By Andrew Bannister – Volunteer from the UK 
With a weekend of celebration planned for the GLO 5th Anniversary, the kids were naturally excited. But throw in a visit to the local wildlife park, a huge pilau lunch and a ride in a matatu (local mini-bus) at the end of their mid-term exams for those attending St. Bernadette & St Mary’s School and the excitement levels go through the roof. So with a bit of forward planning and negotiating with Haller Park, and the matatu drivers carefully selected from the range on offer that travel the coastal road at varying speeds, off-road experience and music taste the day was set for a Friday when the children had the day-off from school.

Andrew prepared the pilau

The preparations start early in the day when I needed to select the rocks big enough, to place a pot big enough to bathe at least a few of the small children, and light a wood fire underneath combined with charcoal. Mamma Tuita was in charge and by the time the pot arrived from the school, the fire was burning, the rice had been sorted through with any imperfections or alien objects discarded, and of course a fresh thermos of ginger tea already filled, I suspect for the second time as the crowds of helpers start to gather in the outside kitchen at the rear of Maguire house. The pilau spices are carefully added, stock measured and meat, quietly simmering on the adjacent jiko (charcoal stove) stirred into the pilau cauldron. A cup of tea poured, and we wait, checking every now and again using a spoon which wasequivalent in size to a small oar from a boat. Several of the Aunties are consulted and Madam Mercy gives me some pointers on my stirring technique. When the broth is ready (or at least I thought was ready) the firewood and coals are removed from underneath and then placed on the lid of the pot to perfect the rice by cooking the pilau from above. Not a technique I’ve employed on the Hotpoint at home, but this is Africa.

Mama Tuta helps

Back in Kilroe House, we diluted the orange squash, bagged up the biscuits and loaded the van. The pilau was decantered into large hotpots and the children started to appear from each house dressed in their best, and we awaited the arrival of the matatus. To say you could hear the Matatus arriving from the sound of the beats, rather than the engines was fairly standard practice here. The matatu that I travelled in even had a TV monitor in the front blaring out Tu-pac’s back catalogue. I was happy. Wagons rolled East packed with 51 of the older children and the Mommas and Aunties. Haller Park awaited.

GLO Minibus

All smiles

Haller park is never going to win any awards for wildlife park of the year in the face of the rich offerings of the Hinterland, but to be faced with monkeys running wild, giant tortoises and large antelopewas enough to put a smile on anyone’s face. George, arranged with them to secure us a ranger for a guided tour, which meant the children benefited from their expert knowledge of all the species, and ensured the crocodiles weren’t fed before their lunch. I learned a thing or two in the process to, like if you get bitten by a Green Mamba, you only have about 30 mins to make your peace. Shame as they are such beautiful creatures.

Getting ready

Lunchtime ?

A few small showers and two lunchtimes remained. Our lunch, and lunch for the monkeys.

Andrew's pilau goes down a treat

Naomi & co

My wife Kari is a monkey-phile. It is her favourite animal, and also her Chinese year of birth – but even she (having worked in a monkey sanctuary in South America) was a little startled by the bravado of these cheeky fellas. A ring of steel was needed to protect our food, and ensure it remained in the hands of the children and not the monkeys. I think in the end we might have sacrificed a few biscuits (taken from behind Kari’s back), but the full bellies were owned by the children in the end. I wouldn’t want to share my lunch with our furry guests everyday, but they provided harmless fun for a Friday. And when the next School group arrived, their attention quickly wained as defences were not properly assembled. I saw one monkey making off with a whole packet of salt n’ vinegar. Would have liked to have seen the reaction.

our boys with George

So as with all good things, the best was saved until last with the feeding of the giraffes. This had to be the highlight for everyone, to get up close and personal with these graceful animals and a palm full of saliva in exchange for a few dog biscuits seemed like excellent value to me. I thought some of the smaller children might lose a hand, when you looked at the total mis-match in terms of size but these gentle beasts almost sense the trepidation as they nuzzle the offering from their luncheon partners. Obviously, the monkeys were also on stand-by to hoover up any stray biscuits that went south, and this seemed like a much easier meal ticket for them. Perhaps, the pilau was worth the extra effort. I would like to think so.

Andrew with Njeri, Mwaka & Christine

Dorothy & a friend

So with everyone loaded back into the matatus for the return journey, we hit the road. If the success of the trip was measured in decibals blaring from the matatu it was a clear winner. But this time it wasn’t Tu-pacs voice that could be heard coming down the road. It was the children.

A croc !!!

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