The blue waters from India sweep the shores with gentle fury. They make an entrance, these waters. Not a grand one, but an entrance loud enough to stir you from slumber. It is a distant roar, as if the sea god is disagreeing with his dinner. Emmanuel has been up from 5.45 am trying to catch the sunrise at this place. He got unlucky yet again. Throughout our ten day voyage across the coast, we have been unable to catch gorgeous moments of when the sun either wakes or retires. An ominous cloud cover gathers. It is the rainy season these sides. Mornings are gloomy and no photographer wants to take a shot of a gloomy sunrise.
I catch up with Emmanuel at the beach. Nobody is awake at 7 am in Diani. The beach is white and quiet, except for the ocean and the trees whistling gossip to each other, probably wondering what is wrong with these Nairobians who, even while on holiday, insist on working the whole time. And that is where they get it wrong. We are not here on holiday. We are working. We’ve been working, however difficult that could be digest.
It is the last day of Capture Kenya 2015. Things have changed since we started out. When we left Nairobi ten days ago, my bag was neatly packed, clothes ironed and folded at right angles. Now everything is thrown everywhere with everything else. I think my boxers are now in the same place as my toothbrush. All clothes are dirty, some even damp from all the walks on the beach. Towards the end of the project, people sleep a lot in the van. Especially Oz and Emmanuel and I. One moment you are sitting in the van, and the next, your head is swaying across all compass directions. Fortune does not sleep. You would think that she runs on jet fuel.
After all that stress, we finally rest at The Maji Beach Hotel in Diani. We are here on Osborne’s recommendation because he shot a couple on their wedding here some time back. It would be unfair to compare this place to the other lodges we have been to. They pale in comparison. Some do not even pale, they disappear into obscurity. Like that place in Mtito Andei called Royal Docks Intercontinental where the staff members are royal dorks and we are welcomed by a cockerel at the reception, which later turns out to be dinner.
Emmanuel and I play on the beach. We time the big waves and ride on them to the shore over and over. Sometimes they slap our backs and it hurts they way 40 year olds slap themselves on the backs when hugging. We know that from tomorrow, life will be too different. Too unfamiliar. We will be going back to Nairobi. He is a new father to a daughter who will be waking him up at 2.30 am. I will be going back to my bachelor life, where my sleep is constantly interrupted at 6.30am by a passing train that does not give a fuck that I am not a morning person.
When we arrived yesterday, Fortune sat on the bed in my room. She looked at the dreamy king-sized bed, the sixty inch Samsung television, the massive glass doors that open up to the regal blue sky, the sparkling blue swimming pool and the deep blue ocean. She walked around the room, examined the bathtub, the tall wall-to-wall mirrors and the circular shower head. She saw all this. I even heard the sounds of her breathe leaving her body in a series of bewildered sighs. Yet she still had the audacity to come tell me that the place is nice.
“What do you mean it is nice?”
“What do you mean what do I mean it is nice. Si it is nice? Ama?”
She did not understand.
This place is not nice. Please, let’s learn to use English properly. I admit that I have not been around much. It is easy to impress me. But surely, The Maji is not what you say is nice. Not with its top ranking on Trip Advisor. Nice is what you say when you walk into one of those furnished apartments in Kilimani. Nice is what you can call Afrik Lodge in Voi or even the budget rooms of Sarova Whitesands – the ones that are tucked so far away you would think they are outcasts. The Maji is not nice. The least adjective you can use in reference to The Maji is spectacular – and even that word cannot come close to capturing the true essence of an establishment so heavenly that when I checked in, I turned to the butler and asked, “So which one is Angel Gabriel’s room?”
Zipporah is the lady you need to talk to if you need to make a booking or know anything about Diani. She has been in the hospitality industry at the Coast for fifteen years. When we arrived, she had some members of staff welcome us. They emerged, in their light green shirts and white linen trousers, smiling so hard that I wanted to ask whether their cheeks hurt. These people coo and carry your luggage for you…even for me. I feel bad when a butler, who is way older than me, one with an already receding hairline and visible wrinkles, offers to carry my bag. It feels wrong. I tell them it is okay, that I can carry my own bags, but they insist. It is their job, I guess. It makes me uncomfortable, but what can I do? I let him, albeit begrudgingly.
After breakfast, I find Zipporah sitting on a desk overlooking the swimming pool and the dinner area. I intrude. I would have waited until she appears free, but I do not have the time. We will be leaving for another shoot later on in the day, meaning we will be checking out for good. She does not appear to mind.
She tells me about The Maji. That it started barely two years ago on the November of 2013. She remembers Osborne and the couple he was shooting on that day. They had not even completely finished the room that the couple were to stay in. She tells me that being in the service industry where the client is King, means sometimes they receive imperial difficulties. (my words, not hers).
Sometimes she has to deal with a few locals (mostly from Nairobi) who do not understand certain tenets of a luxury resort. They do not understand a la carte meals. They want to get the full three course meal at a go, and when she tries to make them understand, they refuse to listen. At that point she has to do whatever they want.
In the same breath she also admits that ever since the terror scare chased away the odieros, it is the locals who have been keeping her joint alive.
We are leaving The Maji in a few. When we leave we are not coming back. After the final shoots of this season, we will be on the next flight to Nairobi.
To be honest, though, even after traversing the coast of Kenya for the past ten days, if you ask me where I would prefer to stay, I would choose Malindi, hands down. It is where some of the most gorgeous coastal places, food and people are found. Then there is this jamaa called Muiruri who has been our driver/locations guy. He is the one that took akina Bikozulu around during last year’s Capture Kenya. Cool chap who knows all there is to know about Malindi. Give him a Tusker or a Jameson and he will light up like a fire cracker. If you ever find yourself down here, dial 0722884268 and ask for Stephen Muiruri. Tell him you were referred by a Professor Jackton Bamba. He will understand.
I will miss the coast. I will surely be coming back sometime soon. I do not know when, but I will be back. For now, I have bigger things to worry about. Like electricity tokens for the digz, the avocados I left in the fridge and where to get money for the mathee who washes my clothes every two weeks. I have been in a bubble. It was destined to burst. I knew after ten days, I was to go back to my everyday life of taking three javs in the morning to go manage social media pages for water pumps and generators.
After being at the Coast for so long, I have learned a few things from the ocean. It goes away in the morning…it disappears to think things over and perhaps to be in communion with its maker. But still comes back in the afternoon.
Same here with Nairobi.
I went away. But now as I get up from this swinging beach bed, as we leave for the final shoots of the day, I am also leaving to come back to you, my sweet Nairobi. I got your message. I know you have been sitting in the darkness of your thoughts, counting how many hours you have left to seeing me. Closing your eyes so sleep comes even faster, that we may embrace sooner. That my hands may reply your heart’s call.
Worry no more, Love. It is finished.