(This is an old post I did when I was still struggling to find my voice. A number of the thoughts herein are not original)
There is nothing as vain as liking your own comment on Facebook, or favoriting your own tweets. Or sending yourself money on M-Pesa from one Safaricom number to another, and ululating on its receipt. Or looking at yourself in the mirror after a work-out session and admiring your own abs, all the while muttering with a wink “He doesn’t make them like me anymore.” The only thing left to do after that is asking yourself out on a date, or for your own number. But the ship that harbors worst on the shore of vanity is trying to explore a region as amazing as East Africa alone. It says a lot of things about the values that your folks failed to inculcate in you while growing up. Because East Africa is a bar of chocolate that should never be enjoyed alone.
Instead, why don’t you take someone along with you? Why not ask your significant other to take the week off, or better yet, call up her boss behind her back and ask for a week off during that off-peak season of the month? If he refuses to grant her that, then it’s pretty obvious that he has designs on her. Otherwise, he would understand your need to rekindle the sparks of your relationship.
Hop into your car, with nothing more than necessary, drop off the kids (if you have any) at your sisters place, and say goodbye to the bustle of Nairobi City, and ready yourself to enjoy the legacy of your origin.
Take her on a cruise to the west, via the Narok route. The road is better that way. You have whole week for just the pair of you, so take your time and do not let the needle go anywhere past 60km/hr. Since the trip is all about her, let her tune the dial to play her taste in music even if it is by Kidum, Samba Mapangala, Miriam Makeba or Franco Luambo Makiadi.
Do not be afraid to make a pit stop watch her mouth drop at the depths of the great rift and the heights of the Longonot. While traversing the plains of the savanna, allow her to step out of the car to watch the young Masai warriors toss themselves into the air, while herding a herd of cattle, completely unbothered of the King of the Jungle that may be prowling around for brunch. These people kill lions just to validate the growth of pubic hair. Let her enjoy watching the gorillas, zebras and everything else on Animal Planet that her job description wouldn’t allow her to see firsthand. Let her feast her eyes on the scenery, and wonder whether or not she is still in Kenya.
When you get to Kisumu, you may decide to jump with common spirits and take her down to Lake Nyanza (sorry, Victoria) and treat her taste buds to Krypton’s finest fried fish. That’s where all the middle class folk who have never seen a fresh water lake before head to first. But if you want to be original, if you want to experience the most delicious roast meat conceivable, then hop onto a bodaboda and ask the cyclist to take you to Kakwacha. There you will order for ‘Anti Theft’ and a cold bottle of Coke and watch her bid farewell to the flavor of roast meat as she once knew it.
Meet the people. They will brag about everything they have and everything they wish they had. They will talk as though their houses are built on a foundation of dead presidents. Pay little attention to the braggadocios. External blingers is all they can be, because on the inside, they have not been given much to shine on.
Spend the night at Kiboko Bay Resort, and in the morning, get onto a KQ at Kisumu International Airport en route to Kampala, Uganda. Let her relish the warmth of Uganda’s panorama- the Owen Falls and the nippy woodland. Visit Gohoto and watch the Nile go on to weave its way up north through many other countries on it’s fascinating journey to the Mediterranean. Hold her hand during the day, and let her sleep on your shoulder as dusk falls. It’s reassuring.
Understand that if the natives insist that Migingo is theirs, they are just saying that to sound intelligent. Ask her to borrow a leaf (or a tree if necessary) from Baganda women on how to serve food to their men while kneeling. If seeing is believing as they say, then you need to visit the Uganda Museum. This is the custodian of Uganda’s Heritage. It is at the CBD of Kampala (Champara?). Despite the fact that the museum houses gems of Uganda’s heritage, few Ugandans visit it. But if there is anything we all learned from the movie ‘Titanic’, it’s the fact that the best party is always at the basement. The museum displays Uganda’s indigenous culture, archaeology, history, science, and natural history.
Make her understand why Churchill once named it the Pearl of Africa in 1907. She might not understand why, so it’s your duty to explain to her, that he only said that, because he had not seen her face radiate against the golden rays of an East African sunset.
Then turn your nose of your adventure into Burundi and then Rwanda. The land of a thousand hills. There they will drive you over valleys and mountains and you will feel your mouths drop at the road structures as they meander round the hills. You will drive through to the edge of the Nyunwe Forest in search of the threatened red colobus monkey and the rare L’Hoest monkey. You will not believe it when they tell you that sixteen years ago, that place was once gory with spit, piss, blood, bones and entrails of friends and enemies alike. But with every decomposition, there is fertilization, and the place where skulls once perverted has been taken over by life, tranquility and hospitality.
Experience the magic of the African night and be sure to use your camera here.
Then, click. As Biko Zulu gladly puts it, a picture of you seated under God is immortalized, because that’s how small you feel in the open night of Rwanda and Burundi. You feel like you are seated under God- at the feet of your father.
The trip is not yet over until you cross borders to Tanzania. This is where you will change your perception about our Muslim brothers. It will be okay if you feel uncomfortable or unsafe given the not-so-recent spate of terrorist attacks by Al Shabaab militia, but after sometime, you realize that true Muslims do not strap themselves with C-4. Real Muslims believe in peace and a paradise, with seventy two virgins. The people here have been accustomed to saying ‘please’ ‘thank you’ and ‘sorry’. The bar they set for social graces is too high- something that we Kenyans are still working on.
Head down to the sandy beaches of Zanzibar. Go down to the beach and watch salty waters caress the sands erotically during the day, and make rough kinky love to the beach in the evening.
There you would look out at the sea, at the boats bobbing in the calm waters, and wonder if in them sat someone who was miserable of the sea. You will gaze at young couples walk by, sipping madafu on straws as they hold hands and coo and remind you of how life was one helluva party when you were still young. As the moon interrupts the sun in the evening, walk to the harbor, have a seat by the seafront, and with a glass of wine, drink up the panoramic orange evening lazy sun rays from skin of the sky.
If you are lucky, you will witness the seventh wonder of the world; the wildebeests migration from Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park into Kenya’s Masaai Mara Game Reserve. Join the beasts in the cacophony and head back home, because you had saved the best for the last.
Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against the rest of the Africa. But then, even after being blessed to all the places in this region, and if you ask me where I choose to live, I would pick Kenya, hands down. It’s where some of the most beautiful places and people in the world are found. Because Kenya is the world as it was in the beginning. Our economy ranks best every year, we give birth to the best runners, dancers, poets, railway builders and up-rooters, and elegant heartbeats of the sun’s flames. We have been blessed with forty-two tribes, all held wrapped into four distinct tribal groups; Nilotes, Bantus, Cushites and Semites. But despite the differences, we are all united by the colors of our National Flag, the words of our National Anthem, and spirit behind our National Philosophy of peace, love and unity.
While you savor the chocolate that is East Africa, remember to greet the people you meet in Swahili. Because Swahili is no longer a language of tradition. It’s a language of modernity. It denotes a specific people, a cultural way of life, a literature, and a geographical region. Within the linguistic rubric of Swahili, awaits an entire region dank and pregnant with splendor- a diverse and complex spectrum of landscapes, peoples and traditions.
Look at all the different colors of our skin. We are no longer a dark continent, because we are blessed to have a vast array of races living in East Africa. And as a result, we’re a parade of every shade; black, white, yellow, brown, navy blue, pink et cetera. So let’s walk with pride with our heads held high and our shoulders pushed back, because we all are beautiful.
East Africa is not just another page in our atlas. It’s our heritage. Our core. It’s what we been living and fighting and dying for. We’ve struggled too long; we’ve come too far. Instead of focusing on who we can become, let us first be proud of who we are.
It is only then that we can talk of being East Africans.
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