“Well only the curious have something to find.
 It’s foreign on this side…”

While descriptions of visits/meetings in Nairobi pertaining to our research will be documented more specifically in other posts, I’d like to focus on the bigger picture we have been experiencing here in Kenya. 

We all met up Wednesday night at the Nairobi airport, with various flying horror stories to share.  Our group met up with the Penn State Berks group outside of the airport, where our various sized luggage was being put into a large van, here so commonly referred to as a “matatu.”  This was the first of many, MANY, matatu rides in Nairobi.  After introductions between the Ag kids and the Berks Kids, we mutually looked around and giggled: every person’s stomach was grumbling… some with anticipation, while others were a simple sign of sheer hunger. 

Upon arrival to the downtown side street where our two hotels were (we were not able to all fit in one hotel), we took a quick walk to the ATM and to Tusky’s—a local grocery store chain. I was surprised to find that some things manufactured here are commonly found in United States grocery stores.  Not many…but some.  Others, however, seem to be branded to be similar to foods seen in the States. We learned quickly that the dollar is pretty strong here—about 80 to 1—and while saving money is great for us, to everyone else we were walking dollar signs.  We stick out like sore thumbs everywhere we go.

Thursday was filled up with our trips to KARI and Helen Keller International, followed by our first Kenyan dinner. Goat was on the menu, a first for the majority of us I would assume.  We also ate Ugali—a Kenyan staple similar to grits…really sticky; yet dry at the same time.  Let’s be honest, when it comes to food, ask Dan (he has been keeping track of every meal and has been trying everything)…my personal pallet is what some would call “immature.”

Friday, in between our visits to KEFRI and Amirain Kenya Ltd., we took an impromptu stop at the giraffe sanctuary. We were all pretty excited; it was the first tourist activity of the trip! Jetlag plagued us, giraffe’s were the antidote.  With unlimited supplies of giraffe feed, we were off to coax over the gargantuan forces.  Brad (grad student and certified camera man), as usual, was on camera duty, documenting the hilarity that was about to ensue.  He has been doing a great job documenting not only the business development aspect of the trip, but also the personal and tourist developments of our group as a whole as well.

 We first started off just feeding the giraffe by hand with nervous excitement—the giraffes were just huge! Each giraffe was named, and would respond to their name when called.  I thought they would have some complicated native name, but I was completely wrong.  We met four giraffes during our hour at the center: Jock, Laura, Mable, and Betty (Jock and Betty named for the founders of the center).  Being this close to such a large, live, mass would make any new person a bit nervous. Plus, the sign a top the gazebo structure we were feeding the giraffes from specifically said to watch out for head butts!  Slowly, we each became more comfortable with these massive creatures.  We had the option to put the giraffe feed in between our lips, as to ask the giraffe for a “kiss.” With feed in lips, the giraffes would stick out their foot-long tongues for a full facial, sweeping the feed right off our lips! I’m sure we each have great pictures of giraffe kisses to share upon our return.  There were also warthogs living in the same reserve as the giraffes, I thought they were kind of cute (real life pumba)! 

For more information on the sanctuary, click the link below.  http://www.africanmeccasafaris.com/kenya/nairobi/excursions/giraffecenter.asp

On Saturday, we the morning at a large tourist market in Nairobi buying scarves, jewelry, and other locally made crafts.  Afterwards, we walked over to the Nairobi National Museum.  The museum focused mostly on general human history at first (since it is here the origins of life are said to have begun), and then shifted onto recent history, tribal history, environmental history, and onto current conflict.  The museum was very empty; we were, perhaps, the only group there.  It was interesting to compare what would be seen in a museum, say in Washington D.C. to that of Nairobi. The exhibits were much simpler, the museum less manicured, and the human traffic within the museum non-existent. 

After the museum, we settled in for a long matatu ride up to Nyeri.  We stopped about an hour and a half into the rocky ride at Blue Post: a nice resort-like area and home to Thika Falls.  We took some magnificent photographs, and spent about an hour sitting outside for a short snack and drink, taking some time to enjoy the lush nature.  Even though Nairobi was busy and crowded and stuffy and filled with smog; and even though we were so excited to finally get settled into the CYEC, we would each miss Nairobi a little bit.  Our first mental images of Kenya are of Nairobi.  Our first experiences as a group, serious and not-so-serious, are in Nairobi.  Our relationships started to form and blossom in Nairobi.  Plus, we ALL would miss our daily Java (the BEST coffee shop) trips!

It is safe to say that every day, aside from curriculum material and research, we are learning something new. We spend hours, usually during meal time, talking about the things we are seeing, doing, and experiencing here in Kenya…especially now that we are at the CYEC.  For most of us, this is the first time taking on a project of such magnitude, and I can personally say all the unstructured debriefing is helping tremendously in the adjustment and comfort process.  Each day we are becoming more of a cohesive group, learning and growing…about ourselves, each other, the youth in the center, and what life must be like in a developing country.

Written By: Brett Promisloff

And, with each ending blog post, I propose a song to describe the current state of our group as a whole.  We are in constant learning and transition.  But, while we are nervous at times, we are not the type to back down in the face of a challenge…and this much we know:

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