I returned from a trip to Kenya early Monday morning. Since the moment the plane touched down at JFK, I’ve been struggling to find the appropriate words to describe the whirlwind journey.
Friends and family have been asking me about the trip and the most I can muster is: extraordinary, amazing, unforgettable… A friend asked me yesterday: “How so?” No words came out.
Perhaps this should come easier to a writer. After all, isn’t my job all about describing places, capturing the spirit of destinations that I visit? Yet with Kenya, I am, quite simply, short of words.
Perhaps I’m still processing, trying to pinpoint what it was that moved me so.
During the ten-day sojourn, I visited three national reserves and an archipelago in the Indian Ocean, got charged by a bull elephant, witnessed a fresh cow blood drinking ceremony with Maasai warriors, flew on seven bush planes and co-piloted one, saw 23 lions in one day, watched the sun rise over Maasai Mara from a hot-air balloon, visited a pre-school at a dusty Samburu village, swam in the Indian Ocean, received an honorary Maasai name by the women’s council of a village – Naramat, the one who protects – and on the morning of my departure got incessantly hugged and kissed by smiling children at an orphanage.
And that’s just a few of many experiences and encounters that stirred my soul.
I’ve got a lot to get through with this trip. Kenya has managed to cook up quite a medley of emotions inside of me.
The landscapes, wildlife and people of this East African country all left an indelible mark.
Perhaps the most vivid memory is of a little boy who shadowed our walk around Lamu Town. I had snapped a photo of him (below) at the start of our guided stroll and – the next thing you know – he followed us through the alleyways of the town until we returned to port, where it all started in the first place.
As we were approaching the boat, I rummaged through my bag trying to find a gift for the boy. All I could find was a pack of chewing gum. I gave it to him with a smile and he smiled back, looking intermittently at the pack of gum and our boat as it glided off.
Later on, the Kenya Tourist Board rep who traveled with us said my little friend was likely a street child, with no home or parents. This idea haunted me for the rest of the day, and since I left Kenya.
Like the little boy who became our shadow in Lamu, Kenya tugged at the strings of my heart. And it’s still pulling…
Disclaimer: My trip to Kenya was sponsored by Kenya Tourist Board but the emotions and observations are all my own.