Postcard from Kenya
by Patricia Thayer on 08/23/20
"Are you alone?" I'm walking up the stairs to the second floor of the National Museum in Nairobi. The young Kenyan girl is the second in her school group to ask me this question. "Yes," I answer suspiciously, wondering why she wants to know. She proclaims that she will keep me company. I am alone In Kenya having arrived a day earlier than my friends. For me, to be alone by choice is a luxury, but for a Kenyan, I soon learn, visitors traveling alone are viewed with compassion and every attempt should be made to befriend them.
My companion, Belinda, stays with me for some time as I wander the museum. She is curious as to who I am and where I am from. I explain I will be going on safari the next day, but today I want to learn about the origin and culture of the Kenyan people. She points out interesting exhibits and feels compelled to provide additional information. Soon more uniformed young girls join us who want to welcome me to their country. I escape my well-meaning companions in the "no-school-children-allowed" gift shop. I appreciate the girls' hospitality, but I am comfortable being alone in the museum, wandering at my own pace to absorb the ancient history of Kenya, known as "The Cradle of Mankind".
But I am not really alone. Albert is my driver and guide and I like him immediately when I meet him. He is friendly, intelligent, and handsome, and I enjoy our conversation as he takes me on a tour of Nairobi and later waits for me outside the museum. The next day, with Albert as our guide and teacher, my friends and I begin an amazing adventure together that exceeds all our expectations and takes us on a journey of lasting impressions of Kenya, its famed wildlife and hospitable people. Why do I travel? To recognize graciousness and kindness from others, and to realize I am never really alone wherever I may be in the world. (July 2009)