I used to live in a twon where the local paper had headlines like “Mrs. O’leary’s cat stuck in tree again” and “Church Potluck raises $230 to buy Mrs. O’Leary a kitty leash”. But now I live in a strange world where the paper has stories that are so outrageous it is hard to believe they aren’t made up. In one paper this week there was a story called “Opus Dei clan attacks young woman after her parents sue for holding her for indoctrination purposes”. And here I was thinking Opus Dei only did crazy things in Dan Brown novels. Then there was the horrifying “A high school girl who was pregnant with triplets is stabbed in the throat with a sword seven times by her secret lover: a local pastor”. The pastor was rescued (Fortunately? Unfortunately?) by police before he was lynched by a mob. Next was a story about “an underage teenage boy is killed by a Village Chief for having an affair with his wife- an underage teenage girl.” And the last tragic story in that day’s paper was talking about “an 11-yr old girl and her 9-yr old brother who were caught planning to kill themselves by eating rat poison because their mother was torturing them and denying them food”. Then there was the smattering of the usual filler stories: “Man steals goat, lynched by mob”, “Woman steals bushel of cucumbers, lynched by mob”, “Man lynches another man, then is lynched by mob.” I try to mitigate my disbelief by telling myself that the paper covers stories from the whole country. That’s a lot of people and a lot of crimes. But then I remember that Kenya is about the size of Texas. And I don’t think Texas does much lynching these days.
I went home early from school last Tuesday because I had finished marking my exams. I was walking home and I was thinking to myself “Man, its HOT”. I don’t really like to complain about the heat, especially since America is going through a heat wave. But I would like to mention that in America, in general, I do all I can to avoid doing major activities during heat waves. When its hot, my to- do list involves sitting in a moist puddle on my couch letting an oscillating fan evaporate my sweat. Here on hot days, I still have to dress in my work clothes (knee-length skirts and button down blouses) and go hiking through the desert. I usually arrive to school or home really really sweaty, which is, you know, fun. Tuesday, I was heading home, I was wearing my uncomfortable shoes because my comfortable ones finally kicked the bucket. After a kilometer or so, the blisters were bleeding and covered in a thick layer of red dust. It was more than kidogo painful. So, in my heat fried brain, I thought it would be a good idea to take my shoes off. I was walking happily along, weaving languorously along the road, singing along softly to my ipod, when I realized that my feet were burning in the sand. I thought it might be a good idea to stop and relax in some shade. There is only one tree on my 3 kilometer route but I found it and sat happily for awhile watching the dust tornadoes until the pain in my feet receded enough to put my shoes back on. I sat there staring at what I pretend is an ocean view. In the mornings it is a beautiful blue but in the heat of the afternoon it was a mottled, dusty brown. I sat there, staring, and I saw a huge dustornado. I see them all the time, but this was the biggest and it wasn’t a loose column of dust like usual, but a tight, narrow, serpentine pillar weaving amongst some huts that were barely visible in the distance. The tornado looked like an actually tornado. I’m pretty sure I saw a cow swirling around in there. I watched for the whole 7 minutes it was on the ground until it was sucked back up into the sky. There was a pair of hornbills in the acacia tree above me. The male is pretty with his black and white plumage and bright macaroni-and-cheese orange beak. But the female is gorgeous and monochromatic. Her shiny black beak makes her look like a black and white photograph. They make a call that sounds like a dog yelping and it startled me out of my stupor. I put my shoes back on and continued on my way home.
I got home and boiled a sweet potato for lunch. The water that was left behind when the potato was finished was green. Not pea green or forest green, but a “hey! Its black! (swirl, swirl) Nope, its green” green. I don’t have any idea why it was green, but I ate the potato anyway.
Last Saturday I went to Marsabit Forest with some form 3 and form four geography students. They live in Marsabit but have never seen an elephant and never gone into the forest. There is a big debate about the forest because it is the only area with food for animals, water, and trees for charcoal. The local people are too poor to visit the forest leagally and so they never see the benefits of conserving it. As a result, the locals are grazing their herds in there and cutting down trees for firewood. The human encroachment is driving the elephants out into the town. It is only a matter of time before the buffalo, lions, and cheetahs also start leaving to find food. So the trip was a wonderful opportunity for the students to see these wonderful animals and really understand what they are learning in class. Some of them will have never even seen a picture of an elephant.
We went into the forest and explored for hours. We were lucky enough to have a armed guide to take us to all the good spots. We were able to get out of the car and wander in the woods treading lightly and spotting elephants. We were also lucky enough to see and touch a dead elephant. The poor thing had been shot a few days before while out maurading in town. After a few days, he succumbed to his injuries deep in the forest. The park guides cut off his 45kg tusks to prevent people from stealing and selling them and then they leave the carcass for the jackals and hyenas. We were able to see the elephant and touch him. He was a beautiful animal and I was very sad to see him dead. Being an oversensitive girl, I was nearly emotional. The students, other teachers, and the guide were not exactly sad as they climbed all over the poor thing. They stood on him, and laughed, picking up his ears, and posing for photos. It made me very sad. And when one of the teachers on the trip wanted to throw his garbage out the car window as we drove back to the gate, I was angry and had to make him stop. The students had a wonderful time and got to have a great experience. I loved being a part of it. And of course any excuse to see more elephants is a great day in my book.