Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Dear Kenya...

Well Kenya, hasn't it been an experience. You weren’t even in my plans prior to arriving at Manchester Airport in early May and yet somehow, you’ve ended up becoming the place I’ve spent the longest time so far, the place I’ve learnt so much, the place that has restored my utter faith in humanity.

People who don't know you don’t say very nice things about you, you know. It’s like those bitchy girls in high school that just won’t quit saying mean things despite not knowing who you are or where you come from. You have incredible wildlife, they say having never stepped foot in the country, but aside from that it’s just so dangerous so see the big 5 and then scarper, because, you know, it’s Africa.

Now, no one is perfect so you have to forgive me just a little, although maybe I deserve a light slap on the wrist but upon boarding the flight from Sydney to Nairobi, I was apprehensive. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect and I don’t mean to repeat myself but, people aren't very nice about you and some seem to even take great pleasure in telling you horror stories they heard from Uncle Ron’s brother’s sister in law’s neighbour or articles they read in that lovely, non-bigoted newspaper that rhymes with the Haily Tale. It’s not that you believe them, but your brain can’t help just retain a tiny fragment of what you’ve been told - it’s human nature, after all.

So Rosie and I landed in Nairobi and we were immediately given a situation where we put our trust in people or we become those kind of tourists. The kind that shun any sort of interaction with anyone who doesn't look like them, the kind who see everything as a danger and everyone as a potential wrongdoer. Our ride from the airport hadn’t shown up and after standing outside for some time, a lady approached us asking us if we needed a ride and where we were staying. She told us to come this way, she would get us a ride so we looked at each other and nodded, followed her and within minutes, she had gotten us the ride we had previously organised. We had no proof this was our guy, but we were tired after almost 24 hours of travelling and we were thankful that someone had arrived to take us to a place we could sleep and this was the first of many situations in you, Kenya, where people would try their very best to help in any way they saw fit. It was quite the contrasting experience to what many believe occurs at Nairobi airport - and it wasn’t the first time we felt this. After a thirty minute drive, with our taxi driver pointing out different landmarks along the way, we arrived at our hostel. He left us with a statement that we’d come to hear many a time over the next few months, and one that we’ve really, truly felt - ‘Karibu Kenya’.

Welcome to Kenya.

You want to hear a funny story, Kenya? We were only meant to be visiting you for ten days - we were going on a safari in the Maasai Mara, wanted to visit the city of Nairobi, kiss a giraffe at the Giraffe Centre and then hop on a bus to travel on to Tanzania. Almost three months later, and here we are - we just couldn't resist you, could we.

Do you believe in whatever happens, happens for a reason? I do, and after my time here, I will never not. If we had gone on our safari as arranged, a day earlier than what we did, we wouldn’t have met a guy on our trip who would introduce us to the people we ended up living with, to the people we will call friends for a lifetime to come. With drinks flowing and a pack of cards to entertain us, we were introduced to volunteers at an organisation called Marafiki Community International and from that night onwards, our time in you, Kenya, became all the better.

Fast forward a short week of fun and a disaster trip to Tanzania (you warned us, I know, but we didn’t listen because neither of us like to be told what to do), we were back and as Take That would say, we were back for good. We were offered jobs at Marafiki, working as marketing and social media volunteers and that’s when, really, we got to know who you really were.

When people read about you online, there are a lot of things they say we can’t do because you’re not safe. We can’t ride matatus without a local, we shouldn’t spend a long time, or any time, in Nairobi city centre, we shouldn’t ever let go of our bags in public places - and I know you’re shouting at me in Swahili to not be so silly, but this scares some people, okay. They take it as gospel and they don't attempt to see for themselves what a place is truly like.

After visiting Johannesburg and loving it, both Rosie and I vowed to never judge a place before experiencing it properly, so we got to work in seeing the real you, and well, you’re a little tinker aren't you, reeling people in and making them never want to leave.

There are far too many instances whereby people looked out for us, helped us, or even just wanted to ask how we were, if we were okay, to simply say ‘Karibu’. One instance though, was when I realised that those people out there who keep trash talking you without giving you a chance, without even stepping one foot in you, simply have to stop. A couple of weeks ago, a group of six of us, a group of six young women, found ourselves in the city centre of Nairobi late at night. I know even you don't advise it, but Kenya, it wasn’t our fault, time just passed and chicken was calling our name, you know how it is. It wasn’t the most ideal situation but we booked an Uber and we stood waiting near the National Archives so yes, just sit down and stop flapping your arms about, we were in a brightly lit area, okay. We stood waiting a little longer, and a little longer after that, with the clock ticking towards 11pm and if I tell you that six different people came up to us to check we were okay, to ask if we needed any assistance or simply just to say hello, and wishing us a good evening, would you believe me? Each time the person said their farewells, we all turned to each other and smiled, and then as the fifth and sixth person went on their way, we vowed to each other to tell everyone we could what we had just experienced, to finally get out there a positive story about Nairobi.

Now this isn’t a fairytale, you and I both know it, Kenya - you have your problems and it can’t be denied. But if I tell you that you’ve taught me some of the most important lessons, in trust, in empathy, in gratitude, in openness, would you believe me? You have some of the friendliest, and kind people you could ever wish to meet, people who, after a pretty dark, hateful year in the world of politics have restored my complete and utter faith in humanity.

Finally, I must talk about those we’ve met here. Those who we’ve lived with, drank with, ate with, laughed with, danced with, those who have become the best of friends. Those who joined in when Rosie and I started randomly singing ‘Big Spender’ or ‘Supercalligifracilliousexpihalidocious’, those who became addicted to ‘full fat coke’ and actually calling it ‘full fat coke’ in public places, those who agreed we simply must go out at 11:30pm to get a full chicken from the local takeaway. More importantly though, it was those who we’d stay up until 3am talking about life, those who we laughed with until tears streamed down our faces and those who just clicked, you know when people just click. We all just clicked. It’s still pretty insane to think that none of us would’ve met if it hadn't have been for that final night on our safari and yet now, I couldn't imagine my time here without them.

It’s almost time to leave you now, and whilst I’m looking forward to the next chapter, I really don’t want to go. What am I going to do without chapatis and samosas, without hurtling down lanes on matatus with 14 people squashed inside, without dancing to ‘Bruk off your back’ every night we go out, without greeting everyone who walks past, basically, what am I going to do without you, Kenya?

I can only say one thing, and it will never be enough, it never could be.

 But Kenya, Asante. Thank you.

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1 comment:

  1. The kind of which shun any sort of relationship having everyone exactly who isn't going to appear like these individuals, the kind exactly who view every little thing to be a chance in addition to all people to be a likely wrongdoer. Your drive on the airport and Airplane hadn’t found in place in addition to soon after positioned external long, one acknowledged you wanting to know you in the event most of us desired some sort of drive in addition to where by most of us were being keeping yourself.


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