I Kissed a Giraffe (and I liked it!)

19 Dec

Hey all!

First off, a big congrats to the Ohio Wesleyan Men’s Soccer Team and Coach Jay Martin. A national title and Martin becomes the winningest coach all-time in NCAA soccer. What remarkable achievements – makes me proud to be a Battling Bishop!

On to Kenyan happenings. In another edition of “Tourist Saturdays” with my American friends, we visited Giraffe Centre. It’s a place to go see, pet, & feed giraffes, as well as the less majestic warthogs.

The giraffes poke their heads near the ones they suspect to have food. They don’t mind getting close!

And by close, I really mean close!

Yep. That’s right. I kissed a giraffe. It was pretty passionate and romantic, as you can see from my closed eyes. Her tongue was very rough, and felt as if a piece of sandpaper was being rubbed against my face. My lips burned for a while afterwards! We learned in an informative session later that giraffe saliva acts as a natural antiseptic. So fresh and so clean.

Thankfully, I got a kiss and not a headbutt, as a sign warned us upon entrance to the centre!

Fun fact – Giraffes are well-skilled at catching projectiles.

Later that evening, I joined the crew at a Christmas celebration at Mama Grace’s house, a woman who hosts a get-together with Young Adult Volunteers in Nairobi to help them cope with being away from home for Christmas. I’m not a Young Adult Volunteer, but I am young, an adult, and a volunteer, so I have an honorary membership.

How do you cope with holiday homesickness? By making Christmas cookies, of course!

We had no cookie molds, so we used a knife and got creative.

Turned out pretty good.

And tasted even better!


Shelvis and Nancy, two Young Adult Volunteers from times past, visited Mama Grace’s that night. They were on their way to South Sudan to work with an indigenous ecumenical Christian organization. Read more about their work here.

We all had a great time sitting around a fireplace talking with Mama Grace. She has a lot of stories to tell. She worked under Wangari Maathai’s Green Belt Movement, is friends with Whoopi Goldberg and Alice Walker (author of The Color Purple), and earned a Master’s degree from the University of Illinois, my Dad’s alma mater. ILL – INI.

The house had a record player! We relaxed to the soothing sounds of Elvis Presley’s Christmas Album, among other records.

At one point, Amy and I decided to get some Christmas carolin’ started. I took the bass clef, she took the treble, and we opened up a hymnal and gave it our best stroking the keys of the piano. We’ll have a #1 Billboard hit pretty soon I think.

Last Sunday, one of my co-workers – Philemon – got married. And guess what? I drove the bride! Wish I had some pictures of me in my snazzy suit driving on the left side of the road, but I don’t. By the way, the decision to have Mr. Ben be the driver was made by the wedding planners entirely for shock value – an Mzungu driving the bride is unexpected to say the least!

Don’t know what African time is? Let me explain. The wedding had a scheduled start time of 10am. At 10am, neither the tent or chairs had arrived for the ceremony. They did around noon, and that’s when I set off with the rest of the drivers to pick the bride and her family. When we arrived at their residence, the father of the bride (Melissa) refused to release her daughter unless he was paid 8,000 KES (slightly less than $100). The groom couldn’t pay, because he WAS AT THE WEDDING, so the best man was contacted. To note – the process of deciding what the dowry (bride price) is and the payment of that amount is something that is usually negotiated and paid well before the day of the wedding.

To put a little fire underneath the father for postponing the wedding, we drivers acted like we were leaving. That got his attention and we negotiated to have the bride price paid at the wedding instead.

Once we arrived, the father refused to let Melissa out of my car. He wanted his money. Eventually, around 4pm, he received half of it via M-PESA, and the ceremony began.

I felt so bad for Melissa. You could tell she wanted to get on with the service way before it did, but the father forced his will to get some money out of the occasion.

The sermon had a good message but was out of place. Philemon and Melissa have been living together for over ten years and have two children. But the sermon was about high divorce rates and how important it is to really know the person you’re marrying. I think they know each other after 3,650 days together, Pastor.

When it was all said and done, the wedding finished at 6pm, and the reception followed.

THAT is African time.

Well, that’s it for now. I’ve been in Uganda for a eight days administering surveys to microfinance institutions for Scott’s doctoral research through Durham Business School in the UK. I’m having a blast and have plenty of stories to share, but I’m going to save it for a post later this week after I return to Kenya. Until then, folks!


2 Responses to “I Kissed a Giraffe (and I liked it!)”

  1. Ann Aeschbury December 19, 2011 at 4:04 pm #

    Ben, I’m glad to hear that you are making Christmas cookies and they look just like they are supposed to…like second graders made them. Congratulations! I’m sure they have anise somewhere in Africa so you could also make Anise Seed Cookies just like at 990 Corbin Court. Just holler and I’ll send you the recipe of my people.

    • Ben December 19, 2011 at 6:49 pm #

      If I track down some anise seed I’ll let you know!

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