"Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake."
One moment, horns, traffic, chaos, “chai chai” and the next, complete silence.
Feeling the cool breeze blowing through the open screen on our tent, I feel a world away from where I was only days before. In some sort of dream. The only sound that breaks the silence are the crickets and the rustling of branches. Everyone has crawled into their tents for the evening, the fire that heats up big barrels of water (the “hot water heater”) is left to smolder and die out. Light trickles in from the bright, full moon above.
I’ve always been fascinated with the moon. There are specific moments in my life that I remember seeing the moon this full, this bright. I have vivid memories of cross country skiing in the depths of winter, the moon high in the sky, reflecting off the fresh snow, lighting the way. Or on the beach in Tulum, after a day that couldn’t have been more perfect, sitting in the cool sand with the most beautiful people, the full moon aglow over the water. It connects us. Anywhere, anyone can look up and we all see that same bright moon.
If we look.
I arrived at the ashram - which feels already like so long ago - on a full moon and sat, that first evening there, late into the night with an older man from Switzerland who had taken his first ever flight to come to India. He was a farmer and had spent much of his life studying the night sky. He explained to me the constellations, the different paths the stars took across the sky. And then we simply sat in silence and gazed up.
I’m reading a book right now about the Polynesian tribes that would, without any compass or map, sail the ocean by understanding the night sky. By literally following the stars they could perfectly navigate between tiny islands in the darkness of the night.
The world, in its raw, natural state has so much to teach us but I think sometimes we get lost in our concrete jungles, in our routines and timelines and we forget to take the time to listen.
And this is what Kenyans are such a good reminder of - they know how to slow down. Everything runs on “African time”. Things get done without much rush and patience becomes a daily practice. But always, the people have time for you here. I arrived at the airport at 3am, half asleep, with a crumpled visa form and a handful full of different currencies. None of the currency exchange booths were open yet and I didn’t have enough money in a single currency to pay the visa fee. The boarder agent saw me fumbling through my bag and called me over. We chatted for a few moments and I apologetically showed him I didn’t have quite enough money. “Will this be enough?” I asked, half joking, assuming I’d be stuck there for a few hours until the bank opened.
"I don’t see why not." He smiled, stamped my passport, and told me that he too was in love with Kenya.
While I waited in the airport I had a series of long, beautiful conversations with people who saw me doing nothing and took a few moments for me.
Thoreau said the greatest compliment that was ever paid to him was when someone asked him what he thought, and attended to his answer. Africans truly make the time to listen.
From that initial warmth, I felt deep within me, a sense of returning home. I left my heart here years ago and it continues to whisper, to call, pulling me gently back.
Angela arrived and it took us awhile to leave the airport, we kept getting stopped by people she had met on the flight that wanted to say goodbye. She introduced them to my by name (including the flight attendant) and they wished us a good trip.
She’ll fit in here perfectly, I thought.
I have always been so captivated by the people - their kindness, their radiance - that the animals were always just a bonus but never really the draw. But, we decided this time to head to the Masai Mara and try our hand at spotting the Big Five.
We were provided with constant entertainment from our Russian friend, Alex, who took up the entire back seat with his bag of liquor, cuban cigars and arsenal of camera equipment and electronics. He rocked a Canadian tuxedo day and night, regardless of the temperature. When we first met he immediately pulled out his ipad and showed us a photo of his cat. We asked what its name was.
"Alex. Of course." He said in his thick Russian accent.
"The best name."
As we left Nairobi to head towards the park he took photos constantly. When we neared the park and were surrounded by giraffes and zebras and just the most picturesque landscape, we realized the clicking of the camera was absent. We looked back and saw Alex, sprawled across the back seat, sound asleep. We were bouncing over the dirt roads, the van rattling and shaking and Angela just looked at me shocked. “How?!” she said.
The park alone is incredible - just the massive expanse of land preserved to keep the balance is breathtaking. But being able to witness the co-existence of so many species, the birth, death and beauty in between is like nothing else I’ve ever experienced.
Our driver, Charles, not only was the best dressed safari guide - always wearing dress pants, shiny shoes and a collared shirt - but could spot a leopard miles away and could change a tire in lion country without getting his shirt dirty. We saw it all - a lioness and her cubs, leopards dragging their fresh kill into a tree, a heard of elephants mingling with giraffes - and it does almost feel surreal.
And of course, it is fitting that we are here, under the glow of the bright full moon, separated from the life that lives and breathes within the tall grasses, the lush trees, by only by a thin canvas. We fall asleep, eager to see what malaria pill fueled dreams will come tonight. Time is irrelevant. The days do not matter. The dream continues.