Feeding Vanessa the Kudu breakfast


One of the tribe

Thursday, December 3, 2009


Our first week back in Kenya, our first week of living here for the foreseeable future. Wild, to say the least. Tiger has taken to the wide open spaces, the lush, tropical, desert gardenscape of Karen, the ex-pat community in which we’re living, like dust to a bunny. If I had any doubts about moving here, they all vanished on Saturday watching him “make rake” with the gardener, Philip, around an overflowing jacaranda tree. (The blossoms are a heady purple.) My son has made fast friends already with the crew who manage the grounds and oversee the comings and goings of the main house and our little cottage.

The first couple of days, I felt assaulted somewhat by the plainness, the dirtiness, the richness, the colors and washed-outness; by the starving cattle in the middle of the main roads; by the dark, open, hopeful faces walking the long way home; by the brick-red earth that gapes and gulleys seemingly everywhere. Such rawness all around. And, going back to my Irish roots, I wondered about how our frailties might be reflected, altogether kindly, in the color of our skin. Darkness is the strength of black blood; white lies become the blossoming of truth; brown belongs to the giving earth; pink peril means newborn; and yellow is a fever that opens doors. That’s where I am right now, caught between overwhelming obligation to myself, my son, my new home, and a giddiness of adventure and hilarity that startles me.

On a lighter note – and there’s plenty of that – Tiger is in pre-school two mornings a week at Stepping Stones, where his girlfriend, two-and-a-half-year-old Zoe Rose, also attends. (She is the beauteous daughter of my good friends, Lisa and Niklas, who, along with Lisa’s mother, are guilty of getting us to relocate here from Dublin.) I’m thinking about enrolling him in one of their special offerings, Monkeynastics, just because it sounds like the way we live. Joseph, our driver and erstwhile Jack-of-all-trades, is helping us to settle in on every front. I’m hiring a fabulous nanny tonight whose laugh is merrier than any I’ve ever heard.

In the evenings, we sit on the porch, an old-fashioned porch that looks out over the forest and onto the Ngong Hills. Tiger runs his truck all over the grass and chases birds, usually ibis; the wasps whisper in the trees; the frogs hymn deeply; tree hyrax, much like giant guinea pigs, screech to one another; vervet monkeys gallop across the rooftop of our little home; and the sun, at setting, is a surging belt of orange sherbert. It rained this week, the first time in months, a great, alive wetness that surged in the mornings and afternoons. Joseph said that I had brought a blessing from Ireland with the weather Kenya so needed. Not I. I am blessed, and feel all around me in the colors and shapes and persons and scents and hum of life, that this is a forgiving place.

Just what the doctor ordered, especially when you’re not certain if you’ve been leading the life you were meant to live.

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