Saturday, June 14, 2008

African Adventure: Video of a "normal day" & a visa for Sudan (May 2-5)

Current Location: Nairobi, Kenya.
Highlights: Shooting video of a typical edventure day & hassles with getting a visa for Sudan.
Upcoming: Island of Lamu, Flamingos on L. Bogoria, and a week in the bush with Masai worriers (hopefully).

Once back in Nairobi, our first goal was to go to the Sudanese embassy to see if our visa had been approved. We humbly entered the front office and politely asked if they were ready, but were told to come back in the afternoon as the councilor had not been in. We decided to spend some time doing e-mail (very slow and expensive connection), then returned to the embassy in the afternoon. Again we humbly entered and asked about our visas. Again we were told the councilor had not been in and to come back tomorrow morning. In fact we ended up dutifully going back to the Sudanese embassy 7 times over the next few days, and on our last visit, they had a handwritten list of names of people whose applications had been approved, and unfortunately, our names were not on the list. We asked if we could apply again or if they could reconsider our application and we were told that we could leave our passports with them and they would send in a reminder (whatever that means) and we could come back later to see if they had been approved. So we decided to do our trip to the Island of Lamu and come back after a week. We actually leave for Lamu via rain and bus today.

Very much depends on the outcome of Sudanese application. Our goal is to drive from Kenya into Ethiopia, then into Sudan and to ship from Port Sudan into Saudi Arabia, or into Europe. If we can't drive into Sudan, we will need to ship from Mombassa (boring), or from Djibouti (a country all of its own!) into Saudi or Europe. Another option to consider might be to ship into Egypt and drive or ship from Egypt, but getting a vehicle into Egypt is expensive (e.g., US$250 for a 30 entry permit), and everyone without exception who has entered Egypt with a vehicle, has had only bad things to say about the country and the Egyptians in terms of the rip-offs and how they were treated. So I am somewhat unenthusiastic about entering Egypt with a vehicle.

On one of the days we were going back and forth to the Sudanese embassy I decided to take our little Hi8 camcorder around with us to film a typical edventure day, to show what we do, and what we see. This was actually quite fun, but also turned out to be somewhat dangerous as Nairobi is a renowned for its crime, especially robbery against white tourists which has earned its nic-name of "Nairobbery". Despite this, I decided I wanted to try and not be too shy with filming in the city. Within minutes of getting up and leaving our 9th story tent, we saw street kids sniffing glue and begging for money (I have edited a clip of the street kids which will soon appear in the video gallery together with several other video clips), then people with polio almost crawling along the street with shoes on their hands, then chickens feeding in rubbish heaps with modern sky scrappers in the close background, and people getting on and off of buses with a small fire burning on the side of the road. Because I had the camera out, I was being especially vigilant about people around us and on the way to an Internet cafe, I noticed that a man was shadowing us, but he turned off when we turned into the alley with the entrance to the Internet cafe. When we were in the Internet cafe, he came up, coyly looked around and left. I knew then that he way following us. I told Aaron and he took a look outside in the alley and the guy was their waiting. So I decided to shot some video of him from the doorway! We then hurried out of the Internet cafe and were followed rather obviously by another guy who was talking in the alley with follower no. 1. We lost him, and noticed that we were being followed by a third person with a conspicuous hat who was also talking with the other two in the alley. We also lost him, then returned to our 9th floor tents somewhat shaken, but also somewhat excited. Later in the day I filmed a small car accident and watched the people push and punch eachother and run back to their cars and drive off, and a busy street corner with a kid begging for money in the middle of a busy pavement with bandages wrapped around his legs covered in flies. Filming this turned out to be a mistake. As soon as he saw the videocamera, he jumped up, apparently uninjured, and ran up to me to demand money for taking video if him. He demanded 200 KSH (about US$3), and within minutes I was surrounded by street kids, most with glue bottles in their mouths, demanding money. I gave him 20 KSH, and still he demanded 200 KSH, so I started to walk off with people starring at the commotion. I noticed a police car and told them that the kids were hassling me, he spoke to the kids and then ignored me. So I stated to walk fast again and still the kids demanded money. In the end I took out some more change and tossed it down a drive way to a hotel, as the kids ran after the money I ran the other way. This brings up the issue of taking pictures of video of people. All the guide books say ask before you take pictures of video and usually I do. However, in this instance, I could not ask each of 50 busy people walking around a street corner if they minded if I took some video. The kid I filmed was nothing too out of the ordinary as most street corners had street kids begging. Maybe I should have specifically asked him, but again why him and not any of the other people/kids that were standing still on the corner. I think he was just an opportunist, looking for a way to make some money and was more aggressive than the rest. In the evening, while we were back out our 9th story abode, I filmed about 8 old Land Rovers gathered around a vehicle that had broken down while all the owners argued over who should tow the vehicle away. Our day ended with a 10pm ice cream at the "Creamy Inn" on the corner!

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