(circa August 2016)
The past few days, my eyes have shed a layer of familiarity. This is most likely due to the fact that I am imminently leaving. Apart from a few weeks in December, I’m not sure how much time I have left in Tigoni, my childhood home. (Tigoni is in Limuru, Kenya, for those of you not of the Kenyan experience.) With my purified mental clarity, I’ve been exposed to many sources of nostalgia.
Upon arriving in Tigoni, this beautiful island rising out of foggy seas of tea, I began working as a ghost writer (see Jousting) for my father, a director of Brackenhurst, among other companies. Tigoni has been historically described as “nothing but mist,” and I love these three words. The Kikuyu house-helper who worked for my parents called me “Nyambura,” which translates as “born of the rainy season.” I like to think that I’m made of mist, too. Proper for a ghost writer.
My heavy leather boots, which keep the wet grass and safari ants off of my feet, clump up the stairs to my dad’s office. His office used to be my schoolroom when I was homeschooled as a child. Sometimes, when I’m working up in that lofty crow’s nest, a black and white bird dashes to the window. Airborne, it furiously attacks its own reflection. After sometime, it gets distracted and flies off over the mbati roof. My dad and I order tea from the Muna Tree Cafe, and work on our laptops while we sip the hot drinks.
Anyways, after proving my worth with a decent newsletter, my mother, the founder of Woodland Star School, quickly gained interest in me as an employee. I found myself in a meeting with my parents and one of their colleagues, and suddenly I was putting together presentations for teacher orientation week. Since then, I’ve served as something of an intern, tweaking school calendars, editing website content, making friends with teachers, writing staff biographies, organizing Google drives, and (gasp) taking many pictures and putting them on social media. I also somehow was roped into dancing during teacher orientation week, which was the hardest thing of all.
The internship for Plants for Life didn’t work out, and I didn’t experience the ethnic cultural and medicinal facets of Kenya that I wanted to. It’s okay. One day, when I’m working on some grandiose part of my higher education, I’ll be back to do just that.
While I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t push for an internship at Plants for Life, I have loved working for the businesses my family is heavily involved in. It’s almost like a family business at this point. I want to do whatever is possible to help my parents. I will always fight for our existence here in Tigoni. Throughout the rest of my gap year, I will continue to ghost write for my parents, contributing what little I can.
Working here, I am overcome with the nausea of foreshadowing homesickness. Armed with our old Canon, I clunk around the joint grounds of Brackenhurst and Woodland Star, taking many pictures of trees rising out of the mist like shipwrecks underwater. There are so many colors of green. Tigoni is truly an Eden, an emerald in the crown of human perception. The air is alive with the trembling of billions of leaves. Flowers rustle, oscillating as the glowing moon pulls herself to the zenith of night. The mornings gradually dawn with a sunrise over dew and mist. Down in the valley, roosters crow sometimes as the sun slowly whispers over the wet earth, casting spells of more green. There is so much promise here.
At home, the red tiles of my house are bare as always. I work on newsletters and website content while sitting in my bedroom or in the dining room, overlooking the sylvan surroundings. My dogs roam the garden, sometimes patrolling the borders, erupting into barks and howls at any outside noise.
Ms. Susan, our house-help, works to keep our house running. Sometimes I feel incredibly guilty about the situation we live in. Here we are, expats, roosting like fat hens with our spacious houses and giant yards and house-staff. It feels like colonialism reborn. The fact that my specific house and garden were once part of a British-era golf club doesn’t help. As a child, playing in our shamba, I used to find ancient pieces of china and glass from bygone decades. When I walk by the employees of Brackenhurst, I always feel a little shame in shaking their hands. I come from a house three times the size of theirs, and it doesn’t feel like I deserve their respect.
Yes, I will always fight for Brackenhurst and Woodland Star. I will always fight for my family here. But the truth is that I want to be a daughter of Tigoni, and not just my part of Tigoni. I want to help the dukas alongside muddy dirt roads, scraping an uncertain living off of customers who come to buy their fruit. The tea pickers with their rain boots and plastic wrapped fingers and long hours. The Brackenhurst staff, taking the hardest downfalls of a collapsing tourism industry. Ms. Susan and her children.
I want us all to be children of one Tigoni. That is something I want to fight for, even after my higher education.