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1724670-982768-thumbnail.jpg 'Kulafumbi' is our family home in Kenya, East Africa. 'Kulafumbi' is a play on the Kiswahili words "kula vumbi", which mean "eat dust", because it was so hot and dusty building our house in this remote, wild, wonderful place. Kulafumbi borders the Tsavo National Park - with no fences between us and the Park, the wildlife comes and goes of its own free will and treats our land as its own, which is exactly how we like it. In turn, we provide a protected area for the wild animals to do as they please. This protected area also creates an important buffer for the river, which forms the boundary between us and the park.
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« 21st January 2008 | Main | 9th January 2008 »
Sunday
Jan202008

20th January 2008

We returned last night from an extended trip to Nairobi, and were greeted by a blanket of heavy rain this morning – the heaviest rain we’ve seen here at Kulafumbi since I can remember. I think we are catching the tail end of the cyclone, which has brought widespread flooding to Mozambique and other southern African countries. This morning the rain was so heavy we could not see the other side of the river, let alone the Yatta, and it continued solidly like that for five hours. Even now, at half past midday, it is still raining and the clouds are still hanging low over the plateau, rolling slowly upriver in great grey swirls of mist.

This morning when the rain was at its heaviest, it seemed like all the animals were hunkering down and waiting for the downpour to end. Even the birds were not anywhere to be seen, apart from the Dikkops, which were active and vocal down on the beach. A little later, as the rain lightened, the Pied Wagtails came out but, instead of rushing around on the riverbank as they normally do, they were flitting about in the treetops and catching insects on the wing. The Village Weavers, puffed up against the cold, appeared at the bird table and started tucking into the bread I had put out for them.

Although the purpose of this journal is to record the wildlife and natural dramas occurring here at Kulafumbi, it is impossible for me in the current political climate not to comment on what is going on here in Kenya at the moment, especially having spent the past ten days in the capital city, Nairobi.
Watching the international press reports, anyone would be forgiven for thinking that the whole of Kenya is up in flames, following post-election rioting. This could hardly be further from the truth. Without taking anything away from the pain felt by those people who have lost family members, or have been displaced by spates of violence over the recent weeks, the press reports have grossly over-exaggerated the extent of the chaos here in Kenya. The problems have been in isolated regions, and the whole of Kenya is by no means “on fire” as the press would have us believe.
There is an overwhelming feeling that people just want to get on with their lives, and are fed up with the politicians who, truth be told, are the ones inciting the violence which we are still seeing in isolated pockets of the country. Everyone knows that both parties cheated in the elections, that neither side is innocent, and that the current violence is being fuelled by the politicians themselves who are exploiting the poorest in their communities by paying them to go out onto the streets and “protest”. Most ordinary Kenyans (and in particular those who are employed or run businesses, and are the backbone of the economy) just want to get back to business and get on with normal life – they are not out on the streets causing mayhem.
If you listen to the local radio stations, you really get a sense of how Kenyans want to move forward, of how they are ashamed by the recent events in their country and especially of how much faith has been lost in the democratic process and in the politicians themselves – it is clear to people that the current problems are all about the private ambitions of two men and have nothing to do with the welfare of ordinary Kenyans. It is a sad reality that the greed and ambitions of the few can impact the lives of the many in such a drastic way. I think over the last few weeks, Kenya’s reputation on the international stage has been lost which will have a crippling effect on tourism, one of the country’s main industries. I believe a large proportion of the blame for this lies with those who have irresponsibly reported the goings-on here in Kenya and have over-exaggerated the scale of the unrest. In reality, there is very little enthusiasm for conflict here in Kenya and the overwhelming majority of people want to see an end to the problems – but we do not hear the journalists reporting this. Neither do we see the journalists reporting that local shopkeepers are coming out in the streets and telling the protest marchers to go home and let them get on with their businesses. And we certainly do not see the journalists reporting on the enormous goodwill that is being shown by ordinary Kenyans to their fellow countrymen – go to any supermarket in Nairobi and at the entrance you will see piles and piles of donated food and clothing, laid out there by local people for the Red Cross to send out to the areas which have been affected by tribal clashes following the election – to my way of thinking, this is what the journalists should be reporting, if they want to paint a true picture of Kenya: not just the problems, but the way that Kenyans have rallied together to keep their country on track while the politicians and the media do their best to create dramas where there need not be any.

On a happier note, I must tell you about the Genet Cat who was here to welcome us home last night. As we sat in our living room, with our hastily prepared supper, the beautiful little creature, with its spotted coat and long ringed tail came right into the living room and started catching bugs which were attracted to the lights. It is amazing how accustomed the Genet has become to us. Soon he will probably be tame enough to photograph, and I’ll be able to introduce you to him in person, as it were…

3.30pm

The weather has lifted ever so slightly, and the Village Weavers in the young Baobab tree up behind the house are abuzz with activity again. It looks as if they might even start nesting again. This unseasonal rain is throwing everything out of kilter. The trees too are coming out in leaf again, including the Commiphora on the Hippo Lawn which had only just shed its leaves in preparation for the dry season.

4.30-5.30pm

Ian and I have just spent an hour trying to figure out what is going on with the Hippos opposite the house (mother and now-quite-big baby, I think). There was a lot noise – which sounded more buffalo-like than hippo-like – coming from the opposite bank, when all of a sudden the mother hippo rushed out of the reeds into the main river channel, then turned and went back in again amidst much splashing, noise and displaying of her large teeth. This was repeated over and over again for about half an hour. We think that maybe there is something hiding on the bank, in amongst the reeds, which the hippos did not like – maybe a lion? Then, upon looking at my photos, I could see there was a third hippo in the reeds (below), so perhaps the mother and baby were trying to repel an unwanted intruder?

aggravated-hippos-20jan08-e.gif



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Big crocodile drifting past
click to enlarge
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Grosbeak Weaver stripping reeds
While I was watching the hippo fracas, a massive crocodile drifted past on the current. The Lesser Striped Swallows were busy preening themselves after all the rain (below), and a Grosbeak Weaver was working hard to strip the reeds for nesting material. The Swallows building a nest in our bathroom are undeterred, and the nest is progressing (as is the mess they are leaving behind!)



grey-day-swallows-b-20jan08.gif

The unexpected rain (which has been going on for four days now) has given all the garden plants an extra boost and they really are thriving, from the newly transplanted flowers to the creeper by the front door which is growing apace…

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Our transplanted blue flowers seem to be coming back from the dead in our balcony flowerbeds
click any image to enlarge
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This creeper which has a pretty lilac flower has also come back to life, after being transplanted into our balcony gardens from the roadside...
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The Ipomea creeper by our front door is thriving too...
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...and the other plants in the alcove by the front door are pushing their way through the creeper towards the light...












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The "pyramid lilies" by the birdbath are budding...
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The voracious succulent creeper that we see everywhere on the property is fruiting...
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Another strange succulent creeper growing below the house...
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My aloes and "Tsavo clones" are doing well too!












While we were away in Nairobi, the blades for our wind turbine were erected so now we have a hybrid power system in operation: wind and solar energy powering our home and office…

wind-turbine-20jan08.gif

More photos of the aggravated Hippos and other Kulafumbi wildlife photographed in January 2008...
More January Bird Images from Kulafumbi, including the Lesser Striped Swallows nesting in our bathroom...
More indigenous wild flower photos from January at Kulafumbi, both inside and outside the house...



Reader Comments (2)

Tanya,

Very interesting post, it is refreshing to hear from an insider that the whole of Kenya is not on fire. I must say though, as an American, and with all the negative publicity that the country has gotten recently, I think many here in the U.S. would think twice about going to Kenya now for tourism, whereas in the past this was a hotspot for people in the U.S. to travel to in Africa. Thank you for your insights. Also, the photographs of you when you were little are fantastic.

Tom

January 20, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterTom

Hi Tom,
Thanks for your comments, which I am sure reflect the thoughts of most people around the world. I can understand that people may think twice about traveling to Kenya in the near future, due to the negative press reports. This is what I mean when I say that the international reputation of Kenya has been spoiled - and the whole of Kenya will suffer as a result, as tourism is one of the two most important revenue earners for the country, and the knock-on effects will filter down through the whole of Kenyan society - not just affecting the hotel owners or the safari operators, but the thousands of people who supply the industry with everything from vegetables to furniture to vehicles. Here in Kenya we know that the places which have been directly affected by violence have not been in the main tourist areas, and we also know that the tensions have been between the two main tribal groups here (and not threatening tourists in any way), but of course, anyone planning to travel to an unknown country will naturally choose to go somewhere which is not featured negatively in the press. Kenya is going to have to work hard to rebuild its international reputation and prevent its economy from collapsing as a result of losing its tourist trade almost overnight.

January 20, 2008 | Registered CommenterTanya

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