I’ve heard that God lives in Kenya. Supposedly, his earthly home can be found on Mount Kenya. Walking out of Kenyatta International Airport this morning, I wouldn’t doubt it. We landed in Nairobi this morning months away from the rainy season and were greeted by my version of heaven, 0% humidity and 80⁰ F. The paved roads and billboards leading away from the airport indicated a country with far more robust economy than the one we had just left and perhaps somewhat more blessed.
Several of us spent the afternoon at the National Museum, walking through our Wikipedia research of Kenya’s history. A former British colony, it has deep ties with both India and the UK. Many of Kenya’s industries are headed by native Kenyans of both Indian and British descent. It is relatively peaceful as of late, and will hopefully remain so after elections this summer.
Later in the evening, Mr. Rao, our tour leader’s (Varsheeni Raghupathy) father-in-law, graciously hosted us for dinner – serving the best fried cauliflower and South African wines. We could not have felt more welcome or excited to start our tour. Later in the week, Mr. Rao showed us around ALPHARAMA, his leather factory – where we saw the process from start to finish – fur removal, pressing and treating it to the client’s specifications, and drying. Did you know that suede is just the inside of the hide facing out? Mr. Rao’s generosity again surfaced when at the end of the tour, offering everyone a sample of leather or a belt or pair of locally beaded sandles (made by IKWETTA, Varsheeni’s company).
(Clockwise from top left: Leather washing machines, pressing, stacks of suede, Ikwetta sandals)
Today we prepped ourselves for our safari in the Masai Mara by visiting the David Sheldrick Elephant Nursery, which takes care of orphaned baby elephants. You can adopt a baby elephant for $50. I adopted one for my nephew, who will receive a portrait of his elephant and monthly updates on his progress. Proceeds go towards offsetting the expenses of caring for the elephants. It makes a great gift and can be purchased here.
From there, we went to the beautiful Giraffe Centre. We were immediately smitten by their long eyelashes and graceful gait. Giraffes, while they walk on all fours, walk with both left legs moving forward together followed by both right legs, meaning they are slightly off balance. When running, they run with their front legs and back legs moving together, much how I imagine a unicorn running, as opposed to a galloping horse.
Our evening ended at Flamingo Casino, Nairobi’s largest gaming house, not in terms of square footage, but in terms of tables and slot machines. They have a generous loyalty program and openly cater to their large Chinese client base (Chinese companies have been contracted to contract all the major infrastructure projects currently underway), regularly offering a Chinese buffet and celebrations on major Chinese holidays. One in our group got lucky at a slot machine, winning over 8,000 Shillings. Her seat was promptly occupied by another patron wanting to know what game she had been playing….