We had a feast last night--bread, butter, some type of lental/split pea soup, beef with garlic, rice, pan-fried fish, vegetables, and some chili (pili pili) sauce. To our surprise Godfrey made us some pudding. I am currently being told that it was a 'trifle'. It was a mild creamy custard tossed with fruits. There may also have been a biscuit crust. It was really good. He made it one other time during our stay on the northern beach at Malawi. I guess it is a fairly typical--and easy to make--english dish and it is oftentimes mixed with some type of liquor.
I had trouble falling asleep, probably becuase of the coffee I had at dinner. I had dozed-off for a little while getting ready for the night so I needed a little pickmeup to make it through my meal. I watched an episode of Doctor Who. I probably fell asleep for good around 1:00 or so?
SOME COMMENTS ON TRIP: Some things that come to mind about my trip that I have left out. I've been too preoccupied by recording the events that occured to discuss any of them in much detail. During my time at the Maasai Village we went to their primary school, which was a simple wooden building about the size of a small New York studio--probably even smaller (under 300 sq ft.?). It was positioned just outside their village's protective fence. The children were in the classroom counting aloud from 1 to 30. This was on Sunday and I have no clue if this means that the children attend school 7 days a week? Perhaps they were putting on a show for 'us'? There children were between 4 and 7 years old, but that's just a guess.
The children were happy to see us and were grabbing our arms, legs, and bodies. They would reach for my camera with their chubby little hands and try to grab it. They just wanted to see what I had and play with it. I took their photos and then bent down to show them their pictures. They giggled and make funny hand gestures (spasmatic almost) into the air, towards me, towards the camera. I accidentally bumped one of the young boys in the eye (or nose) with my camera eyecup and I saw that it hurt him. He started to cry but stopped within 2 seconds. Had this been in the states the kid would have cried for a while. Kids are tough here and to a similar degree in all of Africa. They do not have the support structure from their family/parents that we are used to here. I don't think I have seen one child cry during my time in Africa. I had noticed some eye gunk, or mucus, on my camera's eye piece--I wiped if off and hoped for the best. Many of these kids had yellowish-green mucus running completely down their noses--meeting their mouths. Like most of the children in Africa both the boys and girls had nearly shaved heads. The ringworm infections, which spotted their scalps, were clearly visable.
We we informed that the children must attend secondary school away from home. The goverment provides free schooling to the Maasai within the Ngorognoro Conservation Area. Becuase of the large area and the decentralized nature of the Maasai villages the kids must be boarded at the schools. Sending these children to boarding school, though free in tuition, ends up being very costly to the families. The families must pay for the children's books, transportation to/from the school, supplies, and a uniform. I asked why the children needed uniforms and the Chief's son explained it to us--it leveled all the children such that the kids could not distinguish which families were 'rich' and which were 'poor'. The reason I call out 'rich' and 'poor' is becuase these terms are relative to eachother. One cannot possibly understand what it means to be 'rich' or 'poor' in a given society/culture without some type of level-setting. Take this for level-setting--A family which owns 100 cattle is very 'wealthy' and they can afford to buy their child new shoes every few years. A 'poor' family...well...you can imagine how 'poor' they must be by comparison.
In the event that I ommited the type of shoes the Maasia wear, they have rubber thongs made from recycled automobile tires.
The Maasia don't actually eat the cattle, though they do own them--it is their main source of wealth. Their status and ability to find wives depends on their cattle. Also, the woman's family pays the man's family in cattle as a dowry. The Maasia own cattle (cow), goats, sheep, and donkies. They eat the goats and sheep. The man that was showing us his house told us they do NOT eat their cow, but Debby just informed me that her guide told her that they do eat them. The donkies are used for labor only. They do NOT eat chicken, eggs, veggies, or fruit! Sounds like a good diet to me ;). Just kidding, I am a rabbit--without veggies I wouldn't last 4 days. They do drink the blood from the cattle however and sell the cows once they have reached maturity. Cattle is one of their very few assets of the Maasai people.
It's 10:10am and we're en route to Nairobi--we've been on the road singe 7:45am. We stopped for 30 minutes so Godfrey could pick up something at DHL. We had 15-20 minutes to get out and look around. I left the truck to stretch my arms and buy a 1.5L cold bottle of water (cost was only 1,000 shilling or about $0.60).
On our way to the Tanzanian/Kenyan border we stopped on the road due to some commotion. A person had been stabbed and killed on the side of the road. The man was being carried out by 6 men. The police officers were there. A man stabbed the guy using a Maasai blade...the very same type that I bought the other day.
I knew I would have no issues taking the sword into the states, but I am not sure if I will be allowed to take it with me to Amsterdam. There are a few options I'm investigating:
A - I just take it with me, don't declare it, and hope it is not found
B - I take it with me declare it and convince the agents that it is a relic and not a weapon
C - I ship it back to myself while in Nairobi. This can be expensive, so I may want to buy 'more stuff' just so the fractional cost of the shipping to the entire cost of the goods is minimized.
D - I can take it with me and try to check it in a locker in London/Amsterdam and then pick it up on my way back to the states. This is the least likely option.
It's just before 1:00pm and we are not in Kenya. I had taken 0.5mgs of lorazepam and another 0.5mgs of alrazopan 4 or so hours ago. Appearantly these dosages are too low becuase I still feeel as if I can hike a mountain. I don't want to take any more even though we stil have 200kms through traffic until we arrive in Nairobi.
It's nice to be back on our truck--It's so much more 'enjoyable' than those 4x4s. Alot of this trip has involved viewing the countryside during long truckrides. Stamping out of Tanzania was simple, though we were queued in a line to get into Kenya for well over an hour. It moved slowly, the person working my line didn't speak english, and it was hot. Finally it was my turn, we had already filled out the extensive paperwork so the process once I was at the counter went reletively quickly. I paid $20USD for a transit visa and that was it. I am not sure for how long the transit visa is good, but I cannot imagine it is less than 1 night. My flight is just prior to midnight tomorrow so I will be checking out of the country on January 1st, 2014. The family of aussies (4) all bought single-entry visas which cost 2.5 times what the transit visas did. They are leaving at midnight on the 2nd. This just speaks to their mentality. They are such 'push overs' never wanting to take chances in life. If their flight is at midnight they have to be at the airport well before that and will have to stamp out tomorrow sometime. However they were worried that a transit may only be good for 24hrs. That ridiculousness is another prime example of the people on this trip. All passports are stamped with the same type of stamp. You know that type, it has the Money, Date, and Year--the same stamp your old librarian used to use on the punch cards in the back of your books. There is no mention of 'time' on a visa/passport so the idea of 24hrs vista is ludacrous. I know this all sounds like I'm being overly-critical, but you have to realize that these are just examples to help draw the picture of many of charecters we have on this trip. If America ever neded more land, Australia would probably tuck their tails between their legs, give us all their land, and then apologize for having been on it in the first place. I am not saying people should/need to break the rules to be decent people. But I DO expect people to think for themselves in a critical fashion and to stop being such goddamn pushovers. There are always pros and cons when traveling with a group, but it kind of sucks when many of the younger people traveling are mindless sheeple and their herding parents are opinionless pretentious sheep themselves.
On a side note: I love the ductch. True there are dutch people I'm not a fan of, but I've met so many along my travels to 'get' (or grok it - props if you get the R. Heinlein reference) their culture They share many similarities to Americans. Also, people who are from Berlin are crazy-cool.
On my way out of the Kenyan border crossing building I was being accosted by 16 women in Maasai shalls. I wanted to buy a couple bracelets so I offered them 300 Kenyan shillings (82 Kenyan shillings to the USD). They told me 1,000. After the useless back and forth dribble I got three bracelets for 300 shilling. Debby and Cara both counted 16 women...that's how many were trying to sell me their products. They were all the same--the products, not the women--and they would put the bracelets and necklaces on me and tell me how good they looked. Apparently they were not allowed to come onto the sidewalk of the immigration building because they were leaning towards me. I wish we were allowed to take pictures at border crossings because this would have been a site to remember.
We're back on the road and Godfrey has told us that the remaining 200kms will take 2-3 hours. We'll see if we arrive between 3 and 4 though.
|Debby and Vincent at our hotel in Nairobi, Kenya|
As usual we arrive later than we have been told. Today we get to the hotel around 4:15. About half of us stay here and the other half take taxis to their own accommodations. Nomad orinally stayed at another hotel, but due to the proximity of recent terrorist attack they moved their hotel of choice to this place, which is right in the city center. Debby, and Vincent are staying here. Cara and Stephanie need to find a place but most are far away and the few that are available are in unsafe areas. The cost for them to get a room here was $200. That is outragous compared to the $72 that I paid when I booked through Nomad. After much deliberation I extended them an offer to stay with me in my room--I had an extra bed for Stephanie. Cara stayed up all night becuase she had to leave before 3:00am to catch her 5:40am flight to Dubai. I had been looking forward to a night alone in peace and quiet with a room to myself--however I would not feel right for a couple of reasons. First, they should be able to feel safe, we ARE in Nairobi. Second, Debby and Vincent are both here and we are all planning on going out and spending new year's eve together.
|Street signs near our hotel in Nairobi, Kenya|
After laying my things down in my room I wrap up the chairs I bought with the 3 top sheets and blankets that I have been 'collecting' from various hotel rooms along my travels. It's pretty well packed, very heavy, and hopefully sturdy enough to survive the journey through the cargo bays of 4 flights.
I joined Vincent and Debby (as well as Tabby) in the bar for a drink. They were having chicken fingers and a beer--I had a Kenyan Pilsner beer for 350 shilling ~$4. These prices are a bit more expensive than what I'm used to but I ago along with it. Stephanie and Cara join us by the time I'm half done with my beer. We all chat for another 15 minutes. We talked about the tour and some of the people on the trip. We talk about how we all thought there would be more 'young' people on the trip and that the fact that not everyone camped in tents made things very hard for the campers. We decided it wasn't really the ages that would have made a difference, because Hans and Sonya were older and they embraced life to the fullest. They are such great people and we talked about how lucky we were to have met them.
|Bar in Nairobi, Kenya|
I paid my tab and then we all left (excluding Tabby) for the city. I finished my beer as we walked to the front gate and we gave the empty bottle to the guard in front. It was around 6:00 (or maybe just before) at this time. We walked into the city, over a bridge, and went directly to an ATM--I had changed money at the border though.
We walked around a bit and crossed a bar that we had all agreed to go and eat at. They served different meats straight off the grill. They offered them just as the skewers or as an accompaniment, which included a meager serving of some type of vegitable, and ugali (with is pap in Zimbabwe). Every country calls this 'ugali' dish something different. In place of the ugali you could also get chips (french fries) or rice.
We sat down and saw one other white guy in a field of black faces. He was sitting alone and we asked if he wanted to join us--he did. His name was Lawrence and he was from Norway. He had some free time back at home--so 2 weeks ago he bought a ticket to Nairobi. He's spending 3 weeks in Africa, but doesn't have an itinerary. He just come back from the Masa Mara and said it was great.
A SIDE NOTE: it's 7:40am Jan 1st, 2014 and I've been trying to get internet signal in my room. The ONLY place that I can comfortably be with signal is near the door. I have moved my bed 1m closer to the door and am laying down such that my tablet is in the most bottom right corner. If I move 2 feet away the signal drops to poor and if I move 5 feet away it's to week to connect. Fuck it, T.I.A. (this is Africa).
Ok, back to last night...through the course of the entire night, after leaving the hotel, I had 2 small castle lite beers, while the others (except for Stephanie) had quite a few more. I ordered the 1/4 chicken w/ ugali for 650 shilling (~$8.50 USD). It was pretty good, but a meager portion, for me that is. After a bit I ordered a skewer of chicken giblets. I've never had these and wanted to try them. They were tough with not much flavor. Sort of grissely. I tried to ask what it was but they couldn't give me a straight answer. I think they were chicken kidneys, but I'm not positive.
After I was seated I had gotten up to look at the food on the grill. During my walk back to my table 2 women, who were sitting in a group of 6, called me over. There was a man with the ladies dressed as tacky as ever. They were asking me where I was from and how long I've been here. They were being very flirtatious and asked what I was doing tonight. I told them I was with friends. They both asked if they could come and join us--I told them we are a close group of friends and don't have any room at our table. One of their names was Beverly--I can't recall the name of the other. I said I have been in Africa for well over 3 weeks and asked them what I should do tomorrow. They told me to go to the Masa Mara. I told them that I was flying out during the evening and would not have the time. They asked if I like to have fun--I knew where this conversation was going before it started but I still wanted to treat these 'ladies of the night' with respect. I told them I didn't understand. Then they told me they can take me around tomorrow. They smiled and said "you like fucking?". I smiled and said I didn't understand. They said "[they] will fuck me really good". I thanked them for the gesture but said that I would have to pass They asked if I was a virgin and I asked them if I looked like I was a virgin and they laughed. I was still standing up at this point in the main hall of the outdoor bar we were in--only 5-8 meters away from my table so I knew my safety wasn't an issue. They asked again and then asked why not? I told them I had a girlfriend and explained how this type of thing is wrong. They asked why again, as if they didn't fully understand. I told them that my heart is with her and that it would hurt her and that I would not want her doing the same thing to me. They looked at eachother and it was at this time that I saw them for who they truly were. They stopped trying to push themselves on me and told me that I was a good person. They said that "my type" was rare. They looked at me as if they thought I had just sacrificed myself for all humanity. The sole fact that these women stopped trying to hook and respected what I told them helped me to realize that these women are just trying to make a living. They are not moraly bankrupt but enterprising women. I told them it was a pleasure talking to them and that I hope they have a good night. As I walked back to my table they said goodbye and I told them to be safe.
Back at my table we chatted about...well everything. We saw a very tall and very black man that was dressed in green army fatigues. He wore a red berret and was held up by two canes that had arm cuffs. When I looked down I noticed he was missing his left foot. A man had apprached me and told me ths guy was from the South Sudan and was very upset about the war going on--I am assuming he was involved in the war given his stature, clothing, and injury. I guess the Sudanese are known for beeing VERY tall.
Cara had wanted a smoke and she had gone over to a table to ask this lady for a smoke. However there is something you need to know about Nairobi, and Africa to a lesser degree. Women don't go out. You see swarms of men together--sometimes you see a man and a women together but they don't sit together like we do in the west. The concept of dating doesn't really hold here. When women 'go out' they typically are out in a groups and often are accompanied by 'one' man. This is the typical pimp/prostitute set up. As I looked around it amazed me that at least 80% of the women in this bar were hookers. I think Cara's gesture to go over to the man's table and ask for a light gave the wrong impression.
About 15 minutes after she had walked over to the table the man came to our table and asked me to 'box it' which mean to bump his fist. It's like when we say 'bump it'. He asked if could speak to me privately...I obliged him. He said men are visual creatures and other things that seemed half poetic and half nonsensical, but I knew what he was implying. He was trying to be smooth about it and trust me he was...very smooth about it. A translation of his pimp-tastical rhetoric went more or less like this, "I like how the woman sitting across from you looks, what is her situation?" I am about 75% sure this man was asking if she was available for the night? I thought it was creepy but I can't blame him. I mean typically when there are 3 guys out with 3 girls the last thing these people would expect is that they just friends or that some of them are 'dating'. The assumption here is that we are currently being 'entertained' by some and the other women may just be there awaiting future business oppourtunities. I said she is not intersted and he got the message and laughed and shook my hand again. He left and went back to his table. He approached me 2 or 3 more times over the course of the next 2 hours. Each time his approach was different, but I respected him for the fact that he didn't go up to Cara or any of the other girls directly. The more I am thinking about it I don't think he did this on their behalf. I am quite certain it was that he did not want to show disrespect towards me.
|Dancers in a bar on new year's eve in Nairobi, Kenya|
There was a live band playing. There was a guitarist, bass player, a drummer, and at least 8 other people who just danced. They were all dressed in yellow shirts and the the dancers were just terrible. Their moves were rythmic, but simple and silly. They were acting as they were 'the shit' though. They all had the fake gold chains, flat brimmed hats, sagging pants, rediculous belt buckles, etc. that you would come to expect. It was a great pleasure watching them. There weren't people dancing, but this is probably typical since, like I said, women don't go out here in Africa. One tall man in a muslim-style tunnic and hat danced alone for a bit and then sat down. There was, however, 1 older woman dancing by herself. She left NOTHING to the imagination as our new friend Lawrence had pointed out. She was unattractive, had a large belly, and was letting nothing get the way of her having a good time. We enjoyed watching her dance. I had wanted to go back and the rest said they would accompany me. I told them I was fine to catch a cab alone. Debby told me that it is customary in Holland that "those who go out together leave together". I thanked them and we took a taxi back to our hotel.
For 500 shillings we managed to get 6 of us inside a small taxi cab. The driver wasn't happy about this. Back at the hotel we sat at the outside restaurant. We had joined the two from Costa Rica and Tabby. They had beers and some light fares. I had chocolate icecream. Yum! I went up around 10:45 to relax. I was dosing on and off. Stephanie and Cara had showered, I wont shower here--too much work. Just before midnight I had forced myself to get up and go into the hallway and shake Tabby's hand and tell Vincent and Debby "Happy New Year". I then went back to bed and passed out.
I must have been sleeping deeply becuase I didn't hear when Cara had left at 3:00am or when Stephanie had left at 6:00am. I woke up just before 7:00am.