Tuesday, October 7, 2008

African Soil

The picture in the post below was taken in 1990 on my first trip to Nairobi. My aunt had planned a trip so my grandfather could experience a true safari, but his health intervened and somehow I found myself at the age of ten headed to Kenya. It amazes me that 18 years later I return as an adult, on my own terms, to continue getting to know this place. It’s hard to articulate the reality of landing on Kenyan soil after a year plus of anticipation for this moment. I would say I’m running on adrenaline – but it’s not quite that. It’s more that I’ve been resting in the reality of this approaching experience for so long, and now that it's here I almost feel as if I’m just along for the ride.

As I gathered my cart full of bags and exited the terminal tonight, I was pleased to see the smiling face of my friend Daniel, the brother of a professor from Chapman who showed me around last year when I was unexpectedly in Kenya on my own for a few days. After heaving a large sigh of relief we headed to the YMCA, with a quick stop for me to get cash (and in so doing mix-up the exchange rate and spend $5 in ATM fees to withdraw about $42 – so much for being a seasoned traveler!). The YMCA has a 24 hour gate and guard, and though my room is quite simple I have all I need for the next few nights while I sort out where I’ll live, how I’ll get around and get my enrollment at Uni underway.

Right now I’m sitting under a mosquito net canopy, not quite as romantic as the scenes I watched on the plane from Out of Africa (the last few minutes of which were interrupted by landing IN Africa). My Kenyan friends advised me last year that Out of Africa is not a real story of Kenya, and I understand their point – it does not focus on the story of Africans, but of colonists and settlers, many of whom claimed this land as their own, and whose legacies live on in the tribal strife and land disputes that influenced the unrest earlier this year. Still, the beauty of the country and the people comes through in the story, and reminds me that just as I am but a visitor, the richness of this place has nothing to do with ownership or title as the colonists once thought. Rather, it is in how you go about creating a home, temporary or not, and discovering the small place you will occupy in a country’s ongoing story.

I arrived tonight under the softly dark Kenyan sky, and tomorrow my experience begins in earnest.


Allan Wills said...

Glad you made it Megan. Was nice to see you in London. I will be avidly following this blog :-)

CountyofOrange_Lynn said...

Some of us live vicariously through you so your adventures are like ours. May God keep you safe while you are away from us. When you are back, make sure to drop by the County again to see us.