Friday, September 26, 2008

Storks and Matatus


Nairobi, Kenya

My flight from London to Nairobi was smooth. Sleep, oh wonderful sleep, bestowed itself upon me. Lucky for me, I hooked up with principal investigator, Bruce Patterson, his new project assistant, PHD student, Andy Dosmann, and fellow volunteer (NY high school teacher,) Seth Evens in Heathrow. It was great to have the instant bond of our Earthwatch, Lions of Tsavo Team 7 even before arriving.

(Earthwatch is an amazing non-profit organization that sponsors scientific research all over the world. I've been lucky enough to live with the Chamacoco Indians in Paraguay, work with the chimps that use ASL in Washington state, and track grizzlies in the Yukon. For more info on these once in a lifetime experiences, check out their website:

The Nairobi airport surprised me. Absolutely calm, orderly, and mellow (it was almost midnight, though.) Right away, I caught the scent of incense wafting through the air. I think I felt different from the moment we landed. Our taxi ride to the Fairview Hotel (a plush plush hotel full of Westerners,) was quick, and interesting, and we passed barricades to protect the Israeli Embassy right across the street. We zigzagged in and around in front, reminding of me of Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin. The hotel itself was beautiful, lush green gardens, waterfalls, pools, gorgeous dark wood architecture. And waking up to an amazing breakfast buffet didn't hurt! There, I met the rest of the group--Kathy from Ohio-a seven year veteran of the Lions of Tsavo project and a greyhound rescuer, Nicola from Wales--a 2 yr. veteran of the project and fellow world traveler, and Susan from Arkansas--mother to 30 rescued parrots and equipment extraordinaire!

A cool and smooth ride to the Rukinga Ranch near Tsavo National Park on the Southern Cross Safari bus. But the passage through Nairobi was profound. Lines of men walking the streets toward the city. Walking toward what? Jobs? Hope? With a 40% unemployment rate, it is a gift to find work in Kenya. And it was hard not to sense the despair of those who went without. The two lanes roads were at times chaotic, no traffic signals. Confusion. Matatus, small van-like buses, packed with people for a more affordable ride. Law now regulates the number of passengers, but the vehicles still overflow with faces smashed up against the glass windows. Colorful head wraps. Innocent eyes. All heading toward another day.

Overhead Marabou storks flew. Nesting in trees. The images of these birds--almost prehistoric in nature-- graced against a struggling urban landscape. I found myself wondering, do we belong? Or do they? My instant reaction to Kenya--specifically Nairobi itself--was of a place of struggle and beauty wrapped into a tapestry of color. A dichotomy of these two forces.

Eventually the traffic calmed (with intermittent construction detours,) and we began our trek out toward Tsavo. The landscape changed from dusty, brown dirt to the rich burnt orange of the earth. And with the change, the land opened up to me, welcoming us into her arms. The arms of Kenya.

Mangoes, potatoes, and onions sold in thatched mud huts--colorful metal curios along the road. The open bed truck in front of me--packed with young men. Some hanging out, all waving and smiling. Small children leading goats and cattle down the road. The African cattle, bony--loose skin dripping off their backs--gravity working hard on the elements. The black and white coats of the goats stark against the sienna backdrop of the land. Women wrapped in rainbow kangas carrying loads and buckets upon their heads. These same women cooking in small open fire pits along the road to provide food for the men who come to eat. The brightness of their kanga cloths a symbol of their strength. Kids running along the road. Contemplating us as we pass by. Their beautiful eyes and genuine smiles in wonder. Or judgement? What do they think of Westerners in their country? In their homes. I am consciously aware of my presence and how I will be interpreted in this place I have dreamed of all my life.

But the open arms of Kenya begin to grasp me further. Massive red termite mounds constructed extravagantly like castles inhabited for up to 100 years. A twiga--giraffe- hidden amongst the browns and oranges of the landscape. An ostrich--tall and alert. A Thompson's gazelle--graceful, striking horns and stripe of white like snow against the blood of the land. Yellow baboons crossing the road, hanging out like casual humans along the bank in acacia trees. What do they think about us as we intrude on their land? Do they see the struggle? The richness? Are they aware of Kenya and her lovely scent? Spicy and sweet and earthy like incense created from the origins of time itself. A smell that fills me up with a sense of wonder and enlightenment--an eternal longing.

With Kenya's gifts, (along with her political, economical, and cultural hardships,) what does the future hold for her? So many steps to walk. So many breaths to take. So many smiles to be given. Regardless of the pain, we breathe in the aliveness together. And from the very first moment, Kenya opens her arms to us.

And willingly we walk forward with love.

Next stop: Camp Tsavo


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Fields of Gold

We are treated so graciously by our camp staff as we arrive at Camp Tsavo. Fresh squeezed mango juice. Smiling, welcoming faces. The beauty of the thatched huts of the houses. The red pathways. Askaris, guards, patrolling the grounds. Keeping us safe. The beauty of our private house, the Nduvo House (Elephant House.) Four bedrooms. Dining room. Loft. Luxury in the field. How did we get so lucky?

Today our first game drive! Standing out the open roof of the vehicle--a cool breeze sweeping across my face. On the hunt for wildlife in the Tsavo scrub land. Dramatic acacia and commiphora trees arch their twisted arms in every direction. DUCK! Thorny branches reach out to grab us like the talons of mother nature herself, reminding us to respect and care for her every breath.

We search the tall waving grasses, illuminated like fields of gold in just the right afternoon light. Our eyes long to see movement in the bush. It is difficult to spot animals so perfectly camouflaged, especially when the landscape is so absolutely breathtaking. But then the land comes alive. A dik-dik, a small antelope, with large black eyes, a brownish-gray body, and white belly scampered through the brush. A herd of seven gerenuk, another type of gazelle/antelope grace the fawn-colored strands. The name "gerenuk" means giraffe in Somali, illustrated perfectly by its long, thin neck, and a small head. Big ears and eyes stand alert, staring at us as we pass. Their tails spin like helicopter propellers, as if they could send them bursting forward to safety. A single Thompson's gazelle walks through the grass, its light brown coat and white underside complete the landscape. His long, pointed horns and white rump help us identify this beautiful East African creature.

Without much warning, we pass a herd of Africa elephants! Females with young, watching us with a careful eye, then mozy on when they see we mean no harm or threat. Red billed Hornbills zip through the trees, their long, full beaks flitting in and out of the branches as they look for the fruit and berries on the trees. The white-bellied Go Away bird--squawking like a squeak toy (that actually sounds like "go away!") Three black-faced sandgrouse (quail-like, brown speckled ground birds) waddle ahead of us on the road--watch out!

At dusk, my first Kenyan sun sets on this sweet, cinnamon Earth. Twilight illuminates the clouded sky--passionate white against the contrast of black and grey. We turn on the spot light--one of the jobs we share on our night drives. We become one with the light, the sweeping rhythm scanning the brush for eye shine. Many nocturnal animals have a layer of cells that line their eyes. This amplifies the photons of light the animal receives. The color shifts with the angle of light bouncing off the eye, but if you look careful, you can see the difference between the "blue" for herbivores, and the "green" for carnivores.

For this project, we are mainly looking for the green eyeshine of carnivores, and specifically the golden eyeshine of lions!
Bruce Patterson's Lions of Tsavo project has been running on the Rukinga and Taita ranches outside of Tsavo East National Park for seven years now. The Greater Tsavo ecosystem of southeastern Kenya has the largest protected population of lions in Kenya. Unlike lions from grassland areas, males in parts of Tsavo do not normally have manes. Scientists are unsure for the reason for this maneless-ness and ecological and behavioral consequences are unknown.

Bruce's project documents the behavior of Tsavo's lions by following radio collared simbas on private land. By observing from vehicles, volunteers document the location of all wildlife, including lions and their adaptations to this arid woodland environment. The goal of Lions of Tsavo is to understand their behavior and ecology and how to minimize lion and human conflicts. Being on these two ranches also introduced us to the issues faced by Kenyans who live alongside the country's largest population of lions and elephants. The original camp--Campi ya Neka--at the foot of Satao Rock and just behind Satao water hole was moved this year to Camp Tsavo on Rakinga Ranch. Taita Ranch is now full of bomas groups of 1000 cattle led by Somali herders. The affects of these bomas-- destroyed vegetation and conflicts between lion and cattle is apparent and a concern for conservationists . -See Bruce's website for more detailed information:

In the spot we see the orangish-red eyeshine of a bushbaby-- a tiny, agile (you should see them leap! I'd give 'em a 10!) primate found all over the area. We drive on and on--with quiet thoughts and reflections about the magic of this place. A chill slowly creeps into our space--pull on a hat, sweatshirt and my hood. Welcoming in the warmth that cocoons me. Mars watches us, low in the eastern sky. It's orange flicker shining at us--the ultimate eyeshine as we traverse over the red pathway ignited under the Milky Way like fire.

Suddenly, hundreds of eyes shine back at us. A herd of African buffalo--young and old---trounce along side us. More and more rush by, hooves, eyes avoiding us, fleeing our invasion. Four hours flew by. Just near camp three, huge male elephants stare and swagger. The grand finale for our first drive.

That night, a starlit campfire, a pair of eyes shining in the night-- a civet, resembles a cat-like mammal, but in a family of its own: Viverridae. His coat spotted with black and white bands and blotches. Our flashlight lit up his face mask and black eye patches as he crept across our campsite.

The night is alive, and I lay in my bed, shrouded by surreal streams of mosquito netting flowing and swirling all around my waking eyes. The bat calls--high pitched beeps--in a frenzied dance of sound waves weaving around me. Crickets sing and a pair of genets, closely related to the civet, scamper crazy on the rafters across the massive, domed thatched hut--their agility as they run up and down posts astonishing. They ransack snickerdoodles, a gift from Andy's mom, and raid our trash cans while geckos cruise the walls searching for their next mosquito snack. Kenya works her magic on us. And I fall asleep with the living sounds of the the creatures that guard the Tsavo night. A welcomed and safe capsule, cocooned within the calls and sounds of nature in a place so wild and free.

That night I dream in Swahili--random words moving me though a foggy story. In this tale, I leave my sandals on the bus and I am barefoot in the red earth. My toes sing. I dance across the crimson soil.

It this image that cuts through the haze.

I am home. I am home. I am home.

(Thank you Bruce Patterson his amazing eye and lens. Photo credit: the hornbill, bat, buffalo, elephant, gerenuk, and dik-dik )

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Black velvet nights

Our schedule became this:

First week:
An amazing breakfast. Classes in the morning. An amazing lunch. Time to rest, read, and write. Game drive: 4-8 pm, An amazing dinner. Game drive from 10-2 am. Sleep.

Second week: Game drive: 3 am-8 am. Breakfast. Sleep. Lunch. Sleep, or write, read, or walk. Dinner. Sleep.

Free time was an especially peaceful time for me. The upstairs of the Nduvo house was a loft full of couches and big pillows. The veranda opened up to the Tsavo woodland and the fiery earth. It was so beautiful to watch the skies change from here. Wind flowed into the loft, flapping strands of the thatched roof like keys of a straw piano. The buzzing insects zipped around outside. Go away birds squeaked. Red Billed Hornbills fed on acacia and commiphora berries. It was like an unobstructed window into Kenya. I spent many hours here writing and reflecting, and bonding with the others on my team--much of this blog was written in that very spot! Moments up here. Beautiful music from home in my ears. Everything seem to come together, like a camera coming into focus. The perfection of a time and place all my own.

My time up in the loft, or out by the raging bonfire happened during the magic hours when most people are sleeping. I especially enjoyed the thoughtful conversations with Nicola, Andy, Seth, and Bruce. The generator went out at 9:00 pm--leaving nothing but the dark. At times when I was alone, I felt as if the night came down upon me, like a living blanket of black velvet caressing every part of my body. Every part of me. The bat calls. The Milky Way spread out before me, so low and wide, that I felt as if I could almost climb onto each star and swing across the sky.

One my most favorite moments happened one night as we finally got word that a pair of lions had been seen near Kisima Dam--out near the old camp. We jetted across the bumpy roads--faster than our driver, Simon, had ever gone. It was exhilarating, even though most of us in the back didn't know what was happening! But where were the lions? They were no where to be found, so we drove upon a ridge near Pika Pika water hole. We turned off all the lights, and simply sat there, listening for lion roars. I had never experienced such quiet. Such peace. The blackness of the night was truly alive and it unavoidably dripped down into my soul where it will always remain. The connection I felt with the people on my team and to the land and quiet itself was unspeakable.

And now, as I do my best to put it into words, I fear that I'm not even close to the magic and mystery I felt that night. It is one that I will always eternally long for.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Beauty and hardship

Night Drive, 8/26 @ 4-8 pm

Mars hung low again in the sky—the last of daylight gave way to two groups of elephants—the first on the side of the road—2 juveniles and 2 adults clambering across the red road. An older male swaggered pretty close to our vehicle. In previous years, the elephants here on the ranches were heavily poached. Many of these elephants witnessed the murder of family and herd members, and to this day possess a wariness that elephants in other protected areas don’t have. Their exposure to humans in vehicles is extremely vital; projects like Lions of Tsavo indirectly help other species, like the elephants, become more acclimated to humans and less likely to show aggression, which puts humans and elephants both in danger. Almost all of the elies that we encountered peacefully retreated from our vehicle. A few times Simon had to rev the engine as a big bull stood his ground near us, but every time, the elephants relented—giving way to us—the peaceful invaders of their space. They are truly amazing creatures. The wisdom and sadness in their eyes still moves me.

We saw lots of dik diks and bush babies that night. Peter and Grant’s gazelles bounding across the land. Impala, their wavy horns cutting across the grassy backdrop. And Kudu—an amazing mauve-colored antelope with massive, swirled horns and very big ears. His wispy, white beard. His light mane running down his thick neck. The kudu face—sculpted like Michelangelo’s David—strong and sincere.

As darkness wove its way into the night, the light from our spot reveal a beautiful African cat called a Caracol. His large ears, curved with wispy black fur at the tips stand alert. He sits a long the road; shy, yet a bit curious. He didn’t stick around for long, but what a treat to see such an unusual creature in the scrub.

Down the load road ahead, two giraffes stopped as we approached. A juvenile stands and stares; his big ears oscillate and spin one at a time. The short, rope-like tail twitching with curiosity. He absorbs the idea of us; and without hesitation takes off with that giraffe slow motion. It’s almost as if they run, moving one, elongated vertebrae (only 7 vertebrae, but LONG!) at a time. The land and time stop. And suddenly we are immersed in the rhythm and motion of this remarkable creature with the big stony eyes and rust colored patches that help him blend into the woodland.

And then eye shine of Burchell’s zebra—5 in all—gather in a clearing. Even at night, the stripes that cover the entire body are striking. By far the most common zebra in Tsavo (although we did see several of the endangered Grevy’s zebra—more on those later,) they are restless and a bit nervous. On minute they’re standing there—and then the next second, they’re off! Rushing and skimming across the grass through the night to safety.

Down by Satao water hole, another group of elephants-8 in total-congregated and drink together. One group splits off. They travel down a large animal trail called “Elephants’ Highway,” a pathway made by elies that connects two water tanks. Water is a highly valued resource here in the arid, Tsavo scrubland. Now, at the end of the dry season, many of the holes and tanks are either low or empty. Lack of water brings hardships to the local animals—especially to the young, sick, or very old. They spend their days eating and searching for water. These struggles make it much easier for lions and other top predators to catch their prey!

Back on the road, with Susan at the spotlight, we encountered a serval—a beautiful, spotted African cat. He sat motionless in the dry grass and we drove closer. His breathtaking coat stood vibrant against the yellow grass. His ears alert, eyes and large, knobbed nose fixed upon us. Then he stood, and we gasped! His elongated body stretched out between the grasses. He responded to Simon’s high-pitched squeaks (as to resembled a rodent call,) and then became too smart for our tricks, disappearing gracefully into the brush.

During the 10-2am drive, a young elephant surprised us as he lumbered across the road in front of us. His mama was out of sight and he went off into the brush. But as we passed, we were startled by her trumpeting—just like any frustrated mom, “Get over here!” It seemed like she called. “What do you think you’re doing?”

Rounding a water tank, we spotted a Black-backed jackal slinking through the tall grass. It’s small dark back meshing in with the shadows there. A striped hyena darted away from the water tank, it’s bushy white and black tipped mohawk of hair running down its back. The hyena was bigger than I imagined, more graceful and beautiful. Maybe that’s the magic of Tsavo again. Even the group of army ants carrying eggs I saw marching through the carport in camp were alarmingly lovely. A perfect example of tenacity and power in a terrain so dry and difficult. Would we adapt as well to our own landscape if we needed to? Do we rise above the hardships in our environment? In our lives? Do we become more graceful as we find the power that drives us through these struggles?

I can only hope.

This night I rode shotgun next to Simon, an amazing guide, driver, and friend. It was a lovely experience to learn about his kids—two boys and a nephew that live with him. I was honored to discuss the trials and tribulations of parenting and writing (as he is writing a memoir himself!) A wonderful connection to a humble and genuine human being. This night we decided to set up a pen-pal connection between his son’s school and my son’s school. Building bridges through communication and writing. The power of words and understanding and love.

Breaking down barriers.

One word at a time.

(Thank you Bruce Patterson for the photos of the: civet, zebra, and jackal)



A beautiful language originated in the 14th century with the native people along the coast. Arab and Portuguese influence. Swahili: Wa (we) Siwa (Ocean) Hili (this) The Ocean People.

Simon was our Swahili teacher for a day. His humor and humility made him the most genuine instructor. We could all laugh at ourselves!

He gave us so much to learn and think about:

Hello- Jambo
How are you? Habari yako
I’m fine- Nzuri sana
Thank you
very much- Asante sana
Plealse- Tajadhali
Baaday see you later
cool! poa
good bye Kwa heri
See you later! baaday

In the field:
Twende! Let’s go!
Simama Stop.
Pole pole Slowly.
Mbele Forward
Nyuma Back.
Sawa sawa OK

We had opportunity to use the language out in the field and in the dining room. Sometimes when I was at the spotlight, my excitement tripped up my newly learned words. I'd say "sawa sawa" insted of "simama!" It was a good thing nobody was really listening;) Seriously, though, we were encouraged to practice and speak as much Swahili as possible. And no matter how incorrectly we used it, everyone always responded with a genuine smile and laugh. It is powerful to connect to others this way. Not only through words, but through effort. (sometimes humiliation!) and respect. I so enjoyed this process, and I already miss speaking the language of the Ocean people in all its glory.

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Tiny Bit of Kenyan Culture

Today Simon, Jiimmy, and Gabral talk about culture and tribes in Kenya. 43 tribes. Five groups, or language families: Bantus, Nilote, Cushites, Arabs, Indians/Kenyans Europeans.

But their discussion leaves me wondering. Contemplating.

How do you begin? A modern life when your origins as a people are present, and changing faster than time can support them? Gabral talked about his the history of his tribe. Nomadic hunters that came from Ethiopia and settled near Tsavo East. They specialized in elephant hunting, using a bows with poisoned arrows. They walked like bushmen, staying with their kill until they had finished eating all the meat. They made simple shelters using elephant and buffalo hides with grass-thatched roofs.

In 1977, hunting outlawed in the Tsavo National Parks. Some of the men were absorbed as Kenyan Wildlife Service rangers, their expert tracking skills utilized at their best. But what of all the others? Hunting no longer an option. How would you truly change your perspective and lifestyle so abruptly--so drastically? How is it that people change? What is the timeline of transformation? A person would be lost. A people might be lost. What had seemed so true, not a dream of life past and times gone. Is their resentment? Anger? I imagine so. The difficulty of culture and a changing planet.

He also speaks about marriage--and how when a man chooses a woman, he must still present the family with beer and meal! A special beer called dadi made from aloe and honey. And their religion, a mix of Christianity and Islam, is worshipped under a tree.

Difference like this are gifts to us. Reminders to remember the diversity of this world. The beauty of it all.

But the ultimate question. Advancement, education, and technology. How does it impact us all? How does it change our hearts?

I am also struck by the recent idea of polygamy in some tribal cultures here. The practice seemed to end partly for economic reason--more than one wife is just too expensive! Education. Economics. A wild and scary possibility for views on marriage and gender bias. What are the views of modern Kenyan women and their role now? I wish I had more time. I have many questions yet to be answered. I hope someday to understand more fully cultural intricacies here.

But the common thread that seems to tie Simon, Jimmy, and Gabral together in their talk is the pride. Regardless of tribe. History. They came together representing our humanness. Proud. Strong. Compassionate. Willing to look forward.

And for this, I am grateful to see.

The "Almost" Nature Walk

We try to go out with the guards and Simon on a nature walk to identify local plants and animals. All who work at Camp tsavo are extremely interested in the wildlife and conservation. Finally, we get to walk and experience the nearby area! Yipee!

As we get out of camp, we look down the road. Our hearts fall.

Nature walk? Nope. Two elephants block our way. There will be no walking today!

But we visit the museum instead. Skulls of every kind. A giant elephant skull. The long vertebrae of the twiga. Horns from gazelle. Swooping horns of the kudu. Tall, straight, spear-like oryx horns. The one-wave of impala horns. Hartebeest horns swoop out like two hands in support. Zebra. We learn that they have teeth on their upper lip for grinding and canine teeth on the lower jaw for defense. A moth lays its eggs on the horns of various skeletons. The moths eat the carotene sheath covering the horns, leaving secretions that look like long rusty tubes.

Poisonous creatures in jars. Snakes. Scorpions. Simon tells us of how he got bit once by a scorpion while changing a tire out in the bush. He picked up a rock in the dark. Zapp! A bite on the hand. Pain instantly traveling up near the lymph nodes under his arms. Fever. Electrical sparks near bite for 24 hours! Ouch. We hear a story of a spitting cobra here in the shower at camp a few months ago. Glad it wasn't this trip! Hiss...

So much to learn in this wild and sacred place. Even more reason to return!

Rescued by a Mountain

Daylight--strong breeze, perfect temperature. Hoards of buffalo stare at us as we stop and drive. Their perfectly carved horns fuse together over their head, curving and flipping out wide and far. Is it an up-do, like the uptight old English wigs? Or maybe the flaming strands of Zeus' silver locks? Large, wide contemplative eyes. An overpowering black nose set with huge ebony nostrils. Strong, secure and peaceful, standing in solidarity on their Tsavo ground.

Elephants and giraffes galore! Their magnificence still radiates and shines silhouetted against twilight skies and black mountains. The giraffes, perfectly picturesque, gentle faces, gentle eyes hidden amongst the treetops. What an exhilarating feeling to be driving at the same speed as they walk/run.

A slender tailed mongoose and and his family scramble down the road in front of the vehicle. One veers off to the side, rushing to get under cover just as a young eagle swoops down . The mongoose jets ahead. The eagle dives again. His prey disappears! We wait. The inexperienced eagle flies away empty handed. The mongoose safely hidden-a lucky getaway!

An aardwolf reveals itself to us. Quiet and cautious. His orange fur with black stripes a perfect contrast. Related to the hyena, but not a hunter of large prey. He eats termites using his long, stick tongue--at times more than 200,000 in one night!

My first time on the spot tonight. Very cool! This job requires total focus on the night. My arms tense. My wrists tight. One of my first spots: a civet, uncharacteristically sitting right in front of our vehicle-- watching us. Bruce's camera is uncooperative--no extreme close-up shot. Bummer! But always such great conversations with Bruce up front; such wonderfully, interesting man who fits in perfectly with the richness of Kenya!

Our first siting of a Hartebeest, or Kongoni. This big fawn-colored antelope looks at bit odd at first glance. His extremely long, narrow head barely supports the two large eyes, and slender ears that stick out from each side. His horns are slightly curved and small. The kongoni might be seen as the a less elegant antelopes, but he is actually one of the fastest with the most endurance. His name means "tough ox" and by his size, you can see why!

Another amazing creature spotted tonight: an eland. Beautiful, cow-like face, soft black eyes, straight but spiraled horns. Massive neck and body, lapping with loose skin. A short ridge of hair along his back, and long, wispy tail. Eland are uncommonly sited here in Tsavo, so it was a treat to see one. About the size of buffalo, but with the grace and agility to leap over an entire vehicle if spooked! (No, no flying eland tonight!)

The dramatic mountain, Kisigua, looms in the distance today. This mountain still seems to hold the sacredness that it did 1,000 years ago. Swahili (Arabic) traders came to East Africa for ivory, horns, and skins to trade for silk in India. Once the animals had been poached, transporting their massive tusks and horns from inland E. Africa to the coast was difficult, and the slave trade was born. These Arab traders enslaved Africans to hall the tusks, and then sold them as well. To elude them, native hunter-gatherer and pastoralists retreated to Kasigau's rock shelters within the side of the mountain. They survived there, eating frogs and local plants, hidden away from persecution for many, many years. Research is being done today to study these brave, ingenious people and their cave settlements.

After learning about these people, I saw Kasigau in an even more magical light. It is hard to hear about past injustice, or the inequalities and heartbreak that exist in Kenya today. But to be rescued by a mountain strikes me as the ultimate poetry. Of course, it was the people, their wisdom and tenacity that kept them safe from such monstrosities. Beauty and elegance in hardship. Resilient, genuine joy in the smiles and eyes of Kenya.

But once again, I see her arms open wide. Sheltering us. Giving life back.

As it did in the very beginning, and as it does today.

And I will forever honor her.

(Thank you Bruce Patterson, for photos of the: giraffe, mongoose, and eagle.