like being in the park, because they don't like the tall grass, but prefer the shorter grass.  With all the predators around, that makes sense.

Some more zebras.

We got to the village and were immediately met by a guide, who was very friendly and nice.  One thing about the Masai is that they hate to have their pictures taken.  In this village, because of government intervention, they have to say its okay.  The clothes are the real deal, though, because away from the village this is what you will see them wearing.


They greeted us with a ceremonial kind of thing where they put the lions head on your head.  One thing about this visit was that, in terms of tourists, we were it.  So what that meant is that when we went to the craft area the pressure to buy was HUGE.  They spent a lot of time with us, since there was no one else around with shillings in their pockets (though they made it clear dollars would be fine as well).  Tourism has had some problems in Kenya, because of some of the terrorist activities that have occurred.

Joel getting the ceremonial treatment.  His foot was really hurting, but he was a good sport.

This is actually a pretty accurate image, of a woman in front of her house.  She was performing or anything.  The houses are actually made out of mud and cattle dung.  For the Masai, who keep cattle, there is plenty of dung around.  They also use it for cooking.

This is a view across the center of the village, where at night they would bring the animals.  There are probably two hundred or so people living in the village.
Our guide was the young man on the right, though he had plenty of helpers.  Most didn't speak much English, but our guide, who goes to secondary school, speaks very well.
I tried to capture just four guys hanging out.  Typically they stand like the young man on the left, with one leg crossed over the other.  They can stand that way for a good long time.


One of the things that the folks in the village have to do is dance and sing for the visitors.  This was just so uncomfortable.  The women were very nice about it, but I couldn't help but think that they would have loved for the warriors standing around to start throwing spears at us or something.  Being the only three there, it just felt strange.  The singing was lovely though.

The young men also do one of their warrior dances, the adumu, or Masai jumping dance.  It was cool, no doubt, but like I said, it was kind of uncomfortable.  Still pretty neat, though.

Evan got to try the adumu, though Joel didn't because of his hurt foot.

Joel made friends, though!

As did Evan.  He really had a thing for the Masai culture, I think, and would have loved to have spent a few nights in a village.

Before we left, though, Joel and Evan had to run through the savanna grasslands.

On our way to Nairobi we had to go through the Great Rift Valley.  This is on the eastern side of the rift, a beautiful place.

It is just so interesting to see plate tectonics at work!

A very steep edge to the rift escarpement.

Chemomi Tea Factory

One of our first visits after we got acquainted with Eldoret and Moi University was to the Chemomi Tea Factory, which is in the Nandi Hills.  The hills are a beautiful site, and were part of the White Highlands, which had a significant number of white residents during the colonial period.  Most of the tea plantations and factories are still owned by whites, I believe, with foreign white supervisors and administrators of the tea plantations, and Kenyan workers actually doing the planting, tending, and harvesting of the tea.  These are just some pictures from that day.

This is the main building of the factory.

 Tea growing on the hillsides.

 A view of the factory in the background.

Tea growing on the hillsides.

 One of the rooms in the main building, where the supervisor let us try some of the varieties of tea they are growing. 

The tea that we could sample.

 The workers on the tea plantation.  Very hard and delicate work, since the tea, once it's ready for picking, must be picked quickly or it goes bad, and can't be harvested.

 A rest area at the factory.

Workers at the tea plantation.

 Old driers that were formerly used at the factory.

 A bridge across a pond.

Me at the tea factory, taken by Evan.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Our Kenyan Family

The Kenyans who sustained us at Moi

As some of you know, we haven't really been cooking since we got here to Kenya.  When we first arrived the house didn't have a stove or a refrigerator, and the kitchen was incredibly gross.  So we took our meals across the street at the Moi University Guest House.  To be blunt, this place is a bit depressing, with ragged carpet, beat up chairs, and some other basic problems.  Eventually, we did get a stove and a refrigerator, but by that time we had gotten used to eating at the guest house with what we considered to be our Kenyan family.  The main thing was the social outlet for both Evan and I, particularly the evening meal.  Another reason we never started cooking was that there isn't a market here with a refrigerator section with quality meats, and the idea of cooking a chicken that has been hanging in a window all day just didn't appeal to me.  The point here, though, is that we were very lucky here and hooked up with Kenyans who ate with us nearly every day, and led to some incredibly interesting and lively discussions, about politics, art, film, family, dating, marriage, wife beating, husband beating, child raising, education, technology.... You name it, there isn't much we haven't talked about.  Here are some pictures to give you a flavor of this part of our lives here in Kenya.

Here is the view of the guest house, this is what we see pretty much every morning and every evening.  This is on the first really sunny morning (May 9) that we have seen in a while. We don't eat lunch here, only breakfast and dinner.  We would have given up breakfast, instead fixing our own, but its fun starting the day with our family.

Close up view of the front.

The front door.  I have to be blunt, the food is not that great, but for me to cook, given our resources, would have been more trouble than it was worth.  And so, this is where we eat....

This is looking down the hall towards the rooms.  It's not the best environment, I won't lie to you.

This is the foyer.  The building was intended to be the home for the DVC (deputy vice chancellor) when Moi opened in 1978, but he now lives in town, as do most of the faculty.  A lot of the plans for Moi included building an entire community, but those plans never quite worked out, and most of the faculty and staff moved away.  And many, though not all, of the visitors to the university stay in town.  I wanted to live on campus, because it just made more sense for us to be here.  I think it was the right call.  In the foyer we typically find the security guards getting ready to take a nap in the evening when we finally leave after solving the problems of the world.  On rainy nights, of which there have been plenty, you couldn't PAY them enough to sit out in the little guard shack.

This is the kitchen.  Sometimes at night when we are waiting for our food, you can hear a cat meowing...  Through the door there is basically an open area, where cats hang out waiting for scraps.  Again, it isn't the best of food, a whole lot of rice, beans, beef (with the occasional bones... my teeth are going to need some serious work when I get back), chicken sometimes.  We are lucky, though, because my understanding is that before we came, they never served meals on the weekends, and basically served beans every night.  The coming of the two mzungus bumped up the menu a bit.

And here is the basic family.  You recognize Evan and I, I believe.  The woman in the front is Faith, the other Fulbrighter who is a US citizen but born and raised in Kenya.  To her right is Gerald, the engineer, who eats so fast he makes our heads spin.  To his right is Kaka, the patriarch of the group.  He has been here for about seven years, living in one of the little servants quarters.  He teaches film and media studies, and has been such a riot.  On his right is Rachel, who teaches German.  She only comes in for a couple of days a week.  There is another fellow, Immanuel, who teaches French, and also comes in for a couple of days a week.  The regulars... well, you can say we have all gotten to know each other well!

Here's Evan, doing what he does best, which is tweeting.  We got there early.

That's Wesley, who cooks in the evenings, taking turns with Charity, the lady who also does our laundry and cleans house for us.  Wesley is a nice guy, but cooking... well, he has trouble making rice, if that gives you any indication.

Another view of the family.

Another view of the happy family.

A view down our street on the sunny morning.

A view looking the opposite direction.

A view of our house.  It is much greener here during the wet season.

Another view of the house.  We have a huge leak in the roof, and there is something living in the attic, we have no idea what.  It may be a cat...

This has become Evan's spot, he has everything at hand: PSP, phone, computer... It's like he is on the bridge of the Enterprise or something.

A view of our patio.  It has been raining so much we really haven't used it in the past month.  Plus, don't want to gross anybody out, but we have had flea problems back there because of the neighbor's dogs.

The view from the patio.  It's nice to sit here with a Tusker and relax.  So, that's our Kenyan family!