Happy to be Back in Kenya!
Africa has a rhythm for us. I think we felt it the first time we set foot on this continent in 1978 when we traveled here to Kenya the first time for a three-week safari. It was at our beginning and now here we are coming back home to Kenya in the winding down phase of our lives together…but trying not to wind down too fast. But, we REALLY KNEW this rhythm when early one morning decades later while sitting on a craggy cliff over a vast desert plain in Namibia where I wrote this poem. It seemed that morning Africa herself put these words on the paper...short circuiting my brain but traveling through my heart...our hearts. It’s about this great continent that is indeed HOME to ALL of us.
To share Africa is to share your heart.
She is not an easy place.
She asks much of those
who choose to know her...
to call her their place under the sun.
She holds her secrets close to her sides.
We can never know her whole...
we see only small pockets, small corners.
Yet her vastness can swallow you up
in her hunger for life.
Our seeds struggled for air here.
She draws us back again and again
perhaps to find our own beginnings,
our own plan.
This great continent torn by pain
seems to keep her full promise
just out of reach.
But reach we must...
for we are tied to her for all time.
She is us and we are her.
She is ours to save and protect.
She is ours to never forget.
A decade or more after that trip to Namiibia, in about 1995, we traveled for three weeks in Ethiopia with Irma Turtle camping on the ground with the beautiful tribal peoples of Southern Ethiopia. It was on that journey that we came to know and love Yohannes Assefa, pictured here with us on that journey. He became the first in our International Family, which has now grown to over a hundred from throughout the world. (don’t we all look so very young?).
Each time we have returned to Africa the rhythm has been with us. Each day we spend anywhere in rural Africa seems to have its own distinct rhythm. I think it’s anchored in the rise and fall of the sun, in light and dark, in the pulse of the millions of feet pounding the earth...Africa Walking...carrying life on the paths and streets to destinations and back again. And in our memory always the smell of the small wood fires burning every morning to feed the family and give light to read by in the bush darkness. The smell to us is exotic but we know that it comes at the cost of a woman’s daily search for twigs and small branches that she piles on her head...a heavy load...that she carries for each of those fires. Tourists take pictures of these beautiful woman but may never know the great weight they bear as they walk across Africa.
This rhythm we live in each day at Ras...ours a different rhythm to be sure but we revel in it.
So here we are back again in our Kenyan PARADISE for the second time... it has been another miracle in our lives...and what a miracle indeed!!!! This dream all began in the Spring of 2018 during a scary period in our lives when we both needed to have a positive goal for the future, when the future looked so bleak. Our dream...to find a warm beautiful place on the water (at sea level) somewhere in the world. The internet once again delivered when we searched for a place on the coast.
So, what’s it like living in Paradise?
Every morning the sun rises on the edge of the Indian Ocean and provides nature’s alarm clock. Just before it shines in your eyes as you lay in bed there is beautiful birdsong as the first light of each gorgeous dawn breaks. Sometimes its a magnificent pink hue that no photograph can capture...and I’ve tried (see above). We always wake up chilly in bed and pull a light cotton blanket up over the sheet...if we haven’t done it already in the night. The large shuttered glass doors are always open, only fold away grills separate you from the outside at night. The house is closed up at night and secured while letting the cool breezes in. Our wonderful private security man patrols the grounds at night...it is all very comforting...we sleep like babies.
So we climb out of bed and untie the long linen panels of white cloth suspended across the open wall of our bedroom so they can drop down and block the rising sun and either climb back in bed or decide it’s time to start the day with the breakfast our chef Hamisi (who has the flavor skills of a true chef ) will have laid out for us shortly...and sometimes the beautiful faint whiff of smoke from a small morning cooking fire burning nearby.
We open the gates to our bedroom and find Bakari, our caretaker, already sweeping the veranda of flower petals and small leaves blown from the trees overnight and putting out the chairs and cushions for another day. “Habari…Yasu boo kee“ (how are you…did you have a good sleep?) we say in our feeble Swahili...and he answers “ Musuri Sana “...(very good)...and the rhythm of our day has begun. Today he learned a new skill with a new tool and now our doors are closing smoothly. Now we call him our Fundi (someone who fixes things in Swahili).
The rest of of our CORE RAS Family includes Rashidi who does a bit of everything at RAS. He moves his small body about with the stature and presence of a tribal chief.
Juma who is the main gardener and patiently waiting to get his driver’s license renewed so he can once again provide transportation for Kenyans and tourists …his true profession.
And Mkalla, also a gardener, who has just finished his IT training and will be looking now for his first position in the computer world.
The days here are quiet and peaceful...after breakfast Popi retreats to his spot you’ve all seen under the magnificent Flame Tree whose branches reach out 20 -30 feet to bring cooling shade everyday. Here Juliette’s Van Gogh was born last year and now book three in the S.A.L.T. Saga begins. Our CELEBRATION OF LIFE flag that my sister Judy made for the International Family flies next to Larry (Popi). At home it flies every day as it does here…it goes where we go!
I find the rhythms of daily life here at RAS inspires me to get back into poetry… lost to me while working with Larry on the first two novels…especially the JULIETTE when I stepped into a partner role. I’ve been able to do a little extra writing here...the poems seems to spill out of me where once again the beauty just overwhelms us...just letting it wrap itself around us it is once again so breathtaking…it needs some words as well as pictures…
Soft air sweeps up from the sea
settling after its long journey from India.You feel its moisture ...
it’s thick layers
yet they lay soft
against your skin.
Today feels like a sigh
our bodies fight with time
has finally past
I am here...all of me.
The days now begin to have
their own rhythms.
Oh, it is that cadence that comes with
Each day sliced in half between light
and dark, an equatorial stunt.
You succumb quickly...
You surrender...it pulls you into itself
as it has the Wadigo for eons.
We step into Bakari and Hamisi’s time
we surrender to it and to them
you slide over the edge and breath.
Your body releases itself to the moon’s
timetable as the sea relaxes and lets the
moon’s schedule pull it from the shore.
With a sigh it finds its way back.
with our bodies we do the same
Here on Kenya’s coast at Ras
the breath comes now
We are unwound
the moon has made it so.
Here it is in Rashidi’s hands...
I cannot believe it.
Living in the high desert we only see this sea waste on television
...we are removed.
In Rashidi’s plastic can is Taki Taki...
plastic waste that has washed up onto our
pristine beach of fine powdery sand...
marked now by fresh healthy seaweed...
But today there is a small child’s plastic sandal,
lumps of styrofoam,
bits and pieces of other people’s days that
have found their way...
maybe all the way from India
or the Maldives midpoint...
in the motion of the Indian Ocean to our small piece of heaven,
our tiny crescent green edged beach.
A Kenyan woman, we learned on her website has started a company in Nairobi and employs and trains local Kenyans to collect these shoes and glue them together and make art from them. Check out her site… oceansoleafrica.com. The work is beautiful, and they also have a school for the children of the employees. A great ending for an otherwise tragic story.
Another bright Kenyan entrepreneur who has become part of our Kenyan Family indeed is Stephen Kazunga. Quite an entrepreneur who started as a starving child in the bush North of Mombasa...but a child with a very bright mind and a great heart. Trained in IT he is the manager at Kenyaways Resort, owns a taxi business…which we count on and owns and operates the IT school our Mkalla has just completed. Without his personal help we could not have given Mkalla this opportunity which we hope will change his life and the lives of others he will touch.
We’re now getting excited about welcoming our birth sons Peter and Chris To RAS next week. Anxious to have them meet the new members of our international family! Kennedy, our favorite of Stephen’s drivers, will be waiting for them at the airport and will bring them safely home to us.
Look for MORE NEWS from KENYA next month!