"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Monday, January 15, 2018

The Kenya Journals, Ch. 30: High Tea with Long Necks

The temperature on the terrace of boutique hotel Giraffe Manor in Nairobi, Kenya, is just right, neither too hot nor too cool.   Late afternoon sunshine casts lengthening shadows and tints the light with amber.

I’m sitting on one of the shaded settees and on the glass table in front of me are a plate of demi-sandwiches under glass and two bowls of pellets made from corn, wheat, grass and a secret ingredient that the giraffes apparently can’t get enough of--molasses.

Behind me is a table set for high tea and plates of assorted cookies and other munchies.

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There are no giraffes in sight and for a moment I wonder if we will be stood up.   Then a staff member, dressed in a wine-red shirt and tan slacks, approaches the low stone wall that delineates the terrace, or patio, from the front lawn.  

“Ed!” he says loudly.   “Big Ed.   Come, Big Ed!”    He taps on the stainless steel bowl he holds.

I watch the distant fields for sight of a giraffe, and there he is, approaching with those long graceful strides that can cover up to 15 feet in a single stride.   Soon, the other giraffes join Ed at the rock wall.  

Rothschilds giraffes are the tallest of thegiraffes, with males reaching 18 feet high.

The low iron gate is closed, and the giraffes respect this boundary, unlike the resident warthogs that climb the rocks right around the gate.  Warthogs like pellets, too.   Staff frequently chases the hogs away, but they come right back.

One excellent reason why the staff tries to keep the warthogs away from the guests.  The large "wart" that protrudes near the eye enables the hog to lie on its side and have its head in a reasonably comfortable position.

The dropped pellets bring the warthogs.

Yes, they have "black" tongues.  

Charlie checking his camera settings.

Giraffes have extra tight skin on their legs that helps maintain blood pressure in their entire body, much like a pilot's G suit.

Pellets in hand, we guests are soon feeding the giraffes, and I’m careful to determine which one is the head-butting Kelly, the matriarch of this tower of Rothschilds giraffes.

The Rothschilds are the tallest of the giraffe species.   Males can weigh up to 3000 lbs. and females can weigh up to 2600 lbs.


I also watch out for Daisy, the displaced matriarch, who is also know for getting someone’s attention by “gently” tapping the side of a human heads and knocking them silly.


I've turned into a giraffe!

Later, long after the giraffes are fed and have wandered back to their fields, Greg, Charlie, and I meet in the lounge before dinner.   We are offered cocktails, and I choose a glass of Amarula, a sweet, creamy liqueur made from the fruit of the marula tree, which has been aged and distilled for three years, then mixed with cream.


Compared with Bailey’s, which one wag called watered down chocolate milk after tasting Amarula, this liqueur with an alcohol content of 17 per cent, is described as tasting like “chocolate-dipped strawberries with hints of mango, vanilla and caramel.”    It is delicious.

Elephants like the yellow marula fruit, too, and will travel miles when they smell the aroma of ripe fruit.   Then, they put their massive foreheads against the truck of the tree and shake the tree to displace the fruits.

A steward appears and escorts up into a private dining room where a table is set and lighted with candlelight. 

The dinner is delicious, but the appetizer, or maybe it’s the salad course, is especially so.   It is a ball of sweetened rice, roughly the size of a tennis ball, with a crisp crust as if it had been baked or deep-fried.  

Two of our dinner companions.  They will leave in the morning to join a group to climb Mt.Kilamanjaro.

Our other two companions.

And then, it was off to our suite and early to bed because we are expecting guests for an early breakfast.

A hoopoe.

Charlie and a giraffe.

The horns on giraffe are actually called ossicones.   Rothschilds, male and female, have two on top of their heads, one on the forehead, and one each behind their ears.   Both male and female start out with tufts of hair on their primary ossicones, but those of males usually become hairless and much fighting.

The young giraffes haven't yet discovered the joys of pellets.

They much prefer munching on the ornamental plants around the manor.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

An Oldie for the Interlude

 The Messages around You

(While I work on a story about having tea with giraffes in Kenya, I post this essay that I had forgotten about.   I wrote it in 2009 in response to a writing prompt made by an online writing instructor.)

Scattered around and on and under my desk are messages. The messages implore my immediate attention before (insert a date already gone by here). A thick envelope from AARP offers to save me money on prescription drugs. “Outside” magazine acknowledges receipt of the gift subscription for my nephew, and now wants to sell me one also.

The Aircraft Pilots and Owners Association sends its annual Christmas card selection from which to choose, with free return mailing labels if I buy two or more boxes. The electric utility, credit card companies, fuel oil provider all thank me for my last payment and note the date the current invoice amount will be subtracted from my checking account.

I go online, and messages abound at my “spam” e-mail address. Robert G. Allen is very concerned about my income, Viola want to sell me the magic elixir to enlarge my “member,” and I wonder if that means–for a woman—one boob will become larger than the other, or do you have to take double doses or buy two prescriptions to attain equal enlargement . She’d have better luck if she offered me a magic potion that would reduce those cumbersome things. Another offers life insurance in a box that I don’t have to pay for, Lufthansa welcomes me to its airline miles program, and Google advises me that I have yet to verify my AdSense account.

Pinned to the bulletin board above my computer is the itinerary and confirmation code for my recent trip to Hawaii, the one I should have taken with me instead of the itinerary for a trip to Mexico in November, which is still (battered, folded, and worn) in the carry on I brought back with me yesterday from Maui. And, in a manila file folder, one-third cut tabs, is all the accumulated information pertinent to the trip to Russia, most of which I have not yet read. I still have time; I don’t leave until Friday.

Itineraries, confirmation codes, passport and ID, a small change purse decorated with wolves in which I keep flash cards and extra batteries for my Nikon Coolpix camera—all these things speak volumes about my life the past three years. Before that—I was afraid to fly.

Judy made me to be afraid of spiders. Because I did not know my own path in life, I became afraid of spiders. Before that, I would let them crawl all over me. She also taught me that spaghetti pasta with only butter, salt, and pepper was much more preferable to marinara sauce. On that, she was right.

Kathy is the one who made me afraid to fly, because she was. Figuring that she was much more savvy about these things than I was, I adopted her attitude on the whole thing. I could always think of reasons why we shouldn’t go anywhere when my husband suggested a trip. And when we did fly, he preferred the red-eye flights so as not to waste time, which only left me comatose the next day and I thought that was a huge waste of time. He slept soundly on airplanes; I did not. 

“Someone had to be awake to hold the airplane up,” he told friends. I am sure than more than one airplane had my fingerprints permanently squished into the plastic arm rest.

My fear kept my husband from seeing New Zealand, a place he very much wanted to visit. My fear kept me from flying to the Pribilof Islands in the Bering Sea while he was working a construction job there, and he felt—but didn’t say—that I hadn’t cared enough about him to brave the tumultuous birthplace of horrendous winds and storms.

As quickly as Kathy stopped being afraid to fly, so did my epiphany occur. “I’d rather die in an airplane crash going somewhere than sitting at home on my couch,” said another Kathy. That sounded pretty darned good to me, so I adopted that attitude also.

On my computer are pages bookmarked with sites I’ve scanned for adventure—China by bike, hike, and bamboo raft, animal safaris in Africa, Costa Rica by kayak, Antarctica by ship. I try not to pay too much attention to my bank balance and the interest rate on a CD. 

Instead, in my pocket is a pewter token that spoke to me from a woven basket in a gift shop at Kailua-Kona. On one side is an embossed design of a sailboat. On the reverse side is one word: Explore.

That is the message for me, the one I follow daily, whether at home, on the computer with my muse directing my fingers on the keyboard, or in places known and unknown, I explore.

After I posted this at the writing site, two people made comments:

1)     No wonder I am so stressed all the time. I look around my desk and I see Chaos. Ann looks around her desk and sees hope. Gully looks around her desk and sees life and adventure. I think it just might be time to clean my desk.
2)     You explore with words also. Diving in and giving meaning to what most think may be a mundane topic to write about. Instead you explore the inside of that topic, get below the surface and wow us.