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Pictures are posted!

Posted by: | September 24, 2009 | 2 Comments |

Check out pictures from the Kenya trip at flickr.

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The msafiri is home! (Part 2)

Posted by: | September 15, 2009 | 6 Comments |

After lunch, Wambua walked us through a part of Kibera Slum, the second biggest slum in Africa (the first is Soreto in South Africa). It covers an area of 170 sq km, contains over 1.2 million people, and is featured in the movie The Constant Gardener, if you are interested. Most of the residents are Kenyans that have moved to the city to find work, and looked for the cheapest living they could find. The word “slum” implies to us danger and crime, but actually, in Kibera it’s a strong community of families that help each other survive. Quick summary of the living conditions: open sewage running into the Nairobi river, kids running around in rags, 5′x5′ tin houses that house several families, and feral dogs.

Thank you all for following along on my adventures–I can’t tell you how much I appreciated your support. Kenya has been an amazing experience, and I’ve learned a lot about the goodness of people, the importance of patience, and the overwhelming necessity to not take things for granted. As Americans we have the most and expect the most, and it’s critical to take a step back to realize just how privileged we are. And hopefully that will lead us to share the wealth, because it’s just wrong to allow billions to live in poverty while we have more money than we know what to do with (ie, the $100 that one spends on a pair of shoes could feed a family for several months–so are those shoes really that important?). The problem is though, that you can’t donate people out of poverty; you have to find ways to increase their income sustainably and on their own terms. Otherwise, once the aid money runs out, the poor are back to square one. This explains how in the last 40 years, over 500 billion has been poured into Africa. And what is there to show for it? More people and more poverty. We have to think of innovative ways to help the farmer to make more money from his crops, and allow the urban Kenyan to start a small business. If we could as a country, ask more of ourselves than just donating money and hoping for a quick fix, we could go far in alleviating many of the world’s problems.

Once again, thanks for reading! I will be posting pictures ASAP.

Love you all!!

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The msafiri is home! (Part 1)

Posted by: | September 15, 2009 | No Comment |

Hello from Oregon!

35 hours of traveling halfway across the world, and I’m back home. I arrived Saturday night and have been recovering from jet lag since then (I woke up wide-eyed at 4 this morning, which was nice).

My last day in Kenya was quite eventful. As I’ve learned to do in Kenya, I expected the worst and was pleasantly surprised that everything worked out. My friend Alan traveled with me for the day, and we took a matatu to Nairobi from Nakuru early Friday morning. Our friend Wambua met us and we rented a taxi for the day. We first went to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, in which they raise 27 orphaned baby elephants and one adorable 3-month-old black rhino. The keepers brought out the stumbling little elephants for the feeding hour, in which the elephants suckled from big milk bottles and wallowed in the mud puddle, falling all over each other.

After the Orphanage, Alan and I enjoyed a lunch at the ridiculous tourist restaurant, The Carnivore. Considering I was a vegetarian for 13 years before I came to Kenya, I just decided, what the heck, let’s go all out. So we gorged ourselves on about 15 different types of meat, ranging from beef to chicken livers to ostrich meatballs. I felt myself slipping into what Alan described as a “meat coma”, which was quite a new experience for me. As game hunting is illegal in Kenya, The Carnivore imports exotic game meat from South Africa. Game management can play a very important role in managing wildlife, and since the law banning hunting was passed in the 70s, both Kenya’s wildlife and economy has suffered. The National Parks have too many herbivores, and since they can’t crop or cull the populations, the animals are starving to death. How starvation is a more humane death than hunting, I don’t know. Even so, the government keeps the law in place largely because of bribes and political pressure from International Animal Welfare groups that are funded by donors who love their pets and therefore don’t want zebras to be hunted, even though it would be for the benefit for the population and the environment. Even The Carnivore restaurant is under pressure to stop importing game meat, which explains why we only could get farmed ostrich meatballs instead of zebra or wildebeest.

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Leopards and Goodbyes

Posted by: | September 10, 2009 | No Comment |

I fly home tomorrow! I can’t even believe it. Nine weeks have gone by and now it’s time to return home to school and (real, paid) work. I’m ready though. Ready to have refrigeration, showers, a schedule, and NO FLIES. The flies have seriously got to me more than anything else here. I don’t mind roughing it at all, but the flies are killer.

This past week has been filled with goodbyes and wrapping things up. Dr. Julian Fennessy of The Giraffe Conservation Foundation came out for a few days and helped me finish up the giraffe stuff. Our particular species of giraffe, the Rothschild’s giraffe, only has 750 remaining worldwide and has never been studied. Julian hopes to turn my project into a long-term study that he can use as background data to try to get the Rothschild giraffe listed as an endangered species. He also helped us start up a habitat assessment, where we set up GPS plots around the lake to measure the amount of bark stripping on the yellow fever acacia trees.

On a different note, we went on a night game drive to days ago and were ridiculously lucky, as usual, and pulled up right next to a huge male leopard that had just killed a big impala that was still kicking. It was so AMAZING! We watched him for over an hour as he protected his kill from several spotted hyenas, and dragged it over the bush and up a steep rock face.

I’m in Nakuru tonight saying my goodbyes, and then tomorrow I head to Nairobi for some tourist stuff before beginning my 30 hour trip home at midnight. Wish me luck, and see you all soon!

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Giraffes and Lake Nakuru

Posted by: | September 5, 2009 | 2 Comments |

Hello all!!

Sorry I haven’t been able to write, I don’t have Internet here at Soysambu so this is a special occasion. Things here have been going wonderfully. Everything has come together on the giraffe project, and we did a habitat assessment a few days ago to record data about damage on the yellow fever acacia trees. The giraffe are stripping the bark off the trees, to the extent that it is potentially harming the entire acacia forest. Other than that, I spent a few days last week bedridden because I had the absolute worst sunburn of my life. Intelligent me, I laid out by the Delamere’s Pool all day without sunscreen, forgetting that we are at the equator and at 6000 feet. I’ve finally recovered though and can walk fine now. :)

Yesterday I had a wonderful surprise and was able to visit lake Nakuru national park! In my last week in Kenya, I finally get to enter the park that I came here to work at. It was amazing. We saw both black and white rhino amongst thousands of flamingos, and had brunch amongst a herd of giraffe and a troop of baboons. To top the day off, it was our boss Kat’s birthday yesterday so we had sundowner drinks by the lake, and then headed into a nearby town for more drinks. Didn’t return until 4 am, which is absolutely unheard of considering I go to bed at 9 PM here. Great fun though. The club we went to is a little slab of England in rural Kenya, as there is an English boarding school across the street. I haven’t been around that many white people for 2 months now! It was a bit strange, I must admit.

I leave next Friday! I will definitely miss Kenya but am really looking forward to seeing everyone and having the comforts of living in the first world again. It’s going to be a shocker, though. I won’t be able to write again until I’m home, but I will send another email and photos later.

I cannot wait to see you all!

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