We visited the “Animal Orphanage” near Karen yesterday after we left the Okemwa’s uncle and aunties’ mansion. It was a beautiful, hot day, and though I was suffering from persistent jetlag (the afternoon here is the middle of the night for my body back in America) and lack of strong coffee (the milky chai here just doesn’t cut it) I had a wonderful time. It was my first chance to enjoy the natural beauty here, as all of my experiences have been oh urban Nairobi.
One downfall of being white here is that every tourist attraction charges you about 14 times more then Kenyans must pay – at the zoo they asked for $20! So I pretended to attend a posh local high school and said I was 17 and had no ID. Of course, they’d rather have my money than turn me away, so I ended up paying just KS50, which is about 75 cents.
The zoo was really gorgeous, with huge bridges and walkways spanning over the pens where one could look down at baboons and rhinos. One major delight was the lack of security there compared to American counterparts – I don’t think you’d ever be able to look at a panther through an open window on a platform above the cage in the US, and it was much more fun.
Up close and personal with a huge Rhino
Afterwards, we took a matatu downtown where we had to transfer. Benja was carrying a bag with his laptop because we were returning from the uncle’s house so we were trying to be extra careful. But as we waited we were approached by a young homeless man dressed in baggy rags who stared at me, and at my purse, and at me again and asked repeatedly in Swahilli why I didn’t give him money (which, of course, the Okemwa kids wouldn’t allow – it’s too dangerous to open your bag like that downtown and they said he would continue asking for more.) I felt bad, but also a little scared. It seemed like he would reach out and grab me at any moment, so I stood behind them and let them do the talking. Our bus appeared just as the man pulled out an old plastic bottle of glue and inhaled hard while he stared into my eyes.
The weirdest part was that later last night as we watched the evening news after dinner in the living room, a feature about homelessness aired on the Kenyan TV Network. It compared the lives of a homeless man in Britain with one in Nairobi – and guess who they chose? The same dude who bothered us downtown. No wonder he was so brazen, seeing he’s a rock star now and all.