Up in the Trees

Before coming to Kenya I became overwhelmed with what I was about to undertake. This feeling manifested itself in mini beak downs over insignificant parts of the trip. One of these included trees. Climbing is my favorite sport, hobby, and activity. I climb rocks, trees, and anything else I can find. During high school I would do my homework while up high in a maple tree. During my last climbing trip before coming to Kenya I started to cry because I was overly worried that there would be no trees in Kenya. In hindsight this was not a rational concern at all, but this past weekend I learned something from it.

On Sunday I went with the Kamari and Dan to a zoo called Impala Park. However, we did not realize that this would not be what we consider in the US to be an ordinary zoo. We first realized this while watching the cheetahs rest. We then saw two men walk  into the cheetah enclosure and right up to the two resting cheetahs petting them on the head. One of them turned to us, as we stood in shock, and asked if we wanted to try. After a moment of hesitation we all agreed and found ourselves walking through the fence and up to one of the cheetahs. Surprisingly, the cheetah didn’t eat us, it purred. This day continued to amaze us as we realized that zebras and impalas roam free around the zoo and visitors are also encouraged to feed and pet the giraffe. After having countless encounters that left us in wonder, we saw a group of monkeys making their way down a path, jumping along the fence and through the trees. As an extension of climbing, I have always loved monkeys. So while Kamari worried that the monkeys were going to attack me, I ran over to the pathway they were on. We eventually realized that the monkeys were all moving down one pathway because a man with a bucket of fruit was following them, getting ready to feed them.  When he realized how excited I was about the monkeys he asked if I would like to feed them. I accepted immediately and enjoyed every moment of feeding my new best friends.

After this we walked down to an area by the water where there are huge trees that looked more like cathedrals to me. I excitedly climbed up one. From the top I stared in awe as all the monkeys that I had just fed came running over into the area we were, and began climbing up the trees. They were playing with each other, jumping around, and climbing the trees, including the one I was in. Then, I got to climb trees with the monkeys, I was living my dream.

I would give up climbing trees all summer to climb one tree with monkeys in a heartbeat. But when I was preparing to come to Kenya I didn’t know that I would have the opportunity to climb with monkeys. All I knew was that I was possibly giving up climbing for the summer to have completely new experiences; I could only hope those experiences would be positive. Even though this is a small part of my experience I think it can also represent the whole thing. Sometimes it is good to give up things you know you love, or leave them behind for a time, while you try something knew. Otherwise, you would never discover things you love more, or have new experiences that may change your mindset about those things you do love. When we enter into knew experiences we have to carry our homes and passions with us. However, we must always be wary, making sure we don’t let them hold us back. Instead the power our loves hold within us can be harnessed to drive us to do amazing things.

Alexandra M. Siegel