Nesting

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This tiny bird has built a nest outside our bedroom window. For two days I watched her fly up with bits of fuzz, twigs, slowly building it. She’s in there now, laying her eggs, or perhaps they have been laid and she is with them, waiting.

We’ve been in Nairobi for just over 2 months now. I feel like this little bird, building our nest, the fragility of this expat life, just hanging by twigs it seems until we abandon it, leave for the next building up. Suspended time. 

I miss my island. Of all the places we could have landed though, Kenya is a soft one. 

We live in a valley surrounded by gardens, in a compound of twenty gorgeous stone homes. We have neighbors to borrow milk from. A playground where kids gather. A community to feel safe in. 

We had a monkey in our bedroom. We now keep close watch on the windows. 

It’s colder than I expected. Even now that the sun is stronger and warming the days, the evenings and nights can ride on a crisp wind. 

My daughter just had a week long school trip to the foot of Mount Kenya. She went on safari, helped a local school paint a mural, planted a garden for a woman and her child from a nearby village. She came home talking of the milky way and poverty and sunsets over mountains.

My son is over-the-moon to be here and loves the African way of life, with people coming and going and drivers and gardeners and guards and I watch him soaking up every moment. 

It’s funny how they surprise you. I thought it would be my son who missed the tranquility of home. I thought my daughter would spin into the chaos like a dance. But it’s she who watches the stars and thinks of currents and snow covered trees and he who is swirling. 

And me, I am this little bird, tending to my nest, keeping everyone warm, hanging on. 

River’s mouth

‘You can’t step into the same river twice,’ they say, they taunt, they warn. It may look the same; the water may feel the same, caressing skin between toes. The smell might even evoke a long ago memory that feels so refreshing you are tempted to submerge yourself fully, try to grab a current, ride it to your past to reshape, recreate, relive a better yesterday.

I knew Uganda would be different. I had no idea a river could turn into a sea so fast. I still see familiar corners, know my way around this way and that, but everything has changed, expanded, grown. It’s shiner. It’s faster.

It’s happier.

A refrain on endless cycle from before, heard from taxi drivers, shop keepers, dreamers, “Museveni gave us peace, but now there are no jobs. We have our lives but no money to live them.”

As we flew away to Rome, the earth spilled oil.

Six years ago my husband, daughter and I drove all the way from Kampala to Nairobi. It took us three days, through bush, through tea plantations, through gorgeous emptiness, and when we landed in Nairobi it felt like landing on the moon. We felt dusty, creased, Uganda falling off us like dirt in this city of shine, of commerce, of wealth. Just one country over seemed a world away.

Six years later Kampala feels like a new Nairobi hatchling.

Oil. Gas. Investors.

And hope.

The new cafés are filled with youth. The new shops with pulse. The people with hope.

How amazing to experience this change. To watch it shift. To step into something so familiar, and yet so new.