I arrived into Nairobi on Friday night (9/14) and caught a cab to my hotel. I’m staying at the Fairmont Hotel, which is also where Bob, Denise, Rachel and Corey are going to stay when they arrive next week. It is an awesome hotel.
Everyone in Nairobi drives like they are blindfolded. If the traffic backs up it is quite common to see a van take a short cut on the sidewalk. There is no such thing as a no-passing zone. On two lane roads they pass each other and get back into their lane missing the oncoming car literally by 2 inches or less. I spent the majority of my 40 minute taxi ride to the hotel with my eyes closed.
The tour group we are using for our safari is Visit Africa Limited. They were highly recommended by a friend of mine, Dana. I don’t have to be in Tanzania until Sunday, 9/16 so I wanted to visit the tourist places that Bob and the group will be visiting next week. But I wasn’t too crazy about touring around alone, so I asked Visit Africa to provide me with a tour guide to show me the sights.
My tour guide is Eric, the same person who will be taking all of us on safari. Today we visited three wonderful places. We started at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust You can only visit between 11am and 12pm to see the orphan elephants. There are 23 of them living in the sanctuary right now. They will live there until they are between 2-3 years old and then they will be transitioned out to the National Park. These elephants were hysterical.
Next we went to Giraffe Manor to see the giraffes. I got to feed one of the giraffes, which entails going upstairs to a balcony so the giraffe does not have to bend her head. Her name was Wendy.
My favorite movie in the whole world is “Out of Africa”. The highlight of the day was visiting Karen Von Blixen’s home. Seeing her house, the gardens, and learning more about her life was truly delightful. I tried to imagine what it was like to live in that home. I imagined what it would be like to sit on the verandah in a rocking chair talking to Robert Redford. (Bob, if you are reading this, I didn’t really do that.)
During our drives around Nairobi I struck up a conversation with Eric. He is 42 years old and is originally from Masai Mara. He is from a family of five brothers and three sisters and he grew up brutally poor. When he was a child, he had to walk 20 kilometers each way to school. His family could not afford to feed him lunch, so he only ate two meals a day. You know the joke of how the father tells his children, “You kids have it easy, I used to have to walk 10 miles to school…..” Well Eric tells his 4 children this story and it is true!!
All his life he wanted to be a guide so he is one of the happiest people I have ever met. He told me about an orphanage that he and his brother started several years ago. It currently provides a home to 11 children, but his dream is to build an orphanage that will provide a home for 80 children.
I asked him what inspired him and his brother to start this orphanage, and he told me a long story about his childhood that made me feel very grateful for mine. And he explained that he knows what it is like to be terribly, terribly poor, and to be an outcast in your village as a result. So when he was successful enough to escape that poverty he felt so “much happiness in his heart that he wanted to give other children that feeling of happiness” (his words, not mine). His brother felt the same way and so together they started the orphanage.
He went on to tell me the story of how three years ago he took an American couple on an 8 day safari and during those 8 days they became friends. He told them about the orphanage and they insisted on visiting. They became so enamored of the children and what Eric and his brother were doing, that they came back another 4 times and donated much needed supplies and funds to help the children. As he described them, I interrupted. “That sounds like my friend Dana and her husband, Patrick.”
“Yes, yes!!!” cried Eric. “They are your friends??”
“Yes,” I replied. “Dana is the friend that recommended your safari company to me.”
Eric was beaming and laughing, and I started laughing as well. Another serendipitous moment. About 20 minutes later he was still grinning and he looked at me and said, “I am so happy.” And I was happy too.