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Thursday, October 13, 2005

Amboseli degazettement - The days of Decrees return.

Not wishing to politicise this blog, dear readers, the uproar about Amboseli's degazettement is deafening. So without commenting further, I recommend that you visit Save Amboseli National Park website and sign up in protest at this unorthodox and potentially devastating move.

Are the days of Presidential Decrees upon us again? Can our leaders simply not resist the reins of absolute power? Send your comments to the African Union please!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The lungs of the city rediscovered!

The long weekend has helped us re-discover one of Nairobi's attractions: Nairobi National Park, and with the expert advice of Kaputie, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. A dawn entry into the park on Sunday, and we were off. Within 10 minutes we had our first stroke of luck: 4 lions.

We stopped for breakfast on the roof of the old Land Cruiser at the Athi Dam: A beautiful spot teeming with Gnu, Zebra and others all coming to drink from its dwindling waters. A couple of crocodiles lay motionless on a small sand bar, seemingly unperturbed by the three pairs of Egyptian geese vying for territorial supremacy - in fact, these were the noisemakers here. When they fell silent the only sounds were the splish splash of the drinking animals and the occasional zebra barking and grunting.

In all, we saw 1,000s of plains game, 8 black rhinocerous, and had a great day out exploring the park. Note that the Gnu are seasonal so get into the park QUICK before the short rains begin or the whole lot will have dispersed into the Athi-Kapiti plains.

Upon our return to the city it seems more and more trees are flowering, and the riot of arboreal colours is just spectacular. One thing we noticed as we were supping coffee at the Athi Dam was the grey smog that hangs over the city at dawn, a clear sign of the urban pollution that plagues us long-suffering residents. Ugh!

Why do we live in Nairobi again?

Well, this weekend we re-discovered some of the reasons why we live in Nairobi, or rather, why Nairobi can be a wonderful place to live. Apart from the fact that now all the trees are in spectacular bloom, meaning the green city in the sun is temporarily purple, yellow, red, white and pink, we were awakened to the joy of Nairobi National Park.

We went to stay with our friends Kaputie, who live on the far side of the Park, and on Sunday morning we piled into his 40 year old Land Cruiser loaded up with breakfast and kids, and drove off into the park.

Not 2 hours later, we had seen over 1,000 plains animals including wildebeeste, zebra, kongoni, giraffe, buffalo, 6 black rhino, 4 lion, and we were amazed to discover the vibrancy and dynamics of the park to be so wholesome and healthy.

The best moments were spent atop the Land Cruiser at the Athi Dam, where we sat totally alone save for the hundreds of gnu and zebra and other animals coming down to drink the receding dam waters. As we munched our breakfast the crocodiles watched bemused as 3 pairs of egyptian geese chased each other around.

However, this voracity of nature in the Nairobi Park is seasonal, since, as soon as the rains come, most of the wildebeeste and many of the plains animals take off to the Kapiti-Athi plains dispersal areas until the dry season bites again. However, I STRONGLY recommend a visit in the next week or two, get down to the Athi Dam at Dawn and be prepared for a Mara-esque experience.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Flowers and Traffic

Nairobi will soon be at its prettiest with the blooming flower season already here. Most trees are either already in full bloom or shedding most of their leaves in preaparation for flowering. Jacarandas, avocados, mangos and all manner of indigenous versions are colouring the city's streets.

Nairobi can be very pretty sometimes, if one can just temporarily shut out the traffic fumes, smog, razor wire and potholes. Of course that isn't quite so simply done when one has to contend with the school run, the work run and the roads in general.

One thing totally mystifies me though: how come yesterday morning at Westlands roundabout approach from Waiyaki Way there was almost no traffic: like no queue at all, while on Monday and Wednesday the queue was at least 2 kms long with chok-a-block traffic all the way to Kileleshwa? It was almost as if the majority of Nairobians said "Oh bugger it. I'm staying at home today!" All I can say is.... sometimes I do not understand you at all, Nairobi... not one iota!

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Eat Oranges! Eat Bananas! Get healthy and forget your troubles!

With all the noise about the Bananas and Oranges, it is hard to think about the daily troubles we all face: It is a clever political ruse to divert our attention away from poor roads, unruly matatus, increasing fuel prices and stagnant salaries.

Nevertheless, most normal people would like the politicians to SHUT UP for once, and try to see things from an ordinary Kenyan mortal's point of view.

Anyway, the facts remain: A referendum there shall be, and the campaigns shall go on: Can the politicos keep the peace? Lets hope so! Can they stick to the facts? Impossible, methinks! Do they really care? Possibly only about their salaries!

This blogger's appeal is simple: KEEP IT PEACEFUL, AMICABLE AND LEGAL. Because no one wants violence to come knocking.

Good luck to both sides: As a non-voting resident I shall be keeping my head down, while the rest of my family decides which fruit is their favorite.

Hopefully there will be no more referendum politics on this blog, so you can come back in a week or two for relief from the unending local debacle.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Murungaru Rules RIP? (Compliance flagging anyway!)

As we read with horror of a court actually agreeing to prevent enforcement of lifesaving traffic rules, the evidence of flagging compliance by PSVs (Public Service Vehicles) is all around us on the capital's roads.

The "Solid Yellow Band" that is supposed to show all and sundry "Hi! I am a Matatu! Oh, and My Route is as follows... etc", well in the past two days alone I must have seen 20% of matatus now sporting the latest fashion: A dashed yellow band. Hmmm... I suspect that, over time, the gaps will increase in size, until the yellow band all but disappears.

Furthermore, this very morning, I saw a beautifully painted Matatu, with a flaming front end, and the flames totally covered the yellow band on the front and 30% of the sides too.

Other compliance-denting measures being taken by the PSV sector include regularly cruising on Waiyaiki Way at well over 100 kph. What next? Budget seating? Shortened seat-belts? Soon, perhaps the uniforms of drivers and conductors will shrink?

A second rotten tomato in the face of Dr Chris this week. Poor bloke indeed!

The first was the very public revokation of his UK visa. Having experienced the pain and humiliation of visa refusals by the wondrous British myself, not once, but twice, the main reasons being: lack of financial resources and suspicion that we intended to become illegal aliens there to ponce on their cruddy social security system, this can be ruled out in the case of Dr Chris, he of a right royal salary: the highest paid MPs in Africa, these NARC boys.

Anyway, we snuck in by complaining to the Member of Parliament of my mother's constituency in the UK... I doubt Dr Chris will be able to call on similar help.

However, I digress: Politics, religion and sex being conversations not recommended for polite discourse at the dinner table. Especially the first being discussed by a work-permit holder: Not advisable in any circumstances, even in the New Liberal, Reborn Kenya.

That is all for today!

Monday, July 25, 2005

Monkey Business...

Despite that fact that Nairobi's gardens are choking with avocado, guava, pomegranite, and a myriad of other fruit bearing trees, it seems that the semi-friendly Syke's monkey (a guenon, in fact!) prefers human company.

Our local chap showed up on Saturday afternoon, delighting the children, and amusing our 1 year old who learnt to say "monkey". He was sitting on the roof of the servants' quarters (a reminder that this is Kenya) looking a bit curious. At the same time as I picked a large pomegranite from the neighbour's tree, my wife brought me a small piece of banana.

The pomegranite was tossed for a moment until the banana was over - obviously the favorite fruit. Then he grabbed the pomegranite from my hand and sat for half an hour chomping away.

Nairobi wildlife! What good stuff. Pity the rest of the city isn't as nice!

Monday, July 18, 2005

A quickie on the weird morals of the USA

There is a game called GTA San Andreas. It is controversial at best, but the latest twist is simply surreal, since it even has Senator Hilary Clinton commenting on it.

At the controversy's heart is a small mod (Hot Coffee Mod) that unlocks some sexual explicitness within the game. So the raging debate is whether to increase the ESRB rating for the game to Adult.

My confusion is this: That games where running around KILLING people are fine to be sold to minors, and teenagers, while a bit of sweet lovin' is, apparently too immoral for anyone under 18 years????

Killing vs Loving... now where do you stand?? I know where I do... (off to grab me some Hot Coffee)

The Safari Rally (or A Brief Encounter with Kenya Macho)
Having been inspired to go watch the Safari Rally on its last day at Athi River Super Special Stage, we left town early morning, and arrived at the quarry around 9:30 am, just in time to catch the last of the 2 wheel drive vehicles going round the special stage.

Quite a sizeable crowd had gathered already, and the rally basically was taking place all around. The peculiarly Kenyan take on rallying involved the following absolutely essential accessories:

1. Several crates of beer
2. A jiko (Barbeque)
3. A dead goat ready for roasting
4. Back up tins of Tusker lager
5. A suitably oversized 4x4 (SUV), parked as close to the barbeque as possible, preferably smack in the centre of proceedings.

And by 10am many were already into their second crate of beer, judging by the loud, funny and sarcastic humourous comments being shouted to each other across the occasioally busy rally tracks.

Anyway, the rally was fun and well organised, and the very friendly and fun atmosphere continued throughout the thankfully cloudy morning.

Unfortunately we locked our keys in our car, a 20 year old Subaru Leone. So when everything was over and we were departing, we were fiddling at our car door trying every means to open it without actually breaking the windows or locks!

Many people stopped and offered assistance, many failed and went on with their homeward journey. Then another Subaru Leone stopped and a Gentlemen of the Singh variety stepped over, and using his own car's old and worn door key opened the door in an instant!

Asante Sana Bwana! A little unnerving, nevertheless, but a major relief as were now able to head home.

The point being that when you are stuck, or having a problem in Kenya, 99% of people are genuine in both their concern and their willingness to spend time and effort seeking a solution to the problem at hand. Asante Sana! And let us not lose that special human touch that still exists here, despite all the deprivation, poverty and political problems besetting us.

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