Philip and Emily left Boston the month after we did. They headed to Africa while we came to Asia. So of course we've been talking about visiting ever since. They held up their end of the bargain in December, spending Christmas with us here and in Laos. So the Chinese New Year holiday seemed a good time to return the favor.

E+P had warned us to watch out for chalk marks on our checked bags and if we saw a mark to quickly hide it and walk through customs boldly without making eye contact. We managed to do that and were swept into the tide of Nairobi, only to be fished out again by Emily and put into the car on the way to their apartment.

We dropped luggage and chatted for a minute before heading to dinner and then to a bar to hear a band and meet many of Philip and Emily's friends. Kyle tried his first Tusker beer and I had a dawa which is Swahili for medicine. I'm not sure what else it would treat, but it (and the flight from Singapore) certainly worked as a nice little sleeping tonic and I don't know how much fun we were.

Sunday we got up and headed to the David Sheldrake Wildlife Trust, an elephant and rhino sanctuary to see the baby elephants. Because we were there as soon as they opened the gates we had front row seats to see the infants comes out of the reserve, have a snack, and do some mud wrestling. Then the 2- and 3-year-olds came and did their thing as well.

The elephants at the Trust have been orphaned because of poachers (their mothers were killed for their tusks), human/wildlife conflict (their mothers died in some other interaction with humans), or some other forced separation, maybe because the baby elephant has fallen into a man-made well and can't get out. Elephant babies are a lot like human babies. They are emotionally dependent on a family, and older orphans remember and grieve for their dead or missing mothers. The Trust establishes a human "family" of keepers who bond with the babies, comfort them, stay with the baby 24 hours a day, feeding it milk every three hours and sleeping with it. Because babies are usually protected from the sun and elements by a much larger mother, the youngest orphans have an umbrella detail.

As the babies grow up, they build close bonds with the others in the nursery and the oldest female takes the role of matriarch. When the babies are well adjusted they are transferred in groups to Tsavo National Park with the human keepers who stay at a home base.

Elephants really don't forget. The former orphans in Tsavo recognize and welcome each other as groups "graduate" from the Nairobi nursery to the park. The orphans will spend the day with their old friends and be introduced to wild herds, but return to the human keepers at night. Gradually as they establish more secure bonds with wild herds and feel more comfortable, they return to the base less and less, though occasionally adults will come back years later and make contact with their keepers, recognizing them.

They were pretty adorable. But we didn't establish relationships quite as close as the ones we built that afternoon...