As a child, I entertained a foolish fantasy of visiting Africa. I believed it to be, most importantly, the land where my favorite silver screen character, Simba the Lion (of the movie “Lion King”), resided. My grandparents, two lovely and adoring people, were set and bound to make my dream come true- and they did in July of 2010, when they took my brother Alex and me on the trip of a lifetime- to Kenya, a country along the east coast of Africa.
We booked our tour with a Kenyan travel agency, Genesis Expeditions. July 11th, 2010, we embarked on a personalized private safari, executed by administrator Bundi Marete and his employees Newton and Kevin, to Kenya's most beloved parks, reserves, and cities. Alex and I were particularly fond of our guides, and built a strong relationship with all three through long car rides, Swahili lessons, early morning excursions, and personal connections to the majesty Kenya has to offer. We were honestly introduced to Kenya by her own people.
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Our guides showed us absolute wonders. We visited the Giraffe Sanctuary and Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage in Nairobi, which gave us the opportunity to truly appreciate these amazing beasts as well as appreciate the conservation efforts being made to protect them. While in Nairobi, we visited Kibera, Africa's second largest slum, and were exposed to poverty incarnate in the lives of those living amongst refuse, garbage, soot, and waste, with little to no food, paying rent for ramshackle “houses” made out of sticks, mud, and cardboard. In Meru, we went to market and had dinner with Bishop Lawi Imathiu, cornerstone of the Kenyan independence movement. We also played soccer with orphans in the Kithoka Amani Community Home for children whose parents died of AIDS. Seeing the smiles of renewed children, who find life in the midst of loss, peace while being plagued by awful memories, was truly inspiring.
As we embarked on safari, we were ushered into a life of luxury as guests in Kenya, introduced to the lifeblood that runs the country: tourism. As we traveled along our route to Samburu, Sweetwaters, Aberdares, Lake Nakuru, Masai Mara, Lake Naivasha, and Amboseli National Park, we saw incredible animals beyond our wildest imagination. We witnessed the Great Wildebeest Migration, beheld the glory that is Mt. Kilimanjaro and saw all of Kenya's “Big Five” Animals. We met members of the Masai tribe, learning firsthand of the tribal culture in Kenya. I met my “Simba” in a pride at Masai Mara, shaking his mane to the African sunset alongside his pride of 12 lions. We stayed in Serena and Sarova resorts, each of which treated us to absolute luxury. My grandfather always loves to say: “I wonder what the rich people are doing now,” and for the first time, he was able to say that they were doing exactly what we were.
I spent seventeen days in the land of opposite proportions. Kenya's dazzling beauty is only outmatched by the grotesque poverty that many of its citizens are subject to. Its guests, a group to whom we belong, own riches beyond the people's wildest dreams. We lived in luxury- gourmet meals and gorgeous resorts in areas sequestered from the rest of Kenya. I learned, above all else, to look beyond the world that I live in- not to judge it, or condemn it, but merely to look, experiencing the true value in extraordinary opportunities, cultures, people, and experiences that the world has to offer beyond my home- a fraction of the globe- Bloomington, Minnesota.
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