Tuesday, June 23, 2009

If you see a lion and you can't run, FAINT.

The city is nice and all, but I much prefer the red dirt roads that kick in just minutes outside the city and challenge even the sturdiest of off-road rally cars... We put our full passenger trust in Nazir, the manager of The Dan Eldon Place of Tomorrow (DEPOT), who mentioned that he's a recreational rally car driver---maybe we'll get a chance to see what his real sports car can do!

Yesterday, we were just in a truck with him and Tambo, one of the DEPOT's workshop facilitators, and they were knowledgeable and enthusiastic guides to everything between Nairobi and Cura.

We went first to the Cura Primary School, where we had a formal meeting with the headmaster and the seven other teachers. One of the teachers has been there for 27 years... and confessed that, although teaching was a fine profession, what she REALLY wanted to be was a British Airways flight attendant. Back in the 70s, that idea didn't exactly go over well with her traditional family!

Alice, one of the others who a bit more inspiringly actually chose teaching as a career path, offered to be our guide through the school, where she clearly commends respect and admiration from her students. We were introduced to the children in all eight classrooms ("forms"), and were warmly welcomed by bright, happy faces! Greg and I played the classic Non-Swahili-Speaking-Cop / Minimally-Swahili-Speaking-Cop game in front of each class: I struggled like an idiot through basic Swahili introductions, hopefully eliciting sympathy from the children, while Greg carried our professional integrity with his respectful English.

We then visited the community library and computer lab, housed at the village church, and made our way (only a matter of yards between each compound, actually) to the Cura Rotary Home and its accompanying community medical clinic. We were humbled at the work everyone has done in this village, but more humbled at the complexity of the issues the village is facing. Poverty and disease are the most obvious of the problems, but the attempted solutions to those issues---the home itself included---have created new and equally pervasive ones: most specifically a sort of class-system in which it appears to be more desirable to be an orphan than not... We've got a lot to think about!

After our visit to Cura, we headed back to Nairobi, via booming banana "orchards" and lackluster corn fields, and had lunch at Kenya's far-superior version of Starbucks: Java House. Again, Nazir and Tambo were fantastic hosts and engaging company as we mulled over our morning and marveled at how different Kenya is from when I last saw it. What is UP with all these European teenagers and their cell phones and double-tall iced lattes?? I'm having a bit of a culture-shock, I confess.

From there, we went to the DEPOT, which is housed in a forest owned by the Girl Guides (Scouts). It's out by the polo grounds and the motocross track, so there's a lot of wide-open space. Maybe that's why the baboons love it so much?! I had forgotten how lumbering and awkward those things look on the ground, and how nimble they are in the trees! The building at the DEPOT was small, since the team building workshops they hold there are primarily from tents in the forest---not luxurious, but definitely an adventure! Which, of course, describes entirely my STA safari all those years ago, in the very Land Rover parked at the DEPOT: Deziree!!

She needs a little attention, of course---but Nazir, along with about $3000---is just the man to give it to her. I think Dan would have loved to know that a Dakar Rally enthusiast would be turning his attention, affection and expertise on his beloved Deziree...

As we made our way back through Nairobi traffic, Greg and I talked about our upcoming plans to head to the Mara, and we all shared our anxieties about lion run-ins. The proverb Tambo offered gave Greg and me some practical advice:

If you see a lion and can't run, FAINT!

That advice seems more sound than the strategy I was operating on 20 years ago: simply to walk up to the lion and rap it on the head. The theory being, OF COURSE, that the lion would recognize its monumental mistake in overstepping his king-of-the-savannah bounds by threatening ME. (Doesn't he know who I AM???) Anyway, maybe we'll try the fainting thing. But we won't play dead for too long, since then we'll have the hyenas to contend with!


  1. You don't have to outrun the lion, you just have to outrun me!

  2. Am imagining you revisiting all these places, memories and friends! Your messages are wonderful to read. Keep it up!
    Stay safe.
    Mom and Bob