Kenya (and a little London) Diary

To view photos from my trip, please view them on Flickr

Before departing I wrote a message to distribute to many of the people in my “Regular Recipients” email address book to tell you to expect occasional commentary about my trip to Kenya, with a link to my Flickr account where I'd be posting some images. The goal is not so much to document the trip as to share how it feels. I did not email that message because I felt pretty scared before the undertaking, fearing I'd chosen too big an adventure for myself at this stage of life. Organizing felt overwhelming. Just figuring out, for example, what the outlet converters and other electric connectors I'd need to maintain myself felt pretty daunting. I purchased a small travel CPAP, as well as a portable power supply for when I'd be off the grid. At the last minute I realized I needed a special power cord to connect the two units, ordered it in a panic, was relieved when it arrived the day before departure, then couldn't get the two devices to work together. I lugged the power supply in my backpack anyway. (Lithium batteries can't go in checked luggage.) So far I have only experienced one brief power interruption during the night. Thanks to jet lag I wasn't sleeping then anyway. It took me up until the sixth night of the journey to get a good night's sleep.

The hotel in London, where I stayed a couple of days so I could see two good friends, wasn't so great. It was at a terrific location, in the old County Building at the foot of the London Eye, the enormous Ferris wheel on the banks of the Thames. There was weak to no internet service, no phones in the rooms nor even personnel in the lobby, which was devoid of seating. I felt isolated; was on the verge of turning back home.

On the bright side, I had a wonderful time with my friends. I spent a day with Katy Gardner who took the train in from Liverpool. We talked and talked as we walked down the river, to the Tate Museum of Modern Art and back up to Waterloo Station. Along the way I consumed fish and chips from a food cart. Katy is a retired GP whom I befriended in 1971 when she and a couple of other leftist English medical students visited Chicago. She volunteered at the same free clinic where I worked. We love each other now as much as ever.

Adam Hemmings, the grandson of my neighbor and dear friend Roger Isaacs, lives in Brixton. Adam and I have crossed paths a few times at Roger's house. He took me out for an Indian meal the first evening and we met for tea the next at a funky little bar, the Scooter Café on Lower Marsh, a place I believe I'd have had to be at least 30 years younger and have lived in London for a decade to come upon myself. The best part, of course, was our conversation, which ranged from physics to family. We are truly kindred spirits.

I forgot to mention the London cabbie. I'm waiting bleary-eyed in cue at the cabstand outside Heathrow, told to take the fifth vehicle in the line. Someone jumps ahead of me into the fifth cab. The driver of the next taxi comes up to me saying, “No problem. I'll take you wherever you're going.” So I get into his vehicle. Within a few minutes we establish that Elliott is the grandson of four Ukranian Jewish immigrants. There are not a lot of Jewish cabbies in London. He spikes his conversation with the same Yiddish phrases I grew up with; says our encounter is beshert, fated. It's morning rush hour so the trip to my hotel takes over an hour. We cover family history, values, careers, Judaism, AA, and a host of other topics. Elliott and I exchange information so he can pick me up for my ride back to Heathrow, not during rush hour but still providing plenty of opportunity to share a ton more of ourselves. That was a great beginning.

I watched one fun movie on the flight between Chicago and London, three more between London and Nairobi.

I forgot to bring melatonin, recommended to help with jet lag, and found it's a prescription item in England. My first dose had to wait until George, Carole and Tamara Jones supplied me with some when I arrived at their Nairobi home. It's a beautiful place with lovely gardens and servants and a high gated wall. George and I belonged to a group of a half-dozen Colorado men who got together for lunch about once a month, as well as with our spouses on other occasions, for ten years or so. He and his wife Carole live in Boulder most of the year and in Nairobi for several winter months. Their presence here is pretty much my main reason for choosing to take this big trip to Kenya. George served as an USAID officer in Africa for most of his career. Carole was, of course, more than just along for the ride. They raised their children mostly in Kenya and after retirement they chose to live here full time for some years before they settled into their current snow-bird lifestyle. Their daughter Tamara lives in Nairobi year-round. She is a small animal veterinary, specializing in homeopathic and other natural therapies.

A highlight of the stay at the Jones household was a trip with Carole to an herbal remedy shop attached to a convent and a visit to a local market. Great places to just sit and observe. The market is the only place I've seen White people. That day I got my first taste of Nairobi traffic, a braided, high-stakes dance. It's clear why the Jones have a driver. Spending time with them was the best part of being in Nairobi. George and I had an especially nice couple of hours together on their patio sharing stories about our lives. The Jones fed me well.

Carole ordered me a massage. It was stupendous, going a long way toward untying the knots of long-distance jet travel. By the way, I flew economy-plus, which was the perfect choice. It cost about double what passage on steerage class costs. In economy-plus the leg and arm room are ample, the meals are palatable and you even get drinks and wine. Business class, the next step up, costs two times again more. I know I wouldn't have slept in one of those beds anyway, no matter how much they cost.

At the Jones' I met Rose Muya, who organized the tour. It was great to put a face to the person in whose hands I'd placed my wellbeing for three weeks. I was not disappointed. My guide, Jagi Gakunju, came by for an introduction. He'd been at a meeting for the board of the Giraffe Centre in Nairobi. Jagi picked me up the next morning. We departed once my clothes were out of the drier, around 11AM.

Jagi, a native of Nyeri, Kenya, is an amazing guy. If his contact list were on a Rolodex he'd need one about 10 feet in diameter. He's spent time on every continent but Antarctica; done a myriad of different types of work, much of it in the health insurance industry in East Africa (and Poland…go figure), including as CEO of AAR insurance company; as well as organizing a home for orphans and the Waji Nature Park. He participates non-competitively in international running events, mountain bikes and, on the side, leads unconventional tours such as mine about twice a year. An extrovert, he chats with everybody we encounter, mostly in Swahili.

All the Swahili I've learned so far is: asante sana - thank you very much; karibu sana - you're very welcome; mzee - old man (George calls himself that); daktari - doctor (George calls me that. I told him to call me Marktari), mzungu - White man.

On the way out of town Jagi and I stopped at a roadside stand to purchase a bag of mangos. The proprietor, Mama Claudia, made us taste her tangerines and oranges too. In just about every place along the highway where vehicles slow down for a speed bump there spring up roadside stands selling fruits, vegetables, meat, clothing, most anything. They are dusty and small. There are often little children under foot.

The first time someone asked me about what had struck me most about the difference between Kenya and the US, I said, “The number of folks out and about. There are people everywhere along the roads, walking, selling, standing, chatting, hauling impossible loads on their backs or their motorbikes. Outrageously painted passenger buses are everywhere. If I were a photographer and anxious to produce an art book, I'd do one on the passenger buses. There are tuktuks, trucks, motorbikes, motorcycles, bicycles, autos of every shape and size and many people on foot. Men on motorcycles do a huge freelance business delivering anything that will fit on their bikes, which can be an astounding amount.

Our second roadside stop was at Meved, a dairy stand (not as in milchik vs. fleishik—Yiddish, dairy vs. meat) where they sold yogurt made from milk given by cows in the pasture out back. They know Jagi because he stops there frequently. Jagi said the two young women serving us were interested in talking to me because I came from America. (I think he made that up.) They didn't say anything so I offered, “I'm a doctor. You can ask any medical question.” Right away one asked, “How do I lose weight?” The other chimed in, “No carbs.” I use that encounter as a counterexample to how things are different between Africa and America.

In the countryside the skies are filled with brown-veined white butterflies (Belenois aorata), billions of them, on their annual migration across Kenya.

Our first night out we stayed at the 22 acre Wajee Nature Park, founded in 1991 by Jagi on land he lived on as a small child. His father, a Presbyterian minister, began the effort to preserve and restore the forest to its natural state when he moved here in 1938. So far they've identified 128 species of birds and 197 varieties of shrubs and trees. There is a resident ornithologist, Robert Muchunu, who knows tons about not just the birds, but the mammals, insects, trees, flowers and most everything else here that contains DNA. There are guest rooms, a meeting hall, a kitchen, nature trails and more, with ongoing efforts to expand and upgrade facilities. (There is still no wi-fi, which is why sending this message has had to wait.) They hold educational events nearly constantly.

After dinner, on my first evening at Wajee, I sat around a campfire with Jagi and four other guests who were working separately on a support program for troubled children, a marketing small farmers' crops, and reforming elementary school curricula. The group included a teacher, a social worker, a marketing specialist and a geo-information systems researcher. I drank a couple of Tusker beers over the course of our long conversation. At the very end of the evening one of the guests asked to talk to me about her thyroid. I was glad to. I even examined her neck. The gland was normal size, non-tender and there were no lumps. I was able to reassure her that she should just keep taking her medication and getting a blood test every six months.

Late the next morning we left for the home of Francis and Marion Kamau. Francis is the brother of Pius, another of that Colorado group. Pius is a retired general surgeon and writer who lives in Aurora, CO. He spent the first years of his life living in a mud hut on a farm near Gichugu, about a two hour drive from the Nature Park. His brother, Francis, retired from a job in Nairobi and four years ago moved back to the homeplace where he and his wife, Marion, built a grand home for the two of them. Marion grew up in the same neighborhood but didn't meet Francis until they both lived in Nairobi.

Jagi and I were welcomed ever-so-warmly into their home, an impressive concrete structure. The first floor, where I stayed, has an ample living room, kitchen and dining room as well as bedrooms. The second floor is unfinished. It currently holds hay bales. Chickens reside on the third floor, also unfinished. A structure for storing hay and a chicken coop are works in progress, as are fences. We walked the perimeter of their ten acres or so with Francis.

On our tour of the small farm we saw plots of several types of forage crops, papayas, avocados, herbs, maize, gooseberries, bananas, mangos, sweet potatoes, and arrowroot. They had grown a large part of every meal we ate. The papayas and mangos were especially wonderful. We prayed before each meal and received a heartfelt benediction from Francis before we departed. He and Marion are devout Pentecostal Christians. It is clear that Francis and Marion are very content to be living close to their roots. They have family living nearby, including Frances' and Pius' sister, with whose farm they share a border. Both of the Kamau parents are buried there, in graves marked by concrete slabs and marble headstones, at opposite ends of the property, where each had their homesteading experience.

Francis, Jagi, Marion and I talked and talked. A lot of it was politics. Things are very corrupt here. Money keeps getting shoveled into the coffers of the rich while the poor barely scrape by, no matter how hard they work. The Chinese, who made huge loans on bad terms to the previous government to pay for infrastructure, have the Kenyans in a vice. Francis and Jagi suggest a lot the loan deals were accomplished with a heavy bribes. The purported rule of thumb is that 10% of a project's cost is earmarked for bribes. At this time at least, unlike as in previous regimes like that of President Moi, people are free to speak their mind. That is encouraging.

At the Kamaus', on my seventh night out I finally got past the jet lag and slept 9-1/2 hours. That alone changed my whole outlook. I felt rested and relaxed. The crowing roosters that serenaded me whenever opened my eyes were music to my years.

Things are very cheap for my dollar-denominated wallet. The exchange rate I got when I arrived was 162 Kenya shillings per dollar, which means that there is are a couple of extra decimal places to be contended with. Prices are in the thousands. I realized later that I'd way undertipped the wonderful massage therapist to whom I plan to pay reparations when I have a rematch with her before leaving Nairobi. On the way back to Wajee from Francis and Marion's, we stopped at Nokras Tana, a fancy (to my eyes already accustomed to much more modest accommodations) resort in seemingly the middle of nowhere. There were multiple restaurants, a luxurious pool, a path down to the Tana River where one can rent inflatable kayaks to paddle and float downstream. The worst of syrupy American pop played on the PA system. We ate a good share of one kg(!) of goat stew; took some leftovers home to Wajee for Robert. The wonderful dish was accompanied by chapatis, spinach, tomato salad, coffee and fruit juice. It cost $25 all together for both of us. (I learned later that I really didn't have to seek out goat meat. It came to me.)

I'm glad I didn't cancel: getting the hang of connecting the CPAP and charging my other devices; remembering to take doxycycline for malaria prophylaxis and melatonin for sleep; washing my toothbrush with bottled water and doing all those little routine things that had me buffaloed in anticipation.

Wairimu, the woman who is the boss of the Wajee, just walked to my room to ask when I'd like to eat supper. I was about done writing so I told her I'd be right over. She warned me that the menu included plantains, not knowing if I'd tried them. I like them fine. They were a little better than the boiled arrowroot and sweet potato I'd been served with breakfast, both dry and tasteless, the former like felt, the latter like plaster. (I exaggerate. But as a proud omnivore, it's disappointing to encounter something I cannot eat.) Dinner included plantains and sweet potato with some sort of sauce, chunks of beef and the best pumpkin soup I've ever tasted. I left most of the starches on my plate, still pretty full from my share of goat meat.

I'm at a fancy hotel run by an ex-Peace Corps volunteer, then USAID official, who married a Kenyan and retired here. The place is truly lovely, both the hotel itself and the vistas it offers of the lush valley below. This area has become the latest hot place for rich people to build homes in a retreat to the countryside. Jagi told me I can even use the tap water to brush my teeth. On the way here we stopped at a very hokey Baden Powell Museum and Gravesite in Nyeri. Baden Powell founded Boy Scouts in 1910. The guide gave me a souvenir patch. My signature was the first in the register in 20 days.

Tomorrow Jagi and I are going to drive and see some wild animals. We're near the foot of Mt. Kenya. The dry prairie in the mountain's rain shadow looks a whole lot like northeast Colorado.

The hotel's wi-fi just quit working. But I was able to establish an internet connection using my phone as a hot spot. So I'm going to send this on right now, dammit! I haven't been able to connect up with Flickr so the images will have to wait.

Begun Feb 3, 2023

I started doing dictation with my iPhone Notes app. It's very handy. With my handwriting I shouldn't complain about how hard some of what I've recorded is to interpret. For example “Judy with polio chips from our rescues. Not native here” turns out to be about Judy the chimp. See below.

As before, what I write is not a chronological record of what I've encountered, but a series of impressions. That's how I do things.

I've been on a tourist route for the last while, staying in well-lit rooms, usually with good internet access, and warm showers. Except for staff, at these places and on tour, I mostly see Whites and a few Asians. Tourist attractions attract tourists for good reason. I've been to some pretty amazing places that are well worth paying to get to.

Language  Shukran is another word for thank you. It comes from the Arabic, shukria.

A significant share of Swahili, a lingua franca developed by Arab traders along the east coast of Africa, derives from Arabic. I met a rhino named Baraka (see below), meaning blessed in Arabic and Swahili, like the Hebrew baruch. The core of Swahili is Bantu. My name in Kikuyu, the native language of the Kikuyus is Mariko. Jagi, Frances, Marion and Pius are Kikuyus.

Food  Gastronomically speaking, if Kenya had to be colonized it's too bad it wasn't done by the French rather than the English. On the plus side for a carnivore like me, Kenyans eat more meat per capita than any other population in the world. On every urban block where vendors cluster one will see usually more than one sign announcing nyama choma joints that serve barbecued meat - beef, goat, pork, some lamb. There's lots of chicken too. Meat markets are called butcheries. I saw a sign that announced a business as “Hotel and Butchery.” I had no desire to rent a room there. Jagi explained that “hotel” is an easier word to write than “restaurant.” So eating places are often labeled hotels. Meat is cut into small chunks and stewed, with one sort of sauce or another. None are spicy. When the dish is called curry, I'd say it's curryish. There are usually onions, sometimes some overcooked vegetables like bell pepper or carrot. An example of the uninspired cuisine comes from today's lunch buffet. There were deviled eggs, made with a minimum of mayonnaise or discernable seasoning, each piece topped with a dollop of bland English-style chili sauce.

On the plus side, there is lots and lots of fruit in this part of the country. (Not so on the savannah, I was to find out later.) At least two kinds--mango, papaya, pineapple, passion fruit, banana--are served with every meal. Except for arrowroot, sweet potato and ugali, a pure white cone of dense wheat bread that you pull chunks off of to go with some meals, it's all pretty palatable. The coffee is a little weak for my taste. Don't worry. I'm not starving.

My impression is that, because the land is so productive, at this time starvation is not a common problem. Many poor people can raise enough to eat on a small plot of land and sell whatever small surplus they produce at one of those endless roadside stands.

Civility  Drivers are courteous. Autos, trucks and buses make room for each other and for motorcyclists, bicyclists and the zillions of pedestrians who are everywhere. Face-to-face encounters are universally civil. Nobody swears. I have hardly seen any graffiti. Buildings can be empty for years without being inhabited by squatters. I suspect this is a feature of the native cultures--there are five ethnic groups: Kikuyu, Nilotic, Bantu, Cushite and Hermetic—plus a dollop of proper English ways brought by the colonizers. The plethora of churches may something to do with it too.

Religion  Jagi claims that there are more different sects in Kenya than anywhere else in the world. Whether that's the exact truth or not, virtually all of the schools are run by religious organizations. Little storefront churches are nearly as common as nyama choma joints. I saw a sign for a Potters Clay Ministry, an allusion, I suppose to humans being clay in the hands of god. I wonder if that's where, as a ceramicist, Nancy might be most comfortable praying.

Animals  I did not come to Kenya primarily to see wild animals. Nevertheless, I've found myself keeping a list. As individuals, groups and co-habitants, the interactions among them are intriguing. Here are a couple of small examples. Animals often hang in mixed groups, with the tall ones as lookouts for predators. Bare prairie is better for wild animal viewing because prey tend to avoid tall grass where predators can hide. It really is amazing how many of those animals we grew up seeing in picture books and zoos run loose all over the place.

•   Lake flies - Thousands of lake flies, gnat-like insects swarmed around the light bulb above the table in my room that overlooks the lake at Elsamere, where I started writing this installment. They came in because I left the door ajar and the outside light that is supposed to attract the bugs instead of the one in my room isn't working. I told the front desk and somehow they got rid of them while I was eating dinner.

•   Hippos — I was escorted the 40 yards to and from dinner by a man with a flashlight. At night hippos come out of the lake just 70 yards below the resort buildings. After the mosquito, hippos are the second most lethal animal to humans in Kenya. Every year 8-10 people are killed by hippos on Lake Naivasha, where I'm staying now. They hang in the water during the day, staying cool, then wander inland up to several kilometers to feed at night. I've seen lots.

•   Rhinos — Though classified as white or black rhinos, they are all the same color. The species are distinguished by anatomical traits. The northern white rhino was driven nearly to extinction by poachers seeking to harvest rhino horns. Sudan, the last male northern white rhino, died in 2018. His semen was harvested and will be used to fertilize eggs from the last two living females. The embryos will be implanted in southern white rhino surrogates. The whole process of harvesting and implanting is beyond imagining. White rhinos are the big ones. And yes, it's a real live black rhino whose horn I'm holding in that picture. Barak is old, sickly and blind; lives in a protected space at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy. He hangs by the fence where visitors hand feed him greens and have their pictures taken with him.

•   Chimps — I saw just one chimp by the name of Judy. Chimpanzees are not native to Kenya. Ol Pejeta set up rescue program where they currently house 32 chimps that had been pets, circus or zoo animals. After a few contraceptive failures, they've taken to vasectomizing the males. Except for Judy, the animals were at the other end of the enclosure being fed when we visited. She didn't go along because she'd been paralyzed by polio. (Remember, chimps were used as animal models in developing polio vaccine.) Humans share 96% of our genome with chimps. That's gotten me to considering what percent of our genomes do Arabs and Jews share? P.S. “Judy with polio chips from our rescues. Not native here” should make sense now.

•   Colobus monkeys — There are a number of them in the trees around the resort. Considered a nuisance.

•   Vervets — A few days ago a troop was hanging out on the roof of a lodge. I saw a vervet risking its life on the highway, apparently trying to manage what to do about another that just been run over. It was a tragic scene.

•   Baboons — Jagi has a prejudice against them, having watched a troop kill a vervet baby.

•   Wart hogs — Ugly wonderful creatures. They have to kneel on their forelegs to eat or drink. Jagi says this is a design flaw. Hyenas think they're very tasty.

•   Cape buffalo — I chose one for this album's logo because I think they just look so cool.

•   Impalas run in harems of up to 50 females, watched over and serviced by just one male. There is always a group of bachelors in the wings, jousting with each other and waiting for their opportunity to challenge the dominant male. With so many females to protect and service, impala CEOs don't last long on the job. When forced into retirement they may not be welcomed back into the bachelors club nor live much longer. I find myself wondering if it's worth it. Jagi called this a Muslim species.

•   Golden crowned cranes, on the other hand, mate for life. After one of a pair dies, the other soon follows. These are, according to Jagi, Christian species.

•   Birds — tons of them. Tons of varieties, including fish eagles that look like bald eagles, pelicans, herons, ibises, guinea fowl, and of special note, the superb starling. They have black heads, shimmering iridescent purple to green wings and breast, separated by a white band from an orange belly. They are everywhere, including hanging around the where we've been eating looking or scraps.

•   Giraffes — Saw a couple of those.

•   Lions — Of course. We saw a pride of seven, including two cubs jockeying for position on their mother's teats, a couple of her sisters and a snoozing male lying in the shade of a bush during the afternoon heat.

•   Jackals

•   Zebras aplenty

•   Grant's gazelle — Bigger than impalas with straight horns.

•   Elephants — A must see. As they feed you can hear them pulling up the grass with their trunks.

•   Wildebeests — In herds, natch.

•   Dik-dik — The smallest antelope species. Adults weigh 6-13 pounds. I haven't seen the animal yet, but I did see its scat. I will post a picture of the scat. Every member of a herd poops in the same place, leaving a circle of tiny black nuggets about 1-1/2 feet in diameter. Devin, the lovely young Masai man who served as our guide on Crescent Island, related a story that comes from his people. An elephant defecates and totally inundates a poor dik-dik in poop. The dik-diks plot their revenge. From then on they all poop in the same place, hoping to one day accumulate enough feces to bury an elephant. Devin didn't hesitate to pick up all sorts of scat and show it to us. It was all dry and odorless. Jagi explained that you can tell a native African animal because it's scat is dry. They conserve water. On the other hand, animals that had been brought in from elsewhere, like cattle and goats, which came to the continent 5-10,000 years ago from the Caucasus, excrete moist stools. People living in colder climes needed to domesticate animals to provide food to get them through winter. Devin was pretty disappointed because cattle herding is at the center of Masai culture. His people assume they invented it.

American ex-patriots — Needless to say, people born and raised in the USA who choose to live out their adult lives in Kenya are a special lot. That things here are very, very different from how they are at home is a wild understatement. Here are a couple of American residents of Kenya whom I've encountered here.

After college Larry Meserve joined the Peace Corps. He was stationed in Kenya, where he taught math and science to junior high kids in a smaller town. He liked it here so much that he re-upped for a second two year hitch. The best part of the story of that time of his life is the six months he took returning home, through India, Nepal, Thailand, Indochina and other places I don't remember. Those were the days when one felt free to go anywhere with almost no money. Larry spent a long career with USAID, most of it in Africa. He knew George Jones back then. Remarked that George was a very good and wily tennis player. He met Betty, a Kenyan. Long story short, they married, he retired, they had a kid, have developed a series of hotels and guest houses. Jagi and I stayed at their homeplace and hotel near Nyeri. The image of the fancy tent hotel room is from their place. Our accommodations were considerably more modest.

Susan Deslaurier is from an Irish Catholic Boston family of five children. She moved to the Bay Area for college, stayed there for marriage, career and family, all of which she succeeded at. But after a visit here, Africa kept calling her. Her children were grown, her marriage ending and so she moved to Kenya. She became the third wife of Chief Salaton Ole Ntutu. Susan, whose career was in marketing and human resources, runs the guest house and education center where we stayed. Another wife does their school. The household they share is the domain of the third. We stayed at their Maji Moto Maasai Cultural Camp for the Maasai experience. There is plenty to say about that. Susan and I chatted at supper and at breakfast. I had the feeling that if we didn't live literally half a world apart we'd be good friends.

Rift Valley — This north-south depression, extending from Mozambique all the way to Israel, is the result of westward movement of the African Continental Plate and eastward of the Asian Plate, stretching and thinning the crust and bringing the underworld closer to the surface. Volcanoes dot the valley. Geothermal sources are being extensively exploited in Kenya to generate electricity. You cannot go right up to the generation plants, but the whole surrounding area smells sulfurous. There are even air quality warning signs that change with the wind direction. The Rift Valley is perhaps best known for the early hominid fossils unearthed by the Leakeys here in Kenya. Conditions caused by the rifting favored uncovering of layers that contain these fossils

The low-lying land that lies between the escarpments sports lots of lakes, including Lake Naivasha, where the Elsamere Resort is located.

Elsamere — Is a beautiful resort on the shore of Lake Naivashu, founded by Joy and George Adamson, named after the lion she made famous in her book Born Free, plus movie, sequels, etc. They were great conservationists. I watched a 45 minute documentary about them. She was beautiful, charismatic, articulate; did all sorts of fine conservation work and drew and painted a large body of portraits of native Kenyans, many hung in Kenyan museums. Charles was her third husband. In the documentary she describes pretty matter-of-factly how she discarded numbers one and two in short order, giving off a whiff of narcissism. Jagi explained that Joy was stabbed to death by an employee. Her cruelty to underlings was renowned. Chege, the keeper of the museum resort, studies everything about the Adamsons he can get his hands on. He is not convinced that the man who was sent to jail without legal representation, was not the person guilty of the crime.

A few yellow fever trees are at the water's edge below the lawn that extends from behind the lodge. Their bark is yellow. Back in the day Europeans theorized that these innocent trees caused yellow fever because of the principle of similars that connected how a plant looked to its effects on the body and because, it turns out, the moist soil under its shade attracted the mosquitos that really were the culprits in transmitting the disease. So you really could get yellow fever by hanging around under yellow fever trees.

Toyota Land Cruiser — We're doing the last part of the trip in a Land Cruiser, vintage about 2014. It's outfitted for safari, with large portholes in the roof for poking out to observe game and a snorkel air intake at the level of the roof so the engine can keep running when the vehicle is submerged halfway up the windshield. Otherwise, it is virtually the same vehicle we purchased in 1984 when we lived outside Ripon, WI because I needed a way to get to the hospital in a blizzard. The hub locks, temperature controls and shift knob are totally unchanged.

Jagi (continued) — Remember George Jefferson, played by Sherman Hemsley in the TV comedy, “The Jeffersons?” You can animate the stills I post of Jagi by imagining George. Jagi is small and quick in his movements and in his responses. On the other hand, there is nothing laughable or absurd about Jagi. He is one of the smartest people I've known.

Here's a little more history. Jagi went to law school because he had to do something that led to a serious career. He said being a teacher was actually what his parents wanted for him. His heart was not in the law. It was in the theater. He was the only law student in a student acting company that toured a lot. It sounds like he did very well came to feel constricted by being typecast in comic roles. He did play Shylock in “Merchant of Venice,” whom he portrayed as a somewhat sympathetic character. He had to repeat a term when his grades suffered at the expense of his theater career. He never did practice law.

Jagi says his current life goals are to travel, continue his extensive conservancy work, finish writing the two books he's been working on, keep riding his bike, golfing and reading. (His first book is entitled Living on the Edge. I plan to read it.)

Cheap labor — At the gas station, three workers serviced the car, washing windows, checking fluids and pumping gas. There are uniform-wearing guards managing entrances everywhere. They open and close the gates; take your license plate number down on a clipboard, sometimes give you a token you'll need to present to exit. Sometimes they open the door to the back seat or the rear hatch and may jostle a package or piece of luggage. In some fancier places they may even hold a mirror on a stick under a portion of the chassis. The exam is so cursory that one would probably have to label an explosive device in large orange letters with the word BOMB written in mirror writing in order for a guard to actually notice it. There may be guards at the people entrances who wave wands and briefly peek into purses and bags. All of this rigamarole makes me feel not one iota safer. Roadside grass is trimmed by teams of knife-wielding workers.

M-Pesa, established in 2007, is an electronic money transfer system that runs on mobile phones. Users don't need a bank account to deposit, send and receive funds. It has brought large sectors of the population into the modern Kenya economy. But with the national budget hurting, in large part due to loans from large construction projects financed and built by the Chinese, the government is getting pretty serious about collecting taxes. As is true in much of the developing world, a large part of Kenyan economy is in the informal sector, off the books. People are worried that, thanks to M-Pesa, their transactions are now traceable and their income, however meagre, will become taxable.

The boom heard round the world — While on the road an email from my niece Genevieve who lives in Washington State informed me of an explosion at an unlicensed gas filling plant in Nairobi. I told Jagi. That's how this Kenyan got the news.

Construction — Buildings, from humble to grand, are mostly constructed of quarried stone cemented together, not of concrete blocks. Ads for paint cover many walls along the highway. It took a while for it to dawn on me that it's because the manufacturers must offer free or reduced cost paint jobs in exchange for the advertising. The walls of traditional Maasai buildings are constructed by women. They cover an armature of branches with a mixture of cow dung, urine and mud, which dries a pretty cream color. The thick walls are smoother than adobe and just as good at keeping inhabitants cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

Maasai — We stayed at the Maji Moto, a Maasai cultural camp run by Susan and Salaton. About 30 students from McGill University were there too, for a week out of their 3 month-long Africa experience. Our paths barely crossed. I was quite fatigued upon arrival, having not slept well the night before and further discouraged after I'd seen my quarters,  a small room with walls made the traditional way. There was an outhouse and a tin drum with a spigot for water to wash hands and face. A battery that had been charged by solar cells during the day was attached to the single dim light that hung from the ceiling. I had to hang my legs over the edge of the bed in order to have enough light to barely read. I managed to get the auxiliary battery to work with my CPAP. A couple of acetaminophen and knowing I could use the CPAP that night perked me right up.

When we arrived five men, wearing traditional red wraps and carrying real spears, gave our little party a welcoming song and dance. The dancing includes leaping. There were elaborate ear decoration and many missing teeth. It was not hokey.

We were led to a real--that is, inhabited by women who lead a wholly traditional life—housing compound that was built around a central corral perhaps 30 feet in diameter, formed of sticks stuck in the ground, where the herd of about fifty cows are penned for the night. Manure under the corral was at least a foot thick. There was another smaller pen for goats, a few chickens wandering around and five traditional circular homes where the eight women inhabitants live. I saw one child, about two years old. The women sang us a couple of traditional welcome songs. They had some wares spread out on the ground on blankets. I bought a bead necklace for my granddaughter and a beaded bracelet for my grandson. The settlement was established by Salaton for women who need support, some of them “discarded widows,” which had been the case of his own mother. The women tend their livestock and earn a little selling their crafts, which are high quality. I was constantly batting at the endless swarms of flies that buzzed around and landed on me. It appears that the insects are just a fact of life for the inhabitants who didn't seem to notice.

On the way back from the settlement we passed the footprint of its last site, abandoned about ten years ago. The ground was still completely bare in the circle where the cattle pen had been, probably because there was too much nitrogen for anything to grow. There were a few circular structures in the ground to the side of the old site. Jagi told me these concrete curbs were the remnants of a biogas production and collection system he had taken the lead in getting installed as a demonstration project. Manure was the input, methane, to be used for cooking and heating, the output. It worked fine. But the women didn't use it. The do-gooders called in an anthropologist who studied the situation and concluded that going out together to collect firewood was too important a social activity for the women to give up for the mere convenience of cooking with gas.

I chatted with one of the women who served us dinner. She has received a school certificate and wants to work as a dietician. For now, she's living in the employee residence at Maji Moto, waiting tables and that sort of thing. I asked her how old she is. She said, “About 23.” It will be a long time before Maasais are fully westernized. I hope that never happens completely.

Our small group included a couple of local conservationists and a pair of young film makers who travel Kenya eliciting stories about the traditional people who live here. Here's what I've learned so far. About ten years ago the government, under the influence of capitalist ideas or something, began offering individual titles to plots of land that had forever been communally held and maintained by the Maasais. So the land has gradually been fenced and partitioned, squeezing the wild animals either into conflict with humans and their livestock, or out of the range all together. It is not clear that private enterprise will, even in the medium term, increase economic yield of this land. It has already resulted in some places, including ones we visited today, in degradation of rangeland and drastic reduction of wild animals. The conservationists in our party are fighting to preserve the land, its flora and fauna, and a way of life. It is Jagi who brought our band together, including inviting the video guys.

Begun February 6

Saint Elizabeth Parish and the Laibon — Our troop of 7 has stayed one night in small, simple rooms at the Saint Elizabeth Parish in Naroosura. A church, a dispensary (medical clinic), and a girls' home are on the campus too. Jagi and I got the two fancy rooms, which means they have their own tiny bathroom. Last night I washed my tired body from a spigot in the shower stall because I couldn't get water from the showerhead. Today I learned from Jagi that I hadn't been patient enough. The low pressure system would have delivered a misting from the showerhead if I'd just waited a little longer after turning the knob, having first flipped the switch for the instant-on hot water unit that hugs the showerhead. Because there was no shower curtain I left the toilet lid down and moved the toilet paper to the bedroom so as not to soak them while I washed. I was clean and refreshed by bedtime. Dinner was beef stew, for a change. A young woman named Happy serves us. She never smiles. Jagi and I have left some laundry for Happy and her crew to do.

Before leaving on today's excursion I explored the grounds a bit. The church has an octagon footprint, a high vaulted ceiling and a few stained glass windows. Wood pews sit on steel legs bolted to the concrete floor. It is simple, modest, beautiful and very African. The large crucifix, auxiliary statues and images all portray white people. A reproduction of a drawing of non-White Jesus and Mary stuck to the bulletin board in the common room of Father House (as the place we're sleeping and eating is called) is the only representation of a non-White religious figure.

I've encountered two priests, Father Peter, a young-looking vigorous 50 year old who seems to do a fair share of maintenance here too. I met Father Edward, a bit older and pudgier than Peter, only in passing, as we were leaving this morning. He was wearing a yellow golf shirt with an embroidered image of Leinenkugel Summer Shandy. The father had no idea that Leinenkugel was even a brewery. Jagi explained that the beer came from my hometown, which was close enough. I look forward to visiting the dispensary tomorrow, before we leave on the day's trip.

I will upload images the next time I have good enough internet access. For now, here at the parish I'm depending on my iPhone hotspot.

This morning we drove a long way over terrible roads to arrive at a high escarpment with a view of wooded hills and the valley we'd come from way below. As I'm alighting from the Land Cruiser Samson the conservationist is on the ground telling me where to step. He's been driving me crazy with his good intentions, instructing me where to step, where to sit, when to fill my plate, etc. Condescension is one of my big hot buttons. By today I'd processed my feelings well enough to be able to say, calmly, “I appreciate your concern and good intensions. But I really can get along okay on my own. Ask Jagi about our walk down to the foot of Thompson Falls and back up. And I was wearing sandals.” (A few days before, after eating a nice lunch overlooking the Ewaso Ng'iro River, Jagi and I impulsively crossed over to the other bank and took a steep, uneven, slippery path 240 feet down to the river and back. It was fun and challenging. My quads hurt a bit for the next couple of days.) Not long after I had confronted Samson he remarked how strong I looked as I walked to another observation point.

Along the way to the escarpment we saw a few wildebeest and zebras out on the range and passed a baboon family by the roadside. I felt almost blasé about it. As we drove we changed climate zones from hot plains to pleasant subalpine forests and meadows. We pass some private holdings. The smaller ones had been cultivated by hand and planted with tomatoes, beans or maize.

Because of the recent rains the roads were very, very bad. Jack, our solid driver, had to go quite slowly in a lot of places, following a tricky zig-zag course. We forded running water a few times. Along the way we saw cars and motorcycles headed to a town market carrying impossible loads. Sometimes the passengers would have to get out and walk so their vehicle could navigate an especially deeply rutted section. We counted 7 passengers walking alongside one sedan with produce piled high on its roof.

Off road, negotiating our way to the Laibon's home, conditions forced us to backtrack a couple of times. We made plenty of our own tracks through grass around impassible paths. Total driving time between our home and the Laibon's was nearly 2-1/2 hours each way.

Laibon is the temporal and spiritual leader of the whole Maasai tribe, which numbers about a million in Tanzania and a million in Kenya. He is situated in the Loita Hills, near the border. In the course of colonizing East Africa, the British killed many Maasai, either violently or indirectly with the diseases they brought. The remaining natives were displaced from most of their traditional territory. More than a century ago many retreated to the Loita Hills, where they established the center of Maasai life and culture, with the Laibon at its focus.

The land partitioning that has so badly affected other commonly-held Maasai grounds tried to make its way into the highlands about ten years ago. President Moi, a notoriously corrupt hard-ass politician, wholly abandoned partitioning this territory when he heard from the Laibon that the Maasai would fight to the death to protect their way of life and the commonly-held land it depended on. When a Maasai male reaches manhood through a rigorous and painful initiation, including circumcision, he becomes not a bar mitzvah, but a warrior. They carry swords and spears.

Samson, one of the two Maasai conservation leaders who is with us, grew up 3 kilometers down the road from the parish house. We're going to eat lunch at his home tomorrow. Because of his work on protecting tribal land, Samson was able to get us the audience with the Maassai chief. This is a big deal. Jagi was blown away by the opportunity to finally meet the Laibon. Seven other delegations were waiting to see him when we arrived.

Here's the scene. An old man (they estimate about 80 years old), bedecked with a ton of ear decorations and wearing a vest made of the fur of a tree hirax, which Jagi explained he only dons for important visitors, is sitting on the ground with his  back against a wooden shed. At his left side is the son slated to succeed him, who looks to be in his forties. He is not the oldest son but the one chosen by Laibon to inherit the throne. Unlike his dad, he is a high school grad. He translates Swahili and English into Maasai for his father and handles the correspondence and phone calls. There are a couple of other men at the encounter too. Laibon has five wives. Samson estimates he has about 500 cattle. For the sake of avoiding bragging or envy, no one counts their cattle, which are the main measure of wealth. Wives, which they do count, tend to follow wealth. I'm reminded of how, with farmers and ranchers back in the states, it's considered rude to ask how many acres they farm or ranch or how many head of cattle they run. Another brief word about livestock. The cattle breeds one sees here are of course very different from what we know in the US and Europe. Here small grazing herds are mostly not specialized for milk or meat. They serve for both.

To the Laibon's right is his throne, a gift from the King of the Netherlands. It is a well-worn leather chair with his family name, “MOKOMPO,” embossed across the back. As the honored guest, I am asked to sit in it. (Besides the Laibon, I am second oldest in the group. Here, age means respect.)

Samson chats in Maasai with the Laibon and his son. He translates some of the time. Their conversation seems to consist mostly of pleasantries. It feels easy and informal. A man brings a few beers, Guinness Stout for himself and the son, and a Balozi beer, brewed in Tanzania, for Laibon, who  pours it into a cup that still has a couple of fingers of brew in it, as well as a few drowned flies that he ignores. Flies buzz all around us. He moves them with flicks of a whisk made from the tail of a wildebeest, a symbol of authority that has passed down from chief to chief for generations. Laibon explains that he drank a liter of milk and ate beef for breakfast.

I was given the opportunity to ask the Laibon a question. So I ask him if it's true that he can see the future. He responds, “Yes. Do you want to know about yourself personally or about things in general?” I felt that asking about myself would be self-indulgent, and I didn't expect him to have much to say about the presidential election so I left it at that. One of the younger guys asked Laibon what advice he wants to pass on to younger folks. The response came down to, “Listen to your elders. Follow tradition. Don't let the Catholics influence you too much.”

We stay about 40 minutes, double our allotted time. Exchange many thankyous. Jagi instructs me to fold up 3-1000 Kenyan Shilling notes and put them in Laibon's hand with a handshake. Others pass him money too. This is the leader of a nation of 2 million individuals. 3000 Kenyan Shillings comes to about $18. It is not how we do things in Chicago. Laibon takes the fur vest off as we leave.

During the audience a group of five little kids has been loitering in the background. I flirt and girn with them whenever I catch an eye. As we get into our vehicles they line up to wave and goof. Stay tuned for some really cute pictures.

We cannot make it to the restaurant where we were scheduled to eat lunch because the tracks off the hill in that direction have turned into a swamp. So we head back to the Father House and call ahead for lunch. Within a few kilometers of home the Cruiser suffers a puncture (what we Americans call a flat tire) that Jack changes in a jiff. Speaking of Toyotas, the vehicle we're riding in is a Safari Model, a Land Cruiser modified in East Africa by extending the rear to hold more passengers or baggage and adding ports that open virtually the whole roof for wildlife viewing. Toyota disapproves.

We didn't eat until 4 this afternoon. Guess what they served. Beef stew with a few potatoes and rice. For high tea Samson gave me a cup of traditional Maasai oxtail soup, prepared with local herbs. It's bitter and not very good. But I'll be damned if I won't finish it. I wonder what's for dinner.

As I was editing this installment Father Edward popped his head into the common room and asked if anybody wanted to attend mass. I said, “No, I'm Jewish.” Then I reconsidered. Am I glad I did. I followed him out the back door of the Father House. Instead of turning left to go to the church we turned right and walked about 50 yards to the convent. I followed Father Edward, watching the rolled cuffs of Levis peek under his robe with each step. Father Peter participated in the mass too, also wearing a robe. The chapel is about 20' square, painted yellow, adorned with a few statues and ritual objects. Five nuns, wielding three percussion instruments, sang sweet hymns in two or three part harmony. There were prayers, readings from the Old and New Testaments and Holy Communion, all of it done in English. It took about a half hour. All so sweet.

Late breaking news: Tonight's dinner was beef stew.

Begun February 11

To set the record straight, all those stews were goat, not beef. In spite of the plethora of goats—I've seen groups of a few up to dozens grazing absolutely everywhere but strictly urban, paved-over Nairobi—at 900 Kenya shillings a kg, about $2.50 a pound, goat meat costs over a third more than beef because of the huge demand. The couple of times I have been served chicken I could tell it was not a factory-raised bird. It was a bit tougher and a good deal more flavorful than the fowl we purchase in American supermarkets.

A couple more vocabulary items:

baridi — cold. You can order a cold beer saying just “baridi.”

boda boda — ubiquitous motorcycles that deliver an unimaginable range of things, including livestock and mattresses, as well as sometimes impossible numbers of riders. The term comes from bicycles that were used to smuggle things across the porous Kenya-Uganda border, “boda.”

Our entourage at St. Elizabeth's consisted of Jagi, two conservationists and a media team consisting of a story teller, Okoth Opondo and a videographer, Francis Omollo. They met at a secondary school debate tournament. Though only in their late twenties, they have already worked together for a decade, producing content for social media that documents Kenyan communities and cultures and engages mostly children and young adults with a wide range of progressive issues, including global warming, peer pressure and even female genital mutilation (FGM). FGM is a common topic everywhere, mentioned even by the priests. Where it still occurs it's as likely to be the result of peer pressure as it is to come from elders.

At my request, Father Edward brought me to the dispensary, an outpatient unit with an attached obstetric practice. Needless to say, the resources are quite thin by our standards. But the heart and dedication of the staff are enormous. I'm looking into purchasing an ultrasound the midwife can use. I mentioned it to Jagi and before the day was out he had contacted a medical supplier he knows from the years he spent in the health insurance business. That's what Jagi's like. I gushed about how much I like warthogs. Not long after, upon encountering a vendor of carved animals, Jagi thought to ask for a warthog. Alas, there was not one among the wooden menagerie. For obvious reasons, lions, zebras and giraffes sell a lot better. I never did find a warthog to bring home with me. But I did mention to Jagi that, given his extensive connections in the naturalist community, perhaps he could initiate a campaign to add the warthog to the Big Five, making it the Big Six. If it were up to me, I'd add the hippo too and make it the Big Seven.

I had the privilege of joining Okoth and Francis, along with Father Edward, at a convocation of the student body of St. Elizabeth School. There were about 200 kids in the wide-open meeting room, ranging from pre-school age to the English system equivalent of 8th grade. As you'd expect anywhere, the front rows of benches were filled with more boys than there was room for, constantly jockeying and squirming to keep a precious place in a front row.

Okoth, whose name means the second-born of a pair of twins, revved the kids up with call and response, chants and songs. One way or another, the lessons embedded in these exercises were about good things like staying in school, learning and caring about the world, treating each other with respect, and feeling empowered. The kids ate it up. They were heartbreakingly cute, energetic and bright. I cried for joy (silently) through much of my time with them.

Meanwhile Francis recorded it all, about 40 gigabytes a day. He interviewed me each day too, to hear what this mzee mzungu had to say about this world he'd been dropped into. They have promised to send me a link to what they produced while we were together. I'll share it with you.

Our entourage attended a nearby livestock market, a weekly event where thousands of heads of goats and cattle change hands all for cash. It was far from the orderly cattle auctions, like the one in Brush that I'd take visiting urban medical students and residents to see for a folkloric experience. These were large corrals, one for goats and sheep, another for cattle, where buyers and sellers milled about among groups of animals, doing cash deals one at a time. Bulls, which are quite docile compared to their American cousins, stayed loose outside the corral, where they wouldn't be pushed together by the crowds of animals and men in a way that could provoke them to prove their macho credentials. Small booths covered with canvas lined the edge of the field that contained the corrals. They had no signs on them. The flaps were usually closed. Tea or food was served inside. They all looked the same to me. People just knew where to get what they wanted.

The general market, held at another site nearby, was about four times as big, five times as chaotic and only half as dusty as the livestock market. A huge trade is done there in used clothes sent from the US and Europe, like the Leinenkugel golf shirt sported by Father Edward. My favorite vendor was a guy selling fresh fruit. The big slices of pineapple and watermelon and the banana I purchased from him may have saved me from scurvy. I saw only two beggars among the hundreds of people at the markets, a low-key young woman in a wheelchair, probably with spina bifida, and a clearly drunk old man. They tell me there are  plenty of panhandlers in Nairobi.

Samson, the conservationist, lives just a few kilometers from St. Elizabeth Parish House. I told him I'd like to see his home. Traditional Maasai that he is (he has the dangling earlobe that is a mark of his people—at the livestock market I saw a couple of men who had thrown the loop of earlobe up over the top of their external ear) my request translated into an invitation to four of us--Jagi, Okoth, Francis and me--to eat lunch with him and his wife, Janet. She prepared, you guessed it, goat stew. It was a cut above in flavor from the dish they'd been plying us with at Father's House. The meat was fried, I think. I was touched when, before the meal, their grandson went around the room with a ewer of water that he poured over our hands into a basin he held under them. We sat in chairs arranged around the periphery of the living room, with plates in our lap.

The small community around Samson's home has its own well with clean, drinkable water, a rarity. They still have to pump it by hand. They're saving for a solar-powered motorized pump. Samson and family have a couple of milk cows and grow some irrigated corn and tomatoes, so different from the lush, tropical varieties cultivated by Francis and Marion.

Happy washed clothes for Jagi and me before we left Father's House, and my the leather sandals too, as they happened to lie on the floor contiguous with my pile of dirty clothes. A shower curtain had been hung in my bathroom on my last day there.

After a long, long, dusty rough ride, Jagi, Jack and I arrived at Karen Blixen Camp, a pretty posh resort on the edge of Mara North Wildlife Preserve. Our vehicle was met by two employees. One offered us glasses of cold passion fruit juice. The other handed us (with tongs) warm, moist rosemary scented washcloths. Coming from Father's House I felt like I'd landed on Mars. It was also the first time I'd seen other White people in four days. They looked so pale and unhealthy. The washcloth routine was repeated every time we returned to camp, very welcome after driving on the very badly rutted and dusty roads in the preserve where we'd been looking for and seen tons of wildlife. See below.

This was glamping. Deluxe tents instead of cabins, appointed with a luxurious bed, lots of lighting, a swell bathroom and an outdoor shower. The Mara River ran just 150 yards below the tents. There was the constant white noise of rushing water, punctuated by the braying hippos and, at dusk and dawn, a symphony of bird calls. Our “room” key fit a small padlock that united the three zippers to the flaps that made up the entrance to the tent. The key was attached to a tin goat bell that we were to ring after dark for a Maasai carrying a torch (flashlight) and a big knife, to escort us to the lodge. Hippos travel inland at night to feed. During the day there were always plenty of them bobbing in the river right in front of the lawn behind the lodge. We did not see crocodiles, which usually hang there, because the river was low and they'd headed downriver to a deeper hole. Nevertheless, the giraffes and gazelles and other creatures that cavorted on the opposite shore remained wary when they approached the boundary between river and land.

Safari and thoughts on evolution

When you hear hoofbeats, think zebras before you think horses.”

--A Kenyan principle regarding differential diagnosis

(The version that every American medical student learns is, “When you hear hoofbeats, think horses before you think zebras.” In other words, look for common diagnoses first.)

“Nature, red in tooth and claw”

   --From “In Memoriam to A.H.H.”  a poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, 1850

I was going to start this sub-essay by pointing out that Tennyson was referring to survival of the fittest, as laid out by Charles Darwin in his magnum opus, Origin of the Species. But that book wasn't published until 1853. Still, I'd like to go with that thought.

The theory of evolution that I grew up was built on the principle of survival of the fittest, a process that was regularly illustrated in videos of African wildlife that featured a constant dance between predator and prey. Nature film footage was larded with, for example, the drama of a cheetah turning on its afterburner to catch up to a gazelle and get its neck in its jaws or else of the gazelle running a zig-zag path just beyond the big cat's teeth and bounding away. These endless life-or-death contests were mesmerizing. And they still are.

Here's a small example. It had been raining a good deal before we arrived at the Mara. The grass was lush and thick. Nevertheless, we didn't see herds of wildebeest, zebra, impala, antelope, cape buffalo, warthog or any other prey animal there because tall grass easily hide predators. Few wild prey were to be seen either in areas that had been overgrazed goats, sheep and cattle. Our task was to find, like Goldilocks, places where the grass was not too tall and not too short, but just right. When we did we were blessed with views of dozens of giraffes and warthogs, hundreds of buffalo, impalas, antelopes, zebras, wildebeest, elands, gazelles, and so-on. Elephants mostly make their own rules. So do hyenas and jackals.

In keeping with the fascination with life and death, our first morning out on Mara North we encountered the carcass of a freshly-killed hippo, about three km (2 mi) from the river right in front of our camp. Hippos stay cool hanging in the water all day then travel up to several kilometers at night in search of forage. This one didn't make it back to the river. It had to have taken several lions to bring down this full-grown animal. A male lion was eating on the carcass's front end while a few females waited nearby. A couple dozen buzzards watched from the upper reaches of a nearby tree. Buzzards are a way for safari vans to track kills. So are other safari vans. There were a few vans arrayed around the site of the hippo kill.

When we came back two days later the lions--we counted two adult males and four females--were lazing about in the shade. Hyenas covered the area where the corpse had been. One could infer that there was still some tough skin to be gotten through by the way some of the animals tugged at something. A couple of hyenas trotted away with ribs in their mouth. Whatever had been there was now totally deflated. The buzzards hung on the ground, just out of reach of the hyenas. You could just about hear then saying, “Common, please, please, isn't it my turn yet?” A couple of jackals, much smaller than hyenas, managed get themselves to the edge of the site and steal a bite or two. Now, just two days later, 1-1/2 tons of hippopotamus was just gone.

We hung by the lions for a while, hoping to catch a couple in the act of mating, a common postprandial act. I'd especially have loved to see giraffes mate too. This got me thinking about how much a safari resembles other forms of entertainment. Violence, sex and death are the biggest attractions. It's human nature, I suppose.

I've done a lot of cogitating about how much balance and cooperation, intra-and inter-species, there is out there that maintains the beautiful, dynamic equilibrium of the whole ecozone. Proposing “red in tooth and claw” as a total explanation of what is going on in the animal world is about as myopic as trying to understand the human world from the point of view of total combat sports. That said, I'd have been happy to witness a kill and even happier to see a couple of lions or giraffes going at it.

In some ways, safaris have had minimal impact on African wildlife. Hunting ended in Kenya in 1977. There is no more ivory trade and rare rhino poaching. (Rhino horns are valued in traditional Chinese medicine for their sexual enhancement properties. They fetch a huge price on the black market.) Having learned that the humans driving around in safari vans aren't going to hurt them, the animals mostly just ignore us. It would have made a very interesting study if someone had thought to record the sequence of changes in animal behavior after hunting was outlawed. Nobody feeds the animals either. I asked about dropping a few chicken bones left over from lunch in the dirt in the middle of nowhere. Both guide and driver said no, no dumping of anything not natural to the place, ever, period.

On the other hand, safaris have affected behavior of kids in the territory. As we approached the big parks kids on the roadside started waiving and shouting at us. How friendly, I thought. Turns out they were yelling “sweets.” Tourists haven't been feeding any of the animals except for homo sapiens. At another stop, to pee by the side of the road, some little boys carrying sticks offered to protect us from an unspecified threat for the price of a small donation. We declined.

Other animals sighted:

Banded mongoose — look like meerkats, gathered in villages like prairie dogs

Secretary bird — a shock of feathers on their heads look like the pens that secretaries used to have stuck in their hair

Egrets — hang around elephants and buffaloes to eat the insects the big guys stir up while grazing. Egrets also ride on the backs of mammals eating parasites they find in their coat.

Lilac breasted roller — these lilac, turquoise, blue and aqua birds remind me of fish I've seen snorkeling in Hawaii. Has been proposed as the national bird of Kenya

Kori bustard — The largest flying bird in the world, it looks kind of like an ostrich with a giant wingspan. Like a jumbo jet, it's hard to imagine how it gets off the ground.

“At the Zoo” by Simon and Garfunkel

The monkeys stand for honesty

Giraffes are insincere

And the elephants are kindly but they're dumb

Orangutans are skeptical

Of changes in their cages

And the zookeeper is very fond of rum

Zebras are reactionaries

Antelopes are missionaries

Pigeons plot in secrecy

And hamsters turn on frequently

I've seen 'em all here but hamsters.

February 13

I returned to Nairobi on Saturday. My flight to London was not until the next Friday. So I figured I ought to do something more than just hang at George, Carole and Tamara's for the duration, lovely though they are and comfortable thought their place is. So Rose Muya, my travel agent booked me two days and a night in Mombasa.

Sunday the Jones took me for lunch at the Murthaiga Club, a members-only institution established in Nairobi in 1913 for British settlers (i.e. Whites). There are golf, tennis and squash, a big library, a bar where I saw displayed at least a dozen-and-a-half labels of gin displayed, and restaurant. There is also a men only bar that Rose Muya, a longtime feminist, complained to me about. The place was slowly and reluctantly integrated after independence in 1963. I estimate that when we lunched there about 10% of the customers were non-white. Our table included a fair share of them. There were George, Carole and Tamara, as well as one of George's greatest friends, Narajan Desai, and his wife, Joan. Narajan was a high United Nations functionary. He and Joan have retired to Geneva and spend winters living at the club. Delightful people. Both using walkers. He's plenty hard of hearing. She's a little demented. We had a swell time.

I ate steak and kidney pie, rich, delicious and very filling. Consumed hardly anything more in the next 24 hours. The place is so, so, so British. Just being there was a trip. It made me want to say, “Pip pip, and all that rot.”

Skip ahead a few days for another consummate British experience, the Kiambethu Tea Farm, founded in 1910 by English settler A.B. McDonnell. His granddaughter, Fiona Vernon, leads tours that include a nice buffet lunch. I took a photo of Fiona to send to Webster's for them for use in their dictionary to illustrate the entry, “Brit.” She's charming and self-effacing. The place is beautiful. My least favorite part of the tour was a brief walk through thick woods with a Kenyan who stopped every few feet, pointed to a bush or tree, ask if anybody among us mzungus knew what it was, which of course we didn't. Jagi, the only Black in our entourage, knew most of the answers but kept his mouth shut. Then the guide would tell us the name of the flora and list the ten or so diseases its bark or leaves or flowers were could treat. As far as I was concerned, the coolest plant the guide showed us was a tea bush, a volunteer plant resulting from a seed accidentally planted by a rat.

The whole countryside around the farm is picture book beautiful, manicured and green, with rows and rows of tea bushes on rolling hills punctuated with bits of woods. It lies just west of Limuru, which was how Swahili interpreted the English word “limit” to name their town that lays on the edge of the White settlement. The demarcation is as clear today as it was then. On the way back to Nairobi, at the border of Limuru the scenery changes from Edenic to urban gritty just like that.

At the tea farm I had another quite unexpected reminder of the Anglo-Saxon past. As we were finishing our pre-tour tea and cookies, I overheard a guy going on about Vienna Hot Dogs. So I asked him if he was from Chicago. “Yes,” he said. “Where?” I asked. “Winnetka.” “I came back with “I live in Glencoe,” asked if he had attended New Trier High School. Class of '66, my year too. He told me his name. I asked if he played the tenor sax. Yes he did. I mentioned a few things about the musicians I'd seen him play with. He clearly had no recollection of me. I was pretty invisible back then. We chatted intermittently. Of course he remembers Nancy. She was a star. He was there with his wife and daughter. Their son-in-law and a couple of kids have lived in Nairobi for five years. He does business consulting. My old classmate asked me barely anything about myself. Left without saying goodbye. Just like high school. His wife and daughter are both thin and sport the blond ponytails that are de rigueur for Winnetka women, even when in Africa.

Before I left for Mombasa Jagi filled a day with a trip to the Giraffe Centre (note Brit spelling) on the edge of Nairobi, adjacent to Nairobi National Park, 45 square miles of wilderness right on the edge of the city. Jagi is chair of the board of that organization. (Like Chicken Man [a reference to WCFL] He's everywhere! He's everywhere!) We dropped in. The CEO no less, Christine Odiambo, gave us a personal tour. She's very impressive.

The Centre was founded in 1979 with the primary mission of saving the endangered Rothschild giraffe subspecies, which had dwindled to 150, mostly due to habitat loss. Now, thanks to breeding at the Centre and release of young healthy animals back into the wild, there are over 300 breeding adults. Over time the mission of the Centre has greatly widened and deepened. Extensive education programs, especially targeting children, not just about giraffes but about conservation and the environment in general, are supported throughout the country. Christine showed me the braille book on environmental education that they produced, the first such publication ever in Kenya. The whole visitor Centre is handicap accessible. The highlight of any visit is placing alfalfa chunks and other tidbits, taken out of a small half-coconut shell, one-by-one and offered to the waiting purple tongues of giraffes. (Jagi took pictures of me doing it. Stay tuned. It was real cool.)

The place is run with a near zero carbon footprint. Gray water is processed and recycled through a series of tanks populated with papyrus plants. They have a tree nursery that supplies, for a minimal fee, plants for use in all sorts of school ecology products. It's an amazing place, with a big mission and a heart to match.

After the Centre Jagi and I lunched at a splendiferous Indian restaurant then stopped at his apartment. Except for his golf clubs, and the tropical selection of plants on the balcony, it's a Kenyan version of my bachelor house in Greeley, comfortable, filled with quirky interesting things and a nice bicycle.

I decided to take a two-day trip to Mombasa. It's where our dear friend Pius went to elementary school. The descriptions in his memoir of that phase of his life made me want to see it, the views of the harbor and the passing ships that set him daydreaming from a huge baobab tree, as well as the campus of his elementary school.

Mombasa was settled by Arab traders (many of them slavers) in the 11th century. There are mosques, plenty of Middle Eastern architecture, and much better food than in the rest of the country, including fresh fish. Sounds promising, right?

It didn't work out that way on my first day there. My travel agent booked the airline ticket. I had to get up at 4:00 so I could leave the Jones' at 4:45 in order to arrive at Jomo Kenyatta Airport in time to make my 7:30AM flight. Being sleep deprived is not a good way to enter into any endeavor.

My driver, Sebastian, met me at the airport. A very nice and self-effacing man. He's quite good at navigating the chaotic traffic one encounters everywhere in this city. But he's not cut out to be a tour guide. Our first stop was a huge crafts co-op, where hundreds of woodcarvers, almost all male, labor to produce the whole range of mostly animal-themed Kenyan tchotchkes and household items, from keychain size to monumental. Their tools are mostly adzes, files, sand paper. Except for the chain saws that chunk the trees that will be turned into sculptures, there is hardly a power tool in sight. Paste wax shoe polish plays a big role in finishing. The contiguous sheds where the craftsmen work are covered with rusting corrugated steel. The dirt floors of the workshops are littered with wood chips. The clothing of many of the carvers is not just old, but disintegrating . Most are barefoot. Sebastian stopped with me at at least forty of these workplaces. He'd pick up a piece in whatever stage of creation, hand it to me, and say, “elephant” or “giraffe” or “lion” or “leopard” or “cape buffalo,” followed by the words “big five” (as these animals are referred to in the Kenya tourist trade). There were plenty of other animals for him to name for me too. I began to feel like I was walking through the Giant Golden Book of African Megafauna. That's when I started intoning under my breath, “Just shoot me.” The weather was already hot and very humid. I purchased a couple of carved bowls and a half-liter of water for each of us at the extensive gift shop.

Then we looked for Pius' old Makupa Primary School. Couldn't find it. I've heard back from Pius and will try again tomorrow.

Next we took a turn around an urban park that sported a few impressive baobab trees, tons of litter and people sleeping everywhere. Then on to the markets. A man who said his name was “Omar Sharif,” glommed onto us as we wormed our way into a parking space at a gas station across the street from the markets. He appointed himself tour guide, stopping at most every stand stand and picking up item after item, most of which I was familiar with, naming it and telling me what it was good for. Sebastian did take the opportunity to mention the laxative properties of papayas. There were some dishes of bulk spices that I could smell if put my nose down into them. Otherwise, the place just smelled like a lot of people. This was the vegetable market, the old market for male slaves. Across a narrow street was the meat market, former site of the female slave market. It featured lots of goat carcasses hanging from hooks and more camel parts than you want me to call your attention to, all buzzing with flies. It was pretty rank. The kinkiness held a certain fascination for me.

Wherever we went, Sebastian would constantly be saying to me, “pole pole, ” which means “slow.” He was watching out for my every step. At the markets I imagined Sebastian and Omar in patrol boy belts as they stopped multiple lanes of traffic so this mzungu could cross.

We were early for lunch so we killed some time at the water's edge, at a park with more cool baobab trees. There was a cannon emplacement with an explanation of how it covered entrance to the harbor. The sign did not say when it had been built so I asked Sebastian. “A long time ago,” he replied. As I said, he's a driver, not a tour guide. I purchased a liter of water for each of us.

We ate lunch at a well-known place on the water's edge, The Forodhani Restaurant. I wondered about the difference between the tandoori fish and red snapper. Sebastian didn't know. He started to ask the waitress for me in Swahili. She spoke better English than my driver. I had to interject and ask her myself.  I chose the tandoori. It was good. I asked where the bathroom was. He didn't know but said, “It's better if I take you.” I lost my cool; told him firmly, “I'm a grown man. I can go to the bathroom by myself. And also cross streets and walk up and down stairs.”

Sebastian belongs to a fundamentalist Christian sect. I asked him if he wanted to say a prayer over our meal and he did intone a brief blessing. I learned about his first wife who left him when their twins were 4 months old and the years of raising them by himself. They're 11 now. He remarried and has a 1-1/2 year-old with the current wife from whom he also inherited an 8 and a 10 year-old. So there are 5 children in his household. He's a decent guy, doing his best to raise a large blended family. It sounds like he married well this time. His wife sells barbecued and fried chicken from 3 to 7PM at a stand. The first wife was/is a drunk. God bless them all.

After lunch he dropped me off at my hotel, the Mombasa Club, faded from its former colonial glory but still with that feel. The room air conditioner didn't work. I set up the fan right in front of the chair opened the window to the balcony. Fort Jesus is right across the soccer pitch where kids played right below my window all afternoon and evening. The zipper on the pocket of the vest where I keep my money and passport broke.

I'll go to the dining room for dinner soon. We'll see how that goes. If it's anything like the Murthaiga Country Club they should have a great selection of gin.

Tomorrow we'll do a walking tour, with a genuine guide, of Old Town Mombasa and Fort Jesus. Fingers crossed!

Dinner was swell, a shrimp cocktail appetizer which invoked a nice little conversation with the waitress about Bomb Sauce, the local hot condiment, followed by grilled red snapper with garlic and ginger. I drank a double of Tanqueray 10, a familiar old friend. That's what Roger Isaacs and I drink when we get together most every week.

Breakfast was okay. Strong coffee. Lots of fruit (including papaya). A nice little omelet. I had already sweated through my shirt just waiting for Sebastian and the tour guide. Fingers still crossed.

Prayers answered. Bernard, the guide who joined us knows a whole lot. At lunch we had a wide-ranging conversation about alcohol, marijuana, religion and dentistry, to name but a few of the topics covered. Sebastian tried carbonated water for the first time and didn't like it. They both wanted to know about possible healing properties of this fizzy substance. I told them it was good for belching. (Grandpa called seltzer grepsvaser, belchwater in Yiddish.)

I don't think either of my lunchtime companions had ever been to the dentist. Sebastian's teeth are perfect, gleaming white; Bernard's not so much. I explained about anesthesia and showed them my shining crowns. We talked about how they'd underestimated my physical abilities. I didn't mention my four joint replacements, felt embarrassed by that level of privilege. If I hadn't gotten new knees, a hip and an ankle, I'd be plenty crippled, which is what is expected here for mzees like me.

I was impressed at Bernard's explanation of Buddhism to Sebastian and me. “It's scientific,” he said. Bernard is Catholic. It was Ash Wednesday. He planned to go to church later on. He has five children, ranging from 16 to 1-1/2. When we parted at the airport Bernard bumped chests and said, “Goodbye dog.” He could be an anthropologist.

But I get ahead of myself. In the morning we walked less than a block from the door of my overnight home at the Mombasa Club and into Fort Jesus, built by the Portuguese in 1593. Most of it remains intact. It's pretty amazing. Bernard recounted the story of control of the site by Arabs, then its construction by the Portuguese, then control by Omani Arabs with allegiance to the British, then takeover by the British who didn't take long to banish their Arab allies and control the place until Kenyan independence in 1963. I found a place in the fort from which you could see my hotel room.

Then we saw Old Town on foot. Very Arab in feel. Outside a tchotchke shop on the waterfront we ran into a small group of American students whom Bernard had shown around a few days earlier. They were with the Semester at Sea program. He had been asked to focus on the role of women in religion. He had some pretty smart things to say. Among the group we ran into was a young woman who's a senior at CSU, studying international relations. We spent a few minutes connecting about northern Colorado.

From there we drove to the park at one end of the Liconi Ferry, where Pius used to play, chill and dream about the wild world in a Baobab tree. There are still plenty of amazing baobabs there but way to tell which one was Pius'. I took pictures of a few of them to send to on. On the way to the park we passed a couple of camels grazing by the side of the road.

Sebastian was able to navigate to Makupa Primary School, Pius' alma mater. We drove across a dusty field and parked under a shade tree by the main office. There we met Mr. Nicholas, the head teacher. I told him my mission; asked to take some pictures. He gave me a lengthy legalistic (and silly, in my book) explanation of why we couldn't. Later he relented, just so long as they were pictures of him and me with the school in the background. Nicholas shooed the gaggle curious of kids — boys in shorts and white shirts and ties, girls in long dresses and headwear that made them look like miniature nuns — out of the frame. (The culture in Mombasa remains traditional, conservative, Arab-influenced, which is why the little girls must dress this way.) I heard the word mzungu a few times. Posted on the wall of the elementary school were signs that said “Do Your Homework” and “Speak English,” as well as a more elaborate one on oral hygiene. So we took a few pictures and headed to the airport. While writing these words waiting for my flight I pulled my boarding pass out of my shirt pocket. It was soggy with sweat. The ink was smeared and the q-code detached. They had to issue me a new one at the gate.

Wajir, the Jones' driver, picked me up at the airport in Mombasa. We walked to a several story parking structure. Of note is that there is a red or green lights in the ceiling above each parking space, indicating if the slot is filled or empty. I noticed an error or two. Can't you just look to see if a space is open? Who needs a light to tell you if a parking slot is open? My guess it was some politician who needed a payoff to greenlight the system. It reminds me of the patronage employees at Cook County Hospital who were paid to sit on stools and punch the buttons of the automatic elevators, as well as to turn in their precinct's vote.

Random observation, Mombasa has outlawed boda bodas so it's lousy with tuk tuks. Those tiny motorized 3-wheelers got their name for the sound their little diesel engines make. They are just bringing out electric versions. I wonder if they'll be called “……….” (the sound of one hand clapping).

Another miscellaneous note about traffic. There are speed bumps on paved roads everywhere in Kenya. The bumps are irregularly placed, not of uniform size. Some bumps are preceded by rumble strips, some not. The paint stripes on many have faded almost to invisibility. Others never were painted. I must say, the speed bumps sure do keep drivers on their toes.

Today I found myself getting quite uncomfortable when Bernard turned around to talk to me in the back seat because, in my mind's eye, he's the one who should be driving from that place in the vehicle.

Yet more vocabulary:

sawa — okay; often sawa sawa

akuna matata — It's cool. They really do say this.

jambo — hi

jambo se — hi backatcha

mabari yako — How 'ya doin'?

matatu — passenger van

flyover — an overpass. There's a town by that name. It grew up around an overpass.

polei — slow, slow; usually pole pole

George, Carole, Tamara, Wajir, Mama Njeri, Jackie, Zuri, Diva and Tuesday

I understand that I'm repeating some things about the Jones that I covered early in this journal. But I wanted to say something a bit more coherent about these wonderful people.

I met George Jones through Pius Kamau. I met Pius after he called me to ask if I could help him get on the radio. He'd heard some commentaries I'd done for KUNC, a Colorado public radio station based in Greeley. Pius, a Kikuyu, retired a few years ago from his longtime general surgery practice in Aurora. He remains very active writer. I introduced Pius to the KUNC folks. They did run a few of his commentaries. Howie Wolf, alav ha sholem (rest in peace, Yiddish), a leftist family doctor who practiced in Longmont for over 50 years, was in the mix with Pius, George and me. Anyway, the four of us, and later a Boulder guy, Drew Schwartz, met for lunch about once a month over the course of ten years or so. Occasionally we'd get together with spouses/partners too. We became a very good friends. So that's how I know George and through him, his wife, Carole, and their daughter, Tamara. The Jones are why I chose to visit Kenya. My favorite way to travel is to see a place through the eyes of people who live there. And there's the advantage of escaping to the equator during Chicago winter.

George and Carole winter in Kenya now. Tamara lives there year round. She practices as a  veterinary, prescribing alternative therapies for pets, especially homeopathy. On and off, over the course of about ten years the Jones lived in Kenya and did a large share of their childrearing there. Early on they purchased a home in a lovely, tony Nairobi neighborhood, down the block from ambassadors' residences and such. They hooked me up with a wonderful travel agent, Rose Muya. Rose asked what sort of trip I wanted. I told her one that would give me the feel and the smell of the place and its people. So Rose set me up with Jagi Gakunju, and the rest is history.

(I began writing the Jones part of the narrative in the waiting area by the gate at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport where I boarded the plane that will take me to London, the first leg of my journey home.) Side note. I've shown my passport five times, my boarding pass six times, been patted down three times and had my luggage scanned four times since arriving at the airport. Every one of the security checks was a bit half-assed.

Back to the Jones. George is 90, Carole 88. A former athlete (golf, tennis, before that football and basketball), George walks with two canes now. He's very much engaged but too weak to do very much. He ventures from home little. Sitting in the sun for some hours every day has caused George's skin to darken toward ebony. Carole is a spitfire. She does pilates three times a week. She loves to discuss politics, history, spirit and healing. Tamara is sort of the bass player of their trio. She sets the backbeat; keeps the household running year round.

All three Jones have great stories. I told them that I might just write a list of places they haven't visited or lived, because it would be shorter than where they have been. For much of his career George served as an USAID officer, rising through the ranks to become a regional director in Africa. He swears neither he nor Carole were ever CIA. They lived all over Africa and Asia and traveled to many more places than they worked. Their stories are endless and fascinating including: Carole's climb to the summit of Mount Sinai in ballet shoes and rescue after dark by a Bedouin who sat her on a very bony camel for the ride back to St. Catherine's Monastery where she was staying ; their attendance at an exorcism based on drumming in a remote African village; a road trip with Muriel Humphrey, Hubert's wife; a stay at the Rockefeller compound in Arkansas; and on and on. Tamara has her stories about growing up in all these exotic places, including the horse her parents bribed her with to make her stay in Niger feel a little less loathsome to a ten year-old.

There are five servant positions at their home, not all of them fulltime. Wachira, the driver is around most of the time. He helps out with yard work too. The commute from the home he shares with his wife and 1-1/2 month old daughter is about an hour. Tamara recruited him from the mechanic shop where he used to work on the Jones' vehicle. I've never seen the housekeeper, Mama Njiri, sit still. (Kenyan women often assume the name of their first-born son, appended to “Mama.”) Jackie, the cook, recently left her daily employ at the Jones' to found a successful catering business. Now she comes weekly and prepares a week's worth of delicious meals for George, Carole and Tamara. In my honor she cooked a wonderful Asian-themed multicourse meal the day before I left. There is a gardener three days a week. A security man who mans the front gate after dark is contracted for with an agency.

There are two outdoor dogs, Zuri and Diva. I didn't ever learn which bears which name. I did find that the big, German-shepherdy dog is the one who wants to lick you and be petted. The more aloof little white fluffball is the guard dog, alerting the human inhabitants of all comings and goings. Then there's the African gray parrot Tuesday (of a litter in which each individual was named after a day of the week). Tuesday has a vocabulary of several hundred words in English, Swahili and French, plus a ton of sound effects. My favorite thing he says is a thing he learned from Carole's mom, who stayed with them for ten years.  When the electricity blinks Tuesday will say, “Tell that little man to turn the electricity back on.” I'm sorry I didn't hear him say that myself. By the way, the power blinked only a few times the whole time I was in Kenya. I was alerted at night a couple of times when my CPAP quit for a few minutes and it woke me up.

A beautiful home, my own guest house, five servants, plentiful good food, great conversation, need I say again what great hosts the Jones are? Okay, there's one more thing. They booked me with their fabulous massage therapist, Ann, the day after I arrived and the day I departed.

I  finished reading The Boys in the Boat about midway through my trip. I cried through most of the last chapter. I think some of this tenderness came from a touch of homesickness. I'm looking forward to being back home. I came close to crying again when I left George, Carol and Tamara. As I debarked at the airport, I shared a heartfelt warm goodbye with Wajir, who asked if I might be able to stay another month.

On the way home I started reading Jagi's memoir, Living on the Edge. The stories are pretty amazing.

The trip from London to Nairobi to Chicago took about 24 hours. It was pretty easy. I saw three movies, “The Holdovers,” which I strongly recommend, “Oppenheimer,” which was a good way to occupy three hours in an airplane seat, and “Marlowe,” a stylish but predictable noirish work starring Liam Neeson. I slept 9 hours last night. Jet lag is definitely a lot less severe when crossing time zones east to west. I'm happy to be home. Spent the day catching up on things. There's still plenty more to do, including organizing, editing and posting a whole bunch of images. So stay tuned.

I just read through this journal again and did some editing. It is still far from perfect.  But this is it.

To view photos from my trip, please view them on Flickr

April 6, 2024
 in the
Written by
Marc Ringel, MD

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