Thursday, May 14, 2015

Adventures in Kenya Series - Day 10 - Distance Learning in Lake Nakuru NP

We woke up at 5:30 in order to get in a sunrise game drive.  We took tea and breakfast as the sun was coming up through the mist on the front porch.

Although many of the animals in the park are the same as those found in Masai Mara, Lake Nakuru National Park is a very different experience. The scenery and vegitation are different, so there are many more trees and bushes in which animals can hide.  We saw lots of giraffe, buffalo, zebra, and different deer during the drive.  We also saw the flamingoes for which the park is famous, many baboons with their newborn babies, a lion who had just killed a buffalo and was going back to alert her pride, and hyenas feasting on an animal carcass in a water hole.

Our Safari Van

Jackson Kanga, our driver, tour guide, and all-around good guy

Look, a lake!

The game drive ended at the park office where we met Milka, a Kenyan Wildlife Service employee who had helped us set up our stay at the Naishi Guest House, and also arranged for someone to give a recorded interview for students around the world about the park.  She introduced us to Carolyne, the park's education director, who drove with us down to the shore of the lake for the interview.

Using the GoPro camera, we recorded a great interview where Carolyne described the park's animals, the challenges faced by the park such as invasive species of plants and poaching, and how children around the world can get involved in conservation efforts.  I will post that interview on YouTube when I get home and have better upload speeds.

After the interview, we drove into the town of Nakuru to get supplies for dinner. Jackson and the two Livingstones told me that they wanted to get chicken for dinner. We picked up Groundskeeper Livingstone's friend in town and she and Teacher Livingstone went off to purchase chicken from a local market while Jackson, Groundskeeper Livingstone and I went to the supermarket for a few other things.  While we waited for them to return, we also went into a local shop and I picked up a few souvineers to bring home.


When I finished, we all piled back into the car in search of a quick lunch.  While driving to a place that sold chips (French Fries), I heard a clucking noise coming from under my seat which nearly made me jump out of the window because it was so unexpected.  Apparently, we bought a live chicken that Groundskeeper Livingstone was going to slaughter for dinner. I guess you can't get any fresher than that.

After a quick lunch back at the house, we set off for a second game drive equipped with equipment to connect with students in multiple locations around the world.  First, we found a nice location with many buffalo in the background to do a Google Hangout with multiple schools that got recorded directly to YouTube.  You can see that recording at the end of this post. The Cheery Children's Education Centre from the Kibera Slum, some students from my hometown in Pennsylvania, Beth Heidemann's kindergarteners from Maine, and Dyane Smokorowki from Kansas participated in the call.  First we talked a little about the park for the kids, and then we took as many questions as we could until an incoming storm kicked us off the internet.

The storm passed fairly quickly, and we continued with our game drive.  Every time we came to a big animal and had internet, we found a school to Skype with live to share what we were seeing and to answer questions.  During a period of about 2 hours we showed giraffes, rhino, and buffalo to a few sets of kids in Massachusetts and zebra to Tanya Cunningham's kids in Pennsylvania. Sharing our experiences with kids so far away made it even more special.



When you travel, and do it with an open mind and open heart, you grow as a person.  You take the best parts of the culture and location in which you are immersed and add them to yourself to make you better.  I've tried throughout this trip to do that for myself, and to share the best parts of the trip with others around the world as much as possible so that they can grow with me.  The calls on this last game drive felt like one more opportunity to do that.

When we got back to the house I actually sat and relaxed for the first time on the trip.  Teacher Livingstone and I sat on the front porch of the house, with water buffalo and zebra walking 20 yards away, chatting about the trip, teaching, and the importance of the work we are doing. This Naishi Guest House seems to be made for relaxing in an amazing setting. It was nice to reflect, and I feel both great sadness to be leaving tomorrow as well as a great longing to see my wife and kids again.

Look carefully, those are zebra in the front yard

For dinner, Jackson cooked up a traditional Western Kenyan meal of Ugali kwa kuku masala na spinach (Ugali with masala chicken and spinach).  He cooked the whole chicken.  Literally.  Other than feathers, there was nothing that didn't go into that pot. Teacher Livingstone explained to us that the key to good eyesight was not carrots, but rather eating eyeballs as he gobbled one down. Dinner was very good, though, and I went for second helpings of ugali with the sauce from the chicken.
As dinner was being made, Teacher Livingstone put on some music from my iPad.  Here's what I learned - He likes Michael Jackson, found out that the Beasty Boys are awesome, and said that Simon and Garfunkel are very nice on the ears.  He didn't know most of the music on my playlists, and had never heard of Janet, even though he was familiar with Michael.

After dinner, we sat around a nice fire in the fireplace that Groundskeeper Livingstone had lit for us. The house is so beautiful, relaxing and quiet, and like every other place I've been on this trip, I wish I had more time here.


Tomorrow, we get up early for a morning game drive out of the park, and then back to Nairobi where I will visit both Cheery and Havilla to say goodbye to the kids, and then off to the airport for a 11PM flight home.  I can't wait to see Lori, Abby, and Michael.

Here is the recording of the Google Hangout session mentioned above:

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