19 March 2009


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I flew BA through London, connecting to Nairobi. It was the first time in years I have had a whole row to myself, a small sign of the economic climate. I met a writer for Standard and Poors who covers derivatives, who said that 2009 was going to be bad…

I met Tensie Whelan at London Heathrow, ED of the Rainforest Alliance, and we boarded our flight to Nairobi, where we were met upon arrival by John, a guide with Nature Expeditions. It’s always nice to meet someone when you land in a new place. Rainforest Alliance certifies eco-tourism and works with this company, so we were lucky to have an inside connection. We arrived at the Panari Hotel in Nairobi, which was clean and well kept with a nice staff and decent food.

The hotelier, seeing my International Wolf Center shirt, asked about it. I explained the precarious status of the wolf in the USA, not bothering to elaborate on the continued endangerment of the species, and he looked quizzical, saying that wildlife are not to be killed. “Here in Kenya,” he said, “wildlife is protected by law.” Wearily, I replied that Americans are stupid and don’t understand, again not bothering to elaborate on Palin and the wanton slaughter that is ongoing in Alaska. I fear we have not seen the last of this mad woman.

The people here are so beautiful, their faces so open, seemingly so innocent. Just the idealistic projections of a jaded Yankee, I’m sure.

Our Guide, Chris arrives to drive down to Amboseli National Park on a rutted dirt road, parallel to a nice paved one under endless construction. Sometimes there are machines working on it, sometimes people. We continue along the unpaved path. The land is wide open, but I feel that it was once forested, which Chris, our driver, confirms. Reforestation efforts with acacia trees are visible, but one senses that the demand for fuel undermines the success.

In Namanga, on the border of Tanzania and Kenya, we stop in a souvenir shop, obviously there to catch the tourist coin, but the people are so nice and genuine. I am always amazed when I go to the far reaches of the “uncivilized” world and meet people that are so much more educated, intelligent and aware than those in the “first world.” I had a very interesting conversation with Simon, who owns the shop, about symbolism, politics, the Kyoto Protocol, and handing the Bush cabal over to The Hague for justice.

From Namanga, we go south to Amboseli National Park and register at the Ol Tukai Lodge, a very nice place, with a view of Kilimanjaro from the room. After a spot of lunch, we go on a safari drive into the park where we see the African variety of animals. I have never been one to sit and watch animals (we saw several safari vehicles parked watching a pair of lions asleep under a bush, far away) but they are magnificent; especially the elephants. In a world where everything seems to be endangered, it is nice to have a spot of refuge for them. Of course, that is the whole point: we have decimated habitat such that there is none left, and this refuge, hopefully stable, is an island in a sea of man. Apparently, in the formation of the park, the Maasai were denied access to their traditional grazing lands, and in anger they slaughtered most of the lions and rhinos. In my mind this is unforgivable, but it does beg the question of the whims of the homogenized majority (in this case, the government’s desire for western tourist dollars) in conflict with indigenous groups. Usually these are either absorbed into the dominant culture or wiped out, leaving the world culturally impoverished. Interestingly, the Maasai call us “those who trap their farts” because we wear pants.

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