Category Archives: Passport

Words and Images in Transit

Maasai smuggling my dogs from Tanzania through Namanga border to Nairobi

I have two aging yellow Labs, the off-spring of Zoe, the Lab I brought to Tanzania from Montana in ’94.  Katy and Ginger grew up in a pack with Zoe, of course, and later, Joe, the Ridgeback, and a male ridgeless Ridgeback/Lab mix with a ridge. Technically a “back”. His name was Fred, but Fred is dead. Zoe died in ’03. Ginger and Katy are now with Joe and his son, Chui.

They have seven acres to run around in and have rarely been let outside this electrically fenced compound. My husband is often away on safari, so they are alone tended to by staff, but without much love.

I no longer live on the Tanzanian ranch I bought in 2001 and had necessarily to leave in ’05. I have since returned to EA, and now live in Kenya.

I miss my dogs terribly.

Katy and Ginger are reaching 10, the general life span of a Lab. Katy a bit older, incontinent, and can hardly move. Ginger is three years younger, mobile, but getting mzee. I don’t want them to die loveless in Tanzania.

I had been thinking of moving them to Kenya, where I can board them with the Queen Bee of Labs in Langata, a suburb of Nairobi. Dogs are everywhere at Biddy’s, especially Labs, which she breeds, along with the off-spring of a few Irish Wolf hounds that played bit parts in the film, Out of Africa. It’s a three acre compound. Humans are second banana to the dozens of dogs there that occupy nearly every flat space in her living room. At least there I can occasionally see and be near Katy and Ginger before they head to dog-heaven.

Moving them would be for my sake, thus an admittedly selfish motive.

The question I’ve been struggling with is  — would the move be too traumatic for Katy at her age? They’ve never been in a car and would likely vomit all over the place. But that is minor if I don’t feed them beforehand. Maybe I will take only Ginger, the younger of the two and more likely to absorb the shock of the move. Besides, Katy is technically my son’s dog.

Our Maasai secretary in Arusha has offered to help with logistics and paper work involved with getting them across the border. But, of course, Tanzania being Tanzania, the process would be ponderously slow.Customs and immigration itself at Namanga a pain in the ass process that would add hours to the five hour drive from the ranch to Nairobi.

I may just drive Ginger near to the Namanga  border,  grab a random Maasai, who I  could ask to stick her in pack of goats and walk her through the bush on a “panya” (“rat” or smugglers) route near the border and pick her up on the other side.

Or would it be best for their well-being to leave them both to die with the pack back at the ranch?

Si jui.

Lamu versus Nairobi

Oppressive gray blanket of cloud finally lifted and with it my spirits.  Most days are now sunny and cheerful. This weekend took long walk along Mbagathi ridge, past Kazuri beads, w C  and the dogs – a happy, panting black Lab and Ginger, a small terrier. The kind friends I stay with are Danish and their house is just around the corner from Karen Blixen’s coffee estate. I would walk there every day, but as it’s a museum, they want to charge a thieving 800 kenya shillings ($10) just to stroll the gardens without even entering KB’s house.

During the work week, I often walk alone twice a day, along Mbgathi Ridge and then down the wide and aptly named Forest Lane. Friends ask if it’s dangerous to walk by myself. A palpable rigidity divides locals and the wazungu they work for, but I don’t sense danger. Not in this leafy and insular suburb. I usually greet stony-faced workers commuting by foot in Swahili, or, if I’m listening to my Iphone tunes, I smile or make eye contact. I almost always get a smile back. That said, I do stash my Iphone in my bra so that only the earphones are exposed. Most locals under 30 have Ipods anyway. Still, it’s sad to have hide these things.

If I walk between commuting hours, the avenues are empty and I usually only encounter this mzee (Swa for older person).

Nairobi is expensive – between hiring a driver (I’m never here long enough to justify buying a car). Food at Karen  Provision store and Nakumatt adds up.

Lamu beckons. I love that there are no cars on the island. Donkeys, boats and legs only modes of transport. I miss the place and its donkey-clogged alley ways. Ass-jams.