The Rift Valley

Kenya Great Rift valley (8)In Kenya there is an area South of Nairobi called the Rift Valley. The earth cracked and as a result of that it created a depression that is now a 6000km geographic trench which starts in Lebanon and goes all the way down to Mozambique. Africa has thus been separated into two plates: the Nubian Plate and the Somali Plate.

In the Rift Valley, the mountains are purple, the sky is strong blue, the well-shaped clouds always hang on the horizon, never just above your head, and the the bark of the trees is golden, the earth is at times of a vivid orange colour, so strong it can hurt your eyes.

Kenya Great Rift valley (1)Here, yes, indeed, it is true the clouds look like the ones we drew when we were children, cotton clouds or like the skins of the sheep that are sold along the way. It’s the place to see the world through the eyes of a child and here indeed we can understand why artists portray things in ways that would otherwise seem naive to us, because here we can see by them ourselves through the eyes of artists or children. If we want to understand art, we need to come this natural temple.

Kenya Great Rift valley (71)

As Karen Blixen had stated, here the trees, the golden trees, grow horizontally. Continue reading

The Maasais

DSCF4066The Maasais are a tribe of shepards who still preserve their culture as it was hundreds of years ago. Last century they suffered the biggest expoliation of land in the British colonial history. They are nomads and when they were asked for they fertile lands, they invited the British. In the Maasai’s perspective everything is temporary. So they thought they would be given back their lands. But instead they were pushed up the hills and then to the Mara river, which is why the southern lands of Kenya towards Tanzania are called the Maasai Mara. This is where the main Kenyan game reserve is located.

DSCF4034The Maasais  live in huts made of cowpat, and branches. Their fences are made of branches and they are circular. It looks so beautiful. This is where their cattle sleeps at night.

Each hut has five rooms, the main room where they light a fire and cook one for the parents, one for the children one for the guests and one for the baby cattle. There are tiny window in each hut that mesure around 15X15 cm.Inside the hut

They sleep on a cow skin. In each land enclosed by branched fences ten families live.

Their diet consists of cow blood and milk. Continue reading

Butterflies in Nairobi

Saving my soul…

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Godliness in Nairobi. there are so many species of sunbirds. This is a male variable sunbird.
photographic credit: http://www.talking-naturally.co.uk/variable-sunbird-langata-kenya/

I had been bird-watching and was still observing some amazing colourful birds – tiny sunbirds- on the way, when a lady distracted my attention from these winged beauties. Really in the morning when there are no cars, Nairobi is a symphony!

It was Sunday at 8 :30 AM a Scandinavian – Swedish- woman wearing a hat walking with her husband approaches me. “Nice hat” she touches it. “ Where is it from?” – “ Thank you, from Spain”.  Then she starts asking a series of questions that end up reaching the point she had pre-paved: “We came here to attend a very interesting course…. because we are Christians. What about you?”

I say : “I am not a Christian”.

-What  are you? What do you belong to?

-I belong to myself and also to the Creation. ( Initally I had wanted to answer “I am Eva”, but she didn’t ask ” who”, who are you…)

-What do you mean by that?

-I mean that when I need to talk to someone, I talk directly to the person who can provide me with the answer. For example at work I talk to my boss, not to my colleague. When I have a question about life I ask God, not his priests.

– Oh interesting. And have you asked why there is so much suffering?

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Godliness in Nairobi

-Yes. But you see, even without disturbing God, suffering is an emotion, and so the person who suffers has the choice. Suffering is one of them; not to suffer is another.- Oh that’s true. But what about physical pain? It’s difficult to re-direct one’s attention.

I was wondering why I was supposed to start thinking about what was happening to other people whose life I couldn’t solve. But after that I found out that she was actually worried about me. And later still that she was worried about what would happen 1000 years from now… And all the birds, trees, sunlight were there right now!

Then she says that she is a Christian because she has read the Bible and she feels it is really inspired by God.

–          I agree, I replied. But do you think at after He/She inspired the Bible, God stopped speaking?

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Godliness in Nairobi has taken the form of a read flower in this particular case

I didn’t quite get her answer but it was something related to the fact that He still speaks to us in spite of having achieved His perfect book at an early age.

–          What I meant is that that maybe the Coran is also inspired by God, don’t you think?

She said she had tried to read it but she hadn’t got that feeling. So I understood that she wasn’t too keen on poetry. I wanted to say that if she had the same feeling we probably wouldn’t be having this conversation but contrary to her, I had no intention of saving her soul. I’m too selfish.

–          Then I asked about the Vedas

–          Oh the Hindu texts?

I didn’t know that the Vedas were hindu texts but…anyway. She said she hadn’t read them because the Bible was enough for her.

I said she was lucky to have found such a good book, a good book is a blessing! And then as she didn’t seem to like other books I told her that I believe God’s voice could also be heard in Tchaikovsky or Bethoveen’s Symphonies.

Then she came back to her Bible. In fact the Bible seems to be an amazing historic testimony as I learnt from the lecturer of the Walls of Jerusalem museum. Especially the book of Samuel.  She said that what she found amazing with the Bible is that it had predicted things and they had all happened. And she asked me if I was interested in knowing about the future.

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Here Godliness has taken the form of a weaver bird and a bougainviller and a palm tree

-Oh my God! I have enough with what I am doing now, don’t you? You see I am walking in Nairobi, the weather is perfect the sun is shining, the birds are singing, the flowers are amazing, the trees are huge, why should I worry about what’s going to happen in 1000 years from now?

She must have thought I was a lost case, but however she offered me some reading.

-Thank you but I have a lot of reading. I haven’t finished Karen Blixen’s book yet and many other stuff I am reading. Please save your book for somebody else.

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Godliness in Nairobi… no comment

– Thank you,  it was nice to meet you. Have you ever been to Sweden?

– Yes I have. To Stockholm. Beautiful country. The White nights, June 24th the sun ddidn’t set.

– It’s a small world isn’t it?

– Indeed it is.

After that I proceeded to buy a Bible – after all Bible means ” book” in greek- about the Kenyan birds. Nairobi is the capital with most bird species in the world.

A festival of pop art colours : birds, corals, fish and dolphins!

Lilac breasted roller flrying

Lilac breasted roller flying

For my birthday I decided to go and see my kins, the fish at the Coast. From Diani road in Nairobi to Diani beach…

On the way there amazing birds would dash like arrows in the sky and then land on the electricity lines. “What are they?” – ”  I haven’t seen it….”

When another one passed by I showed him again. Again he hadn’t seen it. “Most of them are lilac rollers”  said the driver casually. Of course I couldn’t take a picture of those winged beauties myself but here is a portrait of a lilac roller.

This is when I noticed how spoilt Kenyans  are. They have these birds we have not even conceived in our brightest dreams and for them they are just ” Most of them“. They don’t even notice them just like we don’t even notice our fat pigeons in Luxembourg Gardens. His tone translated :” we have plenty of these things you don’t even dare to dream of, and we don’t even see them anymore, because we have so many of them!

Stoplight Parrotfish (Sparisoma viride) at Salt Pier

parrotfish

I had planned to go to the Kisite Marine park on the 24th, and that day it seems that all the dolphins of the park had decided to come and greet me! When I was a child I had put posters of dolphins and cheetahs on my walls. And here I was when all of them jumping around, like a symphony! The captain said they had four species of dolphin, but I don’t remember the names he mentioned.I had made a lovely film with my lifetime dream friends… but that very day my camera got stolen.

When we reached the diving spot….. Waoo! The corals and the fish dressed in pop art colours. Unbelievable ….Pink, blue, yellow, orange….. the brain corals, corals like a lion’s mane, corals like bushes, others looked like flowers…. I saw my first parrotfish ever. And I saw several of them! Angelfish…too…

On the way back, the captain said that, when the tide was low, the area we were going through was totally uncovered and that we could walk through four kilometers of sea . This was something like what Moses did! I was amazed! I couldn’t believe it: the water we were sailing on now, could actually be gone?? “It is a reef he said”.

I started imagining how it could look like with no water just algae and rocks… a few corals… I wished I could see that one day!

starfish and urchin

starfish and urchin

Guess what? A big surprise for me. The next day I went to Diani beach… my beach…the water had gone! The tide was so low and I saw what I had dreamt of seeing. 1 km of uncovered “sea floor”. Starfish had to be put back in the water or else they would die.

I held my first starfish: it’s actually as hard as bone but they can move and change shapes. How strange! Huge starfish, and so many sea urchin I had to avoid walking on…Salim the guy who had accompanied me, told me the starfish were eaten by the urchins.

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Corals at Diani beach

“When you reach this point Salim said,  you can snorkel”. But yet the water was so shallow that I was afraid of getting pinched by one of the urchins….

Less than 20 cm, it was really tight…. I tucked my tommy in…

And that’s how I saw my first rectangular fish ever.!

A tiny tiny yellow fish half the size of my little finger accompanied me all the way at the beginning. He was really with me. When I got tired, at the end of the first session….guess who appeared again!

Then I understood: the corals here were no coincidence. In Diani beach there is a coral barrier, and that’s why the waves broke at a certain point on the horizon. It was around 3 Km away from land. I had planned to reach by windsurf and snorkel from there to see the corals. I had thought I had to go to the Tanzania border to Kisite marine park, but what I wanted – the coral reef- was here already.

Again, just like earlier with the Moses experience, the stars had planned an even better surprise for me! I could snorkel now and enjoy the windsurfing hour just for windsurfing when the tide would come back.

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angelfish at Diani

When it did, the beach shrunk. Again, I couldn’t believe it was the same beach as earlier. No space left to lie down, when in the morning there were more than 30 meters of dry sand! Those tides were impressive indeed. In the afternoons the wind rose and it was so harsh, that I no longer found it nice to stay on the beach. In the morning it was as calm as a lake.

During my holiday in Diani, the full moon hang above the sea, twenty four hours a day.

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PS: for all pictures except the  lilac roller, and the parrot fish, I appear courtesy to Stilts Backpackers facebook page. Thanks Andy! https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Stilts-Backpackers/120956872812?fref=ts

Elections day

Today, it’s elections day. It seems people are not going to work so that they can vote. It’s bank holiday. There are no cars in the street, no jams… I wonder if anything is open… can I go for a mikshake or a beer. What about my Ethiopian restaurant… The people in Europe are working I know and I feel like it’s Sunday!

voting queue

voting queue in Nairobi

They say the lines are so huge that some people had started the queue at 5:30 and at 11 they still hadn’t voted. But my friend went there at 6:30 and by 10 he had gone through.

I haven’t followed anything about the elections. I have never had politics as my favourite assignment, unless it’s about Lee Kwan Yew or De Gaulle….But I know that last time it had degenerated into a huge conflct between the tribe of the President and the tribe of the Prime Minister. This year we had been praying for peace. We didn’t even realise how lucky we are in Europe not having anything similar. And yet in Europe we are unhappy with the elections.

The consequence had been many deaths and also no supply. No supply of bank notes, airtime, no food….

So when I went to the supermarket there was no milk left, hardly any bread, the water was gone…

People had advised me to buy some provisions…. The main thing shall be the mosquito repellant. ” but you can’t eat mosquito repellant”. At least they won’t eat me!