Monday, August 8, 2011

Monday Monkey Mayhem

After tracking down my package at the post office (see earlier post for details) the day was still young, so my guide and I took lunch.

Fried chicken and chips were just the ticket to boost our wearied souls.

We decided to not waste time in the city since we couldn’t be sure how long it’d take us to get home.

However while meandering through the congested streets, dodging cars, and pushing past the street peddlers and business execs, I found a hole in the wall shop which had some fabulous material.

The shop keeper gave me a price that was more than fair, but in an effort not to offend her I bargained anyway; it’s the Kenyan way.

Here no price is set in stone.

Now, I confess I’m a train wreck when it comes to bargaining. I often miscalculate and underbid which invariably leads to me offending them, or else I get all flustered and pay twice the going rate.

It’s really hit or miss.

But this time I decided to try a new technique --make her laugh. When I succeeded, the bargaining stopped and we shook hands happily over the purchase.     -- I think I even impressed my guide.

From there we snaked our way through a labyrinth of high-rises and newspaper stands. Then it hit me; something was missing.

Scanning the streets, the faces shuffled past in a slow and steady rate. What was different? What was missing? I had to stop to think. Then it hit me!

--“Where are the homeless and beggars?” I asked my guide. “Does Africa have them?”

I knew it was a naive question only an idealistic Mozungu would ask, but I asked it anyway.

My guide considered my question and looked around with me, trying to see it from my Western eyes.

--“Yes. There are beggars here but the government shoos them away,” she explained. “But you know... only those who are not smart in the head or are lame beg.”

I had to smile. She was right. Later I came across cripples begging, but it was the exception not the rule.

She then took me to a bead wholesale store. As I stood gawking in that cramped box with beads stacked to the ceiling, my mind whirled and whizzed at the possibilities.

I’d have to come back for sure.... and with lots more cash that I had on hand.

In the end, I bought several Dinka beads to make gifts and thank-yous, and promised to be back.

From there we boarded another bus to journey home. But halfway there, my guide turned to me and asked if I wanted to see monkeys.

When I asked her to explain she mentioned a free park along our route home. Was I interested?

Heck Yeah, I was interested!             -- I love monkeys. I would love to own a monkey! Monkey! Monkey! MONKEYS!

The park was lush and overgrown. Creeping vines wrapped around towering acacia and gum trees shaded us from the heat and noise.

Deep well-used trails twisted back through small ravines alongside a grey stream. And then the monkeys came.

First it was just one adventurous female. She approached slowly but without fear --watching us for treats.

When we offered her a chunk of our sugar cane, she took it swiftly; then others followed. Overall I must have seen 50 of them scattered around the park --in trees, on benches, playing in the fields.

Clicking off pictures, I soaked in this momentary silence of monkey haven, then we hiked back to the road and journeyed home.

What a day!