My mates and I, united by a message from yester night, converge and inadvertently find ourselves reflecting on the latest news, comparing notes on our reading and movie lists, highlighting our favourite moments from recent travels and planning for a safari walk – our plan for this particular weekend.
This meeting progresses through a few hours in which two slothful friends take all the time they can to wake up from their drunken stupor and ready themselves for the walk.
A quick lunch at a supermarket deli later – one which we gladly enjoy despite gradually reducing temperatures and a shower characterised by tranquility – and we are off, from a dusty diaspora that has been blessed with rain for the sunny Kenya Wildlife Services headquarters in Langata, home to an animal orphanage, a park and Nairobi Safari Walk. Nothing will stop us. We have a waited all night and all morning. We have un-begun and unfinished business whose time is nigh.
Walk, we will. Because, we, collectively, believe that lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being while movement and methodical physical exercise save and preserve it.
We are welcomed, and for a surprisingly affordable fee, helped through an aesthetically pleasing, bribe free ticketing office (but with the dollar exchange rate at KSH 89, and a Ugandan without any identification we are not sure about it being entirely bribe free) and thereafter left in the very good hands of a guide; the most gracious Paula with whom we make quite a good team.
We start our safari walk hoping that it will give us the anticipated memories we have been hoping for, and confident that Paula will see to it that we derive happiness from being satisfied by spending time with people that we like other than her.
However, on this very day, we will be replacing people with their distant and not so distant cousins; animals and plants. Flora and fauna. Or vice versa.
It is in embracing the diversity of human beings, and animals as well, that we find a sure way to happiness.
Our 2.5 kilometres walk starts with a failed attempt – for all – at recognising impressions of feet left behind by two animals and, for a prize, at least a face of the greatest threat to biodiversity – one of us (humans) whose dentition was well illustrated on a mirror encased in a wooden shelter. Thanks to a heartily laughing Paula and her prank.
For people who have done this already, we still have not figured out much yet. We will always have questions. A question is like a knife that slices through the stage backdrop and gives us a look at what lies hidden behind it.
It is from asking that we learn. And yes, there was a lot to learn. Enough to remind us that we too are like the animals we had come to spend the day with.
Firstly, that each one of us is just a small piece of a much bigger puzzle, and that what we are living is only one experience and there are so many other different versions of that experience all over the world. Those that we cannot conceive of. It is these differences that inspire within us an insatiable need. A need for someone else to look at us. We all live market stall lives.
For the different animals and plants, the Nairobi Safari Walk management has properly arranged them in a vast estate on which visitors can cross over wetlands, traverse the Savannah and follow the trail to forested woodland. Looking at them, we will be.
Secondly, that each one of us is unique and that it is from that uniqueness that develops special purposes. There is no useless human being or animal or plant.
That like the fever tree (which attracts mosquitoes), we can be as destructive as we often are, but thankfully, like another tree be helpful in curing syphilis. Or, like another do even better as it is believed it did when it was used by the popular Tanzanian, Baba Loliondo, to treat HIV/AIDS affected people.
And also, that we can also be utterly useless. For those humans who have always believed that they are the most lazy people alive, worry not. Lions sleep for twenty one hours a day. Your records are nothing to them.
However, do not hasten to applaud them or yourselves. They do recall to wake up and do all they do to keep their worthy positions as Kings of their respective jungles.
(Normal) monkeys reminded us that motherhood is one of the most important responsibilities there is. Like any reasonable mother, a monkey will keep its young one to itself, well catered to and under the protection of her friends – if need be. It is aggressive and will attack to hurt anyone that harbours intentions of disturbing its peace.
Undoubtedly, there is no specie that can survive without continuity.
That God does not (directly) make the world this way. We (help him) do. That is why, like termites and spiders which damage and build, we will do anything we can to leave a mark or build structures by which we will be remembered. The only proof that we ever existed. Like termites, we pray that the fruits of our hard work are not destroyed. Termites spend all their time building and using saliva to do so.
We appreciated that, like the cheetahs we saw, humans are equally a primitive and violent race. Three cheetahs, two from the Maasai Mara have formed a gang which has made life miserable for one that has been brought in from another region of the country. All it spends time doing is finding any possible outlet through their cage. It dreams of the day it will escape from this unfathomable situation created by its violent cage-mates.
Interestingly , all three try to outpace one another in the quest for food. Indeed, kahega ni rukurura (the stove always brings us back)
Leopards are reminders of our introverted temperament. Finding one is the hardest thing. We were only lucky to identify one that had blended in worth the trees.
Birds are even worse. Of the 150 resident ones, we only saw one, an owl, that we saw fly out of its vantage point and over us. Perhaps because it was us who had alarmed it.
The crocodiles did not want to know. At least for the time we were there. They were motionless. Their heads raised in the air. The only way they know how.
As for the tortoise, it, to be precise, did not give a fuck. We all have that one friend who has no fucks to give. We saw it, touched it, sat our asses on it and left. It was like we were never there.
We are yet to hear from the small shy creatures, the excellent swimmers and dainty underwater ballerina dancers that are the pygmy hippos.
One important thing that animals would like to tell us, if they could, is that they love us. Well, that is what the pussy at Sebastian restaurant said to me when it turned its face into my direction and said “Twino, come live with me, and be my love.”
Don’t ask me how I know. I do. It has to do with whispering.
The ostriches, elands, giraffes, impalas, antelopes, and bongos – which comfortably live together – taught us that each one of us should master spur passions, love in chief, and be loyal to our friends.
Betty and Sarah, the buffalos, reminded us that when the red blossom in our hearts does not bloom for another anymore, unfortunate times will befall us. Male buffalos, like most of us, are aggressive and deadly when neglected by their female counterparts who proceed to choose other mating partners. Damon trollops!
Paula helped us appreciate some sad facts as well. That humans are savage in nature no matter how much we try to dress it up to disguise it. Humanity’s savage nature will inevitably lead to global annihilation. Here’s why;
Indians use the hair of a striped hyena to make a lot magic. Pakistanis and Egyptian peasants have also contributed to its continuous extinction by killing it for food.
That the beautiful black colobas monkey which is indigenous in western Kenya, specifically Kakamega forest, feeds on insects, can – thanks to its four stomachs – withstand poison, and consequently, lives long – thirty years – is highly being killed because of its skin.
I blame this unfortunate trend of statistics on modern day females who, like Straka Mwezi, want a rainbow for hair.
Humanity is so shameful that thirty years ago, there were 100,000 black rhinos in Africa. Today, (2001) there are only about 3000 black rhinos in Africa left and only 150 white rhinos left in Kenya.
This is because humans kill rhinos because they believe that the rhino horn is an aphrodisiac. Men think that from it, they can attain enough power to play “bedminton”. Traditional oriental medicine practitioners as well believe the rhino horn reduces fever.
But all this is not true. Tests prove that rhino horn has no effect on the human body whatsoever. Please people, do not do something you cannot live with. You are going to spend the rest of your lives trying to deal with it.
But oriental medicines are not the big cause for rhino deaths. Most rhinos are killed for decorations. That’s right. An entire species has almost been wiped out for the sake of looking good!
North Yemen is the biggest market for rhino horn. Yemeni men prize their jambiya, a prestigious dagger with a handle carved from rhino horn!
An unhappy Russelas the rhino has written an urgent memorandum to all humans in which (s)he says;
“I know that not all humans are bad and not all humans hunt and kill us. Some people work hard to keep rhinos safe from people with guns.”
(S)he concludes with a requisition;
“You can be one of these people too! But hurry! Please help to save m and all rhinos. There aren’t many of us left alive!”
Indeed, it does not take a genius to know that the world has problems.
Also, that death, of a human or animal, in itself brings an end to everything. Sadly, Usain Bolt, the cheetah that the fastest man in the world adopted a few years ago and paid KSH 150,000 per month for its maintenance died recently.
There was a lot to see, hear, read and to learn. Enough beauty and fun to enjoy on this wonderful day. As we left the premises, one of us joked when he pointed to a fat friend and asked;
“Why didn’t we leave this one in the zoo?”
Beyond the laughter, we had learnt three cardinal lessons.
1) that we need to be kind to animals, and humans. Believe it or not, they are the only ones whose hearts beat and break like yours.
2) that how much of responsibility for them, and us, we take is up to us but we have to take some.
3) that in embracing the diversity of humans, and animals, we will find a sure way to happiness.