Poems, Travel

The Kenyan Way

This is Kenya

I pour hot milk in my morning coffee, strange smells of unidentified wood burning a short distance away.
The smell drifts through my lattice-barred windows.
And I wonder where the fire is? In a hearth, in an oven? Someone’s meal for the day being prepared?

It is the beginning of my Kenyan day.

I am a mzungu, the white person who enjoys her morning in a large bed with my hot coffee and milk, in a hotel suite where the lush cool morning is lapping the edges of my feet and shoulders. A coolness which will slowly evaporate later in the day into a sticky warmth with traffic noises streaming through my office window.

This is Kenya.

In public places and offices, the cleaners who maintain clean water closets way beyond standards. Where water spickets are sometime faulty and slow trickles of water have to be coaxed from them.

Where people dress up with pride on a Sunday as they stroll the downtown streets. Little Kenyan girls with shaved heads and flouncy dresses hold on to their Papa’s hand and step over ruts in the road in shiny patent shoes.

This is Kenya

Where buying souvenirs is a business negotiation not a purchase; I bring my Kenyan friend along and watch in fascination as she argues with the shopkeeper. I join in, bravely standing my ground, knowing they will try their best to squeeze the most from a seemingly ‘comfortable’ white woman.

We make good enough progress and I leave with small paintings of Maasai warriors and amber bracelets. They have made money. I have made a bargain. Both are happy.

This is Kenya

Driving through Nakuru to Lake Elementiata, I spy sheep and goats grazing along the highway, oblivious to the dangerous traffic swooshing quickly by.

Cars and Lorries on a two lane road swerve dangerously in oncoming traffic while baboons look on ambivalently and eat discarded trash alongside the road.

This is Kenya

The Great Rift Valley sits stately and gracefully away from the bustle of Nairobi and Naivasha. It feels like the real Kenya, before the first white man came with their British ways that are now so much a part of every Kenyan.

This is the place of the Maasai in their colorful shuka’s wrapped artfully around their tall lean bodies. This is where lions and elephants and wildebeest once roamed freely, hunted only for food, not for game.

This is where vivid pink begonia flowers and jacaranda trees bloom in hyacinth wonder.  Birds crying “Kaku, Kaku!”in the early part of the day.

This is Kenya

A place that grows on you even with the less than maintained streets and the red clay earth that clings to your shoes.

A place where every Kenyan’s face does not look the same to my mzungu eyes, but every face bears regality befitting ancient queens and kings.

In a cafe, I am surrounded by a new generation of sophisticated,smart Kenyans who are making a better way.  As long as they do not trip on their new found glories, they will find their way.

Kenya is a place with its difficulties, poverty screaming around the edges of the educated and working class people. Progress being made despite the pull of corruption and the slums.

This is Kenya

Where the warmth of the sun is found in its people. Where finding connections is not as difficult as you might think for this American woman.

Where greeting and speaking with the staff, laughing and asking about their families and dreams comes easily.

And so I sip my coffee and know that I have only seen and experienced a sliver of what and who Kenya is.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s