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LIFE AS A MIDDLE MANN

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The Never-Ending Adventures of Bird Mann pt 4

This is a great installment, hilarious and eye-opening, read on!
I don't want to romanticize it, but Africa really is an amazing place. Here are some highlights and lowlights:
3/24
Tired of everyone staring at me! Not only am I a big white guy (way over 99% of the people I've seen are African), but I'm looking for birds! I think I'm the most interesting thing that people have seen in a long time, so they stare at me all day . . . I'm actually relieved to get in the true bush because it's hard not to be self-conscious! In a small way, I think it's a bit of a taste for how celebrities feel, and why they go to special places for vacation, hate the paparazzi, and go out with bodyguards in disguise! Happy Belated Easter - I was up in the mountains at the time (Taita Hills) in a Christian area (more Muslim on the coast) and it was WONDERFUL on Easter morning to hear people praising the Lord all over the mountain side - there were few times I was out of earshot of a church - their music is so alive and fun as well!
It is very very hot! I pretty much sweat all day long, which is not too cool to be honest (no pun intended!) I am a bit surprised by how humid it is here along the Indian Ocean - there are some breezes (the water's beautiful though I haven't been in that mode really wihtout my B!) but even the breezes are heavy and hot . . . I've been sleeping fine in my trusty Rav-4, I basically read after dinner with the air on to cool down and then when I wake up sweating in the night just turn the air on for a whie, then I wake up again cause it's really cold! But it works =)
3/26
Aftr I arrived I drove down to the coast to Mombasa and up to Malindi . . . that's my starting point for this whole trek . . . I birded a big special forest called Arabuko-Sokoke and then hedaded inland, first through Tsavo West National Park and then Amboseli National Park. I saw some really neat animals there and got caught in a massive rain storm yesterday - I was just downslope from Kilimanjaro as well, and the road was actually washed out in one spot so had to go a LONG way around! But it was okay because I've been blessed to find neat birdies all the way . . . Kenya is more touristy than India, more expensive. My RAV4 is doing great, one flat, and the front shock got knocked out twice, leak in the power steering fluid but it rides like a dream compared to the little cars I normally get, though it uses gas and gas is really expensive, like $5 a gallon - yikes! It's normally high and then with the post=election problems the transport was disrupted driving prices higher . . . I walked across the border into Tanzania last night and the little boys around me asked if I knew David Becham in America! The people are wonderful and I ate in a muslim hotel that night - good beef for the first maybe the whole trip - I've had mild diarrhea off and on probably the last week but it's been manageable. No malaria, still taking medicine, finally got a shower after three weeks for $2 night before last - it was something else! Very muddy little town in the sticks, though htey had running water - no light in the shower and people kept walking by to pee against the wall - I was trying to was hmy clothes as well - qite an experiencE! I've now made it back from the coast to Nairobi (hence email) and I'm headed north to Mount Kenya right now . . .then to the desert north of there, then Rift Valley x2 days, then swap my jeep for a fresh one, Masaai Mara, Kakamega (greatest forest in Kenya) and finally into Uganda. So I'm working west!
Tons and tons of wonderful birds!! Really neat people called Masaai last couple days - try and look them up - very cool . . . and some really special animals . . . last night I watched about 100 elephants, each troup led by a wise female, and 200 cape buffalo (incl calves!), wildebeast, zebra and giraffes with hippopotamus/grants gazelle/impala/spotted hyena/mongoose/jackel all grazing, chilling in a marsh below majestic Mount Kilimanjaro - it was unbelievable . . . all by myself iwth the Lord - also saw Gray Crowned Crane - so cool! And Kori Bustard! and Ostrich - wow ! Flamingos, on and on . . . Lots of smaller birds that are a real challenge to identify but my book is good.
3/31
Finished my time in the desert and mountains, down in the Great Rift Valley and yesterday saw my first CRASH of rhinos - incredible - a couple we wallowing in the mud to cool off and my jeep got about 20 feet away - I came across a big herd of elephants in the mountains a couple days ago and it was actually kind of scary - you could hear them crashing in the forest and then every once in a while one would appear and rumble across the road. . . God did such a good job with them. Lake Nakuru has about 1million lesser flamingos (and lesser amounts of greater flamingos) and that was a treat yesterday. If you saw the movie "Constant Gardener" parts of it are set in the lake and you can see Baboon Lookout. Still no predators (lion, cheetah, or leopard) though I haven't been looking . . . I keep telling Kitty I'm saving the real "normal/tourist" things for later with my family =)
I've learned about keeping a Rav-4 well-tuned - in case you ever need it mama -aren't you driving one these days too? Good food is hard to come by - in the develping world restaurants are often associated with hotels (because people eat at home unless traveling) and in most of the areas I find myself at dark there are no, um, hotels. So I just eat some crackers (again) - I'm so excited for regular food again! My multivitamins and some anti-malaria meds were stolen from my checked bag from india - only problem like this - but I found some a couple days back in a fancy grocery store near nairobi - so that way i don't ahave to owrry about being malnourished. i got some milk there, drank a litre- much to the giggles of the boys who saw me - and by the next day the rest was soured - kind of interesting! I try and drink bottled juice when I can find it to get some "greens" that's the toughest part about being in the bush.
PTL the day before I arrived Kofi Annan's brokered peace agreement resulted in an amendment to the constitution from the British one that puts tons of power in th presidents hands to split it with a prime minister. I have not feared any violence here and though some goods are in a bit of short supply it's good overall - people are anxious for the state dept to lift the travel advisory b/c tourism is a big part of the econ and it's moving slow. I've enjoyed many beautiful spots completely alone and go many days without seeing a white person.
Obama is REALLY popular here and I got a big discount on my jeep rental when I said that I'd think about voting for him =) apparently his parents wre from Kisumu in the western part near Lake victoria.
I hit a speed bump going about 100kph and launched my jeep several feet in the air - it was actually kind of crazy - just like a stunt movie! I landed okay but one of my shocks needed some work - og figure! They usually warn you but this was in the middle of nowhere on a highway - not too good - one guy said "in America you could sue for something like that!" they LOVE America - and appreciate the support by Bush and visit from Condi after the disputed election . Feel like England has betrayed them a bit. There have actually been lots of "jeep commercial" moments that any guy would love - you're driving on the left side of the road, off roading, fording streams, climbing rocks, etc. Very fun! As they say, drive it like a rental =)
I just swapped my jeep for a freshly tuned one today - the guy was really nice about it and said he didn't want to hear I had broken down in the Ugandan rain forest and have to come get me. So I'm going to the Masaai Mara tonight, then Kakamega rain forest then into Uganda for two weeks to the Rwanda border. I'm basically driving halfway across the continent, from the Indian Ocena in the east through the savannah to the rainforest and mountains that form the "spine" of sub-saharan africa centered on Rwanda/Burundi. In fact, I wanted to go over the crest, down into the enormous Congo rainforest basin - very few roads, but one decent one that goes to the place in Zaire where Mama's leading a team this summer! very cool.
Please pray against loneliness (not too bad), illness, spiritual attack, car theft or trouble. So far so good. Learning a ton.
Much love to you all!
Jase =)

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