Kenya, part 2 – Nairobi & Diani Beach

It’s been a busy couple of weeks…whoops. Here we go again!

Back when we were starting to plan our trip, we both knew we wanted to find a volunteer opportunity somewhere along the way, preferably in Africa since we knew our time in Asia would already be pretty packed. We looked at what felt like a million different volunteer organization’s websites, trying to find the right fit for the right price.* We eventually settled on Oceans2Earth, an organization based in Australia with projects available all over the world. We initially signed up for their elephant project in southeastern Kenya (making paper out of elephant poop ๐Ÿ’ฉ๐Ÿ˜ณ๐Ÿ˜‚) but ended up switching to volunteering at the KSPCA in Nairobi instead. I LOVELOVELOVE elephants, but that project involved staying in a small local village, which meant having to use a latrine. I know my limits, and a flushing toilet is most certainly a non-negotiable requirement.

*Alert: Volunteering is not free. In fact, it can be quite expensive. Many volunteer organization fees are ~$1k per person for just one week, with that money going towards your lodging and food as well as actual organization fees, etc. It was a bit frustrating when we realized this because we thought that our labor would bring costs down but that’s just not the reality of things. If you’re looking for something that’s closer to free, there is WorkAway but those tend to be odd jobs (cleaning, etc) for free housing/food rather than actual volunteer work. Just take the time to research various organizations before you pick a project.

Days 206-215: Cats, cats, and more cats plus BABY ELEPHANTS!

After wrapping up our Kenyan safari, it was time to start our 10-day stint in Nairobi. We were placed with a local family in the city and it was a wonderful experience. They took such good care of us and I don’t think I’ve ever been better fed in my entire life ๐Ÿ˜‚ We’re so happy to have extended family in Kenya!

Ben and I with Charles, our local coordinator for the volunteer project. He introduced us to our host family and partook in some of the fun activities we had throughout our time there.
A Friday night out on the town with some of our host family!
Don’t remember what Ben was stirring here, but we’ll pretend he was learning to cook from Dennis and Paul ๐Ÿ˜‚
I learned how to make chapatis! Delish.
One of many dinners with our host family. Their nephew and his wife were visiting and joined us one night for dinner.
Mom cooked so much for us during our time there that I decided to give her a break on our last night by cooking…Dominos. #america

Our actual volunteering time was spent at the KSPCA, where they take in dogs, cats, and donkeys (๐Ÿ˜‚) and then adopt them out after they’re healthy. Fortunately, this KSPCA seems to have a good, regular stream of volunteers from local colleges with volunteer graduation requirements, so they have a lot of support for the animals. Slightly unfortunately, it meant that we weren’t nearly as busy as we had hoped we would be, but we did get to help with the cats and dogs every day (mostly the cats, per my own #catlady preference) and had a great time. As would be expected, I fell in love with a few of the cats and nearly cried on the last day when I realized I would never see them again. We even gave some of them names! Such cuties. ๐Ÿ˜

At the end of our time there, we decided to provide a monetary donation that would allow them to build a new penned area for dogs, as their space is limited and there are still so many stray dogs that need their help in the Nairobi area. Because I’m such a cat lady, I was also determined to do something for the cats so we bought a ton of new food bowls and blankets for them, plus general supplies. If you’re interested in helping the KSPCA, feel free to visit their website and make a donation.

 

 

Terrible picture of me but highly accurate picture of my cheesing-status with all of my cat babies. I became completely obsessed with that little black cat who we ended up calling Spidey in honor of his knack for climbing up your clothes to get your attention. Miss him already ๐Ÿ˜ญ Also, don’t you love my uniform? #prisongarb ๐Ÿ˜‚
Ben may have cheesed less than me, but he’s still a cat lady(man) too.
This post wouldn’t be complete without a shoutout to Scrunchy, my other favorite cat at the KSPCA. Poor thing looked pretty rough when we first got there but she was always so so so sweet and craving love and attention, which we happily provided of course!

Aside from our volunteering time, we also got a chance to sightsee a bit around Nairobi, including visits to a few animal sanctuaries, Nairobi’s largest slum Kibera as well as the smaller slum Kinyago, and the Bomas of Kenya. So interesting and so much fun!

One of the many homesteads featured at the Bomas of Kenya. Though very small and basic, these little homes are kind of amazing in their durability given that many are made mostly from mud.
One afternoon we paid short visit to a reptile part and got to see some seriously large crocs up close (too close) and personal. (Note: their pond isn’t typically this gross, they were in the process of draining it for cleaning and refilling.)
The same reptile park also had pretty adorable tortoises!
The highlight of the animal sanctuaries? The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, which rescues orphaned baby elephants, rehabilitates them for the first few years of their lives, and then re-releases them into the wild. Their work is INCREDIBLE and I fully recommend supporting their efforts if you can. You can foster a baby elephant, making sure they’re well fed and taken care of. Is there anything better in this life? Look at this baby elephant drinking his milk like a champ!

Since we fostered an elephant (Mbegu, my little princess), we got to come back another day in the evening to interact with her more personally and see the babies up close. They. Were. So. Cute. I basically died. We fell in love with another baby while we were there (Ndotto) and couldn’t help but foster him too, though this time as a gift to our host family so they could come visit the babies whenever they wanted. If Ben hadn’t been there, I probably would have given them all of my life savings ๐Ÿ˜‚
David Sheldrick also takes care of this little guy, Maxwell. He’s fully blind and they rescued him after he’d been abandoned by his mother, and they’ve vowed to keep him for entire lifespan as he would surely die if left out in the wild to fend for himself. Poor nugget. Sadly, they won’t let him breed for fear of passing on his condition, which they believe is genetic since eye surgeries appeared to have no effect on his vision. He seems to be living a pretty good life though, so don’t feel too bad for him!
We also got the visit the Giraffe Center, which–you guessed it!–rescues giraffes. Visitors pay a small fee that helps to support their efforts and you get an opportunity to feed them.
They are VERY smart at sucking those little treats right out of your fingers! Some folks were putting the treats in their mouths for some giraffe kiss action but not me–I don’t need that much animal slobber near my face, thanks.
As much as I love animals, our visit to the Kibera slum was a far more enlightening experience. We were given a tour of part of the slum (the entire slum is huge and it would take forever to tour the whole area) by a local man named Mohammed who runs a nonprofit focusing on projects for the slum. It was sobering to see the variety of homes in the slum, from shanties to mud huts to concrete structures, and learn about the difficulties people living in the area face. Most homes don’t have toilets and though many have access to shared latrines, the goal of Mohammed’s nonprofit is to install more public shower/flushing toilet facilities to improve sanitation in the area. Current facilities charge $0.10 to use the toilet and $0.30 for a hot shower, prices that seem insignificant to the average American but must be considered carefully by those living in the slum who are budgeting every penny to make sure they have enough for rent and food too. It’s frustrating and saddening to see people living in such conditions.

Mohammed (standing between Ben and I) hosted us at his home for a lovely lunch of pilau, a dish that reminded me of Dominican locrio and gave me a tiny feeling of home. Charles (left, our local coordinator) and Evans (right, our host family’s son) came along for the tour as well.
We also made a quick visit to the part of town where apparently every single carpenter lives, working on his craft and producing wooden figurine after wooden figurine for sales to locals and tourists alike. We saw some pretty incredible pieces and I wish I’d had suitcase space to go on a shopping spree!
We also had the opportunity to visit Kinyago, another (much smaller) slum in Nairobi, mostly to go see the great work being done by the Kinyago United Welfare Association. They’ve got several ongoing projects but their main focus is in providing education and after-school activities for the local children, with the goal of getting them a valuable education and also keeping them out of trouble with school and sports. Many families in the area can’t afford to send their kids to other schools, which are often much more expensive, so this association has made it possible for kids to learn at much more affordable fees. We got to interrupt each class and say hello to the SUPER adorable kids. Just witness their cuteness below!

Unfortunately, the school is built quite close to a small river and there was recently a lot of erosion of the river bank, which caused serious damage to the back areas of the school buildings, making them unusable. Given that, they now have to hold more than one class in each remaining classroom–thus the overcrowded classrooms pictured above. I can’t imagine it’s very conducive to learning but the teachers are making due. We gave them a small donation a few weeks after visiting, with the hopes that it would help them with whatever they need to get things back to normal–if you’re interested in helping too, send us a message and we can provide their information.

Finally, no trip to Nairobi is complete without appreciating their matatus, i.e. public buses. These things are kind of wonderful–they’re privately owned and compete against each other for business on the same bus routes, using loud music, fun themes/paint jobs, and speedy service to edge each other out. We didn’t get a chance to ride one (next time!), but the outside paint jobs were entertaining enough ๐Ÿ˜‚

Days 216-221: Beach time!

As our city time came to a close, we headed to Diani Beach for a little sunshine and relaxation (read: laziness). It was a short flight to Mombasa Airport and then a ridiculously long taxi ride to our Airbnb in Diani Beach (it should not under any circumstances take 2 hours to drive <35 kilometers!)–though the insanely long line for the ferry was mostly to blame. The house we stayed at was so cute and only a 5 minute walk away from the beach, so it was perfect. Plus, we paid a little extra to hire a cook (!) for the week and it was the GREATEST. I really need to win the lotto and have a cook in real life too. Imagine how healthy I’d be if I didn’t have to cook anything myself! ๐Ÿ˜‚

The short walk from our Airbnb to the beach – perfect!
Incredibly clean white sand, insanely warm blue waters. My only warning about Diani Beach? You’ll get nagged to death by people trying to sell you crap. At first you’ll definitely want to throw something at them when they don’t stop the sales pitch and all you want is some damn peace and quiet,ย but you eventually learn the art of ignoring them or making them leave you alone.

We kept forgetting to take pictures of our chef’s feasts but this was one of them–tender steak with pan-fried potatoes, sautรฉed veggies, and a nice little salad. Delish!

Definitely one of the best parts of this week? The monkeys! ๐Ÿตย This area has a ton of Colobus monkeys and they roam around freely, mostly trying to sneak into people’s house to steal food or other shiny things. The best part? When they stole Ben’s pen ๐Ÿ˜‚ (See the hilarity below.)

Why yes, I think I’ll steal the aluminum foil from the trash can and make sure there’s no food inside of it for me to eat.
Hmmm this chair sure is comfy!
The bathroom had a barred (but not screened/glassed) window and these little suckers snuck in and stole my face wash and hair conditioner! My hair conditioner was never found but Ben saved my face wash…it came back with lovely monkey bites.
Lady, you gonna share that lunch?

We did go on one short snorkeling boat trip while we were in Diani…for $8 a person! The guy tried to sell me at $15pp and I negotiated him down because now it’s my favorite thing to do (also I know I’m not taking advantage because they charge locals like $5 so I definitely paid my tourist tax). It was a glass bottom boat, which was fun when the snorkel guide went underwater to feed the fish a bit–they swarmed like crazy!

Day 222: The longest bus ride EVER

Sadly, our time in Diani Beach (and Kenya in general) was over! Tragic. But, that said, we were headed to Tanzania for another safari so really, can we complain??? #firstworldproblems So, how does one get from Mombasa to Arusha (the starting point for our safari)? Either a $400 flight with a layover in Nairobi OR a $12 9-hour bus ride. We’re #funemployed so… $12 bus ride it is! I don’t regret it because it was obviously the smarter choice financially but oh. my. god. That was the longest bus ride of my life. The bus was old, the seats uncomfortable, it was like 90 degrees out and the bus had no AC, and the roads were bumpy. It was a miracle that we got the seats at the front of the bus so we at least had air circulation, but still…ay yi yi.

At the start of the trip, when we realized their website bus photos were total BS and this hunk of junk had no AC.
At the near-end of the trip when we didn’t think we could take it any longer.
Trip highlight? Stopping in a town to drop off some people and having like a dozen guys run up to the windows and shove grilled corn cobs in the bus windows. Pure hilarity.

We did eventually make it to Arusha in one piece, one very sweaty, very tired piece. We had dinner at a place near our hotel and basically passed out right after. No more bus rides please…ever.

Next time: our Tanzanian safari adventures!

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