Don't Worry, Melinda
We were barely past the city limits and Bill SR was already into his lecture on what I was to do to get myself organized. I was way beyond sensory overload and wasn’t really listening. But my inattention did not slow him down. Nothing could stop Bill once he was on a roll.
William Henry Winter was a transplanted Englishman who had lived in Kenya for the past thirty -five years. Movie star handsome in his youth, he still had a dazzling smile, sky blue eyes, and silver hair that waved back off his forehead. At fifty-five, with a growing paunch, and a pronounced limp (a gift from a hunting client’s wayward bullet that was meant for a Cape Buffalo, but shattered Bill’s leg instead,) he had enormous panache and great charm. He had come to Kenya during "the Emergency" (the Mau Mau uprisings) as a policeman and had since been a game warden and a professional hunter. Until that bullet shortened his leg by three inches and his career by many years.
Bill was a world class raconteur. He had done just about everything exciting there was to do and had the tales to tell about it. He would sit by the fire at night and tell of stalking leopards through thick bush and of runaway African warriors. His eyes would glisten as he recounted the time, "back in my hunting days" when, while following a wounded elephant through high grass, he lost sight of it until the old bull doubled back and tripped over him. As with most of Bill’s stories, that one ended with a joke on himself. He was essentially a self taught man, as widely read as anyone I ever met. He could discuss the theater in London or the politics of Sweden with as much authority as he could the lion tracking techniques of the Maasai. He was also, and this was pivotal to his personality, usually right. He had a vast store of knowledge, trivial and otherwise, and of all the bets I got suckered into waging against Bill SR in the years I lived in Africa, I recall only one that I won. (Liza Minelli did not sing "New York, New York" in the movie of "Cabaret.")
Bill’s greatest joy, if not mission in life was giving advice. He readily acknowledged himself as an authority on almost every subject, and was more than happy to impart his every thought to anyone within earshot. He never thought twice about any listener’s desire to hear it all, he assumed they were grateful for his help. He had found the perfect pigeon with me. I was a female, new to Kenya, younger than he, and, worst of all an American, a category of people that he always singled out as particularly arrogant, ignorant and in definite want of his instructions. I am sure that he had decided, long before I arrived in Africa, that he was going to set my new life on the right track. If I had any sense at all, he told me almost hourly, I would follow his advice to the letter.
His "instructing" very often crossed the line from giving advice to browbeating, but he meant well and he usually had a laugh lurking somewhere behind his preachings. Even when he angered me the most, insulting my intelligence, my gender, or my nationality, he could make me laugh. Once, after I had been living and driving a car in Kenya for over a year, Bill SR announced, just once too often, that the steering wheel of the car was on the right. I had better heed his advice and stay on the correct side of the road. I couldn’t believe he was still telling me that.
" Just what is it about me Bill, that makes you think I am so stupid? I howled. " Is it because I am a blond, a woman, or an American?" He looked me straight in the face and, without dropping a beat, announced, "All three." We both burst out laughing.
Bill SR initially overwhelmed and frightened me, but I came, years later, to see that a great deal of his bluster masked his real tenderness.
As we drove out to Karen that morning I was trying to ignore him and just take in the sights. I was thrilled to be back in Africa and I didn’t want to hear all his friendly advice. But that never bothered Bill. He started with the weather and my very ill timed entrance.
"It’s bloody miserable weather now, Melinda." He informed me. "You shouldn’t have come now, you know. September would have been better. But never mind." He then moved on to lecture me on how I was going to have my throat slit or my hand cut off if I didn’t put my jewelry away immediately. That took him to the need for strict security measures in my new house and how I must learn to lock all the doors and never tell anyone in my employ where I was going. Never keep any money in the house and be sure to hide all keys.
"You don’t know how these thieves are, Melinda. Bloody swine I tell you. Now you take the advice of W.H. Winter and get a safe to bolt to your closet floor. Which reminds me, the gates at your new nyumba (house) are just not suitable. Not suitable at all. We must call Ultimate Security and have them come ‘round and install your alarm system. Panic buttons in every room, that’s what we have, isn’t that right Barbie? You just push the tit and the mobile unit will be there in three minutes. But don’t you worry Melinda, we will get everything sorted out. You aren’t alone here, you know."
That got my attention. Panic buttons? Alarm systems? I thought "the Emergency" was over. I was nervous enough about the year ahead of me without hearing how endangered my life was about to become because I wore a watch or kept five dollars in loose change in the house.
But when I attempted to ask him just exactly how bad this crime wave was, he had moved on to the topic of my staff. He was listing all the help I would need, house girls, guards, cooks, gardeners, and a driver. "A grand lady from New York has to have a driver, Melinda."
I didn’t want a driver, but no one was listening to me. He then moved on to the problems with the house. It seemed this presidential palace had no power and no major kitchen appliances.
"But don’t worry Melinda, we will get in touch with His Excellency and get you all kitted out. And I know a chap, old gray bollocks Jamblin, nice old mzee, who will rent you a cooker and a fridge. You see, Melinda, W. H. Winter will look after you. You have nothing to worry about."
Well, that was a comfort. Of course had Bill not been so busy pointing out all the things I didn’t need to worry about I probably wouldn’t have worried about them, but I didn’t say that. I didn’t say anything. Not only was interrupting Bill impossible, but as his list of things I needed to address grew longer, I had been terrorized into silence. If Bill had meant to frighten me and he very well may have, he had achieved his goal. As he went on and on I began to have the distinct feeling that I couldn’t possibly cope with all this. By the time we pulled into the Winter’s driveway in Karen, I was on the verge of tears. In the forty minutes that it took to drive from JKI to Karen, Bill had wiped out what little courage I even thought I had left. And all his Don’t Worry, Melindas were not helping. As we parked the car and Bill started to give endless advice to the gardener unfortunate enough to be standing there, I bolted for the house. I slammed the bathroom door behind me and let the tears fall. Moments later, looking at my now even puffier eyes in the mirror, all I could say was "Well, Melinda old girl, this is a fine mess you’ve got us into."
After splashing water on my face, I took a deep breath and ventured out. I made my way to the dining table (it was only eight AM) and faked my way through breakfast. A medicinal Bloody Mary would have been more to my liking than the fried bacon, fried eggs and fried tomatoes the Kenyans so love. But I pushed the food around on my plate, making little designs with the greasy traces, and pretended to listen to Bill’s further dissertations. Barbara, a black- haired, Tanzania-born beauty, and Bill’s wife of thirty years, was busy organizing her kitchen staff, giving only a cursory nod to every one of Bill’s, "Isn’t that right, Barbie." Barbara was a woman never short of her own opinions, and, like her husband, willing to give them to you whether you asked for them or not. This was not the time. Barbara was, as I found most of the women born and bred in that part of the world to be, strong minded, outspoken, and extremely independent. But thirty years of conubial bliss with W. H. Winter had taught her to save her breath when Bill was on one of his rants.
There was never any mention of my dalliance with the younger Winter. It was not like either one of them to tread lightly on any subject, or to just keep their mouths shut and so I never felt it was a matter of deference to the delicacy of the topic or my privacy. I am still convinced that they were just so relieved that Billy hadn’t gotten serious about this ‘older American woman,’ that they put the whole horrid thought out of their minds.
But back in July ‘87, as we drank our coffee, Bill SR had moved on to what were his absolute favorite topics, his mantras, especially when speaking to Americans: the correct voltage in Kenya and the correct side of the road to drive on. He was pounding this point home.
"You Yanks never get it through your thick kichwas (heads) that the voltage in Kenya is 240. I can’t tell you, Melinda, the safari clients who have sent me things that are as useful as tits on a bull. And you have got to remember that one drives on the left hand side of the road. You will get yourself killed, Melinda, mark my words. You listen to me and stay on the bloody left."
But, Bill assured me, again, I had nothing to worry about. Keeping herself out of the cross hairs, Barbara just smiled at me conspiratorially, shaking her head and rolling her eyes.
Once we had concluded our breakfast, we set out to find my new house. All I knew was what Bill had told me over the crackling international telephone lines; it had a breathtaking view of the Ngong Hills. I should have paid more attention to the fact that it was the President of Kenya’s house, but I had no idea what that signified. The only private home in Kenya that I had ever been in was the Winter’s. It was a sprawling white washed stone dwelling with a cedar-shingled roof, set on ten beautiful acres of flowering trees and shrubs. It was elegant and warm, in a British colonial sort of way. Bill’s constant exhortations to the many garden bibis (wives) he employed made for well-tended flower beds and immaculate lawns. The interior had white plaster walls and wide planked wooden floors. Overstuffed chairs were covered in English chintzes and there were cut flowers everywhere. The sun streamed through small paned windows that were secured with brass latches and flowering vines crept up the sides of the house and over the chimneys. The fireplace mantelpiece in the main sitting room was carved out of a large slab of wood Bill had carried on his back out of the Meru forest. He loved to tell of this deed of youthful derring-do. A bronze statue of an elephant captured in full charge faced off with another of a Cape Buffalo pawing the ground. A pair of elephants tusks, reminders of the time before there was a ban on all such ivory, were mounted on the wall. The Winter’s home was enchanting and colorful, and spoke of the many adventures of its larger then life owner. I was hoping for something just like it. To be more precise, I had my heart set on it.
I had spent the months before heading to Africa pouring over books on Kenya, to say nothing of wearing out my copy of the videotape of Out Of Africa. Not only had I memorized all the best dialogue and had Meryl Streep’s accent down pat, I had also fashioned a very romantic image of my future life in Kenya. I wanted to live in, if not the Winter’s house, then Karen Blixen’s. It had to be quaint and colonial and perhaps, if I was lucky, a slightly run down, thatched roof cottage. I wanted atmosphere, history, and the air of foreign intrigue. The house I was to live in was a major player in my fantasy life that summer. It was with a nervous, but eager heart, that I climbed back into the Toyota and set off with Bill, driving through Karen, to see my little "cottage."
Karen sits at 6300 feet above sea level and the most striking feature about it is that it doesn’t look anything like Africa "should’ look. Karen resembles Carmel, California far more than a desert or the set of Ramar of the Jungle. And the climate is superb. Because of the high elevation and its location only five hundred miles south of the Equator, the weather is almost perfect year round. It’s sunny, warm and dry eight months out of the year. There are two rainy seasons, the short rains in November, and the long rains in March, April and May, but even then it feels dry. The rain is so desperately needed in most parts of Kenya that everyone is grateful for every sprinkle. There are days in July and August when it gets quite cold, but that just seems a relief from the otherwise endless perfect days.
The soil is rich and red and the vegetation lush. Flowering trees such as nandi flame, flamboyant, and jacaranda grow tall and elegant. When they flower in October their crimson, purple and flame red blossoms are spectacular. There are bottlebrush trees with whimsical red flowers and cape chestnuts with blossoms that resemble orchids. Bougainvillea and poinsettias bloom year round, and rose bushes thrive with minimal attention. Ripe avocados will drop from the trees and hit you on the head if you don’t pick them quickly enough.
Driving around Karen one might get the impression that it is a farming community. It isn’t really; it’s just that there are always herds of cows and goats on every corner. The Africans regard their livestock as money and on most afternoons, you can catch a small boy or old man dozing in the shade of a thorn tree while their four legged bankrolls munch on nearby grass or wander off. As the Africans walk everywhere, there isn’t a road in town without several footpaths worn into deep ruts running parallel to it. People heading to or from work walk in pairs or small groups. The more fortunate catch a ride on the back of a bicycle pedaled along by a willing, and more affluent, friend. There are young mothers everywhere, each with a baby strapped to her back. They knit as they walk, while another child, never any older than three, stumbles along behind.
Equally as common are the old ladies, the mama mzees, who carry large bundles of firewood on their backs. They are secured by a strap across their foreheads. These old mamas were long ago bent low by the weight of their burdens. Many people simply sit by the side of the road watching the world go by. Not only is there no hurry in Africa, there is not enough employment either. Sitting by the side of the road is not considered loitering in Karen, it is just what a great many people do on any given afternoon.
Large and formidable gates guard all the homes of any consequence. There is often a guard sitting nearby, ready should a visitor wish entrance to the compound. It is another of the many forms of security that are so important in Karen. The gap between the "haves" and the "have-nots" is wide and petty crime is endemic. Landowners in Karen are almost exclusively European, the local colloquialism for Caucasian, and their attempts at securing their property against break ins and robberies have escalated greatly over the years. Not wanting to be the weak link in the neighborhood chain, each home is equipped with gates and guards, dogs and alarm systems. There are bars on all the windows. No one but the police is allowed to carry a gun, but the guards hired to protect the grounds wield spears and bows and arrows. Private security firms have sprung up and flourished. There are mobil units parked at almost every major crossroad in case a radio-transmitted alarm is sounded. All those gates and guards made Karen seem like an armed camp to me those first months in Kenya, but as the years went by, I barely noticed them.
I knew my new address was Mbagathi Ridge and as we turned a corner and headed up that street, I started to pay full attention. As we drove by each house, I peered through the gates wondering which one was mine. I don’t know if Bill heard me gasp (probably not, he was busy expounding on his plans for the planting of new bushes and the weeding of my garden,) but as we pulled into the driveway, I could feel first my jaw, then my heart hit the floor.
"Pretty grand, wouldn’t you say, Melinda?"
I didn’t answer that.
"Barbie and I almost bought it ourselves a few years back, but....."
I still said nothing. I was too stunned by the sight of this structure to reply. This wasn’t Karen Blixen’s house. This was not a thatched roof cottage and it would never be described as quaint or colonial. What I saw standing at the end of the long driveway was a pale green, two-story cement block with a flat tiled roof. It was huge, oddly shaped, and homely. There were massive carved wooden doors in the white and gold tiled entranceway and wrought iron curlicues covering every window. The Poinsettias, bolted to ten feet high, gave the whole place a distinct air of southern decay. The grass was growing knee high and everything that wasn’t overgrown was dead.
"We will get some bibis in here tomorrow to sort out your garden, Melinda. Don’t you worry." I didn’t answer that either. I was trying to decide if the whole scene was more reminiscent of the Addams family, or Tara, after the Yankees had swept through Georgia, when Bill shut off the car and led me into the front hall.
As the large doors slammed behind me, I could see nothing, temporarily blinded by the sudden darkness.
"Now this isn’t all bad, would you say, Melinda?"
No, it wasn’t all bad. It was worse. As my eyes adjusted, what I saw was the interior of a monastery. We were standing in the middle of a thirty square foot entrance hall with dark gold silk drapes pulled across every window. The furniture was all upholstered in brown velvet, the wallpaper was mustard brown silk, and the wainscoting stood shoulder high. It was very dark in there. There was a working fountain in the middle of the hall with a blue floodlight suspended above it, but even that failed to lend any sorely needed levity. The carpeting, also brown and wall to wall, was all that kept our footsteps from echoing as we walked from one room to the next, each more relentlessly cheerless than the one before it.
Bill was chattering on about how grand it all was and how wonderful and full my life was going to be, one day soon, when I was entertaining twenty people for lunch every day in my post Civil War garden. The only nod he gave to the very pronounced gloom of the place was when he said he was confident that it would all be much brighter soon. Once we located the keys that would unlock the metal gates that covered the sliding glass doors that lay behind the floor to ceiling drapes, that is.
We passed from the all brown dining room, complete with heavy chandeliers and wall sconces, into the kitchen. The most remarkable feature there was the two gaping holes where a stove and refrigerator should have been. Bill reminded me of his friend Jamblin, "old gray bollocks," who was going to rent me these appliances, and then strode merrily back out into the hall. I followed silently behind him.
We finished touring the lower story, complete with formal living room, den, and bath, and made our way up the stairs. Bill yanked aside the drapes that covered the window on the landing, and that lent us enough light to see that the staircase was set against the wall on a distinct angle that was not ninety degrees. Upstairs there were two bedrooms and another den, decorated, as was its twin below, ceiling to floor, in Kelly green. The main feature of the bathrooms was that they matched their attached bedrooms, tiled top to bottom in a matching pastel. Bill was still commenting on how grand it all was and how happy I was going to be when we arrived at the master bedroom. He was saving the best for last.
It was a symphony in pink and gold. Everything was covered either in pink silk or pink velvet or trimmed with pink fringe. The dressing table was white with gold flowers, but it did have a pink velvet stool. The bedspread and drapes pulled the whole scheme together: they were pink and gold cut velvet.
Bill was going on about my rosy future and the grandeur of this dwelling and paying no attention to me, which was a lucky thing as I was busy fighting back my tears of disappointment. It was clearly foolish of me to have planted the image of my little "settler’s cottage" so firmly in my head, I know Bill had tried to please me and I will always be grateful to him for all the efforts he made on my behalf. But the truth was that this cathouse pink bedroom was so far away from what I had been dreaming about that I was heart broken. I was also much too tired to be too philosophical.
Bill then opened the side door of the bedroom and walked out on to a patio. I had missed its larger entrance of full sliding glass doors that opened from the upstairs hall, (they were behind all those gold drapes,) but this was the master bedroom entrance. As we stepped out onto the flagstone Bill said once again "How’s that, Melinda? Now that isn’t all bad? Is it?"
I uttered the first words I had said all morning.
" No, Bill. That’s beautiful."
There were the Ngong Hills. The four very distinct knuckles of the Ngongs rose before me in a 180-degree postcard view, the Africa I had been dreaming about. As I stood there looking at the Ngongs my spirits lifted. Maybe this was going to be all right afterall. To hell with this pretentious house and to hell with all that endless velvet. If I could just sit on this patio and look at the Ngongs and smell the air in Africa, I just might live through the year I had signed on for. I would just never go downstairs again. Or I would redecorate. I suddenly didn’t care. For the first time since I had arrived that morning, I was happy I had come. I could even remember what it was about Africa that had captured such a large part of my soul.
I had done a considerable amount of traveling in my day, had been almost around the world, and even I found it strange that I was as affected by Africa as I was. But Africa really is different. It is magical and many travelers before me have waxed rhapsodic on that subject. But when that sense of awe and wonder stuck me, I was utterly dumbfounded. Perhaps this is caused by the nearness of all the animals. Maybe being so close to the ancient rightness of Nature just moves us on some profound level. Or is it being in the land where man is supposed to have been born? Richard Leaky espouses the genetic memory theory. He holds that all our origins are buried deep within our DNA helices and that they just start to sing out loud when we set foot on African soil. Possibly. All I knew was that once I had been there I was obsessed with it. There was simply no other place on earth that I wanted to be.
The light on the hills at sunset in the Maasai Mara rendered me awestruck. The smell of the air in Nairobi, although cloudy with diesel fuel, was intoxicating. I was completely content, in the nearly insufferable heat of the desert, to simply be there. The colors of the Cherangani Hills at sunset, blue after blue after blue, one massive, granite ripple that faded into a hundred more shades of gray as they receded into the infinite space that so typifies Africa left me dizzy. I would lie in my tent, somewhere between frightened and thrilled, spellbound by the sounds of the night. The earth would shake with the roar of nearby lions, while baboons, shrieking at one another, swung through the branches of the giant fig trees overhead. The metallic ping of the Abysinnian Night Jars became the counterpoint to the barking of the zebras. It all formed a wildlife symphony that was performed under the canopy of the millions of stars in the African sky.
I noticed that when I was in Africa I liked me better. Everything felt clearer and cleaner to me, on the inside. My inside. I was brave where I had never before been brave. I was sure of things I had never even thought about. I was sure of myself and life made more sense to me. It was far more straightforward and simple than I had ever found it to be. When I was in Africa, I was comfortable in ways I had never been comfortable before: comfortable in my skin, comfortable in my clothes, and comfortable with myself. I was happy, and maybe for the first time in my life, at peace. Everything about Africa was foreign to anything I had ever known, and it suited me perfectly. (Maybe because it was so far from anything I had known.) Right from the start, I had no doubt at all that this was where I belonged. During the two years that I had been going back and forth to Kenya, I had experienced far more than a love affair with a man or even a whole country. I had begun to feel as if my soul was waking up.
"Look Melinda, ngombes."
Calling me back from my reverie, Bill indicated the cows in the adjoining back yard. "I always like looking at ngombes. Don’t you?" I had never been wildly enthusiastic about looking at cows while living in New York, but I had found the joys of many new things on my previous trips to Africa, so maybe cows were the next things on the list.
I had been loaned two of the Winters’ house staff until we could find some suitable people for me. Or until Bill could. Nyamburra was their house girl and Illiab their cook. When we arrived that morning, they were both busy dusting furniture and polishing all that dark woodwork. After running out of things to tell me about cows, Bill instructed Nyamburra to make up my bed, draw me a bath and then leave me to get some sleep. I was rather taken aback by the whole idea of having anyone draw my bath, and protested that I was quite capable of doing this myself. This elicited Bill’s lecture on "How to Treat Ones House Staff."
Bill informed me, in a tone of voice that was a cut above his usual advice, that I was not to let my ridiculous, liberal American proclivities get in the way of doing things correctly in Kenya. This was Africa, not New York, and if I didn’t do as he was telling me and handle my staff correctly, I would live to regret it. It all sounded very colonial and overbearing, even for Bill, and I inwardly told myself that as soon as he left I would do as I bloody well pleased. I had, after all, had household help before and I had never had a problem. I would treat my African help as I had treated the housekeeper I had when Jake was a baby or anyone else who had been in my employ in the States. This was one thing I did not need Bill SR’s advice on.
But I nodded to Bill, saying I was sure he was right and gladly let the whole subject drop. With that, he announced that he was going back to his house but would return in a few hours to collect me. We were going to Nairobi to rent a car for me and buy more things for the kitchen. I wasn’t sure where I was going to find the strength to do all that, but I didn’t fancy arguing with him either. I thanked him for all the trouble he had taken on my behalf and as he drove out of my driveway, I raced up the stairs to help Nyamburra make up my bed.
I spoke only a few select sentences of Swahili and most of those I had picked up on safari. They dealt primarily with animals and camp related matters. Nyamburra spoke no English at all and so we made do with hand signals. I was smiling more than I had smiled in days and saying endless thanks yous for everything she did. She had to tear the dirty clothes out of my hands to stop me from being so helpful and I had most of my things picked up before she could get to them. She looked quite bewildered at my behavior, but I was sure that would pass, as she became more accustomed to my equal opportunity ways. Then I was left alone. I was supposed to sleep but I was too tired and excited to even consider it. Sitting in my pink bathtub, I tried to collect my thoughts, but my mood kept swinging between panic, elation, and fear, topped off with a good case of sleep deprivation and Bill SR’s verbal overkill.
By five o’clock that evening, I was driving my newly rented Charade on the "wrong" side of the road back from Nairobi. The rush hour traffic was hopelessly snarled and the rules of the road nonexistent. His driver had gone ahead with his car and Bill was now "helping" by telling me when and how to shift with my left hand while pointing out every pothole, cow or old man on a bicycle that I had to look out for. He was also informing me, with every other sentence, that I was quite obviously going to be killed on these lawless roads of Kenya if I didn’t pay stricter attention. He punctuated all of this by throwing up his hands and shouting "God, Almighty" whenever another vehicle cut in front of us. There were no turn signals or brake lights on most of the service vehicles and the hundreds of pedestrians all seemed to have a death wish. I’m not sure if even a New York City cab driver would be prepared for this particular test of nerves and driving skills, but I certainly was not.
We had just come from the Indian bazaar. This is a small section of Nairobi, primarily Biashara Street, where most of the shops selling household items and dry goods are located. They almost all consist of one front room, dusty and cluttered and all are dimly lit. Most are owned and run by Asians and staffed with young Africans boys that are shouted at to fetch this faster or carry that higher for the all -important customer. Bill and I had just spent several hours going from one shop to the next purchasing pots and pans and other kitchen necessities. Although I had managed to import all the bed linens, I had not purchased the heavier items. What I did bring had cost me a tremendous amount in overweight charges, but I don’t think any amount of money would have persuaded British Air to allow me another one hundred kilos.
As we shopped, Bill conducted most of the transactions in Swahili. When not addressing the Asian shop owners, he made asides to Stephen, Bill’s African ‘Man Friday,’ who followed us about, agreed with everything Bill said, and carried all our purchases to the car. I had very little idea what was going on and even less to say about it. Bill did all the purchasing in shillings, a currency that made no sense to me at all. I had, in my past trips to Kenya, always been on safari with Billy. He had handled all the money and I never had to figure out what cost what. Even if I had, the value of the shilling against the dollar changes from month to month. Whatever quickie conversion formula I had used then would have been useless years later. I had been listening to six hundred of this and two thousand of that all afternoon and I couldn’t do the calculations in my head fast enough to know what "we" were spending. I eventually learned to think in shillings, but for many worrisome months, every price tag was mentally translated into an exact dollar equivalency. At the end of that day, I owed Bill about twenty thousand something’s.
I had dinner that evening with the Winters. Bill was still going full throttle about all the things we were going to get sorted out tomorrow, all the things he had neglected to tell me about today and the hundred other things I still didn’t have to worry about. Barbara tried to get a word in every now and then, but it was hopeless. By the time I drove my little car back to my well-upholstered abode and unloaded all my utensils, I was in tears again. I sat on the upstairs patio looking up at the incredible stars that adorn the African night sky and tried to take several deep breaths. This had been one very trying week and probably the longest single day of my life. I didn’t want to even think about what tomorrow might bring.
And yet, somewhere in the back of my shell-shocked brain there was a little spark of glee. Despite my exhaustion and pronounced insecurities about the situation I had just plunked myself down in, I knew that after all those years of waiting and dreaming, all the months of sitting in hospitals with my mother, and all the scheming and planning to get there, I had finally made it. I had left my old life behind and was about to start a new one. I had no idea what the changes would be, nor did I really think too much about it. I had my "Fahrm in Ah-frica......." Well, it wasn’t exactly a farm, I don’t think the cows next door counted, but it was definitely in Africa. And it was at the foot of the Ngong Hills.