Sunday, December 30, 2007


We left Kisumu at 6am and finally got home, back to the peace and quiet and isolation of Budalangi. We were stopped a couple of times on the main road by groups of thugs that had blocked the road with piles of burning tires. They wanted money to let us pass. Just an excuse to extort some money out of people. This has nothing to do with elections, it is pure thuggery. Kisumu is destroyed. We didn't pass through the town centre but the side roads looked like they had been hit by bombs. all the shops are looted. Debris litters the streets. Piles of still-smoldering tires on every intersection. We saw a Toyota dealership that had been burned, the roof collapsed and the cars inside destroyed. Restaurants with all the windows broken and everything inside stripped out. We saw people carting off christmas decorations, old computer monitors, chairs and filing cabinets from offices, books, washing soap, you name it. Banks have been robbed, all the shops, not just Kikuyu-owned ones, have been looted. Buildings are still on fire. I saw footage on TV of the downtown, people carrying TVs, refrigerators, stoves, everything, from the stores. Men, women and children. The police did nothing, and probably participated. I don't know how the city will recover. Unbelievable, to have come from such incredible beauty and peace in the Mara to the ugliness of human greed in the span of 24 hours. I can only imagine the damage in Nairobi. Violence occurred in every major city in the country, and even in smaller ones. Kikuyus were the most targeted in the West, which is largely Luo. I'm sure Luo were victimized in Kikuyu areas.
We can't begin to understand the tribal animosities that are so much a part of the fabric of life here. Unfortunately, politicians exploit these to their advantage and they have generated a great deal of the hatred. Politics are divided along ethnic lines here, with over 40 tribes, and over 300 political parties. I am, and the vast majority of Kenyans are, deeply embarrassed by these horrific events. I hate that these stories are the only ones that make international news. The world will again dismiss this country and its people as another backwards, stupid place that will never pull itself out of the mire (largely created by Western meddling and colonialism) it is in. Unfortunately the few people that have the opportunity to visit this place see the sanitized version of fancy hotels, game reserves and the airport, and never take the time to get to know people here beyond those in the bowing and scraping service industry that caters to them. The majority of people are some of the finest human beings I have been fortunate enough to meet in my life.
Some good links about the election:

Funny quotes, especially about former president Moi:

Latest news is that Odinga will refuse to accept the ECK results. This is a circus!!

Shifting are some pictures from our trip to the Masai Mara. Can only put up a few of the hundreds we took but we saw leopard, many lion, cheetah, and extra special, a mother and young black rhino. I managed to finagle a ride with the Rhino Monitoring Programme guy who i saw at the park gate and chatted up about his work... he said he was going out to look for the rhino and I asked if we could join him (I have no shame!) and we went out looking for the rhino. I have no idea how he did it but by lots of driving off track and scouting in thick bush, he found them. What a special thrill! there are less than a couple of thousand of these animals left in the world and we saw two of them. The Mara was down to 6 rhino 10 years ago and with this programme, financed by the Frankfurt Zoological Society, they have come back to 32. The mother we saw was pregnant so soon will be 33. That is a true success story, as most of the rhinos, especially black, have been poached out of Africa.

We also saw cheetah, but I counted 25 cars surrounding it. Pity. Some say that it causes the poor things stress that ends up reducing fertility, while others say they have become habituated to it. It felt like a zoo. However, were it not for people's interest in seeing the animals, they likely would have been long gone, victims to a fast-growing population hungry for land. The only reason there are any animals left in Africa at all are because of the tsetse fly. People stayed away from tsetse-infested areas, leaving some space for animals. National parks and reserves were largely established in these few pockets of land where people did not use the land for cultivation or livestock grazing.

View from the "fancy camp" we stayed at the first 2 nights - Kilima Camp, overlooking the Mara

I FINALLY SAW A LEOPARD!!!! So beautiful!!

Being a really tacky tourist - I can't believe I did this...a very uncomfortable visit to a Masai village, which was quite interesting until they dragged out this sad group of old ladies who mumbled an unenthusiastic couple of songs for us...I hate this sort of "cultural voyeurism" but Fanette wanted to's all about getting some $ at the end by buying some trinkets. ech.

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