This week, I'd like you to meet Jane Bwye, a new friend and colleague whose book Breath of Africa came out just last month. It is a tale of life, love, danger and fate in Kenya during dangerous times. She writes from her own knowledge of the country, and deep affection, as you'll see.
There’s something about Africa – especially Africa south of the Sahara – which gets to you. You only have to live there once, for a short time, to get the bug.
Perhaps it’s the extraordinary light, translucent, clear, pristine, that lies over the land especially in the early mornings and when the sun sets. Wonderful delicate colours in the highlands over the equator which wash the sky. Or the warm orange glow over coastal beaches and plains, heavy with languid humidity.
Life slows down the minute your feet touch the tarmac at the airport. There is an air of quiet expectancy as you take your first breath and look around you. Wrizzled grass stalks line the runway. Perhaps there’s an impala grazing unconcerned, half-visible in the encroaching bush. Dust clouds the air. Customs regard you with measured, unhurried movements. There’s always tomorrow – even for the finding of lost baggage.
The people greet you with smiles. Even the most snotty-nosed kids barely clad in ragged garments as they emerge from makeshift dwellings in the remotest areas. They are warm. Their needs are few. Their smiles wide with hope. Laughter is ever waiting round the corner. If you look into the eyes of a wrinkled elder, a busy official or a new-born baby, you will find a twinkle.
Life goes on, whether you are there or not. You are but a tiny spec in the scheme of things. Especially so in the wild which can be found within a stone’s throw from human habitation. Majestic lion, haughty cheetah, leopard slinking silently through the bush. And elephant – one moment you’re surrounded by these overpowering gentle beasts, the next, they have melted away leaving a sense of awe and wonder. Were they really there? And the birds – tiny treasures flitting among the trees and bushes, going about their business, oblivious of gasps from the watchers or the glint of binoculars.
You are free to live your own life here, make your own mistakes, be responsible to yourself – there’s nobody else to blame. Perhaps that’s what I like about Africa. There are many insects and creepy crawlies – fearful obscure diseases and the danger of sudden violence. But once bitten, the lure of Africa lies in your blood. You do not want to escape and it will always be your home.