The first sounds I heard I’m unsure of. I am, however, sure of the first feelings I felt. The Motherland. The Continent. No more imagining. No more wondering. No more hoping. Here. Present. On-the-continent. ‘Don’t look like a tourist’, I kept saying to myself. I’d been listening to Swahili tapes on my way to work but, unbeknownst to me—while unsurprising—folks in Nairobi speak an Ebonics of sorts called Sheng. We are literally the same, yet different. Within the first few weeks of my arrival I saw every Black person I knew. No lie! You’re Kenyan until you’re not. You speak Swahili until you can’t. You know where you’re going until you don’t. You recognize familiar patterns, behaviors, inflections, affections. You’re at a similar yet different home.
Now for discovery. Now for making friends. I’m from New York so I know how to look like I’m good when I’m not; figure things out in the moment until it’s the path, route, mode I need to take. My ears are attuned to the American accent and respond by sending comfort signals. Then there’s a switch: Swahili to mother tongue to an English that is the same, yet different.
“Do you know…? She’s cool. You’re from Philly…you said jawn. Connect with…
Nature inspires me. Life’s directions come in the whistle of the wind; tugs of the grass at my feet; embrace of the warm sun; hugs of the leaves in a climbing tree; penetration of a cold breeze; tickle of the fallen leaf; swish from the gush of fruit between my teeth; grounding in the bare Earth; a gentle push from waves in the sea. I’m both silenced by and fearful of the water. She’s pulled on me physically and mentally repeatedly to satiate a deep desire to toy with my psyche. Her behavior is like that of a coquette—reeling me in with her calm only to smother me with her strength and giggle at her deception. She’s a G. I respect her. I do not eff with her. I do, however, seek her out, she and her nature cousins, wherever they may be found. This seeking, coupled with pure exhaustion brought on by multiple culprits, is what ultimately led me to Kenya.