The sea breeze drifts and the waves of the Caribbean Sea crash and the stars sparkle just so without light pollution and I sit at my computer typing.
I want to tell you all how wonderful it is here on Cayman Brac.
Of the diving and the sunsets, of the local flavors and dramatic weather, of the bluffs and caves. Oh I want to gush about it all. All of it at once. I want to bottle up the smell of the sea and the taste of local jerk chicken and send it home to you now.
But, that would be selfish of me.
I am less than halfway through my stay. You deserve the best, you deserve a full report next week, complete with even more tastes and smells and spots of sunshine. Especially you in Boston awaiting your first possible big storm. I hope the weather ladies and gents are just feeling a bit gun shy after last year.
It must be that.
Remember the Farmers Almanac?
So, instead, we will stay the course.
Tanzania deserves many more hat tips and head nods than it received last week, what with its lions lioning and its giraffes giraffing and Zanzibar being Zanzibar. Some of the countries we will encounter here, well, some of them I could fill days and books and many many dreams with. We will be back, I assure you. But for now, we must march on.
Like the anticipation of Namibia got me through many a difficult work day, the anticipation of Kenya kept me up through many a sleepless night. Too many stories of mishaps and too much fear buzzing through my single female head. Which is how I found myself opting for the less “backpacker-esque” accommodation.
Lets go back to Tanzania though.
My stomach started to feel a little funny towards the end of our Safari and then my fever spiked. After two days of running from hostel bed to group toilet and journeying through a mind reeling with fever-induced hallucinations, things settled just in time for a 6 hour bus trip to Nairobi. I decided I would rather risk humiliation at a little bus stomach problems than miss my flight to the next big adventure.
“Nai-robbery” some call it, famed in stories and state department warnings.
I met a girl just a few weeks before whose jittery eyes still reflected the terror of her gunpoint robbing. Five men in broad daylight on a busy street. I was not eager for this step in the journey.
Around 6:00 pm, 3.5 hours after the bus was supposed to depart, we were finally on our way. That time though, those hours and hours sitting in front of a public bus station, wandering in and out of the nearby shops, they were sort of lovely.
From my broken plastic stool under a small awning of shade, I was able to watch the working world of Africa stroll about their business.
Women dressed in rumpled skirts hurried through the post office. Men in slacks with ties loosened and top buttons undone cruised by on mopeds and motorbikes, speeding off into the dust like rebellious teenagers. Four boys lounged in a car with doors ajar blasting Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing” in the parking lot while two stray puppies tumbled through the dust.
Then there was the “window shopping.” Men and women and children strolled through holding goods for sale. Not beaded bracelets or carved wooden hippos or post cards for tourists, but everyday goods for everyday people. Like Whole Foods sells organic food and REI sells outdoor active gear and Apple sells a certain type of desirable electronic, each sales person had their own speciality.
Some people carried shoes, each a different type from men’s dress shoes to kid’s sandals. Others had office supplies. Pens, pencils, and scissors for all of your administrative needs. One woman had bras and underwear. Another man had shirts with t-shirts on one side and collared shirts on the other. Several people carried a variety of nuts. The method to the madness was a treat to watch as the afternoon unfolded. But then one man came through seeming a bit confused. Electronics in one hand and jump ropes in the other. Surely I was missing something here.
Time passed quickly with all this shopping.
And in just a few short hours, I was all but catapulted onto my bus connection as it came barreling through Arusha en route to Nairobi, slowing down only enough for me to settle into the last remaining seat. I took my place next to a 20 something local and after exchanging the few Swahili pleasantries I knew, we turned to watch the landscape fly by.
Watching glorious Africa from inside an oversized, overstuffed, and overused once-luxury coach bus belching smoke and stinking of burning rubber, it was wild and hectic and it fit. We swerved to a stop for cattle crossing. We slowed to investigate every broken down bus, car, motorbike, and minibus. And there were a lot. Without fail, the moment we slowed, half the bus was on its feet, craning to see what had caused the abrupt stop.
Nobody put quite the same effort into seeing the sunset unfolding as we rattled on past mountains, dark red dirt, reaching acacia trees, and tufts of shrubbery.
But aren’t we all guilty of that sin? Of letting the beauties fly by without a second pause to wonder at everything out there? I certainly used to be, watching my feet instead of the purples and pinks lighting up the Washington Monument in my DC days.
It becomes just another part of the background. Another distraction that we don’t take time to stop and watch. I wonder if people realize just what they are missing every day. The sunbeams and soft wispy clouds and a marriage of pinks and purples, reds and oranges that come and float away unnoticed.
Everyday I broke down and hauled out my camera for “just one” picture that would inevitably not do nature justice. This was, of course, before the days of instagram and #nofilter.
It was all no filter.
I swore if I took nothing else away from this trip, I would remember to always pause and watch the sunrise or set. So many days, we allow time to march forward unmarked while we toil away in our windowless cubicles or with blinds drawn against the “glare” on our computer screen. Missing something so simple, so peaceful.
The sunrises and sunsets became a great form of therapy and a time of quiet solitude. As I reread all that I wrote about these daily rotations of the earth, I realize I have slipped into my same old habits. Head down, computer open, days passing without a second glance.
So with that, I make a request. If we are far away or haven’t seen each other in a while or you think of me, find a nice viewpoint, take a break and watch the sunrise or sunset. It is so simple, yet so satisfying. Sit and imagine I am with you. Share that moment with me.
But, I digress. We were talking about Nairobi. The border crossing into Kenya was relatively uneventful, besides almost being left behind by the bus. The bus pulled into the Nairobi depot around 11:00 pm and I went straight to a “youth hostel.”
In the morning I took stock. Fourteen of the beds were filled with Kenyan women, the water wasn’t running and the toilets didn’t flush. They obviously were, at one point, blessed with that function. But today didn’t seem their day. Neither did yesterday or apparently tomorrow.
I was tired, filthy, sick, a bit fearful for my safety, and not in a good place to recharge before 3 months living on a permentant camp with no fresh water and definitely no privacy. For the first, last, and only time on the trip, I opted for “luxury.”
I truly loved traveling and found that I handled quite well the lack of showering, packing and unpacking at a new place every night, sleeping in a tent or dorm with other people, and generally living on the road. However, as often happens, when the end was near things became more unbearable.
Homesickness comes and homesickness goes, even for the best of us. Homesickness is good. It means you have something waiting at home to be missing. But sometimes, homesickness can blind you to a new place or new experience. I let that happen here, in Nairobi, with much of the road behind me and even more of the road to come.
Homesickness and fear.
But now that I’ve been, I think I would like to go again.
But not today. Today I am in wonderful Cayman Brac and you get to hear all about it, same time next week…