I had a thrilling trip to Africa, and then Paris afterwards, and it's very disappointing to be home. Trip lag, I call it. I still keep looking around, expecting to see giraffes and lions and elephants, but alas, only at the zoo now. I'm still waking up on weekends, thinking why don't we go to the Louvre today.
We (my boyfriend, John, and I) were in Kenya most of the time, touring the game parks in a van and bicycling through towns and the countryside and wildlife areas where the potential danger level wasn't supposed to be so high. The vans have roofs that pop up so that you can stand up and take photographs. In a little over two weeks I took 37 rolls of photographs. No, that's not a typo, that's thirty-seven. John calculated that I took one photograph every 12.25 minutes of my waking hours. However, since I hardly took any photographs after dark - and it got dark there at about 6:30 p.m. - my actual average rate was even more accelerated.
But there was so much to see. The wildebeest migration was in progress, and there were places on the broad plain of the Masai Mara where you could see tens of thousands of these odd creatures, stretching out to the line of the horizon. Small bands of zebras travelled with them for protection, and they seemed not to mind or to even notice them.
The lions were sated, with so much fodder around. We encountered one group of them, feasting on the carcass of a wildebeest. Most of the lions we saw, though, were just strolling around or lazing in the grass, as though posing for photographs. One pair of them decided to have sex in front of the audience in our van. Quite the anticlimactic performance - it lasted about five seconds, if that, before the male lion yowled and backed away, and then both of them acted like nothing had happened.
We saw herds of elephants, maybe forty of them altogether one time. Elephants can't see that well, and there was one particular elephant in this group who (I think to get a better look) kept coming closer and closer to the van. I kept taking photographs until I could see the wrinkles on its eyelids and then its trunk rose up toward me and I jumped back down inside the van mighty quickly.
We were of minor celebrity status in the towns we bicycled through. Children ran out of their houses to the side of the road to greet us. Most of them were very poor and wore ragged clothes with no shoes and had no toys. Their favorite gift items were balloons and pencils. We stocked up on these but often it was difficult to stop and hand them out, as there were too many children - even if we had enough items to go around, they'd start fighting with each other, the larger children trying to take things from the smaller ones. We'd try to resolve these disputes and then meanwhile more children would keep appearing. I caused a few minor riots before learning my lesson. It was just amazing to us that balloons and pencils could be valued so highly to be worth crying and fighting over.
Most of the Kenyans couldn't afford to pay for any form of transportation, even the hot, uncomfortable, overcrowded buses. So they walked wherever they had to go. The women appeared to be doing much of the work, carrying heavy loads of wood or water, as burdenless men strolled along beside them. A few Kenyans rode ancient looking, battered bicycles and were very proud of these possessions. Sometimes they rode along beside us and struck up conversations. One such man said he had inherited his bicycle when his father died in 1972. Recently, he had been laid off from his job "due to corruption," he said, and hadn't been able to find work elsewhere. Maybe he'd have to sell his bicycle.
The newspapers talked about corruption in the broadest of terms - that it existed, that it was considered "bad" by various individuals, to varying degrees. Said one politician, "Corruption is no worse in the government than anywhere else." One article was entitled "Corruption is Everywhere," but not a single example was given in the text of the piece.
Apparently, the President helps himself to half of the country's revenue, then hands the rest over to others who take their cuts and then the average person sees nothing from tax dollars or any foreign aid. Inflation in the past year has been 185% so far, I think primarily because the President had more money printed (the bills we got at the airport were brand new and in serial number sequence).
Anyway, the plight of the people was very sad but I enjoyed meeting them and was grateful for the experience of having gone to Kenya.
Now, however, things have been rocky on the home front - rocky of avalanche-in-a-quarry proportions. Hard to say why. Maybe it started with my compulsiveness about doing the laundry, or maybe I haven't been compulsive enough. But at any rate, it looks like I'll be writing the next issue's entries from a yet-to-be-discovered place. I feel awful about leaving but will probably be better off. Hopefully, I'll be a much happier person by the next issue.