This morning, Tiger and I are driving down one of the most rutted byways in Karen to Stepping Stones, his little school off Langata Road. I spot a monkey crossing over to perch on a stone fence, banana in hand, and get as excited as my son about seeing him. “Taidghie (diminutive for his Irish name, Taidgh), look, there’s a monkey!” “Monkey, monkey, my monkey. And he has a ‘nana!” my son squeals.
I stop the car so we can watch him. Oh yes, our Vervet is slowly peeling his breakfast and acting as if he has not a care in the world. This sort of monkey, with his miniature black gorilla face, white face fringe and grizzled grey body, is infamous for bright blue balls which flash iridescently in and out of the sun. But except for his banana, Mr. Vervet is keeping his treasures to himself this morning.
(My first encounter with Vervets was many, many years ago at Intrepids safari camp in Samburu. We were warned to hide our cosmetics and precious items from them. For these monkeys are particularly fond of stealing lipsticks – whether Chanel or Penney's -- and coloring their faces in brazen reds, peaches and hot pinks.)
As we carry on to Stepping Stones, I take further notice of a place Tiger and I’ve not yet visited: Mamba Village. While I find it startling that a theme park for man-eating crocodiles is situated next to a pre-school, I’m fascinated by Mamba’s offerings. It dawns on me that this is the place my talented fashionista/clothes designer, Barbara, a Northern Irish girl with a wise and wicked tongue, had suggested we bring the boys last Sunday.
“You go about four in the afternoon and, ach, they put on quite a show. The wee ones go crazy for it. The keepers bonk the sleeping crocs on their heads and yell, ‘Wake up!’” We are giggling already; Barb licks her lips. “Then they bring out these MINGIN’ (Irish slang for ungodly, dirty, irredeemable) chickens, must have been lying around for years, true carcasses and, ach, they toss them to these lazy beasts who suddenly go into a frenzy. And that,” she adds, “is Charlie’s favorite part.”
Boys will be boys, and I’ve no doubt that Tiger will join his two-and-a-half-year-old buddy Charlie in rejoicing over the chicken feed. But there’s more to Mamba than meets my drive-by eye. “Oh,” continues Barb on Sunday afternoon, “they’ve got these rides from like the 1920s that you wouldn’t, ach, put your dog on! Talk about health and safety, none of them really works and they’re blast-out dangerous. There’s an old wooden car without a motor, or maybe it’s broken, and this old fella pushes it around with your kid inside without looking where he’s going!”
Wherever that old fella is going, we’re still going, and I’ll let you know soon about our own Mamba episode.