Archive | July, 2011

Lions and Leopards and Cheetahs

17 Jul

Oh my!

So today was mine and Kathryn’s last day here in Nairobi, and we decided to try and do at least a little bit of touristy stuff before we left. This morning we got up and bid goodbye to our favorite breakfast place here, The Java House (one of the few places you can get real ground coffee instead of instant), and headed back to the slums to capture a few more shots. Then we came back and went to Nairobi National Park to see some critters!

The park was Kenya’s first national park and is a wildlife refuge located only a few meters outside the center of the city. There’s merely a fence separating the wildlife from the metropolis and skyscrapers can be seen from some areas of the park. It’s a pretty big area, made up of approximately 29,000 acres, so you usually have to rent a car to take you through the park to see the wildlife. We didn’t really have that kind of time or money, so we decided to go to the animal orphanage.

Almost immediately after walking in, we were moseying over to the cheetah enclosure, when this guy sidles up to us.
He goes, “Do you like the cheetahs?”
Us: “Yeah, we love the cheetahs, they’re beautiful.”
Him: “What would you say if I told you that you could hold a baby cheetah?”
Us: “We’d love to hold a baby cheetah. I mean, duh.”
Him: “Okay. You just follow that path around to the left. When no one is around, the guys back there by the ostrich will let you in to see the cheetahs. You maybe give them some money. 1,500 shillings (the equivalent of about 15 dollars). Is it okay?”
Us: “Errrmmm…”

So basically, because we were white girls who they knew had money, these dudes totally snuck us into this building out back where there were “baby” cheetahs. Except baby to this guy meant 4 months old, at which point these cheetahs are big enough and feisty enough to do some serious damage. They came running out of their cage and one immediately jumped on my leg, where he proceeded to attack my purse with some giant claws and teeth. Fortunately, it wasn’t my skin. So then our Kenyan friend scoops one of them up with its legs all folded underneath, and plops it into my arms. Kathryn and I took turns holding a none-too-happy cheetah, and trying to take some photos. Except we look a bit terrified in all of them. Welcome to Kenya.

megan and cheetah

This cheetah is not interested in being my friend.

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From Athens to Africa

16 Jul

I finally have a bit of time to sit down and write a blog post, and now I have no idea where to even begin. Also, Shannon is in Lesotho with basically no internet, so I’ll have to try and cover everything solo. Lets see…

Athens was great, even if it was completely crazy. We were going, going, going non-stop from the moment we hit the ground, for the most part. It was tiring and at times completely frustrating, having to work with such a large group of people and try to coordinate with everyone, etc. But it all felt totally worth it for me when I got to see my Ecuador team receive their gold medals (Go Ecuador!) and when I got to sit with the Haiti kids on the last night, during Closing Ceremonies. Two wonderful memories that I cherish. I miss them all so much! And I know Shannon was so excited to be reunited with Donghan, her subject from Korea. He competed in the very first Open Water swimming event and took home a silver medal! And he was really excited to see Shannon, even though he is usually shy and reserved. Super heart warming!

On a less upbeat note, while we were there, the protests that have been going on since May 5, 2010 came to a head and violence erupted in the streets after the June 29 passage of another round of austerity measures. The police attempted to evacuate key protest areas in Athens, like Syntagma Square, with motorbikes and heavy amounts of tear gas. There were numerous accusations of police brutality and unwarranted attacks on citizens there. So like any good journalist, we picked up our cameras and headed to the Square, which was only about 10 minutes from our hotel. It was my first experience with such a charged, potentially dangerous environment and its one I’m still ruminating on. I’ll be writing a separate post about it soon enough, and I’ve already posted my photos on my Flickr page. Shannon also has some kickin footage from the event, which I’m sure will be put up at some point for your viewing pleasure.

After protests and running all over Athens trying to cover every event, we were completely exhausted by the time we left for South Africa, but I still found myself not wanting to say goodbye to Athens. It’s so lovely there, and it’s just a more relaxing lifestyle, with more emphasis on enjoying and savoring life and friends and family. I found myself getting by most of the time on the kindness of strangers, like the cab driver who had to stop twice for directions to the venue I was trying to get to. He spoke zero English, but kept reassuring me that we would find it, and when I finally got there and forgot my map, he came back and flagged me down to give it to me, smile and wish me a good day. I had a policeman give me his seat as I waited for my ride, and every single Special Olympics volunteer I asked for directions was overwhelmingly nice, oftentimes walking me to where I needed to be or offering to carry some of my gear. Those Greeks sure are nice. I miss them.

But we had to say goodbye and we headed off to South Africa, arriving during the South African Arts Festival, which is kind of huge apparently. We had four days to just relax and enjoy some of the festival, and try to collect ourselves before jetting off again. We saw some cool shows, like this South African dance-off thing that was incredible, some traditional Rajasthan dancing and music (made me miss India), some South African jazz, and Ladysmith Black Mambazo. I had no idea who they were, but they are a Grammy-winning all male choral group that sings traditional South African music and apparently, they are a big deal. Like, really big deal. Go read that wikipedia link, it will tell you all about them.

And then we all packed our bags and headed out to shoot our individual stories. Shannon and Brian are doing a story about AIDS orphans in Lesotho and Kathryn and I are filming a story in Nairobi, Kenya about poverty and hunger in the slums of Mathare! I’ll be doing a separate post about Kenya soon and I know Shannon wants to blog about her experiences in Lesotho as well, so more details will be coming soon! In the meantime, here’s some World Games/Athens photos for you to check out. Hooray!

Love,
Megan

Safely in South Africa

8 Jul

Not much time to update, as the internet here is very spotty, but we are safely in South Africa! We loved Athens and are missing it very much, but we are having a great time in South Africa. We are here during the middle of the South African Arts Festival, so we are getting to see some great shows and hear some awesome music and whatnot. And the best part is we don’t have to shoot anything! We can just decompress, after running around like crazy for the past 10 days!

On Sunday we all leave to go on our respective assignments, so Shannon will be headed to Lesotho and I’ll be headed to Kenya. So we probably won’t be able to update for a while, but after we get back we’ll try to post a brief summary of our trips.

In the meantime, there were some major protests in Athens on June 29, when the Greek legislature passed an austerity measure that will greatly reduce the benefits of many citizens. Things were crazy and police were everywhere and telling people to stay away from the center of the city, where the protests were. So naturally, we picked up our cameras and went. I’ll try to blog soon about what we saw and what happend, but right now, here’s some pics I snapped. And Shannon got some great footage of it, which will be available to view at some point, when we aren’t rushing around from country to country. Photos are here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mbgarner/sets/72157627100532792/

More to come later!
Megan