For those who follow Kenyan affairs, the big news this weekend was the sudden resignation of our Ambassador. While it is not our place to comment on the salacious stories reverberating around media circles, blogging about something mundane and unrelated (as had been our original intention this weekend) when this is the one story that everyone is discussing seemed a bit dishonest.
Like an asthmatic sucking on a cigar, the smoke machine wheezed and coughed, letting out spasmodic puffs that billowed out across the stage. The speakers crackled intermittently, but fortunately this did not detract from the smooth jazz that filled the high school auditorium at the International School of Kenya. For the better part of two hours we were treated to jazzy renditions of songs by the likes of Anita Baker, Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind & Fire, and James Brown, intermixed with jazz standards and original compositions such as Nairobi Yangu (“My Nairobi”). This was Sax in the City IV, the second concert in the series that we have attended.
It’s unclear who was happier when we returned from vacation – Emmie at having us back or us at seeing our beloved pup again after a month-long separation. It didn’t take her long to accept that we were back for good and return to her normal ways, and for us to get reacquainted with her neuroses. Emmie has fared far better than most orphaned puppies would in Kenya, getting fostered and bottle-fed by an American vet before we adopted her. Nevertheless, watching her mom die under the wheels of a car when she was a week old clearly left a deep emotional scar. How else to explain her cute but somewhat neurotic behaviour?
In honor of our one-year anniversary in Nairobi, S decided to bake a gin and tonic cake, which she chose because G&Ts quickly became our preferred drink in Kenya. Sadly, there is no photo of this celebratory dessert because the results were disastrous, the sugar/gin mix overflowing all over the oven. S did not think to adjust the recipe for baking at altitude (Nairobi is located at an elevation of 5,450 ft), which likely resulted in the mishap. The only other explanation we can think of is that the gin caused a chemical reaction, the aftermath of which is plastered all over our oven.
With boozy aromas emanating from our kitchen, we went out, marking our anniversary with a jazz concert and a dinner night out with the first friend we made in Kenya. First postings abroad are always memorable and this year in Nairobi far surpassed anything we could have anticipated when D’s name was called on Flag Day and he went up to accept the small Kenyan flag:
Huddling in our sleeping bags inside a tiny tent while the rain pounded the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro outside, we wouldn’t let the foul weather dampen our mood. We were about to summit Africa’s tallest peak and cross a couple of items off D’s bucket list (S had already climbed Kili the previous summer). Talking about what else we wanted to do the next time we managed to find some time to travel, we wound up drafting the following list:
One of our readers recently nominated us for a Versatile Blogger Award; a few weeks later our blog also received a nomination for a Reader Appreciation Award. We were flattered, naturally, but it also made us reflect on our year of blogging.
Our intention in launching this blog a year ago was to provide an easy way for friends and family to keep up with our adventures. D’s career choice has pretty much ensured that we’ll go for long periods of time without seeing our loved ones, and this seemed to be the best way to stay in touch. S had blogged previously during her travels. For D, this was his foray into the blogsphere, but he had similarly felt the need to share his stories, writing mass emails during his Peace Corps days whenever he could get to a computer. Living abroad for long stretches of time tends to have an isolating effect. Sharing one’s stories makes it easier to stay in touch and reconnect when one returns home.
May 29th marked our first wedding anniversary, which we spent on the white Seychellian sand far away from our computers. This past year has flown by with the dizzying speed of countless new adventures and experiences. Then again, our relationship had a bit of a whirlwind trajectory even before we got married and moved to Kenya.
One year ago, we walked hand in hand on the rocky shores of Kennebunkport and said our “I do’s” on a salt marsh, dancing the night away to the soulful reggae beats of a local Maine band. By that point we had been dating for less than two years but were already legally married. Just four months earlier, D had received his offer letter to join the State Department. He had passed the orals, the last hurdle in a long selection process, a year before, but it took so long to obtain the necessary security clearance that we had given up on planning our life around the Foreign Service. S was in her last year of grad school and we were thinking of moving from Chicago to one of the coasts; nebulous marriage plans cropped up in our conversations, the engagement tentatively to take place once we got our careers on track.
We spent the last week of our month-long trip soaking up the sunshine on the beaches of the Seychelles archipelago. The country consists of 115 islands, which are spread across hundreds of square miles of the Indian Ocean. Prior to the arrival of Arab traders and seafarers of various stripes, the Seychelles had been uninhabited, and most of the archipelago remains so to this day. The handful of islands that do have a tourist infrustructure beckon with the clear, lapis lazuli waters of their coves and the soft, white sand of their beaches.
Although the rainy season should have ended a month earlier, its vestiges clung to Reunion with obstinate tenacity. We had gotten lucky during our climb up Piton de Neiges, but the weather proved to be less than accommodating the following day. We had planned to hike up to Col du Taibit, a pass in the mountain wall that separated the Cilaos and Mafate cirques. From there, we intended to walk down to Marla, the first settlement in Mafate, which is rumored to be even more spectacular than Cilaos, no doubt owing some of its mystique to the fact that it can only be accessed on foot. Unfortunately, by the time we reached the pass, clouds had completely enveloped the mountaintop. We ate our lunch, hoping that the mists would dissipate, but to no avail – the extent of Mafate’s beauty would remain a mystery to us.
The tortuous roads of Cilaos, whose ambitiously-drawn dividing lines at times make it impossible to stay in one’s lane, barely leave enough room for two cars traveling in opposite directions to pass one another. Yet, we somehow found enough space to park three cars at the point where the road bisected the Fleur Jaune canyon and to spread a tarp so that we could equip ourselves for the adventure that lay ahead. Undressing by the side of the road, we donned polyprene vests, wriggled into full-length wetsuits, and ensconced ourselves in long-sleeved hooded jackets with a bottom that had to be clipped around the right leg, resembling a leotard. Over all of these layers we put on thick jumpsuits to ensure that the polyprene would not tear. We were also issued helmets and harnesses so that, by the time we were dressed, we looked as we were headed for some strange space mission.