Blog three of my African adventures with Dr. Ava Cadell.
Getting from Zanzibar, Tanzania to Diani Reef, Kenya took three planes in one day, though later we were told that one plane would have sufficed if we had gone direct. As it was, we flew from Zanzibar back to Dar Es Salaam, Dar to Nairobi, then finally Nairobi to Ukunda, and after that a very short car ride to our hotel Diani Reef Resort & Spa.
On the plane from Dar to Nairobi, we flew over Mount Kilimanjaro. Hello! I was so grateful that the flight attendants pointed it out, because I was on the other side of the plane.
Ukunda is a small town on the coast, and Diani is the beach area itself is lined with luxury hotels. There is a coral reef a mile out from the beach that protects the harbor from large sea creatures like sharks and barracudas. The water is about ninety degrees, and the sand is a fluffy white. You can take camel rides on the beach too, which surprisingly was old hat to me, having taken camel rides in Egypt with Tina Cooper on a Goldirocks trip, and in Agra, India near the Taj Mahal with Ava.
At the hotel, I drew back the curtains and found this little friend! More on these Vervet monkeys later. If you can’t wait, scroll for a video of cuteness involving three of them eating flowers from a tree : )
Ava’s seminars were a huge hit. She was lecturing to a group of Nairobi business people who had come to learn how to make their love lives as successful as their businesses. They were a fun, charming, sensitive group who were honestly searching for meaning and answers, which made for riveting Q & As. They could also drink and party every night until 2am and still make it to their lectures on time. You would never know they had children….
We made a lifelong friend in Jacinta, the organizer, who was on top of every detail of the whole event, including helping us with the tiniest details. Here she is pictured below with Ava, and Grace Akinyi Adongo, who entertained the group in the evenings with hilarious and unique party games and Jaeger shots! She was a treat to meet and get to know. I expect Grace and / or Jacinta to stay with me in L.A. when they come. I hope they take me up on that offer. And a special thanks also goes to Bobby Kimani, who not only made sure we were comfortable at his hotel the whole time, but also planned us a safari – blog coming soon about that.
After the Valentine’s weekend was over, most of the event participants and organizers went home to Nairobi, but Ava and I stayed on to enjoy the area. We couldn’t leave the hotel without ‘guides,’ so we were lucky to have Omar as our driver.
Omar could see how non-plussed we were by the local mall and offered to take us on a trip to his village called Shamu. Of course Ava and I both said, “Like the whale?” which meant absolutely nothing to him. Neither did Kwaanza, by the way.
First stop was Shamu Primary School where we met with the rowdiest bunch of kids this side of Kilimanjaro. They were having a ‘sports’ day and goofing around, then when we came they went bananas. The deputy headmaster asked them to sing a song for us:
This girl was a real pistol. She wants to be a doctor, and is definitely already a leader.
I explained to the kids that my daughter who is six years old is studying Africa in March, and that I would be going into the classroom to show pictures of my trip to Africa and share with them anything I had learned. They loved this idea and kept hi-fiving me all over the place. I showed them pictures of Violet on my phone and some of the kids were focused on the pictures, laughing and pointing and making the connection of me and my daughter, while other kids were mesmerized by the iphone itself, reaching out to swipe the photos in wonder. Man, it made me want to go out and buy a laptop for the classroom.
Only three of their classrooms have electricity, and they need money for basic things like providing meals to kids who aren’t getting enough to eat at home. Ava and I each gave the Deputy headmaster a hundred dollars US, which Omar later told us is the one-month salary of a typical grade school teacher. This likely explains why the the man looked so grateful and wished blessings and abundance on us from God. He also wished that president Kenyatta would bestow abundance on the kids, by fulfilling his promise of computers in the classroom this year. Apparently the U.S. does not have the market cornered on politicians who will say anything to get elected. I heard complaints about this same “computers in every Kenyan school” promise from most of the working class parents I talked to. They’re ready for the technology, but they just can’t afford it.
I could have stayed there all day talking to those kids and letting them swipe my iphone until the battery ran out, but Omar was getting bored. Fair enough.
Next we went to watch a show – four dancers and a small band doing a traditional Digo tribal performance. They were great and really fun to watch, but I have to say that the most amazing thing about this story is that they got me to dance. I never dance. I didn’t even dance at the damn Carnival in Rio! Yet here I am shaking my money maker in front of a home-made thatched roof house with a bunch of strangers.
They danced for a while and then made a circle where each dancer goes in the middle for a solo. Of course they invited us to come and dance and what am I supposed to do? Make a complete whitey fool of myself of course! That’s cool. I’m game. And obviously game to give them a donation after the performance too. Why else would they perform a dance in the middle of the day? The first minute or so of this video is upside down….you can scroll!
We went to the local shops to buy some wood carvings. This shop owner Alex sold me everything I was looking for, including ebony Maasai heads and a two-foot rosewood giraffe. We talked a lot about politics and he confirmed that Kenyatta wasn’t delivering on promises. At one point the phrase “Hakuna Matata” (no worries) came up, and he talked sorrowfully about how the Disney movie The Lion King made it seem like Africa was the land of ‘no problems.’ “But,” he said, “When you scratch the surface of Africa, all you see is matata and more and more matata.”
On the way home we stopped at the market and I happened to see this little gem at the perfume display. Do you think he formally endorsed this? Or maybe Michelle did? Haha. Obama is a big deal in Kenya, and more than one man told me, “Of course we love Obama. He is our son.” Maybe he could send them some computers for their schools?
Back at the hotel, we found some Vervet monkeys eating flowers from a “Golden Shower Tree.” They love these trees because the flowers are fragrant and delicious, and also at the right time of year when the long seed pods have dried out, they can shake it to make maraca sounds. Apparently they think this is quite a hoot.
I talked to the hotel manager Detlef about the monkeys, and he told me hilarious stories about how the monkeys have taken to coming into his house, opening up the cupboards and helping themselves to bananas! He lives across the road from the hotel with his wife who apparently encourages the monkeys to hang out and watch television. Sometimes they will sit for hours on the couch side by side. I love it!
Detlef also told me about the problems that they have with water in the area, and the issues he deals with getting water supplied to the large hotel. They have a few wells that they use to service the pools, but because the ocean is so nearby, the water has salt in it, so they can’t use it for the showers and sinks in the rooms. For that they have a four-kilometer-long pipe that comes in from another town. The pipe is guarded by Maasai warriors, who have to deal with everything from animals digging it up, to people mistaking the pipe for a snake and whacking it with a machete, causing huge geysers and a big headache.
The beach itself is absolute paradise with the white sand and insanely warm water. The only problem is the ‘beach boys’ who won’t take no for an answer, trying to sell you everything from seashells to sex. Women too, but they weren’t harassing me. Here’s me with a seashell guy that I couldn’t resist. After all, his shells were very cool.
Later in the trip I went walking on the beach without Ava, and a man was hitting me up to pay him for sex. I told him I was married, but that just egged him on to tell me about all the married German women who love to have sex with him because of the different color of his skin! It took me a long time to shake him. By the end of it I was literally shouting, “No!” at the top of my lungs and running away. Yikes. But still, the beach was the loveliest I’ve ever seen.
Next we head to the Maasai Mara wildlife reserve for a safari!