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the birds of Kenya

From the small and colorful, to the large and powerful, Kenya’s incredible variety of birdlife transformed us into amateur bird-watchers. It didn’t happen overnight, however, and by the time we started keeping track of the birds we had seen, most of our safaris were long behind us. These slideshows — which include the 150+ different bird species we’ve been able to photograph — are just the tip of the iceberg of Kenya’s avian diversity.

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Predators and scavengers

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if only dogs had wings

Departing for Africa, S was adamant in her opposition to owning a pet. Though we both grew up with dogs, S thought that shipping one halfway around the world every couple of years as we moved from post to post would be cruel, especially in light of airlines’ ever worsening shipping policies and the distinct possibility that if we were to be evacuated we’d have to leave our pet behind. But then she saw a poster for a couple of rescue pups, and her desire to adopt one overcame the worries and what-ifs. Besides, packing out felt eons away when we had only just arrived to Kenya a month prior.

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know before you go

Visiting the California Republic, it turns out, is no small undertaking. D had naively thought it would be enough to book flights and rent a car, and that the rest would take care of itself. In this no-hassle fantasy, we would get up every morning, pick a place, and go exploring. The reality is that not only does one need to obtain permits and make reservations well in advance, but some places are also nearly impossible to visit even with adequate forward planning.

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small scare

A few weeks before our holiday travels we noticed a small red growth on Emmie’s paw. S did some research online and diagnosed it as a histiocytoma, a benign tumor that typically occurs in young dogs and which regresses after a month or two. We decided it was no cause for concern and went on vacation. When we returned in mid-January, the tumor had doubled in size. It was ulcerated and showed no signs of regression. A bit alarmed, we took Emmie to the vet to get the tumor removed and analyzed.

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following in Fossey’s footsteps

Gorilla trekking must be one of the world’s priciest tourist experiences, at least if one calculates the cost per minute. This year, the Rwanda Tourism Board raised the permit price to $750 for international tourists. Even with the East Africa resident discount, we paid a hefty sum to spend just one hour with the endangered mountain gorillas.

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hat toss

A sport that started with the aimless tossing of a pie tin, ultimate frisbee has always struggled to find legitimacy. Despite the existence of several professional leagues in the United States, a lot of people have a hard time equating tossing a disc with serious athleticism, which is a shame because it is one of the most physically demanding sports we have ever played. In ultimate, the person holding the disc cannot run; everyone else – on defense and offense – has to sprint constantly, which is hard to do for an entire 1-2 hour-long game, and much harder still during a tournament in which one plays 3-4 games a day.

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smiles from a somber people

Nearly two decades later, Rwanda is still haunted by the genocide and its aftermath. The gacaca courts may have finished their business, but the memories remain raw for the people who are old enough to remember. Our friends, who have been serving in Kigali for about as long as we have been in Nairobi, said that it’s rare to see Rwandans smiling. The only exception, our friends noted, is when they are dancing.

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California dreamin’

After much deliberation and close consultation with various West Coast friends, we are getting closer to finalizing our home leave itinerary. This week we nailed down our summer flights, of which there will be close to a dozen. With each part of the itinerary that falls into place, we get more and more excited about our upcoming American travels.

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mafia

What do you do if you want cannoli in Nairobi? A friend of ours was having a mobster-themed birthday party this weekend and we thought it would be the perfect dessert to bring. We tried asking at a local Italian restaurant, which is run by an actual Italian family, and managed to offend the owner. We asked if the restaurant could make a special order of cannoli; he said no. We pressed, and he curtly informed us that cannoli is a Sicilian dessert, and apparently Italians from the northern part of the country do not consider Sicily to be a part of their homeland.

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pure procrastination

Seswa

In addition to a pet kudu, the managers of Sarara — where we stayed last month — had an adorable springer spaniel who strutted about as if he owned the woods…except at night, when his owners kept him on a short leash or locked him up for fear that he would be eaten by a leopard.

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