I’ve Been Called Worse

When I went to Kenya with NOLS in 1997 we spent alot of time hiking through rural areas. The country is stunning in ways that I dare not attempt to articulate. It is a land with a proud history of resilience and rebirth. The charm of Kenya extends to its people without a doubt, and their warmth and hospitality are rivaled only by their humor.

We were fortunate to have a maasai guide with us. I don’t remember his given name, but his English moniker was Robert. I lost my journal at the end of the trip and it still hurts my heart to this day that so many details are gone. I remember Robert very well though, he was of course very tall, easily 6’5, with skin that looked silky-smooth and the color of freshly melted milk chocolate. One day Robert took us to a boma (village) of some of his relatives. His family members poured out into the center happy to see him, and they welcomed us with such fanfare and goodwill that we all smiled and tried to communicate our gratitude despite the language barrier, and felt only slightly less ridiculous in our western style long pants and a rainbow of nylon backpacks. It was clear that though they were kind, Robert’s family were not only laughing with us, but capitalized on every opportunity to laugh at us. One male family member, who I assumed or intuited to be an uncle of sorts, continued to circle us and clap us on our shoulders in a good natured welcome. The whole time repeating a swahili phrase that had the rest of the family nearly in tears.

At this point in the trip there were still 15 of us, we hadn’t yet encountered the drama that would lead to the departure of two members of our group. So, there we stood in t-shirts with sports logos and college mascots, stumbling under the weight of our packs and the mid-day sun, grinning despite ourselves because man, we were in Africa! Later that night after dinner, someone in our group asked Robert what his uncle had said. Robert laughed and a grin spread across his face that was so contagiously beautiful, that it could surely make the sun fall in love. Robert stalled, poking at the fire with a long stick and told us: “He said you made him laugh because with those packs on your backs and your happy smiles, you look like turtles.”

*The pic is of my new turtle shell! I picked up my Gregory Deva 60 pack this weekend and lots of stuff to put in it. I have to think of a name for her. I’m taking suggestions…

3 thoughts on “I’ve Been Called Worse”

  1. What a great story! Even better since my husband, Robert, is Kenyan as well. 🙂 I’m dying to go to Kenya someday to meet his family. For now I live vicariously through anyone who’s been there. Great blog!

  2. Sounds like you had a great time. Oh, I yearn for the day when I can travel to Kenya for an Afican Safari. I would love to capture the lion and lioness in their natural habitat. Thus far, I have only been able photograph the king at San Diego zoo and the National zoo.

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