Today is day 3 of our trip and we are in Nairobi, but headed to Arusha Tanzania for the first leg of our safari. We slept at least 12 hours- me more like 13- and i had weird dreams. I can’t really describe them but Bryan said I was talking a bit in my sleep.
Brekky at the hotel was really impressive- the second most impressive buffet, only to the one in Borneo which was like a circus. This one offered a great variety of things including some fresh squeezed juice- I had passion fruit and Bryan had mango. My favorite thing however was the honey display which actually held a large piece of honeycomb from which the honey dripped into a chute and into the serving bowl. I am not huge into honey, but Bryan said it was impressive enough he felt the need to try it.
They cooked eggs however you liked- i would have liked eggs bennedict but I didn’t really want to take the extra time so got an omelette with tomatoes and cheese. The cheese is a bit different, not sure which, but a bit bitey like brie. Not totally my fav but it was good. One of the servers came around with a small wooden box and it had little egg and cheese sandwich bites, which we tried too./ I also sampled some cakes and breads and a mini donut. The coffee was good- which I would hope so considering Kenya is a major producer of coffee…and the sugar seemed to be farmed in Maasi Mara.
We didn’t stay long as we wanted to have time for the museum, but we went back upstairs to pack and leave our luggage at the hotel while we did the museum. They told us we should take a taxi, as although it is literally 2 blocks away, it was 2 very awkward blocks- where the highway was on different levels and we’d have to cross it and a busy roundabout. There are no sidewalks either, so probably best not to get hit by a car on our first day here!
At the museum they took our water, which I thought was strange as there is really nothing you could do to damage anything inside- it is pretty run down and looks as though it has not changed since the 70’s. It wasn’t a security thing as we didn’t have to go through any metal detectors etc- although the front gate is guarded and you must be buzzed in. When we bought our tickets we also gt an add-on for the snake farm next door which is a mini reptile zoo of sorts, so we could learn about all the snakes that we might see that could kill us ;)The concierge asked if we wanted a guide and we said yes if this was not an inconvenience. We could certainly see the museum ourselves but I knew we’d get much more out of it with a guide to ask questions to and to get some of the history we would otherwise lack.
Our guide was named Harbil, a thin guy in his early 20’s and he was very nice. He spoke well, and although his accent was a bit hard to understand he was well educated on the material for sure.
He first showed us a gourd display which had one half a gourd at the top pouring down 8 rails into a larger pile of them at the bottom. Each rail represented the different regions of Kenya and there were gourds from each of the different tribes/ cultures at the bottom. The one gourd at the top represents the one government that guides them all. Harbil seemed surprised when I asked for him to be in a picture- and he didn’t always make eye contact when talking, like he remembered better if he wasn’t looking at you- which he carried over into the picture;)
He explained a lot about the cultures and the animals, evolution and the animals we’d see especially in Kenya. Then we got to the cultural part where it described some of the different traditions, garb, tools and jewelry of the different aspects of life, from birth to adulthood.
We started at adulthood where there was a display of some traditional garb that people would wear to identify being married as well as some of the tools a, as well all the pictures were pretty old and faded and wares they’d need to keep household going. We also saw they “headstones” they’d make out of very hard wood that you only get if you’ve lived to 70 or beyond. If you’re 69 then too bad! They looked like tall thin people with cloth ribbons wrapped around them, and they seemed more interesting than a typical stone one.
The baby and childhood periods were a mix of old and new and this is where i feel the age and upkeep of the museum was somewhat sad. Everything was pretty dusty and the uniforms they included for the display were very worn and had holes and all the pics were pretty faded. I am sure that the museum is not a huge moneymaker, and maybe not even a huge draw, but they could use some sprucing up- even repainting as all the posters describing the skulls of different eras of homo habilus and beyond, were written all over. Even the pedestals they skulls sat on was cut raw foam with nothing on it even still with the marker lines from how it was cut. it seems too bad no one though to just lay a nice fabric over them to make it appear a bit nicer. Of course this is not that i care per se, just that it seems to cheapen the history and significance of what is being displayed.
Anyway, when we got to the teenage/ coming of age section, they showed the different tools they use for the circumcision customs done for males 16-21. I asked why the range and Harbil said it has to do with maturity and fortitude- basically if someone 16 can withstand the quests required of the warriors then they can be initiated as adults then, but for others it takes more time and maybe even more than one try before they reach this milestone. I am not sure of some of the tests they are required to do, but he noted for example if you are required to go out in the bush and run for 3 hours and when you come back you are not totally exhausted then perhaps you can do your ceremony- but if you don’t make the 3 hour run and have to come back- or you’re collapsing when you get back- you’re not ready yet.
This is where he made note of the female circumcision custom which has thankfully been done away with- at least by law, although not always in practice. The thing is circumcising a male is very different than a female and it is really not circumcision at all but genital mutilation…which is really pretty barbaric. Even if it is their choice and their culture, just because it was done before doesn’t mean it should be- especially when there’s a lot of the “well i had to so the youth should too” from the elders. Not necessarily that they enjoyed it- especially a life of no sexual enjoyment- but perhaps exactly because they don’t know what that really means and how they have been denied a basic human right.
So now rather than do that they celebrate their womanhood in other ways and they have new traditions of costume and dress to support that- different kinds of adornments and such.
Then we got to the more historical part which is always frustrating: the colonial tyranny and injustice. For example, the British came in with their written treaties and proclamations and “tricked” the natives into signing with their thumbprints- signing over all rights to everything that was theirs and to ensure free slave labor to boot. Should anyone have disagreed and decided they were skeptical or refused to sign, well they just killed them. At some of the farms and such they offered the workers no pay or food- and wondered why they ran away…so instituted an ID policy to catch them, because you know that makes so much more sense than just paying and or feeding the people doing work for you.
This kind of stuff makes me absolutely insane- perhaps even more so now with Trump, as his policies and decrees are not so far off from the colonial- or frankly- dictatorship- mindset. I guess instead of using slave labor Trump just separates their families and kicks them out of the country after detaining them in deplorable conditions- which makes it a little better…yeah. not really.
One of the most interesting things we learned about was the Mau Mau resistance, where the native cultures were trying to earn some kind of say in government and rule, to achieve freedom from the British oversight in the 50’s. Mau Mau stands for “Mzungu Aende Ulaya. Mwafrika Apate Uhuru”, which translates to “Whites go back [to] Europe. Africans get back [our] freedom.”
I will have to go over more of the history we learned but once independence was achieved the Kenyan flag was established. It is red, black, white and green. The black stands for the black people of the country. Red for the blood that was shed and green for the lush vegetation. The white stripes between stand for peace and the spears offer protection for the nation. The phrase “Harambee” is also on the office seal, which means togetherness.
Jomo Kenyatta was the first president of Kenya, and oddly enough his son is the current one. There were some pretty bad leaders in between but they seem pleased with their current leader.
Harbil taught me a few other Swahili words like ndio, which means yes, and hakuna (as in hakuna matata) which means no.
We gave him a good tip and he seemed happy. He showed us where we needed to go to see the snakes.
Next we went onto the snake farm to see some of the poisonous snakes in the area. Our guide was Mike and he seemed very enthusiastic about the animals. We saw all the very dangerous ones, which ones will paralyze you (forever), and which have no anti-venom. Some spit their venom- which you have to wash your eyes out really fast or you will go blind…
They also had some crocs, including an albino one- and an alligator. We got to hold a python and some tortoises too. The was a milk snake which I didn’t know they had here- to which Mike said they don’t, this one was seized when someone from the states sent it to a girlfriend here for a present. I thought that was very odd both that a girl wanted a snake present and that someone actually sent a snake to Africa. It isn’t like it was a bunny, or some kind of animal you can’t get here…
At the end Mike earnestly thanked us for listening to him, as he said many people don’t pay attention or care what he’s saying. I find this a bit shocking, although I probably shouldn’t. People nowadays have the attention span of a gnat, but really? This guy is here giving you a personal tour and you can’t bother to pay attention to him? Wow. People have sunk to a new low…we LOVE learning things and asking questions about what we see- I honestly can’t imagine why you’d spend all the money to travel to Africa or wherever if you don’t actually want to see/ learn anything…
We had to get back to the hotel so Harbil called them for us and they sent a driver. There was a bit of confusion as the driver had parked and we were sitting waiting, but we got it sorted out. We drove the whole block back (but again, two busy roundabouts and different levels of roads) and pretty much just piled our stuff back into the car and headed off to the airport.
The activity and the environment seem a lot like Madagascar around Tana, only there are no brick makers, that were so plentiful there. People set up anywhere on the street and sell their goods and at some intersections or when traffic is stopped they try to sell things through the window. I was surprised to see cheap, small plastic soccer balls and weird inflatable things, wondering who their target audience is. Certainly these are not things tourists would find interesting as they could get them at the dollar store…and do local people driving by really just randomly buy a soccer ball toy for their kids?
He dropped us off at the airport and we ended up going to the wrong line- but thankfully as we were about to go in, they sent us to a different door down the way. Here, they do security screening before you even get inside the airport- which was so stress free and efficient. I think it’s the easiest security check we have ever had!
We checked our bags and went through another easy security screening to get to our gate. We were hungry so we ate our stale bagels and questionable cream cheese, rather than just throw them out. I joked we needed the nut cracking muscles/ jaw of the “cavemen” we saw at the museum to eat them! But it was better than just throwing them away for no reason.
The gate is one of those where they check you in at the door and once you’re inside you are “secure”. so basically the gates aren’t open where you can walk up to any, like you can at most US airports. You get to your gate, get checked in and then you’re in another room.
It was pretty hot in there, but thankfully we didn’t have to wait long. They ushered us onto a transport bus- where we did have to wait too long and it was pretty hot- as well, the fumes from the exhaust were making me feel sick. There were a bunch of Spanish families and I was somewhat eavesdropping on them. I always like to test what I remember and how well I can comprehend it when I hear it. I studied for so long, but never really put ti to too much use, so I seem to understand far more than I could ever consider speaking.
It seemed like way too long, but finally the bus started moving and drove us to the plane waiting on the tarmac. We boarded from the back- but Bryan and I had row 2, which was weird, since those are usually first class seats. There was no such thing on this plane- it wasn’t a big one, probably held 50 or 60 people. A Spanish family was struggling with a much too large carry on and they were trying to get it under the seat- which physics was just never going to allow. Even the airline attendant was fussing with it, when they should have just taken it beforehand and tagged for under the plane…which was of course what they had to do.
It is a pet peeve of mine when people play with their phones, movies or games out loud on a plane as this is really not allowed, but sure enough the Spanish kids played some super annoying video game the whole time and no one stopped him. I was too tired to bother myself and instead i just read for a bit and dozed off. The flight was only 45 minutes, so whatever.
When we got off the plane we could only see the bottom and a tiny bit of the top of Kilimanjaro, as the majority of it was covered in clouds. We hoped we’d get to see a bit of it, but who knows. We were travelling to Arusha, which was about an hour from this airport, so if not now, maybe on the way back.
The customs form was pretty easy and as there weren’t many people it was pretty swift getting through- not stressful. We debated about getting money exchanged but we figured we’d mostly be on safari, we wouldn’t need much….however, that would prove a stupid choice and frankly, I know better…
Our bags made it here too and so we went to the bathroom and outside to meet our driver. I don’t know if we caught his name, but he said it would be about an hour and we set off.
We passed many fields of sunflowers, which was a bit unexpected. There was corn too, but SO many sunflowers. I asked if this was a major export for Tanzania, and he said yes, mostly to Europe and the Middle East. I had no idea!
It was getting dark as we got into town but it was a hoppin’ place, very busy even as it got dark. Our hotel was called the Green Mountain Lodge and seemed nice. The people were very friendly and showed us to our room. It was a pretty standard room, with a tiny bathroom, where the door opened and whacked the sink- so you could not stand at the sink and open the door. The shower part was just next to the toilet with no specific designation/ barrier, much like the rooms we’d had in Borneo. Basically you just get the toilet wet when showering and everything goes down the drain in the corner.
We went to dinner downstairs which had a good selection of vegetarian items, so we chose veggie samosas and veggie curry- both of which were very good. We were pretty tired and had to be ready by 6, which had changed suddenly from 830, so it’s a good thing Bryan had logged into his email to receive the change or we’d have been late!
We were too tired for shower, but got ready for bed without unpacking too much. I was surprised when they complimentary toiletries had my name on them?! It was so strange as 2 of them were named jme and one was something else entirely.
After rearranging our stuff and trying to make sure we were mostly packed up, we just laid down to try and sleep…but this hotel was pretty loud. Not only was the area loud, with cars, barking dogs and people talking, but the halls of the hotel itself were tile and the doors wood, so everything echoed and the doors slammed.
We both shoved our earplugs in and went to sleep. We had an early ride to the Serengeti!