The journey starts on schedule at 1700h just before the sun sets. It is perfect time to start anything because I am an evening person. The train is as old as the country itself, and that's not a complain because I have an eye for old rugged things.
The train is easily the least popular means of travel and commute in Kenya, especially in Nairobi. As a matter of fact, majority of Nairobi city dwellers have never set foot on any train in the country. I would have been one of those Nairobians had I not been forced to use this train years ago while coming from Mombasa to Nairobi when we, a group of college kids, had to find the cheapest means back to home after running out of cash. We took this train's 3rd class, where we would find no available seats, which really was a blessing in disguise as we didn't have to pay a dime. Dan, Patrick, Angie and I stood the whole 24 hours, occasionally hanging out in between the coaches to catch a good view of the stars.
Fast forward to today, 15 years later, I am beside myself with excitement as I arrive at the Nairobi Railways Station. I'm going to use the train again, to Mombasa, but this time I'm told it would only last 18 hours. There are countable locals waiting to board the train at the station's restaurant. Majority of the travelers are foreigners who are probably in it for the experience like myself. I want to see the Tsavo, the Yatta Plateau, I hope to see wild animals, and I know I will watch the sky as it changes with the passing of time, not to mention today is a full moon date; I am in for the greatest ride of my entire life. I am happy as a little girl, infecting everyone who cares to stare with shear excitement.
The journey starts on schedule at 1700h just before the sun sets. It is perfect time to start anything because I am an evening person. The train is as old as the country itself, and that's not a complain because I have an eye for old rugged things.
As the journey progresses I realize the railway line runs parallel to the Nairobi-Mombasa highway which I have used many times before, and I can also see the new standard gauge railway line in a near distant, also, running sort of parallel. So there is nothing too new for me to see. But hey, that doesn't kill my excitement for a "first-time" experience, seeing that it's my first time to be traveling on 2nd class, all alone in a compartment, free to do whatever the heck I want, including dancing in my pants to no music! But look at that "burning" tree at the end of that railway below.
The savanna's evening star is blazing up the sky behind the towering acacia tree here. I'm struggling to figure out exactly where we are, and with my camera ready in my hand and my finger positioned on the focus button, I wait for an interesting shot in this fast changing scenery. Lady luck does not disappoint; in a short split second, a small stream that must be part of a seasonal river shows up and makes a perfect reflection of the disappearing evening star, and I get a clean shot at the first take. As suddenly as this scene appeared, it quickly disappears behind the bushy riverbanks. I am very happy with what just happened.
Wherever the evening star has receded to! I turn around to the other side of my compartment door and the sky just switched the show while no one was watching. We are moving under a completely new sky. When you say sky blue, or blue sky, you haven't started describing what I had for a show. This sky was a deep royal blue, with the moon hanging like a perfect button just high enough for my lenses to include the acacia trees silhouette and the deeper blue yatta escarpment in the distant.
Evans, the guy with the ringing the bell walks past me ringing away to remind everyone dinner was ready. "Hi Rose, are you coming for dinner?" We are already on first name basis with the staff on board the train. "The restaurant will be to your right, about 3 coaches from here" He explains cheerfully. As advised, I carry with me all my valuables in my handbag and head out for dinner. The restaurant is almost full, but I find a free chair next to a young family. I am very impressed to have freshly cooked 3 course meal served by friendly staff. But I must retire early to bed if I am to catch the sunrise early the next morning.
Back in my compartment, I lock the door behind me, clean my face and change into a comfortable nightwear. Lying in a comfortable bed in a train in clean fresh bedding is like renting a hotel room in a moving van. I can not fully describe how surreal this night feels. I have the choice to pull down the window blinders and have a pitch dark room, but this is not just a room; I'm in a moving old rugged train with an opportunity of a lifetime to star-gaze myself to sleep. But first I'll read a chapter then turn the lights off!
It's dawn, but the Sunrise is not quite visible from my window. So I return to sleep-in a little longer. Shortly, these yellow aggressive sun rays wake me the heck up. I literally jumped out of bed, grab the camera, and luckily get this beautiful shot. The train takes a corner. I lose the view. But look at that those colors. This is undoubtedly going to be a great day.
I don't mean to take a picture of this guy, but he is standing on art, on a beautiful river bed that delicately reflects the clearing sky above. Olive, my friend in Holland calls and we get lost catching up on phone. We are cut short by the ringing bell in the corridor; it's time for breakfast.
Just as I'm about to step out for breakfast, this trio colored landscape happens. The land lays flat like a ruler here on the world's longest lava flow; the yatta plateau! I'm talking vast flat land, which my lenses can not accommodate in a shot. This is the kind of place I should return to, sit somewhere in the middle of nowhere and think about nothing!
I think I spot some wildlife. I am not sure if my camera can zoom in that far, but since this is the only hint of wildlife since we started this journey, I will not wait for a better shot! Those must be wilder beasts. The unending human activity along the railway line must have been pushed the wildlife way out of our sight. Have we humans ruined what is supposed to be one of the world's greatest train rides? I'm off for breakfast!
The restaurant is almost empty as majority of travelers have already returned to their rooms. I find a table in the middle and sit next to the window. Soon I'm joined by a traveler who like me is coming late for breakfast. John who is originally from London knows more about my country than I do; shame on me. His sister Catherine joins us and we are soon like old friends, occasionally waving at the ecstatic children outside the window. I used to be these children who love to wave at random travelers, and being honest, I still do that today, although after turning 12 I had to stop racing after vehicles.
Back to my little haven of a compartment, I realize the journey is about to end though I secretly wish it would last longer.
I take a few shots of the moving train then pack my bag ready to arrive in Mombasa where Angie my host, (same ol' Angie from 15 years ago train drive) would be waiting to receive me.
As I drag my strolley bag through Mombasa railway station, I think to myself, what a beautiful journey; I have to take this train back to Nairobi later in the week.
Today 26th October is Austria's National day and I'm out in the beautiful city of Vienna, this time not to capture her picturesque historical buildings, but to get a glimpse of her people. Everything is closed on the National day, I mean everything that isn't for eating and drinking. I'm very intrigued to learn that a whole main road is also closed for the day's celebrations. Whether this was for the earlier national celebrations held in Vienna's historical site, Heldenplatz, or for the newly sworn in recruits of the Austrian army forces parade, it's refreshing to see a city come alive with a buzz of city dwellers, their pets and visitors, enjoying a walk on the otherwise vehicle way.
There are the policemen and police women on duty who are probably either happy to serve, or wondering why they have to be ones on duty when the whole world around them isn't. There is the gentleman pushing the baby stroller, while his woman watches to make sure the baby isn't cold. There's a group of friends, five men, and a dog, a little cute dog wearing a colorfully stripped jacket. And the old man and his wife walking hand in hand, who remind me of Kenny Rogers hit song "In our old age". There is the curious young man who, among his friends, stands out as seeing what everyone else isn't looking at. And there is the red Jacket guy who I'm struggling to see if he's with the woman pushing the twin stroller or by himself.
There are the masses; all these people each carrying a story of significance that their faces will never tell, a hope hidden in their smile. And I think to myself on this land of the living, what a beautiful sight to behold; what a beautiful day.
There is a flashlight in my eyes as I wake up. Some sound minded person is flashing light in my face. Why anyone would think it's remotely funny to get me to wake up by flashing light in my face puzzles my half asleep half awake self!! It's not in the vein of the pranks of the ha ha ha kind. How did this light flashing person even gain access to my house? With no possible clarity to my bewildered waking moment, I struggle and open my eyes at an angle to find that the flash light in my eyes is not a flash light but the blue laser-like beam from my laptop which I had left on power before hitting the sack last night. Phew, what a relief! There is no light flashing person in my house, and neither is this my house. I had just woken up in a hotel room. In Bangkok. Thailand. I quickly recall I had flown 6 hours across 4 time zones into Thailand a day before, and slept the jet lag off that whole afternoon and night. As I make my way to the table to turn the laptop power off, I can tell from the corners of the blinding curtains that it's already daybreak here. That flashlight um...er..laptop light situation was a real sleep-breaker because the clock on my bedside says I've only slept for a second since I got off Skype about an hour ago.
I draw the curtains to let the real light, the sunlight, into my room that also happens to be on the 15th floor, perfectly high enough for me to enjoy a panoramic window view. I drink a glass of lemon water to start a great day, is what I would like you to believe I did, but really, I fix a cup of coffee from the complementary beverages in the room while I respond to whatsapp messages. "How's Bangkok" Mirko in Doha inquires on w/app. "It's daybreak" I type, add a pic of the skyline and hit send. "Why are you up so early?" I ask as I drag the reclining sofa to face the sunrise, allowing myself to soak in the early morning warm rays while I enjoy my guilty pleasure cup of coffee. "Thanks for the pic. I'm working split shift, so I already slept in the afternoon". I don't know what split shift is, but I do know that my new in town friend is fine.
Speaking of friends, the last couple of months I have had to deal with a series of incidences that got me to rethink my friendships. Other than my faith and family, the friendships I make and keep count. This morning presents a good quiet time away from everybody for more reflection. I'm not particularly hungry, so I'll postpone breakfast to late morning.
Don't we all hope that the friendships we make do last forever like the song "friends are friends forever" or the phrase BFF (best friend forever). The harsh reality, however, is that most of the friendships we make are temporary and only important for certain seasons in our lives. Some good friendships last forever although they evolve with time. At one point you are spending every free moment together, the next, you have to use a calculator to plan a chat. This might also mean setting alarm clocks and all the shebang that comes with working with distance. While some friendships survive the distance by a string, and others go into a dormant state, but many fade off as a result. I should understand the evanescence of friendships that is inevitable in my current sojourning reality. I meet and connect with people around the world, make friends, but most of the time I have to leave shortly after; so does the friendship. I should know better how to be present in these moments I am granted, because I know many of these are impermanent. The time shared. The exchanged gifts. The moments captured. The memories made. The exceeded expectations. These good friendships we come by are not always forever. This current friend will not always be the friend they are today. Should we then not make the best of the memories? Are we truly enjoying the gift of the present. The gift of friendship.
It's 10.30am and breakfast at the hotel restaurant will close in 30 minutes if they haven't closed yet. I better get down or better still, take the hotel shuttle to Rama 9 shopping Mall for a better selection of brunch options. Later I would take a train to the beautiful Lumpini Park, one of the oldest parks in the city, for some fresh air and a boat ride.
I've been working on a back to back schedule since I got back to work from my 3-week vacation. So, today when I woke up, I had understandably missed Doha against all nothing-to-do-here reputation of the city by the expat community here. As a matter of fact, Doha is one of my most favorite cities because, one, most of my regular friends and I live here, and secondly, I get to sleep, I mean real snooze time, without the guilty thoughts of missing out on the city while I sleep.
It's midday. Our TV is on, but on mute mode as always and I'm playing random videos from Facebook feeds on my laptop. Ida walks into the living room with cake in her plate. "Hey, happy belated birthday favorite flatmate. Is that from your birthday party?" I ask knowing I haven't seen her in a week. "No, I bought this from Saigon". She responds as she places a huge piece on the plate which I should have cleared from the coffee table ages ago when I finished having breakfast. "I'm still waiting for the on-board supervisors to send me pictures of the party the crew threw for me on my flight back from Saigon". She adds, and settles in the adjacent couch. "Awww how thoughtful of the crew". I reply with a mouthful as I make a mental note to only eat half of the cake and spare the other for dinner. "Hey, I'm planning to go to the MIA (Museum of Islamic Art) park later this evening. Are you free..." then the YouTube video about the mistaken crowning of miss universe starts on my laptop, and that's how my earlier point on going out faded into thin air. Soon after, we both disappear into our bedrooms, and I believe Ida must have gone back to bed. Oh and oh, I must mention I cleared all the cake on my plate; so much for saving it for later.
Today being an only day off for me, staying indoors is a depressing option. I walk to Melissa's flat and find her asleep on the couch. Don't judge. Any time can be sleep time in the world we live in. "Melissaaaa..." I storm into her living room singing her name. "Get up. take a shower. We are going to the museum". Startled, she turns towards me "Rose my baby, I can't go anywhere. I've lost weight and I'm feeling unwell". I laugh out loud, knowing too well she doesn't really mean to say she lost weight, but being a native french speaker, lord knows what she meant to say. "No, really...I can't even come out because I have duty in a short time" she continues to defend herself.
Alright! So, no one is up for my little outing plan, but the weather is too pleasant, the sunset too beautiful and I am too awake to miss out on this. I take to the shower, put on some lipstick and in short time catch a taxi to the park. The sunset is all orange and the sky is on fire. There are distinct structures I came to see here; the museum itself, for one. I remember being told that the building top is made after a woman wearing hijab; the Islamic attire/ head covering for women. Be my judge. I walk around the building taking pictures from different angles, and sure enough, from whatever angle I stood, the two "hijab eyes" were always watching me. As the sky darkened, the "hijab eyes" seemed like they have pupils. Or may be that's just in my active brain.
The next structure is a random metal-like tower. This is how to name city attractions when you go out without a city guide or a real local person. It's very easy to miss this one because it gets camouflaged by the backdrop of skyscraper buildings, especially at night because it is not lit-up, unlike it's competitor backdrop which dazzles in different colors and patterns of lights. I for one, never took notice of it until I saw it pictured in the local airline's on-board magazine, The Oryx. I had never seen this magnificent looking structure anywhere in Doha before and I wanted to see it. So today while I was busy seeing pupils on a hijab eyed building, I spotted this metal structure from a distance in the park and decided to follow it until I was able to take a shot as close to what I saw in The Oryx magazine as possible.
My solo outing was quickly getting old and I needed to get to the only coffee shop in the park to catch my favorite karak (spiced tea). I find a perfect spot at this outdoor cafe where the view of the city beyond the sea is unobstructed. "Good evening Ma'am would you like to have a look at our Menu?". A pleasant gentleman receives me with a smile. I already know what I want to have this evening, so I go straight and ask for Karak and a mozzarella-tomato panini. "How much is that gonna be?" I ask. Listen, I'm no father Christmas, neither am I princess Diana. I've got important financial goals, which means must I keep a close watch on my spending. "That's going to be 56 Riyal Ma'am". I breath a silent sigh of relief. This place looks pricey, but I'm pleasantly impressed that I won't need to contemplate breaking into banks later in my sleep. "Don't you have discounts?" I was going to push this financial goal thing, wasn't I? "Are you from..." before he could finish finding out who my employer is, I whip my company ID outta my li'l purse and wave it in the air like it were a red card or a "say-no-more" card. Then he nods " It'll be 20% off for you". After a short while he comes back with my ID, my order and the bill. "Rose! That's a beautiful name. Enjoy your meal.". I work in service industry and I am trained to make people feel special, but knowing all this, heck, these service industry tricks always leave me feeling oh so nice. I take my ID card back and think "lovely service and, yes, Rose is a lovely name." What a lovely night!
I'm seated quietly on my couch a certain Sunday afternoon, making twists on my at-the-moment very uncooperative 'fro kinky. Kari Jobe's song “Beautiful”, playing softly in the background, easily has me drift back in time to two years ago when I set out to travel to Gent, Belgium from Amsterdam in Netherlands. The journey that was supposed to take three hours took me four hours, and luckily for the universe, I was to blame for it. My trip schedule had to change at the Rotterdam station in Netherlands because I had just missed my connection to Antwarpen, Belgium. I won’t be too harsh on myself though because the changeover was two flaming minutes and the trains were not only platforms apart, I had to go through three elevators which, up to date, I dread. Oops, there it is, I am terrified of elevators. Oh that's not the worst; I did not even know where to look, to find my new connecting train. In train stations here, everybody (including the random doves that scavenge the stations) but me, seem to know where the heck they're going, which left me feeling more embarrassed than lost. Thank goodness, I found a French couple who were so kind as to show me which train to catch, and where to wait for it. I have since learned how to read maps, and speak few French words.
Relieved, I find myself a seat in the cold winter. Chewing gum. For 45 minutes. Waiting for my train. And believe you me, I did not even as much as get on Facebook (I lie). As soon as the long awaited train arrives, it dawns on me I should not even have alighted the last one about an hour ago, because this new train was heading to the same destination (Rosendaal) as that one I alighted. No need to panic, I board the train humming "I wanna wish you a merry Christmas" in February, and gracefully take a seat while secretly wondering how on our concrete earth I would end up in Belgium now that we were headed to Rosendaal which was still in Netherlands. I make a mental note to always bring a map.
Long story cut short, I was later to find out that I boarded a hi-speed train whose ticket costed way higher than what I had paid and then sat in first class which again, was much higher than the amount printed on my ticket (L-o-o-o-o-r-d have mercy). How is anybody supposed to know that the "1" written on the train's door frames is to be interpreted as first class? Given my then lost situation, "1" on a train door frame could have meant a range of things that are best left unsaid. I doubt I even saw it. Okay keep calm Rosie; you need your cool to figure your way to Antwarp from Rosendaal. Good news is, once in Antwarp, I would have entered Belgium, and thanks to my roaming mobile line, it cued me that my fuzzy wozzy trip was about to be end.
One pleasant surprise for me was the distinct difference Belgium is from The Netherlands. I did not expect to find much of a difference both being so close and mainly Dutch. But when you get to Belgium, everything screams “this is Belgium, not Holland”; the different architecture, the Jubiler branded pubs everywhere, a slightly warmer winter that reminds you you are going towards the south, the occasional hilly terrain, oh and I was told people here are more friendly. If you've been to France, you could easily see the French influence in the way people dress in Belgium. The ladies, as one of my new found friends described, are more feminine with a stronger sense of fashion.
After 4 long hours I arrive at St. Peters Gent station, and shortly after, my friend and host, Fragrance, comes to meet me, shows me around her (my new) neighborhood, introduces me to a few of her friends at a house party around the corner, stocks her fridge for me (bless her kind and gracious heart), and after a night or two I see her off to Brussels where she would catch her flight to Nairobi, Kenya.
The old historical architecture in this picturesque city of Gent got my heart; spelt “Ghent” in Dutch (and for you to sound remotely Dutch you have to pronounce it as though you have pop-corns stuck in your throat). This is the city that never goes to sleep, possibly because of the huge population of young people who come from all corners of the world to study here. I remember being told Ghent is a university city. Someone will explain this to me some day, but all these uni students, the locals and the masses of tourists and travelers here, we all have got to have something to stay awake for, don't we. My most memorable moments however were the people I met and the friendship I gained.
I have always thought of myself as a traveler (and all those trips I plan and never actually take, count here as well) but this journey felt like my maiden one. I was in foreign continent, on my own, barely having understood my way around getting tickets, let alone maneuvering my way around train stations.
...getting visas is a whole new chapter also known as "daytime nightmare". The process is such a headache that whoever said people don't really want foreigners in their countries could possibly have been on to some truth.
Clerk, I haven't had enough of this seemingly laid back province of the Philippines but its time to dress up and leave for today's duty. A small note is slipped under my door and the only time this happens is when there is some sort of a delay at the airport. And sure enough, the note says our flight has been delayed for God knows how long. Half dressed, I settle back on the bed waiting to be informed of my revised pick up time; which in aviation jargon is hotel standby. The WiFi signal in my room is too weak to connect my mobile device. My old laptop ran out of charge years ago, but no, I can't charge it because the pins don't work in this country. I could watch TV, but how timely of National Geo the only English channel here to be showing people hunting snakes and sharks! I am terrified of reptiles, all kinds, without exempting the ones on TV and magazines. I'm left with one exciting entertainment though, my active brain, which runs through my previous conversations to one I had with a friend a couple of weeks ago. I remember how distressed she sounded, or so I thought, about turning 28 and still single. I know this feeling too well. I think age 26 to 29 are the most anxious for single upwardly moving women.
The society and, oh lord have mercy, mother nature, dictates that we should be married before we hit the big three O. If you think these are too much for women this age group to deal with, try adding to the list, slowing metabolism which equals uncalled for weight gain, free radicals that begin invite appearance of fine lines around the eyes whenever we smile or grin, our well meaning mothers, aunties and married friends who will try to hook us up with any single male alive, the list is endless. So my almost 28 year old friend has strong valid reasons to sound this terrified of being 30 and miserably single. She has a timeline to find love and walk into the sunset where they'll live happily ever after. I truly hope that things work out as she desires and more importantly that her ltimeline is aligned to God's timing. You see, I believe it is God's timelines we should fit ourselves into and not the other way round. There is a place for timelines, but love and timing isn't in our hands, and like a friend advised me, matters of love, relationships and marriage can not be run like projects with targets and timelines.
I could be wrong since I have not yet towed the marriage line yet I have burst the societal limit and went right into my 30s single and wiser, so I whatsapp Angie my best friend, who just got married again at 32. I give her a quick background to my question. (W/app, what a blessing)
"...girl, you've been married in your 20's and you've been single in your 30s and now you just got married. I don't think there is any better person to shed some light on the topic running through my head right now - marital statuses, age, and being in God's perfect timing.!
I'm still waiting to know what time I leave for the airport, and I see National Geo is now on rodents. That's a much better thing to watch. Apparently, there's this rat that made its way across the Indian ocean to the island yonder, found a female rat and now the once rodent-free island is inhabited by millions of rats. You wonder how the male rat made it across!
The headset next to my thoughts-full head rings, and my pick up is in 28 minutes. I quickly finish dressing up. I am looking at my phone hoping Angie responds before I can leave the room and the free WIFI for the next 9 hours in-flight. She doesn't disappoint; just before I can start wearing mascara on the other eye, her replies flood my phone. "ah a a, Rosey, finish with that mascara before you forget and get out with a half done face" says Tyra Bank's voice in my head.
"Wow Mwende, I commend you for your train of thought in letting the Lord do it as opposed to us making our own decisions on marriage. I could contribute one or two things I have learnt, which I found quite instrumental in preparing me afresh for marriage.
The other day I had a talk with a 33 year old agitated Christian girl who wanted to really get married. I asked her about her level of readiness and she affirmed that she had been ready since she was 25...! The problem we have today is that we have very few mentors who can mentor people in God's ways concerning marriage. That is, having the older women instructing the younger ones on family issues. Further, even the few available mentors are not quite listened to. Check out Titus 2:3-5.
Giving God an ultimatum is an almost sure way of setting oneself up for disappointment... Your 28 year old friend needs to be busy preparing herself as a bride. This preparation is usually so involving that time flies by. Some preparation pointers for a Christian bride are as follows:
Sometime back you shared with me a concern about girls in church who were getting married and it seemed like the ones with loose morals were the ones getting husbands. This is a deceptive spirit to derail those who truly walk with God, because in as much as the morally loose ones seemed to be wedding in droves, it would make more sense to follow them up after one year and find out what's going on in those marriages. I can almost bet they can not bare the sight of one another.
Marriage remains God idea and domain. We only get it right through him and his instructions. So much for my mourning and rumbling!!! We girls need to love God and please Him. He will take us to the men who have His heart. I confess to you Mwende, I have such a man in my house for a husband.
Point to note: One undoing of our society is that it has taught us ladies to be masculine, as opposed to playing and winning in our femininity. We have been taught that what a man can do, a woman can do better. This can not be further from the truth when God made us to compliment one another and not to compete. A display of femininity is very attractive to any normal male because it is a display of what he does not have. I like the bible's description of Rebekka in Genesis 24:16 (Amplified version) "Very beautiful, modest and chaste". That is the description of a bride.
I remain standing in the room leg-rooted for a minute, and then pull my suitcase and strolley bag, and quietly walk to the airport van, thinking about the w/app I just read from Angela Tsuma.
In the van, we learn that the reason we couldn't take off 5 hours ago as scheduled was because the aircraft had run out of oxygen bottles, a safety equipment that we couldn't take off without. I smile as I see how related this delay was to what I was busy pondering on while waiting for my new pick up. The "delay" may exist to prepare us for a safe take off. Timing is in God's hands.
When we land in Ibrahim Nasir International Airport, the first impression of Maldives island is breathtaking; clear turquoise sea water, bright blue sky with hanging white clouds, pure white/pearl sandy beach, holiday resorts signage, palm tree leaves moving with the wind, green mangroves with beautiful purple lilies, sunny yellow flowers and dazzling red orchids that seem to be saying "welcome to the sunny side of life", holidaymakers (maybe honeymooners) in beach clothing walking leisurely mostly hand in hand, the smell of the ocean breeze, the sound of the speed boats and sea planes, and the glare of the sunny afternoon. And then, all this is temporarily interrupted by greetings from our hotel staff who is holding out a tray of glasses of a cold fruit punch. With a quick gratitude nod and a single gallop of the contents in the tiny glass, I turn to my equally awed colleague and ask "what part of the world is this we just landed?" She looks at me understandingly, walks away waving while suggesting we meet at the pool in an hour's time.
Aright alright! I didn't quite do my research to know anything about my destination ahead of time. At least, back in at home, I tried checking with my flat mate what kind of weather I should have in mind when packing for Maldives; she had no clue and neither did her Mr. "google". Because I was short of time packing then, I threw in a beach dress, a pair of jeans and sketchers, sandals and two pairs of bikini, my sun lotion and a sweater top, a warm jacket and some sun glasses. I had a suspicious feeling that I was headed to a sunny destination, but hey, a girl's got to prepare for any cold surprises.
You must be wondering how anybody should set out to a destination without the slightest clue about what to expect, right? Yeah, me too.
On my way to my hotel room, I find out from one of the hotel staff that Maldives is an island somewhere near India. Now that's very "helpful". I smile as I walk away and promise myself to get out in an hour's time to go see this sunny side of life.
I am lucky to catch the sun setting into the ocean before its dark. Yes, the sunset. You see, I only know of the sun that rises out of the ocean, because where I come from, the ocean is in the east. This beautiful view should tell me something about my location on the globe. If the sun is setting into the ocean, then I must be on the west side of the ocean. If... Okay, not to bore you to death with my disorientation, I find some of my colleagues in the pool. They are playing a water sport also known as throw-ball-at-each-other-be-happy. I can't help but wonder why anyone would choose to be in the swimming pool when the sun is setting into the ocean. I resist the temptation to continue judging, and with a smile, I politely decline the invitation to jump in, and walk towards the beach to enjoy the sun downer.
It's getting dark and the warm sun seems to have dropped behind the dark grey clouds. The sight of an unusually shifting star in the now dark blue sky (which I shortly figure out is a landing aircraft's headlights) and then a rumble in my stomach remind me it's time for dinner.
I am the first to arrive at the poolside bar for dinner. I make my order of the seafood on offer and wait forever for my meal to be served. Meanwhile, I have a lot on my mind to process, this week having been one of the toughest in my new job and new life. I sip a glass of cold still water wondering how tomorrow would play out. My deep thoughts are cut short by a plate of giant prawns on my table. I am not a fun of seafood, yet this vividly conscious knowledge did not stop me from ordering giant prawns for dinner. The waiter obviously has to almost spoon-feed me because, man, these were not normal day prawns. I persevere through the meal and keep thinking how a plate of food could take my mind off the worries of life to worries of "what on our concrete earth am I munching in my dorn mouth?"
My colleagues, who join me shortly as soon as I'm done eating, are too excited about the seafood. I can understand the excitement because whoah, their platefuls look and taste heavenly. I silently murmur a lesson to self to always wait for those who understand the menu before I make my order. Okay Rose, snap out of it and say halo to two strangers joining the table. These guys are here from Seattle, US, for work. One of them, a handsome shy looking American, takes a seat next to me, and turns out to be a great conversationalist, and very funny too. I'm glad to learn that they too already had their dinner, which makes three of us on the table who have room in our mouths to chatter away and laugh out loud.
It's time to retire to bed, and I am sure I will not be up early enough the following day to join my colleagues to a nearby island for snorkeling. If it was scuba diving, I would have dragged myself out of bed and crawled to the island; but no, thank you; anyone who cares about not jerking up their organism, wouldn't go scuba diving and fly 38,000 ft later the very same day. Instead, I settle for a walk around the beach and a little feet in the sky stunt, all this while avoiding a jump into the tempting sea water.
I now must leave this unexpectedly beautiful island. Forget about where you are on the map Maldives. Next time I'll find out what you've got hidden under this clear blue sea water.
Its one day to my birthday, I am lazing around in a company-given apartment, in the humid summer heat of Doha- Qatar, where I just moved a couple months ago for work. I shall not turn on the Air conditioning (AC) because I overheard AC will not only dry my skin and eyes, it'll make me put on weight. But who am I kidding, this is mad impossible heat and AC isn't a luxury! Moving on, before leaving my previous employer, I mentioned to one of my seniors that as soon as I was done with the work-break, I would hit the skies flying. Nothing, in reality, could have come as precisely true as these words.
At the start of 2013, my discomfort with my status quo hit its limit. I knew that what I needed to do was to quit my job, but I wasn't coming by any job offer, let alone an interview. During the months that followed, I tried to change and correct everything around me including an extreme house makeover, a radical change of hairstyle, even a switch of my workplace desk location. I became a very dissatisfied employee. I knew my level of dissatisfaction was at the verge of driving me to destroy everything I had worked so hard to build during the past 4 years in the department. I also realized that past work-related unresolved issues were holding me back from enjoying my work and life, and after trying to resolve them unsuccessfully, the remaining healthy option was for me to... walk. away.
Looking back, I could have been more graceful with the exit. On a Friday night, after a tension-filled week in the office, I could swear, I heard a voice tell me “resign”, but I also like to think I momentarily lost my mind, googled a resignation letter, edited it slightly, said a short prayer that went something like “Lord! what on earth!!!?” then hit the send button. I knew that was the kind of a move in the category of " go crazy, burn the bridge and hope that the fire will light the path ahead". There was no turning back no matter what. I was so compelled to quit that it felt like if I didn't hit that send button, I would never get another driven momenta to change my circumstances.
Heck, here I was, after serving my 30 day notice period, with absolutely no idea what next. Blank! Zero! Nil. Nada. Zilch. Luckily, I had my MBA dissertation to finish, which kept me busy and out of trouble. At the same time, I got down to building a web resource www.thexecutivewoman.com which quickly became my daytime job. Yep, I became busier and motivated than I had been in my previous job. During this time I built a wide range of business networks and was quickly making my way into management consulting, when one day I stopped and asked myself if this is what I quit my highly paying job for. I mean, did I take the most scary step of my entire life only to fall immediately back to the same ol' stuff? Why was I doing everything I was busying myself with? so...and so? then...and then? I put all that aside, sold all my belongings, packed my bags and literally left for the unknown.
I knew I could not afford a wrong turn at this point. I didn't want to take a path just because it was the most logical route to follow. As a matter of fact, I didn't want to follow any damn path. I wanted to pave my own path. I thought to myself, how about I give all these career shebang a rest, throw my hands in the air and um walk. ah? How about I try to do all those things I couldn't do because I was employed. You know, stuff like taking my guitar and hitting the streets to entertain passers by, for free. Huh? interesting stuff like bar-tending in a roadside country pub somewhere in the middle of no where for an hour or so. How about trying to live in a continent other than the one I was born in. Even better, taking a 6-hour day bus with my best friend to just to spend time with her at her pre-wedding party, and then randomly decide to spend a week in the next town volunteering for a not for profit conservancy organization.
I started looking into relocating...to wherever, and that’s when I bumped into www.wanderingearl.com. I have a dormant desire to eventually settle in Europe, for adventure sake, so I started researching on visiting Europe. Wandering Earl opened my eyes into the world of long-term travel and to cut a long story short, I sold all my belongings, packed my bag and literary stepped into the unknown, starting in Europe.
My first intention was to visit Netherlands for a month to see if I could move there, but I decided to take all the 90 days provided in the Schengen visa. Why not! While in Europe, I pushed my travelling interest further and went to see Belgium for a month. My planned trip to Rome and Paris was cut short by time constraints and by this time the reality of going back home in Nairobi meant I had to think a plan ahead.
Once you start traveling, it is true, you never want to stop. Between my trip back to Holland and later to Nairobi, time flew too fast for me to mentally organize a working plan. Simply put, I hit the confusion and lost buttons. I did not know what to do next. This was the first time in my life to hit these buttons. I always have had the future well thought through, never mind that half the plans fell through the cracks. I could not go back to how things used to be because I had changed; my world view had taken a 180 degree turn during those 3 months of travel- I was a different person. Oh and I didn't even have a house of my own in Nairobi anymore. It was crystal clear to me that I did not want to settle in a conventional 8-5 job. I wanted to continue travelling to figure my life out.
By this time, my savings had gotten to a point I needed to start making money to finance my never ending journey. The next plan for me was to find English teaching jobs and volunteer opportunities abroad that would keep me travelling. I booked a ticket to Hong Kong to go teach English. During this time, I started building a personal blog where I would tell the story of the world as I see it.
…then one day when I was busy minding my business, I came by a job vacancy ad that would land me a job which would take me to over 100 destinations worldwide. I canceled my HK ticket. Packed my bag again, and here I am. What a turn of events!!! How did the pieces fit so perfectly? I still haven't been to HK, but its on my list.
This journey has so far taught me real humility, simple living, faith and hope. I've learned to embrace new friendships and keep the real ones, and to let go those that need to go. I've learned to embrace the real me and I plan to stay true to who I am. No matter what titles, positions or statuses I gain out here, I want to make a positive difference or addition to the people I meet, the places I go or stay, and through my words and presence. I may forget who I am at times and what I am about, but I hope that I always come back to this place and remember what really matters. This is a great new beginning for me, it is a new day in paradise.
Early 2013 I started a journey to redefine myself. After what seemed like several months of empty and meaningless living, I woke up one day, quit my job, sold all my belongings, packed my backpack and literary left for the unknown.