I sat in the middle of a thorn-bush enclosed livestock corral on the side of a mountain, flicking flies out of my Samburu chai with a twig, thinking, “Is this really my life?”
The chai — brewed by some shepherds after a hike up the mountain just south of Lake Turkana — was made from fresh cow’s milk. Stored in seasoned cylindrical flasks with pieces of charcoal to keep it from spoiling, the milk has a smoky flavor, and it’s marvelous. Flies notwithstanding.
The next weekend, I had the same thought as my hiking group descended Bisoke, one of the five volcanoes in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park. There, sitting on the trail, one after another, were gorillas. Five total. Five. They just sat and watched the silly humans flounder through the thick brush to get around them. (The photo above is no lie. We were that close.)
Again: “Is this really my life?”
Another weekend, another moment of disbelief — make that more than one. Namely, at a Nairobi livestock show (yes, such things exist in Kenya) and an afternoon at the horse races (yes, such things exist in Kenya).
Somewhere between the camels parading in behind the prize-winning bulls and dairy heifers, and the warthog prancing across Ngong track, right under the noses of skittish racehorses, I kept thinking, “Is this really my life?”
Where is the wonder?
In the middle of it all, it strikes me: Why is it we only appreciate the novelty of life outside our normal context? Or maybe it’s just me.
Living and working in Kenya is a novelty in itself. But I’ve been reminded that the “other” life I have as a journalist-turned-sheep farmer is just as novel — judging by the reactions I get, from expats and East Africans alike.
I forget, sometimes.
I understand just about any part of my life isn’t ordinary right now. But there are plenty of days in Kenya that do not seem special — I do my work and go home and eat dinner and watch Netflix and go to bed. Same goes for farming — I recall the umpteen hours I spent sweating and swearing my way through mucking out the barn last year. Grueling, yes, but not glamorous, in the least.
Life is extraordinary
How do I put this delicately? There is no lack of blogs and magazine articles about finding the extraordinary in the ordinary, judging by the avalanche of such posts on social media. I’m not trying to add to that.
Telling you to find the extraordinary does not make it happen.
Life is extraordinary. I’m no scientist — but consider everything that has to happen for you to take a breath. Laugh. Cry. Enjoy a sunset. Savor a hamburger.
A Kenyan man I know got into a matatu (small mini-van) this week to travel to another town. Within minutes, a large truck slammed into it, killing most of the passengers, including the woman sitting next to him. He walked away virtually unscathed.
There is no way to explain that. He is still breathing. Others are not. I don’t have all the answers, except that life, God-breathed life, is extraordinary. When it ceases to exist, there is a lack.
“Is this really my life?”
Yes, it is. Every messy, crazy, fabulous, not-so-glamorous moment. I hope I never forget to shake my head in wonder.