FUN FACTS ABOUT KENYA

The outsourcing didn’t work.  Bangladeshi workers did not write a single blog entry for me in the last seven months.

This is extremely disappointing.  That these workers lacked access to computers, the Internet, or basic details of my life is no excuse.

There is much to report.

My dog, who had chased squirrels for six years without success, finally tracked one down in the front yard of a neighbor.

unholy scourge

unholy scourge

I became aware of this because I heard the bloodcurdling screams of my neighbor.  She was alerting me that:  a) my dog was not on a leash; and b) my dog was KILLING A SQUIRREL ON HER FRONT LAWN!!!

From the volume and urgency of the shouting, I thought maybe Boomer was killing a child, not a rodent.

Upon closer inspection, he was not even killing the rodent.  He was soft-mouthing it.

Because the neighbor was screaming bloody murder, and because I did feel a trace of compassion for the trapped animal, I made one of the dumber decisions of … the last few months anyway.  I reached in and tried to rescue it.

For my trouble, I was rewarded with a quick, vicious bite by the terrified squirrel.

I let fly with a loud F-bomb, and yanked back my hand.  This caused my neighbor to re-double her caterwauling.

Bad dog.  Jumped in the pool AND ruined a football.  AND got me in trouble with the neighbor.

Bad dog. Jumped in the pool AND ruined a football. AND got me in trouble with the neighbor by attacking a squirrel.

Instead of ignoring the woman and letting nature take its course, I reached in again, and this time received an even harder bite.  As I withdrew my hand, I could see there was both good news and bad news.  The dog no longer had the squirrel.  But the squirrel was now attached by its teeth to the tip of my bloody finger.

I used my free hand to pry loose the tiny jaws.  (A more difficult task than you might imagine.)  Then I put the squirrel on the pavement and squished its skull under my heel.

This, too, failed to calm my neighbor.

Nor did it please my dog.  Boomer looked baffled, and vaguely embarrassed, by my handling of the situation.  And suddenly he was showing no interest in the squirrel, now that it was inert.

When I got home, my wife directed me to drive immediately to the hospital.  There the wound was cleaned, and I was given a tetanus shot and a prescription for antibiotics.  I don’t want to say I was the laughing stock of the E.R.  But let’s put it this way, my tale seemed to put everyone in a good mood.

If anyone is looking for a birthday gift for me (Oct. 26), I suggest this t-shirt.squirrel shirt

In other news, speaking of wild animals and tetanus shots, the wife, kids and I are going to Kenya this summer!

My kids, 9 and 11, are SUPER excited about this.  They are especially excited that TODAY they’re going to the doctor’s office to get shots for yellow fever, typhoid, and whatever else Africa has waiting for us.  My kids love shots!

You may ask, ‘Why Africa?’

You may say, ‘Kit, it sounds like you are getting plenty of wildlife experience right there in your own neighborhood!’

Well, my wife and I decided (okay, she decided) that it would be good for our children to see another part of the world, experience another culture, and, let’s be honest, realize how spoiled they are.  (Hard to see why the kids are unenthusiastic about the trip.)

So we will spend one week on safari and one week doing charitable activities, specifically building a school for girls.

I have never built a single thing in my whole life.  But now that my hand has healed up, I will forge ahead and see what I can do.

In the meantime, as the departure date approaches, I have been trying to get the kids pumped up.  I have been printing out FUN FACTS ABOUT KENYA each day and posting them around the house.kenya1

THERE ARE 42 DIFFERENT ETHNIC GROUPS IN KENYA, EACH WITH THEIR OWN LANGUAGE OR DIALECT!

PRESIDENT OBAMA’S FATHER WAS KENYAN!

TO SAY ‘HELLO’ IN SWAHILI, YOU SAY, ‘HUJAMBO!’

But as the kids pointed out, the postings were not uniformly cheerful.

THE MASSAI DON’T BURY THEIR DEAD.  THEY BELIEVE IT’S BAD FOR THE SOIL.  THEY LEAVE THEIR DEAD OUTSIDE TO BE EATEN BY ANIMALS.

HALF OF KENYA’S 43 MILLION RESIDENTS LIVE IN WHAT IS CONSIDERED ABSOLUTE POVERTY.

DURING CONSTRUCTION OF THE TSAVO RIVER RAILWAY BRIDGE IN 1898, AN ESTIMATED 35 TO 100 WORKERS WERE STALKED, KILLED, AND DRAGGED FROM THE WORKSITE BY A PAIR OF MALE LIONS.

My kids took to altering my bulletins and scrawling “NOT SO” in front of ‘Fun Fact about Kenya.’kenya2

In still other news, in Jesse’s fourth-grade class this month students have been asked to prepare a presentation in which they teach classmates how to perform a task.

It can be anything – cooking a meal, making origami animals, whatever.

Jesse is having a hard time thinking of something he knows how to do.

He knows how to build a campfire, shoot a BB gun, and play ice hockey.  But I told him none of these activities would work well on school property.

It got me thinking about a book review I read last year in the New Yorker magazine.  Here are the opening paragraphs:

In 2004, Carolina Izquierdo, an anthropologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, spent several months with the Matsigenka, a tribe of about twelve thousand people who live in the Peruvian Amazon. The Matsigenka hunt for monkeys and parrots, grow yucca and bananas, and build houses that they roof with the leaves of a particular kind of palm tree, known as a kapashi. At one point, Izquierdo decided to accompany a local family on a leaf-gathering expedition down the Urubamba River.

A member of another family, Yanira, asked if she could come along. Izquierdo and the others spent five days on the river. Although Yanira had no clear role in the group, she quickly found ways to make herself useful. Twice a day, she swept the sand off the sleeping mats, and she helped stack the kapashi leaves for transport back to the village. In the evening, she fished for crustaceans, which she cleaned, boiled, and served to the others. Calm and self-possessed, Yanira “asked for nothing,” Izquierdo later recalled. The girl’s behavior made a strong impression on the anthropologist because at the time of the trip Yanira was just six years old.

I cannot overstate how often I think about this article.

Whenever I feel like a failure as a parent, which is not infrequently, I always circle back to this annoying little crab-boiler.  Damn her.  Damn her cheerful, quiet self-reliance.  It took me nine years to teach my kids how to tie their shoes.452556-002

On the other hand, if we do survive the trip to Kenya, and if there are no further tangles with neighborhood rodents, I believe I’ve found our next destination — the Peruvian Amazon.

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About kittroyer

Kit Troyer lives in Los Angeles.
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14 Responses to FUN FACTS ABOUT KENYA

  1. Dave says:

    I hear Kenyan squirrels are twice as big and nasty. They’ll go for the whole arm!

  2. Karen Todd says:

    Contrary to your promise this is NOT about Kenya Moore, Real Housewife (without a husband) of Atlanta. Because you are an excellent writer, I read it anyway.

  3. Karen Todd says:

    Furthermore, could you please bring me back a dose of perspective for my daughters Frida and Ada? I don’t think they’re ready for the trip yet, but they sure could use the lesson!

  4. Matt K says:

    I hope Lulu isn’t expecting the girls’ school to look like Marlborough.

  5. Lynne says:

    So funny.
    I too am haunted by the crab-boiler and that New Yorker article, which, by the way, put in me in a deep existential panic… for about 10 minutes. Thanks for opening up that yawning chasm of despair for me again, Kit!

  6. Amy DeBlaise Kasai says:

    Just please don’t fall off the side of the mountain! Otherwise sounds like an amazing adventure

  7. elaine thomas says:

    Re: squirrel — ow! Re: Kenya — wow! You are brave to engage in such a mission, let alone bring the kids along for the fun and games. I have serious admiration for you and Aleen in teaching them the value of giving back so early. Word of advice re: Kenya — pee before you get in the jeep. Once you’re on the road, you can only go to the bathroom in a shrub, with a rifle-toting man standing guard beside you.

  8. Paco says:

    Kit I was shocked to hear your squirrel story….heres mine….sound asleep the other morning in Maine 4:00 AM crashing and thrashing in the bathroom I wake turn on light get my bearings sitting on the night table at eye level a nasty dirty ugly squirrel it leaps no jums and flys around the room like superman up the walls down the blinds I baby that I am run out of the room and start to stuff a towel under the door and the little fucker is pushing and pulling like a tug of war. Aggressive little bitch. It slips under the door and runs down the hall again up the walls ceiling door frames. I am hot on its tail? wings? After much up one staircase and down the other I finally trap it in the laundry room and waited until Craig, the caretaker came and trapped it and set it free in the woods……not really I had to fly out and by the time Craig got to the house a couple of days later poor flying squirrel was dead ! It did manage to eat holes in all the screens, and trashed the laundry room before its demise……..I HATE SQUIRREL’S!

  9. Marina says:

    Hi Kit, So this isn’t about squirrels…but just saw that Will D Campbell died. Reminded me of an earlier fascination with ‘Brother to a Dragonfly’ (first thought: should re-read; second thought: what if my 40-something self looks back in horror at what impressed my late-teen self?). And of you. Safe travels this summer!
    Cheers, Marina

  10. Sharon Miller says:

    Happy Father’s Day, Kit! You ARE really good at it. Your kids are thoughtful, reflective and fun to be around. Re; Kenya, their instincts will surprise the hell out of you…. Wanna bet on it?

    ps. sorry about that squirrel. not every day can be a winner…

    • Sharon Miller says:

      (grammatical error noted. but there’s no edit button and “every day can’t be a winner” doesn’t make the point as well.)

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