Flights back were relatively smooth and uneventful. Had some of the best airplane food I've had on the Air Kenya flight to Amsterdam (found a chunk of real cinnamon in the lentils!); ended up with my own 3 seats of an exit row on the KLM Dutch Royal flight from Amsterdam to JFK, where I watched The King's Speech (solid, but not amazing in my opinion) and Inception (again) (dozing off during Inception does indeed make for weird, brief dreams).
When I got to JFK, I realized that my American phone was totally dead. I had failed (rather, decided) not to bring my charger with me because I figured my phone would be off while in Kenya, so it would have a charge when I returned. Wrong, and the charging cord weighs almost nothing- lesson learned. After a call home via payphone to try (unsuccessfully) to get Mwanzaa's parents' phone numbers (they were picking me up from the airport), I decided to check outside at the pick-up area; thankfully, Mwanzaa's dad was indeed there. Spent last night at their house, where I feel pretty familiar/ comfortable by now (even without Mwanzaa there); now, on a train back to CT.
So I figure this is a good time to reflect on the trip. Unquestionably, it was one of the most incredible places I've been. The Masai Mara is probably one of the most beautiful places I've ever visited; each day we saw something amazing and new. And being there not on safari, but with people doing real research, made it that much more meaningful. I know that if I had been there on safari, staying in a lodge, it would have been great, but the fact that we could stay in one place for an hour to watch hyenas interact instead of feeling the need to drive elsewhere in order to add to the tally of animals seen meant that I really got a feel for how these animals behave in the wild. This also meant that I could take different kinds of pictures of the same scene, and left me the leeway to experiment with framing, exposure, etc. that I don't think I would have had otherwise. And, since we were in a research vehicle, we were allowed to go off-road whereas safari drivers aren't permitted to do so; this let us get much closer to the animals. And the hyenas were familiar enough with the research cars that they would sometimes come right up to it.
As for the pictures themselves, I of course have not yet had a chance to look at them on the computer, but I definitely think I got some good ones. A lot of them are "portrait-style," meaning it's mostly the animal's face or body without much in the way of environment. I also got some wide-angle shots of lions and hyenas, but what I think I lacked was a mid-range zoom lens (such as my 24-70mm lens); most of the time, I had my 300mm (super telephoto) and my 17-40mm (wide-angle), but not much in between (I also had my 70-200mm lens out some, but still, it would have been nice to fill the 40mm to 70mm gap). But I expect to be quite pleased with the results. Unfortunately, I will likely not have enough time before my departure for France in 8 days (!) to go through all 5,000 or so pictures (final tally coming soon), but I will definitely get a few up online.