I’m going to tell you about my adventures today in Nairobi. My next message will tell you all about my adventures in Nakuru National Park on Saturday, December 8th.
The first photos attached show a cactus that most of us just grow indoors- and the flowers in the window boxes outside very window of the Nairobi Serena Hotel. Have you ever seen window boxes at other hotels?
James picked me up at 9:30 a.m. and as we were driving, I noticed huge birds on top of trees and signs. These were Marabou Storks- and clearly the prehistoric-looking bird I mentioned seeing earlier.
As we were waiting to dart into traffic, there was a man in a wheelchair asking for money. James gave some to him, explaining that this man could not work or make any money, so he had to rely on those who could. There is no provision for the disabled.
When we got to the Baby Elephant Orphanage, a curious Thompson’s gazelle and a family of mother, father and baby warthogs trotted right by the car. We got there more than an hour before it opened, because it is only open for one hour (11-12) and people arrive as soon as they can to be able to park.
The one-hour limitation was explained: they don’t want to disrupt the elephants’ schedules and they also don’t want the elephants to spend much time with humans, since the intent is to send them back into the wild.
I met three women from the states, one actually from Waukesha. All three were teachers with Christian Ministries, two in Nairobi and one in Tanzania. Becca is in Tanzania with her husband to teach a three-year immersion course in African culture in small villages, the language, food, customs, how to make friends, etc. to American students there to do mission work. They live as the natives live. In the second year, they have a community development project. By the time they finish, they can go live anywhere in Tanzania to continue the work there.
Becca and her husband have three children, one of whom was born in Tanzania- and all lived there for many years before going back to the states 10 years ago. Now they are back to help the people the best way they can.
Okay, now on to the baby elephants. I’ve attached a number of photos. The first 15 elephants were a few months old to 2 years. They are fed huge 1-liter baby bottles of a vegetable-base baby formula very 3 hours around the clock. We watched them slurp their bottles, drink water, play with each other, and eat leafy branches. We were also able to pet them!
Although they were all babies, the oldest of the babies- maybe 2 years old in this case, assumes responsibility for caring for the others and leading them.
We were told not to kneel because then the elephants would think we were toys and try to kick us. I don’t know if you can tell from the photos, but there was only a rope between the elephants and onlookers.
We learned that they are orphaned primarily due to poaching. Elephants also smell the water in sunken water pipes and the babies fall into the pipe and can’t get out. With these littlest ones and other babies 2-5 years old, there were 30 of these orphaned elephants- and the numbers are getting higher.
Once the littler ones were led off, the older ones came. They knew how to hold their bottles (they got two) themselves. They also tried to steal bottles from the handlers as they were feeding another elephant. Many of these older babies had tusks, which emerge when they are about 2 years old. They are fed every 6 hours around the clock.
The baby formula milk is not their sole source of nutrition, because they eat roots and branches in the park. All of the elephants in my photos look brown because they have been rolling in the red dirt. They are actually gray.
The focus of this place is to help the elephants go back into the wild. When they are about 3 or 4, they are moved to a park that has elephants and gradually introduced to the herd. 60% of the orphans are successfully “adopted” by the herds.
Elephants grow 6 sets of teeth, 1 set every ten years (because they get worn down from eating branches and roots. When the 6th set is worn down, the elephant dies from starvation.
It costs $900/month to feed each elephant, so they rely on donations. People who are able to donate $50/month in order to adopt one of the elephants (they all have names and were introduced to us), you get weekly updates on your elephant, plus photos and handlers’ notes.
They also have two orphaned black rhinos. One is half wild so returns on his own schedule. The other is blind (they operated and discovered he was genetically blind) so he has his own area and no one is allowed to see him, because the noise frightens him.
On the way to our next stop, we drove through Karen, which is where the ministers of state, cabinet officials and wealthy business owners live in lovely homes on streets with tall groomed hedges of flowering shrubs. Just lovely.
We next drove to the giraffe refuge, where I got to feed pellets to Ed the giraffe. His tongue was long and his mouth was gentle. What a treat!
We drove to the next part of my Nairobi adventure along a road that had an open market of wood and metal furniture and sculpture on one side and nurseries with flowers, plants, trees, and vases on the other side. And, walking right along was a small herd of sheep, all alone. They trotted across the street. We had noticed a Masai woman and child and James thought that the sheep probably belonged to them.
Our next stop was Kazuri. Years ago, when my folks went on safari in Kenya and Tanzania, they brought me back a beautiful necklace of clay birds in different colors. The place they purchased them had been set up to provide employment for women who had been abandoned by their husbands and had no way to support themselves or their children. In this place, they learned how to make clay, mold it into different shaped beads, paint them, and create jewelry.
I have never been able to find earrings to match my necklace and Mom had hoped I would be able to find the place again.
Well, the place was and is Kazuri! It began with 2 women workers back in 1975 and one of those women still works there today, when there are now 340 ladies working there. They make the beads from clay taken from Mount Kenyatta. Each woman makes 900-1000 beads per day! They export 50% of their jewelry and pottery all around the world as part of World Fair Trade.
Unfortunately, they no longer make the bird beads. However, the ladies in the shop were able to help me find earrings that would match nicely, so I am now all set! I also had to purchase earrings to bring home for family and friends (☺). What is amazing is that the earrings were 350 KS, about $4!
Next, we went to the Masai Market. Open air, filling a complete city block, with blankets laden with sculpture, jewelry, fabric, kitchen utensils, batiks, on and on. When you walk into the market, two men come to take you around, one to show you wares and the other to put them in a bag. When you are done, you sit on small wood stools to bargain over prices for each. Luckily, James was there to advise me when they should give me a “discount.” I am absolutely thrilled with my purchases, which would have cost 3-4 times as much in a gift shop.
It was a great experience, except for the young girl wearing a nice dress who kept following me around asking in a plaintive tone for money.
Thus ends the story of my adventures in Nairobi. Now I’ll tackle describing the 11 hours of my Nakuru adventure.