Learning more about Kenya from foreign friends
Posted Thursday, June 14 2012 at 18:01
It took my leaving Kenya to get to know my country well, mostly through the eyes of friends I had made in Belgium and had invited home on holiday.
First there was Ann who had arrived in Brussels from Northern Ireland as an au pair in the 80s and was now an IT consultant.
We met through a common acquaintance and became good friends so when she asked me if she could accompany me on my next trip to Kenya I readily agreed.
Ann prepared for the trip with her usual zeal and, armed with a copy of the Rough Guide to Kenya, proceeded to have me discover hidden delights that I would never have suspected existed.
She stayed a month, the last week of which we spent at a boutique hotel at the coast with Ann hopelessly trying to figure out how she could prolong her stay, having exhausted her cash reserves and maxed out her credit cards.
Next came Patricia, a colleague who over the years had become a sidekick. Eager to escape the hype surrounding the upcoming millennium celebrations, she arrived on Boxing Day and joined me on a trip upcountry in the company of my beloved Uncle Dave, his wife Louise and their daughter.
Patricia would perhaps still be in Kenya had she been open to the overtures of a gentleman at the bar at Thompson Falls Lodge; he had approached us as we were enjoying a nightcap by the fireside and had, in local parlance, informed me that he was a person of some means and desirous of my friend for a wife.
Patricia objected to being courted and proposed to by proxy and turned the fellow down.
The following day, undeterred by the fact that he was driving an aging saloon car, Uncle Dave decided to reach Nyeri by cutting across the Aberdares National Park, thus affording Patricia the chance to see some, if not all, of the Big Five.
In the event, we got bogged down just a few kilometres past the gate, dug the car out, thought it prudent to turn back, asked the warden at the gate for water to wash off the mud and got back on to the tarmac.
Of the Big Five Patricia only saw the herd of buffaloes that for long minutes had blocked our way back to the gate and the steaming mounds recently dropped by a herd of elephants.
Patrick and David did get to see the Big Five, but perhaps a little too closely for comfort after our tour guide lost his windscreen in the Maasai Mara; we did get back to Nairobi in one piece but I’m getting ahead of myself.
We had arrived in Nairobi on Christmas Eve, had checked into a budget-friendly hotel and taken in the sights in and around Nairobi before venturing further afield.
But it had soon become clear that, in the eyes of both the hotel staff and curio sellers, I was a member of the twilight sisterhood working a rich seam exploiting not one, but two unsuspecting tourists.
I was furious, of course, but Patrick — whose sense of humour is suspect at best — thought my situation hilarious and even attempted to explain to me how one might come to that conclusion.