Thursday, January 7, 2010

[Victor] Kenya - Day 1

The holidays went by a lot faster than I have anticipated, so here I am laying in a bed covered by a mosquito net in Nairobi, capital of Kenya. My small adventure does not start today, but a while back on the 20th of December, with my flight to JFK, New York. I was originally planned to leave Denver - where I went to visit some friends - on the 20th, but unfortunately a snow storm hit New York on that day, closing the airport for more than 24 hours. My flight was canceled and rebooked for the 22nd and I was considered among the "lucky ones" to travel so soon, but probably no one from Delta really realized that I had a flight to Athens on the 21st ! After marathoning battles with Delta agents and customer service, a flight was found and I managed to fly back to NY on time. My adventure does not finish here, as my luggage was lost and never really arrived in Athens, thus leaving me with two pairs of jeans and two t-shirts for 10 days! Even worse, all the equipment I have bought for Kenya (quick dry pants, underwear, t-shirts, binoculars, etc.) was in that luggage, so I was forced to buy new ones.

The reason I am in Kenya right now, is a course named Computational Biology offered by University of Illinois at Chicago in collaboration with Princeton University and instructed by Tanya Berger-Wolf (UIC), Dan Rubenstein (Princeton) and Iain Couzin (Princeton). 5 Computer Science students from UIC and 11 Biology students from Princeton University are attending. We will spend most of the time at the Mpala Nature Conservancy studying animals and plants. The objective of this course for the CS students is to learn how to effectively collect data from a live environment (install and test the hardware, minimize the noise, etc.) and later on analyze and create a useful application that biologists can use. Also we will learn to write algorithm that describe populations and social behavior of animals.

Let's get back to the trip now.

I left Athens yesterday, January 4 at 12.55PM with Qatar Airways. The flight had a 14 hours layover in Doha, capital of Qatar, so I also had the chance to visit Doha for some hours. In Doha, I met with Khairi Reda and we went to eat traditional Arabic food, but unfortunately I had no camera with me. When I 'll get the photos from Khairi, I will post them here.

We arrived in Nairobi on January 5 at 1.20PM. The Princeton group was arriving two hours after us, with the Emirates flight, so we chilled at the unique cafeteria the Airport had. We waited for the Princeton guys for one hour, trying to make sure we won't miss them. The problem was that we had no phones or contact information for any of them, so we were concerned that if we miss them we are stuck at the airport. Except from Dan, we knew the other guys only from photos - that looked like prison photos - but fortunately we identified Dan and joined the group. Tanya and the rest were arriving at 9.00 pm so we went at a research center located at Nairobi to rest for the day.

The research center was about 30 minutes away from the airport, but because of the traffic jam, it took us about two hours. There were moments when the pedestrians were literally walking faster than us, so we had a good opportunity to take a lot of pictures.

The city of Nairobi seems quite dangerous. Maybe it was because we did not went into the center, but the route we followed was awkward. Most of the houses seemed old and shabby and there were houses build of aluminium foils or woods. People seemed poor and tired, but friendly and light-hearted. The arrival at the research center acknowledged the fact that outside was dangerous, because it was circled by a huge brick wall with gimped fence on the top. At the entrance guards with guns were guarding. Inside the center, a new world arose. Everything was clean and neat and all the buildings were nice. It was like I was in a 4 star hotel with really nice gardens. The best thing that happened that day, was the super fast free internet access! We went to sleep quite early cause the next day we had a long way to the Mpala Research Center.

P.S.: The internet connection at MRC is really slow, so I cannot upload photos now. I will do it as soon as I get a stable internet connection.

1 comment:

  1. we are waiting to post some photos! Don't eat, don't drink, come back alive, Work hard, Be careful and hiiiiiiiiiiiiiha!!!