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Chapter Two

"The Harambee Lodge"

With dawn light just now beginning to glint upon the Eastern horizon, Daniel made his way straight across the family shamba (garden) towards the animal’s compound. The fall rains, starting in late October and ending just a few weeks ago, had been a bit heavier than usual this year. And the Kyango shamba - this colorful quarter-acre patch of vegetables, herbs, and flowers - was the better for it. He stooped down and pulled a handful of carrots, and a large root of Chinese ginger (which Monicah Kyango was proud to have imported into the area) to bring with him to the animal compound. Zap was particularly fond of his carrots and ginger.

Original artwork by Billy Appleman

The compound, some 100 yards from the main house, was the oldest building on the Kyango property. Two broad acacia trees flanked it on either side. Daniel was told that in his grandfather’s generation, this had been the main, or great house, for the Kyango tribe. While he was growing up, it was the home of his father’s brother, Stanlee, and his family. Built of an imported dark oak, and two stories high, it was a venerable reminder of the early settlements. Daniel’s parents, Lennard and Mary Kyango, were the one’s that began the conversion of the some of the family acreage into lodgings. They correctly foresaw the need for “civilized” housing for visitors from the bigger cities, who would desire to visit the Masai Mara region of Kenya.

When the cries of Uhuru eventually brought Kenya political independence and freedom in the early 60’s, Daniel’s parents put together a plan that would create a prosperous future for not only themselves, but also future generations. It centered on creating two sources of income for the family. They would continue to commit the greater portion of their land to rangeland and agriculture, their traditional businesses, they decided. This would allow them to maintain cash crops through all the growing seasons. Also, they would keep a wide swath of their rangeland open to the migratory patterns of both the indigenous Masai tribes and the wildebeest. However, on a 4-acre tract that fronted onto the main road, they would construct the most enviable resort in all of South Central Kenya. This was to be named the Harambee Lodge. It would be dedicated to the principle of Harambee, a popular vision of that time, of people working together for the same goal.

Over the period of 5 years, they birthed that vision. They built a new “Great House” in the traditional colonial fashion of the British, who had claimed and ruled Kenya for some 100 years as a protectorate. It housed the reception areas, library, and the “meet and eat” rooms for the visitors. The upstairs of this great house was dedicated to Lennard and Mary and their family. This was the home that later Daniel was born and grew up in. Now, 40 years later, it was his family’s home. And hopefully, Daniel’s children, now upstairs, were getting dressed.

To the left of the compound were two distinct buildings that served as housing for the guests of the lodge. While unique in design, they were both painted the same soft light orange hue. It was here in these two buildings that the majority of the paying lodge guests were housed. The Harambee Lodge, when finally opened to the public in 1971, had a first (and at that point, only) building containing 42 rooms. Of these, 12 were larger more luxurious suites. As Kenyan tourism grew in general and the Harambee Lodge in particular, developed an International reputation, the family shrewdly renovated the property. Asian, Arab, and visitors from the Americas had now joined the first wave of British and European tourist. Their hosts quickly realized that here, peering into the wild beauty of jungle life; international visitors needed a touch of home. So the Victoria building as it came to be known, adapted to changing times and changing clientele. Rooms were all adapted to suites richly furnished in the most cosmopolitan of fashions. The Victoria wing of the lodge echoed the civilized tone of Queen Victoria of England and Lake Victoria, Kenya’s large fresh water lake (named after the queen) some 4 hours away. Guests wanted to order a tempo nabidi, a cool glass of their hometown Heineken or Beck’s beer that would be as important to them as a day safari or the amazing spectacle of the wildebeest migration.

The second of the lodge houses, nicknamed Kenyata Village, was built and designed by Daniel and his father soon after Daniel’s return to Kenya after his University days. With the vision and idealism of both his youth and the times he was brought up within, Daniel implored Lennard to weave traditional Kenyan and Masai culture into the Harambee Lodge. Kenya, was To Daniel, Kenya was the cradle of civilization, a privilege for the world’s non African cultures. Africa was not a colonial prize; it was a shrine to the sacred origins of life on this planet. The culture of Kenya likewise had successfully endured and maintained a salubrious relationship with the myriad forms of life - human, animal, and magical - that had cohabited this region with them. Africa was not to be a poacher’s stomping ground. Daniel was certain that in time that the lands of his origin would regain stature within the eyes of the world’s community. Lennard heard his son and acceded to his request. The Kenyata building, completed in 1976, was the result.

The Kenyata wing was a unique, visual, and architectural marvel. It was designed in a circle. Rooms were pie shaped, though about one third of that pie, it’s center, had been set aside by the architects as common courtyard area. A large banyan tree transported from India sat in the center of the common area. Tulips from Holland, iris’s from England, and other flowers more traditionally seen in European gardens or castles were arranged around this tree. This was symbolic of the visitors from overseas who had come to Kenya to feel its embrace.

Radiating out from this banyan sanctuary was an open space that during seminar season was used to stage outdoor classes and the occasional musical or song night. A well manicured lawn gave way to the rich red clay pathway that embroidered the edges of the common area. This path ran adjacent to the small outdoor porches that adorned each of the guest rooms. One of the Kenyata wing’s “guilty pleasures” was a formal “English Tea” that was delivered to the porches of seminar guests after Zap held court in his unique and enchanting way.

(To be Continued)

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