After 10 days in Nairobi I felt quite comfortable and at home. In the morning on Lauren’s last day with me we were very busy rushing around with a list full of errands. We got things accomplished in record time so I was able to go to the airport to see her off. As soon as we entered the airport we were confronted with a luggage scan facility beyond which only passengers were allowed. “This is it” I thought to myself. Goodbyes are never easy but this one has been long anticipated and we had said everything we needed to say. It was good that we were able to enjoy each other’s company as if nothing was going to change right up to the last minute. We savoured those last few moments and then I was alone.

I was in Africa for the first time without Lauren. This was a very strange sensation indeed, loneliness mixed with, anticipation. I made my way through an environment that is entirely forien to me yet one for which I have an exquisite apreciation, somehow I am at home here and at the same time everything is completely alien. I managed to catch the very same bus back to the city, I saw it waiting and made a run for it. I could see rain over Nairobi City and as we approached. I noticed that all the road side trading stalls had placed plastic coverings over their wares, the mud and slush now added another level of difficulty. Lauren’s air Mauritius flight came in for landing, it roared past in close proximity to the bus.

“This is the point of no return” I thought to myself. Tomorrow morning we leave for the Sudan. What will happen? Will I live to tell the story? Will I be home in time for the birth of our first child?

I completed my last few errands smoothly dodging traffic and picking my way across town like an expert. One traffic dodge / road crossing even attracted the attention and approval of a group of lads who gestured to themselves in mild astonishment “Hey a muzungu who walks like a Nairobi city boy, yeah give me five”.

Later I was with Deng at our favorite eating spot. He was chatting up Nancy – Awara the waitress, with sheepish embarrassment she conceded to Deng’s line of questioning and reveals to us that she earns 130 Kenyan Shillings per day, thats just over A$2.

I bought a big travel bag today for KS 395 and finished packing. Yee-ha everything is done, now I can relax. Deng called for me early in the evening. He had James Mcwee with him (one of his many relatives – the connection is too complex to explain here) Rather awkwardly they asked me if James could stay in my hotel room that night.

It was at this exact moment as I looked at the expression on their faces that my entire perspective turned upside down. James had no money, so Deng and I would have to pay for his entire passage to Kakuma, previously when I learned that he would accompany us I was disappointed and maybe just a little angry. I was thinking to myself “Oh great a freeloader” At this moment as they stood in front of me awaiting my response. I wondered would I place myself above them? In this moment I experienced a strange metamorphosis, it goes beyond what I can write here and has to do with more specifics. It is something like having been wandering around lost and then suddenly you recognise your surroundings only to realise that you have been walking in the opposite direction to what you thought. Then in a instant your entire world does a 180 degree turn and everything falls into place as your attention locks on to many familiar points of reference and you relax, “ahh, now I know where I am!” This is an African journey and it will be done in the African way.

In this moment I ceased to be a westerner who is on holidays in a strange place with his wife, instead I caught a glimpse of Africa through the eyes of an African. Without a single trace of hesitation I heartily welcomed James to spend the night in my hotel room. I took a deep breath and settled into my new self. Deng and James both had big toothy grins on their faces. They had a bag of hot chips which they offered to me, I casually accepted as we began to walk.

Our stroll had no particular purpose or destination, no ajenda, just hanging with the lads. A slight lilting rhythm in our steps. No conversation at this stage only comments, expressions and observations, a sense of belonging and peace. Brotherhood. Together we anticipate the journey that will begin tomorrow.

We spied a soda fridge at the back of a service station which is still open at this hour. We each purchased our choice of softdrink, the sweet luxury went down smoothly and just as easily we were accepted into the company of the two lads who mind the station.

There are two plastic chairs and now we are five. Immediately I am deferred to and offered one of these. I really resent this elevated ‘muzungu’ status. I just want to be one of them (as much as this is possible) so I casually refused and crouched on the ground. Uneasy glances were cast around. I caught the station attendants eye but he looked away. Even Deng thinks that I belong in that chair! For about a minute it remains empty and we experience a small amount of social discomfort. “Ahh David if you will not sit in that chair then I will” exclaims Deng. We are now at ease again and I am privately pleased at my new position within the group.

We all watched the street activity together there was a drinking house directly across the street. Most most of my company seemed to think that only bad people go there. Several prostitutes larked loudly not far from us as they waited for someone to pick them up. Anyone.

I was asked if we have girls like this in Australia. I say yes but explained that it is not done so flagrantly. An interesting cross cultural examination sparked. I was asked if we have tribes in Australia and levels of inherited social hierarchy (cast systems). In the manner that Africans understand it we have nothing like that in Australia. In Australia we attempt social and legal equality. “No tribes?” they retort “Who then are your people? Do you come from no-one?” “Everyone is equal!” they cry out in astonishment. They cannot conceive of such a social order.

James Mcwee questioned me. “Is it true that in Australia there is no dowry system and that you can just marry for free?” “Yes it’s true” I say. “So then” questions James seriously. “Why would anyone want to have children? Since raising children is very expensive and when you’re daughters are married off you get nothing back. See!” he says “You are loosing!

“James” I explain. “We do it for love” This is a brand new concept for him and he relishes it. Savouring the notion he gestures broadly with a big smile and eyes wide with wonder he repeats aloud several times “You do it for love”

Deng’s presence has a commanding effect on the Africans we meet. He is extremely self confident and out going, he’s very inquisitive, almost prying but he seems to really care about people. He has a generous benevolent heart and is personally disturbed when he sees the injustices that others suffer. He says exactly what he thinks with no reservation. Deng has a big friendly smile that he uses constantly and a teasing sense of humour that allows him to provoke discussions on sensitive issues without causing offense.

Although money and wages are an uncomfortable subject for all (including me as I feel embarrassed to be so insanely wealthy by local standards) we launch into a lengthy financial expose. When Deng inquired how much these service station attendants earn they just looked at the ground shy and embarrassed “It gives us something to do they say” Deng pried on and I felt sorry for these lads so I elbowed him in the ribs but he continued. 6000 KS per month was the eventual answer that’s A$100. Deng unashamedly went on to translate Australian wages for them. Eyes rolled and whistles abounded.

All present take turns in naming their forefathers to the tenth generation. Genealogies roll off the tongue like abc’s. When it’s my turn I am ashamed to admit that I don’t even know my great grandfather’s first name.

Deng said to all “listen to this” and began to question me “Tell us you full name?” “David Fisher” I reply. “now” he says “what is your father’s name?” “Hugh Fisher” interest is aroused, attention is on me as if a punch line is awaited. “and what is your grandfather’s name?” “Edward Fisher” Howls of laughter erupt, hands are clapped togrther and high fives are exchanged. “See” says Deng they are all called the same name – “Fisher”

On Saturday morning we check out of our hotel rooms and walk as fast as we can. I have trouble keeping up with my long legged friends. The bus station is basically a big car park with about 1000 commuters jostling for space with hawkers loiterers, pick pockets, street preachers and street children.

Our 52 seater bus finally chugs out onto the road no less than 2 and a half hours late. I am very pleased with my seat, high up right behind the driver window side. We take 8 hours to reach Kitale the scenery is spectacular, we travel through lush green hilly farmland all the way to the edge of the rift valley after which the land becomes dryer and more undulating. We sight numerous herds of wild zebra some grazing quite close to human settlement.

James Mcwee points out a large black monkey on the edge of the road which runs off as we aproach. Herds of cattle, sheep and goats are watched and goaded by boys in brightly coloured shawls welding long straight sticks.

Much of African rural life happens right on the side of the road as the road brings customers and trade. Our bus is governed at just under 80 kms/hr. Giving me plenty of time to take it all in and snap a few photos. Women sell potatoes and other vegetables lined up in very neat pyramid piles. One stretch of road offered displays of brightly coloured fruits. Another sold treated sheep skins, clothing and hat made from sheep skin.

At certain points along the way the bus would stop and hordes of sellers would crowd around and display their wares aranged neatly on boards mounted on poles to be held bus window height. You could purchase anything from cold drink or fruit, sweets, cheap watches, pocket radios, calculators, African handi crafts, cloth, carvings, hand made kitchen utensils and medicine.

On one wooden African doll that was thrust through the window at me I noticed a bar code. I wondered if it has been mass produced in China. For A$2 I purchased a good stainless steel knife. At the press of a button the blade of this knife retracts into the handle press it again and it flicks dangerously back out.

The sun set while we were still in transit. After dark the villages have an amazing atmosphere. They are generally pretty dark without electricity. Many homes and shops being lit by kerosene lanterns or candles. Cooking fire are everywhere sending up a delicious aroma. It would seem that the entire community is wide awake and carrying on it’s business right on the side of the road.

We arrived in Kitale after the last onward bus had departed. My companions were frustrated and cross, blaming the poor mechanical order of our bus for our late arrival (not to mention the last start) their plans are foiled but I am pleased because I was planning on using any tactic that I could to put the brakes on. I couldn’t understand their urgency at the time, now I realise that it was primarily the added cost of food and accommodation. I paid for our lodgings that night it cost A$ 7.50 for the three of us. Deng shouted dinner at the same price.

When my food arrived my portion was about 1/3 the size of everyone else’s. I didn’t know whether they were joking, or they didn’t like white people, or maybe they were testing me. I voiced my complaint in the abrupt, straight forward almost rude manner which seems to the the accepted norm in these parts. “Hey you come here, what’s the meaning of this, bring more, I am hungry.” Their English was limited but they got the point. Deng spoke to them in Kswahili using much the same manner. It seemed that they were under the impression that muzungus do not require much food as previous muzungu customers left most of thier dinner uneaten, more likely the food just wasn’t to their liking.