Leonard tells me that one becomes Kenyan when you can sleep the duration of the road from Nakuru to Nairobi. If this is true, then I am may be on my way, having slept through most of the nasty road (I find near death experiences simpler to accept eyes closed) my head once or twice bobbing onto the shoulder of the woman to my right, an attorney who passed opportunity to practice traditional law (and make a great deal more money), choosing instead to help bring equality to women, gays, and lesbians through protective law, workshops, and conferences. We talked briefly while at the Nakuru depot about the boys at the orphanage who are gay and how they may or may not be accepted in the confines of a fairly traditional church.
Leonard’s high school friend, the taxi cab driver who helped us retrieve the solar panels two weeks prior picked me up at the Mololine depot and whisked me to the airport. I departed at 11:30 pm on Lufthansa airlines. A bit overwhelmed for I could again understand most of what was being said, the touring Americans speaking in a relatively high volume (we are known for this, world-wide). My brain suffered from stimuli overload.
From the relative chaos of Nairobi to the organized sterility of Zurich Switzerland where open interior spaces are defined by sharp lines of reflective silver, black, white, and glass. Modern architecture neatly matched modern advertising, store fronts, and products, the bold faces of high contrast, moist model photography compelling “Be beautiful, like me.”
With another transfer from Zurich to Munich and then the final leg to Denver, the passenger nationalities transitioned from Kenyans and a varied host of tourists to mostly Germans visiting the U.S. and U.S. residents returning from a weekend of German pub tours, the low cost of U.S. to Europe flights making possible an international weekend get-away.
And with this transition the long hand shakes and inquisitive eye contact gave way to personal space defined by iPods and head phones saying, “I am in my world now. Leave me alone.”
My good friend Sean was gracious enough to drive to the airport, finding me at a pay phone for the firmware upgrade to my cell has apparently killed its domestic function.
My house welcomed me with creaking hard wood floors and the aroma of since burnt incense. The fifty or more plums on my backyard tree not yet ready for picking one month ago are now gone, the remnants lying on the ground beneath its branches. I should have emailed my neighbor to collect them in their prime. The peaches and apples suffered a similar fate. Sad, for this winter’s tremendous snow fall gave way to blossoms of fruitful burden. Summer is done, fall quickly taking its place. We can receive snow as early as the first week of September, the taste of winter not too distant on the whispers of cooling wind.
I could not sit at home, alone, for I longed to be around people again, my definition of personal space redefined by the constant holding of hands with both men and women, shoulders rubbing and seats shared on the musical matatus, standing in line, and when walking in town. I drove from Loveland north to Fort Collins and to Mugs internet cafe where I now write this entry. In those fifteen miles I counted a total of six people standing outside, a stark contrast to the hundreds I passed in just one kilometer in Nakuru.
Here, we surround ourselves with the wood and brick of our homes which grant us cover from weather into the steel and glass safety of our cars where we travel alone, talking on cell phones in order to compensate for contact lost.
I sit now next to a man to whom I will never speak while a dozen people have come and gone to my front. The conversations I overhear include a girl saying, her voice rising at the end of each phrase “Dude? I was soooo drunk? I could not even stand up?” pausing to point to a photo on her computer screen, “And she was like c-o-m-p-l-e-t-e-l-y wasted,” while someone on the other side offering a really bad “walks into a bar” joke. Few make eye contact with someone they do not already know.
A bluegrass CD is interrupted by an espresso machine and blender. The evening, public attire is comprised of a university sweatshirt, white with pink heart pajama bottoms, flip-flops, and a baseball cap to cover unwashed hair. I enjoy the casual college atmosphere but also find myself missing the dignity and pride with which the Kenyans carry themselves, from mud and tin home through trash lined streets amidst violent rains. I miss the beautiful Kenyan accents presenting carefully articulated British English, the words “like” and “fuck’n” not included in their vocabulary.
While I am pleased to again breathe fresh mountain air, to enjoy hugs from my friends who wonder where I have been, it is strange to feel relatively alone in an occupied space that for a half dozen years I have called my second home. I miss my Kenyan host family dearly and will return soon.