Leftbank Writers Retreat – THE Perfect Christmas Gift for the Writer on Your List! Or Treat YOURSELF!

It’s DECEMBER. Some of us are finished our Christmas shopping. Others will start it on the 24th. I’m somewhere in the middle of the spectrum when it comes to Christmas gift shopping. I have begun.

Have I got a gift idea for the writer on your list! 🙂

As some of you may know, I went to Paris in June of this year. It wasn’t an ordinary Paris trip, though. I went for a writing workshop. As a HUGE fan of Ernest Hemingway’s A MOVEABLE FEAST, I always had the desire not only to see Paris…but to see it in the footsteps of Hemingway. I Googled Hemingway’s Paris writing retreat about a year ago. As is often the case, Google struck gold. On the first page of my search, LEFT BANK WRITERS RETREAT IN PARIS came up. I knew within a minute of clicking on the website that I had found what I was looking for.

The Beautiful Luxembourg Gardens, where writers on the retreat spend their mornings writing and listening and breathing in the beauty that is Paris...
The Beautiful Luxembourg Gardens, where writers on the retreat spend their mornings writing and listening and breathing in the beauty that is Paris…

I saw Hemingway’s Paris, I wrote in the Tuileries and in the Luxembourg Gardens, I saw the city from atop the Eiffel Tower, I wandered museums, I strolled down the Champs-Élysées, and I climbed the great spiral staircase to the top of the Arc de Triomphe. I did it all.

In this unique writing retreat, writers have the opportunity to explore Paris on their own during the evening. There is nothing more beautiful than walking the streets of Paris while the sun is setting! Doing so after a full day of living the writing life is even more extraordinary!
In this unique writing retreat, writers have the opportunity to explore Paris on their own during the evening. There is nothing more beautiful than walking the streets of Paris while the sun is setting! Doing so after a full day of living the writing life is even more extraordinary!

The retreat is perfect for first time visitors to Paris, as well as those returning to the city of love and light. For first timers, not only will you be taken through Hemingway’s Paris in the embrace of tour organizer Darla Worden and her amazing faculty Sarah Sazur and Travis Cebula during the day, but you will also have the nights to explore Paris on your own. And all three faculty members are amazingly knowledgeable on all things Paris…and extremely helpful at making suggestions and offering directions, etc. I never once felt abandoned during my stay. It was wonderful to have the evenings to ourselves after our days of writing and museum hoping and neighbourhood visiting. And there was always someone from the group to share the evening experiences with.

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Left Bank Writers Retreat Founder Darla Worden, Faculty Member Travis Cebula, and 2014 Alum Nina Welsh. Writing and Learning in the Luxembourg Gardens!

If you are a writer, now is the time to spoil yourself for Christmas! The Left Bank Writers Retreat is currently offering a discount! So treat yourself while the deal is on. You will NOT regret it. I loved it so much, I plan to attend this retreat again in the future.

The Left Bank Writers Retreat faculty take writers to these magical steps, where Gil was whisked off into the 1920s in the movie Midnight In Paris!
The Left Bank Writers Retreat faculty take writers to these magical steps, where Gil was whisked off into the 1920s in the movie Midnight In Paris!

If you have a loved one who is a writer, this is the perfect Christmas gift for them. I promise you, they will love this enriching experience in the city of love and light. Paris changes you. Paris through the wonder of the Left Bank Writers Retreat, done in the shadow of Ernest Hemingway, changes you on an even deeper level. Give the gift that will give back to the writer in your life for years to come.

As writers on the loose in the evenings of Paris, you could visit the Louvre! If you walk straight from the pyramid, through the Tuileries beyond, you will find yourself strolling on the Champs-Elysees. This will eventually take you to the foot of the Arc de Triomphe, where you can walk to the top and view the city in all its splendour!
As writers on the loose in the evenings of Paris, you could visit the Louvre! If you walk straight from the pyramid, through the Tuileries beyond, you will find yourself strolling on the Champs-Elysees. This will eventually take you to the foot of the Arc de Triomphe, where you can walk to the top and view the city in all its splendour!

Here’s a media release from the retreat:

Forget the fancy pens and notebooks. This year’s best holiday gift for writers is six days at the Left Bank Writers Retreat, a small-group summer writing workshop held in Paris each summer. A $200 discount on registration for this year’s retreat, to be held June 14-19, 2015 – on any registration made by January 1, 2015 – makes the deal sweeter for gift givers.

The discounted price of the six-day Left Bank Writers Retreat in Paris is $1,799 (regularly $1,999) and includes morning writing sessions, coaching and one-on-one time with the instructor for a maximum of eight writers, as well as lunch each day, admission to museums and area sights, an excursion to Montmartre, a picnic on the banks of the Seine and a literary tour visiting many of the sites featured in the Woody Allen movie “Midnight in Paris.”

“I’ve heard many stories at the retreat from women and men who received the retreat as a gift,” says retreat founder and CAL member Darla Worden. “It is definitely a gift that keeps on giving – writers leave the retreat with newfound inspiration found in Paris.”

The retreat welcomes fiction and memoir writers, poets and playwrights. A place in the 2015 retreat can be held with a $500 deposit.

What trip to Paris would be complete without a visit to the Eiffel Tower. The Left Bank Writers Retreat included a boat ride down the Seine where we viewed the Tower from the river. Later, on our own, a fellow alum and myself made our way to the tower for our own personal exploration up close and atop!
What trip to Paris would be complete without a visit to the Eiffel Tower. The Left Bank Writers Retreat included a boat ride down the Seine where we viewed the Tower from the river. Later, on our own, a fellow alum and myself made our way to the tower for our own personal exploration up close and atop!

Put yourself, or your loved one, in the hands of the best Paris tour guides you will ever meet. Darla, Sarah and Travis are AMAZING! They gave me a gift I will never forget. Ernest Hemingway once said, “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”

I have changed this slightly after being fortunate enough to have experienced the Left Bank Writers Retreat. “If you are lucky enough to have experienced the Left Bank Writers Retreat in Paris, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for the Left Bank Writers Retreat is a moveable feast.”

Give the writer on your list a gift that will last forever. Give them Darla. And Sarah. And Travis. Give them Hemingway’s Paris!

Darla Worden, Sarah Suzor, and Travis Cebula --- collectively, the magic behind the Left Bank Writers Retreat!
Darla Worden, Sarah Suzor, and Travis Cebula — collectively, the magic behind the Left Bank Writers Retreat!

Leftbank Writers Retreat! I’m Back From Paris, the Moveable Feast!

From the website of Left Bank Writers Retreat (Our June 2014 group captured at Les Deux Magots, a Hemingway haunt)

“If you are lucky enough to have gone to Paris as a LEFTBANK WRITERS RETREAT writer, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you…for the LEFTBANK WRITERS RETREAT is a moveable feast.” ~ Me

But okay…I borrowed a lot of those words from someone greater than myself. (-:

“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”~ Ernest Hemingway

I have just returned from the Left Bank and I am in love. But it is not just being immersed in Paris’s Left Bank that has made me feel this way. It is the enchanted way in which I got to see it that made it so special. If you are a writer, you really should check out the LEFTBANK WRITERS RETREAT. It is the best thing I have done for my writing life in years, possibly ever.

 

As an avid fan of Ernest Hemingway’s Paris–through reading and rereading his Moveable Feast–I wanted to see it through his filter. With the Leftbank Writers Retreat that is exactly what happened. Darla Worden, Sarah Suzor and Travis Cebula–the LBWR faculty–were extremely knowledgeable of all things Hemingway and Paris. But they didn’t only lead us through the streets of Hemingway’s Paris, pointing out all the incredible places frequented by Hemingway. They gave us everything they knew of Paris. Every day we went on a new adventure. We went to museums, we went to Shakespeare & Company, we ate at Hemingway’s favourite restaurants and other incredible pearls the faculty had discovered on their own numerous trips to Paris. We went to Montmartre, we took a boat cruise to the Tower Eiffel. Every day was magical. And the registrants did not have to worry about a single thing during our days together. The meals, museum tickets, and metro passes were included in the tuition. We merely followed our three leaders as they led us into a magical adventure every single day.

And we wrote every single day of the retreat. The faculty lead us in some fantastic writing exercises in such wondrous places as the Tuileries, the Luxemburg Gardens and the gardens of Notre Dame Cathedral.

From the moment I met Darla, Sarah and Travis, it was clear they LOVED what they were doing. They didn’t only love writing and Paris, they loved wrapping up the city they were so passionate about in a huge bow and gifting it to each and every one of the writers who registered for the retreat. They came alive when we came alive. And with our evenings free, we were off to explore Paris individually or together on our own terms. Again, the faculty were there to answer any and all questions we might have had before we set off on our journeys into the Paris evening.

I think I will let a few pictures speak for the magic I witnessed there…

If you do one thing for your writing life–just one thing ever–make sure it is to register for the LEFTBANK WRITERS RETREAT. You will not be disappointed! You will see Paris like you’ve never seen it before. And if you’ve never seen it before, you will see it in the best possible way! You will come away from your experience with a wealth of new writing and a passion to re-immerse yourself in your writing. And wherever you go for the rest of your life, you will take it with you…for the LEFTBANK WRITERS RETREAT is a moveable feast!

 

 

 

Contact Darla today to start a dialogue on the June 2015 retreat.

Back From the Camino – Ready to Write!

You know when you know? Yes you do. You know what I’m talking about. We’re writers. We percolate. A writer can sit still for a week and be working as hard as anyone out there. Because we write from that vast landscape of the mind. We see moving pictures float past us at a hundred thousand miles a minute. We are always working. Like sloths, though, you sometimes can’t see the progress right away. But we move.

I know it’s time to write. The kettle is about to whistle. The pressure is building to a crescendo and the release valve needs to be…well, released.

I just got back from walking the Camino de Santiago (THE WAY OF ST. JAMES) in Spain. With a small leap of faith, I walked out onto the vast rooftop of the cathedral and and I sighed. I’m not sure, but the sigh may have been heard around the world. Like a butterfly flapping its wings in Japan to create a tsunami in Mexico, my sigh gently pushed its way out to the ocean and carried itself on a wave to lap against the shore on the Atlantic coast of Canada.

Yeah. I’m a romantic. It’s true.

As I stood up on the rooftop of that cathedral, I was certain that I was at the top of the world. And I was also certain that the top of the world was wherever you wanted it to be. It’s not a place on the map that needs to live by the laws of physics and altitudes and logic. The top of the world is a feeling. And I found it on my journey.

I walked through villages, cities, forests, fields, vineyards, mountains, rain and snow. I jumped barefoot into mud puddles and streams. I balanced, like a child, on ancient walls and sidewalk curbs. I walked with strangers and people who would become anything but strangers. I walked with Germans and Asians and French and Dutch and Americans and Canadians and Hungarians and Africans and Mexicans and Colombians and Irishmen and Peruvians and Scotsmen and Englishmen. I walked with the world. And I walked with no one. And I walked with ghosts and goats and cows and bulls and dogs and horses.

At the end of my journey–like Dorothy–I woke up. And in the magical city of Oz…er…Santiago, I found all the people I had shared my dream with. In a city I had never been in, I walked around and saw a thousand faces I already knew. Jean-Claude from France–the man I couldn’t look at without bursting into tears. He was there, too. Smiling and embracing every pilgrim he met along his own journey. And Jean-Claude held court with many people of many nations. He will be carried to many corners of our globe. Jean-Claude will never be forgotten. And he is just one of the peregrinos I encountered.

jeanclaude
Jean-Claude, holding court and telling beautiful stories. Tears were shed.

I discovered that the top of the world–like Kansas–was there all along. Perception is the only thing that needs to change in order for one to be there. You can walk hundreds of kilometers to get to a sacred land of emeralds and gold and gild-edged beauty. Sure…you can do that. And you can have the time of your life doing it, too. But in order to get home…in order to get to your bliss…you need only click your heels together. You need only open your eyes to it.

I have a story in my belly. Like the magical mystical ladies of Casa Verde, who could pour shots like nobody’s business, I am ready to shout. I will write about the Camino. I know I will. One can’t not.

 

AS USUAL, YOU CAN FIND MY BOOKS ON AMAZON. (-:  Just click this link to get there.

 

2014 Galiano Literary Festival

I’m home from the Galiano Literary Festival! I think I accidentally left my heart in Galiano though. (-:

Galiano Inn

Air travel aside, the trip to Galiano was extraordinary! I stayed at the beautiful Galiano Oceanfront Inn and Spa, which is also the venue for the festival. And a wonderful venue it was. The setting was so completely conducive to the festival. The food was exceptional. Saturday’s Author Dinner, though fully sold out, had a quaint and intimate feel to it. I suppose the grand picture windows looking out onto Sturdies Bay didn’t hurt the atmosphere of the dinner very much. There were several menu options for the gala dinner, but I went with the ravioli. Possibly the best ravioli I ever had.

CLICK THIS LINK TO VISIT THE GALIANO OCEANFRONT INN AND SPA WEBSITE! (you need to visit them!)

What I enjoyed the most about the festival were the author readings. There was such a wide variety of authors to hear from. The poets on hand all blew me away. Each have left lasting impressions on me. Brad Cran and Amber Dawn both left me breathless. I had the near impossible task of picking up my heart from the roundhouse floor after sitting through Brad’s remarkably poignant and breathtaking words. And Amber’s readings were so incredibly authentic, wry, honest, brave and true. Simply hearing that raw authenticity in one’s words spurs me on to try the same in my own work. She’s truly a fearless poet. If you ever get the opportunity to read either Brad Cran or Amber Dawn, don’t pass it up.

All three of the Bowerings in attendance were delightful. George is clearly a consummate bad boy of sorts, always cracking jokes, and having fun. I could see it being extremely easy to fall into his orbit…he seems a bit of a sorcerer of fun. George was also a knowledgeable and wonderful addition to the panel discussion on the future of the book, which he co-paneled with Jack Hodgins and Kathryn Para (Jack also read a wonderful piece from his Cadillac Cathedral). Thea Bowering and Marilyn Bowering both read at the festival as well…to the sheer delight of those in attendance.

I had yet to hear of Michael Christie prior to attending the festival. His IF I FALL, IF I DIE is now on my MUST READ list. Such a wonderful fiction on the trapping of agoraphobia. I was fascinated not only by the storyline itself, but also by the beautifully lyrical prose in which it was written. Sadly, Christie read from manuscript pages…so I will have to wait until early 2015 to read the novel. I found the pairing of Michael Christie with Michael Wuitchik to be perfect. Wuitchik read from My Heart is Not My Own, which I will be reading in the coming weeks. Since I’m so drawn to the African continent myself, I’m excited to read another work set there. Wuitchik’s novel is set both in Sierra Leone and Canada.

It seems there may have been two ‘scamps’ at the festival this year (George Bowering being the first). Grant Lawrence’s poignant readings from his ADVENTURES IN SOLITUDE hit me like Brad Cran’s poetry hit me. I found myself unsure of what emotion I was experiencing throughout the reading. He brought me close to tears at one moment and had me stifling laughter the next. Such a wild ride. He was clearly as much a character as was George Bowering. Thankfully, neither of the two thought to plan out a clandestine late night rendezvous to T.P. the inn. Or perhaps they did, but also realized everybody in attendance would easily pin the crime on them.

What I found uniquely wonderful about a few of the author readings were the presentations they gave surrounding their featured books. My two personal favourites were Chris Arnett‘s Two Houses Half Buried in Sand presentation and Aaron Chapman‘s remarkable presentation of his book Liquor, Lust & the Law. Seeing those two presentations gave me so many insights into West Coast life. Chapman’s talk opened my eyes to an amazing B.C. nightclub staple I previously knew nothing about. The Penthouse Nightclub saw the likes of Sammy Davis Jr, Nat King Cole and Duke Ellington on its stage. Not to mention such clientele as Gary Cooper, Errol Flynn and Frank Sinatra. The presentation was riveting…a perfect closer for the festival.

The view from my room at the inn...
The view from my room at the inn…

For the writers attending the festival, there were a few workshops to choose from on the Saturday of the festival. The inclusion of writing related workshops in a predominantly readercentric festival was a stroke of genius. I thoroughly enjoyed both Joelle Anthony’s writing with sensory detail workshop and Linda L. Richards’ idea mining workshop.

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This was the 5th annual Galiano Literary Festival. Now would be the time to mark your calendars for next year’s event. It truly is a must-see Canadian Lit-Fest. So worth the trip across the country to see. And Galiano Island isn’t too shabby either. I find some time between events to sneak out with my camera and capture some of the breathtaking sights.

galiano

The folks at Galiano Island Books were incredible…their dedication to Canadian literature is awe-inspiring. I used to think there was no bookstore on earth as supportive and nurturing to the written word and its architects as Blue Heron Books in Uxbridge, Ontario. I discovered this weekend that this is not the case at all. I now have two favourite bookstores. So what if neither of them are walking distance from my home in Toronto…they both have the perfect model for what an independent bookstore SHOULD be. They both are entrenched in the community in which they serve and they both celebrate the wares they so obviously adore. To find the perfect bookstore is to discover happiness for the first time. To find two perfect bookstores? Well, that’s just divine providence. I know I will be back to both.

galiano books

CLICK THIS LINK TO VISIT THE GALIANO LITERARY FESTIVAL WEBSITE!

CLICK THIS LINK TO VISIT THE GALIANO ISLAND BOOKSTORE ON THE WEB!

Galiano calls!

driftwood

Me and the Camino? Why not…

I recently decided that I need to walk the Camino. In much the same way one lost in the desert decides they need water. It’s a long story.

I have been lost for a very long time. When one is visited by trauma in early life, one often gets misplaced from the life they would have lived had the trauma not occurred. I think I did a pretty good job these past few years rediscovering that long lost potential life.

Since around 2002, I’ve been writing. I believe writing to be my calling. I don’t know if I’m any good at it, but I know it makes me a better person. Does one have to be a master at something in order to believe that thing to be their calling? I don’t think so. I think it’s in the doing of the thing that one finds its true value, not in the quantifying of one’s ability in doing the thing. The possibility of kudos should not be the determining factor. My calling is writing. Because it is while I am writing that I feel most like the person I imagine myself to be. It defines me. I’m defined by it.

There was a time when I thought rediscovering my passion would be enough. I would find my happiness in doing the thing I was destined to do. Over the past decade, though, I discovered I couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s not enough to reach your calling and sit on your ass. One must always plow forward. One must always be in a state of learning and personal growth. Sure, getting BUM IN CHAIR is an awesome and integral part of being a writer. I know this because I practice it.

But discovering and embracing my calling was not enough. Not by a long-shot. I was still a severely damaged human being. I was just slightly happier because putting words to paper seemed to keep the demons at bay, even if only momentarily.

I now know I needed to do more. I needed to face the demons in my life. If you are ignoring trauma, it doesn’t go away. It feeds off of you. And it grows. And grows. And grows some more. The only way to euthanize it and take back your life is to pull it out from under the rocks and face it down.

I heard about the CAMINO years ago. I took part in the 2007 Great Canadian Winter Novel Marathon at the Pickering Public Library and two of the other participants were this dynamic woman and comical man who, together, formed this kind of Superhero Duo. They were writing a novel together. At the time, the concept kind of blew me away.

The duo were Sue Kenney and Bruce Pirrie. I later learned about the Camino through Sue. AND since I first heard about it, I knew I had to walk it. I knew in my heart. I knew in my soul. I knew in that place where you just know. The Camino called out to me. I’ve since learned that one really doesn’t choose the Camino. The Camino chooses you. When it is your time to take the walk, you will know. It will become not just thing that you once heard about, but this thumping thriving living breathing thing inside you…a force that tells you to cross an ocean. When the Camino knocks, you put down your things, find the nearest walking stick, and start waking. <<that was a fortunate spelling error–I accidentally left out the l in walking. I think it’s kind of apropos, though…don’t you.

Turns out, since the first time I met Sue, she has discovered her own new callings. She now guides tours through the Camino. CLICK HERE TO LEARN ABOUT HER MAY, 2014 GROUP CAMINO JOURNEY.

I have quite a bit of baggage to shed. And I have this rock I must leave along the Camino. I must leave it there, like others who find themselves lost in the desert must have a drink of water. I took the rock away with me when I left a Male Survivor Weekend of Recovery retreat. The rock is from a mountain top in Ohio, U.S.A. This summer, I had a moment when I knew I should leave it at our fire-pit in Muskoka, Ontario, Canada. But now I know I was wrong. Or, perhaps it only wanted to spend a season in Muskoka. Before I head for the Camino in May, I’m heading up to Muskoka to retrieve the rock.

You may think, “It’s only a rock. Why’s he making such a big deal?” A Weekend of Recovery retreat sees some thirty men participate in a fully interactive program to help them along the journey of recovery from the scars of sexual abuse. The larger group breaks down into smaller groups…and it is in these smaller groups that each participant chooses a rock from the grounds of the facility (which, for me, was at Hope Springs, in Peebles, Ohio). It is what these smaller groups do with the rocks that give them power and meaning. Each participant of the smaller group holds each rock in their hands. This symbolizes the strength we have together. Each participant walks away with a rock that was in the hands of each survivor in their small group.

Believe me…when I’m having a bad day, getting that rock out and holding onto it…it helps me to reflect on the weekend and what I learned there. I have been to Hope Springs two times. The first year, one of the other members in my small group actually gave me HIS rock. I’ve had it in my pocket every single day since October, 2011. I’m sure I’ll never be without it. But the rock I received the following year, I felt that I needed to plant it somewhere significant. And I thought maybe leaving it in that significant place would give all of us in that year’s small group a degree of power. I would be leaving a piece of US in that place.

I honestly thought Muskoka was the final resting place of that rock. But now I know differently. I’m walking the Camino to place it at the Cruz del Ferro site. This site is an iron cross atop an enormous pile of stones…stones left over the centuries by past pilgrims. This is the place I need to deliver my rock to…and in-turn deliver my brother survivors to.

I believe there is still room in Sue’s 2014 Journey. Click on the picture below to learn more.

Group-Camino-Pics-May-2010-start-200-225x300

Finding Focus in Nairobi

Nairobi

(The following piece originally appeared in WORD WEAVER.)

FINDING FOCUS IN NAIROBI – Part II of III

Polepole (rhymes with—and means—slowly, slowly). This is the method by which Kenya moves. I first experienced this when I boarded the 12‐seater for my return to Nairobi. The pilot promised a non‐stop flight. Ten minutes in, however, he announced a change of plans. He said those three words no airsick mini‐aircraft; neophyte passenger wants to hear: “We’re going down!”

Our Plane, Landed on the Siana Airstrip

It was Independence Day in Kenya. The celebratory air show at the Nairobi airport meant “no fly zone” for us. We had to land at Siana Airstrip and stay grounded for an hour. As we touched down, I saw a herd of gazelle leaping across the runway, mere feet from the plane’s nose! It was a horrifying, heartbreakingly beautiful sight. After narrowly avoiding the herd, our pilot assured us we could have safely crash‐landed to the side, if need be.

As a peppering of Masai emerged from the surrounding trees, I forgave the air show that kept us from our destiny. We were having a moment! Every day in Kenya carries with it a magical moment. To see it, all you have to do is surrender to the beat. Pole, pole.

After an hour of sharing stories with the generous Masai, it was almost painful re-boarding the plane. But we said our goodbyes and took to the air once again.

Navigating the country on my own was wonderful, but I was excited to be back in Nairobi. It was time to meet my fellow writers and begin the SLS fiction program.

My instructor, Catherine Bush, made me realize the importance of focus in storyline, something I never contemplated while writing. She broke down the process and explained how the writer should consider the reader’s expectations. If you give them one strong thread to follow, they see that thread as your storyline…throw in too many and confusion ensues.

Catherine assured me I could do this and carry on writing in the freefall style that I love. I was afraid I would have to sacrifice my “NO OUTLINING” rule but all was good. With her guidance, specific to my own manuscript, I was able to retackle my story, find the strongest thread—the story’s essence—and run with it. Catherine equipped me with the tools to help me do this. It was as though she came into my windowless house, created windows and then helped me to fling them wide open.

Our classes were held on the outside patio of a hotel in the heart of Nairobi…with fragrant breezes swishing our pages and intoxicating our lungs. If Nirvana is a place, it’s filled with writers, acacias and yes, even shouting taxi drivers. The outdoor classroom had its limitations, but they only added to the vibrant atmosphere.

You can live concurrent lives in Kenya. We were steeped in words but we also inexplicably saw everything in and around Nairobi. We took in the Rift Valley, the Ngong Hills, the Giraffe Centre (complete with sloppy giraffe kisses), an elephant orphanage, a reading by some of Kenya’s top literati, a chaotic downtown Nairobi Masai market, museums, parties and barnyards.

Daisy, the giraffe. Kisses were free!

Nairobi

The Beautiful Ngong Hills – Outside of Nairobi at a lookout on Uhuru Highway

I cried while our bus travelled the Uhuru Highway en route to the nearby Ngong Hills, as I watched a shanty-town blur by. Children played in the dirt, inches from our tires as we whizzed by at 100km per hour; goats bleated; vegetables collected poisons from black exhaust bursting from every vehicle; thousands of rusted ‘n shacks—strung with uncountable lines of miraculously pristine laundry—crowded together like rotten teeth in a mouth too small to hold them.

My sadness at seeing the crumbling shantytown was double-edged, though. Every face held a smile, every life a beat you could feel. My heart ached during the entire trip…but with what? I couldn’t quite place it. The melancholy I felt…was it for the people of Kenya or for myself and the people back home? People who have not yet surrendered to the comfort of a ‘me no clock could hold. Polepole…slowly, slowly.

After a long week of writing craft and exploration, we were ready for the last leg of our journey…Lamu Island. I couldn’t imagine it topping Nairobi…but I was about to discover there were no limits in Kenya.

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