(Originally appeared in The Word Weaver)
Before I left for my recent trip to Kenya, my only thought was writing. I was going to AFRICA and I only allowed myself to think of one thing: WRITING. How pathetic is that? I was so anal about attending my first writing program, I allowed it to overshadow the fact I was going to the most beautiful place in the world.
Thankfully, I came to my senses the moment the plane landed in the mossy sweet heat of Nairobi.
Joseph, from Wonders of Africa, picked me up at Jomo Kenyatta. His kamikaze driving was all that stood between me and certain death. The streets and roundabouts of Nairobi are the most beautiful arteries of controlled chaos I’ve ever been thrown into.
Joseph dropped me off at the Kivi Milimani Hotel. The Summer Literary Seminars organizers were there to greet me but in my post-flight zombiehaze, I only wanted to crawl upstairs to my room and sleep.
Day 1. 6 a.m. Woke up, packed, ran downstairs and met up with Joseph. We hit Nairobi’s death-defying streets again for a trip to Wilson Airport for my flight to Masai Mara.
After four take-offs, five landings and much retching, I was ready for solid ground! Another capable Joseph, my safari guide for the next two days, greeted our 16-seater at Keekorok Airstrip.
Before the safari, however, I detoured to Keekorok’s backyard hippo pool—home to 39 hippos! I watched as they frolicked and I stared in awe at the elephants and giraffes roaming the nearby hills. I attempted to be a poet but discovered I would rather eat the dirt…jump into the hippo pool, shoot its mud into my veins. I was in Africa—the future home of my heart. It was already happening.
Safari time! But after a full day in the acacia-dotted Masai Mara savannah, it was the Masai people I first wrote about when I made it back to my Keekorok room.
A journal entry: The Masai warriors almost made me forget the safari. The most amazingly beautiful sight. Hearing their singing makes you want to burst into tears. It’s guttural and filled with haunting. Longing. Joy. Goosebumps. Their shouts seemed random, mixed in song, but each one was perfectly timed. The rhythm matches something inside you. Shatters it. Latches on. Takes you with it. Such an incredible experience! You can feel them in your chest as they lift miraculously in dance. They had my heart!
A journal entry: Elephants/1, Lions/3, Giraffes/2. There was folly in this menagerie inventory system. After these first sightings it was on to a pride of 13 lionesses and cubs. A herd of zebra, not a mile away, grazing with elands. Bones and skulls everywhere, beacons in the vast open plains. When I spotted a cheetah, Joseph yelled, “Duma! Duma!” and called the other groups on his CB radio. Their trucks soon converged on our paradise, photo lenses extending to capture a mother cheetah with her cubs as they chased a herd of gazelle. Two hundred gazelle moving in perfect unison, nature’s finely tuned miracle engine in motion. Traps your breath! This is where God is. Hundreds of buffalo, beautiful birds riding their massive haunches…ready to steal the bounty of insects their shuffling feet lift from the browned savannah grasses. A warthog. A herd of eight elephants. Giraffes can kill a lion with their hind legs…one swift kick!
But majestic beauty as they dine upon the upper leaves of trees, unconcerned with the killer beasts at their heels. Wildebeests. In the distance, Tanzania. 8km away. The Masai hills in the background—named for their similarity to a lying-down Masai warrior.
My safari was over but my adventures were just beginning. It was only day two. I had a writing program to attend in Nairobi and Lamu. Kenya had begun to enter my bloodstream. I was going to allow myself to make this about Kenya first—writing second. It was the only way to take Kenya home with me…so I could write about it later.
Back to Nairobi.