According to an old Hindu myth, there once lived a king of demons who was granted near immortality by Brahma, the god of creation. He grew powerful and arrogant, attacked the heavens, and demanded that all people worship him alone. However, his own son refused, instead offering prayers to Vishnu, Hinduism’s supreme being. Unable to kill his own son, the demon king commanded his sister, Holika, to burn him alive.
Nearly lost in the shuffle of Kenya’s elections, our departure preparations, and last-minute travel was the fact that S has a new job, which she started at the end of January. In fact, she had accepted the offer to join the Embassy’s Economic Section last June, but the new job required a security clearance, which took many months to acquire.
Naivasha, the most easily accessible of the Rift Valley lakes, was our first safari destination when we acquired a car. In the intervening year and a half, we had toyed with the idea of returning for an overnight camping trip multiple times, but never quite managed to make it work. Fitting then that our last Kenyan safari was a return to Naivasha’s shores. Our friend Chris, who’s staying with us for a month while he does an elective rotation at Nairobi University Hospital to finish off residency, received an invitation from the cardiologist he is shadowing to spend a weekend at his home in Naivasha, providing the impetus we needed to escape Nairobi for a night.
One of the biggest draws of the Foreign Service is the opportunity to move every couple of years – to explore a new country, become familiar with a new culture, and then relocate to a new place to start the process of social exploration all over again. One of the few drawbacks to this lifestyle is that one has to move every couple of years. Packing up one’s whole life to start afresh elsewhere is apparently much more difficult and time-consuming when one has pets, kids, cars, and a whole house full of stuff than it was when we packed a couple of suitcases to study abroad for a year in college or join the Peace Corps.
S used to joke that she has been employed as a part-time travel agent ever since we moved to Nairobi. Partly as a result of our many visitors and partly owing to our own curiousity and wanderlust, we have travelled all over Kenya, arguably getting to know this country better than we know our own. As we prepare to depart after two well-spent years, we offer the following recommendations in the hopes that others will come and explore this beautiful country.
The Foreign Service roller-coaster tends to rush from one crisis to the next, the workload at times threatening to overwhelm before suddenly dissipating into a lull. With the electoral commission declaring a victor in last week’s presidential vote by the slimmest of margins, and his main rival vowing to fight the decision in court, we’ve had a chance to catch our breath and focus on other things for a change while the whole country awaits the outcome of the court case.
In the morning, a thick, billowing mist blanketed the densely forested slopes of Mt. Marsabit, the extinct shield volcano that lends its name to one of Kenya’s largest and most sparsely populated counties. The soupy fog completely enveloped the rustic cabins of Marsabit Lodge, obscuring from view the picturesque clearing on which it sits. The tepid early morning light struggled to fight its way through the brume, but still managed to rouse D from his deep Sunday morning slumber, the first night of real rest he had enjoyed in a week during which consecutive 12-hour workdays melded into a continuous, frantic rush of last-minute pre-election preparations.
We both volunteered to serve as observers for Kenya’s first presidential election under its new constitution. S was assigned to cover a county in western Kenya. Because D had organized a work trip to Kenya’s remote northern lands in December, the election team decided to send him to Marsabit, a grueling ten-hour drive from Nairobi.