Category: Destinations

To speak to a man you’ve gotta speak a man’s language

Pollution Nairobi River Flowing Down the Fourteen Falls

Stuff got me thinking lately; are there times that you travel across the world and wish that the people   spoke your language? Or better still, are there times when people travelled to your world and you wished that they could speak your language?

Don’t get me wrong but let me start by mentioning our dear blood-mates them Chinese. These guys are renown for all the right and wrong reason alike. On one hand they are providing our frail, unsuspecting 3rd world governments with reverberant “aid” that will come back to bite our progeny in the backside. On the other hand they are a dominant producer of American goods, including i-phones. Yet the reference “made in China” sends spinal shivers and goose bumps at the scam of the earth cheap-for-nothing goods. These brothers are known to ingest anything known and unknown, mobile and stationery, alive or dead on the planet! Quite honestly, I find them to have some of the most intolerant habits anywhere I meet them around the world. My intention though is not throwing out the baby with the bath water.

I was having a casual chat with friends in Ouagadougou recently when the intolerance of the short-small-eyed race bludgeoned and took over a very neat conversation. Their pervasive nature and unbridled desire to survive have led them to occupy the most remote areas of the planet, putting them in direct competition with the omnipresent God. I bet you will find these guys at the bottom of the sea, with the newly discovered shark species, if they are not the shark itself. Downside of it though is this, most Chinese I have met never seem to take the time to learn anything about the local people leave alone the local language but they rather transfer a China town in the “smallest” way to these spaces and “colonize”. In fact they only learn enough local language to help you learn their own. This is deplorable!

“First seek to understand then be understood”, is the first principle of “how to make friends and influence people”. Language constitutes many things including words, cultural nuances, way of life, points of view just but to mention a few. One book that exemplifies the simplicity and complexity of language is “The Four Languages of Love”, what you said and what he/she heard. Primarily though, language is an absolute important first step of communication.

Imagine with me for a minute, you have a team of the most exquisite experts on earth, trained in all sorts of skills including engineering, medicine, education, teaching, you name it; and you have to push towards a common goal. How hard would that task be if you didn’t speak the same language? And yes, throw in google translate to juggernaut the task further. In fact, whatever you set yourself to do would be insurmountable!! In the Bible, the last time human beings tried to unite to reach a goal, God scattered them by diffusing their language. He just made them yap in so many different kinds of gab that they could no longer push towards a common goal. That feat was thwarted!

In conservation it is certain that you will work with people of different languages and cultures. In my pursuit of this ever elusive dream of environmental sustainability, I have been privileged to work with different languages speakers other than the ones I have full command of. I have learnt the value of acceptance and being accepted. I have known that in order to understand the ailment of a-people, you have to listen in their language. In order for them to understand you, you have to speak their language.

Conservation many-a-times feels far removed from facets of society. It is almost left as a pursuit of the affluent in society and in many cases crowded with western influence of dominant and sectarian tendencies. The society is impoverished by lack of engagement the conservationists as they exert wholescale alien thinking with total disregard of local and indigenous knowledge. Both extremes provide constrained solutions with very little gains to progress.

In the society today as it has been from beginning of time, human endeavor has depended on natural resources, which has provided society with great gusto to grow and develop from height to height. It is the trees of the tropical forests that have provided the unique lamination boards on the floors and roofs for centuries while keeping the fire burning in the village kitchens. It is the water of the rivers that turn turbines to provide electricity that keep out cities lit and fills the calabashes of the playful children as they walk home to fill their water tanks. It is the lungs of the forests that immaculately breath in carbon dioxide and produces oxygen to support life on earth. It is the intricate cycles and seasons that we know little of, those processes that engulf the day and hide by night, that make each day bearable or less so than the other.

Despite the enormity of the task given to natural resources, we are still unable to unilaterally spur actions towards its protections. Natural resources can only be conserved at a local level by local people which is you and me. We therefore must understand the impacts and what effective conservation means. How the decision you make today about what to eat, what to wear, what to drive or what you buy impacts your life, and that of a million others. However, do you speak environmentalese?

Let me think about it for a moment!

Trapped in the Glass – How development alters animal behavior

Now, if you are crying out that life is not fair, think again. Fairness in the animal world goes somethings like this, first you are either born to a predator family or prey family. If you are born to a predator family, tough luck but… you could die before you are two days old if you are a lion, because your father will maul you!#heartaffairs

Well, so you made it to one year old and you have even started growing a mane (beard); you will have to fight for your space among many others, leave alone your brothers, to be the male to be reckoned with and perhaps progenerate. So this blissful life may last a year or two, if you actually make it to the apex of the family tree but what happens then? Younger, cooler, quicker peeps are born and they spoil it all for you. All over sudden, you are dropped like a hot cake and yes, your peers watch you as you rejoin them or if you happen to be a buffalo, they’ll even relegate you to a class lower than “them boys” and leave you groping in the wild with only a bad temper to show for your many year of hard work. Sort of like retiring from government but worse :-).

So you are born to a prey family… hmmm. Why were you ever born? You spend the rest of THE life on the run!! Then you are eaten, if you don’t die first.

On the contrary, being human is different and that is why we like to reiterate that we are not animals. We have rights for everything imaginable, and yes, I really mean UNIMAGINABLE. You see if you are born impaired, we have laws that will protect you, if you are weak there are laws that will not allow those stronger than you to take what you have, everyone is entitled to one spouse, at least by most constitutions in the world, you even have a right to be happy. Human rights have even made the wrong Okay.

I am sure things could be more fair but let me get to the point before this discussion gets political.

Have you ever noticed when animals look in the mirror, they develop a high sense of insecurity? They always wonder why their mirror mate is trying to trample their space. There is usually a revolt, momentary or one that could last hours, days, weeks, months or years as they struggle to dissipate their Unworthy opponent.

While taking a visit to the North of Kenya, Laikipia and Isiolo (by the way a nice country), two hornbills perched on my side mirror where we had parked the car and were furiously pecking away. They were obviously a male and female and they each took a turn at stabbing the mirror with their mighty horns. This of course is not the kind of thing I would call fun but yeah, there I was taking photos. This reminded me of an African black-headed oriole I made acquaintance with at one lodge in Isiolo called Rangeland Resort. The bird has been trapped in glass for the last couple of years, trying to displace it’s mirror image.

For those who know about the oriole, they are fairly shy birds that are found in woodland forest edges and are not necessarily garden birds. However for the number of nights I have spent at this resort, this individual religiously presents him/herself in early morning and mid-afternoon, constantly clawing away the nicely tinted windows that make the place look magnificent. It is not on purpose that this the owner built up the space but I can see how this has completely altered the behavior of this bird, perhaps forever. Woodland is fast disappearing in many of the rangelands around Kenya including the southern rangeland heading towards Magadi, the Northern rangelands out towards Isiolo, Marsabit, Turkana just but to name a few. Development is good. What we give up must also be carefully considered. We should avoid “trapping animals in glass”. Development that does not create room for wildlife is retrogressive. It will only diminish our environmental experience to animals in the glass aka zoos!

So conclusion of the matter… yes things may seem bleek for your today but life is not unfair, it’s just life. Secondly, ensure that you create space for wildlife including birds, insects, mammals and the unknown bug, when you put up your building, or tell someone to do so!! Till next time.

Road Trip to Dar es Salaam from Nairobi

Dar es Salaam is ‘only’ 921 km from Nairobi,14hrs on the bus. Excited? It all about how you like your cup of coffee. Well let’s just say that I thrived while my wife barely survived. I love road trips! I get to explore every inch of the landscape and let my senses absorb the beauty and wonder of creation, while concurrently engaging with questions that have no immediate answers like “How do the inhabitants feel about living in such a wonderful place? What challenges do they face? What economic activities excite them the most?” etc. As you can see, they are hardly trivial.

So apart from 14 hrs, to travel to Dar you need to book yourself a bus, generally available from Nairobi including Dar Express that we used, have your yellow fever shots taken 10 days before travel, you passport or border pass which you can get at Nyayo House next to the Kenya Postal HQ.

Our Transport to Dar

The Journey to Dar takes you through almost 270 degrees view of Mount Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain in Africa. On a clear day, you will enjoy the different shots of the mountain. The scenery between Nairobi and Namanga towards Arusha and onward to Moshi is predominantly grassland occupied mainly by the Maasai pastoralists. The view across the border is an expansive acacia-grassland plateau broken by Mount Meru. Being only the 10 tallest mountain in Africa, it is a host to birdlife, wildlife and flora within the forest. It lies within Arusha National Park. You can generally spot odd wildlife including gazelles and zebras but it is great for birdlife.

The road between Nairobi and Dar es Salaam is a walk in the park without a four wheeler. Beyond Moshi, the road winds down and you move towards the West Usambara Mountains. The microclimate here is distinctly different as you drive through the forested areas and see the basking view of the usambara mountain ranges. They are a particularly breathtaking view in the evening sun, bringing out the uniqueness of its chasms from the shadows. Also, there is disparately large scale farming of sisal, citrus fruits, mangos, maize, etc. in comparison to the other regions you will traverse. The clearance of land for large scale farming are traced back to the colonial era where inhabitants were forcibly removed from this land to pave way for commercial timbering and market farming. Of course this resulted in soil erosion and loss of biodiversity, but you can clearly see how these issues are being redressed through agroforestry and reafforestation, which is evident as you drive along.

Dar is a modern day town, more like any metropolitan city and therefore the days within town can be long and ardous. Public transport is cheap, TzShs 300 per trip, but you have to wait for hours at a time to get a seat. Their three main destinations in town are the Main post office, the dock side and Kariokor. Taxi is a better way to get around but you may want to budget adequately for that as it would cost you about TzShs 20,000 – 40,000 (Ksh 1000 – 2000) per trip. A visit to Zanzibar is definitely worth it and it needs a day of its own where you can leave at 7am in the morning and return to the mainland by 4pm.

Tanzanian cuisine is excellent, always with the touch of a traditional flavour, either seasoned in coconut milk or with ghee and pepper sauce. Bananas seems to be a tradition of their meals but its not strange that their meals are comparable to Kenyan cuisines, especially coastal flavours. Eating out is excellent and depending on the choice of joint, it can be well worth every dime.

Well, to make most of the trip to Dar es Salaam, it would be better to have your own transport as this would allow you to break down the journey into manageable distances, and enjoy each destination. A straight road trip is pretty tough even for the best of us. However, if you are going down on business, you do not want to miss out so look out!!