Saturday, April 21, 2012

Flora, fauna, and fabric

Last night we had a bit of a plague of large creepy flying insects. I was sitting in the Pastoral Care room having a meeting when I realized more and more of these things were flying around. The woman next to me was trying to say a prayer and the bugs were landing in her hair, flapping in her face, and she kept jumping and freaking out. I had the heebie jeebies big time! Then someone else said people were having difficulty in the cafeteria because swarms of the bugs had flown in and people were trying to eat with bugs dropping into their soup and flying around their faces.

We made our meeting quick and headed over to the auditorium for FWCC business meeting. When I walked in I saw huge clouds of them swarming in the building. SICK!!! In my pastoral care role during that meeting I had to sit up on the stage behind the speakers and hold the meeting - with these big nasty bugs flying around. They dissipated after 30-45 minutes so that was good.

I still don't quite know what they are, but I guess they are a good thing in Kenya because they signify the rainy season. And apparently they taste good. A friend of mine had stayed behind in the cafeteria and one of the cooks came out and said the bugs were good. Ben didn't believe him. So the man fried some up and they shared some. Ben said the bugs were better than one or two of the food items we've been served! I wasn't there and I think I'll pass on future offerings of bugs. Blech.

Here is kind of a shot of the swarms in the auditorium: 

Here's how big they are...

And here are some other fun bugs outside our room, probably trying to get in...

 I've heard that after these guys mate or whatever, their wings drop off and they fall to the floor. So after the mass orgy was over, the floors everywhere were covered in twitching bodies of these guys. The staff has been sweeping them away all day.
 A big moth outside our door. I think I could hear it scratching at the door to come in.
 A walking stick bug outside the dorm. It is a very convincing looking stick!
 It seems nearly every bush and tree here is flowering. These are just a couple of the flowering bushes on campus.

Today was excursions day so many of us went off on trips. I went with a large group to Nakuru Town. I wanted to find some fabric (pictured below) and some other things.
I went off with several folks who seemed to know what they were doing. First we had to find an ATM. The leader woman with us got directions and off we went. I guess some ATMs take Visa and other Mastercard. We passed by one that took Visa and I thought I'd stop and try it. A woman from the group stayed with me and kept an eye on where everyone else went. No luck with the ATM. I can't remember my PIN number!  So I came out and the woman and I headed off to catch up with the group. She said she'd seen them cross the road but didn't know where they'd gone from there. We walked for blocks and blocks and saw no sign of them. The sidewalks were packed with people selling goods (radios, watches, shoes, underwear, stocking caps, food, books, and on and on). We got to a certain point where we could see quite a way and didn't see any sign of our other friends. We were lost/separated together.

The woman turned to me and said, "Well, I'm Joy!" I introduced myself and we went on our way! We turned back the other way and I asked a shop owner if he had seen a bunch of white people walk by. Yes he had! And one was wearing a green hat - our party! We walked and walked, but saw no sign of them. We gave it up and went into a grocery store to get a few things on our shopping list.

Hmm, I wish I'd taken a picture of the store now. I guess it had most of the normal things, but lots of things in tiny little packages, tiny little plastic bottles. They had enormous amounts of steel wool (I don't know what that was for) and a whole aisle of fat and lard for frying. I guess they fry things a lot. There was salt lick for animals, in the same aisle as candy and snacks; hoes and farming implements, and giant sacks of flour and sugar. It's always interesting to go to grocery stores in other countries.

Then it was well past time to have a sit down and a bit to eat. I must say our packed lunches left a bit to be desired. We decided to head back to the hotel we had stopped by earlier because there was a restaurant there. We walked in and who was there? The other folks from our group!
It was a lovely restaurant - I shared a pizza (YUM!) with Sharon Frame and had a milkshake (a couple scoops of ice cream floating in some milk). It was such an excellent meal. The guy in our group got a veggie burger and fries. Fries!! He let me have one. So good! And the bathrooms were nice too. =) (The squashed photo up there is Joy and I in the restaurant.)

Anyway, the other half of the group now wanted to go to the grocery store, so we split up again and Joy and I went to the market across the street. That was pretty intense. As soon as they know you're even the least bit interested you are swarmed and surrounded with half a dozen or more people pressing all sort of things on you - jewelry, hats, knick-knacks, cards, paintings, etc. I was very firm that I just wanted fabric. Once they realized what I wanted and what kind, suddenly everyone had fabric! I suspect many people pool their money or are somehow related because if I gave money and needed change, the woman would often get change from some other person standing nearby that I had thought to be a random vendor. And if they didn't have what I wanted in one spot, the person would lead my somewhere else to show me what was in the other area.  I may have spent a little more than I should have, but I think I did pretty well and I got a load of very nice fabric. There are some vendors on campus that have beautiful fabric; I'm going to try them again. The other day I asked about a piece and the woman said 12000 ksh (kenyan shillings). That's about $145! A little ridiculous. Some of my friends who have experience say I should say to the woman, "that is muzunga price!" and walk away. Muzunga being 'white person.' Maybe even dumb white person to pay that much! One of the pieces I got today was about $10. So I'll give it a try.

For my birding friends, there are loads of birds here but I haven't been able to get any on film. Maybe I'll have better luck on the safari next week.

I can't believe I've been here 5 days now, and the conference only has four days left. I feel...expectant. What will happen next?

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