I know ,most of you hate the guy, but this is entertaining to read
Ron Artest embarked on his first trip to Kenya, Africa this summer and what he experienced while overseas was something that helped change the way he views the world, his roots, how he raises his kids and also reaffirmed how fortunate he is. Kings.com had a chance to sit down with Ron this past week to find out as much as possible about his experience.
By Andrew Nicholson
August 15, 2007
You've been back for two weeks, have you had a chance to reflect on your trip to Kenya?
"It made me think of how good we have it over here, but at the same time it made me appreciate life. I got a chance to see the soul of the African American and I also got a chance to see tribes that still live like they did 400 years ago. I feel like whatever God gives you [you should be grateful for] or how ever you may be living nowósome people think they are struggling in Americaóbut they are not really struggling until they see what it's like over there. At the same time, the tribes live in what we would say is poverty, but they donít consider it poverty. They live off of cows, milk, in the middle of the jungle and drink animal blood. Thatís how they live. It made me appreciate life."
What kind of blood was it?
"It was goat blood or cow blood mixed with milk, but thatís only in tribes. Itís not the people that live in modern Africa."
Did they get sick from it?
"Thatís what they're used to. Thatís how they survive. If anything were to happen, if the electricity were to go out, or if the world were hit by an asteroid, theyíre going to survive. Weíre going to be living on Mars or something and theyíre going to be fine, thatís why I really appreciated going over there."
Were you able to see any tribal ceremonies while you were there?
"We didnít get to see a ceremony, but we did see how they feast a little bit. We saw rituals, like how they dance. We sang songs! It was a different way of living, but it was beautiful."
You really enjoy learning about history and African American origin don't you?
"I try to. Iím not as involved as I should be, but I try to."
You were fortunate to attend college and study mathematics. Do any of the people you encountered have the luxury of going to universities?
"No, one of the guys from the tribe didnít even know how African Americans got to America. We started asking him questions and he started asking us questions. It was definitely a bit of history just going there. I learned a lot and I plan on going again in the future."
You did your interview from Africa on your iphone. Had anyone ever seen an iphone before?
"No, they didnít know what an iphone is."
Was it humbling that they didnít know who you were?
"It wasnít humbling. They just didnít know who I was. They're not supposed to know who I am. They're not worried about basketball. It was more like they were hungry. And we were there to help. I mean, we met the tribal kings. They had 14 and 15 year old kids killing lions."
They say the NBA is a battle ground, but thatís nothing compared to killing lions! I read that a hippopotamus came after you or something along those lines.
'"They didnít come after us. But at night when the sun goes down you have to pretty much be inside the tent or be with the warriors so they can protect you out there in the jungle. Itís like a resort, but itís very wild and very dangerous. We were staying at a nice resort, nice tents, but at night you canít control those animalsóthere are too many of them. So anything could happen. We had a flashlight and when you flash the light the warrior would come to your aid. We had one guy with a rifle. You have the warriors because at night there's hyenas, hippopotamuses, elephants, monkeys all kinds of animals around your tent, itís pretty dangerous!"
I saw a feature story on National Geographic about hippo's having the ability to kill people.
"The hippopotamus is believed to be the leading human killer in Africa among animals. Hippopotamus' at night are very mean."
Was it by far the coolest experience you've been apart of outside of the United States?
"Yes, and Iím going to Honduras on Thursday. Weíre going to Feed the Children. We are going to be doing the same thing as we did in Africa in Honduras for three days."
Is it the same group?
"This time Iím not going with the NBA Player's Association, I'm going by myself."
"When you have a lot of time on your hands during the summer you want to do things.
I like to help people. This summer Iím just dedicating my time to people in need. Itís something different and I enjoy it."
Iíve been to a couple of the Read to Achieve and community service activities that players partake in, Iíve noticed you genuinely enjoy it and always have a smile on your face. Why do you have so much fun going to things like that?
"I guess its how I grew up. Where I came from has made me appreciate life. Especially when you have the opportunity to help someone, I try to take advantage of it."
While you were in Africa, how did you communicate with the people?
"We had an African lady as our translator, so thatís how we spoke to the people who spoke Swahili. But most of them spoke English too."
I read, that you said, you were going to talk to your kids about being spoiled! Now that you've been back, how did your kids react?
"My kids, theyíre beautiful kids, they are very respectful to people. I want them to know that how they live is not how everyone lives, and maybe not how youíre supposed to live. I donít know the percentage of how many people are rich and how many people are poor, but everyone doesn't live equally. We have to be grateful that we do not live in poverty and I let my kids know that. Itís important that I know that, I was taught a lesson also, not just my kids."
What was the craziest thing you ate over there?
"I ate ostrich [testicles], I think!"
That must have been one of those instances where they tell you to eat it and they'll tell you what it is later!
"Yeah! (Laughs) It tasted like pork."
Is there anything else you want the fans to know about your time over there?
"A monkey tried to attack me! I was coming out of my tent and I saw a monkey. I was filming the monkey and saw it running towards me so I ran back inside my tentóyou could see my camera shaking all over the place! I got out of my tent and tried to find the monkey, but he was in the tree. When the monkey started to come down a little bit, I ran back inside my tent again! When I unzipped my tent it wasn't there, but then, a third time, the monkey peeked it's head over, right over my tent just like a human! Then he just sat down in my chair and looked at me. It was the funniest thing ever! Some monkeys are nice. Some monkeys will attack you."
What kind of monkey was it?
"This was a black monkey. The black monkeys aren't mean. We were around baboons too, and baboons are pretty mean."
Where did this monkey encounter take place?
"Well, that took place in modern Africa. Then, when we flew into the jungle we saw a giraffe a hundred yards from the runway. We saw some hyenas, cheetahs and zebras, I got it all on camera. I saw a lion next to a water buffalo that it had just eaten. I got the hyenas on camera and some beautiful sunsets. It was an amazing time. I might go on a trip there next summer with a couple of people. I think it would be good for some people who havenít had the opportunity to go out there. I'm opening an AIDS clinic out there and will have a school named after me too. Iím opening them up in September right in the slums. There are about a million people who live in the slums, like 800,000 people and they are all poor. Most of them donít have a place to get tested for AIDS, so Iím opening one right in the neighborhood."
Is it with Feed the Children or is it just Ron Artest?
"It is Ron Artest, but it is with an organization called Ray of the Hope that I am partnering with. It will be Ron Artest AIDS Clinic or whatever."
Do you ever sit back and think, "I'm really fortunate and the NBA hast afforded me so much ability to do whatever I want?"
"Yes, itís so cool and it's all because of the NBA. I think that I would have been the type of person who would give back, no matter what, but the NBA has promoted me so much by playing games that Iím able to do so much more. I guess if I were a movie star I would do the same thing. In the NBA, they give you all the credit, without them I wouldnít be doing half the stuff Iím doing right now. Maybe I would, but we know that Iím in a better position. I have kids in college, I have kids in high school with college scholarships, I have a program out here for kids, high risk kidsóthey are going to be a part of my program. There are little perks you get with my programs, like tickets to the game, different things, maybe a scholarship. Iím doing all types of things."
Will you keep in touch with people you met in Africa?
"Yes, I will, especially with the people running the school. Iím also trying to put a park out there. In two or three years, I want to put a park in the neighborhood because the kids have nothing to play with -- no sports, sometimes no sneakers, and no park. In some cases, they have a little one-year-old playing with rocks next to feces. So I want to put a park, a clean park out there. I have to research it, but I want to put a park in one of those neighborhoods. Iím not going to do a lot, because I donít have that much money. But I want to do little things. I donít even think it has to be out there. I guess anywhere that there is poverty to help somebody in any way."
The people who win marathons are frequently from Kenya. Did you see people running everywhere?
"They walk everywhere. The reason they always win is because of the high altitude level. They walk everywhere; most of them don't have cars."
What is Kenya like compared to other African countries?
"Some countries in Africa, like Sudan and Chad, are at war all the time. Itís war, war, war. But in some places like Kenya and Nigeria, Iíve heard that it can be a nice place to live."
I've seen pictures and movies that show people carry buckets of water and other stuff on their heads. It looks really difficult! Did you see people doing that?
"They were doing that in the modern streets, they were doing that in the slums and in the tribal areas. I was amazed by that too. Most of the women do that."
So looking ahead, will Honduras be a similar trip?
"Itís going to be more Feed the Children than Ron Artest. I just want to be a part of it. Thatís the only reason Iím going. I want to be a part of something special. I might try to do something little. Most of the things Iím going to do are going to be small because maybe when I do small things and get many other people to do small things, it could become a big thing. Many of the things I do are small because I have a family myself to take care of, so I canít do a bunch of huge things."
It's been a pleasure catching up with you Ron. Good to see you. Have a safe trip.
"Thanks man. Take care."