Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Monday, July 27, 2009
You'll be mid-conversation talking about, say, article 24.a.ii of some transportation bill and they'll stop mid-sentence and say, "You know, Shannon, I like your name. Nice Irish name. My daughter's name is Shannon. She's a teenager. Two things about her. Number one, she's pregnant. Number two, she has two boyfriends. Now, you tell me: How the hell does she have two boyfriends?"
That was an actual conversation.
The trick is to seem unfazed despite the desire to say, "I"M SORRY. ARE WE IN A CONFESSION BOX HERE because, last I checked, I WAS INTERVIEWING YOU?!?"
The Kenyan version of injecting surprise into a conversation is a little different. The other day, I was waiting for a car with a colleague. We were getting ready to visit rural villages. Standing on a dirt road outside the office, he looked at me and suddenly grimaced.
"What's wrong?" I asked. "Are you okay?"
Him: "Yeah, I'm fine."
Me: "Really? Fine?"
Him: "Well. I feel a little off. I'm thinking I have typhoid."
Me: "..." (internally, "TYPHOID. HOLY SHIT. Typhoid Mary. Typhoid vaccines. How did he get typhoid?)
Him: "I'm pretty sure it's not malaria. But it could be that. I really don't know. But I'll persevere."
Me: "..." (and how the hell do you treat a person with typhoid? how do I have an MPH and not know any of this? What if he passes out? How exactly is typhoid spread? What is typhoid's incubation period?)
Him: "Why do you look concerned? You're looking at me like a mom. I've had typhoid before, I'm fine."
Me: (how the hell did he survive typhoid before??!?!) "Typhoid sounds serious. Tell me immediately if you start to feel woozy. Tell me right now if you want to take a sick day."
Him: "I'm fine but thanks Mom."
Me: "I am choosing to take that as a compliment."
He was fine. A week has passed. He's fine.
Me... I'm still in shock.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Clearly, none of you appreciated the earlier pictures of flora and fauna in Lake Nakuru National Park. I'll be sure to tell the antelope and geese that they didn't garner a single comment.
Let's try this again.
Here is the hottest toosh in the animal kingdom. Notice the highlights and lowlights in that tail:
Baby toosh is brownish:
Here is my friend and colleague Bethany with a double banana. They're illegal in the US for dumb reasons:
A giraffe. Maybe the coolest animal, after the elephant. Of note: my friend's friend here in Kisumu is an animal anesthesiologist. When giraffe's are coming out of surgery it's dangerous as they often snap their necks. Yikes!
Bethany, me, Robert. Big giraffe fans. I think I look like a pre-teen in this photo. Sorry about the tagline Butts and Us. We have lots of animal butt pictures from this trip.
Rhino family with baby. Rhinos tend to graze, or "browse," in the same area throughout their lives. This makes it easy for poachers to kill them. -Brought to you by Debbie Downer.
Rhino surrounded by the animals that trampled the lioness in a story from a few weeks ago. Rhinos are herbivores- no enemies in this bunch.
Animals have the right of way:
When I was a YOUNG warthooog!
Friday, July 24, 2009
The experience was a little confusing:
Then he decided to show off his sitting abilities. But the temptation to eat the keyboard was too much, so he dove toward computer again.
En route to the keyboard, he got sleepy, stuck his butt in the air and passed out.
Happy Friday everyone! Great chatting with you today, TechnoCade!
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Something with sword-like horns:
Birds at sunrise:
Rhino family. Baby gets kicked out when s/he turns 8:
I have more photos. For another time.
Happy almost Friday. This weekend we may go to Kakamega and play with monkeys.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
All jokes about Cade's proud papa resembling Devo are unnecessary; I have made them.
To Jeff (Cade's dad): I know you don't read this blog, but I think you're an awesome dad and Cade's a lucky little dude to have found you and Colleen.
Today I learned that I passed my comprehensive exams at Hopkins. In other words: I will graduate. THANK GOD.
Friday, July 17, 2009
They're squiggling around each other in this latrine. The only latrine for shared by several hundred children.
Before seeing the latrine, I asked the head teacher what he meant when he said, "Children are afraid to use the latrine."
"You will see soon," he said. "Soon, you'll understand."
Now, I do.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
It didn't know it was so beautiful either. Up close it's a different story, but I won't dwell on that.
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Wednesday, July 08, 2009
So here it is.
"Today was a very bad day for a certain lioness at the Lake Nakuru National Park in Kenya. It started before sunrise. She was minding her own business, roaming around the plains when she realized she was outside the boundaries of the protected national park. And not only was she outside the protected area, she was also in a village full of waking villagers and – it gets worse – she was being chased by two “eager” male lions.
The fact that two lions and one lioness were wandering around their village made this a very very bad morning for the villagers, who are mostly park rangers and their relatives. One man in particular was in for a bad surprise. As he left his dung hut en route to the outhouse, he noticed that the local baboons were screeching and howling more than usual. “What could their problem be?” he thought as he sat down to “take a long call” (a Kenyan phrase for taking a dump). Then he heard the roar. His “long call” lasted much longer than most. He stayed in the toilet- in safety- until after sunrise.
The fact that two lions, one lioness and a lot of frightened villagers were meandering around the “safe zone” of Lake Nakuru National Park made this is very very very bad morning for a certain overly-eager American tourist, who we will call Shannon. Shannon arrived at the park with friends to watch the sunrise. As the truck of tourists (including Shannon) pulled up to the park’s entrance, Shannon’s boss went inside a brick building to pay admission. Shannon bolted from the truck, ran up to a supposedly electrical fence and began taking pictures of the sun rising over the hills. She took this picture.
(Insert sunrise photo here)
Here’s the supposedly electrical fence:
(Insert fence photo here)
“This is beautiful,” Shannon said, reminiscing about the last time she had been on a safari in Kenya. Shannon was totally lost in the moment when she saw something yellowish in the grass, less than 60 yards to her left.
By now, Shannon’s friend Robert was in earshot.
“Robert,” Shannon said, bewildered. “That’s a lion.”
“No it’s not,” he replied with the authority that springs from spending a day – in this case, the prior day – in the park without Shannon. “That’s a baboon.”
The lion jogged closer.
“Robert, that’s a lion,” she said, noticing that the fence did not have that buzzing noise that electrical fences have.
Then the lion started to grunt, a deep powerful grunt that should only be heard in National Geographic movies. Suddenly the car seemed unbelievably far away. The lion, actually lioness, seemed very close. She continued trotting toward Robert and Shannon. “OH MY GOD,” Shannon whispered. “IT’S ON THIS SIDE OF THE FENCE.”
They say in books that humans react with fight or flight. I always thought I would be one to fight. I also always thought that when the moment came, I would be facing someone or something that was somehow beneath me on the food chain.
In this case, I ran. I ran into the car so fast that I banged the left and right sides of my head. While running toward the car, I said, “THAT IS A FUCKING LION. GET IN THE FUCKING CAR. GET IN THE CAR.”
Robert ran in. By now the Kenyan driver, who was having a cigarette near the admission counter saw what was happening. He ran toward the car and said, “Get in the car. Get in the car. This is not safe.”
Was the last sentence really necessary?
The lioness coming toward us was being followed by a jeep. She was in some type of peripheral fencing that had been erected between the village and the game reserve. This peripheral fence had a 5-foot high non-electrical, metal fence. It resembled chicken-wire.
As the jeep drove behind the lioness, she was being pinned into a corner of the chicken-wire fence and the non-electrified 6-ft. fence bordering the game reserve. She had a choice. She could hop over one side of the fence and continue toward us. Or she could jump another side of a fence and return to the park. She jumped into the park.
Good choice for us. Bad choice for her.
On the other side of the fence were more than 50 water buffalo. Water buffalo look like the dumbest, most aesthetically-unfortunate animals on the Savanna. They have permanently out-of-style hairdos to top boxy, cow-like physiques. They’re often seen licking snot from their noses. Their appearance belies their ability. This morning when a lioness entered their territory, they sent an unheard signal to as many as 100 water buffalo in earshot and together roughly 150 water buffalo began to gore and trample the lioness. They pushed her down. Dug their curling horns into her. Kicked her with their hooves. They had no intention of eating her (they’re vegetarians). But they wanted to make a point. “You and your lion buddies think you own the world. We think otherwise.” Her lion buddies – the ones who were so intent on wooing her earlier that morning – were nowhere to be seen.
The park rangers watched in saddened dismay. There are very few lions in reserves nowadays. To lose a lioness is a tragedy.
The tourists watched in shocked disbelief. In a span of about ten seconds, they had expelled a lifetime of adrenaline.
“Oh my Gawd,” Robert said, watching the herd (about 200 yards away) kick up dust and throw the lioness's body through the air. Robert was now back out of the car, near the good-for-nothing fence. “It’s the circle of life.”
I wizened up. I was not going to stand near fences any longer. I was going to stand near him:
(Insert photo of ranger with gun)
This ranger told me the story of the morning. The man. The toilet. The baboons. The two lions. The one lioness. The fact that his gun was loaded and the more important fact that he knew how to shoot it.
“The buffalo will kill her,” he said, shaking his head and lamenting the point. “We will send a car to try to get the buffalo to stop trampling her.”
“Does this happen often?” I asked. “Do lions routinely break into your village?”
“This has never happened - not once in the history of the park,” he said.
“And when did the park open?” I asked, expected him to say, “2008.”
“1968,” he said.
“Nothing like this ever since 1968,” he repeated, slowly, watching the buffalo pummel the lioness.
I stepped back and looked at him incredulously. Then I exploded.
“ARE YOU TELLING MY THAT YOU HAVE NEVER – NOT EVEN ONCE – HAD LIONS IN YOUR VILLAGE? THAT YOU HAVE NEVER HAD LIONS OUTSIDE THE FENCE? AND ON THE ONE MORNING WHEN I ARRIVE IN KENYA AND I STEP OUT OF THAT TRUCK FOR 25 SECONDS THAT THIS IS THE FIRST TIME A LIONESS IS ON THIS SIDE OF THAT FENCE?”
“Yes,” he said, laughing. “That’s it. Jambo.”
I shook my head, smiled and fell into a shocked daze.
Moments passed in silence.
Then, suddenly, to the surprise of everyone (water buffalo, villagers, rangers and tourists), the lioness stood up, bared her teeth, growled and ran away.
Jambo, or “welcome,” from Kenya,
Wednesday, July 01, 2009
Because they like throwing manners to the wind. Because they're excellent at eavesdropping. Because they're great writers- particularly while on deadline.
And because when you're a journalist, you get to raid Moscow casinos in the middle of the night and tell the world about it.
Way to go Ana. Chapeau.
We've come a long way since Urbana-Champaign.
With deep admiration,