I thought that when I kissed the Blarney Stone that it would be the strangest thing I ever kissed, that nothing could top that. I was wrong. Today, I am happy? confused? to say that I have experienced a weirder kiss. I...have kissed...a giraffe. And there was tongue involved--on the giraffe's part (sorry, Daniel. I hope you'll understand).
Today we hung out with my friend Jenny Korwan, who is in the YASC (Young Adult Service Corps) here in Kenya. We went to a giraffe preserve, where we fed an 18 month old giraffe named Ed and his little 15 month old brother Ibrahim (sp?). If you put one of the pieces of food (they look like fish pellets; I tried not to think about what they were made of) in your mouth, the giraffe will stick out it's long black tongue and take the treat from you. They call it a kiss. It was quite the experience, and I have it on film to prove it! There are 9 giraffes in the preserve; 7 female and 2 male. They are called Rothschild Giraffes. Once they get to be 2 years old, they are released to the wild. One of the females is 16 years old and pregnant, so there will be a calf sometime soon. The giraffes are hunted for their skin, their tales, and their meat; this preserve is trying to rescue them. At one point there were only 120 of the giraffes in a 180,00 km radius (I think I got those numbers right). So this is an important project. If you're in the area, you should visit the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife Giraffe Centre. It's totally worth your while.
Image of a Rothschild Giraffe found here.
After the preserve we went to Rongai, where Jenny works and lives. We visited a children's home called Nyumba ya Tumaini (it's essentially an orphanage, although some of the kids have families). It was founded in 2003 (June 5 will mark their 10 year anniversary) to help take boys off of the streets of Nairobi. Most of them have been living on the streets for years, begging, stealing, doing drugs (like pot or sniffing glue), and drinking. The boys are usually 10 or younger. Several of them told us some of their background. When they first arrive they are rehabilitated, registered with the government, given clothing, and sent to school. There are mentors made up of people from the community and people like Jenny. The boys are so lovely, so full of life and energy! They sang and danced for us and it was great to see how much fun they were having. They work really hard at their studies and several of them are first in their class! One of the boys, D, had struggled with school and never completed any of the years of primary school. But he got a tutor to help him study. After one year he tested out of 8 years of primary school to continue to secondary school! From there he worked hard, becoming first in the class. He was asked to be head boy but declined so that he could focus on his studies. He is hoping to go to university in the fall to study electrical engineering. These boys have so much potential--I hope they get to achieve their dreams! Ben, the director of the home, is amazing, and you can just see how much he cares for the kids. If you'd like to find out more about Nyumba ya Tumaini, contact Jenny at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll be sure to post pictures when I get back to the states.
After the home we visited Jenny's home, then said goodbye. Jim and I then went to a market to get souvenirs for folks (they didn't really have any in South Sudan) before returning to the hotel. It has been quite an amazing day!