Haley: You’re killin’-me-Jaro

October 6, 2010

A rundown of my trip to Mt. Kilimanjaro:

Sept: 24
TODAY WE LEAVE FOR AMBROSELI PARK!!!! It is 25 kilometers from Mt.Kilimanjaro and the park has Elephants and Hippos… the two animals we weren’t able to see our first week in Nakuru. Our professors gave us the day off since every student but two were either going to Ambroseli (by Kilimanjaro) or to Mombasa (on the Indian Ocean; also where my internship is).

Wellllllll the van I was in ended up being the “loud bus.” We sang and talked the whole way there with a few pit stops. First pit stop of course being the super market to grab food. When we were getting back into the van, our driver looks at me and says,
] “YOU…. you must be the captain… the LEADER!”
[ “ehhhh…. why do you say that?”
] “Because!… You are the TALLEST! and the STRONGEST!” (Do you just want to throw in there that I’m white too? I mean hey buddy… I don’t want to stop you there from the obvious or anything)
[ “Oh…. uhh no, just tall parents I suppose! But thanks?”

So as we were all getting on the van, he shouts out to me and says,
] “WATCH YOUR HEAD!!!!! For you’re the TALLEST!” (I slightly groan seeing that this was my claim to fame here… well that and apparently being told I hail from Spain…) And in the process of doing so I whack my head getting in:
1. I had that coming
2. Listen to the OBVIOUS
3. Don’t roll your eyes at someone who is trying to be funny
4. Look in the mirror afterwords because I had black crap imprinted on my forehead for a good couple of hours

Our second pit stop was literally in the middle of nowhere with huts on the side of the road. I guess they had to pick up coal for the grills. While we stopped I got out of the car. The driver points out that you can see Mt. Kilimanjaro….ummm where? All I see is a bright white cloud in the middle of the blue sky. Oh wait-no… that’s the snow on the peak of the mountain. Holy Cow! So while I was standing there feeling like a GENIUS, I feel these little hands on my pants… I turn and find a few Kenyan children looking up at me shyly, wearing clothes that had nothing but dirt and holes in them (you would think I would have gotten used to this by now.) So I smile and say Hi and it was like SERIOUSLY as soon as I spoke you would have thought I was holding a gun or something because the kids got SO frightened that a white person talked to them that they ran away with in a matter of SECONDS! And for some reason, when we took out our cameras, rather than the rest of the Kenyan kids we met, these ones were terrified!

We FINALLY arrive at Ambroseli park and divided up into our cabins. I was rooming with my two best friends on the trip which made for an even MORE enjoyable time. When we got to the cabin we were told we only had electricity from 6pm-11pm (and that went for hot water too). The girls were SO excited that we had hot water, because for the majority of them, they haven’t taken a hot shower since they left the states… yeah. (Like I said before, I’m considered lucky to have hot running water in my home-stay)
Before we left to go on our safari ride we stepped out onto the back patio. I think we all just stood there in awe for a couple of minutes as we were faced with the view of Mt.Kilimanjaro as SOON as you stepped out the back door… (so every morning we would wake up and greet the mountain as such “HEY there Killer” and for the Minnesotans it was of course “OOOOoohhhhh HEY-der! It’s Kiliman-JAR-OOOoo”… we feel obligated to make fun of the upper midwestern accent since our program is through the University of Minnesota.

We went on the most amazing safari ride YET! As SOON as we exited the entrance of our cabin grounds, there was 3 full grown elephants within 10 yards of our van. I could have just stared at them FOREVER! Forget the zoo… you haven’t seen anything until you see these most UNBELIEVABLE animals in the natural habitat. It seriously made me want to punch the people who kill Elephants for ivory straight in the face.

But yeah there is over 900 elephants in this national park, and we must have seen at least half of them. We also saw the hippos fighting in the water and sun bathing. Also the sunset was unbelievable, creating the most beautiful hues of color against the mountain. The shadows and outlines of elephants playing at twilight and the twinkling of stars peeking through… all just painted across the sky in Africa… WOW. Another amazing thing is once the sun starts to set, it goes down FAST! Within minutes you can actually see the sun sink behind the mountains. It was crazy beautiful. On our ride back to our cabins we stopped at the entrance of the park and were greeted by some Masai People (1 of 42 tribes in Kenya) They were dressed in their tribal clothes, and trying to sell us jewelry and other things made in their village…

Sept. 25:
We wake up early for another game drive through the park! We also have plans to go visit the Masai village to see how it is they live and to experience tribal living (the Masai are among one of the biggest tribes in Kenya spread throughout the country) We took a few breaks, one of them being at this fancy lodge which we discovered had a pool (I didn’t want to leave) and CLEAN bathrooms. It was amazing; the toilets flushed (counter clock wise lol), there was toilet paper, running water, SOAP, HOT water, no dirt, paper towels, MIRRORS, and and anndddd it smelt like an air freshener!

For our lunch we climbed to the top of this HUGE hill that overlooked the whole park… and it was just so incredible. I can’t even describe the beauty of this land. We finally arrive at the Masai village in Ambroseli, and as soon as we step off the van we are greeted by a man named John. John happens to be the chief’s son. John also decides to stop, and abruptly ask me what my name is….

] “Hhhhh–OLIVIA” (quickly remembering my first name brings aneurysms to the brain here) He continued talking to the group without breaking eye-contact. WHAT-THE-HECK!!!!???? (It was at this point our driver laughed at me and informed me that my height makes me an easy target. Target for what?! a spear?) So while John was talking to us he informed us that the men were going to do a traditional dance while the tribal women join. In this dance the men will jump, and whichever man jumps the HIGHEST, gets the first choice in women (smiles). They came out with these lion head dress type things, jewelry galore, and it was just AWESOME! Next thing I know, I’m being dragged to the middle of the dance by “prince John” and was told to JOIN. My classmates are giggling ferociously at me as I’m looking around in a panic trying to figure out this “dance”… and before I had a second to figure out what was going on, the old woman standing next to me GRABS my hands and yells “JUMP!” and yanks me forward as it was now the Women’s turn to jump. My heart was smiling as I participated in the Masai dance. FINALLY my classmates joined me on the dance, and I was no longer the only white girl amongst tribal members.

When it was time for the men to jump—HOLY WOW! I know people say in America black people can jump… But THE MASAI JUMP SO MUCH HIGHER! Seriously like there was springs on their feet or something. The dance ended and all of us were buzzing with laughter over an unfamiliar tradition and were just SO grateful to have experienced such a thing. We walked over to John who then told us to break up into groups to get a tour of the village, and as I was walking towards a group I figured I’de join, he taps me on the arm with his walking stick and says “No you come with me.” It was at this moment my friend Ami swoops on over joining us, realising I was put into a group by myself (extra hugs for Ami). John was explaining to all the groups how the huts were made of Elephant manure and sticks. As soon as he finishes taking about the huts he looks over at me and says,
[ “You are more than welcome to stay the night in the village tonight (smile)”
] “(panic) HAAAAAH, not unless I get my own HUT!”
[ “I can give you your own hut”
] “(awkward laughhhhhhhh)… errrmmm…. (breath in)… uhhhhhhhh…. w-ummm….”

I really need to realize that not everyone is as scarcastic as me. Sometimes not speaking is for the better…..
But the tour went on. We met the medicine man’s son who showed us some of the plants they use. One of which was meant for men with multiple wives… it was supposed to be for “energy.” They told us about their diet and how it mostly consists of just meat, milk, and blood from the cow. Then they made a fire for us and we were even taken into one of the huts. Their beds are made from cow hide and I think there was hay underneath. There were two beds, one for the parents and then the other was for the kids…. and appearently they have multiple children.

Then John took us to the “market area” where they had conveniently set up jewelry stands and art stuff for us to buy. When we were done with the whole market thing, we walked over to the school. The children were CAKED in white dust. The classroom was a shack, and in the back wall there was a yellow plank of wood that had writing on it “Obama says we can.” Then these kids so giddy from seeing white people all stood up and sang little fragments of American songs (with a few wrong words).
“Head-shoulder-knee-toe!! EYE-YEAR-mow-naaa-OOOh…. Head-shoulder-knee-TOE!” They sang the ABC’s which got jumbled up at the “l-m-n-o-p” part and then counted to 20…  If you don’t leave there smiling than you’re a human being without a soul; I’m just saying.

We took some pictures with the kids and they loved having their pictures being taken. While I was taking a group picture, this little boy comes up to me with the biggest puppy eyes…. slowly reaches his hand out to touch my leg… and mumbles the word “picture” in the shyest tone. I felt my voice choke as I asked if he wanted his picture taken, and he slowly nodded his head just STARING at me with those eyes. So I told him to stand there and and give me his best smile. As I went to take the picture, I watch him stand up straight and proud for this moment. I show him the picture and without helping it, he smiles SO wide and screeches from seeing his image on my camera, and just looks at me shining. It was at this moment I had to leave because these kids were daggers to your heart, and that little boy was just killing me.

So we finally head back to the van where we were joined up by John again and as we are about to hop in the van he mentions one more time, that I have been invited to stay the night and a hut has been arranged… Thankfully my driver popped in on this one and kindly lied that we were leaving to go back to Nairobi that night and he was under contract to get us all back safetly. When we finally got back to the camp grounds dinner was ready and so was our appetites.

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