Life Is What Happens While You’re Busy Watching Big Cats Get Busy
“I’m pretty sure no one here has a single clue as to what they’re doing.”
Somewhere between the third and eighth security check, my negativity went from frustration to sadness to anger. It made scheduled on-time stops at “what the fuck?” and “you’ve got to be kidding me!” I’m immensely familiar with both neighborhoods.
I had arrived in Kenya a few weeks earlier with the rehearsed acceptance of an intellectual, tolerant liberal. “Their way is not wrong or right, it’s just different!” I’d tell myself at the first, second, and four-hundredth illogical inconvenience. And I’d traveled enough to know that each one of those illogical inconveniences was lining up in anticipation of my arrival.
I came from the air-conditioned, 246-years-removed-from-colonization Land of the Free. I’m a white man from a country — and planet — where white men historically get their way, and my expectations of “how things ought to be” are often just thinly-veiled privilege.
I know all of that.
I knew it going in, and knew myself well enough to start my dosage of anti-malarial and anti-ugly-American regimens before arrival in a hot zone. Meditation and chloroquine: the modern well-traveled person’s gin and tonic. Best served with actual gin and tonics.
Or is it gins and tonic? Like “attorneys general” Or “ Whoppers Junior?”
For an amazing and personal-best two weeks, I went with the predictably unpredictable flow.
I had my moments, but I kept them to myself. I fully experienced the angst yet chose to remain centered.
I’m quite certain the woman selling beaded necklaces between lanes on the highway could’ve used my impromptu and pro bono business consultancy. I’m equally certain she didn’t want it. No one does.
I’m sure then-President Uhuru Kenyatta would have enjoyed some heady banter with a random American tourist in re: what Kenya should do to alleviate the country’s deeply rooted corruption problem. Alas, the sight of guards stationed outside his residence, armed as they were with Kalashnikovs and poor trigger discipline, persuaded me to bite my tongue. That, plus I didn’t have enough shillings to gain an audience.
Assisting me in my quest to be a credit to my country were two important, beautiful factors: Kenya itself, and my partner.