Being away from home can be a bittersweet experience.
Every day you see, hear, taste and smell unusual, fascinating, wonderful and – sometimes – terrible new things. Full to the brim with novel experiences, time tends to pass in funny ways with juts one day seemingly crammed with so much it can seem like a week. I can’t get enough of this but I say it’s bittersweet because many times I’m thinking “well this moment would be perfect if i could only share it with…”. And that person tends to be someone back home in the UK annoyingly!
However, then there are the moments that are entirely perfect in and of themselves. In fact, sometimes someone else being there would in some weird way detract from them because they get their essence from their intimacy; the fact that only you are experiencing them.
I’ve had many of these moments in Kenya. Whether it is the smell of lemongrass on my run to work, or being jolted awake when I get on a matatu (little bus) with blaring gospel music at six in the morning, or when the askari (security guard) at my apartment block cheers me over an imaginary finish line when I come back from a run.
I had one of these moments when I was in Kisumu, Western Province last week. I’d gone to visit the YMCA branch in town and was due to meet a friend after work at little bar on the edge of Lake Victoria. I hadn’t seen the Lake yet so was really looking forward to it after dry and dusty Nairobi.
Come 5pm, I hopped on the back of a Boda Boda – a motorbike taxi that you take at your own peril, helmetless and with whatever your version of a prayer looks like. After a quick shake of the bike to try eke out the last bits of petrol from its hiding place in the tank, we whizzed off. Soon we were on an untarmaced, bumpy track glimpsing sparkling slivers of water through the trees.
I can’t quite put my finger on why but it was just one of those perfect-in-itself moments. Maybe it was the faint rush of adrenaline from being on the bike, my slightly sweaty palms grasping the seat as we swerved round yet another pot hole. Maybe it was the sun in the sky and the breeze in the air after a hot and humid day. Maybe it was the promise of a cold Tusker beer overlooking hippos grazing by the water and the sun set. Probably it was all these things.
But it perfectly encapsulated why I love being here.
And the swish of a cow’s tail? That was when my boda boda driver decided to head straight through the herd of cows that crossed our path and a tail whacked me on the arm as we passed ridiculously close!