are your brother and sister?
Papa, they are
still getting dressed.
OK you tell them
that I am going out to feed Zap and the other animals, and we
will be leaving here in 15 minutes, with or without them!
Daniel grinned to himself
as he pushed open the back door. He knew that the Kyango household
would have little chance of getting organized for the drive to
Nairobi airport in just 15 minutes. From experience, it would
be closer to 30 or 45. Daniel would be satisfied if it was under
For in fact, they were
in no particular rush on this Saturday morning. Edwards
plane from Brussels was not due in until 4:30 that afternoon.
Edward, Daniels friend from his University days in Oxford,
had made this trip from London (and now Brussels), to Kenya for
the year-end holidays for 15 years now. In fact Jomo, their eldest
son, now fast approaching his sixteenth birthday, was as a child
quite certain that Kris Kringle and his uncle Edward were one
and the same!
This day trip to Nairobi would give the Kyango clan valuable time
together. Daniel and Monicah, whose profession it was to host
tourists and city visitors all year, would today delight in turning
the tables around. Their family would be seeing the wonder that
is Kenya through visitors eyes. The drives to
Nairobi with their 3 children, Jomo, Lulu, and Keisha, always
seemed to summon some sort of adventure. Daniel mused on what
this day would bring. It was perfect timing, actually. With school
out for winter holidays, and their Harambee
Lodge now closed to the public until the second week
of the New Year, the Kyangos had the next 3 weeks free from
any obligations. This was a time to visit among themselves, and
with those - who over time - had become their extended family.
The family, which from many points around the globe, would soon
begin to make their way home to Kenya for the holidays.
Edward, Daniels oldest and closest friend, was the first.
Surely Monicah would
want to put together one of her legendary picnics for the clan
along the way to the airport. They usually stopped outside the
Nairobi National Park reserve to for a leisurely, mid-day meal.
This reserve, just outside of Nairobi and its 2 million human
inhabitants, was Daniels favorite. Where else on this Earth
did zebra, wildebeest, hyena, giraffes, and lions run protected
and free, just a few miles from a large, capital city? Last year,
Monicah set down her fine array of buttercakes, sandwiches, chocolates
and Earl Grey tea at a highway rest stop overlooking the park.
Just as they were seated, Sidneys squeal of delight alerted
them to a large and stately procession of bull elephants coming
to a halt at a leafy marsh, less than 300 yards away. Unhurried,
with a fresh breeze offering a pleasant contrast to the noonday
Equatorial sun, members of both the human and animal kingdom feasted
silently. It was a memorable occasion indeed!
Yesterday, just past
noon, the last of the lodge visitors had checked out. About 2:30,
the 3 Kyango children excitedly burst into the kitchen, wearing
what best could be described as their winter recess
smiles. Schoolbooks and backpacks were flung quickly in the bedrooms
upstairs, along with their handsome but constricting gray school
uniforms. Goodbye - for now at least - to the Jomo
Kenyatta Preparatory School, with its rules and exams
and discipline. Hello holiday fun! In no time at all, all 3 were
bounding downstairs dressed for play. The ebullience of the children
was infectious. Monicah knew better than to ask about homework
assignments, or how the children thought they fared on their pre-holiday
exams. There would certainly be plenty of time for that later.
However, she was their mother, and queen of the roost. They would
be together for the next few weeks, back in her school. Monicah
called to them, as they seemed to bounce towards the door.
Hold on, dear
children of mine. Before you rush off willy-nilly to the 4 winds,
lets spend a few moments together. Are you all heading to
the river? Now, you know I wont have Sidney swimming there
on her own.
But Mama, Im
old enough to do that on my own, Keisha (Sidney) replied.
Sidney was a charming,
sunny, and precocious 5 years old. (Actually she was 5.76 years
old, if you asked her. She had recently mastered her new pocket
calculator, and daily she excitedly computed the exact fraction
of that day, as she progressed towards her 6th birthday). Now,
no one would argue with the fact that Sidney possessed many unique,
and even magical, skills. But swimming was certainly not one of
them. Anyway, at 5 years old (or even 5.76!) she just was much
too young to swim alone.
Their mother (as mothers
often do) had correctly predicted their plans. There was a small
river that crossed through the Kyango rangeland property. It was
part of a huge water system that flowed into Kenya from the Mount
Kilamanjaro Mountains to the south in Tanzania. The rivers
cool and rich waters were a magnet for many of the herds, flocks,
and prides of animals that crossed rhythmically across southern
Kenya. The rivers customers also included the
Masai tribe, which spent part of the year in this region. Other
regulars were the employees of the lodge. Their lunch breaks provided
a welcome opportunity to blend into the waterways timeless
beauty. Oftentimes they were accompanied by some of the lodges
more adventurous seminar participants and guests. And of course,
the Kyango clan. All communed with the river, though each in their
At a point about a
half a mile from the lodge, the river, called Kiljama by the Masai,
bent there into a gentle curve. A small delta of sorts had developed
there over time. The river broadened, and right at the point of
the curve, split into four small tributaries. Some thirty feet
to the left of the delta, a 5th , more muscular branch This parallel
slender rivulet, about six feet wide, ran under a shade-rich thicket
of trees nature had provided. Some 40 years before, the childrens
grandparents had added five oak saplings in a semi-circle on the
Kyango side of the river. Though the oak tree was not native to
the region, all 5 trees had thrived. This combination of nature
and the Kyango ancestors had created a fabulous place to sit or
snooze or take an unhurried swim. The swimming hole
was the childrens favorite hideaway.
Ma, Jomo interjected. We talked about this on the
bus ride home. Ill be going with Sidney to her splash-a-bout.
Thats what Lulu and Jomo called Sidneys eager attempts
at swimming. Lulu will meet us there later after her run.
Well all be coming back together before dark.
The stern look in Monicahs
face was replaced with a broad smile. All right then. Off
you go. But make sure Sidney stays in the shallow water of the