Thursday, June 17, 2010

New Orleans

Friends who know New Orleans might question the decision to come to this famous old city in the month of June. Surely this is one of the most uncomfortable places on earth when the summertime heat and humidity are in full force!

But coming for a professional conference, it 's not so bad. And it is kind of amusing when colleagues comment that New Orleans must remind one of Nairobi. For some reason, many people not familiar with Nairobi seem to fall for the age-old cliche that all of Africa is sweltering hot, and I of course delight in sharing that Nairobi, being at such a high altitude, is in fact relatively cool (one sleeps under a blanket).

And truth to tell, one does miss those conditions in a place like New Orleans.

Still, on the subject of weather and some comparison with Nairobi, there's one area where the two cities run neck-to-neck. If anything, the rains in New Orleans - usually of very short duration - have to be some of the heaviest I've ever experienced, with thunder definitely the loudest I've ever heard. But during its two rainy seasons, Nairobi runs New Orleans a close race since Nairobi too has very heavy rains. So in this particular weather comparison, the two places are very much alike.

Still, one mustn't complain. For the business visitor to New Orleans, the hotels are well managed, the air conditioning seems to be always working, and the convention center - venue for the meetings - is comfortable and, indeed, for some conference attendees, a little too cold.


The purpose of this journey was to attend the 101st Annual Conference of the Special Libraries Association, an regular event in my professional life. I've now attended 35 of these meetings, and they are always rewarding, providing important networking and learning opportunities. Equally important, anyone doing business with strategic knowledge professionals is almost obliged to attend this conference, simply because this gathering brings together the leading practitioners in the field. For a company such as ours - specializing in knowledge strategy development - this is the place to be. So wherever it's held, Mr. Guy trudges off to attend SLA's Annual Conference....

And it's not all business. The city is recovering from the terrible events of 2005, and there are now lovely places to stroll, as seen in the view (above) of the famous St. Louis Cathedral. [Additional photographs are at New Orleans - June 2010.] The famous French Quarter is full of interesting shops, galleries, and good restaurants, and commerce seems to have recovered, for the most part from the tragic effects of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Now there's a new focus of attention, though, since the devastating oil spill out in the Gulf of Mexico is seriously affecting the environment all along the shores of this part of Louisiana and Mississippi and Alabama. There is a great fear about what the effects of the spill will be on this grand old city and throughout this part of America - indeed, throughout all America, fears about the oil spill now dominate all conversation and there's no question that everyone is frightened and concerned about the future. More than anything else, it seems, it the fear of the unknown. No one seems to know what the long-term effects are going to be or how - as a society - we are going to be able to handle this new threat. It's more than just some sort of management "challenge" - it's a fear that all of mankind might have unleashed some powerful demon that cannot be put back again.

Still, in visiting New Orleans one is once again confronted with the ongoing continuation of it all: the Mighty Mississippi - as it's still called - America's famous "ol' man river" - keeps flowing, and as can be seen here, there are times after one of those frightening storms when the power of nature and the charm of New Orleans combine into an almost surreal beauty (this rainbow photograph was taken from the hotel). One continues to be impressed.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Nairobi Nat'l Park - Enda Salama

So I guess the final safari photos (for this visit to Kenya) are now done, and I'm happy to share Mr. Guy's Nairobi Nat'l Park (2) Album as a sort of last look for friends and colleagues who have been enjoying these postings. A nice sort of "final look," if you will. Mostly African buffalo, zebras, and giraffes, but now it's time to say good-by to the adventure of a lifetime.

There will be more safaris. No question of that. Probably not during my August visit to Kenya, as that is planned for some pretty serious and probably very intensive professional work, and there won't be time to get away. But December is already planned, with two friends determined to share some of what Mr. Guy experienced during these past six months (and perhaps others joining us as well - we'll see).

As for how we'll organize our December safari, we've got it all worked out, and what we're putting together makes a lot of sense. And we are, in fact, doing very little ourselves.

Having discovered that in addition to being Mr. Guy's driver par excellence Charles Masese is also skilled as a tour guide and organizer,we are turning to him for future safari planning and guiding. And anyone else who wants to contact him, ( is welcome to do so. You will find a joyful and very competent welcome to Nairobi - the man is really good at what he does and I heartily recommend Charles Masese for his work. He is in charge (my favorite words are when Charles says, "Leave it to me" - in six months I've never been disappointed!).

And I am already looking forward to the December safari with my friends. And to have him "taking care" of me (a phrase used in Kenya a lot) whenever I'm in Nairobi or environs, I've come to know Charles and experience his competence. I'm very happy to recommend him.

Whether during the December safaris (and there will be several, and probably none more than two nights away from Nairobi, which does seem to serve as the safari "capital" of Africa), we'll have an "historical" sighting or not is something that cannot be predicted. As I think I've pointed out several times, the idea of a game drive is primarily that one has the potential to see the wildlife, but there are no guarantees. But if we can experience even some of the beauty of what I've enjoyed over the past six months, we (and anyone else who comes to Kenya for a safari) are going to indeed have the adventure of a lifetime. Enda Salama.

Nairobi National Park - Yet Another Historical Sighting

The wonders of this journey continue to amaze me, and seem to just keep coming on and on.

Having had such a lovely "final" day with my best friends last Sunday, planned as a sort of farewell until I return to Kenya in August, we expected our safari-ing to be over for a while. Or at least limited to our happy memories.

But then it turns out 1st June is a national holiday in Kenya, National Self-Governance Day (or something like that - I'm a little unclear about the translation of the Swahili word for the holiday: Madaraka Day).

So are my friends and I going to let a day off go to waste? No way.

And if we're going to do something, we'll do it right. We didn't really want to travel, so we decided on Nairobi National Park, well known as the only game park in the world that is right next to a major city (literally). And to do it right, we decided to get there early, as we've learned the best time to see the animals.

So Charles arrived at my house at 6.00 am and we were well rewarded. As can be seen from Mr. Guy's Nairobi Nat'l Park Album (1), we were treated to an amazing spectacle - probably historical, comparing to our first "historical" sighting at Masai Mara.

But first (not so "historical") we had hardly arrived in the park before we saw in the road ahead of us that wonderful old Secretary Bird I've written about before. Fun to see her and re-new my acquaintance with her (one of the first species of wildlife I met when I came to Kenya).

Then we experienced something I had not seen before, the huge African buffalo carrying the big white birds. I don't remember the name of the bird (although both Charles and Nerisa and even Justin tried to teach me - I just couldn't get it!) but apparently this is a pretty normal occurrence when the grass is high. The birds apparently just think of the great bulk of the African buffalo as a sort of moving dining table, eating up the ticks that are already on the buffalo's hide and grabbing all the other insects that are stirred up as the buffalo moves - like a great ship - through the grass. Amazing! Why I had not seen this before is a mystery to me, but it was pretty neat to learn about.

Then we came to the truly historical part of our morning. There by the side of the road, not five feet from the edge of the track, we found a huge lioness, well into the process of scraping the last flesh off a zebra remains (we could hear the gnawing, scraping sounds). We had missed the kill, which was too bad (although I understand it can be a pretty gory experience) and the main breakfast-ing experience, since she did not seem to be very anxiously devouring - you might say - the flesh from the bone. But it had been a big meal, for off to the right was the big male lion, having his after-breakfast rest, and then Charles looked along about 12.00 and saw a whole group of lions, so these folks had obviously had a nice big meal to start their day.

We were impressed, and of course we turned the engine off and just watched. The lioness, so close, was not the slightest bit intimidated by us, and in fact seemed to be eying us with considerable interest. Charles, who had left the drivers seat and quietly climbed into the back of the van to watch with us, noticed her looking at us and quickly calculating that with one big lunge she could leap into the van, made the smart decision to lower the roof to just a couple of inches. It meant that we had to sort of squeeze ourselves a little to see (and photograph) all we wanted to see, but it was a very smart move. Thank you, Charles.

Mama Lioness, totally unconcerned, turned her look away from us and went back to her gnawing, making sure she got all she wanted before she went away and left the bones to the hyenas (who, when they come, will eat everything that's left, including the bones).

We could see, from the blood on the grass (all flattened now, clearly showing that there had obviously been a big struggle) that this was more than just one or two lions, and Charles - our resident counter - looked up to where the other members of the pride seemed to be resting and started counting. Some were down in the grass, but as they began to move about a little, wow! Eight of these guys, with only a couple of cubs.

Obviously we were fascinated, and we just sat and sat, watching as long as the lions were willing to provide us with a show. Eventually, though Mama Lioness got up and began to stroll away to join the others and after a while, so did Mr. Daddy. We watched the pride for a while longer and then went on, to see what else we might see.