Hakuna Matata

Page 1

Hakuna Matata

17th February - 1st March 2020

Jamie Chan // Mumsy


Nairobi // Samburu // Aberdare // Nakuru // Naivasha // Masai Mara

An African holiday photo album — on steroids.


No Foreign Lands // Jamie Chan

Jamie Chan // No Foreign Lands

Why don’t you come to Africa with me? An opportunity came up for me to work in Nairobi; it was going to be my first trip to Africa. Since I will be half-way across the world, I thought it would be nice to stay slightly longer instead of flying out after 48 hours. So when those words left my mouth, I remember immediately thinking that it was a terrible idea. Mumsy in Africa? A twiddly image of her popped in my head that screamed I’m a tourist, scam me! Also, what is she going to eat? What if she gets eaten? As the weeks ticked by, I fended off questions like a ninja warrior. Most of which involved food, the dangers of Ebola, South Africa, and fears of flying with Ethiopian Airlines. Namaste, I told my Ghostie. “She needs this trip more than you do,” Ghostie reminded me. Ghostie was right; I burned my ego field and took my Xanax. Head, shoulders, knees, and toes. This is happening.

Jamie Chan, 2020 NO FOREIGN LANDS



No Foreign Lands // Jamie Chan

Day 1 I wasn’t terribly jet-lagged when I landed in Nairobi sometime midday. The weather was a lot cooler than I expected which made for a nice break from the humidity in Singapore. After checking into my guest house, I decided that I should explore the city a little and linked up with the Kibera Creative Arts (KiCA) and asked if I could do a walking tour in Kibera with them. Kibera is made up of 13 different villages making it the largest slum in Nairobi and the largest urban slum in Africa. Most of the residents live in extreme poverty yet there is a family and community spirit within the slum. KiCA works with the community by implementing various art programs in which they hope will uplift the community, showing them that there is more to life than drugs. Children, in particular, can come to the center to receive art education, such as music production, dance, or visual arts. They have minimal resources, mostly donated, and yet can do so much with them with a lot of success, as seen by the lowered crime and drug rates since they started their programs. I was very humbled by the organization’s can-do spirit, and hope for the younger children as they work towards a business model of sustainability. I was brought to their dance and music production studio, where I taught them how to play a tune on the ukulele and gave my ideas on outcome harvesting, sustainability, and how to work towards it. I wish I could have done more when I was there, but I know my own limitations of time and resources. I walked a ton and saw how just two walls separate Kibera from one


Karibu Kibera of the most luxurious golf clubs in Nairobi, The Royal Nairobi Golf Club. This stark inequality extends to a highway that separates the slum from an upscale neighborhood. It seems to be an ongoing story that while Kibera’s surroundings undergoes development, the slum itself remains as the elephant in the room. I also had chapatti (like the Indian prata) in possibly the oldest hotel (they call restaurants ‘hotels’ even though there are no actual rooms in which you can stay because, I just might get this wrong — the word ‘hotel’ is easier to pronounce than ‘restaurant’ for non-English native speakers and since you generally have restaurants in hotels, the word hotel to describe a restaurant stuck) in the slum, and was offered some sort grass that if consumed in large amounts, makes you high. No prizes for guessing what I did much to the amusement to the locals. The Kibera I witnessed was very different from the one that I had read in the news. I was even introduced to a lovely lady with barely any fingers who was so excited that I came to visit Kibera and her bead shop that she gave me a gorgeous keychain that she made. I would highly recommend everyone to take a walking tour with one of the non-profit organizations based in Kibera and have a look at a different side of the slum for yourself.

Overview of Kibera

Jamie Chan // No Foreign Lands

Shadows on the wall

Coming from a different village



No Foreign Lands // Jamie Chan

All the items are handmade by her; she is known and acts as ‘Mother’ to the street children.

Making Chapatti in a Hotel.

The locals used to be able to swim across to collect stray golf balls. That stopped when the club built the 2nd wall to really separate them from the slums.

The area where KiCA holds most of their performance. It also acts as a makeshift football field. The text on the wall reads ‘We Are Heroes’.

The old railway cuts through the slum.

The KiCA Centre.

Jamie Chan // No Foreign Lands

Kibera in the evening

Entry to a different village

Spot of light

No proper roads

Laundry day



Day 2

No Foreign Lands // Jamie Chan



The Mirtazapine and Xanax combo worked till about 4 am. Still, I reckon that’s more sleep than average for me. Besides, the more important question is, what am I going to do today? After dragging my luggage to check into the wonderful Doubletree Hotel (I received a warm cookie when I checked in — another story), I fired up Airbnb. Visit a local market and cook a Kenyan meal with a local it says. Sounds right up my alley. Which led me to meet Josephine at the Westgate Mall. Now how do I even begin to describe my time with Josephine? Josephine brought me to a local market by the highway via a Matatu. For the uninitiated, a matatu is a pimped out version of a public bus; most of them look and feel like it was designed by a Drag Queen that went ‘MORE DARLING, MORE!’ Think crazy themed design/ graffiti from the inside out, loud music (90db and above), flatscreen TVs, disco balls all in a minivan/ bus going at the speed of Jesus, take the wheel. Actually, not the best idea since he doesn’t have a driver’s license. The market itself wasn’t anything too shocking besides the fact that it was next to the highway, separated by a questionable drain which functions as the rubbish point. Still, I love a good market! It is a great place to soak up the language and have a look at the local produce. We picked up a couple of veggies and meat

Yummy food

while curious locals asked if I was married with kids because that is a great way to start a conversation. After which, we headed back to her kitchen via another matatu. This one didn’t go at the speed of greased lightning but it had One Love and other reggae hits blasting throughout the trip, so it was a matatu alright. Now the work begins, it is time to cook! Josephine taught me to roll a chapatti, sounds, and looks easy. Just kind of roll it a little and flip it around. I’d seen and photographed roti-prata makers in Singapore; how hard can it be? Well, my chapatti ended up looking like the kind of chapatti made by a person who had no idea how to use a rolling pin. I gave up after one chappati. While I might have failed in the chapatti making area, I made up for my expert peeling of edamame beans. So all is not lost. I asked her what the weirdest question she’s ever had to answer as a host was. She said some people asked if she had internet in Kenya. “How the hell do you think I’m replying to you? Snail mail to China and someone types in the reply?” A carrier pigeon might be slightly faster, I suggested. We laughed so much that afternoon as we exchanged stories of our lives over a delicious meal. I left with a new friend, full stomach, and a camera roll full of her 3-year-old daughter’s selfies.

Everything tasted so good!

Jamie Chan // No Foreign Lands

Market sights.

A fairly normal looking Matatu. The inside of it on the other hand...

Inside the Matatu, this particular one was reggae themed.



No Foreign Lands // Jamie Chan

Day 5 My workshop on Day 3 and 4 went well. Unless you count the fact that I had to completely rework what I was going to teach on the spot. At this point, I am relatively confident of putting creative wind blower on my CV. What I came up with doesn’t get windier than that! Putting work aside, today is the day Mumsy arrives. I bid the lovely Doubletree Hotel goodbye and checked into the Swiss Lenana Mount Hotel. In all honestly, there was nothing Swiss or mountainous about the hotel except for its name. Ok, points for it being on a hill. Still, it was just for a night before Mumsy, and I start our safari tour. Mumsy arrived without too much of an issue. She had high praise for Ethiopian airlines, much to my surprise as she is notoriously picky about her meals. She did the domestic transit at Addis Ababa and didn’t end up in Wuhan like she feared, so that was a good start to the trip in my books. I decided against doing a city tour with a tour agency as I was already going to pay a fair bit for the safari so it was up to the Jamie Chan Self Guided Google Tour Service* to entertain her. Our first stop was the Giraffe Centre which houses the endangered Rothschild giraffe. About five giraffes greeted us at the entrance; a keeper handed us a coconut bowl with little food

Mumsy Arrives in Nairobi

*Getting around Nairobi is pretty easy and safe with services like Bolt and Uber. I would leave the matatus to more experienced travelers if you are not with a local.


Jamie Chan // No Foreign Lands

pellets for the giraffes. His only instruction was not to let the giraffes eat from the bowl. Now giraffes are a thing of beauty, graceful giants, gorgeous beings and all, but you do not want to be near hungry giraffes trying to grab the entire coconut bowl. Still, Mumsy had fun, and I made friends with Daisy. The sign

The Kazuri Bead Factory was next on the list. It was not as exciting as the Giraffe Centre but plenty to see if you are looking for a souvenir. They have a free guided factory tour in which they showed us the process of hand-making the beads from clay. We then did a short prance at a mall for dinner and headed back to the hotel before the sunset. The Jamie Chan Self Guided Google Tour Service gets a 3.5-star rating.

With Daisy

Mumsy feeding the giraffes

View from the Swiss Lenana Hotel

Cheeky giraffes

Hi there


No Foreign Lands // Jamie Chan

DAY 6 - 8


All ready to start our safari

HERE WE GO! We were up 0500, 0 being 0h my god it is so early even the roosters are sleeping.

to speed down the highway to hell with a busload of passengers.

Mumsy and I met our guide, David from Natural World Kenya Safaris, who stood next to an enormous dark green jeep with little rhino cutouts at the top. The jeep had a cooler box filled with water, wifi (Hallelujah), and blankets in case we got cold. It was really comfortable; given that we will be spending most of our time in the jeep, I was super chuffed with it.

We arrived at the Sopa Lodge Samburu at noon in time for lunch. The lodge was beautiful, and the staff were fantastic. There was a total of 6 guests, including ourselves, so we pretty much had the entire place to ourselves. We did an afternoon game drive where I was convinced David had bionic eyes. I mean, I would like to think that I am pretty observant, but David spots animals from across the river, on the horizon. It was quite something to witness. We saw plenty of animals; including an angry male African elephant who was not happy that we were following it.

The jeep also has a sticker that reads tourist vehicle slapped on the back. I mean there nothing like knowing which is the better car to rob. Later I learned that passenger sort vehicles are not supposed to exceed 80km/h and are supposed to come with a speed limiter that cuts your speed back down to 60km/h when you exceed the limit. Of course, some vehicles (most matatus if you ask me) tamper with them, allowing them

Unfortunately, David suffered from food poisoning the very next morning after an exciting drive chasing two cheetahs. So we cut our game drive short and returned to the lodge. I spent the rest of the day practicing the

Jamie Chan // No Foreign Lands

Decorative crocs?

Bach Cello Suite No. 1 Prelude and Saint-Saëns’s The Swan on the ukulele while Mumsy went around the lodge taking pictures of her shadow. Since there was very little light pollution in Samburu, I showed Mumsy what the night sky looks like. She told me that this was the first time she saw the stars; it brought me back to my first experience in Mornington, Australia, where I froze my ass off next to the ocean while standing in awe of the sky. I thought there and then that the universe is pretty amazing; after all this time, the sky still never ceases to amaze me. Day 3 and David still showed no sign of getting better, so I emailed Natural World Tour in the morning, and they were incredibly apologetic. They sent us a replacement driver who drove us to the Aberdare National Park, where we were to stay in The Ark Lodge that evening.

Tourist alert!

Oh my God, the crocodile moved! I thought they were decorative and wanted to take a selfie with them! I’m sure it would make a very interesting picture but we will miss you dearly.

Mumsy in the jeep.

Top of the jeep.



No Foreign Lands // Jamie Chan


An angry African elephant

An African elephant by the tree

A reticulated giraffe walks by

Jamie Chan // No Foreign Lands

The Gerenuk (Giraffe Gazelle)

Photograph by. Roberto Nickson Instagram @robertonickson

An Oryx with its bird friend



No Foreign Lands // Jamie Chan

Another gorgeous African Elephant


Jamie Chan // No Foreign Lands

Camels crossing

Mumsy bored

Bird nests in a tree

Samburu Sopa sign

Tourist alert

Blue hour at our lodge

Lunch at the Sopa

Playing Saint-SaĂŤns on the uklulele

All smiles


No Foreign Lands // Jamie Chan

Day 8 We arrived at The Ark Lodge, which overlooked a watering hole in the Aberdare National Park just as the sun was about to set, which was a pity as the place was gorgeous, and we were only here for a night. The moment I stepped in the lodge, the words old, posh, and English came to my mind. There was something incredibly regal about the place which went down to the type of wood used for their ceilings to the details in the cutlery, which was custom made for them. The lodge was incredibly silent; the only sounds came from the fireplace, which crackled nearby while an old couple sat on one of the leather armchairs with a cup of tea and a book in hand. Later, I learned that this was the place where Queen Elizabeth became Queen. Our new guide, Peter, described the lodge as a great place for armchair safari. Given that the road to get here so was incredibly bumpy, I was looking forward to sitting in an armchair instead of a bumpy jeep. There was even a little bell that would ring in a specific order depending on the animal which came down to the watering hole (yes, it was all rather posh) so that we can look up from our books and watch the animal. Of course, the all-important tea and biscuits are within reach. At this point, I wondered if I could spot an aardvark. Peter laughed, “I’ve seen an aardvark three times, in my 15-year career as a guide.” Perhaps there is hope for a 4th? The Ark Lodge was stunning; it was a great place for introverted souls to enjoy the silence and a hot water bottle in your bed for the night.


Jamie Chan // No Foreign Lands



No Foreign Lands // Jamie Chan

A 50 year old lodge where Queen Elizabeth became Queen!

An impala standing by the water’s edge

Just a couple meters away from us!

Mumsy photographing the elephant in the dining hall

Jamie Chan // No Foreign Lands

A cozy room at the lodge

Mumsy at sunrise



No Foreign Lands // Jamie Chan

Day 9 :

Aberdare — Mumsy and her new friend from Israel

Lake Nakuru — At the Thomsons Fall

Standing on the equatorial line

Lake Naivasha

We said goodbye to The Ark Lodge after witnessing a stunning sunrise over the watering hole. Today was going to be a long drive for us as we leave Aberdare for Lake Nakuru before ending up by Lake Naivasha, about 250km on the road. Mumsy and I were pretty excited to make up for lost time, and Peter was on fire trying to pack in as much information about Kenya while driving. We started the morning by crossing the equatorial line twice and stopped by the Thomsons Fall by the town of Nyahururu, the highest town in Kenya at 2360m above sea levels. We did the touristy picture thing and arrived at the Lake Nakuru Lodge for lunch. Our lunch spot overlooked a small watering hole and gave us a glimpse of what we were about to see in the afternoon; gorgeous pelicans dot the sky as monkeys chase each other around. Lake Nakuru was known for being a spot to watch flamingos, but due to the increasing water levels, the flamingo numbers have dropped. Still, it was a stunning park for bird watching and to drive around. Peter also told us that the park is a Black Rhino sanctuary; housing the country’s largest black rhino population, he was pretty confident and promised that we would spot one. Unfortunately, after driving around for several hours, seeing birds of all kinds, making friends with some Israeli on tour, we did not come across a single rhino — black or otherwise. Instead, we saw close to 30 magnificent Rothschild giraffe strolling around together in this rhino sanctuary. Peter was perlexed;

Jamie Chan // No Foreign Lands


Sunrise at The Ark Lodge

it was as if all the rhinos decided to do social distancing on that particular day. Just as we were about to give up, we eventually saw one rhino and her baby, who disappeared as soon as she came up. It is pretty incredible how animals like the rhinos and elephants can remain invisible despite their size; what a superpower to have! After all that rhino excitement, we arrived in Lake Naivasha pretty late in the evening after driving through the atrocious Moi S Lake Road. This particular road can be described as a cross between Kathmandu and a variation of Hell’s pits. Basically, it probably would have been better if there

Magnificent rothschild giraffe

were no tarmac at all. It was like someone went, well I suppose we need some form of road to support transportation for these flower plantations around the area. Let’s use the cheapest tarmac available; even better, let’s just put the tarmac at the start and let the cars sort themselves out. It was dark, dusty, full of potholes with big trucks turning in from every angle. Oh, of course, who can forget the matatus in this symphony. Om Shanti Shanti Shanti indeed. Still, we made it to the Elsamere Lodge after the insane drive, completely exhausted, and wary about the free-roaming hippos in the area.


No Foreign Lands // Jamie Chan

Selfie with the giraffes

Mumsy at the Thomson falls

Mumsy at the Nakuru falls

A Defassa Waterbuck Grant’s zebra — the smallest subspecies of zebras

Heron of sorts?

You used to be able to drive across

Different sort of birds

The falls

Jamie Chan // No Foreign Lands

Rothschilds by the road



No Foreign Lands // Jamie Chan

Day 10 The Elsamere Lodge was stunning with the morning light; now I haven’t watched the movie Born Free or Out of Africa (they are on the list), but I can appreciate some of the photographs on the wall featuring George and Joy Adamson. We were after all, staying in the lodge which was their former home. Walking around Elsamere, the trees let in just enough light for a 森林浴 (shinrin-yoku forest bathing) while the lake itself was clear and calm; no angry hippos in sight. I was very much looking forward to this day as there was going to be a boat ride in the lake, and for those who know, I absolutely love being near water.

Lake Naivasha Mumsy and Elsa

I also asked our guide for Crescent island if he had seen an aardvark around the area. He very excitedly told me, yes! I’ve seen one — three years ago! And so the hunt for the aardvark continues... We left in the early afternoon to make our way to the final highlight of the trip, the Maasai Mara.

It was a short drive to another side of the lake to our boat ride. First, we had to put on one of those tourist life vests that was really more for display purposes, still I suppose anything that floats helps should a hippo decides to tip our boat over. Our guide was John and in his early 20s. With his help, we spotted different sorts of stocks, eagles, and hippos while I mainly enjoyed being on the water. It was a very stunning and serene ride which was over too soon. A hop away was Crescent Island. Here, we did a walking tour and were able to get incredibly close to the animals, about 2 - 3 meters away. This is the place where my 75mm Summilux really shined as the animals were incredibly patient with me as I got ever closer and closer to them. Wildlife photography with a rangefinder? Yes.

Cormorants perched on a tree

Stunning view at Naivasha

Jamie Chan // No Foreign Lands

The Elsamere Lodge

Morning sun



No Foreign Lands // Jamie Chan

Our guide for the boat ride

A very patient zebra

A gorgeous Defassa Waterbuck

Mornings at Naivasha

Jamie Chan // No Foreign Lands

The Masai Giraffe

Photograph by. Roberto Nickson Instagram @robertonickson

Lake Naivasha



No Foreign Lands // Jamie Chan

Jamie Chan // No Foreign Lands

Day 10 - 12

Maasai Mara



A leopard in the tree

No Foreign Lands // Jamie Chan

Jamie Chan // No Foreign Lands

Passing by the stunning rift valley, we were greeted by the beautiful bird, according to Peter, a lilac-breasted roller as we rolled up to the Maasai Mara park gates. We checked into the Mara Sopa Lodge. I have nothing but praise for the Sopa Lodge group; their staff was fantastic, and as a bonus, there was a sweet and playful black cat who decided to snuggle next to me on the 2nd night while I was writing. Cats freak Mumsy out for some reason, which was great for me because she headed back to the room early while I get some alone time. I love Mumsy, but 24/7 for more than a week with her makes me want to shoot someone or myself. So black cat, Leuchtturm1917, together with a cold Tusker beer - it was a perfect evening. Game-wise, Peter worked hard for us to complete all the animals on the Big 5 list (lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and cape buffalo). This list refers to the five most difficult animals to spot while on a safari; possibly, also the five that people really want to spot. The cape buffalo was easy enough as we passed a herd just as we entered the Maasai Mara, while we saw plenty of elephants at Samburu and Aberdare, and spotted the rhino at Lake Nakuru. As the grass was rather long this time of year, it makes ithard to spot the lion and leopard. Especially for creatures like lions who can stay in a single spot for hours and not move. On our final day, we managed to spot a lioness who sat up for a bit in the distance before disappearing again. The cheeky cheetahs said hi for a bit on the second day; later, I witnessed them killing a baby warthog through the binoculars. It happened in a flash, but I guess that was

Baby black panther


as good as spotting an aardvark. Peter, like David, has a pair of bionic eyes. Point your binoculars to behind that dark green bush. Sure, might I remind you that there are many dark green bushes from where I stand... Absolutely incredible pair of eyes! Other exciting moments would be when we pulled a van out of the mud. Rather, Mumsy and I sat in the jeep that pulled a van out of the mud. I mean dream work makes the teamwork right? We also visited a Maasai village on our way back to Nairobi. We were introduced to the village by the new Chief in waiting. According to him, in the Maasai culture, if a Maasai warrior wants to marry a bride, in the old days, either he gives the bride’s family lots of dowry involving cows, or he could simply kill a lion. His father killed ten lions... I asked J if he would rather kill ten lions or manage ten women; we both came to the conclusion that we’ll take on the lions. Oh also, the new Chief in waiting’s father had 89 children with his ten wives so they basically formed their own village. Fun fact, because I am an only child, my dowry will be incredibly expensive in the Maasai culture. It means that my family will receive many cows, but I will first have to spend five months building a three-room hut for said fiance out of mud, dung, sticks, and tin. This house would also have to last for at least 25 years. Say, I don’t.

Dream work


No Foreign Lands // Jamie Chan

Beautiful bird

Just casually strolling around

More African elephants

Taking a peek

Jamie Chan // No Foreign Lands

A young Topi

Photograph by. Roberto Nickson Instagram @robertonickson

Cape buffalos



No Foreign Lands // Jamie Chan

Taking a walk in the Maasai Village

Close up of the Maasai hut

Inside the hut

Roof of the hut


Jamie Chan // No Foreign Lands

Mumsy and her new friends

Showing us how to start a fire

Maasai sheeps

Maasai warriors

Mumsy and sculptures

Performing a competition dance

Welcoming us

Mumsy joining the tribe

The only aardvark I’ll see


No Foreign Lands // Jamie Chan

A sausage tree

A lone hyena

A grey crowned crane and family

Maasai warriors by the road

A lioness

Stopping for lunch

Shadow of our jeep

Sausage trees are popular ‘hotels’ for leopards

Keeping my fingers agile

Jamie Chan // No Foreign Lands

Kenya — Africa,


you are amazing.

When Jamie first popped the question; asking me to join her in East Africa, I didn’t look forward to the trip. There were a couple of things that held me back: To prepare for the trip, we had to go for 3 vaccination jab (typhoid, flu, and yellow fever) on top of taking the oral medication daily. Next, we debated on which airline to take. Never have I heard of Ethiopian Airlines. I also had to travel by myself, transit at Addis Ababa — a place that I’ve never heard of in my entire life to meet Jamie. But none of this was worst than the COVID-19 which came along in January. I tried many times to discourage or persuade Jamie to postpone her trip, or to even forego the air tickets that we bought. But thanks to her determination, nothing could change her mind. Before I knew it, I was on my way to the airport with my luggage, cup noodles, and biscuits. To my surprise, Ethiopian Airlines was pretty good, all the meals served on board were good and pipping hot — to my liking.

One of the highlights of the trip was when we drove 6 - 7 hours to Samburu. Along the highway we saw a caravan of camels coming towards us. It was such a beautiful sight and I regretted that I did not take a picture. Another highlight was star gazing. Never in my life have I seen so many stars in the dark sky in Samburu. I really miss the stars there. The different lodges that we stayed in were wonderful, food was good — like a 5-star hotel standard which exceeded my expectations. Every lodge was unique and special. Everyone spoke English; the landscape was absolutely breathtaking — you have blue sky, cotton clouds, I can’t describe how beautiful Africa is. I love the weather; even though it is hot in the afternoon, you have a cool breeze blowing into the window of the jeep and in the evening to the morning it is about 15 degrees. Yes, we saw the big 5 in Africa. It was an unforgettable holiday. Africa part 2 — great migration is the next plan. Thanks Jamie for taking all my nonsense. Jennifer Lim, 2020

Jamie Chan // Mumsy 2020 NO FOREIGN LANDS noforeignlands.sg There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.

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