We arrive at the Nairobi airport, make our way through customs, and find the tall and friendly Frances holding the “Chris and Beth” sign. We load his car and get our first glimpses of the capital of Kenya. As Frances weaves his way through traffic, he gives us a bit of a guided tour in his excellent English and teaches us our first Swahili word : “habari yako”; it means “how are you?” (In the meantime, we have learned “Jambo!’’– it has the same meaning and is easy to say in a jaunty way! – it is my favorite Swahili word – everyone responds). Frances is 32 years old and has been in Nairobi for 15 years. He left his tribal village in Tanzania (and eight siblings) to find work. He has a wife and two children; he proudly shows us pictures of his kids and laughs his full and sincere laugh.
Frances delivers us to “Baba and Mama Joshua’s” beautiful home at the end of Wispers Avenue. The gate is tended by another smiling man and the two watch dogs Tsavo and Mila – we will meet the dogs later on the porch under social circumstances but for now they are doing their jobs :). Harmon and Teri come outside to greet us. I go toward Teri; as I approach her, I can feel her positive energy. We hug rather than shake hands. I immediately like her. We go into their solid home and see African art, a CNN hero poster, fresh flowers, dark and light wood parquet floors, and windows that give us views of the vibrantly green foliage of the Karura Forest. Their home is decorated in a way that feels welcoming and is comfortable. We have a fresh salad for lunch, talk about their history in Kenya (Harmon and Teri lovingly “fight” for the floor – they both have so much to tell us; Chris and I are all ears). Later we sit and have wine – “porch time” – and enjoy the sounds of the babbling river, hear more about the animals we will see from that very porch, what they have scheduled for us the next day, our respective kids, where we can buy souvenir earrings, and of course Bridging the Gap Africa. This is what has brought us here, after all… More about that in the next blog 🙂
After watching the Sykes monkey escapades in the nearby trees from their porch the next morning, Harmon calls Frances, Teri makes us a list of proposed places to visit and we are off! First stop: Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage. This organization rescues and cares for baby elephants that have lost their mothers. Some were found in wells, most were orphaned because of poaching. The babies come trotting up the path toward the roped off viewing area – they know their bottles of human baby formula are waiting for them. There is a “mud bath” to burrow into, small branches to gnaw on, a florescent orange soccer ball, and several men who lovingly tend to the elephants. We see 11 elephants in the first group – the younger babies. We are allowed to touch them. I ask one of the men where they like to be touched: “rub behind the ears, like this! Do you want me to take your picture?” After this group files out, the older group of 13 elephants plod single file toward the expectant visitors with two ostriches that were brought in as baby chicks along with one of the elephants.. On the way out, Chris pays 200 shillings (about $2) to get a picture of me with the maasai dude dressed in typical colorful garb, stomping his feet and jumping in the air.
Next stop is the giraffe sanctuary. A cool place for – you guessed it – giraffes. Their necks are extremely long and muscular as you would expect, their fur is mottled shades of tan and brown as you would expect, and their tongues are long and kind of blue. I was told I could get a kiss if I hold a food pellet protruding a bit from my mouth. Do you think I did it??
After lunch, a coffee, and a little souvenir shopping (got a wooden carved elephant and my first pair of souvenir earrings 🙂 ) we go back to the Parker’s abode for more porch time, dinner out and packing for the trip to Kitale and beyond. So far we love Kenya, feel safe, and have hopefully made lifelong friends with these welcoming, generous, thoughtful, and loving people – Teri and Harmon Parker .
Ciao for now!