Today, as part of my correspondance course in writing (assignment 2), I went off to the Nairobi National Museum again in the guise of 'roving reporter'.
First I stopped off at a big shopping centre on the way (Junction) and got totally distracted by finding myself a suitably priced reporter's note book. I found one eventually that was the right price (the Moleskine ones were more than 3,000 Kshillings/£30 and I resisted).
When I finally got to the museum I was dying for a coffee, so went straight to the Savanna Cafe to get a Latte 'to go'. (It drives everyone nuts that I can't begin any kind of an excursion before stopping for coffee as soon as we arrive.) I realised then that I probably couldn't go into the museum with a 'beverage', plus it was a bit awkward juggling my handbag, a scalding coffee plus paper napkin, my large camera with even larger padded case and my A5 hardback note book... and pen. Effortless it wasn't!
Taking photographs of the outside of the building meant setting down my handbag and coffee and leaving them dangerously abandonned as I tried to get good shots. I also realised that I couldn't go into either of the two gift shops (with a coffee) to scope them out for my article. Plus it was almost midday, the sun was hot and I was sweltering.
When I finally entered the Museum I asked hopefully if I was banned from taking photographs inside. 'No' said the lady in black robes behind the desk, 'it's fine, you can take photos if you like.' I had planned to be rebuffed then go back to the car to unload some of my things. I looked at the luggage deposit desk but it was shuttered up, unmanned and obviously never been used before. 'Thanks' I said. Too lazy to go back to the car I strode, still cluttered, inside.
'Would you like a guide?' asked Tony, a Moi University student on a three month placement at the museum. 'Um.. yes great' I said thinking that taking a guide would be a sure fire way of learning something. 'I hope you don't mind if I take notes?' I asked trying to shove the bulky camera case into my handbag without success and then take the top off my pen. My shoulders were already aching.
I did learn loads from Tony, but having said that I couldn't help it as we stopped at each and every exhibit. I was glad that the large museum comprises quite a lot of empty/unused space at the moment - there are only really 5 bigs rooms with exhibits inside which meant that there was a possibility that my tour would not take all day. The museum are working on more permanent exhibitions as we speak, so no doubt one day it will be full to bursting.
My lowest intellectual point was at the 'Mammals' room which has lifesize Kenyan animals. No need to go on safari, here you can see the big five close up. My mobile rang inside my bag and it took me half an hour to find it amongst the rest of my stuff. When I hung up Tony's mobile rang and then he went off for a chat.
The heavy weights around my shoulders and neck were distracting me from the exhibits. I said, 'I notice that there are lots of child friendly information points with questions. That's great.' he said, 'Do come and have a look at this one, this is especially for school parties.' It was entitled 'Am I a mammal?' 'I'll test you' Tony said, 'can you answer this,' 'I have feathers, I lay eggs,I have a backbone, what am I?' My mind was swimming, 'Are you asking is it a mammal? - um, yes it is. Oh sorry, maybe it isn't' What do you think it is? asked Tony 'An ostrich?' I ventured He shrugged, 'a bird' he said and swung back a disc to show a small, stuffed bird in a lit recess in the wall. 'Oh' I said enthusiastically. 'yes it is, how clever. Kids will love it.' Next: 'I have a backbone, I lay eggs, I have scales, am I a mammal?' 'Um,' I said, 'yes, um err, no er, is it a snake?' 'it's a fish.' 'Oh' I said. And there it was, a stuffed fish. 'But we do also have a snake here.' he said helpfully skipping along a bit to the fifth question/exhibit in the row. When I got no. 3 one wrong we gave up on the game. I clearly had no idea what a mammal was. 'It doesn't matter' said Tony kindly.
We spent a good couple of hours going around the museum and I learned tons of interesting facts. Tony said that female initiation rights no longer take place in Kenya on three seperate occasions and I didn't argue - I guess he was giving out the party line. The truth that in some places in Kenya it does still take place might shock the UK and American tourists. He also told me that in Nairobi witch doctors wear business suits, carry briefcases and hire expensive office space which was an interesting fact.
When Tony's cool looking mates came over and whispered something in his ear I said, 'It's OK. Do go now if you need to?' Tony was off like a shot. 'Ok then.' he said and disappeared. 'Don't forget to look at the African Rock Art exhibition' he said over his shoulder.
To be honest, juggling heavy bags, standing for ages and the fact that it was now two o'clock meant that I was feeling a little bit low blood sugar level.
When I staggered back to the car to do the school run, greasy chicken pie in hand I wondered if I am cut out to be a roving reporter. It seems to be harder work than I once thought. The museum had no information leaflets or handouts at all, so I guess I'll have to telephone and try and talk to the curator to get some final information on who made the beautiful sculptures outside the museum etc. I wonder how the photos will come out?