Archive for the 'July' Category

07
Jul
13

A Field of Dreams

I shifted schools and neighborhoods throughout my childhood.  Whenever I became too much trouble, my family or the state transfered me with a new hope that the change would change me. I learned to find consistency within myself and comfort in anonymity, relishing the chance to blend into a new town. Now, I question whether I am running towards something or if I am escaping the ghosts of my past?  Regardless, this wanderlust led me to Honduras, a country I knew little about.  Specifically, I wandered to Roatan, a 30-mile island that until the 1990’s had no electricity.  The islanders still used lanterns and candles twenty-five years after we put a man on the moon.

An hour after disembarkation, I was snorkeling in the clear blue and green water surrounding me.  In town, everyone seemed to size up the new guy and the contents of his wallet. Salespeople catcalled me, offering useless trinkets and questionable trades.  The west end had one main street along the water. Shops, restaurants, hostels and inns, including mine, lined the island; along the ocean, worn wood docks reached out into the Caribbean. From one of these docks, I swam out four hundred yards only to float in the subdued quiet of a salty expanse. The water was completely clear. Underneath the surface, Wrasse and Tangs and a sea turtle made their routine commute from reef to sand. It was exhilarating, this solitude, where fear and excitement mirrored the ebb and flow of the tide. My grandmother taught me to swim this way off of Avalon NJ, far out and alone, and I thought of her as I dove under the water.  I reflected on the magnificence of nature, of how big the world is, of how small I am compared.

A view from the water, my first swim.

A view from the water, my first swim.

I got settled in and by the second day had made a few friends.  Ricardo was twenty-seven and from Venice, Italy.  A captain of a fishing boat, he planned on staying on the island for four months.  With his friends that were mostly Euros, and a few from mainland Honduras, he took me for a three-hour snorkel. When we got back, we laid on the dock and let the last of the Carribean sun dry us while we swapped stories in many different languages.  I was me again, all my stories fresh, and my new friends and I sat there talking until darkness came.

In the mornings, I was downstairs by 6 a.m. at an outside table overlooking the water and working on my book.  At 7 a.m. the staff would arrive and I would eat my breakfast at 8:30.  The staff at my inn began to take pride in keeping my tea hot and my table clear, as if now they too were helping me write.  I told them that if it sells, I would come to Roatan every year to finish another one.  We all smiled at this with an honest hope in our hearts and our eyes.

The sweet staff of the Splash Inn

The sweet staff of the Splash Inn

My mornings

My mornings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The rest of the morning was spent in the water and exploring the different beaches along the coastline.  In the afternoons I would take a shared taxi the four miles up the road to Sandy Bay, to the school I was volunteering at.  This ride was always beautiful and heartbreaking; Mango trees and tropical flowers adorned a land peppered with broken shacks and peopled with mothers carrying babies.  I would pass a school, one of the thirty-five on Roatan and the children would be dressed in their school clothes, blue skirts and white-collared shirts for the girls, the boys wearing pants.  They looked so dignified, but I soon learned how horrible the school system was. I was dropped off at the end of a long stone driveway and walked down the rocky path; Iguanas (the islands main dish) scattering from their sunny spots into the bushes as I passed.  The school was more of an after school study compound that was converted from a dive resort by two Americans. Cam O’brien and her husband built the PIER School and library to supplement the fragmented education the children often got.  I was immediately put to work and if I had arrived hoping to find any praise about how good I was to volunteer my time, I had come to the wrong place.  Cam was dealing with a lot of problems.

empty roadside stands

A coastline view

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From the kids being hit by their teachers, to the lack of electricity and no clean water, there were many obstacles to overcome.  Although it was half way through the school year, none of the kids on the island had any books yet.  The two ocean containers full of them had been stuck in the port with no one willing to pay the small fees to have them released.  I taught a creative writing class everyday from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. and then I played baseball with the kids for rest of the day.  They were shy at first but they warmed up quickly when they found out I was still a bit of a kid myself.  They liked to hear about Philadelphia and about my journey out of my neighborhood.  These kids lacked hope and reminded me of how I felt sometimes growing up, trapped, unwanted.  There were no jobs on the island, no future, and most of the kids did not believe they could ever make it better. Seventy-five percent of the island had less than a sixth grade education.  There was no reason to do better, nothing to strive for, no open roads.  The first day of class I had eight boys ranging from six to fourteen.  I told them we were going to write a poem for class and all of them giggled.   I then told them that writing poems got you pretty girls, and how pretty girls always liked the sad, romantic poets and wouldn’t you know it, the room went silent and I had eight new Shakespeares on my hands.  I had never been a teacher but I have always been a student, and maybe, just maybe I offered these kids some spark.

Future bards

Future bards

As the week went on, word got out that a gringo was teaching poetry and giving away free hats, and my class size grew.  We worked slowly through my creative writing lessons, in a tiny room with wooden floors and donated supplies, the windows and doors pushed wide open, the sweat dripping from every part of my body.  I wanted them to think and create, have them not just recite but invent, imagine.  I adored these kids, I craved their success. Even the bad ones, the ones that reminded me the most of myself, weren’t really bad but just didn’t get any attention at home and were crying out for it.

After class we headed outside to a long skinny baseball field surrounded by coconut and mango trees.  Our bases palm leaves, I  recruited the smaller ones for my team.  We played for two hours in the hot sun.  As the day wore on, I would look out and most of the team in the field would be far from their positions, standing somewhere in the shade.  The gloves we had were old and torn, the bats too small for some of the older boys, but, man, did we play.  I had to review some simple rules with them, like if a batter hits the ball and is running to first base, you have to tag him or throw it to first.   You cannot hit him with the hard ball as he runs by.  The kids became my favorite part of the day and a little girl named Alicia, who couldn’t speak English and became my sidekick, melted my heart as she followed me around the field.  When she batted, I would race out and hold the boys so she could get to base safely.  Afterwards, sweaty and hot, the kids showed me how to get hammonds, mangos and coconuts down. We smashed the coconuts on the tree and drank the fresh coconut water.  Where the hell was I?  I will always remember these baseball games, standing in a sort of centerfield, looking across to these kids on the brown clumps of grass and sand with the waters and clouds passing us by behind home plate. They had so little but they made it so much and their laughter in the late afternoon will echo inside me.

My favorite Alicia who is single handedly responsible for making me want to have girls.

My favorite Alicia who is single handedly responsible for making me want to have girls.

snacking on mango

snacking on mango

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I gave the children all I could by the time I had left: books and hats and footballs.  I left them my magazines, T-shirts and my favorite pair of running shoes.  I wanted to give them more for spending the time with me, and sharing these afternoons on their field of dreams.  Or was it their field, and dreams that I had brought with me to share with them?  I knew whatever it was I was not the same after each afternoon.  I was a little freer, a little clearer.  I thought about my grandfather looking down on us running those bases, all the anger and pain I once harbored evaporating like the sweat underneath our caps.  I could feel him. “Now that’s my boy, there’s the boy I always knew was in there.”

On my last day on Roatan, two Canadian girls asked me to join them for dinner.  I was tanned now, dark from a week in the water, unshaven and sad to be going home.  The three of us walked along the water, and far off to the north, lightning threatened behind big grey cumulous clouds.  At a small outside restaurant, we washed down roasted chicken with wine.  One was twenty-two and one was twenty-nine and we talked until the place closed and then took another bottle down a long dock.  We drank the cold white wine in the warm air, watching as the storm approached.  I told them about the kids and the school.  I would reach out to Cam and suggested they should stop by the next morning.  We walked home and said our goodbyes.

twilight

twilight

The next morning, the girls arrived and were happy to hear they would be welcome to volunteer.  I thought they were both even prettier in the daylight and was happy they would be going to the school on Monday.  We hugged goodbye. “Tell the boys I send a present for all my poets.”  One last gift I could give to the boys.

I said my goodbyes to the staff at the Splash Inn as my taxi waited and a light rain fell out on the water.  A waiter Keith shook my hand. “Sell the book my man,” he said in his Garafina accent.  “We want you back soon, you good man, you good.” He carried my bag down the four wooden steps and handed it to the cab driver.

I arrived in Houston to find that Kim Kardashian had had a baby.  I was sad to be home, empty and exhausted.

 

 

 

As of today the PIER website is down but if you are interested in the school or volunteering please contact me and I can point you in the right direction.  I know there are a lot of kids in need, at home and abroad, and that makes me sad.  I know Katherine and I will never be able to solve this problem, but every little bit helps, and if I can make one kid laugh their ass off for an afternoon, well, it is better then doing nothing.

Partners in Education – Roatan (PIER) www.PierRoatan.org
>>> Honduras Cell: +1 (504) 9657-9457
>>> VOIP: 484-653-5346

>>> USA MAILING ADDRESS
>>> PIER
>>> 191 Ferguson Beach Road
>>> Oswego, NY 13126
>>> PIER is a non-profit Honduran NGO. For tax deductible donations in the US, Brain Spaces, a 501c3 organization, accepts donations to fund PIER projects

11
Jul
12

Independence Day ( All men must make their way, come independence day)

In an attempt to be true to you and to myself I have to tell a different story than I usually tell.  I have told you of my love and my affection for my grandfather in some of my past posts and sometimes the romanticism of my words may cover up the other half of the story.  Recently I was home for the Fourth of July holiday and staying within those avenues, within those walls of my youth.  I don’t know when but sometime in the past two months I became a jogger.  A straight up Forest Gump and can run three to four miles before brushing my teeth.  (I know this is not that impressive but please note I have not always been the healthiest lad.) In the first few mornings of my trip home I would wake up early to the sounds of the American sparrows in the big Chestnut trees and the quiet hum of the air conditioner.  I would watch Katherine as I got dressed.  My aunt, who lives at my grandparents house now, had given us the master to sleep in, which of course was my grandfather’s room when he was alive.  I would take one last look in his mirror and then head out.  Narberth, Pennsylvania was were I came of age and I know those streets in my sleep. I lived there from ages12-14, important growing years for a young male. This day I ran down the tree-lined Wynnewood Avenue and passed the ball park where my grandfather managed young baseball teams for over fifteen years.  My aunt has this great picture of him in the dugout, drawing up the day’s lineup, cigarette in hand.  I ran past the train station, where my friends and I used to sit under the bridge and drink stolen beer, or where we would board for our many unauthorized adventures into center city Philadeplhia.  I rode that R2, R3 and R5 more by the time I was 14 than most businessmen.

I continued on my runs, up through downtown Narberth, past the old apartment of one of my first loves, Charity Brown.  I ran past her second story window where I would throw pebbles late at night and try to convince her to come out.  Like out of a story, this is where I sharpened my early age of romanticism; poems and pleads and walks home with her kisses still tingling on my lips.  It was good to be home and nice to run by the houses decorated with Fourth of July flags and Phillies gear.  I ran through the quiet neighborhoods, out past Merion Mercy Academy and turned back.  I ended my early morning excursions passing my grandfather’s deli, wanting to stop in and see if anyone remembered him.  I’d come up past his church, St. Margaret’s, and in the hot humid dawn of July think about the cold winter mornings he and I would go to mass, me, dying to get out as he prayed, probably for my dumb ass.  I ended the runs past my aunt’s old house on Price Avenue and think of her happy days there.  Her big house and big parties she would throw.  Eventually I came back down Sabine Avenue–how many nights did I walk down this street home?  My first experience of drinking, of sneaking out, of being with a girl.  Although these memories are thought of fondly now, I too have to think of my struggles and arguments with my grandfather.  My young hate and anger and his inability to quell it, to understand it as much as he tried.  You see, my friends, I aged him twenty years in five, and I always feel his health was compromised by me.  I still remember he and I wrestling one night on the floor of the dining room, my poor grandmother crying for us to both stop.  He was trying to teach me, to help me and, with my father no where in sight, I took my pain out on him.  My second day home this song came on my iPod. I literally just lost it. If I could have run back to my youth to apologize, to just tell him he was right and I was sorry, I would have, even if it was over four miles.

08
Jul
11

There’s a baboon in my bedroom

If you do not believe a God exists, come to Africa.  And know it through Julius Mwangoma, a big part of our story here.  Julius was our driver guide, although he has also become my good friend.  He is a proud Kenyan and one of the best men I have ever met.  In Kenya, a driver guide is not simply a “tour guide.”  Julius went to school to learn how to better assist someone visiting his country.  He speaks four languages, has spent weeks in the bush learning about different plants and animals, including hundreds of species of birds — he can spot simba lying on a rock, in a shadow, at about a mile out.  Seriously, this guy puts Crocodile Dundee to shame.  He also has a warm soul, loves his fellow-man, and has a laugh that will make you laugh even on your saddest day.  If you want to hear his laugh just rent a Eddie Murphy movie; Murphy copied that guffaw spot on.  He is from the Taita tribe and comes from the town of Tsavo (featured in The Ghost and the Darkness,) and has taught me much about the land, the language and the people of his country.  He is also funny as hell, and he and I shared many of laughs together.

A real picture of Julius at Lake Nakuru

Julius with us

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the first few days of a trip, the jet lag has you waking at strange hours and, throughout the day, your mind is not completely right.  It as if you are in a dream and the actions and hours are accented in a vague sense of unease and anticipation.  I always think about Interview with a Vampire when Brad Pitt sees his last sunrise.  Life shows its most raw beauty.  This is how Julius picked us up.

We headed south towards Amboseli and my little homage to Hemingway: Kilimanjaro.  In these first hours, Julius felt us out, negotiating how much of a tour guide he should be.  He took us out of Nairobi, pointing out hospitals, schools and slums.  Katherine and I sat and listened, tentatively asking questions, hesitant ourselves.  Cattle and car accidents cluttered the road, and bright eyes looked at us with interest and suspicion.  About two hours in, we decided to stop for our first bathroom break.  Curio shops scatter the countryside, and Julius knows all the ones with the cleanest wash rooms.  To get to these wash rooms you must pass through the store where all the African souveniers are being sold.  You are greeted by someone who wants to show you around the shop.  Now Katherine and I are smart travelers, and we know to not buy gifts at the beginning of our trip, but the knives and wooden masks were too much to pass up.  Tom, who said he was my brother, followed us around collecting all those objects for which we expressed the slightest interest.  He would not tell us the prices of anything, saying we would instead discuss at the cost at the end.  This is never a good sign.  We finished shopping, and he and I started to negotiate. Still in the jet lag haze, this was the last thing I wanted to be doing.  He started at 210.00 USD — I almost threw up.  Fuck, why am I stuck in this?  I offered 40.00.  We went back and forth and settled on 70.00, which was probably 20.00 too much. Julius finished a coffee in the side shop and we departed.  I asked him how I did and, even though he said okay, his eyes in the rearview mirror told me I had paid 20.00 too high.  Our friendship was beginning.

My first African deal

The roads in Kenya are interesting.  Some are very good and some are not.  As a driver you must always be aware as cows, goats, pedestrians and “diversions” frequently pop up without any notice.  We came to the road that heads into Amboseli and Julius told us to hold on for the next 5o kilometers.  This guy wasn’t kidding; the next thing I knew, Katherine and I were flipping and flopping all over the back of the van.  The dirt road was filled with rocks, holes and ditches and Julius was going about 100 km per hour.  All I was thinking was Shit, we are going to die before even seeing Kilimanjaro.  At one point, half the road was sunk in and, maybe I was still pretty jet lagged, but I swear, Julius pulled that van up on two wheels.  We finally reached the gate and were told, Please wait here, I will pay, you can do business if you like.  Before I could even comprehend his words, the van was surrounded by our first Masai.  Over the next few weeks I would meet many from this tribe. At less than 200,00, the Masai are very few compared to some other tribes, but they control the majority of the land in the southern part of the country.  There are 42 different tribes in Kenya, but the Masai are the most easily reconizible due to their red clothing, their customs and their cow-dung villages.

Katherine and I found ourselves smothered with beads, carvings and clothing.  Please buy, very cheap, please buy.  I was still stinging from the curio shop so I just started saying Asante si taki, Asante si taki, which means no thank you while Katherine looked at an item or two.  One woman asked, what about trade?   Now this was something I can get into.  To trade with the Masai tribe is definitely on my bucket list so I pulled a small LED flashlight from my bag.  She studied it with enthusiasim and told me it will help her see the scorpions at night when she walks back to her village.  I chose a necklace and two beaded rings.  Shit man, I was pretty damn excited to have made this deal, and Katherine hasn’t taken her ring off yet.

Masai woman we met

Upon entering Amboseli we were immediately greeted by wildlife.  Katherine and I had cameras blazing and even though he had just drove for four hours Julius was great at stopping to let us get the shots.  He was definitely thinking, Man, you guys are going to see so much in the next few days but he humored us as we were young in the bush.  Our lodge at Amboseli was beautiful.  I met and became friends with a few of the staff and we have exchanged emails already.  Our days consisted of early morning and late afternoon game drives, meals and relaxation.

Zebras with Kilimanjaro in the clouds.

Katherine at our lodge at Amboseli

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I studied hard.  Julius taught me all the animals, taught me the kiswahili words for them, and taught me the topography of the land.  My senses were on overload. I wanted to inhale it all: I was here, Holy fucking shit, I was here!

Me mate Jackson and a Masai man. The Masai are hired to come at meal times and keep the monkeys away. They do this with rocks and sling shots.

Taking it all in and down

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Malaria is a real threat and all our beds here have been surrounded with mosquito netting as well as other precautions.  I’ve joked before coming of what a great story it would be to get a mild case of malaria but once I was on the ground I was scared shitless.  Those first few nights I spent deep in African dreams, tossing and turning, itching, waiting for the malaria to come.  On our first night we quickly notified the lodge that there were two eight-inch lizards in our room.  Hakuna matata, he said, they eat the mosquitos.  That was enough for me.  We quickly learned not to notice the lizards sharing the shower with us.

Who knows who he is... but he is out there.

We realized that our environment would not adapt to us, we had to adapt to it.  Even though our lodges were surrounded most nights by an electric fence, the smaller more agile animals (especially the monkeys and baboons) had free reign.  Upon checking into Amboseli, we were told to always keep our doors locked as these primates will try to get in and look for food.  I didn’t know we had to lock the door when we were in the room too.  On our second day after our morning game drive, Katherine and I returned to our cabin for a nap.  We had laid down for about 20 minutes and I was in that warm place between dream and wake.  All of the sudden, as if the Grim Reaper himself had arrived, my cabin door flung open.  My first thought was Why would a staff member just barge in? But before I could even finish my thought, this massive male baboon walked in.  Now it is taking longer for me to write this than it took for this whole thing to go down, but luckily I was on the side of the bed closest to the door.  My first reaction was to stand up.  I put my hands high to make myself look big.  Right?  And I started screaming Get the hell out of here and other choice words that I know Katherine will edit out.  The beast looked at me with those ferocious eyes and then scanned the room.  I know, the audacity.  He then took flight and ran across our front windows.  Two seconds behind him was Eric, the person in charge of the care for our rooms, both running by at full speed.  Katherine and I could not believe it.

My buddy Eric, the baboon chaser

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the days came to a close, we were sad to say goodbye to our new friends in Amboseli.  We exchanged emails and promises to meet again.  We had seen many animals and were only three days in to our trip.  That morning, Julius took us back to a lookout so I could get one last picture of Kilimanjaro.  Excitedly, I raced from the van and headed up a small mountain for the shot.  Michael, slow down — cats have been here.  I turned to look at Julius studying tracks.  He wasn’t talking about house cats, either, and by the tracks we could tell that simba had been there earlier.  We proceeded with caution.  Three days in and I still had a lot to learn.

Hold it there cowboy, Simba is close.

 

Some pictures of the animals at Amboseli.

Simba

Tembo

Nyumbu

Australians

01
Jul
11

Africa: Part I

***These Africa posts might be short and sweet due to lack of time and infrequency of Internet service.  Hope you understand. ***

-MC

We made it.  After 26 hours of travel, we finally arrived in Nairobi. We left LA a little after noon on Friday, which is 3 p.m. E.S.T. and 10 p.m. Kenyan time.  We arrived to our hotel at 2 a.m. Sunday morning (Saturday 7 p.m. E.S.T and 4 p.m. in Los Angeles)—overall, the trip was pretty brutal.

On our first leg, Katherine and I had chosen aisle seats opposite each other, both liking the freedom such positions afford. The plan backfired this time though, as the person sitting next to me was the most asinine person on the planet.  He was literally a destroyer of intellect, and I am now stupider for having to sit next to this fake hip-hop guy, wearing a hat still sporting the size sticker on the brim.  His poser fashion already had my blood boiling as  he then proceeded to talk to the window guy for the whole six hours over to D.C.  When I say talk, I mean scream, like we were at a fucking Formula One racetrack.  All of coach hated him and I hated him even more because I had front row tickets to the bullshit show he was selling.  To hear this guy brag, you would have thought he knew every famous person in the world and had worked in “studios” all over the globe.  That is, until he asked questions like, we have to fly over the ocean to get to D.C. right? or Do they give us water while we are flying?  Obviously, this dick bag had never left his mommy’s teet but, in his mind, he had been everywhere.  Death glares shot at him from the other passengers as he loudly discussed breeding dogs and other gangsta’ hobbies.  Despite the subtle and obvious signs that were sent his way, he just didn’t get it.  I, who believes it is only fair that the middle seat gets both arm rests, swayed from my chivalry and took control of the shared one.  It had to be explained how time zones worked to alleviate his shock that we would not be arriving into Washington until 9 p.m.  At one point, as we flew over the middle of the country in pure bright afternoon light, he asked me, Is it night time down there?  Um, dude, really, I mean, really?

Now I know some of you are thinking, well damn Crowley, give the guy a break, he may of had a hard time coming up and all that good, let’s stand in a circle and hold hands shit.  That is fine and I respect people bettering themselves and exploring this world.  What I do not respect is when people try to be something they’re not.  It grieves me to no end and for some reason I just can’t let it go and have to call them out.  Katherine calls it cruelty and I’m sure some doctors would say it bothers me because I’m not happy with myself and blah, blah, blah.  How about I just call it accountability, and maybe it might be good for our beautiful country to start teaching that shit again?  You are a hip-hop producer that knows all these artists but doesn’t know about time zones or if you have to travel over an ocean to get to the East Coast?  Sounds pretty fishy to me and I call bullshit.

One more thing, No wha Imm sayning is not a fucking proper statement no matter how many times you say it.  And no, no one knows what you’re saying nor do they care, you fucking waste of citizenship.

Our routing was this:  Six hours from LAX to D.C., eleven hours from D.C. to Istanbul, six hours from Istanbul to Nairobi.  As we moved farther east, the dynamics of the plane changed accordingly, from our domestic flight, which consisted of a majority of Americans, to our flight into Europe with a mix of nationalities and onto our flight into Africa with mostly Africans.

Almost there

Leaving Istanbul we were feeling pretty good about the last leg, figured we made it this far, what was another six hours.  We were wrong.  As the movies and meals ended and the new ones began, time seemed to stand still as we headed south over Egypt.  We tried to stay awake so we could sleep as soon as we arrived at our hotel. Katherine and I were delirious by this point and drunk on some good Turkish wine.  The lights were darkened and our minds were held suspended over Northern Africa in between the moving pictures of a film (our fourth) and our expectations for adventure.  Then, silently in the night, as if creeping from the jungles below, I felt something hit my right elbow which had been exposed to the passerbys.  I was nodding off and thought as if it might of been a dream or, better, a Turkish stewardess.  Surely, none of the jungle creatures have come this far to greet my beautiful bride and me?  I slowly slid back into the warm comforts of my dream-like state.  Again, the all-so-subtle scratching at my elbow awakened me.  I looked around, paralyzed in fear; everyone was sleeping.  A mamba?  Slowly, and with my heart beating in my chest, I lifted the blanket to see my aggressor.  To my shock and absolute horror, there, seated on MY arm rest, scratching ever so lightly at my elbow was a big, calloused African foot, bare as the day of birth.  My elbow had been violated.

We landed smoothly and, although dark outside, my eyes strained to pierce the night and get my first view of Africa.  The ground was lush and vast and the plane taxied for a while before we arrived at the lights of the airport.

With uncertainty, we exited the plane and headed towards customs.  The airport was busy, given that it was after 1 a.m., and we rushed to buy our visas and get into our trip.  This was the first time I was to use my new passport and I was extremely excited to have the stamp of Kenya be its first entry.  I laughed and smiled with the customs agent–he did not share my excitement.  It did not matter.  We were in.

We followed the sign to collect our bags as bright white eyes set in the dark faces watched us suspiciously.  Airports are always a little sketchy and Nairobi after midnight is no different.  My senses were on high alert, protection mode; like a soldier, I scanned our surroundings for any potential threats.  Katherine put on lip-gloss.

We collected our bags, thank God they both made it, and headed out into a sea of drivers and cabbies holding up signs and shouting in strange languages.  Shit, I was exhausted and now had to manage this.  Unexpectedly, and to much delight, I quickly found the sign that said Crowley party, Karibu and was greeted by a big wave and even bigger smile by a man name Tom.  Jambo, Jambo, he said, Please come, let me take your bags, Karibu, Karibu. We were whisked out of the airport and directed to a van; Tom smiling and stating his hopes that our trip was pleasant.  Another man, Julius, got out of the van and helped to load the bags.  I did not know this yet, but Julius was to be our driver guide for our whole safari and now, over the course of this last week, has taught me many things about Africa and its tribes. He has also become a good friend.

We were taken from the airport to Nairobi city center, Tom asking about us, telling us about Kenya and our trip ahead.  The ride was about twenty-five minutes and my tired mind was trying to collect it all while really only thinking of a shower.  Just when I was about to finally reach exhaustion, we pulled up to our hotel and a giant in African garb opened the door and said Jambo.

Maurice was a little less intimidating after some sleep

Maurice, the door giant, helped us out of the van as many porters scrambled for our bags and Tom took care of checking us in.  We were greeted by a local girl, given hot towels to clean our faces, and offered a fresh fruit drink.  It all seemed so surreal now due to the fact that we didn’t know what day or what time zone we were in mentally.

We were shown to our rooms after Tom quickly briefed us and said he would return in the morning.  La la salaama, sleep well, he said as he shook our hands one last time. We took hot showers and unpacked.  We were so tired now but our adrenaline of being on a new continent set in.  As we forced ourselves to wind down, I stood out on the balcony overlooking the Nairobian night.  The strange trees and sounds only added to my interest as I anticipated waking to the new day.  We had made the voyage, we had reached Africa.

Our first morning




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