karibu sana! spots is the travel journal of cora, a student flying to nairobi with mcgill's canadian field studies in africa program in january 2012.
play da capo
read about spots
go to a random entry
ask a giraffe something
look at some pictures
listen to some music
check in with the family
February 20th 2012

the tree hyrax is responsible for a lot of ruckus outside my tent when i’m trying to fall asleep. its rubbery feet and weird looking ears relate it most closely to elephants, except it is small and furry. this is what nighttime sounds like.

nighttime noises: mt kenya forest

February 19th 2012

poison arrow tree and flowers; pepper tree and peppercorns

February 19th 2012

   so much travel this session! we drove up out of the rift valley, past the most divine smelling trees then through the aberdares which floated by in their misty way, all the way up to mount kenya basecamp. it began to rain for the last stretch, all horizon-split gray sky/gold maize, soggy sheep and thirsty soil. the arrow poison tree that grows around the campsite smells thickly sweet; its bright green leaves are lethal within twenty minutes if ingested. 
 we’ve pitched our tent between two pepper trees that bend in ways dr seuss would be inspired by. a thumb-sized red cockroach fell out of my jean shorts when i pulled them off a laundry line before breakfast. i will shake out all of my clothes from now on.

February 19th 2012

bantu lodge and burning spear (‘jomo’, as in jomo kenyatta, means ‘burning spear’).

February 18th 2012

kokwa island

cows that swim
February 18th 2012

   the wheel isn’t bad, but i wonder why boats don’t get much attention. clambering into fiberglass skiffs, we motored to kokwa island in the middle of lake baringo today. the island is a fishing settlement with next to no agricultural potential. when communities around baringo were being attacked or raided for cattle, women, children and livestock would take boats of lashed, buoyant tree branches across to the island to hide. cows would be floated over by being lashed to branches also, but more often this was done with calves which were not only lighter but drew the mother cow to follow, swimming.

February 17th 2012

lake bogoria and hard boiling some eggs in the lake bogoria hot springs.

February 16th 2012

   we have arrived in hippo motherland. i still have not seen a hippo, though i have been repeatedly promised hippos in our safety briefings. our tents are mere paces from lake baringo’s swampy shores and a crocodile mills next to the kitchen tent as a mukhtar unfolds metal tables, unconcerned. the hippos move from the water to the shores to graze at night, and our tents are in prime hippo grazing area.

   there is a well-renowned (by lonely planet, anyway) bar here called the thirsty goat which serves the most amazing potato skin fries with garlic sauce - if you are willing to wait for a good hour and a half after ordering (africa time is a welcome non-issue, except we’re in scheduled classes). these fries are an academic tangent only insofar as they improve lecture snacking tenfold.

   after dark we are expected to ask askaris to lead us around camp to protect us from the omnipotent, omnipresent nocturnal-grazing hippopotamus. yesterday evening i met six of these askari hanging out on a log and stopped to chat. they asked a lot of questions about dating and marriage in canada and laughed at our backward ways - “only one wife? it will be boring! what if you as a female want another one, but he doesn’t want you to leave?”… i’ve never noticed the scope of canada’s social complexities before having to explain them. i’d only meant to ask if they’d show me a hippo. the next day i was offered a dowry of five cows.

   here, too, i found some birds: a black and white fiscal, which is in the same family as shreiks, spears tasty insects on acacia thorns before eating them. hornbills, on the other hand, are just good-looking.

February 16th 2012

some lake baringo swamp; spot the tent; spot the crocodile; mukhtar fears no hippo; a fiscal and a hornbill

February 15th 2012

during the drive to lake baringo, franco beats njoro in a fistfight

sachs on snacks
February 14th 2012

   the millennium development projects are the initiative of jeffrey sachs, an economist with an eye for development and a goal to halve global poverty by 2015. his approach to development through the millennium cities and millennium villages initiatives seeks to stimulate economies by attracting foreign investment, among other things. the un took up the initiative and, along with countless other donors, has begun an ambitious on the ground project in extremely impoverished communities globally. kisumu is one of these.

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lawyer of life
February 13th 2012

   the campsite bathrooms (with showers, hooray!) flooded today. i find this to be a definitive plus. not only does it cool your sandaled feet in a very welcome way, but i also found a tree frog under the sink!
in the afternoon we were allowed to go in groups into kisumu, just to wander around. i spent a good forty five minutes running between postal offices working to send a package to canada, which was more fun than i’d anticipated; i hope to do a lot more of that! we also met the lawyer of life, a sharply dressed older man with two sticks and some lopsided glasses who introduced himself as everything from teacher to scuba diver, but mostly just lawyer of life, before dancing into a street full of oncoming matatus.
   caitlin, who is a fox, also acquired a dreadlocked boyfriend while jonathan bartered for a soccer jersey.

February 13th 2012

the artisans and some rafiki in kisumu market

February 12th 2012

the campsite at kisumu impala sanctuary

February 12th 2012

the ferry to kisumu played music videos. this was one of them. they were all more or less in this same vein.

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