Friday, July 4, 2008

Second Wave (in which i yap about my last day in nairobi)

The Kenyan morning was quite chilly. This I knew even before I ventured outside of my tent with my microphone to sample the songs of birds I could not see amidst the trees. We ate a chill breakfast of toast and eggs and rocked exit back to the airport, in the back of cab driven by a chipper cat from eastern Kenya. Traffic moves quickly here. Aside from the city center, I am told, there are no street lights, only a complex system of roundabouts. As we cruised on, I thought about the people at breakfast in the hotel, all of whom were going on safari later in the day. Like so many predominantly european activities in Africa, I am unsure how I feel about going on safari. I feel as though the impulse that takes people on holiday from the west to the kenyan wilderness is based on a perverted sense of authenticity. The further away from civilization I can get, goes my unreflective construction, the more seasoned and real a person I can be. All I have to do is pay this guy to take me and view the scene safely from this armored Land Rover. People back home will marvel at my journey through a land that we westerners have largely constructed anyway. I know that practices like these are good for the Kenyan economy. But there are many things that help the economy which hurt or distort every other social sphere. Maybe I would think differently if I went on Safari myself. Or maybe I would feel more like a full throttle contributor to neo-colonialism. Maybe I am just a hater. I didn’t think about it too much more, though, ‘cause the site of AK-47s tend to pull one out of wayward thoughts.

Our cab was hailed by a police officer from the street. The automatic weapon hung without concern or care from his shoulder. He told the driver to get out and spoke with him briefly. They did not speak english, but I did hear the officer speak of seatbelts, of which there were none in the back seat in which we sat. Soon, reluctantly it seems, the officer let us go. “He wanted money,” explained the cabbie. “But I had no money to give.” Apparently, when the cop asked the cabbie about his passengers, he said only that I was his relative from the states, not a tourist who needed to be held down by a seat belt.

At the airport, I sat patiently as tickets to Uganda were purchased. A televangelist on the overhanging TV reminded me that today was Sunday. I watched the sermon unfold, trying to find a difference in service or message between this televised congregation of kenyans and the TV churches of America. There was none and for some reason this angered and depressed me a bit. Perhaps it is my own perverted sense of authenticity that makes me wish Africa was a country free of the religious stylings that give my own country its status. Maybe my hope to catch a glimpse of an Africa free of Europe is my own idealized safari, the hope for a return to a source that is as mythological as the image of Africa I attribute to my brief breakfast companions. Maybe I should stop searching and start listening. And I guess I will get my chance to do just this, ‘cause the flight to Uganda leaves in an hour.

1 comment:

EnthyAlias said...

Beautifully written, Chioke. All of your posts have such tight resonance and the flow of your voice. I can almost hear the audio of your narration.

You're definitely bridging that "experiential lacuna" you mentioned before you left - looping reflection through your experiences over there, especially in this post where you find yourself struggling with a similar sentiment of seeking alterity away from what you know. I hope you're finding, if not an authenticity (b/c what's that mean anyway) then at least some ties to an Africa layered with the complexities of its history and your own.

Glad you're doing well. Keep posting. I'm riveted - and mighty impressed with what you're doing.