Sunday, June 19, 2011

Goals, Gorges and Giraffes

This weekend we decided to take a break from our pattern of escaping the greater Rift Valley area for the weekend.  A few of us woke up early and grabbed a quick breakfast before heading out to a weekly outreach program across town.  Every week, a few of the local social workers have organized time for the streetboys to congregate in a safe area and just play … as kids should be able to.  Many of these boys are orphaned children (their parents victims of HIV/AIDS  or the election violence of 2008) that live in the local slums, beg in the streets and are addicted to the drug of choice in Eldoret … huffing glue.  There is a fantastic local organization, Tumaini,  that has been set up in the last couple of years that is seeking to help the thousands of boys get off the Eldoret streets a  couple of days a week to receive medical care, get some education and provide a support network where they can be safe … under the rule that no glue or drugs be allowed in the camp.   We arrived at an open field after a 45 minute walk across town and were met by about 75 boys that were ready to show the “Wazungu” how to play futbol (soccer).   After about 15 minutes of play, I was ready to drop … even though I’ve been trying to run often and walking a couple of miles a day … it was nearly impossible to keep up!  We finished the game and shared a few high-fives, fist bumps (which we taught them) and hugs and headed back to IU House for a day trip out of town. 
We’ve developed a great relationship with a local guide service, Mangrove Tours, which was waiting to take 6 of us to a few local sites for the day.  Given that we provide the service so much business the owner, Cha-Cha, gave us a free day with a guide and mutatu (9 passenger 4x4 van).  The first stop on our tour was Umbrella Falls.  Not far off of the main road leaving town there is a magnificent waterfall which you can hike in, around and behind.  As is usually the case, the closer you get to your destination in Kenya … the worse the roads get (I cringe thinking about my car on the local roads here).  Arriving on the edge of a farmer’s property and providing a “tip” for allowing us to hike on his property we descended into the gorge for a better view of the falls.  I snapped a few cool photos (see below) and after a couple hours of hiking we jumped back into the van for the second stop of the trip.

Another local tourist destination is Kruger Farms.  It’s kind of an interesting place … it’s a farm/reservation/estate/mountain.  The Kruger family, which is either a British or South African family … we’re still trying to figure it out, owns an enormous plot of land on the edge of town.  After talking to one of the Krugers, we learned that they have over 3,000 hectares of land … which I believe is something like 6,000 acres of land that they farm.  It’s clear that the family has been in Kenya for a long time and after viewing the equipment that they keep it was also clear that they are years ahead of the competition technologically as well (still below the average American standard).  On the property they also have a small mountain and game preserve around it which is home to a dozen or so wild giraffes, dik-diks, impalas, gazelles, anteaters and various other wildlife.  We were joined by one of the Kruger’s guards and went for a couple of hours hike around the property to snap photos of the giraffes and beautiful views from the mountain top.  We were able to get very close to the giraffes and at one point it became conceivable that my friend Nick might be able to achieve his life-long dream of riding a giraffe in the wild.  Tired from a long day we returned to IU House for a cold Tusker or two and dinner before retiring for the night. 

With target in sight ... Nick ran toward his dream :P
A few of us are planning to try and redeem ourselves today by joining a local pickup game of soccer.  I’ve fallen a bit under the weather (in Kenya it’s not if you’ll get sick but when you’ll get sick … for many visitors it’s a routine you just get used to) but am still hoping to show the locals that I not only look like Wayne Rooney but can also score a few goals like him as well!

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