I have an elephant. Not as a pet, of course. She stays at the local elephant orphanage. And I'm one of probably hundreds of people that can call her "mine." After having taken slews of visiting teams to the orphanage last summer, I figured that the sponsorship would cost me less than the entrance fee I had to pay every time. Plus, it would allow me to do what the thousands of other daily visitors don't get to do: Come and help with the evening feeding.
But every time I'm in Nairobi, I have other things to do. Business to take care of. People to see. Supplies to buy. This afternoon, however, after I had completed everything from my Nairobi to-do list, I was about to lay down to take a nap.* I was afraid I might fall into a deep sleep, though, which would prolong jet lag even more. And then I remembered:
I could visit Sinya!
I hopped in the Mayfield rental car and made my way to the center. I was the only visitor (many, if not most, sponsors are international tourists who adopt elephants on behalf of friends/family at home, so very few people actually come out for the evening feedings) and Edwin took me around to meet two new friends.
First, there was a new little elephant who came to the center 2 days ago. She was still pretty aggressive as they had rescued her from an attack by a pride of lions, and wanted to be sure that I knew that she's in charge.
And then I met Maxwell. He's a 2-year-old black rhino that had been abandoned by his mom when she realized he's blind. I fed Maxwell and visited with him till Edwin came to call me, saying, "Come! Quickly! The elephants are coming!"
Next thing, the toddlers came running home with their caregivers.
They spend much of the day in the wild in Nairobi National Park. In fact, when they're ready, they get reintroduced to one of Kenya's many national parks. The babies wear blankets to protect them from sunburn. Mama elephants usually cover their young ones with dust or mud, or make them walk in their shade. But without their mamas to look out for them, the young 'uns can get burned pretty badly.
By the way, this page tells you how each of the elephants were orphaned.
For the next hour, I got to watch the little ones hang out with their caregivers, play around, even go to bed.
By 6, they started laying down, and the caregivers covered them with blankets for the night. They sleep in the stalls with the elephants!
I drove off with a smile on my face and in my heart, passing several giraffes on the side of the road. "It's good to be back in Africa," I thought. Most definitely not just for the animals and the beauty of God's creation here. The people, too, are amazing. I can't wait to see the orphans at Eldoret tomorrow, give them hugs, and to hear their latest stories...
Heading back to Mayfield, I stopped by Ranger's Restaurant, a place that overlooks Nairobi National Park. I sat on the veranda, enjoying a drink while writing in my journal and taking in the beauty of everything around me.
My heart was singing. God is doing some pretty amazing stuff, and I get to see his hand in all of it, firsthand.
It's good to be back.
* I had literally slept only one hour last night. Due to jet lag, I was wide awake and kept working all night till I finally heard the call to prayer at the nearby mosque. That's at 5 a.m. I was supposed to get up at 6, so I hopped into bed for an hour-long nap.