Journey to Kenya

Christine Grosso

August 19, 2015

Text on shirt sleeve: Kenya 2015Jambo!

My 36 hours of travel to a continent and country I have never visited before began on Sunday the 16th of August. My flight commenced with a short layover in Atlanta, GA, where I exchanged a couple hundred dollars for several thousand shillings (the Kenyan currency); the money was vibrant and distinct - as I soon would find out similar to the people of Kenya. Within an hour, I was traveling over the Atlantic Ocean heading towards my next destination, London, a city I have also not been to before. My time on this flight was spent reading Life, Love, and Elephants: An African Love Story, which I felt was fitting for my journey. The book told the story of the compassionate Dame Daphne Sheldrick and her remarkable career as a conservationist raising orphaned elephants. Daphne also shares the incredible story of her relationship with David Sheldrick, the famous Tsavo National Park warden whose death inspired the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust: a Haven for Elephants, where Dame Daphne works to this day. I was so engrossed with the African love story that before I could check the time of travel, we were already preparing for our descent.

I was able to spend several hours in London which I explored via the "tube." Touring the downtown area: Buckingham Palace (and I was told the Queen was in fact home), Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, Princess Diana's memorial, and the Globe theater. The city was filled with culture, friendly people, packed with tourists, and delicious food and beverages. As quickly as I arrived to London, I left, with the intention of returning for a proper visit.

During the final leg of my safari (Swahili for "journey") that I started 30 hours prior, I was mesmerized by my thoughts of what I was about to encounter: Would I get to meet Dame Daphne Sheldrick?! Would the people at the Centre accept me? Would I be able to help? What is the state of the people with disabilities? Images of people and animals and my own expectations flooded my mind as I dozed in and out of sleep drifting further away from my natural time zone, 7 hours away.

I landed in Kenya around 7 in the morning. As I walked down the steps of the plane, a man I met on the flight raised his hand and pointed in the direction opposite of me. I followed his finger and in the distance, I could see a fiery red and yellow half circle emerging from where the runway met the sky, casting orange beams of light in all directions. We both stared in amazement as he said, "Well, you'll never see that in London!" I thought to myself, "This is exactly where I am supposed to be."

While traveling the roads of Nairobi from the airport to the Kaizora Centre (where I would spend my time working), I was struck with how different the landscape was: dirt roads in urban settings; multi-colored tin roofs and fences; barbed-wire on everything, homes and businesses alike; hundreds of people walking to work, weaving in and out of traffic; people hanging off of commuter vans. And what struck me the most... the people, so beautiful and friendly, and always smiling.