Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A visit from home!

It’s amazing to see Kenya for the first time, through someone else’s eyes.

I just returned from a two-week visit from my parents, who had never been to Africa before. Although I’ve spent the last three years telling them stories and describing every detail of my life, they were still surprised by so many things I take for granted.

Although my mother loves to travel, she doesn’t particularly like to “rough it.” I’m quite convinced that her agreeing to stay at Fisi Camp was driven by pure motherly devotion. I know that sleeping in a tent, using a pit toilet, and living side-by-side with wild animals had given her panic attacks for weeks leading up to the trip. Less than 24 hours after we’d arrived, however, she was hooked. “I love it!” she cried, stepping out of the kerosene-heated outdoor shower. By the end of the trip, she’d been touched by bushbabies, licked by camels, nibbled by giraffes, and snuggled by elephants.

The highlight of my father’s trip was encountering the incredible cast of characters that here in Kenya. He spent hours talking with John and James, the fantastic Maasai guys that work here at Fisi Camp. He delighted in meeting Andrew, the quirky hot-air balloon pilot at a nearby safari lodge, as well as Grace, who runs the tiny shop where we buy fruits and vegetables. Their warmth, energy, and fresh perspectives on local and global issues won him over right away. (He also gave out Obama ’08 buttons, which automatically made him every Kenyan’s best friend!)

My parents have been unbelievably supportive of my career choice, but I knew they never fully understood why I do what I do. After all, their one and only daughter moved 7,000 miles away to study a bizarre and generally-despised animal. To many people, Africa seems like a lonely, dark, and dangerous place. However, despite the cultural divide, the time difference, and the exotic creatures, it only takes a short time here to feel comfortable here. In the course of two weeks, each of my parents accidentally called Kenya “home” more than once.

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