Thursday, August 27, 2009

Baby Elephants, Giraffes, and More

Nicole: We left the giraffe center in the late afternoon and decided that it was time to get some lunch. Karis wanted us to go somewhere nice for lunch so we went back to Nairobi National Park, where the Animal Orphanage is located. They have three restaurants there so we went to the one that we parked closest to. As it was a beautiful day, we sat outside and dined on some American type food. Although they tried their best to make our food the American way, it lacked any flavor.

After lunch, which took awhile to prepare and receive, we went to the Bomas of Kenya. This is a place where different cultural practices, dances, music, and ways of living are displayed. We walked around and saw homes from different tribal groups of Kenya and other East African countries. These are not the homes that you live in but rather small huts. Looking at these huts made me realize how much stuff I have and how different my lifestyle is than the traditional African lifestyle. The huts varied from region to region and village to village but basically all of the displays had huts for the ‘boys,’ ‘husband,’ ‘first wife,’ ‘second wife,’ third wife,’ as well as small stores for each of the three wives.

From the huts, we went inside the auditorium where we watched some drumming, dancing, and singing by tribal people. The best performance was saved for last and was an acrobatic performance. It was absolutely incredible. The acrobats jumped through small hula hoop type things, made pyramids while standing up, and did all sorts of other amazing tricks. They ended with playing limbo with fire on the limbo stick. They kept lowering the limbo stick and eventually put the firey stick on top of two glass soda bottles. The acrobat successful made it under the stick and amazed all of the audience.

Following the visit to the Bomas of Kenya, we went to Prestige which is where a supermarket and a few other little shops are located. On Sundays, a bunch of independent vendors set out their goods on the balcony near the supermarket and sell art, traditional clothing, jewelry, and other items. Melissa and I walked around and saw all of the displays before starting our shopping. We were called over to each of the shops by the owners and told that we should buy from them. We had to repeatedly tell them that we were only looking first as they didn’t understand why we wouldn’t start picking out what we wanted to purchase.

We were lucky to have Karis with us. Before going to Prestige, we gave Karis money and he told us that he would negotiate prices for us as we would get ripped off due to our white skin color. After walking around and seeing all that the vendors had to offer, we started picking out what we wanted. We picked out things from many different vendors and sent Karis to go from vendor to vendor and figure out how much we owed each of them. The vendors stayed late as we were still there and they hoped that we would continue shopping. We felt good that we got some beautiful things for good prices and that in the process we were able to put money in many different people’s hands.

On Monday, we were picked up by Karis in hopes of going to the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage. This orphanage is only open for one hour a day so we had a strict timeline. Unfortunately traffic was horrible and we had to make a stop on the way so we did not make it to the orphanage in time. We decided that we would try again the next day and instructed Karis to pick us up promptly at 10am as the orphanage is only open from 11am – 12 noon.

After our unsuccessful visit to the elephant orphanage, we went to the Nairobi National Museum where we viewed some artwork and historical artifacts from Kenya.

On Tuesday, we made it to the elephant orphanage early. We didn’t face much traffic as Tuesday was declared a national holiday as the census was being taken. We waited with about 75-100 other visitors to the orphanage until the gates were opened. We stood around the rope and waited until the baby elephants appeared. Finally, a number of baby elephants came out with the trainers. The elephants were so tiny. I didn’t even realize that elephants could be this small. They were bottle fed and walked around, allowing some people to pet them. Three different groups of elephants were brought out as the orphanage separates the elephants based on their age. The orphanage only allows visitors for an hour a day as the staff works to nurture and provide medical care to the elephants, rehabilitate them, and then release them back to the wild. They do not want the elephants to become too used to humans as they hopefully will not interact with humans in the wild. I say that they will hopefully not interact with humans because some of the elephants that are in the orphanage are there because they have been injured by poachers. Other elephants are in the orphanage because they fell in a well or due to attack from other animals such as hyenas. The orphanage responds immediately to calls regarding injured elephants and sends out a helicopter to go and bring the elephant to the orphanage so that he/she can immediately start receiving the needed medical attention. Following the visit of the elephants, a baby rhino was brought out. The rhino is apparently a very aggressive animal and for that reason, he was not allowed to interact with the visitors as much as the elephants did.

After this trip to the elephant orphanage, we returned to the house to meet Nyambura and Patrick as we were heading to Nakuru National Park for a safari.

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